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Archive for the tag “blogging”

Movies, Monkeys, and the Music in my Head

 

28 days later

There’s music playing in my head right now.  Not the kind you’d expect.  Not the Sirius XM playlist kind of music that some invisible algorithm picks for you from somewhere in the black bowels of your emo soul.

It’s something more insidious.

When I was 20, I had a job in retail, selling wallpaper and other equally inane home decor products for a nationally known chain of stores owned by an international breakfast cereal conglomerate.  And no, I could not make that shit up if I sat down hard and tried.  Anyway, this nationally known chain of stores, owned by an international breakfast cereal conglomerate did not play well-known music over the ceiling speakers for the customer’s in-store pleasure.  What they played was a six-hour, continuously looped, instrumental audio tape of songs, scientifically created… or so we were told in training… to stimulate the shopper’s brain in such a way as to create in them “an innate desire to purchase” on a purely subconscious level.

Such was the weird science of the early 1980s.

Whether or not these musical cues actually stimulated our customer’s amygdaloidal behavior to the tune of windfall profits was unclear to me then, just as it is to me now.  But what I can recall clearly was how we just-above-minimum wage employees responded to being in the presence of these sounds, day in-day out, for however long each of us worked there.

Did you ever see the film 28 Days Later?  Yes?  Good.  That’ll make this explanation easier.  Remember the opening scene, where the eco-activists broke into the animal testing laboratory to free the captive primates from their cages, but found out, too late, that these primates had been infected with some chemical cocktail “rage virus” while being subjected to image after television image of non-stop human-on-human violence?  Remember what these primates then did to their liberators?  And remember what would become of the world only 28 short days later?

Yeah, I wonder what all that listening to shopper stimulation music ultimately did to those of us who worked for that nationally known chain of stores owned by an international breakfast cereal conglomerate in 1981.

Oh yeah, my actual point.

Remember when I said there’s music playing in my head right now?

I’m not so sure it’s a coincidence I thought of that music while sitting alone in a warehouse and wondering, is it really only two weeks…okay, 14 days, 22 hours, and 19 minutes… till I’m free from this 20,000 square foot chimpanzee enclosure?  And when I’m free, will I react like an adorable rage monkey?  Because, you know, writers can be pretty adorable when they’re raging.  Or will I act like Jim, the smooth-skinned, human in the story, who when awakened from a coma, must face an entire world now completely changed from the one he knew before.

Metaphorically speaking, and if you read me, you know, I’ve been in a type of coma since I started working the graveyard double-shift life last year.  This awakening of sorts that’s happening in June is me, coming to grips not only with my certain past, but my uncertain future as well.  I’m unsure how it’s going to go.

But I have it on reasonably good authority that it’s going to go better for me than it did for those adorable rage monkeys in the movie.

Tick-tock.

I’m about to wake up.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Apt Title

men without women FINISHED png

There is a new book.

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it, eventually.  I get around to everything, eventually.  It’s a book about men, choosing to live their lives without the company of women.  Yes…straight men, dumbass.  I hear it’s a very good book, as are all the author’s other books.  I even have one of his books lying on my couch, still waiting to be finished, right where I left off reading it almost two years ago.  That was the last time I…

Anyway, I hear the book is about a growing number of men in the world who would rather do without the company of women, than risk the possibility of disappointment, hurt, or sadness that eventually comes with coupling.  For all the good a good woman can bring to a man, there is always the looming probability that with the good comes an even worse bad.  And so, after years of experiencing more bad than good, these men just say no to it all.

I understand completely.

Think of it this way.

When you’re a young man, after a fairly ordinary childhood and adolescence, and an even less remarkable bunch of teen years, you, with little to no experience in life, accept what you, at the time, believe is a most remarkable job.  In your mind, you think it’s the best job you will ever have.  You also believe that you need to sign onto this job just as quick as you can, because you are convinced by the smiling person who wants to hire you, that you will never find another job like this job, anywhere, ever again.  So you snap up that job, reminding yourself every day just how lucky you are to have it.  And while you don’t have much experience with other jobs in your young life, you believe this job will only get better through the years, because, more than any other job in the whole wide world, this job is a keeper.

So, over the course of several decades, with a few random highs mixed in with a seemingly endless stream of lows, you work hard at the job, mostly because, you remind yourself daily, that you committed yourself to the job, come hell or high water, to the end.  Never mind that no one told you going in that the job you thought was your job for life was a job scrubbing toilets and mopping bathroom floors sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, with no opportunity for promotions or raises, or even one day, retirement.  All of that must have been in the fine print somewhere at the bottom of the last page of the contract you signed all those years ago.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  What kind of a job does this to someone?  And what kind of loyalty to such a shitty job could anyone possibly have in a world where there must be better jobs than this?   And if you weren’t thinking that, because you’re a smart reader,  because you were paying attention, and you remember the introduction to what you started reading about 500 or so words ago, you know that this little allegory was not about a job, but about a relationship.  A relationship that conditioned you for all your future jobs… I mean relationships… wherein you would repeat the same patterns and habits you learned the first time around.

Lather, relation, repeat.

Until one day, you tell yourself that it would be better to go without than to repeat the same mistakes and sorrows, again and again, until death you depart this life.

And so you quit trying, because quitting is less painful than losing.

What?  You thought this post would have a happy ending?  And I thought you were paying attention.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

The Warehouse of Brand New Dreams

Urban Lumberjack 02

In my favorite picture of me, I look like classed-up shit.  Or maybe just shit on the outside, and class, invisible, on the inside.

Either way, it’s me.

I’m told I look skinny.  But I must make up for it in ways not seen by the naked eye.  And get your mind out of the gutter, right now.  My kids could be reading this, after I’m dead, of course.

In the thoughts that went through my mind between that last paragraph and this one, I realize how many things I’ve written that I know won’t see the light of day before I’m gone.  Things I’ve written that are so honest, they even scare me when I consider the possibility of making them public while I’m still around to reap the consequences.  And not things that are acceptable between consenting adults, but things that a lifetime of reinforcement cause me to share only with myself and the blank computer screen.

I do hint at them, in poems, mostly.  Sometimes in song lyrics that only have music playing inside my head as I write.  Regrets about the past.  Fears about the future.  And how many people I’ve hurt from there to here.  As a writer, I know it’s assumed that everything is fair game, especially those things that you’ve lived through and survived.  But most of them are an embarrassment to me, and I will probably keep them locked away for safe keeping, until I have made peace with them in this life, or am at peace in the next.

This evening, I had my daily talk with one of the drivers who come in and out of the warehouse with freight and parcels headed from point of origin to destination every day.  I’ve known him my entire time here. I was the one who spotted the heart attack he was having back in ’09 while he sat in a chair waiting for his truck to be loaded up for another run.  There’s a closeness between folks when one recognizes the looming mortality on the face of the other.  Mortality that could just as easily be your own face as his.  On this day, he was stunned when I told him that in two weeks, when I finally work my last day here, I will be leaving just three weeks short of nine years.  Nine years as, essentially, as a blue-collar temp. 

He’s been here for sixteen.

Today, we talked about all the drivers and warehousemen we’ve known, and how much each one ended up hating the work they did.  The same work he and I have done.  By the end of our conversation, he asked me if I regretted the last nine years, on the road and in the warehouse.  I told him that without those years, which seem to have passed overnight, and taken me through a lifetime’s worth of trials that, without it, I would have learned nothing, had nothing, to show for my fifty-some-odd years on this earth.  That seemingly, all the lessons I’ve learned in my life came to pass in these nine years, doing something I hated, just to survive.

And that in leaving I know, looking back, this was exactly where I needed to be to understand anything about where I’m going.

A couple of days ago, I posted something on social media that went like this,

“I used to call this place The Warehouse of Broken Dreams. No more. From this moment forward, I call it The Warehouse of Brand New Dreams.”

I’ve got two weeks to go until I step out of here and into an unknown future that these last nine years have prepared me for.

And maybe then I won’t be afraid of the all the honesty I’ve kept hidden in this life, while there’s still more life to be lived.

More to follow.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Catalyst

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There’s a poignancy to changes in an ingrained life, lived flawed, but still true to human nature.  Change is not natural, and it only comes by way of trauma, either physical or emotional.  And though the choices for our changes are brought about under the sovereign hand of our autonomy of spirit, there is always a catalyst, and never of our choosing.

I am no different than any other soul that must change.

My catalyst is emptiness.

For me, it was a two-step process.  First you lose most of what you have, and then, you give the rest of it away.  The losing isn’t all that hard.  Humanity is conditioned to lose.  It’s what we do most of the time.  We’re used to it from as far back as our earliest memories.  It’s the real reason we idolize winners.  A winner is humanity’s real life superhero.  They succeed where the rest of us fail, and we idolize them because of it.  To be human is to worship, and it is easiest to worship the demigod who looks like a better version of us.  Hero worship is as real a thing as hunger and thirst, and easier to satisfy.  Just find a winner and put your hopes on them, while all of us who aren’t them keep doing what we do best.  Lose.

But after the losing comes the hard part.  The giving away of whatever you have left.  You’re already a loser.  Not a day goes by when you aren’t reminded of it.  For most, the response is to try and hold fast to what’s left of your losses.  For the rest, there is a different choice.    

I used to be that guy who held on.  To everything.  Until there was nothing left to hold onto.  Until life removed the last of everything I thought I wanted.  And the thing you realize when everything you thought you wanted isn’t yours anymore, is that you can finally let go of the rest.

So after a life of losses, now comes my time to let go, because only empty hands can take hold of the good that comes after defeat.

And I’m going to need a new catalyst.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

The Unemployment Compensation

lotus position

When I was twelve years old, I found a worn, black paperback book in my dad’s sock drawer.  Yes, THAT kind of book.  And being twelve years old, a lot of it didn’t make sense at the time. 

But, eventually it did.

That’s the way of it with most things we aren’t ready for yet.  We try to understand it the best we can, but until it’s actually our time, no amount of pre-adolescent want to is going to help move that sort of understanding along any faster than the universe deems fit.

However, in all my hindsight is 20/20 understanding of that paperback book, there were a few phrases my twelve-year-old self remembered better than others.  One of those was a sub-chapter called, “The Unemployment Compensation”.  Without going into much detail from the book, The Unemployment Compensation was the name given to one particularly unhurried tantric posture, best utilized by those who had nowhere to be, and were in even less of a hurry to get there.  In other words, if all you have is time, you might as well spend that time doing something you love.

Well, I’m not twelve years old anymore.  And a lot of things, in that book… and out… are a been there, done that proposition.  But some things that once held only a single meaning can, when the time of understanding is right, take on a whole new meaning when it’s your time to understand. 

Case in point, The Unemployment Compensation.

Four weeks from today I will, voluntarily, join the ranks of the unemployed.  And while the idea of leisurely tantric activities can still make me react like a precocious twelve year old boy, the idea of suddenly having the time…the precious time… to occupy myself in the free pursuit of something I love is even more exciting.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written two books, while working an average of 60 to 70 hours a week.  Four weeks from today, I get 70 hours a week back in my life to do something I love.

And just so you know, like with all really good things, I’m taking a risk with this one.  I have no new job lined up, no golden parachute retirement package, no Sugar Mama.  I barely have any plans at all.  I guess what I’m doing, in the truest spirit of the phrase is, trusting the knowing universe for the compensation.  This doesn’t make me brilliant, and it doesn’t make me some brave pioneer.  What it makes me is a scared shitless creative, hoping that the compensation is worth the adventure.

And a lot of it still doesn’t make sense.

But if it’s okay with you, I’d like to share that adventure with everyone.

So keep reading.  I’ll keep writing.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Crossroads

crossroads

First note to self: Every road has a crossroad, eventually.

This may be my last blog post.  Then again, it may be the first of another few hundred.  It all depends on what’s coming at the next crossroad.  Once upon a time, in a distant, bordering county to Los Angeles, I thought I knew exactly what the path of my life was.  With a wife and two kids, and a history of changing directions every few years, I believed I was cosmically chosen to move back to the land of my raisings, and begin all over again in the very same zip code my parents had once called home.

So we bought a nice, mid-sized home, half a mile from my old high school, and with plans and late-thirties dreams, we marched blindly ahead into the future.  I started a brick and mortar business.  Our eldest started the 9th grade. My wife stayed home with our youngest.  It was an early chapter in our book of the American Dream.  Now because this is an unread blog post and not an essay in some fine quarterly anthology, I will cut to the chase and tell you that in the years following, the business went bust, our eldest learned how to score meth, our youngest retreated into his own insomnia-fueled exile, and the marriage came to an end. 

And those weren’t necessarily the worst things that happened, just the highlights I felt like sharing.

Basically, it was a ten year stretch along a highway of failure after failure, bad choice after bad choice, crossroad after untaken crossroad.

Second note to self: Every crossroad has crossroad of its own, if you’re looking for it.

When I was younger, I would hear this phrase spoken a lot, “When God closes a door, look for a window”.  Now I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds a lot like breaking and entering.  And God being God, I figure if he closes a door, the least he could do is open another actual door, and I would not be required to carry a crowbar and a flashlight everywhere I go just to get into someplace I actually belonged.  Yeah, metaphors are tricky like that.

So anyway, crossroads. 

About ten years ago, give or take, I began two hardcore pursuits that, combined, still occupy nearly all of my waking hours, and a lot of my sleeping hours, too.  Those things are work and writing.  I know, work doesn’t sound like something you just decide to pick up in your late forties, and it’s not.  And frankly, neither is writing.  But the way I threw myself into them was.  Starting slowly, I forced myself to learn what it was to work.  Long hours of actual physical labor, with no human reward except the food it put in the fridge, the rent it paid, and the endurance it created in me.  And at the very same time, after thirty years of ignoring a calling I first heard in college, I began to write.  Then, after ten years of writing, a first book was born.  As much a tribute to the endurance learned from work as any questionable skill I may possess.

Both the work, and the writing, the result of slowing down long enough to look, and to see, the crossroads.

So now, because I sort of know what to look for, I know I am at the crossroads again.  After ten years of these twin occupations, I have decisions to make with them, and what roads to turn down on my way to something newer, better, and right.  One decision is made, and the other is in the making.  The first, I am quitting the job that is now damn near killing me.  That’s a done deal, even if the boss doesn’t know it yet.  The second has to do with the writing, and not even I know what the questions are, let alone the answers.  But I think the writing may be killing me, too.

You remember that line at the beginning of all this, “This may be my last blog post”? 

Maybe it is, maybe not.  But I know I can’t keep doing both the work and the writing for very much longer without becoming some cliché mashup that a friend of mine had called, Norman Rockwell-Bukowski.  So with that, and because I hate being a cliché, I’m taking a detour off of one of these roads before I have to take the other.  And we’ll see what calling it quits with the job does in keeping me from calling it quits with the writing.

But the truth is, I do not know what in the actual fuck I am doing.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Reading America

Reading America PNG

I have, often wrongly, been called a poet.  I would argue that point right now, but doing so would defeat the purpose of the next 800 or so carefully spellchecked words.  So instead, I’ll say,

“Poetry is not my friend.”

At best, poetry is that crazy uncle who showed you which liquor store would sell to a minor without a fake ID, then introduced you to the college girl who worked the register, and even made sure you left with her number and a twelve-pack.  At worst, poetry is that same crazy uncle who introduced you to the college girl who worked the register and, it turns out, has a boyfriend with two cauliflower ears, an even more twisted nose, and the willingness and ability to kill you before you can even put your pants back on. 

Once again,

“Poetry is not my friend.”

I’ve got more words, so follow me.

While it is harder and harder to call America a country of readers anymore, America does read.  It reads news and fake news with equal ease, it reads movie reviews, and from time to time, it even reads a book.  The New York Times, that thing with all the book reviews on Sunday, is written for Americans to read.  And the New York Times is written on a 7th grade reading level.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that because, for the most part, America’s conversational grade level is in the neighborhood of Cash me Ousside Girl, which is also fine, because America kinda had to read to even find her. 

But here’s the thing.  Remember what I said about how America does read?  Well, there is one thing that America reads better than every other form of the written word.  The one thing that is the most powerful platform of thought conveyance there is.  A literary form so strong, it even got a morally bankrupt, hairspray-wearing, tiny-handed, Alec Baldwin impersonating, billionaire elected President of the Reading United States of America.

America reads Tweets.

Long Tweets, max of 140 characters (not including uploads), short Tweets, soft Tweets, hard Tweets, quiet Tweets, loud Tweets, stupid Tweets, and even… God knows how crazy THIS will sound… smart Tweets.  Tweets are America’s shit ticket to literacy, as literacy is measured anymore.  And America eats this shit up like it’s a dollar dessert at McDonalds.  It is the new literary paradigm, and no amount of MFAs working at McDonalds can stop it.  It is the mint on the pillow of the hotel so good, the first family would rather live there than the home reading America theoretically voted it into.  Tweets are sweet, and don’t even give you the cavities no longer covered in your soon to be lost, affordable dental care. 

Mmmmm, Tweets.

So now, let’s go back to the beginning and review.

I have, often wrongly, been called a poet.  I also know that poetry is not my friend.  It can get you drunk.  It can get you dead.  You know that, while America is really not a country of readers anymore, America does still read.  If you read above a 7th grade reading level, this post introduced you to Cash me Ousside Girl, who probably Tweets, and it taught you that the same Tweets that you can read from her are the Tweets that got a morally bankrupt, hairspray-wearing, tiny-handed, Alec Baldwin impersonating, billionaire elected President of the Reading United States of America.

And you learned that America reads Tweets.  Oh, and that no one cares about those kids in the paper hats with $100,000 worth of student loan debt behind the counter at McDonalds who have advanced college degrees in, well… poetry.

One last thing before the shocking conclusion.

Poetry should be everyone’s friend.

Have you read any Tweets today?  I hope so, and if you haven’t, there’s still time.  I hope so because, if you did, you might have actually read… poetry.

Long poetry, max of 140 characters (not including uploads), short poetry, soft poetry, hard poetry, quiet poetry, loud poetry, stupid poetry, and even… God knows how crazy THIS will sound… smart poetry.  Poems are America’s shit ticket to literacy, as literacy is measured anymore.  And America eats this shit up like it’s a dollar dessert at McDonalds.  It is the new literary paradigm, and no amount of MFAs working at McDonalds can stop it.  It is the mint on the pillow of the hotel so good, the first family would rather live there than the home reading America theoretically voted it into.  Poems are sweet, and don’t even give you the cavities no longer covered in your soon to be lost, affordable dental care. 

Mmmmm, poems.

Poems are reading America’s new literary paradigm, all over again.  And all because, while nobody was looking, reading America was being given an unconscious mind made ready for a brilliance that can be captured in 140 characters or less.  So now,

“Poetry is everyone’s friend.”

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Orphans

orphanage

I followed my feelings,

and got lost. 

I learned late.  

That shit only works in movies. 

In truth,

there are no heroes,

or prisoners.

No princesses,

or monsters.

Except those you imagine. 

But there is one part of the story that’s true.

We are all orphans,

left to raise ourselves

in the shadows we create. 

I want to be alone in the sun.

To be warm,

where nothing blocks the light.

Understood by all,

because all is only me. 

And if then lost,

the only absence I will know

is of the noise I left behind.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

I Raised a Generation

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This is my end.  

I raised a generation,

and now look back upon it. 

I raised a generation,

and the next in line to come;

beautiful,

and free from my spotted past. 

And in seeing,

think only that it is to this generation,

and the next,

that I am tied forever. 

One decision,

made so long ago,

that its beginning seems eternal. 

By one decision,

I am now grounded to this earth,

to this very spot on which I stand,

for the rest of my obligation of days. 

I will go nowhere. 

I will not find pleasure,

as a reward for years spent in hopeless,

loving duty,

but in dedication to my craft,

and to my legacy,

this generation,

and the next in line to come. 

This is my end. 

I raised a generation,

and if I am lucky,

one day,

I will know my place,

beneath this ground on which I stand.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

These People

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I watch a TV show

or a movie,

and I see friends. 

Human beings

who have friends,

friends who have

human beings

who are their friends. 

And I ask myself,

“How did these people

find each other?”

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

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