Sociopathic Tendencies

Posted on 1 min read 9 views

Most of my life, many of my closest friends have been sociopaths. 

No. That’s too harsh: a large amount of my good friends have had sociopathic tendencies. They weren’t bad people, emotions just didn’t manifest naturally to the same degree that it does for others. Which is probably why they found someone that is often overwhelmed by their emotions interesting. You’re both off, and even though that doesn’t translate to empathy, you can relate to the confusion of not being able to trust yourself.

It also teaches you that emotions are not morality. From a distance, you would have been hard pressed to say who was who. My feelings and emotions often making me more unpredictable and noxious then my friends. 

At this point in my life, my closeness with people develops around the ability to understand and be understood. It seems the people that understand you best are the ones that are the most similar or the most different, and all the rest get lost in the static of normalcy.

And so I have to ask myself, where am I failing people when they need to be understood?

Flawed Characters

Posted on 1 min read 62 views

Everybody wants to like a seriously flawed character. But only as long as they are seriously flawed in a way that appeals to their emotions and personal beliefs. Today this is the cliché unbounded hard living renegade anti-hero.

Without their own personal beliefs (which inevitably exist within a larger societal context), you’re just the villain. Mix up these personal beliefs and see how quickly the constructs change. 

Human

Posted on 3 min read 9 views

On the way to Amsterdam I watch a movie called My Generation. It’s a movie that I simultaneously love, and that twists me into mental knots, because of the narrator: Michael Caine.  

On the way to Amsterdam I watch a movie called My Generation. It’s a movie that I simultaneously love, and that twists me into mental knots, because of the narrator: Michael Caine.  

In the absence of flesh and blood role models growing up, he was one of the replacements. I used to watch and analyze his movie scenes: how he would move through a room, where his eyes would go, and the words he would use. It probably didn’t build good life long habits.

Because that’s the nature of behavior. They’re products of their place and time. Long before the recent reckoning of male chauvinism, watching Alfie would make me cringe (which Michael tries to acknowledge by apologizing for calling women ‘birds’). 

But that’s also why Alfie is a good movie. Because it doesn’t give a shit about the cultural perception you have when watching it. And as repulsive as you might find it, something will resonate. And then you’ll have to reconcile what you’re drawn to in a personality that is in such direct conflict with your sensibilities.

I struggle to keep pace with the cultural changes. The parameters of guilt are determined at the time of judgement, not action. As a result, if I’m not guilty today, I will almost certainly be tomorrow. 

That’s the risk and the fear in working on a book for over a decade. It becomes a time piece, when you really just want it to be human. 

In the absence of flesh and blood role models growing up, he was one of the replacements. I used to watch and analyze his movie scenes: how he would move through a room, where his eyes would go, and the words he would use. It probably didn’t build good life long habits.

Because that’s the nature of behavior. They’re products of their place and time. Even before the recent reckoning of 90’s and 00’s male chauvinism, watching Alfie would make me cringe (which Michael acknowledges by apologizing for calling women ‘birds’). 

But that’s also why Alfie is a good movie. Because it doesn’t give a shit about the cultural perception you have when watching it. And as repulsive as you mind find it, something will resonate. And then you’ll have to reconcile what you’re drawn to in a personality that is in such direct conflict with your sensibilities.

I struggle to keep pace with the cultural changes. The parameters of guilt are determined at the time of judgement, not action. If I’m not guilty today, I will almost certainly be tomorrow. 

That’s the risk and the fear in working on a book for over a decade. It becomes a time piece, when you really just want it to be human. 

Gravity Fails

Posted on 1 min read 58 views

I’m at a coffee shop in RiNo. Looking up from my notebook I notice half the room is taking a picture. The room loses gravity.

I’m slipping through the air. They’re not even here, these people who are more concerned with how they look than what they’re doing. It’s like some sick Instagram satire that I’m unwillingly a part of. I look left and right for the cameras.

Come to Denver, take pictures, and then leave. Beyond the picture, it’s not clear why they wanted to be here in the first place. They don’t seem to realize that someday the servers will go down and whatever permanence it seems to provide will also disappear.

It took being gone for a couple of months to realize how much less grounded the atmosphere is here. Everyone is more beautiful than I remember. Certainly less flannel. Feels like LA without the beach. Are these the people that couldn’t cut it in SF and New York?

They can still be a big fish in a small pond here.

Modern Protestantism

Posted on 1 min read 35 views

I thought the culture I was raised in was a five-hundred-year-old version of Protestant restraint and silence, which at the best of times can be described as deeply personal. For all the baggage I drag around, I did often like it, as it was decidedly non-formulaic. But now I wonder how much of that culture is actually a modern version of Nietzche in which we are constantly trying to overcome ourselves (and when it gets ugly, a bastardized version in which we try to overcome others). I thought the Catholics were supposed to be the ones wrestling with guilt?

Southern Plains

Posted on 1 min read 52 views

I’ve always had a fascination with windmills. Including the modern ones. I don’t find them eye sores or obtrusive. They seem gorgeous and eerie to me, solemn signs of human progress. When you enter Minnesota on I-90 there is a massive swath of them. Two hundred or more. The pattern isn’t apparent, but there must be one. Perhaps from the air I could see it.

Pine Ridge

Posted on 3 min read 39 views

There are two parts to the Badlands. A North and a South. The North is full of trails and has the infrastructure of a typical national park. The south is in the Pine Ridge Reservation, and there are no trails. The last Ghost Dance took place in a basin there, and you’re free to cut your way to it. There is a road called Sheep Mt. Rd. that ascends to the top of a bluff, which you can use to hike down into the Southern part of the Badlands.

I spend a long part of the afternoon on top of Sheep Mt. I write a little, and there are tall grasses growing and I run my hands through them as I walk along the edge of the cliffs. I was told there are fossils visible, giant tortoise shells, if you know where to look. And that they dissolve in the weather, like the rest of the rock, because they are now rock. But I don’t know how to look, and I don’t find them.

After I leave Sheep Mt. I head south, deeper into the Reservation. The change is immediate. There’s no cattle, and it’s either fallow grassland, or what looks like small scale hemp production. The land is hilly, remnants of the Badlands tracing it south, and then becoming lush.

The buildings are few and far between. When I do see one it is either a small church, an abandoned church, or a double wide with 15-20 cars parked out front. I pass through several small villages before entering Wounded Knee.

The experience of Wounded Knee isn’t the Massacre site, but everything that surrounds it. There’s no exaggeration in saying it’s a surrealist nightmare. It looks like the tragedy just happened. The town of Wounded Knee is easily one of the most impoverished places I have ever been in my life (the only thing coming close are the new Amazonian cities in Peru). To then have to reconcile it’s existence inside the geographical United States is nearly impossible.

The town is devoid of infrastructure outside of churches and a US Post Office with a large American Flag flying outside. The houses themselves are crumbling and the paint has peeled off. From what I can tell there are no stores: not a gas station or grocery store or restaurant. It’s not clear why it exists. There’s a level of discomfort that is so palatable that I keep moving despite wanting to examine it further.

The spot of the Massacre is nondescript, lying in a large grassy plain. There’s a sign that explains what happened, and a small cemetery at the mass grave site on top of a neighboring hill. Two boarded up churches are near the grave site.

I buy overpriced sage from children who walk with me through the graveyard.

“What are you going to do when you grow up?” I ask.

“The army,” they both say.

The visitors center is a looted burnt-out husk of a building sitting below the graveyard. I walk down to it and peer inside. I can sense people behind me and back away from the entrance. I go back to my car, feeling alive and present, and not able to articulate why.

Driving North-East through the Reservation things improve slightly. I pass the Oglala Lakota College and there are schools and some new building frames visible. I stop by Kyle to eat dinner at what I’ve been told is the only restaurant in the north of the county. Agriculture here seems more consistent, with large bails drying in the fields. It’s getting dark by the time I leave the reservation, and the distinctions as I enter Interior are not as pronounced as they were before.

That night I tell someone I went into the reservation.

They look shocked. “You drove that car into the reservation?” they ask.

When I get to my room I look up the Pine Ridge Reservation: it is the poorest place in the US, the life expectancy is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, unemployment is 80%, alcoholism is 80%, there is almost no industry. And then I look up the town of Wounded Knee and see that the average income of Wounded Knee is half that of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

These are facts beyond my comprehension.

Badlands

Posted on 2 min read 39 views

I was told the Badlands erode an inch every year. That’s a lot when you think about it. It’s a foot since I was last here. Measurable difference in a human lifetime. The Black Hills next door erodes 10,000 times slower. The Badlands are only 500,000 years old, and in another 100,000 – 500,000 years they will be gone.

That’s one of the things that I love about this place. The impermanence. I always found the Rockies so foreboding. Like the ocean they felt primordial. But they were a dominating prescience. They cast a constant shadow.

The Badlands are beautiful and temporary. And yes, extend the line out far enough, and everything is temporary. But they feel temporary. And they feel alien. A “moonscape” is the word used by the South Dakota tourist website. Otherworldly is what I would use. You can feel it in the ground and in the air. It doesn’t hurt that by September it’s mostly deserted.

I came out here to try and finish this fucking novel before starting a new job (I won’t finish it, but I guess I already knew that). I picked here because I have childhood memories of driving through the Badlands on the annual summer pilgrimage to Colorado. Most of the trip bled into my Gameboy screen. But not the badlands. We would stop and having a picnic by the highway. The canyons beneath us cutting away into the distance, uninhabitable and foreign. It seemed unlike anything else I had seen in real life or read about in my fantasy novels. It still does. It cuts away beneath you and rises up in front of you, the colors constantly shifting with the light. I lose track of whether I’m up, down or sideways.

59 Minutes in Germany – Flash Fiction

Posted on 4 min read 22 views

They said I need a union

What union

An electrician’s union

To install a light fixture

I guess

Why don’t you do it yourself

I don’t know how, do you

No… my father did it

I look over at my daughter. She’s icing her shin, her leg propped up on a chair. Two neighbor girls sing to her in German.

I need to go to the bank before it closes

It’s 3-37

Yeah

You won’t have much time

I have to try. Can you watch her

It’s no problem

I listen to the singing and push open the door without understanding a word.

I try to run and lurch down the sidewalk, feet slapping against cobblestones. The people on the street stand alert, watching me out of the side of their eyes.

I’ve memorized German bank hours: nine to noon, hour lunch, prompt close at four. With a four-day weekend, I desperately need the cash as my debit card is frozen, and my AMEX is near useless.

I’m sweating when I reach the bank. The sliding glass doors part, and instead of finding shelter, I walk into a sauna. If it’s 75 outside (whatever-the-fuck Celsius) it’s 90 in the bank.

I walk up to the youngest, and most likely to speak English, teller.

My card has been turned off

Ok, let’s see why. What’s your account number

I don’t know

It’s on your monthly statements

I don’t have those

You don’t keep your monthly statements

Patience.

Here’s my passport, can you look it up

He looks to his left, staring at a white wall. I look too, expecting to understand something. All I see is pulsating white.

Yes, passport is enough

I can smell us. There’s no escape when it’s hot. They not only don’t have air conditioners, they don’t believe in them.

Ah, your card has been locked because you didn’t respond to text

Would it have been in German

Yes

I don’t speak German

Yes, but they need text from you

Check-mate.

Can you reactivate it

Yes, what’s your pin

ATM pin

No, internet pin. You made it when you opened account

I forgot it

You forgot something only you would know

Check-mate again.

Yeah, I guess

That’s ok. We make you a new pin

Oh…ok

It needs to be five lubbers

Did you say letters

Numbers

I stare at the keyboard. The smell is overwhelming. I can’t tell if it’s him, me or everyone else. Her birthday. 22312.

Ok, your card will work again. Next time you get text from bank make sure you respond to it

Outside is physical relief. My sweat dries in the air as I walk. I sweat a lot more since I switched to deodorant that doesn’t kill me.

So many people are sitting at small cafés enjoying the day. I feel like I’m barreling to some inevitable conclusion, while the world stalls, everyone eating ice cream, staring at nothing.

Back at the flat I pick up my daughter and an ice-pack, thank my neighbor, and start heading for the door.

Say goodbye to the Mädchens honey

Tschüss

I fireman carry her to the car. She wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me on the cheek.

Papa

Yes

Schocolate

You jerk.

In the car

She goes dead weight in my arms, almost spilling onto the pavement. I juggle her into a ball and dump her in the backseat. She splays out sideways across the car seat.

Schoooocolaaaaate

I toss half a Mars bar I was saving into the backseat.

Danke you

I want to pound the gas but I’m so bad with a stick that I know I would kill it. I back out slowly, letting a pack of bikers pass, and then sputter down the street. I accelerate as best I can on the straightaways while she sings along loudly to Micky Mouse.

I coast into the parking lot and see her mom texting on the phone. Three minutes late.

I had a really nice time with you. I’m going to see you again very soon

Ok

I lift her out of the car seat and hug her. She hugs me back, only for a moment, and then starts to squirm.

I set her down and she runs to the car.

Mama

I watch the car drive away. I stall the engine as I back out of the parking lot and try to shift into first.

 

2018