On Father’s Day 

Perfect night to perfect day. Seventies, clear, clouds like warships marching through the sky. Dad came out, went in on a rant about the curse of the family name, showed a big gash in his head, which he got after a pack of unconscientious gals at the coffee shop got him all riled up and he bumped his head on his car getting in. I don’t like when he says that, that we got bad luck, bad mojo, seems a self-fulfilling prophecy to me. 

Why can’t our genes be associated with victory, success, fortune? I smiled though and listen, even joke in a similar vain, accounting my own similar and recent bad luck, AC went out on Honda, needed new rooters and breaks on the truck. There’s no point, and its negative to fight it. Instead I hijack the genes on my own time, the story in my own mind. We have to accept the darker undertones of the tale, a bastard’s journey to kingship, return of the prodigal son. But what does Promise Land look like? I’ve been forced to consider. 

There’s irony in my Dad’s dark outlook, it’s the other side of over confidence. He was always pretty successful socially, friends, girlfriends. In his high school senior picture he looks like Super Man, Christopher Reeves incarnation. Tall, handsome, full head of hair, stylish white bell bottoms. The caption says he’s helping a younger student. He was class President, Captain of the football team, scholarship offers for wrestling. He idealized those times. His Mom and Dad divorced his senior year. I think this is what got him. Grandpa went a little wild, was an alcoholic. I’m convinced Grandma Gene,  Grandpa Pete’s mom, was a witch, a good one. She made little piles of rocks all through out her yard, stacked up at night under the moon and stars. I feel her in me when I stand in the field at dusk; we are happy, at home. 

Britney cooked huge steaks and veggie packs on the grill. Ran a notable grill, orangey grey charcoal stack. Grandpa played ring-leader with the gang. They teased and provoked, debating how the water balloons would be dished out after lunch. I feel and realize my clone like nature watching it all. How we are the same just slight variations in time and space, even my wife, and how we put up facade of separateness, but it doesn’t mean anything. My Mom had a falling out with her Mom, didn’t talk for years. But I realized later they probably thought about each other more cause of that, obsessively and neurotically probably. 

After lunch we had the water ballon fight and then jumped my rider mower, my Father’s Day miracle. I thought it was done, but we pushed it to my Dad’s car while the boys took turn steering. I could tell the old man had the itch to mow, he’s recently moved from his big yard, but he let me have at it, and went inside with the boys.

I checked in on them later, sat there in a row yucking it up and playing video games. There’s something here that transcends the tawdry, and cheap word “love”, but that’s what it is. It makes my cells ache, yearning to make it permanent, imprint it on the over-soul for eternity. But true success is only when you let go, praise and love, but don’t grasp. I finished my mowing. The farm is looking great. I’m happy like kid. Blessed on a perfect day, so lucky. 

Perfect Night in Des Moines 


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It was a perfect night tonight. The heat broke, has been ninety plus for almost two weeks. Won’t really rain, just spit. Left our little Eden and went to the big city Des Moines, for dinner with wife’s coworkers. There are those nights, summer nights, where everything thing seems clean, shiny, put together. Des Moines is quintessential fly-over country and I hope it stays that way for ever. I truly hesitate to even brag about it publicly, so as not to alert the unwashed masses of its awesomeness. One of the main reasons is per-capita, pound to pound, Des Moines is actually a world class food city. It fertile lands and deep agricultural roots, along with its geographic centerness has brought many influences and culturals to bare. 

This agricultural industry have created stronger economic health. This and things like the caucuses have made Iowa oddly relevant at times. I think Iowa, and probably that whole region is like the United States’ shire. There’s a good mix of political and ideological left and rightness, which at the current time and day strikes a unique and important balance. People are generally friendly, respectful, and none portentous, excluding the author, of course.

I like my wife’s gang at work. Their ornery and silly, and I’m sure they’ve banded together in the trenches of the modern health care system; these people have seen some shit. We ate at Bubbas downtown. They serve quality Southern style dishes, fried chicken and waffles, chicken fried steak, white cheddar grits, home jams, corn breads, mac and cheese, red beans and rice. They have an extensive booze selection. I had a Bubba julep, bourbon and mint and something called a Porch Sipper which was delicious, think it was bourbon, but had cucumbers, basil, mints and something sour in it. We shared and laughed. The server was charming and informative. Bubbas has a classy old school lounge and bar. And you know what, it shares a sizable class. Hell, right next store is a French-influenced restraunt Django, which look qaulity as well. There are more delicious and interesting things to eat in Des Moines then I can even try to get too. 

Driving around admiring the city, the patios were packed with people, smiling, with their friends, enjoying their Saturday night. Hope. Potential. Food is so much more than just a basic need. I was ranting about this to Brit after I came in from farm chores last night. How I didn’t want to be in Nature, but Of Nature. Part of it, not an explorer penetrating it, controlling it. How I feel a symbiotic relationship with my plants, wedding and watering them, how I nourish them and they nourish me, and how kids and families were like this; you nourish them, they nourish you. Talked about this video I saw about kids in India pulling a giant python out of the river for fun, playing with it, and how we still jump at garter snakes. How it’s better to relax about bugs and critters. Accept the swarm around you, pulsating with life. 

We got home and the skies took to play. Summer storms yearning to rain, but empty, dry. The lightening in the distance, striking a portrait at will. Chay comes to get me from bed, says the grey lights out his open window are freaking him out. Light slices the canvas, highlighting bulking, thickly painted clouds. An ocean of fireflies undulate in front yard of the house, dancing in the electric atmosphere. Fireflies. Never knew there could be so many fireflies….

On Trump and His Detractors (sorry for the cursing Grandma) 

Political Brainwashing

Let me preface my comments by noting I remain a resolute member of the No-Vote party. I didn’t vote Trump, and wouldn’t vote for Trump if an election was tomorrow. Although, I must admit the Anti-Trump hysteria has almost changed that. Point is that these comments come from the periphery. I would like to start with the Trump detractors. I woke up this mornings to the news about the shooting on Capitol Hill. I wish I could say this came as a shock, but it didn’t. The amount of anti-Trump propaganda that has been spewed out on every mainstream news channel and platform is insane. They went from never criticizing their darling Obama (his first term got my last vote) to an endless stream of ridicule and hate directed towards Trump. They ignored record drone attacks, ignored continued and expanded wars in the Middle East, ignored the lack of focus on real issues faced by the country, like the outrageous levels of violence in Chicago, the Flint water crisis, etc. 

Granted, Obama didn’t start an illegal war which led to a million dead Iraqis, and for that I will admit at the end of his presidency, I would say he did an all-right job. All that said, to make the point, I am non-partisan. No, more than that, I’m anti-partisan….nah, no point in that, fuck that academic mindset. Let me cut the cheddar, get to the point. Anti-Trump detractors should be fucking ashamed! They are the most gullible, pack of useful idiots the world has ever seen. They went and backed a degenerate career politician, whose hands were drenched in Libyan and Haitian blood, who backed and stood by her sexual predator husband, who violated countless laws. What difference does it make? You scream in your shrill social justice warrior voice. The difference is that’s what got Trump elected. This is your fault Democrats, for being so sheepish, so easily manipulated, so uninformed, y’all made Trump.

And instead of taking your licks and cleaning up your act, you all now attempt to undermine the legitimacy and authority of this President. My younger tortured self would have taken a sick pleasure in that, just crabs in a bucket, but my more mature parental self is shocked and disgusted.

Everything you hate in Trump is more pronounced and obvious in the candidate you would have chosen. Hate him cause he’s rich? First off it’s disgustingly envious, but moreover, Clinton is rich as all hell, and made her money through cronyism, and playing politics. Claims he’s anti-Muslim? Clinton supported policies and wars which wrecked and murdered innocent Muslims and their more moderate countries. Says he’s anti-women? Clinton got child rapist Thomas Taylor a deal, protected her predator husband, and demonized his female victims. Moreover, any true feminist would be disgusted by the fact Clinton tried to use her gender as a reason as to why she should be elected (or not) instead of the validity and strength of her positions. 

But that’s my point, it’s not about Truth, it’s about how Trump makes you feel. About how the propaganda makes you feel. It’s mind control. No, I know, you’re way to clever for that. Right. Bottom line, y’all are all fucked up. And if you continue to back corrupted lifer politicians, you will keep losing. You can’t imagine my elation that Wednesday when I woke and saw that monster had lost. It was a sign that there was still some moral backbone in this country. That yeah we were fucked, but we weren’t that fucked. And none of y’all stopped to seriously consider the rigged polls, the propaganda, no, you just kept right on mindlessly talking your shit. The Russia shit, the racist shit, the misogynistic shit, and it’s done nothing! Besides polarizing the country and making you all look like a bunch of sore loser babies. 

On Trump. Dude is in way over his head. He imagined that he would have the backing of the establishment once he was elected. The truth is the powers that be, as usual, were playing both sides. Ether candidate would have brought their future to fruition. Their goal is to destroy this country. Why? Profit and power. And y’all are played like a fiddle, like the fucking boobies that you are. You sit around, middle sections growing thick, brain growing thin, and like monkeys in the zoo hurl your shit. That what’s Trump needs to understand. It’s beyond reason. He gets that, I might be switching parties. 

Snippets 104 

Gipsy Fortune Teller
Houdini-Gresham 

Washington, D.C., the nation’s most beautiful city, heart of the democracy, hub of the forty-eight states was in 1926 also the city most infested with palm readers, astrologers, message mediums, slate writers, crystal workers, and “rag head rackets” generally. In the shabbier residential neighborhoods their shingles, showing an upraised palm, were thick; sometimes almost every brownstone house to the block had its prognostication parlor. (264) 

Snippets 103 


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Houdini-Gresham 

Vaudeville tempo had changed mightily during the time Houdini was away, selling Liberty Bonds and making motion pictures. The country seemed to be marching to Georgie Cohan’s “Over There.” Autos were faster and roads were better for them to be faster on. Pioneer Station KDKA in Pittsburgh had begun daily broadcasts and America was in the grip of a new mania soon to replace the Ouija board–sitting crouched over crystal sets with earphones clamped to its ears. The big build-it-yourself radio boom was just around the next corner. And to a generation that had gone through the First World War, the sight of a man jumping of a bridge and getting out of handcuffs under water created no hysteria. (227) 

Snippets 82

A Farewell to Arms-Ernest Hemingway

“What is the difference?”
I cannot say it easily. There are people who would make war. In this country there are many like that. There are other people who would not make war.”
“But the first ones make them do it.”
“Yes”
“And I help them.”
“You are a foreigner. You are a patriot.”
“And the ones who would not make war? Can they stop it?”
“I do not know.”
He looked out of the window again. I watched his face.
“Have they ever been able to stop it?
“They are not organized to stop things and when they get organized their leaders sell them out.” (69)

Snippets 80

Neil Gaiman-Trigger Warning-From Short Story “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury”

I learned your books. Burned them into my mind. In case the firemen come to town.

But who you are is gone. I wait for it to return to me. Just as I waited for my dictionary or for my radio, or for my boots, and with as meager a result.

All I have left is the space in my mind where you used to be.

And I am not so certain about even that. (139)

Citizen Report Number (Short Fiction)

“I just want to say–”

“Stop it. Don’t do it. You don’t have to say anything.”

“No Tom, honest, let me say what I feel. I don’t care.”

“Don’t care? Jen? Really? We’ll lose the Private Car.”

“So what? There’s plenty of room on Public.”

“Right and canteen, isn’t so bad either, right? No, it’s everything Jen. Once you start down-trending, it’s over.”

Her insides bubbled. This was going wrong. He wouldn’t let her speak. He never let her speak. He continued on. “They say I’m not canned. Say they’ve seen anomalies like this before. Wait for the bounce they told me. Whatever the hell that means.”

She came and sat beside him, grabbed his hand. She tried to look him in the face, but he kept his head down. She tried again anyway. “Listen, I love you Tom. And we have each other, right? Keep your head down low, work on your socials and who knows. You’ll be higher than ever before.”

“My socials Jen? You really want to go there?” He stood up wand walked across the room. She sat there frozen, hunched over for a second, still trying to comfort his warm ghost. “That’s the exact shit Ray and the guys said. Need to get you out to a couple Saturdays, that would help. I stood there smiling like an idiot. But you know what the e-vite never came and when I thought about it. They just sort of tossed it out there. Never said the exact time and place, like before, or other little juicy details about what we’d be doing. Remember that weekend, a hundred point bump off that. For nothing, sitting around drinking beer and eating chicken wings.”

“Of course I remember that weekend. There was Champagne that Friday in the private.” His memories and aggressiveness were testing her resolve. He had been a seven-hundred when they meet a decade ago. Not that she was the type to really care about those things. She had her own issues, a struggling 650. And actually the week they meet, she took a twenty-five point dump, which was pretty devastating at eighteen years old and in your first week of college. But he had been so kind, understanding. It solidified their relationship. “Tom, I’m just saying for us, I don’t care. We will work it together. Maybe you can come to my reading club? Have a date night? Hold hands on the public, show them what atreasure you are?”

Made her skin prickle the way he looked at her. It was the same Tom, but she had never seen him look like this, looking passed her like that. He’d lost weight recently and now his face looked different. Old if she was being blunt. Just standing there, he seemed like some bones hanging in the room, sort of like a scarecrow. “Well, they say there are people.”

“People Jen? A Fixer. That’s what they’re called, a Fixer. Don’t play games with me.”

“Yes, a Fixer.”

“We don’t have the money, or the trade. Besides dear wife, we both know a Fixer can get you locked down.Neither of us would see above four hundred again if we got caught. No, strap the tourniquet on, and hope you don’t bleed out, that’s all you can do.” He stood there looking passed her, through the wall. It was like the mirror and pictures weren’t there either, or anything else, but beyond it, way down the road, something stood waiting for him.

She stood up again and grabbed him. For a second he stood there stiffly and she had to wrap her arm around him, through his arms. She didn’t mind, but smile and snuggled into him. He broke a second later and wrapped her up. They held each other until their warmth and bodies were inseparable.

The walked to their room, and for the first time in years left the wall screen off. They undressed, made love and fell asleep. She woke up in the middle of the night. She was having a terrible dream. A shadowy thing was chasing her. Her head buzzed and her heart was pounding. She felt Tom’s hot body next to her. He was sweating too. She had to be going crazy she knew, because she began to feel paranoid that their air had been shut off. Maybe Tom had tanked so bad that their allotments could be pushed back. She really should study the Lower Levels again. Things could get tricky. She tried to shake it off. She try to snuggle him again, but he turned away, cuddling the edge now.

She got up and took a shower. It seemed unusually short and the hot water ran out. But at that point she wasn’t trusting her perspective. She wrapped herself in a towel and sat at their kitchen table. It was still dark out. She thought about going for a run, she could hope for a physical fitness bump.

First, she went to her page. There she was 679. Somehow she got a one point positive, since when she checked earlier, after getting the notice about Tom. That was odd she hadn’t moved in month. Well, she tried to reason, maybe things weren’t so bad. She felt herself avoiding it, scrolling down to “Spouse” were Tom and his number would be listed. Avoidance caused her to flip the phone over and set it down. She laughed and then almost began to panic, she didn’t want to wake Tom. Have him see her like this, it would ruin him.

They had to look though. Didn’t they? Stay on top of it. Ignoring it, won’t make it go away. She waited, until her breating was under control and flipped the phone over and scrolled down. Tom Mundus-550. She almost screamed, but bit her hand instead. 550? How had he lost another fifty points? Had he been fired? Had someone died? She wanted to pick up his phone, carry it to the room, get his thumb, open it and check his messages. Her mind began to scramble he must be involved in something else, through work, or friends. Something. Over a hundred points in a week. Another few days like that and they would be ruined. She had to do something.

She walked back to the room and grabbed her running stuff. She tossed it on and grabbed a quick cup of coffee and headed outside. She had three hours until she reported down to the Opinion Station were she would do her work for the day. She was currently reviewing Country-Western infused Japanese music, something she found oddly satisfying. She ran with no intention, but slowly she was making here way towards the shady no-man lands of her city. There were places deep inside the mega-cities, which people claimed were free from surveillance. Privacy was paraphernalia and it went for an expensive rate though.

She had no hard currency, outlawed for two decades, her only knowledge of it was from the news. As she got deeper into areas she’d never been before, she started seeing more and more people. She was out of place in her running gear which screamed above a six hundred. People started giving her creepy looks, hungry looks, asking if they could help her.

She slammed into a man out of nowhere. He was old and black. Dreadlocks ran down to his knees. He was smoking and seemed to swallow her in his presence. “Off the beaten path my darling?”

She was out of breath, panicking. Why had she done this? She was a fool. She wasn’t built for this sort of thing. “Lost. I was running, not thinking. Got turned around.”

“Of course. My name is Marcus. What is yours?”

She shook his extended hand and tried to calm down. “Jane. My name is Jane.”

“Nice, to meet you Jane,” he said, with a smile. “Now I think if you head that way, just keep going straight. You will find your way out. Ignore whatever offers are made on your way out. No need to be down here.”

“Right,” she answered. She couldn’t move though. He stood there, taking slow drags off his cigarette. Her heart screamed run, but her mind worked the situation. She was already down here. She was free to talk to whoever she wanted, right? A hundred points in a week! What did it matter. She was lost. So what?

“Fixer,” the word popped out of her mouth.

“Ah, Jane was looking for something,” the man smiled even more. “A little freedom. A little number. Ah. I see. Amazing.” His faced beamed, a light in the dark alleyway. She realized they had somehow tiptoed away from the sidewalk. Marcus seemed perfectly innocent, too nice even, which meant she was freaking out. The words poured out her mouth without thought. “Its not for me, but my husband. A hundred in a week.”

“Very bad. I understand. Marcus help you.” Then he stood there smiling, waiting for what, Jen was not sure.“I don’t suppose you accept E-points though?”

“No Mam. I do not.” There was more silence. He was coming to the end of his smoke. He stubbed it out and it disappeared in his pocket. “What is your husband’s full legal name Jane? First and Last?”

The whole world seemed to stop. She was crossing over. She realized how stupid she was lying to him in the first place now. She began to feel faint. This was bad. She tried to speak, and the words got caught in her throat. “How much? How does this work?”

“His name?” His smile was gone.

She told him. He disappeared. She waited for a while, walking up and down the section of the street. Then she realized a crowd was forming. Then she remembered work. Realized she would be late. She had to stop at the store for clothes, and then the gym for a shower. She would never make it. She had never been late before. It would produce an action report from work. She realized how stupid she’d been.

All day she was distracted from her work. The meandering guitar strings formed a perfect accompaniment to her endless stream of paranoia. They would pick her up after work. She would be locked up, a four hundred when she got out. She checked her score all day. Both of theirs stayed right where they were. 550 and 679. Here number gave her some relief.

The music was booming down the hall when she got home. Something old, big band or something. She got closer, it was Frank Sintra, way old. Bad omen. What was he so excited about? Probably meant he’d lost it, slit his writs and floated around the room dying, to “Aint That a Kick In The Head.” She stood and composed herself. Nothing had happened. She went for a run and got to work early, that’s it.

The place was alive with light and activity. “ Come in!” Tom called rounding the corner. One looked at her knew something was wrong. “You don’t know do you?” He picked up his phone. “Look, 600, was a glitch in the system. Strangest day ever. I woke up. You weren’t there.”

“Running.”

“Oh great. Well, woke up, hurt you weren’t here. I just stared at my number until it was time to go to work. When I got there everyone was just acting crazy. Staring at me, conversations ending second I walked in the room. So all day I can’t work of course, just keep staring at my number, waiting it for it to take another hit. Ray pops in. Tell me to come by his office after work. We need to talk.” He shook off the effect of the memory and went back to finishing their plates in the kitchen. “So I think of running, maybe go underground, go crazy, get a Fixer, somebody. I waited for you to call, to check in, all sorts of terrible ideas went through my head.”

She was dying. Every bit of her wanted to tell him her stupid mistake. Share it with him. It was too much for her to take alone. Why had all this happened to them? Why was he so goddamn happy? He set a plate of steaming spaghetti in front of her. “Take your coat off, settle in for this next part.” She made no movement to take her coat off, but just kept staring at him like he was a stranger. “So yeah I checked it right before I went to him. 550. I almost threw up Jen, honestly. But no, I kept it cool and went and had the meeting. Ray looked all serious when I walked in, but then he broke, started giving it to me. You lucky bastard, unbelievable. Said I was canned, done that day, the order had been filed. There were murmurings though. The double hit on the CRN just wasn’t right. You were shit Tom, he told me, just not that shit. He started laughing at that. Ordered me a beer, finished his story. So they checked on the double hit of the CRN, realized it was an error, double entry of my termination papers, someone really wanted you gone, he said busting my balls. Said after all that, they talked, crunched my numbers, yada yada yada. Think there was apprehension about the mess up with the CRN, said they were thinking of letting me stay on, if I let the double hit go as a fluke. Of course I said hell yeah. Ray was happy as shit. Said I’d be back to 600 with twenty four hours, and there I am! Bam! Said it wasn’t the damnedest thing he’s ever seen, Ray did.” He took a mouthful of pasta and stared at her. “Honey! Smile!”

Her brain was seizing up with contradictory emotions. She had to check one more time. That this had worked. She picked up her phone, went to her page. Her heart fluttered at what she saw. Thomas Mundus-600. Jennifer Mundus-672.

“That’s weird,” Tom said, checking his phone now too. “You’re down five.”

RELEVANT LINKS

China Establishes “Huge” Social Credit System

China’s Nightmarish Citizen Scores Are a Warning For Americans

Facebook Tinkers With Users’ Emotions in News Feed Experiment, Stirring Outcry

Snippets 79

One Flew Over the Cuckcoo’s Nest-Ken Kesey

As the doctor waits, a silence rears up from out of the nurse and looms over everybody, daring anybody to challenge it. I know McMurphy can’t because he was in on the planning of the carnival, and just as I’m thinking that nobody will be fool enough to break that silence, Cheswick, who sits right next to McMurphy, gives a grunt and is on his feet, rubbing his ribs, before he knows what happened.

“Uh–I personally believe, see”—he looks down at McMurphys’s fist on the chair arm beside him, with that big stiff thumb sticking straight up out of it like a cow prod–”that carnival is a real good idea. Something to break the monotony.” (92)