Friday, November 12, 2004

Ode to

Heaven help me! Mercy Lord!
The jobs my res'me can't afford
Could fill a page (in fact, eighteen!)
Positions as I've never seen
And won't, I deem, unless B.A.s
In English become all the rage.

Could there be hope for such as I?
Let's see to what I might apply--

Store manager at Bed n' Bath:
Come, stanch the customary wrath
Of customers for whom shampoo
Applied thrice daily wouldn't do
Those things that it had promis'ed--
"I rubbed it well about my head
But see! There yet remain such flakes
My shoulders bow beneath the cakes
I cannot stand, nor shall I stand it!
O'er my money hand, bath bandit!"

Claims for Farmers Groupies Inc.:
A better job than you might think
Explore how devious you are
(While smiling; don't forget PR!)
Adjust, report, and calculate
And dither while they supplicate.
Unwrapping tales of human woe
And binding them in red tape bows
Is good for us and fun for you!
(And do not, Dives, while you chew
Ponder the Lazari who sweep
For crumbs around our fatted feet;
You'll find bread stolen to be sweet)

Invest! Insure! Or from your home
Make millions o'er the telephone!
Apply online; apply yourself--
Come be a corporate Santa's elf!
Recruit! Retail! Come represent
Us to the world! (And don't resent
It if you cannot pay the rent
At first, but try and try again
To he who strives the world's a friend!)
Experience and motivation
Fit you for this invitation!
Bootstrap puller-uppers wanted!
Bootlicks too! For all the vaunted
Liberty of self employ
Our golden stables you'll enjoy.
Get dental, health, 401K
Plush pensions and--what's that you say?
You haven't got an MBA?
Well . . . Taco Bell's just down the way.

Eve's curse, to pine for that which pains
Is Adam's, too--hence I complain
"Call these careers? They're fit for swine!
And (sniffle) where oh where is mine?"

I know what I am owed by Earth
That, though less than I deem I'm worth
Less still is owed than I've been giv'n.
(Thus having spake, I trow I'm shriv'n
Of notions of ungratefullness)
Where was I? Mid-complaint? Ah yes--
What choice awaits the failed auteur?
Which suicide is prettier:
A wife and forty hours a week
Or the revolver, quick and neat.
Thus spake (well, more or less) Camus
Myself, I think it isn't true
Do not mistake the true intent
Of this my tiresome testament
For all that miles of joyless jobs
Await us graduated slobs
Still, old Quoholeth had it right
Man could do worse than spend his might
In toil by day and rest by night.
Beneath the sun is nothing new
A collar, whether white or blue
Remains a collar, teth'ring shure
Each rower to his 'pointed oar.
Each pursues his golden fleece--
Why's mine soaked in french-fry grease?

Monday, November 08, 2004

Oh Birthday Boy

My own recollections of 1981 are vague. Strolling through the misty neumonic archives of that year, I find a black lab named Solomon (whose affection for me would decrease over the next few years in proportion with my increasing facility for directing food to my mouth rather than more accessible surrounding regions), a red tricycle, and drowsy rides in the cushioned rear window of Grampa's tractor.

The Iran-Contra affair, then just beginning to break, meant nothing to me at the time, nor had I any occasion to see Raiders of the Lost Ark until 1988 (inaugurating what has been so far a lifelong fascination with foreign objects of primitive idolatry, and a nervousness around fireplace pokers). It didn't bother me in the least, this freshly proposed notion that only an invisible and increasingly thinning layer called "ozone" kept my pink two-year-old skin from looking like hickory-smoked jerky.

Funny, the things that happen whether or not you happen to be looking up from your sandbox to see them. Not that noticing matters always matters; every moment of the present may contain excitements that will mean something only once they have rushed to join the past, which is the crucible in which all the present moments to come are forged.
So it was for me on November 8th, 1981, when mysteriously, in the middle of all the carpet-level discoveries that (to the best of my memory) made up my bold young world, I acquired a little brother. They called him Joey, wrapped him in Gramma-knit blankets, and lay him in my outgrown cradle.

I don't know when I first realized that this would change everything. Six years later I would be wiser, erupting in furious tears at the news of Andy's impending intrusion into our family--not again!! I knew that this betokened more change, more compromises, more noise. I hadn't yet learned that ruptures in stability tend to become new stabilities, and should be greeted with equanimity (at worst) or (in the case of such ruptures as new life) laughter.
Neither Joey nor Andy were ever improved upon, and I have no way of knowing what sort of initial reception the three of us would have given another sibling. I suspect I would have done a bit better, that I'd have managed to set a good example to the younger sibs of immediate hospitality and happiness once the first few chapters of what is now a mammoth catalog of fraternal memories were assembled.

Flip, flip flip.
Heh heh.

1986. Joey and I have had enough of sitting still on an impossibly long car trip, and we're feet to feet in the backseat, whooping and flailing away at each other's viscera with bare heels. In the dark, we don't know or care about split lips and puffy eyes. Mom, unaware that this isn't a tag-team match, performs an impressive twisting double scissor-lock maneuver and persuades us to reconsider careers in pro wrestling, at least for tonight.


1987. Joey stands atop the backyard slide, thin and blond and fierce and armed, like me, with a plastic fishing pole connected via jump rope to his backpack. "No, you run!" he storms. "You're the ghost and I'm the buster!"

Flip flip.

1989. Joey, whose larger bedroom is home to Gramma and Grampa during their visits, stands in front of his closet door, arms crossed defiantly, chin resolutely angled. No Mom can't go in his closet--the contents of his underwear drawer needed to be emptied and relocated there because of course Gramma and Grampa will go snooping and if they saw his whitey-tighties he'd be unutterably humiliated so there!!

And on it went, and on it goes.

Oh, for the grace to see the present--and even the terrifying night of future--with the same clarity we see the past. For I have seen the past, and it was good. Not a bad year at all, 1981.

Happy 23rd birthday, Joey.
I love you.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

2 Minutes Ago

"Sheila, did you hear that Kerry just conceded the election?"
I tilted perilously back in my chair to catch her eye, but she wasn't looking at me. She was reading the AP article over my shoulder.

"Well, that does it then. I'm scared. I'm scared. The people have spoken, and they've declared me a second-class citizen."

Sheila, a stout, middle-aged lesbian, spoke more to herself than to me--how she usually talks, walking around her coffee shop in her own private but LOUD reverie.

"Must be the will of God, right? That's what they'll say. Four more years of running up the deficit, four more years of the politics of violence and of hate and of blind arrogance. Head Start's cut; who's gonna pay for all the kids left behind? Out with love; in with violence and hatred. I'm scared. I'm not saying Democrats are perfect--geez, no! But there is such HATRED the further Right you go, and it's in the name of God, and at least the Democrats have the grace and sense to invite everyone to the table."

She continued in this way on over to the counter, where she is now in heated dialogue with a group of like-minded women. Hoo boy. They're on to abortion now. Good gracious, the things that are being said, but I daren't join the conversation--I'd only be presenting myself a noble martyr to their anger.

Who knows what all of this portends, where these decision will take us?

My feelings, usually so near me, are out of reach right now. I don't know whether I feel (neither whether to feel) bleak disappointment, or relief. I was up too late, keeping company with too many chemicals and TV commentators as the map quarreled with itself into sharp-edged red and blue.
I probably look about as listless as Sam Donaldson did last night, poor old feller.

The one thing I'm capable of wishing for right now is the company, just for a few minutes, of those I love who are so thoughtlessly--not smug. . . what then? peaceful?--in their righteous redness. Just to show them the monster, Sheila. Real, live, right here. Queer and here and not goin' nowhere, however the states may throw up initiative fences to huddle behind. "Oh, Lordy Lord Lord, he'p us Lord, them gays is a'comin' fo' our li'l chilluns!"

Just to let them hear her bleat, watch her bleed, and ask themselves whether political solutions to the problem of her existence are what they really want.