Friday, March 21, 2008

Don't Smile At The Baby

When I visited my sister a few years ago in Las Vegas, I apparently said the word Sweet so much around my 7 year old Niece, that she referrers to me as Uncle Sweet. It's sweet until you consider that it sounds like the perfect name for a pimp. The last time I saw her, my niece shouted across the airport, "Uncle Sweet! Uncle Sweet! What did you bring me Uncle Sweet?"
see the problem?
On my next visit I am going to try and use the phrase, "Where's Uncle Sweets cash, little girl?" as much as possible to see what happens.
My poor niece. My poor sister. I am a corrupting influence as an uncle I guess. What do you think, should I show up with a giant hat and fur coat at the airport this time?
"What does Uncle Sweet always say?"
"Wheres my money little girl!"
"Good girl."
"Thanks Uncle Sweet! Did you bring me some sugar?"
Kid's. They say the darnedest things.
My niece was born September 12th, 2001.
That's right, the day after 9/11. It was a powerful reminder that no matter how much grief and hate is poured into the world, life will go on. She is smart, energetic and wants her own way. In short, she is a 7 year old girl growing up. I doubt she has any real idea yet of her birthday's significance. Someday she will though. After all, it's really her world now. Her generation will inherit all of this. All the trouble in the middle east, the fears of global warming, the arguments between philosophy, science and religions- it will all be hers in a future world that frightens and amazes me when I think about it. We have lost the ability to relate to each other on the most fundamental levels. It's all plastic and isolation.

I was sitting at a Borders cafe in Sunnyvale yesterday afternoon surfing the web and drinking coffee. A few tables away a mother and child sat down. The little girl looked at me over the chair and I smiled back. She smiled and ducked her head behind her mothers shoulder. Over the course of a few minuets we played the time honored game of peek-a-boo. Eventually, the mom turned around and smiled at me too.
"Do you have any kid's of your own?" She asked.
"No. Just nieces and nephews."
"Oh." She responded and turned away.
OK. I know I can be very Larry David in these situations and for some reason I always seem to get into some sort of trouble in cafes. But it felt like as soon as I said I didn't have any children of my own, the Mom just tuned me out. Not just that, but I was now someone to be avoided.
Kid's don't carry the baggage of parents at that age. That comes a few years latter. The little girl continued to play peek-a-boo and since I wasn't really doing anything but killing time, I continued too. The mom became more agitated. She turned around and looked at me.
"Could you not do that with her anymore please?"
Alright. God knows I have had enough strange shit go down in public. I simply smiled and said "Sure. No problem."
She turned back around abruptly. Well, that didn't stop the little girl. She and I were in the dark as to what the problem was, but I attempted to become very interested in CNN's top stories-a Illinois shaped corn flake sold for $1,300 on Ebay!-the little girl became upset. She starts crawling on her mom and crying. People look over in that way that says, do you really have to bring a baby in here, sort of way. I try to block it out and just as I am shutting down my lap top to leave, the mom turns around again and says to me, "Would you stop encouraging my daughter?"
"Lady. I am not doing anything. I am leaving and the only reason she is crying is because I stopped smiling and playing peek-a-boo with her."
The Mother now bounces her daughter on her knee and in a shrill voice says to her, "It's alright Ashley, the strange man is leaving. Calm down honey."
What the fuck?
Am I living in a parallel world now? How did I become the bad guy in this situation? What the hell is wrong with this woman?
Of course, this is now being over heard by other people. All they have heard is a baby crying and a woman asking me to stop. Who do you think the scornful eyes fell on?

In a night club once, a fellow comic was standing next to me. When the music paused for an instant before resuming it's normal crushing sensation on our senses, he yelled into the silence, "I'm not gay!"
As the music started up again, people looked at me like I had just made some improper pass at a straight man.
That is the worse feeling, thinking everyone now thinks your a republican.

This was a similar situation. Everyone is looking at me like an Amber Alert had just been issued. I deliberately slow down so I don't look guilty rushing to get out of there. That's my thinking anyway. The little girl is just becoming more agitated while the mother bounces her on her knee with all the warmth one might have with a hacky sack.
"Sorry I offended you somehow?" I say as I pull my bags strap over my shoulder.
The Mother, digging around in her baby bag of bottles, diapers and whatever else you require when you take an infant out, retrieves a pacifier and like a plumber removing a clog from a sink, shoves it in the kids mouth.
Here's what happens in the blink of an eye.
The baby bag strap some how becomes entangles in my iPod head phones that are dangling from my bag. I don't notice until I feel the resistance. The Mother doesn't notice until she feels a tugging on the delicately balanced bag of stuff and the baby on her lap. She opens her mouth and says, "We don't want to encourage her to be friendly with male strangers."
That seems like the saddest thing I have ever heard and turn to respond so when my iPod comes out of my bag, hits the floor and comes apart. It pulls her bag of her lap and it too falls to the floor as the baby spits the pacifier out and starts to cry again. The mother and I both reach down at the same time and smash our heads into each other. Wincing in pain, horrified and in shock, we both pull back. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the purposeful strides of an overweight middle manager who is already fed up with whatever it is middle managers always seem to be fed up with, rounding a stack of books and making a beeline toward us.
Shit. Fuck. Damn. Why does this always happen to me?
Why do I even go to cafes anymore?
We don't want to encourage her to talk to male strangers?
What a sad sad world kid's must be growing up in when everyone is eyed as a possible kidnapper or pervert. The baby is in her Mom's lap. She is sitting in a crowded cafe in Sunnyvale. I'm not saying strange shit can't happen, the news is filled with it everyday, but teaching your kid from an early age to not trust seems incredibly wrong to me. It might just be the origin of all the wars and all the misunderstandings society deals with daily.

My mother was the same way. For years it was something of an inside family joke. Anytime we ever went anywhere, mom always had knowledge of something terrible that had happened there.
"Mom, were going to the park."
"Be careful. A girl was raped there not too long ago."
Luckily, all of us in the family took it with a grain of salt. It just seemed like such a horrible way to go through life thinking of all the bad stuff that could happen to us. I understand it was coming from a place of concern, but when your 8 and your brother is 9, you really don't need to have rape explained to you and to be on guard against it when your go to the park to hit some balls with a bat. Do you?
This went on for years in our family until even my Mother realized how ridiculous it had become. We are now all adults, but she still reminds us of what unspeakable crime was committed at whatever location we all might be headed too. On the last family Christmas that we all went to church, Mom once again looked out the window of the car and mentioned that a young girl had been the victim of something horrible at the corner. I went into my mothers falsetto voice and said out loud to my brother and sisters, "be careful in the church. A young boy was recently molested by a priest there."
They laughed.
Mom pursed her lips in that way that says she is not inviting anymore conversation on this subject.
My poor Mom. She is not an idiot, but her kid's were always thinking too fast for her to win any of these battles of wit. It only pissed her off more when my father would laugh at something we had said in response. These events always took place in the family car. The four of us kid's would be crammed into the back seat. It was the 70's, so it was a huge couch back there with seat belt buckles that were never used and tucked into the cushion. When Dad would laugh, Mom would just turn to him and give him the look.
The look is also something of a Klocek family inside joke. We can all do an impression of my Mom's look. It lost power on us after about the age of 10. Even dad seemed immune if the joke was funny enough, but it didn't stop her from still using it still.

This manager Dude is doing an almost dead on impression of mom's deeply displeased look.
I am rubbing my head where contact occurred, annoyed pissed off and not giving a shit about how this mess resolves it's self now. The woman is crying, rubbing her head too, and the baby is waling in that way that only a baby can. A woman stands up and comes over to attempt to offer help as the manager reaches us.
"Mam. We are going to have to ask you to leave if you can't keep your baby quiet."
Well here's a turn of events I didn't see coming!
The woman who came over to help, me and the crazy lady who wants to seal her daughter in a jar till she's 18, all look up at the same time.
Yeah. I'm not the bad guy for a change but I sure as hell can't get behind being mad a woman with a baby. As I rub my hand over my forehead, I say, "What?"
"We have had a few people already complain. This is a book store and we like to maintain quiet."
The woman is just a mess now. I feel sorry for her on so many different levels. The helpful bystander has the baby in her arms and is cooing her back into calmness.
"I am sorry." He says to me, "but we do have a policy just like a movie theater."
The woman, her chin quivering, nods her head in understanding and starts to pick up her bag.
Sitting in a chair, I say to the guy, "Don't you think that's a pretty anti-family policy of kicking crying babies out of a store?"
He shrugs his shoulders. In that moment I can see the full weight of abiding by the company line this man has done for years in hopes that someday he will be made store manager. All you need to know about him is contained in that shrug. No questions or allowances for human behaviour, just a strict interpretation of corporate policy.
"You would of made a fine Nazi." I say to him.
Big mistake.
"Alright, your out too. For your information I am Jewish and that deeply offends me!"
What is he going to do? Whip the keys on his key chain at me? Sit on me with the girth that has accumulated over the years of take out food in the break room as eyes the young girls primping in the mirror?
"That's not the intended nature of my insult." I lamely say.
"I don't care what the insult is, but I am not going to have Nazi's brought up to me as I am trying to enforce the rules of our store!"
Do you see the irony, dear reader?
"That's why you would make a good Nazi, you idiot. You are enforcing a rule that has no allowances for the simplest human behaviour like a fucking baby crying!"
By this time security, or an old guy almost as heavy as Mr. Nazi middle management, enters the scene. He has a limp. He has a limp! What kind of security are you getting when your guard is overweight and walks with a limp?
This is truly amazing now. It is at this point that I laugh. I have this habit I suppose of laughing at what seems to be the worst possible moment. But that's why I laugh. This whole fucking mess is so preposterous. From the woman who is raising her new born daughter to not trust, to the manager who can't see past the letter of the law and understand the context of why I am referring to Nazi's, and now a carnival worker with a walki-talki and a limp to escort me and the woman off the premises!
What else can you do but laugh at the universes grand practical jokes?
Course, laughing in the middle of public embarrassment only makes you look more crazy. But at this point, I have abandoned all hope of anyone with reason popping up.
You know how you can pause anything on TV now? Digital recorders and TiVo has made pausing real time shows possible. God how I wish I had that for life's little moments like this so I could explain everything.
Alright. Now that I have your attention please listen careful and thoughtfully as I explain to you how you each person misinterpreted, took offense or was just plain wrong about what is happening.
Lady with the baby, I was playing peek-a-boo with your adorable daughter in a friendly non threatening manor the way people do with a smiling bright baby. I was not planing to steal her or fill her head with beliefs that are different from the ones you will spend a life time stuffing down her throat only to come to a realization somewhere in your life that she is her own person and can be trusted to do the right thing.
Manager, first of all, loose some weight. You we feel better about yourself and probably find that once you can see your toes and dick again, you won't feel the need to exert yourself in petty displays of power. I have nothing against Jewish people or their beliefs, but when I said you would make a good Nazi, perhaps I went to far with the analogy, but simply following orders doesn't make for a better world-it makes for a world of less compassion. Babies cry Dude! Deal with it. And if your not gonna loose weight, don't tuck your shirt in. Your belt has to follow the laws of physics, but you don't have to follow the rules when it means giving up a piece of your humanity.
Strangers sitting here pretending like your not loving the hell out of this, your all dicks! This is why the world is such a fucked up place-you people! You people are the vast majority. Your the reason Jerry Springer became a huge hit and Rock of Love has an audience in the millions while PBS has to have fund raising months. You like to watch and take a perverse pleasure in others embarrassment and pain. You could step in and say something. You could come over and say-he was just smiling at your baby lady. Relax- but you don't because that would require effort, interaction, soul, compassion, understanding, and switching off your gee whiz iPhone that you bought right before they dropped the price. Last but not least, where do all these security guards come from? The people at malls and parking lots and campuses who wear a bulked up coat with a badge and drive around in golf carts, look like the very people we want security from! Besides, shouldn't a security guard be in shape if something goes down? What is a 55 year old 200 pound man with a limp going to do? Move out of your moms basement and get back on methadone my friend.
Pause off-
Me, the woman and the baby are walked to the front door. We have to go slowly, otherwise the guard would fall behind. When we get to the door, the lady looks at me and attempts a smile. I smile back and step out into the bright blue sky of suburbia America. Everything is orderly and in it's place.
The neatly parked cars shine with fresh wax between the yellow lines of the smooth blacktop parking lot. Young girls showing off slightly sun browned shoulders stride in and out of the yogurt shop. People confidently walk into the air conditioned confines of a Starbucks. Everything is perfect and everyone is right.
Plastic and isolation.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Scale of Things

A friend and fellow blogger wondered why I didn't post anything on the anniversary of the war. Since I am so political, he thought it odd I had not posted something.
I forgot.
I have been so busy with everything going on in my life that I simply forgot. Just like a few million other people in this country.
The truth is, it's not so hard to forget about something that has essentially become wallpaper. Getting to work, paying bills and dealing with the drama of just being alive is enough. A war that has waged on starts to fade into the background as a million kid's ask their mothers, "What's for dinner?"
A bomb went off and killed 23 people in downtown Bagdad. 4 more American soldiers died today. A helicopter was shot down. Grenades were launched into the green zone. 12 Iraqi children were killed in an accidental bombing. A convoy of American trucks was blown up.
It all happens a million miles away a million times a day. But it doesn't happen to you. It doesn't happen to us. It doesn't happen here.
When you start to contemplate it all, it's just depressing. That's what it is to millions of people in this country; something that is simply depressing. A subject to be avoided in conversation. A radio update to turn the dial on. The perfect time to go to the bathroom during the news.

In the 80's, we grew up against the back drop of nuclear annihilation. It was in our music, movies and news papers constantly. Like a noise, it wouldn't go away. But then, it just did. Most of those bombs haven't gone anywhere. Sure, we disassembled a symbolic few. Russia did too. But there are still enough Nuclear warheads in existence to destroy the world 20 times over.
What happened?
9/11 happened.
It's terrorism now. This is our national boogieman. However you want to define it, terrorism's physical destruction is nothing compared to what two nations devoted 50 years of resources toward. All that machinery has been turned in the direction of an enemy that can never kill millions of people with the turn of a few keys and the press of a button.
Of course, that is the fear now isn't it- that a terrorist will detonate a nuclear bomb.
We have gone from being terrified of complete destruction with thousand of bombs, to becoming paranoid patriotic warriors looking into peoples carry on luggage for that one bomb.
The scale of destruction has diminished as the fear has increased ten fold.
Where did the last 5 years go?
What are we doing in Iraq?
Has it made us safer?
These are questions far larger than any one persons thoughts or any one groups beliefs. But think about that for a moment- the scale of damage to people and property has gone down while the scale of terror has gone up. It has gone up because our leaders have not only allowed it to go up, they have actively encouraged it as a means to achieve their agenda.
The agenda is control.
Their agenda and the enemy's agenda is about control.
Religion is control, oil is control, FEAR IS CONTROL.

America, the nation that defined what progress and strength was since it's birth invaded the wrong country for something they didn't do. Ever seriously mediate on that? Put it in personal terms for a second. A guy that didn't have a gun came up to us. Us. The big bad bully on the world wide playground with abb's of steel and strapping' a bad ass hand gun we wave around like a drunk on New Year's. This little guy comes up to us while were standing on a bar stool telling everyone how cool we are and breaks a bottle over our head. It's one guy with one bottle. The room goes quiet in shock and horror while the sound of one laugh rings out in the air.
We turn around and Saddam is the only one laughing.
You know what happened next.
It happens everyday a million times a day all over the world.

The war happened on the world stage though. It happened for a million of those reasons we will never completely understand. What makes a man decide the only way to make a difference in the world is to devote his soul to flying a plane into a building igniting fear and war among two vastly different ways of belief?
I don't know.
We do know that Iraq, has been devastated on the scale of a Nuclear blast. We know that fear rules our lives in a way it didn't seem too during the cold war. Maybe that's the difference, the scale of things. The idea of a Nuclear holocaust was so beyond the scope of our comprehension that we could only imagine it in the movies. Maybe that's why on 9/11 the thing I heard people say the most was, "it's like something out of a movie."
5 years ago, America invaded Iraq on a lie. I doubt anyone said to themselves, "This is like a movie."
It's all about the scale and distance of things. Iraq is a disaster on a scale Americans have just never really had to face. It is as far away as the button on the remote, yet a hemisphere away. It has gone on longer than anyone ever thought it would and it never had to happen. It has been 5 years since the invasion. You cannot measure it or define it on any scale that means anything. The only scale that really matters is the human one. It's the kid filled with red white & blue that returns after three tours missing a limb and wondering what was won. It's the kid blown up in a suicide bombers fire. It's not the trillions of dollars yet to be printed that actually matter, it's those human beings on each side of this who have been living it for 5 years.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Race, Obama & 9/11

Here is what White Christian leaders believe was the cause of 9/11. It's funny how once these clips started making the rounds again that people didn't care what Obama's Minister said about 9/11. Now, it's just about race.
It's also interesting how they blame America for not being religious enough when the "enemy" that came to our shores that day had been created by a steady diet of nothing but religion.

This is what Obama's Minister's said. The line I love the most comes at the end and says it all. "Hilary has never been called by her own people, not white enough." Like it or not, America has a long way to go on race relations.

If were not going to vote for a guy because of the people around him, lets remember that John McCaine has a guy on his reelection committee who is involved with the aerospace company attempting to take over the maker of voting machines; Diebolt.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Rant

Mediocrity leaves an after taste. What we get is what we deserve. No more forgiveness for the ass holes we are besieged by. Everyone wants understanding but no one knows how to give it. The human heart is under attack in a way so complete and so vicious that it is unmatched by any other other time in history. Love is a hoax played on us by the angeles. Regret is just fine as long as you don't let it solidify into the waxy ghosts that slow your blood. That girl, the one you want will make you happy for one year, two months and a day before whatever it is that brought you together fades. Do what you love and the money will go down that hole. Realistic is a club they use to beat you down. Fuck spelling and grammar -you know what I mean. Sleeping pills and strong coffee give you a life lived like a badly edited movie.
Helicopters are too loud. Old people really do remember an easier time. What will you do when everything around you changes and all the music on the radio is sung in the accent of youth. I once was a man that cast two shadows, one for me and one for the girl I still thought was beside me. Anarchy, like democracy is messy. How about Zen-achy? People who flush the toilet before their done are always in a hurry at everything they do. The real miracle about Jesus was that a white guy with perfect abb's was born in an Arab country. Gold seldom makes a man silent. Why does that metaphor work in the other direction? Show me all the ink blots you want doc, I am still going to say you need a pen that doesn't leak. Love is all you need. Really? Fake it till you make it. In the end, she did to me what her parents did to her. It doesn't comfort me in anyway, but I know it must stay with her like a nail in the head and for that I smile even though it does nothing for my karma. Politics should not be played as a sport. Mac's are better than PC's. If I had the money I would build a light house somewhere in Kansas just to have people come by and ask why. Everything screams at you to conform. There are some notes played on a piano that feel like damp splinters being pulled from the ripe flesh of a first broken heart. She was neither young or foolish, she was cruel. When I was drinking, everything seemed so God Damn poignant. pain is like shit, things you never thought will grow from it. Nosterdomus and Duran Duran were both big in their day. No one dates anymore. Where ever light comes through in slanted shafts, that's a church. Money only buys paper work, a little more security and the fear that something will happen to it. God so loved us that he sent his only child to die. You ever really think about how fucked up that is? My father once sent me out in a snow storm to get coffee for the neighbors and I never forgave him for that. oblivion is the perfect vacation. I once was in love with a girl whose skin was the color of an approaching thunder storm. It was smooth like the petals of a rose too. I never thought was for real when I read it. Just a finger tip run along her arm sent an electric thrill all over my body. I once had a girlfriend who got angry at me every two months because I didn't tell her I loved her. I once had a girlfriend who I pledged everything too. It was easier than you think when the most precious thing in your life was her. I once broke up with a girlfriend in a cafe thinking it would minimize the drama factor. I was wrong about that. She stood up from the table and shouted, "I don't want to date you either! and ran out like a scene in a movie. It was so quiet. Not even a fork on a plate or ice moving in a glass could be heard. The waiter came over and in a combination of pity and genuine enjoyment raised his eye brows and simply asked, "Check?"
I once did nothing but ecstasy for weekends at a time in hotel rooms with a girl who was part Korean and part French. It sounds like a novel you might read in an airport because your bored. After awhile even the most amazing sex got boring. I saw her again on one of the most awkward gig's I ever did. She was over weight and engaged so everything felt fair in a fucked up way. All of this is bullshit on some level. If a train leaves Chicago at midnight traveling at 60 MPH and has to get to Denver in less than 15 hours, should it wait for time travel to be invented or just trudge upon those shinny rails like everyone else? Someone told me my name is part of a sign for a show on busses around town. Wow! Do you know what that means? Everyday thousands of people look at my name and go, "Who?" I keep my pain from her. I want to let it go. Not because it's all I have left to remember her by, but because it requires a tremendous amount of work to get rid of it. All great comedy comes from the same place.
Scientist say there are traces of pharmaceutical in our drinking water. That's great. Most of America can't afford prescription drugs anyway, so now we can all get medicine. I have never understood why there are high altitude baking instructions.