Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category

COVID obit

March 29, 2020

 

The whole world is talking

about that COVID we dread;

world  biz-trade is balking

so we won’t end up dead.

 

Scientists snip at the micro pathogen

to concoct an effective vaccine

while we elude the awful contagion,

keeping hands and our noses clean.

 

To assure us the required social distance,

the system skids to a dam near-stop,

though trumpian troupes make insistence

biznez as usual shall not flop.

 

Let’s just slip through this quick and easy-like

while congress cooks up a free lunch;

we’ll quarantine inconvenience; we’ll sanitize hype;

cuz elixir’s gone viral in politicized punch.

 

Hey! if you find comfort in that congressional dole

I’ve got some covid-cure I’ll sell ya!

Let’s just slip through this corona going-viral hole.

But how it happens I truly can’t tell ya.

 

Our rich uncle Mitch and his significant other,

rich uncle Sam sham of flim-flam fame—

they’ll send us a check from our long-gone mother

financed with Fed-Trez lame ponzi game.

 

Now we dance to a red-ink tune of 23 trillion

cuz we’d rather be red than dead.

But hey! not to worry cuz its video godzillion;

If the beast gets too big they’ll chop off his head!

Beast

Glass Chimera

 

The Underground

March 19, 2020

Half a century before the Russians mustered enough rebellion to  depose the Czar, a deep current of discontent had begun oozing up from somewhere deep down in those thawing Russian steppes.

Since that era, we have come to call what that discontent represents: The Underground.

Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevksy caught and early wind of it. In his 1864 novel, Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky identified and fictionalized an uncomfortable alienation that (he noticed) was mounting up among certain attentive and sensitive citizens of that restive country.

This alienation has, since then, become a characteristic of modern life.

In our day and time, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson points out that Dostoevsky and other writers (most notably Friedrich Nietzsche) detected this early alienation and wrote extensively about it.

There was, you see,  a deep, dark void in the European soul.

It was there. . . deep down in there, somewhere in the metamorphizing life of the 1800’s . . .  a sense that something was missing . . . something important, something—it must be something— essential.

Where some spiritual or soulful entity had, through many ages, carried European civilization along a certain path of cultural development, now there was nothing.

“Nihilism” is a word that was brought in to identify that void.

In our day and time, Jordan Peterson explains the development of nihilism—how it is related to the lapse  the Church, which had formerly evolved as a religious matrix around which the framework of European civilization and culture had manifested across almost two millennia of time.

Dr. Peterson attributes the identifying of this nihilism primarily to those two 19th-century writers, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. In his lectures, Dr. Peterson often mentions that these two prescient thinkers predicted—or one could almost say “prophecied”—the horrible carnage of our 20th-century wars.  Our two modernized hyper-mechanized destructive wars broke out as modern men desperately strove—through futile attempts at communist and fascist totalitarianism—to establish a meaningful State, or Society.

Instead of—let’s just say— the Church. Comprenez-vous?

Denizens of “the Underground” are those misplaced souls who have searched elsewhere—apart from the Society or Culture at large—for their own meaning or identity.  Even further than that, they will likely work collectively with other fellow travelers, striving for some collective opus that enables us—if not now, in the future— to live and thrive together.

When I was a young man, I composed a song about some of these deep urges toward meaning and liberty.

Underground Railroad Rides Again

I have empathy for the Undergrounders of this world, although some of them have, from time to time, carried their discontents too far, beyond the rightful constraints of decently civilized life. The Weather Underground of the 1960’s, for instance,  crossed that line of acceptable protest when they began making home-bombs,  one of which enabled one Undergrounder to blow up himself and his whole dam NYC apartment building, in spring of 1970.

But hey! Life goes on, in spite of all the abuse and injustices people pile on one another. In spite of all our myriad societal dysfunctions. The world persists in its predictable revolutions, whether you approve the changes or not.  Nations change. Seasons come and go. Our winters of discontent always as mellow out as . . .

a new wind, a fair breeze, and this year’s equinox a day early!

Now in 2020 A.D., about midday on this first spring day, 19  March, I was strolling along our local greenway, here in our little town of the Blue Ridge, observing obligatory social distancing protocols mandated by the COVID-19. When my walk began, the weather was dreary, misty and chilly. But as I neared the turnaround point of my 3-mile path, the sun was peeping out from behind the clouds, the air turned amazingly warm and dry, and suddenly! spring has sprung!

‘T’was then I encountered an Underground of different sort:

Molehills

This springtime sprung-up version of the Underground has been popping up with alarming regularity for a very long time. . . far longer than we homo sapiens have been struggling to find meaningful identity in our civilizations.

As I beheld these silly-pilly little dirt mounds, I disclosed the discovery to myself . . .  (as they say on the video spy dramas) what we have here is mole!

King of Soul

Bikinis and Starbuck

March 8, 2020

Herman Melville wrote his epic novel, Moby Dick, in 1851; it was the great American novel of the 19th-century, and is still revered as a classic.

In the story, a mysterious Captain Ahab commands the whaling ship, Pequod, which sails from New England across the Atlantic, around Africa, through the Indian Ocean and beyond, ultimately far into the Pacific Ocean, in pursuit of whales.

During the voyage, the first mate, Starbuck, experiences doubts about ole Ahab’s sanity. After noticing a few weird indicators in Cap’n Ahab’s behavior, Starbuck confronts him with a few probing questions.

In Warner Brothers’ 1956 film version of the story, Starbuck (Richard Basehart) carefully raises some questions to ole Ahab (Gregory Peck) about his motives in commanding the ship. Starbuck’s inquiry reveals that Ahab is driven by an obsessive vengeance against a great white whale, Moby Dick; the whale had injured him in a previous encounter.  Ahab’s speech about the beast indicates that his stubborn, soon-to-be global pursuit of the beast is more about revenge than hunting whales for oil and profit.

Consequently, Starbuck realizes, the good ship and crew were maybe sailing into the very jaws of death, for no good reason than one man’s vengeance toward a dumb beast.

Seeing this in the movie, I was reminded of Cain, the son of biblical Adam and Eve. Cain slew his brother Abel, which turned out to be a bad precedent in our human history. I recently viewed a few of Jordan Peterson’s lectures in which he points out Cain’s tendency to blame his problems on someone else–or perhaps the world in general–instead of resolving to identify areas of his own character that might need correction.

Ahab’s obsession against a brute beast is something like Cain’s grudge against the world, instead of resolving to fix himself.

As events onboard Herman Melville’s Pequod unfold, it becomes obvious to Starbuck that Cap’n Ahab’s manic pursuit of the “dumb brute that acted out of blind instinct” is irresponsibly irrational, insofar as it eclipses the legitimate purpose of the their mission to produce whale oil for the ship’s owners and crew.

Furthermore, the mad captain’s tyranny in this obsession ultimately endangers the lives of all the crew and the very safety of the the ship itself.

The Pequod sailors are, by Ahab’s command, sailing past whales in the Indian Ocean,  neglecting to fulfill their commission as they blow farther and farther, far into the largest ocean on our planet.

During Ahab and Starbuck’s man-to-man talk, Ahab had pointed to a map location, Bikini Atoll, located near the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

PacificBiStrbk

He explained to Starbuck that he had studied the behavior of those “great solitary” whales; Ahab was sure that Moby Dick would be passing through those Bikini islands at a certain time—at the “New Moon of April.”

So it becomes obvious to Starbuck that he and Ahab and the good ship and crew were proceeding, at great peril, in a mad chase across the planet . . .

for the sake of—not oil or profit, nor any such legitimate enterprise—but rather to impose a crazy captain’s manic vengeance upon a very dangerous, dumb animal.

Ahab’s pathological character ultimately turns out to be fatal for himself and for those crewman who were with him. His disastrous OCD propels Pequod into the very jaws of death.

AhabDead

Cap’n Ahab’s deathly voyage ends in the vicinity of the Bikini islands, exactly where he had thought  he would slay the monster, Moby Dick.

Now, as to why I write about such things as this on a spring-forward Sunday afternoon, I confess . . .

I have no real reason, except to note a couple of curious, 20th-century namesake associations that popped up in Moby’s fateful wake.

Almost a century later, the US military conducted its first explosions of atom bombs at those Bikinis.

So we see that those itsy-bitsy teeny-weenie Bikinis signaled, on one hand, the demise of a mythically mad sea captain and his crew back in the day. . .

but they also hosted the end of our world’s pre-atomic age (and the beginning of God only knows what fate lies ahead . . .)

Four days after the atomic blast, we also acquired a tiny two-piece obsession, unleashed upon the world by a Paris swimsuit designer.

The other significant namesake association from Melville’s Moby Dick was Mr. Starbuck, first mate of the Pequod. In the great story, his unheeded warning to Ahab turned out to be prophetic. His was the voice of reason, although unable to sway the pathological Ahab from his diehard suicidal course.

As for the Starbuck  namesake itself, that farsighted first mate managed to froth up, later,  a quite impressive legacy in Moby’s massive wake.

Starbuck

Glass half-Full 

Portrait of New Orleans

February 25, 2020

Since this is Mardi Gras, and while listening to appropriate music on downhome grassroots radio WNCW. . . I slipped into reminiscent mood about days gone by . . . re when I lived in Luzianna back in the day, long time ago, in the days of my youth and . . . remembering that a few years ago–2008– I got a wild hair and wrote a novel about genetic engineering and buried treasure back in that fabled bayou state. The story takes place in and near that historic Miss’ippi River Crescent city of N’Awlins.

In this scene, clipped from chapter 26, we find the silverspoon banker reprobate bad guy, Mick Basker, as he is recovering from a gun shot wound that he had gotten only because he stabbed the protagonist, Robby, in a moment of poor decision enflamed by a not-small nip of wine.

Now he’s laid up in a hospital room, until he receives a visit from Ophelia, a nice anthropologist lady (long story) and he asks her to give him a ride back to his warehouse where he has some stealthy business too attend to before it is too late. So Miss Ophelia obliges him. In this scene he is giving her the driving instructions to . . .

             “Turn right out of here. Take this street to Carrollton. Then turn right again.”  He slid the seat back as far as it would go, and stretched his right leg out. It was obvious Mick was dealing with some pain.

“You might have rushed it a bit, checking out of the hospital so soon,” said Opelia. Mick didn’t say anything. Driving the Jaguar was a new experience for Ophelia.  I could get used to this.    When they reached Carrollton Avenue, she turned right.

“Go up to the expressway, and turn right onto it.” They rode in silence for a few minutes.  Mick was nervous.  And so was Ophelia, not knowing what she had gotten herself into.  She had entered his room on an impulse about an hour and a half ago.  Now she was breezing along in control of a Jaguar on a concrete ribbon that stretched eastward, just a little higher than the funky city below.  It was about four in the afternoon. The city was hazy, like the unclear sort of agenda that seemed to hang over their expedition.  Or maybe the unclear agenda was in her mind. Ophelia had no idea where they were headed.   Over to the right were the brown and grey, dated, middle of the pack skyscraping obelisks of an old city whose glory days had checked out about 1965 or so, leaving generous tips for the bellmen and the cab drivers and the dancers and the jazzmen on the street and providing suitable gratuities for the artists and fortune tellers on Jackson Square, but no guaranteed income for those citizens born into the metropolis where every man is a king, and the queen of hearts trumps spades with the everpresent  half-empty glass in her hand and a gaggle of Mardi Gras beads coiled around her neck while the jack of diamonds stands outside  a strip club on Bourbon Street summoning desperate souls.

But it wasn’t entirely dicey.  New Orleans’ irresistible character  and native nobility was—in  spite of the worn-out rehearsals of a painted lady personsa whose playbill was perpetually posted on that old streetcar named desire—despite all that hurley-burley girly exploitation, its future  hung  upon, still, the solid hopes and noble dreams of a million creole souls whose thin checkbooks and postage stamp  domiciles sheltered them from the same deluge of disaster that lapped upon the levees or bridges or subways or suburbs or cul-de-sacs of any city in the wounded, wound-up  world.  Furthermore, there was still a place there where you could hear old colored men and young, hopeful white guys and gals who had a thing or two to learn about authentic music sing   Just a Closer Walk with Thee. There’s always hope. There’s always hope for a great city.  And I told him that.

“Take this exit,” said Mick.

GlassChpic

One more note about that New Orleans: have a listen:  When the Saints Go Marchin’ In!

Glass Chimera