|D. Boon and Mike Watt|
Last night I edited a letter - well, actually an editorial about um, uh, duh, Ed Honowitz (click here) - from 1386 words down to 850 so that it could be submitted to a newspaper. This type of letter writing is something I haven’t attempted in some time, and it was a rough edit. However, because I didn’t bother to research the parameters, I had to edit it again - this time to the desired 650 word maximum - and that was flat out brutal. Next time I should probably follow the directions the first time (click here). At last edit, I admired the finished product: a skeleton of a once powerful statement, whittled down to a toothpick for easy picking - now just regurgitation, or worse; food between the teeth. It was nothing close to the meal it once was.
Taking a Ride (click here)
Most weeks I work every day except the two that my union makes sure your unions honor - that is if you ever want to see your kids in the daylight. This week, however, my union chose to use our “Don’t call it Christmas or even a holiday it’s Winter Break” at a different time from the more local union- the one where my children are edumified, PUSD. That is the beauty of secularism, no one knows what anyone else’s schedule will be. In the hodge-podge that generally follows, we get a week of jockeying them to their edumacation stuff, and then they get a week where they are totally unsupervised - unless your family is like mine, and one parent is always home ruining all the good times.
A Brief Statement for the Time Impaired (click here)
On these periodic days, Mary, my partner and friend, gets half of the mom duties comped by me, who now, twenty staples lighter and a third net implant later - is opiate free, pain reduced, and behind the wheel of the mean unclean ungreen machine. This week I have been set for taking the older two kids- the girl child (16) and the elder boy child (13) - through the frenzy that is the morning ride to school ...
Here, eat this dried bread with saturated oil slop and that cup of coffee, here, take this napkin or you’ll have food all over your face like your father. Grab that bag with the organic fruit chews and that processed meat food stuff and this calcium enhanced water for your midday nutritional break, and hurry up and get in the car or you’ll be late again. We’re at 17 late days in a row, guys, let’s try to not make it 18 (click here). Yeah, yeah. Stop talking and chew. You guys enjoy breakfast, and let me enjoy traffic.
45 Glorious Revolutions
There was a time when things were simpler (click here), and when life was more enchanting; a time when I could run my fingers across the edges of a 45 RPM slab of ebony wax, gently blow the dust away, place it, spin it, drop the needle down on her gentle grooves, and marvel as she waxed perfection in tones and vibrations of magnificent sound throughout the house (click here).
No time for that now. Move it, Maxwell, let’s go. Chop, chop.
iGrab the iPod and the smarter than I am iPhone. There are 8,000 music files in there with every version of any song I could possibly desire on both of these gadgets, but I swear I can never find the songs I actually want to listen to. The barrage of useless misinformation and insignificant minutia attacks randomly - so quickly, and with such force - that it’s a balance or tug-of-war between apathy and migraine every fourteen seconds. Twelve times a day I revisit the crossroads (click here) and choose whether to bargain with one (this), or the other (that).
It’s to the point where even the things I love are so compressed, and so compacted, and so emaciated that even the soul of this planet has been subsidized.
Play it in Under a Minute
A file opens on the mini computer music player thingy, and out from the pod comes an elegantly disjointed blast. It begins filling the machine with the story of my life passed, and infuses into my life present. Paranoid Time (click here), a seven song six minute blast of jazz-pop-funk-punk by one of the greatest of the bands to come out of the early 1980’s Southern California hardcore scene, the Minutemen of San Pedro (click here). Playful in their name - their songs usually clocked in at a minute- and easily one of the more dedicated of the bands from that time period - I always enjoy when one of their songs pops up on the Ipod shuffle mp3 music player thingy.
We listened to the first couple three songs in silence as I internally reflected on my brother, how the Minutemen were one of the first bands he saw, and how they so generously gave him a record to remember that night. He kept that record until the day he died.
Timesteps (click here)
Someone in a hurry cut me off on the road, so I waited at the light for a while, and the three of us kept listening, chewing, listening, chewing, tempo, chewing, traffic, music, chewing, rhythm, silence. Deafening, uncomfortable, calm. Check the clock.
The day I was told that Dennes Boon (click here) had been killed in a car accident. My God. December 22, 1985. Twenty seven years ago. Has it been that long? Eyes squinting, I remember the tears, and depression that followed. He was 27 when he died. Why did this decide to come up on the ipod this morning? Why today, of all days, and why now? I have to get these guys to school.
No. I will not let my head go to that place right now, too late. Then another flash of memory, a burst of fire, then confusion, an epiphany, and then clarity. I check the clock again. That lasted thirteen seconds. I took a deep breath, and hit the pause button
“Hey, do you guys know about McCarthyism? Have you heard of Joe McCarthy?”
A Brief History for the Time Impaired
The boy child shook his head, the girl child said, “They haven’t taught us that in school yet, but I have seen it in my books. I’ve hear you talk about it, so I looked it up and learned about it.”
And for a couple of glorious minutes we three talked about Senator Joe McCarthy, and the Cold War, we discussed free speech, and the spectre of hate. We contemplated paranoia, and fear, and bullying, and targeting, and the adversarial behavior of ignorance. We talked about loyalty to friends, and the high cost of silence.
I asked, “Do you know what the blacklist was?” My daughter shared what she taught herself by researching, about the list of people who could no longer work, about the people who were shunned, and stunned, about being excommunicated from the community and moving to Europe. I nodded, listened, and watched this woman child, a magnificent thinker, as she spoke through my right periphery. The boy child said one sentence, “Like what they did to you and Mom.” I checked the rearview mirror and tried to smile, but I felt clouding. I wiped my eye like if it was a speck of dirt.
“OK you guys, listen closely to the words.”
Joe McCarthy’s Ghost (Watt)
Can you really be sure
Of the goddamn time of day?
Can you take the dirt
From the fist of a foreigner?
Are you going to fight
When they call out your number?
Can you toe the line?
Can you repeat what you’ve been told?
Can you bite the bullet?
Can you see the enemy?
Can you point the finger?
Can you prove your loyalty?
Get a Move on or You’ll Miss Something Important
So. What do you think guys? If the accused were communists, why not just say so? If they weren’t, why not just deny it? If they knew people who were communists, why not just turn them in? I mean, what was the big deal? Was it better to hide behind the 5th amendment like cowards, or stand up and make a declaration of pride, “Yes, I am a Communist!” or “Hell no, I’m no Communist!” Wouldn’t it have been wiser to just crumble and give up the names of their friends?
Because, Dad, the Government had no right to ask them any of those questions in the first place. The 5th Amendment wasn’t being used to protect them, they had committed no crime to begin with, and they were not hiding. They were not cowards.They were refusing to allow the Government to interfere in their personal lives. They were asserting their right to live freely, and without shame either way. It was a witch hunt, dad, and you don’t really believe most of those things you just said.
I avoided two collisions and pulled up to the curb at the school. Crap. Late again. Day #18. The principal is in front of the school preparing to lock the doors and start with a tardy sweep.
Ok, talk to you more about this later. Hurry up, before they lock the gate. Apologize for being late and tell them to call me if they have any concerns. Bye. See you after school.
A Brief Finale
I watch them scurry, struggling with bags heavier than they are, up the stairs that they still fumble on, and through the door, which swings shut behind them.
I ask myself , “Why? Why so many rules, so many important little details, why so much stress? Why do they have to worry about all of this junk? Good grief, they are still just kids.”
I pull the beast out and drive a couple of blocks and then pull over. I don’t feel right. Something’s been eating at me all morning.
I contemplate Connecticut - but not the flame wars on the internet over gun control, or autism, or school safety, or parenting. For the first time in a few days I focus on the teachers and those kids and the last things that they learned on this planet, and I then I realized that I was in such a hurry I didn’t even tell my own kids to have a good day, let alone hug them goodbye (click here).
For the first time in ten years, I wept.