Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Soy Burger

The ritual of having children has never quite caught hold of me. I am, perhaps, what some might call a “serial monogamist.” Perhaps back in primitive days I’d have been some sort of absentee father, trudging across the African savannah in 50,000 BC, addicted to the scent and subsequently impregnating a farmers daughter here, fixated on the shimmery flesh of a hunter’s wife there, perhaps narrowly escaping a stoning, or perhaps nothing. Perhaps people didn’t even think in terms of daughters and wives, romance. Perhaps we simply gyrated against and within each other for a small duration, having no clue what we were doing, simply enjoying, and simply going about the rest of our day hunting, farming, which may have simply consisted of following a herd of cattle around, spearing one in the ribs when we were hungry. 

Perhaps my life rituals live on from these humble roots in an era some might call the nanny-state, a state of multiple choices, where perhaps no true choice exists. Perhaps the only theory is the pheromone theory, and I am trotting round this fair planet with a emitting a pheromone signal that shouts “potential wives and mothers, be gone, this is not provider material, find a different man, perhaps in a suit, to provide you offspring and meat!” 

Well, that might be part, but perhaps it’s more truthful that when I decided there was such a thing as artist, and that I should be one, there was a notion that the act of being an artist was akin to devoting one’s life to the priesthood. Early Somerset Maugham summarizes my philosophy. But is the role of an artist just an ego-driven folly? Is the act of procreation the same? In both one replicates ones self into future rituals. Is the entire course of human activity simply a series of human follies? How and why does one justify their “chosen” path? 

I imagine humans have been lazily repeating social and sexual patterns since above mentioned cave man days, and in these modern times, I somehow have not been privy to the ritual of providing a nest for offspring, or consequentially pro-creating. Perhaps it is a choice, but it is a lazy, only semi-conscious choice resolved in part by looking at the paths available to me. The fact that I never had kids could be due to my family background, it could be due to perceived dangers in the world, it could be many things, which I will now contemplate. 

Let us contemplate the soy burger — an excellent protein source. Perhaps in some parallel universe soy protein is a gourmet delicacy, but in our US of A it is most often forced to fit into the ritual of hamburger cooking and eating. In this ritual, it would only occur to one to eat soy rather than meat, if one is conscious that meat is a bad choice for feeding oneself.  So the vegetarian proselytizes to the carnivore, attempting to trick his or her hard-wiring into substituting soy for meat, and to do so, soy must mimic the beef hamburger ritual. The soy must be hearty substance, able to withstand grilling, often over an open fire. The soy burger must fit within 2 pieces of bread, and should be good company for garnishings like tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, catchup, cheese, mustard, and occasionally mayonaise. It can then be readily passed around a group of friends or relatives and consumed on a sunny summer day, preferably in close proximity to a beach or perhaps just a beer. The fact that it is a SOY burger, lets one continue to a large extent with the ritual while clearly eating something that is a better choice within that ritual, a choice that is easier on the planet to create, easier on the body to digest, one that does not contain the fats that adversely affect the heart, one that is not cruel to sentient beings in its production. However, part of its virtue is also its shortcoming: Blood, being the most obvious, the savory liquid that is the proof of an animal sacrifice, one that assures the consumer he or she is atop the food chain, even the grease, the unhealthy film that is left on one’s fingers, lips and chin when grabbing a burger fresh off the grill, is a sensuous reminder of its authenticity, and lest we forget, the soy burger’s smell is not that of roasting flesh, but rather dons a slightly medicinal quality, like the lab-created replication that it is. Alas, the soy burger’s supreme creators managed only to make it mimic meat as far as it can mimic meat, and thereafter it is simply an inferior burger. Even if you corrected this nuance or that, it would never be as good as a straight-up beef hamburger.

In like spirit, today’s ritual of a red-blooded American family man consists of: 

1. Owning a truck and/or a luxury car, proving one’s ability to provide an adequate nest. 

2. One should enjoy sports, preferably having gone fairly far in one, perhaps have even gone pro had it not been that one was accepted into Business School. Preferring particularly violent sports like football or boxing shows a comfort level with violence, and thus, the more likely it is one will provide adequate protection for the nest. 

3. One should support the actions of our military (3a) while at the same time proclaim one’s belief in Jesus Christ, (3b) while at the same time espouse a hearty lust for silicon-breasted women with spray-on tans. 

In short, one must not think at all, should the inherent contradictions of the above philosophies become apparent. The ideal family man is a neanderthal with an MBA. This is the strain of gene that tends to dominate in our culture, although my evidence is entirely anecdotal.

Lo, I am but a soy burger of a man, barely able to make a living, a person who studied the history of art, alongside numerous gays and —god forbid — women. It is a smart social combination, given my lack of machismo. Women who chose me must choose to deny that ultimate turn-on of a high-income muscle-bound protector, the man comfortable with violence, the one who ultimately will go the distance, which is marriage and children. Pretty much, I’m a fag who happens to fuck women. I haven’t been in a fight since, say, 7th grade, and heck, I can barely even watch football!

But I’m comfortable as a soy-burger man, a role I have perhaps lazily slipped into. Before my effeminate discipline of study, I was previously labelled a soy-burger of a boy — or should I simply say a defective boy -- by people within our Seventh-Day Adventist community. My parents divorced, there were a couple domestic violence events, substance abuse, my mother’s chronic depression, constant moving from town to town, in general, we were a mess. One look at our fractured family, and we were a social project for do-gooders to prop up their own role. A stigma followed me. Dating as a teenager, there were parents who felt I had no role models, and would not mature to become one, though I’m certain they piously hoped for the best. Even as an adult, in more than one relationship, discussions return to my upbringing, which according to some partners, has taught me little in the ways of family loyalty. Certainly, I will die with the “not family material” label upon me, and it will have been true, and perhaps even a bigger contributor to my soy ritual than some primordial urge. I don’t argue against that, but I will argue the validity of my choices, which due to my background, I’ve had the freedom to choose.

From the non-Seventh-Day Adventist culture at large, we did more often eat Soy Burger than beef, as the religion espouses good health, the body being the temple of God, or what have you. We were also conscientious objectors, i.e. — it is sinful to bear arms. Man has no moral authority to kill another man, as it is written right there, in the most obvious commandments from God, written in friggin’ stone, given to Moses, who shared with God’s chosen: “Thou shalt not kill.” To reinforce that, the Son of God taught us to “turn the other cheek.” I’ve chosen to retain this in my personal moral code, even though I’m either agnostic or atheist, depending upon which mood you catch me.

Although I don’t feel compelled to mimic any particular role model, I do espouse, from high atop this soap-box, the general philosophy of Christ (whether he existed or not) that no one is perfect, we are all works in progress, and to forgive imperfections. I believe in a broader morality than personal gain, or even tribal gain, or that my family is better than yours — which also stems from my Seventh-Day Adventist upbringing. All god’s children are equal, therefore, we never had intramural sports, nor even grades in one school. 

To some people, this is abhorrent mediocracy. They might project the “work in progress” philosophy to parenting, but set bars that are concrete. They guide their children through discipline, religion and politics. Being somewhat of a self-parented child, I have at points applied all the bull-shit to myself, and mostly, have realized I should be free. Whether I achieved this point of view from liberal teen and early adult psychotropic drug use, I cannot be sure, but given the hostile nature of the environment in which I was born, feel I should not adhere to the model of a family, nor larger lessons our culture teaches us,  which is largely a study on the value of war, nor place a virgin soul into this mess. I discourage most friends to pro-create, but if they do, I discourage living up to the conflicting standards of that family man, lest they wind up, in the words of Henry Rollins, “a twice-divorced alcoholic like me.” No, the innumerable conflicting standards read like a match against flint to my sensibilities, and I see flints ignite from Oklahoma City to Iraq. 

Nor I do have that desire to attack life as if an invading marine, grabbing that career, that wife, creating my tribe. I’m much happier dabbling in my paints, or music, or writing new characters or what have you. My so-called artistic achievements will be my legacy (even if I have no agent or publicist). I can attack the color orange within that art, be as violent as I want to that hateful color, without hurting anyone. Or I can write a murder ballad, again without hurting anyone. Since a small child, I have always locked myself in my room, drawing my secret drawings, building imaginary cities, my fantastical life of no consequence while the misery of my parents’ doing continued outside. If it may seem like escapism, it is actually much more than that. Let’s call it a philosophical “sketch-pad” which enables an artist to act without consequences, revealing human nature with fictitious scenarios, empathize within imaginary scenarios and characters, allows one to freely explore themselves and others, and eventually hone one’s “real life” activities into actions that reflect a kinder personal ethic. 

In reality as opposed to art, all events have direct and immediate consequences that manifest themselves physically and block or open future paths in real time in real lives. They can maim or kill, or at the least, hurt feelings, or just hurt. Sometimes they even leave offspring. Jack Kerouac proposed the first thought is the best thought, but in my experience, a thought that has undergone contemplation is much better. That said, I cannot escape the conclusion that life is a series of joys and pains, no matter what you choose to do, no matter how many souls are swirling about in similar patterns.

Sure, it is obvious that bringing a soul into this world, especially one’s own child is a joy that outweighs pain. But let’s dwell on the pain: When my sister had a baby, I could not help but think of it as the most barbaric act left in western culture. She did it naturally, a very long labor, which pushed her to her limits of pain and exhaustion, afterwards using a doughnut shaped pillow to sit on wherever she went to alleviate the pressure while healing from her horrible birth wounds. Why more feminists do not protest against this barbaric victimization of women is beyond me. Simply put, birth should be illegal!

Likewise, I find the casual regard about bringing a new soul into this existence stunning. People even ASSUME that they will have children. As if they have no say in the matter! As if there is no other way to contribute to society, or to not have children is not fully contributing. These days, to opt out of procreation is almost as freakish as being gay was before Stonewall. Now, even gays are rushing to procreate! Where is the contemplation? Don’t they realize that contemplation is the luxury of the first-world homosapien? Frontal cortex, people, frontal cortext!

The generation in which I was born has passed its youth and created the next generation. I am stuck with THEIR children. In a way, I can’t help but think the lessons of the sexual revolution, the lessons of self-realization, the lessons of pure and simple ecology were at least partially lost. Intellectually, I know this may be incorrect, but looking around me, emotionally I feel the wrong people had children. The new hipsters that surround me here in good ole Brooklyn have gone back to pro-creating in their 20s. Many mothers are content to shun careers, though to be fair, there is the bourgeoning class of stay-at-home dads. Even if they shop at Whole Foods, their personal rituals seem Monsanto grown…OK… I’m ready to reduce this to what I really feel: PEOPLE ARE BEING REPLACED WITH HYPER-CONSUMING, BABY POOPING CORPORATE COGS BEARING STUPID TATOOS, TALIBAN BEARDS, AND BABY STROLLERS! 

Ahem… Sorry. It’s not the heat, it’s the humanity…

Here in once dilapidated Brooklyn, the once sparsely populated G-train is now cheek-to-backpack in humanity, as their brand-named bags are apparently too precious to put on the floor. I’m forced increasingly to deal with their snarky “Daddy-issue” manners, with which I have no clue how to handle, as I’m no “Daddy”! It just exacerbates my anxiety about how capable they are to handle the future. Each time a brownstone is torn down, I dread the Ikea-manufactured 7-story baby-pod that will replace it, spewing these dewey youths that recklessly destroy any authenticity in their wake. “Oh, look, they’ve opened new bank.” Even if a small boutique business opens, as opposed to a faceless chain, it is so precious, you can’t help but think the proprietor got a blue ribbon every 1/2 hour of their lives from their first poop to losing their virginity. It will soon pass that our brief generation of punk-rock offspring-denyers never existed, and will be forgotten like a discarded appendix,  a vague memory of a bad taste left in one’s mouth by a soy-burger. Only the empty slogans of punk rock, piercings, tattoos will live on. The content is, as someone from a previous generation pointed out, just the dull stuff between commercials. One soy-burger consumes the other.

In the olden days, before Brooklyn was gentrified to provide a “Truman Show” set to anyone who has the cash to participate, there was what one once was called “struggle.” There have been books written about it by Howard Zinn and so forth, and I believe MTV or TLC network might have a reality show that approximates this historic phenomenon. 

A quick aside: In 1967, when the monkeys went to heaven, before my parents went crazy, when I was in kindergarten, our neighbors had about 8 or 9 kids — I don’t remember the exact count, and probably neither did the parents. I asked my mother why there were so many kids in their family. My mother said it was because they were Catholic. 

My Sicilian-Catholic great-grandma was a mere 14 when she was sent off from Palermo, Sicily to her aunt in Chicago circa what, 1910 or 20? Well, it wasn’t technically Chicago. Back then Italians were shunned from Chicago proper, and “Italian-towns” cropped up just outside the city limits. They were nick-named “Ciceros.” One still exists as a bonafide suburb. Anyway, while she was in line to be processed on Ellis Island, a couple n’er-do-wells abducted her, put her in a fishing crate and transported her up the Hudson River to Albany where they intended to sell her into the “white slave” market. While at this hoodlum’s house, they found that her aunt that she had been planning to live with in Chicago, was a childhood friend of their mob-boss in Albany. In their Sicilian-neanderthal world, when a woman stayed under another man’s roof, it was the same as losing her virginity, which she had just done. Therefore, she was no longer suitable wife material, therefore, she probably could only make a living as a prostitute. The family of that virgin replication of Mary, mother of God, would sensibly retaliate by killing whoever it was who took that un-wed virginity. They quickly realized that their boss would whack them… unless… wait… unless they found someone to quickly marry her! So they wed her to a 35 year old man, my great grandfather, and together they had 12 children. What a joyous, romantic story, eh? Put that in your sock-hop. 

On my Southern Baptist side, I have a retarded cousin, Niki. I’m sorry: learning impaired. He’s nearly 70 now, and has lived a relatively happy, fulfilling life. He is, however in another way, a “soy-burger man.” He was oxygen deprived during birth. When my aunt Lavinia was in labor, her doctor was out of town. It was a small god-fearing town in west Tennessee along the Mississippi River, mostly poor dirt farmers or other just-under-subsistence wage dwellers. There were 3 doctors, the other two refused to cover for my aunt’s doctor who was out of town when she went into labor, thus sending the under-trained nurses into panic mode. The nurses bound my aunt’s legs together until her doctor returned the next day. Yes, brain damage.

Nevertheless, once past the threshold of life, Nicky has lived a happy fairly happy one. A devoted Roy Rogers fan, his biggest life event happened in his 40s when he and a dozen or so people of his ilk visited Roy and Dale at their ranch in California (btw, Roy and Dale apparently parented 30 or so adopted children).  Now that his mother has died, he lives in a group home with other dependent types out there in the town he grew up in, Dyresburg, TN, and I hear works in some sort of a wood workshop that employs people with his level of competency. The point is, his IQ is perhaps very low, yet most of his life has been happy, and even productive with peaks and troughs like any other life.

A couple decades ago, my then devout feminist girlfriend and I sat and watched Pat Robertson with Niki’s mother Lavinia the morning before a family reunion in in Dyresburg. We had been talking for a while, and were quite comfortable in each other’s company when Lavinia confided that had she known how Niki’s life would be she would have opted for an abortion. After all, she wasn’t even convinced she was in love with my uncle Quentin. He was just some sexy guy that raced motorcycles who managed to get into her nickers. Lavinia’s choice to procreate was the most profound choice she made in her life. So much so, that she still contemplated whether she made the RIGHT choice some 60 years later, despite the fact that she was a Southern Baptist, who despite the philosophical box in which she was born, still vocalized that thought even while watching Pat Robertson. 

My mother, herself, though happy with me at the time of my birth endured an unhappy marriage, domestic violence, and barbiturate addiction. She never said she regretted having me, but I did overhear one phone conversation that she had with her sister after a poignant argument with me. She was telling my aunt that just looking at me reminded her of Jerry (my dad, her ex-husband), and she hated me for that. I’m not saying this for sympathy, I simply think it’s an interesting dilemma. Like Lavinia, she wanted to go back in time and abort me, though there I was, a full-fledged teenager resembling her life nemisis. Consequentially, asserting her authority, she refused to let me live with my father, ie - let him or his psychic offspring, win, which I pleaded for numerous times. Instead, she first sent me to live with my music teacher. WTF? The following semester to a Seventh-Day Adventist boarding school in northern Michigan. Finally, I was liberated  from her latent indecision regarding the merits of my existence, and allowed to live with my dad mid-way through my junior year of high school. In short, she was a woman who desperately wanted to backtrack and make better decisions. 

My sister’s best friend, Linda Yalem, was jogging in a park adjacent to her college in Buffalo, NY. She was abducted by a sex maniac who strangled her to death with a wire while fucking her. This was his fifth sexual attack on young women within a short period of time, at the same small section of the running path. Why hadn’t the school warned the students? Simple: the administration did not want to tarnish their reputation by making the previous rapes public, and consequently Linda became his first murder victim. This was a common practice by Universities in the 80s for which I can supply other examples. 

If warning students of danger is bad marketing, and this is how we treat our “gifted” children, how is the underclass treated? Ask Michael Brown. Ask the boat people constantly sinking in the Mediterranean, the Mexicans routinely suffocating in the back of box trucks that smuggle them into the US.

In an early Marina Abromovic performance, she stood in a gallery for 6 hours with items of pleasure or detriment such as feathers, roses, whips, and a gun on a table in the gallery. Anyone could interact with her. At first, she describes the attendees as playful, but soon the performance became carte blanche for abuse. Her clothes were torn off, the long-stemmed roses were stuck into her flesh, one person placed the gun in Abromovic’s hand and began forcing her fingers to pull the trigger, another grabbed the gun saving her. Shia LeBeouf did a similar performance in which he wound up being raped by a young woman — in front of her boyfriend! (So it isn’t solely testosterone as villain). 

At any time I can see Linda Yalem’s murderer staring back at me from my computer screen. He has his own Wikipedia page. They tally up 20-some rapes to this guy, and the lives of 5 women. His story is that he hated women from an early age because he claims his mother used to humiliate him.  He was a model father — a classic family man. He coached his two boys’ little league teams. He went to church on Sunday… and occasionally raped and strangled women. He was eventually caught after dinner with his family at a restaurant. A rape victim who survived had since been working with the police and identified him while he was eating. They took his fork (I would venture to guess he wasn’t eating a soy-burger), and were able to get a DNA sample to match that which was found on this woman’s body. I don’t know what the notion of family, nesting, nurturing meant to him, or how he arrived at his rituals. Some have suggested he’s like an animal, without thought, and should be put down like a dog with rabies. 

 I remember growing up hearing the argument, “the wrong people are having kids.” If that is the case, one of “us” is OBLIGATED to have kids, it is our duty, for the sake of the planet. How could you possibly argue against it? It’s so flattering that to argue against it would imply self-hatred. Or, if you could be possibly more arrogant, you could adopt, i.e. save those “other children” from poverty and ignorance. Most well-informed liberals will not adopt puppies from a puppy farm, yet Asian BABY FARMING is a full blown industry complete with brokers, and of course, and I’m not even touching the whole domestic  serogate mother issue. 

My partner Laura and I have discussed adopting, but I fear cats are the closest we will come. Laura’s suggested adopting a war orphan, or a kid that come from drug-addled families (like mine?). I respect the notion of mentoring someone already in dire circumstances more than the more traditional, narcissistic model of parenting. Mentoring, to me, is what parenting is about. Which is also what you can do by simply living your life and contributing to our culture in a way that makes this life a more interesting, more rewarding place. But perhaps that’s just my soy-burger narcissism kicking in. 

If the world were not overpopulated, if civilized society was not in a free-fall, if there was a welcome net for that off-spring to land, or even a wilderness, I may commit to the act. But even if I were a caveman, without a notion of overpopulation or the end of time, I may still be more interested in my most recent cave painting, or perhaps how to smelt bronze. Seriously, does the world need yet another over-consuming westerner to drive a farting car, eat the meat of farting hormone-fed cattle, to fart themselves? My abstaining from procreating is my fart-free duty fullfilled.

This entire pro-creating world of insipid violence wears the face of a family man, a so-called “religious” man, to boot. The notion of loyalty, devotion, it is a two-edge sword. I don’t even agree with the ideological frameworks that encourage procreation, family, nationalism, so why on earth would I want to bring a new souls into this environment? To make a young man or woman in my image to endure the cultural entropy which will be yet a further generation along?  To send them to war, to clobber Mexicans escaping local thugs only to be greeted by new thugs? Am I going to raise the next Messiah? Have you read the story of Jesus? That’s not what I want happening to my theoretical kid. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

The immigrant falls in love with the lady. She is well educated, he is not. She is beautiful, he is not ugly, but of plain peasant stock. He buys her garish flowers. She reluctantly accepts if only not to hurt his feelings. They see each other in the street about twice a week. It is a random encounter for her, but an event for him. Each time they meet he is ready with another batch of flowers. Finally, she tells him they are too gaudy. He tells the florist this. The florist, an immigrant as well, is hurt, but gives him white lillies for her. The immigrant gives them to her. She says they are nice, though resemble a wedding, almost inappropriate, considering they hardly know each other. Also, his t-shirt makes him look like he is sophomore trying to look like a junior in high school. 

Our immigrant goes to a store that looks rather chic and tells the clerk this story. He cannot afford any of the clothes but the clerk, a gay man with a liberal political bent, is touched by his love for this random woman and accompanies him to the Salvation Army. There, they assemble a new, subdued yet stylish, adult wardrobe. 

He meets her on the street with a single purple and yellow orchid, clothes and a ready smile. Will you go to dinner with me? he asks. No, she says. Well, OK, she says, in appreciation of a man who does his best to please her. They face each other across the table in awkward silence. They've nothing in common. Suddenly, during the main course, she leaves.

A couple days later in the street, he sees her and expresses his horror. How he's done everything to try to please her and every effort seems to be met with greater and greater rejection. She says nothing. He gives her flowers, as usual. There is a homeless woman. She hands the flowers to the homeless woman and runs down the street to escape. Days later, in another neighborhood he spots her. Quickly, he finds a florist. He waits with flowers outside the building he saw her enter. A man comes out to tell him that the lady does not want the flowers, nor his attention. Oddly, the same homeless woman is standing near by. He gives her the flowers and leaves. 

The next day, he seeks the advice of the store clerk. He tells of their uncomfortable dinner. The clerk suggests that he listen to certain kinds of American music that he guesses the girl might enjoy. The immigrant buys a recording. In the street, in their usual location, he sees her, tells her about some wonderful music he has been listening to. She is touched that he appreciates at least a similar sort of music she appreciates and agrees to another date. 

They see a movie, and he tenderly holds her hand and kisses it at one point. She pulls away and runs from the theatre. He is devistated. He tells the florist this story. The florist gives him a tall, exotic bouquet. He waits in front of her office the whole day. Finally she appears. She is crying. Look, she tells him, you need to give up. You need to find an object of desire that desires you in return. I am simply the wrong person for you. He gives her the flowers, she gives them to the homeless lady and runs away, tears streaming down her face. For a moment he looks at the homeless lady. She is not alltogether ugly. Perhaps an immigrant herself. Yet, somehow, it would feel like defeat if he nurtured a relationship with this homeless lady. She would be grateful of his attention perhaps. Certainly she would appreciate a good meal and flowers. At once he is filled with rage (afterall, he has done everything correct, yet he remains frustrated). 

A couple days later, he watches her leave her office. She is frightened and wears a pair of large sunglasses. She looks around the street with trepidation. She does not see him and proceeds. He emerges from the shadows with flowers. She cries profusely, "leave me alone!" 
"Please take the flowers," he says. 
"Leave me alone," she says and hands them to the homeless woman. 

Now, he begins to simply stalk her, as the authorities might say. He knows where she lives. He knows her favorite bar. He knows she has 4 good friends, three women, one man. He watches through the window of the bar. She is describing the horror of her stalker, him. Nearing midnight, they appear to be smiling and laughing. In front of the bar they part ways. The immigrant, flowers in hand, approaches her, arms out bearing his gift of flowers. She screams. She hands the flowers to the same homeless lady who is randomly in front of this bar, and runs into the street trying to flag down a taxi. He is afraid she will be hit by a car and chases her down. She is completely hysterical. She falls in his arms. It is raining. He does not understand what she is saying. Though she is saying how much he hates him, he kisses her. She begins to kiss back, then with a sick feeling in her heart, she bites his lips and rips his pants open against the cab. They get in a cab and immediately fuck. At a stoplight, she slips the driver a 20 dollar bill. She slaps the immigrant, calls him a bastard, and runs away into the night. 

He waits all day in front of her office. He waits all night in front of her apartment. Alas, in the morning she emerges on crutches. He finds some cheap lillies from the Korean deli near by. He approaches her. She laughs hysterically. The same homeless woman is standing nearby. 

"Are you with him?" she asks the homeless woman.
"No," she says, "but I am as concerned about you as is he." 
"Your concern is killing me, you stupid slut." She fumbles with her crutches and from her purse she takes a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. She lights one. "See I'm smoking! " She's yelling this to the homeless woman without actually acknowledging the presence of the immigrant, whose breath she can nearly feel against her shoulder.

He presents flowers to her. She violently shoves them into the homeless woman's chest. She hobbles away over the uneven slate sidewalk, on her crutches, juggling a cigarette. She turns and looks at them. "Don't just stand there, you morons, hail me a cab!" The immigrant runs into the Avenue, flags down a cab and opens the door for her. At first he tries to get in with her, but she pushes him away. He watches her give the driver directions. The taxi disappears into traffic. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Art by Teddy Schapiro

I visited my buddy Teddy Schapiro yesterday. Picked up 30 drawings. I've posted some here before. His style has since simplified into a black and white, thick and thin lined graphic a la caricatures from the 60s, which is consistent with Teddy's interest in toys and pop culture of that era. Thematically, there are a lot of "Toys as Best Friends", his signature fascination with women, feminists, lesbians, Kafka, and his curiosity about death and the trappings of funerary culture, including this rather grim "morgue shot." In a way, he has focussed on some point in his development and decided to simply strip-mine that phase of his emotional development. I enjoy the free association, the automatic drawing frame of mind, the freedom of it. At times they seem glum and claustrophobic, but in another way imaginative and an escape into the mind's interior, as opposed to a vista in the countryside. Anyway, here are 3 of them. I'm selling them for $25 ea. I have 27 others. I sold the entire last batch I had, so act quick! You can find me at the 25th Street Garage fleamarket (where I met Teddy in the first place).

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I got these a while back. Thought I might take them to the Greenwich CT ephemera show, but I think I'll just keep 'em...

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Dear friends and peoples of the internets, I picked up these political campaign family postcards at the Allentown paper show. I can't stop looking at them. They are a creepy reminder of the fragility of the human spirt, as well as a creepier reminder of American ambitions, which are: You got your basic human beings overcompensating for their weaknesses by joining forces with the megalomaniacal Satan, Prince of Darkness to conquer and rule other people. This in turn reminds me that no matter how hard we try, how far we go, inside we're a weak karmic-biological mess: moist to the touch, in a mildly off-putting way, with a specific odor that triggers the instincts of large, toothy animals to kill -- yet we are afflicted with a cruelly ironic need to cuddle.

So you cover your weakness with that charcoal suit and power tie. You look into the mirror, gazing into your own eyes with that smile meant to project utmost confidence and say, "You are a winner, Sir! Go run for public office!" But no matter how much hairspray or hair tonic, deodorant or cologne, any amount of shaving...wherever you shave... or starching of clothes, me and you is just people. People too often under the influence of a certain prince in red, with a forked tongue, horned head, tail with a spade at the end, who roams this earth on a shopping spree for sinners' souls...

See, Satan, gains control of an average feller's mind and tells him he is better than all the other fellers. That is why they run to rule, rule to run, rule to rule, and sometimes run to run. They want your money as bad as TV preachers, they want your devotion as if they are the Lord above. In the meantime, they prey on their fellow man's fears, weaknesses, and sinful appetites. Depending on which course will bring the most political gain, they alternately seek reward or retribution for themselves and the general populace over human behavior that always has been, and always will be, creating demons and false idols along the way. Sure, we all meet our demons. Most of us in the depths of our souls. But some meet them right there the media spotlight for all the world to see.

EXIBIT A is in the above 1967 Arlen Specter for Mayor campaign postcard. The first question is: Why must a politician put his entire family on a pedestal when running for office? Why must two 8 year olds in uncomfortable wool and polyester church clothes shout "Yay for Daddy!" instead of shouting "Get me out of these itchy things!"? Because. Because the devil makes their daddy's ass do it. And you will see in some of the other cards, the complex netting the devil has woven to capture souls.

[By the way, a pencilled note on the back of this card put there by a previous owner says that Arlen Specter lost this race. I wonder if this photo was the tipping point in voters' minds? -ed.]

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This postcard was made the year they invented hairspray, and was in fact the inspiration for the John Waters most sinfully embellished movie titled "Hairspray." There's also an underpinning of baroque drama in it all...or in shall I say, they are opposite of the cast of Dangerous Liaisons. Such a quandary: Although embarking on a quest for power, these people, if they were ever allowed in the French court would have been laughed out, or even executed for such profound buffoonery. Luckily they are American. Allowed to wallow in their professed innocence. And they are kind of sweet... Refreshingly not aristocratic, in that powdered wig sense. Perhaps they are just regular folks...NAW! ARE YOU KIDDING? Has the devil once again placed his cloak of deceit over your eyes? Wake up, Leviticus!

Although the kid with the crewcut is completely captivating, in reality, he's simply race trained. His dad has just said, "now put on that 'good-boy' smile we talked about," and turning to his wife said, "You, too, Gertie." Little do we suspect that overgrown cherub is in fact the class bully, leaving a trail of crying, pants-wetting wimps strewn around the elementary school playground after every recess. But there it is in a postcard, mailed out for thousands to scrutinize. If that there James R. Cavanaugh (with such a nice, tongue-tickling Eerish name) produced this smiling little kid, what will the city budget look like?

This card also reveals the family "dark side," and her name is Gertie... Is his wife completely world-weary or what? Don't worry, Gertie, next year valium will be all the rage. And the attire for that little girl on daddy's lap? Holy cheesecake! you see that?... Uh... I can't see that passing muster in today's pedophile-phobic environment. I mean, it looks like -- and I'm just sayin "looks" like -- he's ever so subtly lifting up his little girl's skirt as some kind of practical joke! I think I know what the city budget will look like now: Completely transparent. The other daughter is speaking to the camera in a secret, evil code. She's saying, "when I'm 17, I'm splittin' to Vassar. But first I'm gonna reach under my baby-sister's dress and pinch her ass!"

It doesn't end there. Upon further examination I discovered the similarities in the smiles between Gertie and see it as plain as I do, don't you? Their lips, their eyes, their bewitching wiggling noses. Fer sher: They house spirits of darkness. The knowledge of evil. Now look at the son's ear. Now look just above it: the pin on Gertie's blue dress. That is a huge clue: 'Tis the ring of the dark Lord Sauron, secret suitor to "Mrs. Cavanaugh" and father to that loathsome bastard in a pint-sized suit! Folks, before you is not simply the offspring of an aspiring Philadelphia politician, 'tis non-other than the son of evil, Daemien, the Beast as prophesized in the Book of Revelations!

Ah, whatever, you say. Life goes on. As for the politics of James R. Cavanaugh, he is fighting on the side of the workers, with the Retail Clerks and Upholsterers' International Union. Or is he a typical Philadelphia mobster embezzler? Oh, but his PR team is pumping him as a watchdog to a corrupt democratic city hall. I can't find any wiki entries to verify the outcome of his life one way or the other. Perhaps he just lost and continued working with the unions. A pro-union Republican, back when that might occur. At least in local politics. At any rate, the internets bear no clue of the kid, but just be aware, evil can spring up anywhere!

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Lud Zupancic gained notoriety for his brief but torrid campaign against Fluoride and his familial involvement with the KGB. Running soon after our nation's water was first supplemented with Fluoride, a batch of water went hideously awry causing an apparent outbreak of lock-jaw and zombification. That's right, thousands of average Pennsylvanian volks were rendered zombie-slaves to their teeth. In this shot, though they appear to be a family with just very attractive teeth, the teeth of the Lud Zupancic family are indeed ciphers of their souls, and most certainly calling the shots, dragging their helpless bodies from dentist to dentist, sink to sink, toothbrush to toothbrush, tube to tube, in search of bigger and bigger doses of Fluoride, and sometimes even forcing them to watch sports. That is why they call Fluoride "the elixir of evil."

Of course, the Fluoride manufacturing lobby loved it. "Fluoride today, Fluoride tomorrow, Fluoride forever!" was the cry. There was a civic Fluoride holiday complete with a parade of marching zombified tooth-slave people dressed as toothbrushes and streamers made of floss, ironically held in Carbon, PA. Pennsylvania was soon nick-named "The Whitest State in America." It was impossible to stop. No insurgency could ever get off the ground due to the zombification Fluoride was able to cast over it's victims.

Part 2 of the Lud Zupancic saga is Carbon my friends... or rather a simple carbonated beverage (that contains a glut-load of sugar).

While touring a Coca-Cola bottling plant in anticipation of a whopping campaign contribution, the deeper, inner "Lud Zupancic" was growing sick of his zombified state. Pushed to the brink, Lud Zupancic attempted suicide by diving into a large vat of the world's most popular synthetic beverage.

"I was emersed in all the bubbles and the sweetness and the caffeine," Lud Zupancic recalled years later with a slight lisp, "I was prepared to meet my maker. Just floating in that dark, rich, sweet froth, gathering my last thoughts on earth. I had just mustered all my will to step foot over the guardrail of that factory ramp and leap into that gurgling vat of Coca-Cola. All the while, I was saying in my head, 'here I am oh Lord my God! Take me! Take me away from this Fluoride Beast! Take me to that special place you made just for me, Lud Zupancic.'"

Ah, but the devil is a tricky bastard! No sooner had Lud Zupancic re-gained his wits, dog paddled to the top of the vat of Coca-Cola and re-gained his breath at the rim of what an observer might say the largest Coke-float ever, then Beelzebub waltzed right over to his big tattooed arm in the form of Lady Wantsalot. You see, the only antidote to King Fluoride was to bathe in Coca-Cola. Lud Zupancic was suddenly aware that he may be the only fully sentient human being in the state of Pennsylvania. What power! What awesome power! But what would he do with it? With whom would he share the conquest? When he got home later, he called his brother Cvetko back in what is now Slovenia.

"Cvetko, my brother!"

"Ah, yes, my brother Lud Zupancic!"

"Cvetko, my wife, my son, my daughter, my peoples in my town, my superiors, my governor, my..."

"What, Lud Zupancic my brother, what do you want from me on this very expensive long distant call that makes me now awake at such an hour?"

"It's just... it's just..." Led Zupancic suddenly broke into tears over the telephone. He cried over their mother's death, the milk Lud Zupancic and his brother Cvetko would steal as a childen from their baby sister's bottle which eventually caused her to have rickets. How bad he felt leaving their small village festering in ticks and poverty and insurmountable amounts of incomplete paperwork that filled the streets of such inconsequential socialist villages, the endless yet useless piles of diplomas from free education, unbearable hum of vaguely intellectual conversation, the constant splash of refugees diving after cargo ships on which to escape to unknown ports. Yes, this ambiguous pain that hit poor Lud Zupancic like a ton of bricks was homesickness. He missed the old country. He love the old country so. But here in Pennsylvania they had cars. He promised his brother a car if he would join him in the states.

Mr. Zupancic's brother Cvetko, detecting the severe urgency in Lud Zupancic's voice (and also looking forward to driving something besides a Yugo) schemed a way to get from his poor village, to the USA. He bribed a local bureaucrat the equivalent of $3.97 for access to the eastern block. Armed with a pocket knife and a story that was all heart, he traded his pocket knife to a Soviet bureaucrat for his citizenship in the great Union of Soviet Socialists. By bribing a Soviet immigration judge with a small, shiny trinket he had bought from a street vendor in a brief visit to Kosovo for the equivalent of 29 cents, he gained access into the Soviet air force. A Soviet aircraft pilot to whom he slipped the equivalent of 8 cents, was able to sneak him onto Soviet spy plane. Aboard this great craft, some 70,000 feet over Pennsylvania, with his last possession, a stick of gum, he was able to bribe a paratrooper into giving him a his jumpsuit and parachute. The paratrooper gave him only the briefest instruction, and in one quick nudge Cvetko was out the hatch. It was a glorious free fall, then a soft, angelic glide strapped to a parachute over the lush land of Pennsylvania, until he landed on the hood of his brother's gas-guzzling sedan.

Little did Lud Zupancic know, but his brother Cvetko was still bitter over the mutual love of their life, the svelte Ancka Svetandrojcek. Though Cvetko originally arrived with the best intentions, he quickly was overcome with long past romantic jealousies and jealousy of the bright red color of Lud Zupancic's Galaxy 500. It also occurred to him that this was a prime opportunity for an aspiring communist spy. On the first eve of his arrival Cvetko and Lud Zupancic drank to their health and happiness. However, inside his government issue long-underwear, eluding the scrutiny of his cleverly bribed superiors, was a hot and hearty 127 proof national beverage of their native land, much able to mask the taste and smell of high octane Fluoride mint toothpaste. He got Lud Zupancic all hopped up on the zombifying drug once again. Lud Zupancic slipped into the back of his "Lud Zupancic" soul as if the sweet freedom of that glorious Coca-Cola bath had never happened. Cvetko gained complete control over Lud Zupancic, Mrs. Lud Zupancic and the children of Lud Zupancic, thereafter heartlessly controlling the entire family under an oppressive Fluoride fist, providing the KGB with numerous inane details of life in Allegheny County.

Enter Dottie Tassel, a 22-year-old Pittsburgh steel-worker's daughter, exotic performer, and most importantly, mistress and stylist to J. Edgar Hoover. On a visit home she noticed something peculiar. Her father's neighbor's brother Cvetko seemed to be the only person in town with bad teeth. "Why, who would go around with those nasty brown things pointing all this way and that?" she was quoted as saying by an FBI informant, "it's simply uncouth."

This immediately brought the entire family under suspicion. Several inquiries were made as to the motivations of Lud Zupancic and his brother Cvetko. Although it was at first a small domestic, covert operation, Hoover made sure no amount of money was spared. The UPS man was in fact an FBI plant. The phone company tapped wires. In after a brief time, endless amounts of Pentagon resources were spent monitoring the activities of this family of Fluoride zombies and their one sentient uncle. The conclusion: The uncle was a misfit. And to Cvetko? Disappointed in the vacuous whiteness of Pennsylvania, the watery beer, the soggy pretzels, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Mister Rogers, Cvetko caught the next garbage barge out of town, and was off to freedom in New Orleans, where he made a living by playing his concertina in the streets with a sage monkey (to whom he eventually married) and a string of indigent, tap dancing street urchins of color, to whom he taught a vast repertoire of Slovenian minstrel song and dance bits that eventually gained the attention of the one and only, Louis Armstrong. But that's another beverage altogether...

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Fancy Eastern Liberals. Just look at them. I'm not even spending time on them. Them and their hippy-hair, snazzy striped sports jackets, poofy peasant blouses, Gay-liberation inspired Stars-and-Stripes cut-off shorts. Women in pantsuits! Go on! What was he running for? Pot dealer or massage therapist? On the back of the card has this plea for 1973:


The double exclamation may as well have been "fat chance" in parenthesis. Well, don't count this north-of-Philly follically deprived dandy out for the count. Nay, Harvey Portner went somewhere...check THIS out. I didn't say somewhere fabulous... just somewhere.

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"My daddy's the most famous racist in the whole USA!" Yes, the family of Alabama's own George C. Wallace. Talk about sins of our fathers! Being the son of George C. Wallace must be like being birthed from something that just farted. Watch: That little zeppelin he's holding will now burst into flames. (Oh, the party favors at those klan rallies.) His mother has just been infiltrated by a satanic spirit and presently has stuck her index finger through the back of his scull to insert a soul sucking, mind-controlling, barcode reading computer chip.

The wiki entry for boxer-turned-politician George C. Wallace reads part like the education of an imbecile, and part like a story to end all stories. I will refer you to the actual wiki entry, but to give you the gist... While early on in his political career as a circuit court judge, he appeared to be somewhat liberal: "He was the first judge in Alabama to call me 'Mister' in a courtroom," recalls one Afro-American Lawyer.

However, after apparently deciding to ride the populist surf of racism, in 1968, Wallace decided against having Happy Chandler, former baseball commissioner as a running mate for president because Chandler had years previous been in favor of the Brooklyn Dodgers hiring Jackie Robinson. Of course, most of us remember George C. Wallace most fondly for this ole chestnut:

"Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

As for the enemy, hippies, he told this (anti)Christ-like parable: "If some anarchist lies down in front of my automobile, it will be the last automobile he will ever lie down in front of..."

Just think about it: There was this cracker out there running for president, started his own party and in 1968 gained 13.5% of the vote, the best run for any post-WWII non major party candidate, and his politics were to the RIGHT of NIXON! The would-be assassin's bullet, shot by another whacko, the Milwaukee-born loner Arthur Herman Bremer, left George Corley Wallace wheelchair-bound, and the historical event inspired the film "Taxi Driver." (: Always a silver lining ;)

As bizarre, and unfortunately violent as George C. Wallace's story may have been, it apparently inspired son-of-the-south, George C. Wallace, JUNIOR to follow in his father's footsteps. Hmm. Look at that picture once again... the soul-sucking, chip implanting mother... with parents like this, I doubt even a social worker could turn him around. Predictably enough, Junior grew up to be a Southern-fried Manchurian Candidate. He ran a successful covert campaign to thwart the popularity of Neil Young through his secret authorship of "Sweet Home Alabama." It caused such stress in the lovable pothead Neil Young's psyche that he consequently put out the worst record of all times titled "Trans." Junior ran and gained more visible offices under both the Democratic and Republican Banners, but with the historical climate of the nation firmly planted against racial segregation, Junior's national popularity always seemed just out of reach.

Just where exactly did Junior stand in the political spectrum? In 2005 a speech by George C. Wallace, Junior opened the national convention of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group described as white supremacists, as well as appearing as a guest on "The Political Cesspool", a white nationalist radio talk show.

Poor kid. He never had a chance.

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Tuesday calls for no alcohol followed by no pot Wednesday. Barbiturates are nada for Thursday, and crank has headed for the hills on Friday. Manischewitz is celebrating a Holy Day on Saturday, wine is only allowed in the smallest amount at mass Sunday, and I don't know why I don't like Mondays... oh... get thee behind me, Satan...

Alas, these here modern days have overtaken them-there sweet foibles of the past. So, has it become more humane for political families? Have politicians scrutinized the errs of their past? Have political strategists and spin doctors consulted the greater good? Or is it the other way around? Were political family portraits as seen in these election campaign postcards simply a "gateway drug" to bigger sins? Let's ask Former President Bill Clinton:

"What a bunch of uptight old church bitties this country become. A rock star can't even splooge a groupie! Even if his wife is a lesbian! I had to pee in a cup just to get my white house pension check! There's a 25-year-old MBA out there repainting the traffic lanes of New York City, and people are still blabbin' on about that whole Monica thing! That was her name, right?"

In short, Bill Clinton's presidency was not taken down by any policy, political act or conviction, no bill shuffled through congress, NAFTA or otherwise, no bombing of foreign territory, provoked or unprovoked, no cocaine-for-cash-for-weapons-for-the-contras of Reagan years, not even the war crimes of the Nixon and "W" years. No, Bill Clinton's presidency was brought down by his not living up to "family" expectations; that he wasn't the "family man" a postcard of this ilk might project, and that's freakin' scary. Yes, it certainly seems Fluoride is king, but there are still glimmers of a Fluoride-free world. There are a chosen few who muster the audacity to elude the ever beating war drum...

My friends, they are your not just your teachers, your priests, your doctors, boy-scout troop master, your governors... They are your ATHEIST teachers, your GAY priests, your PRO-CHOICE doctors, your PACIFIST boy-scout troop leaders, your CONSTITUTION ABIDING AND SEPARATING CHURCH AND STATE governors, your . They are you! You my human friends. You who refuse to put on that God-damned Fluoride smile, and God-dammit, even you who refuse to be happy about wearing it! Throw it away! Be free! You are healed! We are all sinners and saints rolled into one whiney baby god, capable of brilliance, capable of pooping our pants. You malcontents, you collegiate brats, you working class union ruffians, anarchists, baby-sitters, bare-assed babies, or as the French say, you freakin' buck-naked pagans!

PS... Aug 23, 2010... I sold the Cavanaugh postcard to Mr. Brainwash at the fleamarket over the weekend. He just honed in on it! If you get the chance, you should see the movie about him by Banksy called "Exit Through The Giftshop." One of the best documentaries I've seen in years. Though he's in no need of my lil' plug here, just thought I'd let you know, Mr. Brainwash presently has his work on exhibit at 415 W. 13th Street in the meatpacking district in Manhattan.