Election Day

i-voted

 

November 8, 2016.  A date that will… a date that…

A date.

At the time of my writing this, it is the night before.  More accurately, the overnight before the morning of.  And as overnights before mornings of have a way of doing, I am left with my thoughts.  And the silence to think them.

And to write.

Thought number one…

In the mid-twentieth century, there was a man, a one-time German minister named Martin Niemöller, who became widely known for a quote that was an acknowledgement of the apathy of German citizens under the Third Reich, and Adolf Hitler.  This is the quote…

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

What Niemöller succinctly told the Post World War II world, at every opportunity, was that he, and all German citizens of the 1930’s and 1940’s, were culpable for the actions of those in power… power that was, at first, voted into existence by those very same citizens.  And while most of those citizens did not… could not… know at the time that they were turning over the reins of their government to what would be forever known throughout history as Nazi Germany, turn it over they did.  Again and again, with every act of cowardice that showed itself merely in their perpetual indecision.

Until, as Niemöller said, “…there was no one left to speak for me.”

Multiple millions of people, inside and outside of Germany, were tortured, starved, and murdered as the result of something as simple as saying, “Nah, I’m safe.”

Until they were next.

Thought number two…

In the early twenty-first century, who are the Socialists?  Who are the Trade Unionists?  Who are the Jews?  Not literal Socialists, Trade Unionists, or Jews.  But their figurative, metaphorical descendants.  Because every great country in the world has them.  Unpopular for many reasons with those who might have been here longer and reaped the benefits of that not-so-subtle favoritism based on nothing more than tenure, and beating the biological roulette wheel of unearned opportunity.

What if, one day, we who are still here are required to endure the words of a modern-day Martin Niemöller?  And what complicity will he, or she, be calling us to account for?

Because today is election day.  And for our choices, we all will be held to account.  So, will we who are still alive be culpable for in a second mass citizen apathy?  Shown culpable for our allowance of the following…

“First, they came for the Liberals, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Liberal.

Then, they came for the Working Poor, and I did not speak out, because I was not the Working Poor.

Then they came for the Brown, and I did not speak out, because I was not Brown.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Thought number three…

I am a writer.  That means that, if I’m doing it right, I take concepts that people talk about every day, and turn them into words that cause people to think, and then live accordingly.

Today is Election Day.  That day, every four years, when it is the right, the privilege, the duty, of every citizen, to act on what they know, and then vote accordingly.

History has been kind to all who, anonymously, stood with those who’s tragic ends came at the hands of unjust rulers.  History will again be kind to those who, anonymously, by secret ballot, stand with those who’s tragic end is in their hands to prevent.  To act on what they know, and then vote accordingly.

And see to it that one Martin Niemöller was enough.

Now vote.

 

Copyright © 2016 William S. Friday

20 Inch Black and White Portable TV

nano BLACK AND WHITE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I disappear.

It’s something I have always done, even from my earliest days.  In the late ’60s, when most kids didn’t have a TV, I had one, in my room.  20 inch, black and white, portable TV.  No remote.  I can’t remember the brand anymore, but that’s just one invisible detail in a story about becoming invisible.  With that TV, I watched Japanese monster movies, and re-runs of Gilligan’s Island.  With that TV, I watched local news with anchors nobody remembers.  With that TV, I watched the Dodgers and the Giants.

With that TV, I would disappear.

In the late ‘60s, both my parents worked, and they had plans in place to counteract leaving a child on his own before the age of ten.  My grandmother lived with us, but by the late ‘60s, she was in her early eighties couldn’t keep up, and there wasn’t much she could do to make interesting to a child the things she was interested in. Just like there wasn’t much that a woman born in the waning years of the nineteenth century could understand from a kid growing up in the mid-twentieth.  So, when all the afterschool sports and games were done; after all the neighborhood kids were called inside for the doing of things like homework and family dinners; before my parents would return from work, in the dark; I would retreat to my cluttered room, with the 20 inch, black and white, portable TV.

With that TV, I would disappear.

It became a habit almost impossible to break.  The retreat from loneliness into a different kind of loneliness.  One of my own choosing.  With my stunted social skills, learned well, but honed badly by the lack of brothers and sisters, or hands-on parenting, I was more at home in my room, in front of a 20 inch, black and white, portable TV, as I was in the company of other kids, or their families.  When I tell this story now, to people who think they know me… and I seldom tell it… they have a hard time believing that I’m not a lifelong extrovert.  Only decades of well-rehearsed dealings with folks… of knowing when, in conversation, to press in and look genuinely interested, or when to back off, so as to come across as informally cool… have gifted me with the ability to keep myself from disengaging, yet remaining in a soothing isolation from the crowd.  All of it reminding me of a childhood in which I felt more in control in the shadows of a room lit by a 20 inch, black and white, portable TV.

With that TV, I would always disappear.

And now, because this is a blog post and not a novella, I end with this.

Today I live in the second decade of the twenty-first century, almost fifty years removed from a time when a kid could disappear into the world of a 20 inch, black and white, portable TV.  The second decade of the twenty-first century, where listing the potential distractions for a child of this space and time would take longer to write than it took you to read this.  And it is no great surprise, except to most of my friends who think I could not possibly be anything other than an extrovert, that my retreat is still TV.

But they will always be wrong.  Because I will always have that need.  To fade into the shadows, and hear only the voices of those whose words I can turn on and off at will.  To close the door on the outside world, and let go of things beyond my control.  I miss that 20 inch, black and white, portable TV.

Because with that TV, I would disappear.

 

Copyright © 2015 William S. Friday

Planet Oklahoma

nano PLANET OKLAHOMA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I grew up on a moon

orbiting

the planet Oklahoma.

 

Copyright © 2015 William S. Friday

You and She

nano YOU AND SHE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This life is easy
Eat
Sleep
Fuck
And make little yous and shes
who do the same after you,
and she

No, wait

This life is easy
Feed the hungry
Act tirelessly
Give a fuck
And make the world a little better
for those who come after you,
and she

No, wait

This life is easy
Eat,
and feed the hungry
Sleep,
and act tirelessly
Fuck,
and give a fuck
and make little yous and shes

Who do the same for those who come after you,
and she

Copyright © 2015 William S. Friday

Holes

nanoHOLES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes

we fill the holes in our lives

with deeper holes

 

Copyright © 2015 William S. Friday

With This Muse You Lose

Chatterton-1765

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(This post was originally written for the Citizen Journal, Broowaha.com.  While the style of my writing has changed over the years, the content of my message has not.  First published in 2007, here is “With This Muse You Lose)

Writers are freaks.

Capable of reaching deep into the creative void, searching for light, and, as if from nowhere they, seemingly, can pull entire worlds out whole. And sometimes in their search they, along with the worlds they’ve drawn from the darkness, bring back the very darkness itself.

And sometimes, writers are bullies.

A few days ago, I got an email from another writer inside the Los Angeles Edition. In the note were concerns about criticisms expressed in the comments section at the end of our articles for BrooWaha. One thought in particular stood out,

“I appreciate the fact that people can give feedback and constructive criticism, but I don’t think it should be condescending and pointlessly mean.” (emphasis mine).

After a few words from me (which I’m sure didn’t help), I got to thinking about these two sides of the writer, and about the fragile nature of each. Because even the schoolyard bully is just one good ass-beating away from having to embrace his own inner freak. What is it about staring deep into that empty, dark place where ideas take shape and then draw breath, which brings out the best, and worst, in the writer? I thought a little more, and my thoughts turned, well… dark.

Really dark.

In the film Wonder Boys, James, the budding, brilliant writer (played by Tobey Maguire), recites a list of celebrity suicides he’s memorized, in alphabetical order no less. At a very young age, James is a freak who gets it. He already sees what comes with the literary territory. It’s morbid. Funny morbid. But when the lights come up again in the theater, James is just a character in a movie. He isn’t real. Movies aren’t real.

Real is what happens between kids (the freaks and the bullies) on any playground, any day, between lunch and the 5th period bell. Real is what happens in the comments section at the end of the articles in BrooWaha, where the writer plays critic, and the rules of the playground still apply.

Writers search for light in the darkness of their own soul. And when that light can’t be found, other writers write about it.

Literary history is the story of writers – freaks – so damaged from staring into the black hole of their own inspiration, that they can no longer cope with what’s real.

The world loves a winner, and everyone loves a story about a thick-skinned writer. But in a world that’s real, thick skin is just a cover for the freak that lives inside. And only in a business where the workers must daily look into the void of darkness in their own souls, is insanity accepted as an occupational hazard.

Real.

“Paint me an angel, with wings, and a trumpet, to trumpet my name over the world.” – Thomas Chatterton.

Thomas Chatterton was real.

Born in England in 1752, Thomas Chatterton was a freak. Withdrawn as a young child, some thought he might even be mentally handicapped. Before the age of six, Thomas lived as a recluse in the home of his parents, sitting alone for hours and, at times, crying without a reason. When not staring into space or crying, he would tell family members of his desire to be famous.

By age eight, if given the chance, he would read and write all day. By age eleven, he was a published author.

However, during the next six years, Chatterton, while writing for various journals in England, also perpetrated an elaborate and ill-conceived series of “forgeries”. He claimed the documents were original poems by the 15th century writer Thomas Rowley. They were original poems, alright. Originally written by Chatterton on two-hundred-year-old parchment scraps he had taken from a chest inside his local parish church.

After the fall-out over the Rowley poems, Chatterton began writing political satire under various pen names, selling little and sinking deeper into depression. Finally, in 1770, at the age of seventeen, Thomas Chatterton wrote a rambling “Last Will and Testament” and moved on to the big city – London.

Two months later, unemployed, hungry and disgraced, Chatterton tore up any writings he had in his possession, drank arsenic, and died.

“Dance no more at holiday, like a running river be; My love is dead, gone to his death bed, all under the willow tree.” – TC.

Real.

“I must now prove that I even exist.” – Jerzy Kosinski.

Jerzy Kosinski was real.

An acclaimed author, Kosinski, was the survivor of a childhood spent hiding his Jewish identity from the Nazis who occupied his native Poland during World War II. As an adult, this period of his life was recounted in the 1965 novel The Painted Bird. Though Kosinski never claimed the book was a “biography” as such, he did say that the story was both a representation of his life at the time, as well as a retelling of a Polish folk tale about the dangers of non-conformity. Later in his career, Kosinski also wrote the 1972 novel Being There, and co-authored the screenplay for the 1979 film version starring Peter Sellers.

However, as early as 1969, with the publishing of the book Steps, whispers within the writing community began to be heard about possible plagiarism in the stories of Kosinski. Over the next dozen years, countless accusations, newspaper articles and broadcast stories pointed to the same thing.

Finally, in early May, 1991, ostracized by the literary world that had made him famous, Jerzy Kosinski, 58, committed suicide in his New York apartment.

“I need an internal light, as not to fall prey to the things which cause my spirits to sag. This is true water from the heavens.” – JK.

Real.

“That’s nice talk, Ben – keep drinking. Between the 101-proof breath and the occasional bits of drool, some interesting words come out.” – Sera to Ben in Leaving Las Vegas, from the novel by John O’Brien.

John O’Brien was real.

A Midwestern kid from a stable, two-parent home, John O’Brien was married just a year after graduating high school. Three years later John, and his wife Lisa, moved to Los Angeles. During the next few years, John wrote and worked various jobs around L.A.

According to his sister Erin, John became a heavy drinker in his mid-twenties when, she said,

“John’s drinking problem started as soon as he started drinking. By the time he was 20, he was taking a clandestine flask to work. By the time he was 26, he was chugging vodka directly from the bottle at morning’s first light in order to stave off the shakes. I know. I saw him do it.”

By 1990, O’Brien’s first novel, Leaving Las Vegas, was published. The next four years saw O’Brien complete just one more work, Stripper Lessons, and begin one other, The Assault on Tony’s.

In 1994, in the wake of the controversy surrounding the true origin of the Sheryl Crow song Leaving Las Vegas (a song Crow co-wrote with O’Brien’s friend, David Baerwald), O’Brien sank to the deepest depths of alcoholic depression.

On March 21, 1994 Crow appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, performing the song and answering questions about its origin. During the course of the interview, Crow took biographical credit for the lyrics.

A week after the Crow appearance, production began on the movie version of LLV, starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue. Two weeks later, on April 10th, O’Brien was still upset about the Crow interview, complaining to his literary agent in a phone conversation.

Later that day, John O’Brien put a shotgun to his head and killed himself. Later, his father said that the novel, Leaving Las Vegas, was John’s suicide note.

The final paragraph of John O’Brien’s unfinished manuscript of The Assault on Tony’s summed up his life.

“For the first time in his life Rudd found himself wishing for death, hoping (praying?) that the walls came down before the liquor ran out, that they were stormed, bombed or shot in some truculent surprise attack, some irresistible force, divine intervention.” – J.O.

Writers are freaks.

And if you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer.

Real

 

Copyright © 2007-2010-2014, 2015 William S. Friday