Manhandling Panhandlers

I am unsure of a world where if we extend compassion toward another who needs it we are reprimanded by a section in the corporate code of conduct.

I am completely untrusting of a society that discards it’s elderly, favoring a collected isolation where all our grandpas and grandmas can die around the television  playing canasta.

I am obviously not of this earth if when we see people who are unwell, vulnerable or in need we approach with severe apprehension if we even acknowledge them at all.

I am weary of seeing so much neglect for people who are just like us, with eyes, hearts, histories and ambitions. Just like us except that we have jobs, families, educations and the wherewithal to not allow poor decisions or questionable people dictate pivotal moments that affect our futures.

“Just like us“.

Just like “them“.

Those who have nowhere to go are more like us than we’ll ever know. Those who suffer beneath the discarded ends of our luxuries know this world in ways we petulant, privileged and mercenary swarms will rarely understand.

2wenty 7eventeen

Bring in the new year with its brutal, sheer fear,
wring out the old year, beat what’s brought us here.
Bury our weary as we parade our cheer,
“Move along, folks, nothin’ to see here.”

Twenty Seventeen doesn’t mean our hands are clean,
in between the lanes and lines, swerving, we careen
into a class divide as colors collide, tweeted and streamed.
Televised destiny, technology unexpectedly
deciding what things mean. Meme.

Ring in the new year! All is wonderful far and near!
We have most of our limbs and beauty we find dear.
Whether we’re alone in a town or among those in your home,
new years appear to be clear only when we shut our mouths to hear.

Poems.

The Taste of Music

My dad used to sing me Neil Young and Uncle Remus.

Then he showed me David Bromberg, The Rolling Stones and Tchaikovsky.

I was at my neighbor’s house when Black Dog gave my little boy body wide-eyed convulsions.

There was a Tuesday afternoon elective at my school called “Beatles and Drawing.” It was a half hour of listening to the Beatles and drawing whatever you wanted. I was 9 years old. MLC…sigh.

I was a 10 year old when my friend mentioned that his big brother bought Kill ‘Em All and it took me 2 more years of Madonna and New Wave until I finally understood what he said that day.

My first concert was George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers at Portland’s Civic Auditorium in 1986. The following year my dad took me to my first indie show, Screaming Trees with The Dwarves at Pine Street Theater. That’s how cool my dad was.

When my family broke up I moved schools and went from being raised among the culture of the city to now having to explore adolescence deep in the Eastside suburbs, my life took a serious turn. My lifelines were License To Ill, Legacy of Brutality, N.W.A. Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, It Takes A Nation and in the 8th grade my friend brought over G.B.H., Jimi Hendrix, L7 and Slayer records and we played them all until the needle broke and my brain melted like soft ice cream.

I was neck-deep in a suburban white neighborhood and it was then that I realized I could either be a product of my bland environment or make a conscious decision to live and think for myself.

Anything that flaunted the system and mocked the establishment, the music that protested corruption, oppression and used passion and adrenaline to express their discontent was music I subsisted on, endlessly blaring into my Walkman. I was an only child who just lost his mother and was now living an hour-long bus ride away from the comfort of downtown. Music was the only thing I listened to because I certainly wasn’t hearing any of my teachers or relatives.

On those bus rides I understood why some people listen to bubblegum pop and others just…don’t.

I found this and this at the record store while dropping out of college. Twice.

My friend at Tower Records told me to buy Pretty Hate Machine. I bought it on title alone.

I showed my best friend the Marshall Mathers LP when it first came out and we played it continuously in his 88 Mustang GT.

A friend came to my house and she showed me Glass Animals.

I went to my friend’s house and she showed me 21 Pilots.

Though words and pictures are like my harem, it is music that leads my beautiful life from darkness into today.

Grin > Chagrin

From seeing them together on the street to sharing great company with new girls, from bringing cheer to a dark hospital to painting on a smile while making drinks…

Every face I peel over this skull is determined to win the moment, every persona I deliver to every different room either fuels my desire to distract which feeds my spirit or drains a little bit of my blood and soul away. Every time.

The smile you see means one of two things: either it’s genuine in its foolishness and happiness or it’s a cloak and a dagger masking my eye roll and exasperation.

I’ve heard that a fresh eye roll is a delicious type of sushi. Or is it a pastry? I can never remember.

The Art of Penmanship (or Microchips and Bullchips)

The microchip has reduced me to a quivering little simp unable to read my own handwriting because very few things are written anymore since it’s all gone digital. That calligraphy lesson when I was a kid still sticks with me and I know how to scratch out a pretty nice lower case “a” but that’s about it. So if I’m not inputting or texting I can’t decipher whatever scratchy symbol my awful penmanship happened to produce.

The place where I used  to work had an old-timey cash register that pings and dings and has non-LCD lights and each time the keys are plunked, wet ink is typed onto tape that winds around a spool for evidence and reference. This old register weighs about 100 pounds purely of solid state machinery that chugs on elbow grease and constant commerce.

People who work in places that sell goods or services should know the prices of their product but chips in computers have made store clerks and bartenders ignorant and lazy. Convenience is a strange animal to pursue because the animal has no idea what costs what. Now this particular animal rapidly taps a touchscreen like a musician or savant.

Unrelated: I’ll tell you what’s convenient, a bullwhip hanging from my hip for whenever I see injustice occur at about 8 feet away.

China Diary: Beijing

Puffy, quilted jackets are on nearly every body during January in Beijing. Dumplings billow steam clouds over sidewalks and the chatter of pedestrians is like background music. The motorbikes have quilted arm covers, like sweaters on the handlebars. It’s a “clear” day which means the sky is cloudless but there is this hazy coat of smog that looms across the sky, making the sun look like a fuzzy orange ball hanging against grey gauze.

It’s noticeable how collected and driven most of the people are, places to go, things to do. The traffic is mostly composed of either shiny new cars mostly German, clean and free of dents, or dirty, industrial trucks, mostly Korean. My god, there’s a lot of people. Coming from a tucked-away American city with barely 600,000 people to brag about is hardly a city at all compared to this. The underground rail is one of the most advanced, easy to use and beautiful feats of engineering ever. To be so organized and efficient with so many bodies to accommodate is testimony that this country is so far ahead of the rest of the world which foreigners will never realize until they witness it for themselves.

Unruly Universeo

Blackouts harbor troves of furious half-imagined images. Secrets forced down never to be spoken, unbelievable games where vile beauty and lunatic smiles flash and flee, room to room and street to street. Delicate yet deviant mouths flashing brilliance like untrained weapons, untaught in taut jeans, no need to convince the green to become black like the night. The willing will always follow the one who smiles and bites.

————————————————————

I can’t find the damn door. I think something fell in my drink. Is this vodka? Why do I not know anyone and why did the music change? This is insane. My pants aren’t skinny enough. My tattoos aren’t ironic enough. My watch isn’t big enough. The women are so young and perfect but I can’t make out what they’re saying so instead I’m just anxious and frightened. It sounds like everyone’s talking about how cool they are. Do I need eyeliner? I feel it really start to hit me as I finally hit the sidewalk. The warm summer air is going to beat me down and take my inhibitions, fears, comforts and money tonight and I’m totally OK with it. I think of my mother, my dog, and my old ’72 LTD that used to take me places bigger and faster than what’s imaginable. I smile and stroll, rain drizzling down my grin. I call an ex-girlfriend and she hangs up on me because all she hears is my excited and slurred gibberish, sentences ending in garbled nonsense. My clarity is pure, it is YOU that are all crazy, staring at me, whispering and pointing. I befriend a homeless kid and his gross fingernails and skin. He has a dog that is fatter than me and I think that in a pinch, this dude could grub that canine as if it were a juicy swine. We sit and watch the traffic that stream like rivers of light. Faces vaguely hanging in the current of car windows as they swim by, I once again realize that we truly rule our destinies. We own this world. This collective, beautiful universe we all have to love, to learn, experience and share. (Though this night of enlightenment involves me hanging my head off a curb and looking like a total wreck.) My blood sugar was unusually low.