of Bureaucrats

January 29, 2012


For those that might have seen “The Adjustment Bureau”, an amusing little movie in which Matt Damon portrays a Man who meets his soul mate but who’s fate is thwarted by the Universe’s stewards of fate. Supposedly, Angelic bureaucrats in suits and hats that keep us all on our own tracks of destiny, they carry out various means of subterfuge to ensure certain paths are kept to and that others are not crossed. Doors that inexplicably close, things that appear randomly to block your way, objects that fall from your hands and make you stoop and possibly miss the passing of another etc etc.
They can also, if inclined, just ‘cuz…fuck with you.
I gotta say, after watching that movie, I am now forever wondering if I am not a pet project or favourite pastime of those bastards in the funny lil hats, when they’re bored. Just ‘cuz.
At the risk of sounding “woe is me”, my life seems to be inordinately lopsided with “butter side down” occasion.
So much so that I have chanced to impress an unbeliever with it’s predictability, leaving her with an “Wow, you’re not kidding” posture after having been presented with multiple scenarios with two possible outcomes and the frequency that mine will invariably be the most troublesome or tedious.
If pressed and having to choose from a set of just two keys to unlock a door…I have yet to pick the right one on the first attempt. Rope or wire entangles in ways that could NEVER be replicated in need. Things get caught on other things that are so improbable that I couldn’t ever hope to do on purpose if my very life was held in the balance. Things spill from my hands at the most inopportune times and if of the paper variety, the wind will suddenly pick up to have me perform ritualistic dance to retrieve it.
This is well beyond the confines of Murphy’s law, this is the hand of Providence.
I used to think, hope, it was God trying to teach me patience, and perhaps He felt as frustrated in the results, but now I think I am the plaything of celestial dickheads in a cafeteria lunchroom.
Get a life!
Of course, I have tried the reverse. To anticipate my first intuition and suddenly turn and pick the other. I can almost hear the laughter above at my silly, futile attempts…I still ALWAYS grab the wrong shoe, in the dark.
Crafts or projects are the worse and seem to be a particular focus for my cherubic companions. The simplest of tasks are made impossible by the breaking of tools or unexplainable failing of software.
A different tool, another approach…forget it. No matter what I try, once the shift is in place, it’s a debacle.
So, short of my wanting a private “chat” with one (Matt get’s his!!) or just begging they leave off for a minute, I fear I am destined to be at the tender mercies of bureaucrats, both at home, work and…above.
Ok, I can deal but seriously?…shit gets old.
Don’t ask me to change your oil…you’ll regret it, trust me.

of Failings

January 28, 2012

So, here’s the rub…
I’m just not that exceptional.
I don’t think that I am exempt from the myriad of complaint that dissolve marriages, the increasing, absurd number of personal failures.
I don’t believe, save the very few, that those approaching whatever manner of union they’ve mutually agreed, planned and bargained for, dreamt of and often precariously indenture themselves financially to…do so with the premonition that they will fail miserably, that their failure will touch the lives of many others, and most noticeably, of those that are tied to, dependent on, success. The very legacy of that failed, regrettable, miserable mistake…the Children.
“My Children are the only good thing that resulted from it, I wouldn’t change a thing!”…Yea?…how incredibly, if predictably, fulfilled you are…and them?, how are they faring? How would they prefer it?
I can’t imagine that my own march to an altar would be any less filled with wonder, at hope for a future with the one I am destitute without. Or, would it’s demise, it’s inevitable crashing around my head, be any less vociferous.
I have no romantic illusions of the process, quite the opposite.
It seems to me that it has been the unions without the burden of passion, of romance or ideology, that have stood the test of time. Our trees were once seeded with Clan or Familial concordance.
That ain’t me.
This is me. Preferring a life of single obscurity than that of a marital reckoning.
I prefer to cling to my childish mirage, the illusion of the Woman of my heart, the ethereal victual of my soul, my reason to exist.
I would insist. To express those very sacred vows, I’d have no less…only to see it collapse. To be a party to such great personal tragedy and failure, to have a partner of that caliber and worth, ultimately despise me, and I, her?…miss me with that.
Of course I have my own thoughts on why modern matrimony is such an increasing societal blemish but in the end, I’m just not any better, any less susceptible to what ails us.
Just not that exceptional.

of Angels

January 10, 2012

So, as it happens, I do believe in Angels. Angels in general, but specifically, Guardian Angels. I can’t say where exactly they fall in the celestial hierarchy, be they Cherub, Seraphim, Archangel or, most likely in my case, Apprentice, but that they do exist and exist among us…I’m sure.

My own contact with a Guardian Angel was, predictably, at my most destitute, most helpless, at my greatest need but also when I was least aware of that need.
Years ago, as a young Man, I lived as many do at that age, by the seat of my pants. I was invincible and in that role, I rarely gave a thought of tomorrow. I didn’t consider my next meal or how I would earn it, or if indeed it would be earned. I cared less where I laid my head at night, on whose pillow or where I woke each morning. Every day was an adventure.
Many of those mornings I woke in the care of the State. Often though, I would shake free the bonds of my stewards and set out (at a quick pace) on my own.
Thumb out, fate, my only guide…come what may.
Be it divine intercession or stupid luck, I emerged from that period virtually unscathed. Looking back though, there were more than a few situations where I was in actual peril but too stupid to realize.
There was that seemingly kindly Man that picked me up hitchhiking and once in the desert of Arizona, (I had thought he said Tustin, but was Tucson bound. Oh well, one place was as good as the next.) thought to reveal himself as a connoisseur of young adolescent boys and that he was particularly aggrieved when denied. This, told right before he pulled off the highway and declared we would be staying the night there, in the middle of the desert, in the back of his pickup, just me, him, his temperamental dog and the knife on his belt.
Nahhh…I believe I’ll just stand out here, in the cold, all night, till you drop me off in the morning…first thing.
And so I did.
I still wonder why he did not force the issue. Perhaps he knew that I would not be easy prey and, as is the nature of predators, not worth the effort or controvertible outcome. Either way, I was lucky to have escaped in once piece, literally.
It was during that same period of my life that I met all three of my Guardian Angels.
I would have thought, as close to harm as I was that night, that were there a need for intercession, that would have qualified. Yet, in retrospect, they came not only when the need greatest but when it would make the greatest impression. Obviously.
Not the first of those,  but perhaps the most lasting impression made, was on a freezing night in Winnemucca, Nevada.
Somehow, in predictable flight, I found myself incongruously in Ketcham, Idaho.
After a short time and wearing my thin welcome, thinner, I was again with thumb out and no destination. It was Winter and having spent most my life in warm climates, I may not have given this small detail significant consideration. I had no money, no food or prospects. Standard operating procedure.
I caught a ride the short distance from outside Ketchum to the small junction of Winnemucca early enough in the day to still see me catch a ride going farther.
Sorry, Son.
When I say it was cold, it was beyond that simple, unworthy description. It was numbing. It was specter like in it’s creeping into my bones and painfully grabbing hold. It was uncontrollable shivering and teeth chattering.
Then…the sun went down.
I have no idea how long I stood outside that closed gas station, peppering what little, dwindling, traffic, with my best puppy dog eyes and outstretched, shaking, uncovered, thumb but at some point I remember becoming worried about my invincibility. Possibly the first time ever.
Then the wind picked up.
After what must have been hours without seeing even a headlight, I repaired to a corner of the building to find what little shelter I could, slinking down against the building, squatting and then…crying.
I distinctly recall being surprised that as I wiped my nose, feeling the hair  crunch and I think I knew then I would never survive the night. In desperation I looked around for the metallic, half box on a pole that would house the gas station pay phone and walking over to it, decided the back of a cop car would be a great improvement, even knowing I stood the chance of being discovered in flight.
IMG_6242I should have guessed. The receiver had been destroyed in some other callers rage. I might have laughed, had it not been for the panic that was beginning to overwhelm me.
Because of the wind, I had not heard the approach, but as I turned to my corner, a pair of headlights turned into the parking lot and stopped.
A bus. A Trailways bus. “Travel at it’s Best!!” Sacramento, emboldened with light and white lettering, on it’s marquee.
So? I had no money. No means.
So I watched as the door hissed open and a Man and Woman exited.
A minute or two and the door stayed open, the bus idling. All that precious heat, escaping.
Without thinking, I approached the open door and saw the driver, at the wheel, writing in a tablet. Without stepping up, from the open door, I asked “How much is a ticket to…Sacramento?” As if I could pay.
Without so much as a glance, not even raising his head, the driver said “I never saw you get on”, and continued scribbling.
Disguised in a grey uniform and cap, my hero. My Guardian Angel.
A moments hesitation and I mounted the steps and slowly walked to the back, expecting at any moment a harsh voice to call me back, retracting my deliverance. None came.
I have since, as an adult, been accommodated luxuriously, staying in fine hotels around the World, with the greatest of comforts, but none…not a single one, can compare with the luxury that I found at the back of that warm, safe, humming, welcoming bus.
No bed has ever been as comfortable as that worn, lumpy extended seat in the rear, nor any sleep as satisfying as was mine on that drive to Sacramento.
Waking in Sacramento and rising to exit, I thought to give my heartfelt thanks but in the night, at one of the few stops along the way, another driver had taken over.
My Guardian Angel and I never spoke but the impression left on me has been lasting and saw to the end of thinking myself invincible.
Tone check.

of Advance

January 5, 2012

The Luddites were terrorists.
A obscure movement in early part of the 19th century in England, where a band of digruntled workers destroyed textile machinery in a vain attempt to stem the tide of the industrial progress that they perceived to be directly threatening their livelihoods.
If correct in that appraisal,
they were criminally misguided in their attempts to rectify it.
A few, lost their heads, literally.
Interestingly, with the exponential advance of high technology, the 21st century faces some of those same challenges but with much greater and widespread ramifications.
Had you been shortsighted enough, in the late 90’s, to have considered a travel agency a worthwhile investment or avenue to start your own small business…Priceline, Expedia, via the internet, had some very bad news for you.
Now what?
You move on, that’s what. You lick your wounds, reassess and, hopefully, recoup some of your losses and try your hand at something else.
I don’t think it is the responsibility of society to protect you from ill fated choices or ventures. That’s what insurance is for (your next venture, perhaps?). Besides, we have MUCH bigger problems on the horizon…
What will we do with the massive, leadened weight around our necks that is the US Postal Service, when it soon becomes obsolete? All it’s lifelong employees, many beyond the age of rehire or reintroduction into a workforce that…well…expects you to actually do some work. Their unions would insist we somehow keep them on. Regardless of how inefficient or irrelevant.
Or Kodak? Having missed the digital bus and now scrambling to compete in a market that is fast disappearing.
What happens when a single application, written by some industrious, ambitious, bespectacled troglodyte, in her basement, potentially can effectually replace the labours of, literally, thousands?
This is where I’m torn.
It seems to me that as this scenario plays out on many different plains, we are confronted with ever decreasing options for where those deposed, are to repose.
Where does the man, that spent the last twenty years of his life maintaining the machine that supported that other, bigger, machine…go, now that both machines are out of business?
The factor that put them out of business is now huge, prospering. Producing more efficiently and at less cost. The profits are greater and disbursed more selectively.
The Man is now bussing tables, making a very small percentage of what he once did and so is unlikely to indulge in whatever convenience the Machine he used to grease, once offered.
The common theme I hear often from the Conservatives is: “I’ve never gotten a job from a poor man”.
Ok, fair enough, but if the only job the rich man is offering is mowing his lawn or cooking his meals, cleaning his house, or washing his clothes, and there are now three times as many applicants for those jobs because his brilliant innovation saw to the end of their previous employment…and with that exponential growth of unemployed, less expendable income, who can afford his product?
Shouldn’t they…I cannot believe I’m even thinking this..as a factor of their own prosperity, insure those that are adversely affected by it? If only to, also, insure their own future?
As a student of history, I am increasingly less inclined to embrace the concept of trickle down economics. History just doesn’t seem to bear support for it. We seem to repeat the same cycle again and again. From the industrial revolution of the Victorian era and that of the trust barons of manifest destiny, the gap in prosperity between the working poor and the worked for, increases until a Prince Albert or Teddy Roosevelt fight to balance the scales.
I don’t believe that we have that kind of leadership currently and it’s becoming ever more likely that it will take a movement of masses to again adjust the tipping scales of fortune.
We recently have seen the spark of such a movement and I despair that it was ultimately absorbed by such degenerates, but a spark nonetheless…and where there is smoke…

of Parts. Part III

January 1, 2012

January two, the year of our Lord, nineteen sixty one, was born, in Kettering, Northamtonshire England, My Brother, Mark Lee Harrell.
At the time, almost three years hence till my own coming, I could possibly say I know him as well now, as I did then.
I wonder if two Men, born of the same house, could be as vastly different in personality and appearance, as it is with he and I.
Where I am rash and impetuous, he is calm and reserved. Where I am loud and boisterous, he is quiet and pensive. Where I, (the only one, so said my Father) who could destroy a Tonka Truck, he could reassemble it. Mark went Air Force, I went Army.
Where I have light eyes and light(er) hair, his dark and his hair, once jet black, now, at least share the inevitable march of grey. Though, even on this front, my senior, holds at bay and my own march of “dignified bearing”, seems to have outpaced him.
It may have been these stark differences that compelled our Mother, to our eventual, mutual jocularity, on so many documented occasions, dress us as if we were twins.
Doing so, did little to mask our outward differences and it was for he that perfect strangers often detained my Mother with oaths of earnest delight at “such a charming and lovely young Man!”
A beautiful boy and handsome Man, is my Brother.
If this truth in anyway contributed to my own need for attention and the terror I inflicted on my Parents to gain it, I cannot say, but that my Brother was a special child, sharp and imaginative, striking in appearance and deft in manner, is indisputable.
In childhood, we were much like any other siblings with a three year age span. A good part of it was spent pinned beneath him, knees on my shoulders and a long, threatening, swaying string of spit, suspended above my face.
We shared a bedroom and bunk-beds and he, naturally, insisting on the top or bottom, depending on his mood. Only settling on the bottom to finally curtail his proclivity for sleep walking, after having launched himself from the top bunk one night, into the armoire. We conspired against our mutual enemy, our tormenting Sister. For both having the audacity to be infallible in our Fathers eyes and for the unfairness of having her own room.
We shared some friends. The pool of other American children in Italy somewhat limited, age became less an issue as it might have Stateside. We fought the Guinea Wop kids in the Piazza as a gang and took trains into Naples and Pozzuoli as a unit.
We shared plundered Benson-Hedges cigarettes but certainly not the blame once discovered.
I thought my Brother cruel, aloof, enigmatic, stubborn, carefree, brilliant and untouchable. Both my nemesis and hero.
Our teens were an entirely different experience. Not just in application but in perception as well. The usual, predictable rites of passages of boys to men were spent apart with my leaving home at such an early age.
Catching up when we could, I have always been struck by how differently we ended up viewing the world we lived.
The Seventies saw us both grow our hair long and seek distractions. For Mark, it was distancing himself from the stern hand of our Father, experimenting with some drugs and for me it was resisting every hand of authority laid upon me. Each with questionable results, I think.
The eighties, even more of a disparity in perspective. His, Iron Maiden, mine, Depeche Mode.
It would be some years before we again crossed paths, with my inevitable resurfacing after a predictable, if unexplained, long absence. Mark, not to be overly perturbed, was to embrace me again as if no time had passed.
More than time had passed though.
In that time, he had tried his hand at a family life, marrying a teenage sweetheart and having three children with her. Whereas I, on the other hand, could be relied to take a solitary path.
This reunion, by circumstance, had us in each others company for an extended period and our developed natures in difference again were made apparent.
Ever reticent, we parted from that adventure knowing as little of each other as having entered it. Not mourning the fact, only accepting it more readily. My Brother and I are vastly different Men and fortunately so. We will forever be bonded with history and blood. Once, this may have meant very little to me but today, I cling to it passionately and am thankful for it. Thankful for my Brother Mark and his ability to accept me as I am and his open door. I aspire to his own perceptions and look upon him with the same, mutual, embrace. For all we are, and are not, he is, and will remain, my Brother. As will my love for him.