How about some stories of air, earth and water? They’re kinda important. I pointed to a small bird yesterday and asked my wife, “What do you think his carbon footprint is?”. Then I thought about ants and flowers, weeds and weasels—many living things of air, earth and water, not excluding bacteria and viruses. Then we walked past an idling Chevy Suburban in a parking lot. A fat man in the driver’s seat was reading a magazine with the windows up in air conditioning, and then I remembered humans have been timid little killers since the dawn of the age of agriculture. Tomes of Judeo-Christian bullshit tales told to justify touching down at Heathrow in Airbus superjumbos farting hot dogs and cheeseburgers. Look at all the man sights to see! Tonight’s star attraction—man! History, science, poetry, black Chevy Suburbans with magazines about all things man, great and boring.
For instance I’m watching my salt intake. I’m up to 89 mg so far. I can’t go over 2,000 mg per day, and it’s way past noon, so I’ll be okay even after the temperature gets too high and air cooling comforts me to a dinner of brown rice pasta and Impossible Burger® Bolognese sauce (475 mg). I could talk to you about my impending survival for hours if goaded even a little bit. I am so interesting that everyone thinks about me all day long, and I will live forever.
Look at me idling in an air conditioned monster truck. “Now I am become death. The destroyer of worlds”.
Let’s think on “the Nature”. Summer’s almost here and I know that many of us can’t wait to nearly touch it.
I want to write about Oswego’s physical beauty. The lake, the river, the trees—there’s even a teahouse in someone’s backyard. Oswego is a beautiful place to live, in summer. Just around the bend are some cheerful thoughts about the flora and fauna of my fair city. However, presently I am unable to write about the grackle snapping at the raindrops without including wet sheets of plastic wrap, a beer can, and a torn piece of stinky milk carton... I would like to wait until the ugly wears away completely before I attempt to write about the real beauty Oswego hasn’t destroyed yet. By July most of man’s winter litter is sufficiently hidden by things that actually thrive being seen alive. Why waste words writing about a lake if the lake smells like dead worms? Why sit through an afternoon of fog to watch a river flow gray and muddy when you know at its end swirl a hundred small pools of floating garbage?
There’s a book in print entitled Paddle-to-the-Sea. Once I took it out of the children’s library to read to my daughter. Recently I bought it for myself to call back some forgotten or non-existent wonder of my childhood. Paddle is a carved wooden Indian sitting in a birch-bark canoe. A Canadian boy made him and set him atop a mountain of snow. The snow melted into a stream, the stream into a river, and the river into Lake Superior. That spring, Paddle set out to have many adventures, caught up in the zig-zag currents of the Great Lakes. This book expresses the true, innocent goodness of man coexisting with the hardy rough beauty of nature. With cheerful determination they work together for as long as it takes Paddle to get to France.
Paddle-to-the-Sea was published in the 1940s, before science got devilishly curious enough to ruin our lives with its half-life testings. The author is proud of men and their machines. The moose and bear congratulate the tanner and commercial fisherman—Here is a book about the state of the Great Lakes as seen through the eyes of a healthy mind seventy years ago. It’s like reading an alien’s description of his planet of plenty.
A very clean book. I suggest that all Great Lake locals read it and wonder why a man can no longer make his living on the lake’s bounty beneath. Set the book down. Take a walk to the lake. Stand on the edge of the bluff. Sit on a large flat stone. Look out to the sea. Since 1950 man has managed to give all the fish cancer.
Seventy years have passed. Duluth, Detroit, Chicago, Oswego. Death to the largest fresh water lake chain in the world. Deep delicious water teeming with billions and billions of creatures. Every single living thing breathing the water that rolls over your toes, was poisoned for the next twenty thousand years so mankind could have its choice of laundry detergent.
Now it remains a surface visual beauty that I promise to write about once the weather improves. “Fish at your own risk,” the government tells the man. “Salmon not good for nursing mothers. Neurological disorders to the newborn. Child grows up wanting to eat carcinogenic fish.” Yet how regularly every season the fools line up along the riverbank for their catch to bring home. Bad time of year for me to take my walks down there. Men from New Jersey drive up to Oswego by the truck-load to catch horny salmon. One could dangle a rubber girl salmon five feet above the water and catch leaping fish all day long. No. These misogynistic sportsmen would rather stand together in the river with the best equipment fishing magazines can offer. I could live for a year on what one of these guys paid for his gear. He could buy twenty years’ supply of unmirexed, farm-raised salmon if he’d sell that goofy truck he loves more than his own wife, wearing nothing besides rubber thigh-high boots in his fishy dreams.
A walk along the river in November rekindles my cyclic winter bitterness. For now let us be overjoyed in the knowledge that our parents and grandparents poisoned an entire lake and river in two generations. Rejoice in the present acid elimination of all Adirondack fish! Neighbors and friends, let’s put our hands together and pray to God for the strength we need to kill every swimming underwater thing in existence. First the sissy Canadian fish. Then those oily Mexican fish. I got enough boxes of All Tempacheer to devastate Lake Chapala in a day! Stand together my friends. We need to buy all the plastic we can stuff into our homes at once. More stuff we cannot eat. More factories. More oil. Drill in sensitive areas. Down two miles, three miles, down a thousand miles, why not? Suck out a trillion gallons into the sea! More hazardous materials. More radiation poured into steal mesh balls and rolled into a coral reef. More nuclear testing. A lot more. Blow the fish sky high! Indiscriminately launch our entire arsenal on the oceans of the planet. I want proof that every swimming thing is floating dead by next week. Hurry up. There’s so little time. Someone quick, get down there to Florida. Poison that pompous pricey pompano. You, to the sharks! You to the flounders. I don’t care how you do it; I just want every fish dead by this time next week. Stock your chlorinated pool with a thousand guppies and goldfish. Everyone piss in the backyard stream. Pump anthrax off the shores of Newfoundland, ignite an oil rig—more mercury, aluminum, liquid copper to melt all the fish brains in the South Pacific...
Who would have guessed that the wrath of God was going to begin the moment man morphed from monkey? It is so clear to me that we are now in control of our own demise. Eager to be created to begin destroying. How easy to forget what we have been born to do. We are sent reminders of the encircling doom. Yesterday God sent a memo through the mail. Just another one of his pocket blueprints of destruction. Open up to page 3 in your Oswego County Emergency Planning and You booklet. Look at that face. Ring a bell? Isn’t he one of the antichrist’s smiling helpers? Mr. Almustead, Chairman of the Board. The most comfortable man in Oswego. He owns a couple classic cars, a pretty wife, and a pretty little camp set up along the Salmon River. He looks happy and content being a helper to the mass murder of you and the fish. He fries the salmon fresh out of the river. You can see for yourself the tumors pushing out from his neck skin. He sure knows how to groom himself for a snapshot before the blood-dripping human organs hit the fan.
Turn the page, and another happy helper, holding a pointer against a blackboard, looks like he’s counting out loud the number of fish he can kill in a day. There is even a list of radio stations that one can tune in to to find out the exact time the earth will begin screaming. On page six some jolly firemen helpers get ready to release more radiation into the atmosphere. More black and white photos showing exactly where the wrath will be unleashed in this region. “In the event of a natural or man-made disaster, some residents may need special attention because of their physical impairments or transportation problems. Please fill out and mail the following card so we can make it look now like we won’t be laughing later, as you struggle in your lameness to get to the designated evacuation site. Wait all day if you like, crippled Sally. That bus ain’t gonna come. You can wait until the sky turns puke green and you cough your body up into a cloud of dust. Trust us. No bus is coming.”
Oswegonians must think “Chernobyl” means “go out and play darts ‘til a quarter to three”. Ask the first five pot-bellied men slurping bacon fat at the Ritz Diner where they earn the kind of money that can afford an omelet a day for the rest of their lives. Three out of five will say, “I work out at the plant.” The plant. The plant. It pays well. If they didn’t have the plant to pay well, every man with his cup of coffee would be a dishwasher or a janitor mopping floors. If the plant wasn’t there for eighty grand a year, Oswego might improve itself into a proud American hometown. Unfortunately today townie pride remains whatever Ford or Chevy built tough this year. Security guards making eighty thousand dollars on fire watch? What is fire watch? You sit in a room and if it catches on fire, you run screaming out of the room. What if a van load of determined jihadists break through security (which they could do with balloons if they wanted to), and jog straight into the reactor core? They will confront the janitor, my chef from the restaurant. He’s down on his hands and knees waxing tile while talking on his cell phone to Ron Throop, the ex-cook/writer of ill repute. The chef was not qualified to wipe down walls in a reactor core. He applied anyway, after being fired at the restaurant for keeping a loaded gun in the file cabinet. “What?” asked the boss. “I got Wyatt Earp to braise my chickens?” He called up my chef and told him to 86 the gun and himself from the premises. My chef had a temper tantrum but thank God he didn’t shoot anyone. Within two weeks the plant hired him to wash the walls of the reactor core. Presently he’s on a six week stint for eight grand.
That’s a lot of money for an itchin’ trigger finger to pick an ass with all day long. It’s hush money. So many of us got our dirty fingers on it, that it’s bound to be respected. The chef mops walls and wipes floors. What do you think the smiling CEO antichrist with the fat neck makes? A million maybe? I don’t know for sure, but it’s enough to sedate the obese electrician who just got hired at the power plant. He’ll make twenty thousand during the next six weeks. That is cash for darts and beer on Wednesday nights and a custom built snowmobile to breeze through the powder this winter, even if his autistic kid drinks a gallon of lake water a day and miraculously grows a third hand.
Oswego County has the second highest cancer rate in the state. The number one county was once the world’s leading producer of asbestos. Why should that matter to anyone as long as they’re getting their fair share? Always death by long illness to end a poorly-lived life. A hot dog and beer benefit to help pay the exorbitant sums the doctors demand to care for another human being. And not a soul is getting angry (besides the cancer patient, maybe). We know what carcinogens are. It’s like knowing the murderer personally. Yet who’s got the big salt potato balls to deliver the antichrist’s ears to the benefit? Impossible. The antichrist is a standing army of every one of us, eating the “best grilled chicken we ever had!”
What is cancer? Are we too afraid to demand the truth? “Ah, Dick’s got cancer.” Then the funeral. Then everyone back to work. The eulogy was short and sweet because Dick’s best friend was working the shutdown at the power plant. If he missed just one more day, he’d have to go on unemployment and make only four hundred a week. Dick is dead and the crow caws. No one thinks Dick’s best friend is septic-sludge, because they know that Dick would have done the same. What a fool Dick’s friend would be to take such a drastic cut in pay just for mourning. A waste of time. That won’t bring Dick back. Anyway, the best friend has two other mouths to feed and raise insanely. Go back to work, Dick’s best friend. You have already replaced Dick. We understand. We are exactly the same. Anyway, in a lifetime, what did Dick give? Dick gave to Dick and Dick got cancer. Those who loved him had a benefit. Everyone gobbled up hot dogs. No one besides me felt sorry for the pig. I know there are three stations set up for the proper processing of a dead pig. You need ten clean sheets for the blood alone. What do you do with a pig’s freshly slaughtered heart? Let it bleed.
Eat the hot dog. Eat the bun. Eat the ketchup, the mustard, the gun. Eat the car, eat the wallet, eat the kid’s new clothes, eat the meat, all the meat, eat anything that grows. Eat the earth, the sky, eat the other guy. Eat motor oil, and gunk if it’s good, or potatoes, eat more potatoes. Eat four things on a plate, no, five—eat your mate, eat the stars, eat a book about cars. Eat cancer. Eat your friend who’s got cancer. Eat the cancer before the cancer. Eat cancer’s cancer. Eat all morals for dessert. Eat more, never less, and never ever gobble up the middle best.
Cancer is you and me. Childhood cancer? Unexplainable? Cruel? Yes! It scares the bleeding stools out of me, too. I love. I am no different from you. But admitting dying children into a Ronald McDonald House is insane. Do you know what Ronald does to cows? Have you any idea? And you’re sending children into his giggling grease trap? Don’t make your child crazy and sick because you allow that clown’s CEO to bulldoze dead cows into a gigantic cow chipper. We are so desensitized that I feel silly and beyond naive just writing this down. “They’re just cows,” I am thinking. It’s not vegetarianism I am asking for. It is wisdom-ism. Wasn’t it Eisenhower who warned us about the malignant growth of the Industrial Guilt Complex? How can a man close his eyes to the way in which his food is prepared, and open them, just briefly, while his baby girl dies of cancer? His eyes will close in a silent agony after she is gone. Opened to drive to and from work, or to eat the saltiest carcinogens off the aluminum tray a lá Stoeffer or Swanson. He’ll want to hate himself for her untimely death. Why? When we all know that Ronald McDonald is the most guilty one. If Dad could see, and was not afraid of seeing, he would publicly accuse the clown of child murder. Tobacco companies are liable? Then so are clowns who sell us poison to eat. Ronald stripped her land to raise cows for slaughter. How does that give a little girl cancer? Look for yourself. They keep adding another billion sold onto that sign. I know the creator takes five hundred of ours for every million of theirs. Flesh-eaters buying their meat from a clown. Top of the food chain? Absolutely not. Cancer rots our flesh. It chews our meat. It purrs with satisfaction, then settles down to savor the delicacy of our organs for dessert. Cancer is king and we are its servants.
Now, how to avoid this hungry predator...
Don’t buy a Big Mac. Do as the Buddhists, who have known all along that cancer is a stupid, impressionable beast. Lay off the meat! There is a balance, whether we like it or not. One cannot eat up all the non-human death, and not get it back eventually. All she needed was to be born into excellent loving care. What is the best that you can give? Right now. Without waiting for the invisible scientist to tell you. The new wildness is human indifference. Clown apathy. The persistent hum of mellow heartbeats from delusional humanity. Its motto? To kill and not suffer.
“Eat your burger honey. A pothead in Oklahoma works very hard pushing dead cows into a grinder.”
“Daddy, I don’t want to eat the happy cow.”
“You eat it right now, missy, or no Hot Apple Pie for you! What, did you expect me to do everything I do, and prepare your dinner too?”
Fast food should be emergency food only. The rancher leaves an ax against a fence post along the highway. The children are weak from hunger on the drive back from Fort Lauderdale. It’s okay. Dad can get out of the car, take the ax, chop off a piece of the cow, and leave a twenty dollar bill under the rancher’s bleeding ax. Otherwise it’s more cancer at McDonald’s. And some more at Burger King, since their CEO was not crafty enough to set up a charity house in the name of their ridiculously dangerous, cancer-wielding mascot.
I will set the record straight. The death mess is everywhere, and unavoidable until we avoid it. Ronald McDonald is just one evil clown. There are more. The Burger King and Wendy, the Pippy-Longstocking look-alike. Any fast food cancer hole that markets its death-in-a-wrapper to children under ninety. In fact, don’t eat any place where profit is the first concern. These clowns play Russian roulette with our children because we invite them to. Can you slaughter six thousand cattle a day? If you’re a multi-millionaire you can. Or if you are a pothead in Oklahoma, you’ll bulldoze the dead heap for the promise of more pot and one kickass wage. The clown will do almost anything to get them to digest his cancer. Shall we continue until the moon crashes into us out of disgust? Are we feeling alive? Sometimes I feel like I am writing invisible letters to stones. Ronald lives in McDonaldland with the Hamburglar, the Grimace, the goblins, and a horror-house stuffed with a million other fast food monsters. They’re on the take. Their hush money infects humanity. Corporate executives in private jets have cocktails while discussing the clown’s next funny television commercial.
“Hey, how about this: Ronald can take the Grimace by his purple flabby head skin and bury his nose into the dirt of a child’s grave. All of the sudden like, the Hamburglar pops out of the ground, juggling a cow’s vial organs.”
“That’s not funny Ray.”
“No, but it’s true, ain’t it boys?”
“Yea, you got us there. Here’s to you Ray!”
And the happy executives toast each other’s greed while flying off on their mission to destroy faster than the creator creates.
Mother’s Day Walking Thoughts, 2020
One fine spring day this flawed human being is attacked by a gnatty swarm of mass media information. Best to allow it. There is no one else to talk to, besides oneself. And only crazy people talk to themselves. Too much time away from the news, a human interest story on the radio, or even a curiosity about a terrorist from the forest and one yearns for the false community media will deliver. We long to be relevant to our clans, even if there are no clans left. Nor should we answer to ourselves as individuals for few can survive for long without the other. We are so connected. So social. So vulnerable. So alone. It is any morning, noon or night, and it turns out we have failed miserably at church, synagogue and mosque, bungled a decent paganism, and abdicated to science the rite of spring which gave us coronavirus as a dance partner.
Just another walk on a Hallmark holiday. Mother’s Day! A bouquet for our mothers at Flowers dotcom. One might think that some ancient wisdom passed down the tradition to humble us to the awesome rebirth and fecundity of spring, and renew the debt we owe to nature through the magic of our mother’s nurturing.
Not a chance. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the day to celebrate mothers whose sons had died in war. Imperialistic mothers of the ultimate sacrifice! A military parade of mothers. Testosterone Sunday. Beautiful white flowers of the grave!
In a healthy society, I would be free of such meaningless trivia. But it cannot be helped. It is the main ingredient of the media glue which repairs hourly a broken civilization. A weak adhesive secreted by the bites of swarming information gnats. One must be bitten to gain insight into the macrocosmic past. To recall the origins of Mother’s Day, one also gets an appreciation for a dead racist president, veterans of foreign and domestic wars, and the penny postcard craze sent by lonesome college boys to their dear mothers back home.
On a May afternoon, a man who loves his mother, yet is separated by a hundred or ten thousand miles, can rest assured that she has received his card and flowers, even during a pandemic.
Capable glue to a strained connection.
It will free up his time to hear the news, or improve his mind with some Internet research, or read a book by an author he never knew. A bright afternoon for a nature walk to gather his thoughts that flow like a random youtube playlist. The media gnats wear his head tight like a helmet, wherever he goes—into the store, into the wild, or into himself, which can be a very uncommon place to venture, but necessary to reveal the most painful truth for any individual, not a practicing mother:
No one needs you.
Not since you stopped being a blacksmith, a mage, a seamstress, a shepherd, a priest, a farmer, a cooper, a Jack or Jill of all trades, a mother of children to raise and to fit in and fill the positions of a saner social dynamic.
I think this is common knowledge we base as quaint, else go mad. I have no relation to men of my village encumbered by their own media swarm. Some go right, some lean left, but all bereft of commonality, which once defined freedom to a clan made of capable people, but brings shame to those of us today who feel lost and unnecessary without a corporate connection. There is no local need that brings us together. Each day a billion separate pots smashed to bits, the mass media invited to rake up the pieces and glue them to set, and the next day smashed to pieces again. Dependent and isolate. All are doomed to living like a single, well-equipped astronaut on Mars.
On this day, at this hour, the media gnats have informed me on subjects like the post-menopausal brain of the woman, the depressing origin of Mother’s Day, and the first 60 precepts of Ted Kaczynski’s surprisingly reasonable manifesto.
Of the latter, you too might flip the switch like Ted if everyday your world went dark. Whether it brings needful light, nuclear annihilation, or a piddly little shoebox bomb to explode a single gnat in the gnat multiverse, depends on what depths your “alone feel” descends.
Fortunately, at present, I lean toward busy-ness to counter my aloneness—I read a book, write a post, paint a picture, cook a dinner. I have no desire for revolution, especially among other meaningless, unknown comrades who might “have my back”. What for and how come? Man, they don’t even love me.
On this Mother’s Day, to honor my mother, wife, daughter, and sister— those ladies unlike me who bring life and new hope to a shattered society, yet like me, are lost to distraction without the presence of 54 brands of dried cereals in the supermarket, I offer a solution to an ever-present meaninglessness revealed by the persistence of aloneness.
Nurture love and laughter until you are sick of it and die of it.
How and why?
Knowing how abstract and arbitrary our practical value is to society, which is no longer local, but driven by worldwide forces outside of our control, we can partially reclaim our ancient personal value through the act of giving love, and whenever possible, easing pain with laughter. While practicing disdain and mistrust of our neighbor, (just point to the house on the street whose inhabitants are needed to complete your online order from Dominoes®), we have reduced the power of people into penny stock commodities on a billionaire's global portfolio.
Ours is no healthy local community of the past.
Still, women and men continue to breed into the throes of the Anthropocene. Love and nature happen, even during a mass extinction. Our living generations did not start the tragedy game. There have been many rolls of the dice since the birth of the steam engine. And just because it was our turn to roll, did not mean we hadn’t already lost. Odds are odds, and a thousand to one ain’t gonna turn the tide as it flows over Miami.
Meanwhile the media gnats will bite incessantly to confuse the only responsibility there is left, and that is to nurture our loved ones as best we can, even while withholding a connection to any need outside our closest circles. As pitifully useless and world collapsing dangerous humans have become, we still retain our power to love. We can accept suffering while practicing its antidote. It is the only responsibility we have left among us.
Make love and laughter the potent pesticide to drop dead these nasty gnats!
Here are the rest of those rare FDR prints I discovered last week at an antiquarian bookstore in Cooperstown, NY. I'm ready to resell if you're a buyer.
Thanks for visiting!