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On Howling

  Everybody’s soul has something to say. We spend our time either ignoring/repressing it because we’re not sure what to do with the emotions that well up, or we go overboard and become soul-driven and wind up one of those overly dramatic people who feel everything about everything. Regardless of which person you are, Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” has the propensity to bring out the latter in a person who takes the time to really read the whole poem. Ginsberg showed no small amount of courage in not only publishing the poem, but writing it in the first place. Ginsberg’s soul had reached its limit, and had to Howl.

                When I first read “Howl”, I had already read William Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” and Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”, so I felt I was fairly decently-versed in the Beat generation and it’s production of edgy, off-center portrayals of the alternative lifestyles they had pioneered, and that had fostered in the later Hippie generation that I was more familiar with. I had no idea what Ginsberg looked like and I felt like I’d been struck by a baseball bat after I read that first sentence. I imagined a man sitting in a room, smoking a Camel cigarette, with a grey face drawn full of worry lines and the sweat of three day old worry. He’s sitting there bleeding, but it isn’t blood. He’s writing out his soul and bleeding through that pencil onto those Big Chief writing tablets that he liked to write on. It’s a venomous blood, and it’s full of poison and anguish and anger. He’s raging so hard writing down the demons in his mind that he’s snapping pencils sometimes – he’s boring so hard. I imagined this man chain-smoking his Camels, maybe having a toke of something stronger if he felt he was teetering over the edge… or pouring himself a bathroom paper cup of muddy-brown whiskey, but going back to those cigarettes because with each puff the dragon in his mind vents its anger at the world and its cold indifference. I don’t know if he’s shaking while he writes, this Ginsberg in my mind, but I know he’s all tight like a spring and is going to come out of his skin if one more injustice is witnessed. I was 16 when I first read “Howl”, and I had a Sixteen-year-old’s mind when I heard something incredibly complex but intense. I went for the dramatic.

                Anyone with an internet connection or smart phone can Google Allen Ginsberg and see for themselves that he’s a pudgy, bald, gay guy who likes to chant Buddhist prayers. He’s got this soft Jewish “Nu-Yawk” accent and he frequently pushes his words out in that squinted-eye way that make a man crane his head forward as he reads the world around him. Suddenly everything got smaller and blurrier.  Ginsberg is an unassuming little man and you and I have read a hundred accounts of how “Howl” resulted in a trial and pushed the boundaries of Free Speech and ushered in the whole 60’s. You know this, if you know Ginsberg. I don’t want to add to the hundreds. I have yet to read an account of how the reader felt when they read “Howl”, and how many times they’ve read it.

                That was the first time I’d read Howl. After I learned a little more about the man for a research project in High School, I came to see the little bearded man as having the brain of that first man I described.  Outwardly unassuming, inwardly a volcano. I re-read “Howl” when I was in the Army. I came across it in a USO stop at an airport somewhere… I don’t remember where exactly. I remember that feeling I got when I read those first few words: “I saw the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” and the silent *whoosh* of a fire being lit in my stomach. I tried to talk about it once with a guy I worked with, a Sergeant. He wasn’t interested and advised me to just keep doing my work and leave those beatnik poets out of anything if I ever want to be taken seriously. I took his advice, and I forgot about the poem as I pushed on with my life as a married man to a woman I would come to divorce a few years down the road.

                I came across “Howl” again when I was sitting in my office in the large Gym I worked at, as the computer guy. Working 9 to 5 with a steady $40K job, going home to a woman who was a stranger and a life I should have felt blessed to be living. I read those first eleven words of the poem that had been attached to an email I’d received from a forward of a forwarded reply to “All Recipients” from some obscure person’s inbox. I’m still kinda scratching my head over that one actually, because I didn’t even like the guy who forwarded me the email in the first place. I *did*, however, read those words with heavily-lidded eyes and Vicodin heartbeats (I’d just cracked some ribs and the doctor had given them to me) and I thought back to the minds of my generation. I was ten years from my high school days, and I wondered where the best minds of my generation had gone. Then I shrugged, and I went back to my $40K/yr job and wished I was somewhere else with someone else and maybe another Vicodin would save MY mind from that Ginsberg madness I just read about and I opened up a mountain dew and forgot about Ginsberg. Delete. Madness Schmadness.

                It’s 2013, and I’ve been given the assignment to write about a poem in our Book. Since I hadn’t bought the book to begin with, I chose “Howl” because it was the first one that sprang to the forefront of my mind. I have re-read the poem more than fifteen times in its entirety in the past 2 weeks. My body has more scars and wrinkles on it than it did 20 years ago, and I sometimes feel like I’ve managed to squeeze extra years into the mix somewhere – I feel the fatigue of the constantly drained. I’ve lived enough for 20 lifetimes and I’ve been making my peace with the direction my path seems to be taking me. Like many men in their later 30’s and further, I give a lot of thought to my mortality and that of those around me. I think about the men that didn’t make it this far and whether they should have, and I wonder why other men with promising lives ahead have been reduced to paranoid shut-ins who have succumbed to the implosion of their minds. I re-read over and over those words… “I saw the GREATEST minds of my generation… destroyed by madness” and I say to myself: The greatest minds had been destroyed, why does the pretty-good mind manage to survive? I read those words over and over, and I shudder. I’ve known people who have had incredible minds that have fallen by the wayside in some manner or another. I’ve lost close friends to self-induced madness, and I’ve felt myself teetering on the edge a time or two myself, but I’ve never had the guts to allow myself to fall over the edge, and I think about that man who wrote those words, and I think about him saying the same things to himself as he writes feverishly on that notepad… His mind flooding out his emotions and ruminations faster than he can create mark from pencil to paper.  He’s not sure when he’s going to approach that edge again, and he’s trying to warn anyone, everyone who can listen… that Madness comes in many forms, and that he’s watched it destroy the best minds of his generation. I see that man struggling to get the message out that we cannot continue to shuffle blindly forward, accepting gratefully whatever we are fed.

                Ginsberg’s soul caused that pudgy little man to cry out onto paper and to carry that voice out to the rest of the world. It wasn’t always well-received, but it is well-understood now.  I am in a second phase of my life now. I have made changes and had to adapt to certain twists and turns on my path. I’ve seen others succumb to Life’s pitfalls, and I do believe that we all have the propensity to be pushed to the edge at least once in our lives. I’m learning to allow my soul to express itself as it needs to, instead of pressing down its feral demands and becoming mired down in the shit that backs up in my head. I spent years ignoring what I had inside me in favor of the false security of an emotionless marriage. It’s amazing how free one can feel if one would simply listen to one’s own soul from time to time – regardless of who might disagree. It’s your soul.Let it Howl. 

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I’m still here…

Everyione’s sick at home, and we had a birthday to celebrate, so I’ve been busy. Apparently I pissed a few people off with my God post, so I may do a followup post to that, trying to explain my reasoning on a few things. Who knows.

But anyway, I’ll be posting more soon. In the meantime, here’s a funny picture of a pissed-off cat.


God. Is he or ain’t he?

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“Dear Heavenly Father, I believe that you died on the cross for my sins, and I’m asking you to come and live in my heart. I accept you as my Lord and Savior, and dedicate my life to good deeds and telling others about your goodness. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

I prayed that when I was 7, prayed it again when I was 11, again when I was 18 and in Basic Training and feeling like I had nobody, and again at 22. I’ve “gotten saved” a few times in my life. I grew up in a family that embraced the Christian faith intensely. So intense that we went to church on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday evenings, and Thursday nights for music practice. We went to church. A lot. I listened to bands like Stryper and Petra (hey, it was the 80’s) and all those folks. I can quote scriptures fairly well, and definitely know the basic principles that the bible teaches. I believed in a God that demanded complete compliance and constant praise. I listened to many preachers’ views on God and life, and I tried to keep myself on the straight and narrow. All for a deity that I’d never seen, heard, or felt.

Thing is… why?

I’d been questioning God’s existence since age 12, when I heard someone give the parallel examples between Christianity and ancient Egypt, and how close the two religions are. I won’t go into detail, but watch the movie “Religulous” and they cover it pretty well. Heh… my parents HATED that movie. Anyhow, I started to wonder how come we prayed to this god who never talked back, and never seemed to really give a shit one way or the other WHAT we did. I mean, in the Old Testament, God was one jealous cat. He would jack you UP if you didn’t believe in him. He told King Saul to “smite the Amalekites and leave not one of them alive, down to the last dog or mouse.” Jesus! (pun intended) God told a king to basically commit genocide and kill women, children, babies, animals. All because He was pissed they weren’t praying to him.

I’ve gone to many churches over the span of my life. I’ve known pastors who were alcoholics, who were sleeping with the female members of the young adult ministries, and pastors who could preach a tough game, but their personal lives were all sorts of fucked up. I thought a lot about churches, and pastors, and all of that. Basically, a Pastor is the guy who has excellent public speaking skills, knows the bible, and is able to convince people that HIS interpretation of the bible is the way they should live their lives. If they’re any good, they gather a large following of people, build a huge church, and drive around in their Mercedes convertibles to their $500,000 homes. What these Pastors do is preach the bible, while inserting their personal brand of values and suggest strongly that everyone live by them.

I saw a lot of families at church that had money. Hell, my family was one of them. There were churches we went to growing up that placed my parents in high positions – simply because they made $100 offerings once a week. Money buys a lot of redemption I guess. I also saw poor families that went to church dutifully and tried to interact with all other members. Problem was, the rich folks just didn’t want to associate with the poor folks. Been to jail/prison and got saved there? Don’t go to church to find people who will accept you. You might get to go up on stage a few times to tell your “story” about how bad you were and how good you are now, but I’m telling you people honestly: Christians don’t like dirty people. They don’t like those folks who live in halfway houses and come to church wearing jeans and dingy sweaters. They’ll smile, sure… but you don’t get any invites to Sunday Lunch.  No, I have NEVER been arrested or incarcerated, but I do know several people and have seen for myself the several examples of new Christians getting roundly ignored because of their history.

So, back to my original question. God. Is he or ain’t he?

I have a very hard time believing that this god, who did all these miracles 2,000 years ago, is mutely silent today. I mean, shit! There’s wars and death, and unbelievers, and all that all over the world. Where’s the damn heavenly fire and all that? God supposedly stopped the Sun in the middle of the sky for 3 days so Joshua could win a battle – way back in the old testament. How come that doesn’t happen now? There’s some prophet in the bible, Elijah or Elisha, who made fun of these other religious priests who tried to call down their god to burn up this symbolic pile of wood. Basically, the pagan priests prayed and they couldn’t get a result. The holy prophet guy starts messin’ with them and says “Hey, maybe your god is taking a shit or something. Where is he?” He then proceeds to douse his ceremonial thingy with water, prays to God, and *ZAPPO* fire comes outta nowhere and burns that bastard right up! Pretty cool huh? Why hasn’t’ it happened lately?

My parents think I’m going to hell for my thinking. Sucks. I’m sad, because they really think that way, but I can’t for the LIFE of me understand why they have to put their faith in some invisible deity? My father retired from GMC a couple years back. He’s now got some form of blood cancer that requires chemo, Motrin, and hope that it helps him out. My mother has been dealing with Degenetive Disk Disease for over 20 years now.  She’s messed up! She can’t get around very well because of how bad she is. They haven’t been to church in 10 years. I just don’t understand why they keep praying blindly to some deity to make them better, when the power of human will is PROVEN to be so incredibly strong, that people have completely turned their lives back around from the abyss of death – through sheer force of will. My father is the strongest man I’ve ever known. He’s got a demeanor like granite when he’s onto something. He’s honest and adroit, and will tell you how he feels about something. He’s too smart to be relying on this invisible man to magically take his cancer away. Can’t tell him that though. He won’t listen. So, they think I’m headed to hell, and I am sad that they’re wasting away in their home, praying for some cure or relief, when they could be out there living their lives and enjoying their twilight years.

I can’t believe in a God that does nothing to help his people. I can’t believe in a religion that preaches goodwill and peace towards all, but abuses its followers and forms cliques. Fuck that.

-T-

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Inaugural Post… and other musings

So I’ve wanted a blog for a long time, but just haven’t gotten around to making one. I want to get some things out of the way right off the bat:

I know that my folks, Gina’s folks, my siblings, or even my ex-wife might read what I post here. I know that not everyone agrees with my beliefs or my outlook on life, or anything like that. That’s fine. I don’t particularly care one way or the other. This blog is for ME. It’s my pressure-valve. It’s where I’m going to go for an online journal and post my thoughts and things. That said, I use harsh language sometimes (okay, fuck it… a lot). I make fun of religion and politics. I talk about what I feel like talking about. I’m happy to have folks read my writings, but if the things you read offend you, please don’t read them.

All of that said, I’m not using this place as a forum to rant to people. It’s just a way for me to get funny thoughts and things out of my head. I might talk about my family one day, or my newborn son Easton. I might talk about the time in 9th grade when I got suspended for playing a drum solo in the school talent show. Who knows?

I love my wife and best friend, Gina. I truly believe that she saved my life. I won’t get into details on HOW she did, but she did. I know and she knows.

I love my parents very much. My Dad is one of my personal heroes. My Mom cracks me up and has a personality a lot like mine. That said, I hate that they’re sitting home wasting away in the midwest praying to God to heal them, when they could be using the freedom they have with their lives (my Dad retired a couple years ago) and go DO stuff.

My Ex-wife. I won’t use her real name, but I will give her a pseudonym. There’s a LOT of shit to write about life with her (ugh, I feel bad for her new boyfriend but hey, he’s got money and that’s the best way to keep her happy) but I’ll keep it toned down as much as I can. I guess I’ll just call her Laura.

Me? Call me T. I was once an I.T. computer geek, a professional Soldier, and a professional Musician. (there are plenty of other things too, but I don’t wanna list my damn resume) My favorite food is Ribs, my favorite band in the entire fucking UNIVERSE is Phish, and I’m just a laid back person. I’ve lived a complete life already (no, I don’t believe in reincarnation), and have been embarking on a new one with my best friend and wife.

So yeah… welcome to my Blog. Read around, leave a message, disagree with me, or just stop by and say hi.

-T-