Luna de los Muertos

Christmas isn’t my happy place. The popular press has several narratives. One is a constant, Chihuahua on crack exortation to get out there and spend money on gifts and holiday meals. It’s a choir of info-babes and merchants cajoling us into spending money we don’t really have. It’s a season of giving, they say. We are also told we must help the doe-eyed po’ folk they parade before the camera once a year. This is the time when we show how compassionate and generous we are. 1 month out of 12 we hear about kids who are giving coats & blankets to the homeless, the bare shelves at the local food bank, the poor child with leukemia whose parents can’t pay for medical care and some benevolent one-percenter drops a wad of cash to cover the cost, the anonymous donor who pays off the layaways of strangers, the local charities who do the angel tree thing, you know the drill. All the while the merchants continue their nagging that we haven’t spent enough yet. Easy credit, everybody gets approved, no payments until 2115, come on down, prices will never be lower . . .

The other almost fits how I feel. It’s the “reason for the season” thing. I was raised in the church, spending Sunday mornings for most of my youth in Sunday School. I’ve been up there at the alter giving my life to Christ more than once. I am very aware of the real reason for the season. It’s about Cheeezus, and so we should spend the Advent season flopping about the floor in front of the altar speaking in tongues and confessing what a shit we’ve been then take what we were going to spend at Macy’s and give it to the church. You still end up in the same place January 1st–broke, hung-over and a little desperate.

hello-kitty-christmas-treeThough, dumping your Christmas shopping cash into the offering plate will mean some long faces Christmas morning when the family goes to look at the tree and it’s some sad, pink artificial thing with no gifts under it and a short in the wiring which means the lights don’t work and there is a scary smell of burning plastic. If you go this route I’d be careful about eating the milk & cookies. You never know.

I’ve been that grump that stomps about the mall mumbling about the show of wealth on display, how there are starving children in Africa, the world has no peas, Santa is a creepy drunk, and these people need to get themselves to revival forthwith.

This is the time of year when things feel bleak. It’s warm outside but I feel a chill in my home. I’m not in a very celebratory mood. This is when the harvest has come in, the fields are brown with corn husks and soybean plant stalks covered by manure from the neighbor’s cows. It is when the trees look like they died. The whole world seems to have picked up and moved to Hades. Anybody that can afford to has gone elsewhere, to more pleasant climes where the service staff knows the GFE game. The rest of us schlubs are still getting up at 5am to clean out the stalls, put down fresh hay, and try again to get the old tractor fixed. My yard is covered in leaves and the grass is a sickly brown. When I got back from the road the cold that had been lurking about came on full force. I feel like crap.

Something about us, that whistles in the dark against our fears and nightmares, that wants life to always be immortal sunshine and lollipops, that wishes for the days before we knew what the word, “no” meant and could count on the comforting nursery of our mothers. We don’t like to acknowledge the dead, admit that in the spring as life reawakens there are storms which flood and tear down homes. There is something desperate about us this season, as the world hibernates, that wants our binkie and desirous weather. It’s that something desperate that makes me annoyed.

Life inhales and exhales. There are seasons of the dead, of winter and miserable grey skies, the ground sometimes covered in snow, a time to sit close to a hot wood stove and read post-apocalyptic fiction by candlelight. To be asked to binge on giving, binge on food, to pretend it isn’t winter while everything is in Hades, feels like a lie. I don’t want to exhale yet. My sinuses hurt and I’m low on Kleenex. Merry Texmas, y’all.

Christmas is in 9 days. We start a new year in 16 days. Another year gone by, another few months gripping the kerosene lantern and it’s feeble light not quite beating back the malaise of the season. Typical for me, the cupboard is bare, the wallet too thin, I don’t have a job, the job I had claims that I defied some rules so no bonus for me, bills are due in a couple weeks and the well intentioned wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year don’t make me feel better.


The Poor Player

First Posted 24-Aug-2015

The origin of this is my buddy’s “Poor Player’s Hour” in his blog. He left out a few things and that’s what prompted this post.  First, the rant by the dystopian nutcase happened while I was driving for Dianne Wallace’s, “Taxi Taxi”. I’d parked myself at Center & Shattuck because it was 3:30am, the bars were closed, most of the drunks already home beginning their Sunday recovery from the last two days, and the BART station there was about as safe a place to take a nap as you could find in the 1980’s when bad guys considered cab drivers to be prey.
BiohazardI’d been dozing on & off, listening to Ray Taliafero. Ray was again calling for Reagan’s head after he’d done yet another unpardonable thing. A hapless Reagan fanboy was the ox being gored so that Ray could excoriate Reagan. There never seemed to be a lack of willing callers lining up for rhetorical slaughter. I was brought fully awake by a rather sad Corolla wagon shrieking in pain first because the driver had mashed the throttle then in turn mashed the brakes then yanked the wheel to come to a smoky halt in front of the cab stand. The driver spilled out of the car and stumbled up to my window, leaving the aching, smoking Corolla running. Not a good way to start a fare. He was yelling something about the CIA following him so they could kill him and he needed my cab..
Right. I need a hole in my head. This isn’t Hollywood. This is Berkeley, CA in the 1980’s. Car-jacking a cab driver is likely to get you beaten and jailed because the cabbie will claim you tried to rob him. But . . . money is money so I talked the guy down enough that he paid me $100.00 to drive him away from the BART station and lose his tail. We headed west over the Bay Bridge to Happy Donuts and after reloading on caffeine & sugar, decided he’d been tailed there so headed south with the second Benjamin in my hand. I let him run on about conspiracies popu-lated by Asian Dragon Ladies, a weaponized chlamydia, overnight flyovers by black helicopters, and Pacifica Radio. I thought he was just another cocaine psychotic. Little did I know.
I dropped him at the Capri Motel and headed back to my nap at Berkeley BART. I was off in an hour but still, I needed some decompression time. When I got to Center & Shattuck I couldn’t park. Both directions of Shattuck Ave between Center & Allston were blocked by the cops. The poor Corolla was the focus of guys in tyvek HASMAT suits. In the hours since my tour of the Bay Area courtesy of Mr. Crackhead they’d cleared all the cars parked overnight and Berkeley BART was awash with first responders and HASMAT gear. Oh well. Guess I’m not napping there. I headed back to West Oakland’s 7th street and the cab yard. Sleep would have to wait.
Fast forward to the future, to 2029 and my 70th birthday. I get a letter by snail-mail typed on a manual typewriter from a name I don’t recognize. It’s postmarked Brisbane, Australia. It’s that guy from the ‘80’s who spent $500.00 with me trying to escape a tail. He wasn’t high. He was a microbiologist who had worked in a black lab near Atlanta, GA. He was one of the scien-tists who had helped develop a weaponized chlamydia which had the symptoms of pneumonia, tended to kill those with compromised immune systems, and rendered healthy women infertile. That explains a lot.
dystopian girlNow, in 2029, world population has been declining on an exponential curve. Very few wom-en are fertile. Those that are have become pissed at the shouting for more babies. Any hint of flirting is likely to get you a punch in the face. Things have collapsed without people to run the huge, complex technological empire we call the first world. We are a third world society on a good day.
There are hippie-wanna-be’s that have been trying to tell the infertile women that their in-ability to get pregnant is a good thing. People can screw whomever whenever without worry, right? How do the women feel about this? Pretty much the way they have felt since forever. They want commitment, a ring and a date. Even if children are impossible.
A lot of the more insanely horny guys stupidly put all that nervous tension into silly fights over childish things like wearing the wrong color shoes and joined the Darwin Award club. We are better off for it. One guy made the news after he pushed his friend over the rail of the Syd-ney Harbor Bridge and his friend grabbed him on the way over and they both died. Others on the bridge said they heard them bickering about whether yellow was a color worn by the Brazil-ian football team.
Though, it’s not bad everywhere. Away from the old cities and for those that own land, life is steady. Our schedule is driven by the needs of farming. No one really starves or has to sleep outside. We do for each other. We haven’t had world-spanning Internet or copper wire phone service for a score of years. There is limited packet-switched ham radio and spotty cell-phone service. The only cars that run reliably are based on designs from the 20th century, run on grain alcohol and don’t have any electronics. We don’t miss it. Some farms have electricity from photovoltaics. Some don’t. The dystopian world we live in turns out to be more pleasant than we feared as we came to know that there was nothing that could be done to turn this tide of collapsing population. That’s what James Rustler didn’t tell you in his “Poor Player” post. That’s what I wanted you to know. It comes out ok.