It has been a long spell – one would reason that given this past year’s pants-on-head pandemic, I would find myself with far more writing time. Indeed, I have scribbled some rather shitty poems, some creative pieces, a genuine letter of resignation, a slew of academic research papers, and some other riffraff that doesn’t warrant publishing to this mediocre and neglected blog. Alas, I am only human.
Look there, that errant cigarette cocked so precariously to the wrong side. That messy mop of long blond locks lost unto themselves. How can that bedraggled devil wandering the dusty streets of Spain truly be the fellow you submit your essays to? And wine? Nonsense – I’m a red-blooded Swiss. I’ll have me a mighty fine beer any day.
Though I won’t say no to a nice Malbec. Or Chianti. Or any wine, really.
Fuck, I love wine.
For all my students who have a predisposition to Google my illustrious name, do be mindful that some huckster is masquerading as your eccentric English teacher. See the difference between the two photos? Come now; how could anyone be fooled in to thinking one handsome devil is portraying the other?
Alleged narcissism aside, let us focus upon the meat and potatoes of this sojourn into madness.
There is something to be said about vices and how they keep us human. After all, comrades, how are we to trust someone who has ne’er indulged themselves beyond the Dark Stream?
I first started smoking at 16 when I was punished for fighting at NMMI. I was only a Sophomore in high school, but my heavy boots and quick tongue found me in a moral quandary my young mind wasn’t capable of extricating itself just yet. My squad leader – a loveable chap who shall remain nameless – recognized my errant behavior and my uncouth attitude toward rules and regulations. After receiving my duly (and justly) fit punishment for breaking the rules, he and I stole away to an insecure power bay and there – on those hallowed grounds of cavalry stomping – I indulged myself for the first time.
Ah, how flitting is the smoke.
I went cold for five years when I found myself sworn to a girl I was for certain to marry. But, if you know my story, comrades, you know that weren’t the case. After five years of biting a hole into my cheek, of swallowing my tongue, of putting on the Richard Cory face, I watched as Rome burnt afore me; I hadn’t even a fiddle to play.
These days – far from that five years – I find myself with a couple of proper pipes and an endless supply of fine American Spirits. There is something to be said about addiction, comrades, for I find it humanizes me. After all, when one compares themselves to Beowulf’s greatest foe, it is reassuring to relate monstrosity to humanity. Am I not flawed? Am I not imperfect? Ah, yes; so very much so. All courtesy of a finely wrapped and packaged death sentence I all too happily indulge: we all die. Enjoy it.
The Longest Journey by Ensiferum has been on repeat for at least an hour – quite possibly more – and though I have listened to this song a thousandfold, each new reverberation brings a new realization. The Dark Stream; pray tell, what is it?
On the morrow I am to teach the Allegory of the Cave by a Mr. Plato. Some Greek blowhard who had some good ideas and unintentionally spawned Christianity. My faithful readers, I implore you to remember we are born of pagan ideals mixed with the blood of the Savior. The Allegory is a stark reminder of this. We escape toward Truth. We must cross the Dark Stream lest we let it consume us.
To my students who are reading this drivel, foremost: stop. Read something of substance. I shan’t quiz you on what your loony instructor writes, but that of what truly matters: this ultimate quest for Truth. And certainly don’t take up smoking; we all die, but at least die knowing you made a contribution aside from being a lung cancer statistic.
Back to the Allegory for I find it a most provocative piece: we delight in our ignorance. It is humanity’s universality. I have some kids who are dumber than a sack of hammers and are destined to make a killing in the o’lfield one day swinging said hammer, but is Life merely an amount of zeros following a dollar sign? No, comrades, far from it.
Beyond that Dark Stream – the proverbial End – and far beyond the Cave of Ignorance, a whole world yearns for our touch. Our gentle boot to the ass. The slap of indignation across the face of realization. To think – to fucking think! – that we are to merely exist to swing hammers and collect a paycheck; ah, how that irks. How it perturbs. How it disturbs. Disrupts. Defiles. And, most damnably, distorts.
We, my comrades, are not put upon this sphere of influence to collect magical pieces of paper with a monetary value in constant flux; render unto Caesar and fuck all. We were not put upon this globe to work until our hands shrivel in dotage and our ungrateful children retire us to homes of the walking dead. And we certainly weren’t put upon this earth, comrades, to labor for no higher purpose.
Are we not to serve as reminders?
Ah; education. Education – that bridge across the Stream, straddling the Cave – to enlightenment. My little bastards have but a taste of it; far more is to come as Real Life swings the proverbial Dick of Life into their wholesome faces, but let it be clear that it is with the best of intentions. Certainly, a dick in the face is frowned upon in polite company, but if you can learn something – for Good or Ill – is learning not worth it?
Years ago I learned I found relief in stimulants, my beautiful tobacco, and mastered the art of keeping an addiction under control for self-betterment. With each new high, I found the dragon e’er out of reach until I stumbled upon that one high replicated e’ery 49 minutes. Teaching, ah blessed Teaching, how you, like my tobacco, keep me humble, alive, and awake.
We all die, comrades. We all struggle with addiction. Self-doubt. The cancer of the soul that one day will claim us as another statistic of whatever egress you fancy. But, comrades, but, we aren’t there yet. Make something of yourself. Make something of yours. Embrace your mistakes and realize you were simply the Escaped Prisoner from the Cave the entirety.
If, dear reader, these words are lost upon you, then I fear you ne’er left the Cave. Rethink yourself. Rethink the Cave. The Dark Stream. Rethink you. What have you to offer, after all?
I am a near-alcoholic, chain-smoking, foul-mouthin’, fucking crazy.
Consider the following to be fictionalized short stories based upon real-life interactions during the previous two weeks. Whilst on the road attending a couple of Advanced Placement seminars throughout New Mexico, the writing bug took hold – travel does that for me.
Foremost, happy Good Friday (regardless of your religious beliefs), and may you get to spend this time with loved ones and the like.
Spring Break draws to an uncomfortable, yet welcome, end; by Monday morn, my charges will once more be at my pedantic mercy. Perhaps it sounds odd, but I do look forward to returning to my classroom. Only two more months of formal schooling afore Summer break reaches us in earnest. Frankly, I wish to keep the indomitable pace going and work hard for these next few weeks, all the better to savor what Summer brings to us mere mortals.
If Summer is anything like this past break, well, I’ve much to look forward to, comrades.
Spring Break began with a spot of welcome news from my bosom comrade, Stephanie, of Camino fame. “We bookended the newsletter,” she snapped me. Indeed, it was as she said; my article was emblazoned proudly upon the very first page of the La Concha newsletter whilst Stephanie’s wonderful review rounded off the entire manuscript. Not a bad bit of news to wake up to on your first day of a week-long respite.
Goaded by my incurable desire to perpetually wander (and equally bolstered by the humble pride my published writings evoked), I set course for Duke City. Armed with a rather plump bag of clothes and toiletries, a slew of essays in need of grading, and a score of plastic army men, I began my Spring sojourn by visiting my nieces in Albuquerque.
I suppose my brother and my sister-in-law were there too, but, come on! Babies!
For several days, I lounged about in abject laziness, earning myself a few points toward Slothfulness on the Greatest Sin Scale; fret not, for Pride and Arrogance remain my Greatest Sins (not sure I should be proud of that, but the irony isn’t lost upon me either). Alongside my nieces, I must have watched Boss Baby a half-dozen times; add in repeated viewings of Frozen, Trolls, Story-Bots, and a slew of other kid-friendly shows for the bulk of my stay. When one sits down and actually analyzes Boss Baby, it really is a horrifying concept: best not to think of such things. My rhetorical sentiments were lost upon my nieces, all the cooing and babbling failing to satisfy my desire for a genuine, philosophical discussion.
Whilst lounging about in Albuquerque, provided schedules lined up, I did manage to visit a few old comrades for victuals. My dear comrade, Roxann, (yes, the wedding one) and I dined over shish kebabs and gyros, regaling one another with anecdotes of teaching and cat ownership, all the while lamenting the fact we are growing older in body. The couple of hours we spent together over good food and better conversation, comrades, made me realize a few things:
She’s right; I’m not getting any younger. The recurring pain I’ve in my left shoulder won’t abate with time; indeed, it is liable to become worse as the joints and sinews holding my body together begin their slow process of degradation;
The world yet remains unconquered. My trip to the Holy Land may be postponed for now, a tenure in the Peace Corps currently on standby, and my delusional plans of grandeur may be a tad unrealistic, but the fact remains that the globe still has much to offer;
Do it, she urged. Stop lollygagging and making excuses, comrade. Simply do it.
I dined with Camino comrades – a lovely couple I met at the Gathering of past years – and we swapped tales (both old and new) about our Camino experiences. After complaining of thick, sucking mud, the constant deluge of southern France, bed bugs, joint pain, inscrutable pilgrims, the oppressive heat, and the ever-present language barriers, we all shared a good laugh. “Who would want to do such things again,” we chortled. “One must be nuts to go back on Camino.”
They leave next month for France.
I leave July for Spain.
The Way, comrades, is inscrutable, and the allure – the pull – it has upon me is hypnotic. There, walking amidst strangers in a foreign land, with but a few belongings upon my back; that is where I feel most alive.
Yes, my classroom offers me a very excellent manner of achieving immortality. Working with my budding scholars brings me great joy, one I have never felt before in any of my various lines of work. But the hardships of the classroom are not quite the hardships I’m endeared to on the Way.
Yes, certain individuals can make me feel alive, but I am exceptionally good at keeping them to a distance. “What are you running from,” I’m oft told. Whenever one comes too close, I prick myself upon their thorns – a Rose bloodied by negligence and lax stupidity. The Way reminds me that Life isn’t about me: it’s about other people. It would be good to have a refresher.
In short, comrades, I aim to return to the Way. A respite on the dusty trails is just what my soul needs in order to maintain balance for the coming year.
Smoke. How I love watching it curl into the night air. Gray against the blackness of the dim night. Stars peeking out from behind the somber clouds, their faint light further obscured by the emanating ember of my fingertips, by the plumes I exhale upon vodka-tainted breath.
Ah, if only the kids knew what I was really like outside the classroom.
It has been a spell, certainly, dear reader(s), and I can run through my numerous excuses as to why I haven’t put finger to keyboard in some time. Certainly, my personal journal is stained in all manner of mad scribbles (courtesy of a sexy, new fountain pen), but I find myself lacking – wanting – when it comes time to pen things for my poor, beleaguered blog.
Inspiration; when did she desert me?
Teaching, I suppose, has consumed my day-to-day Life, as I find myself in a constant battle to keep ahead of grading (like the Germans in world wars, I consistently lose) and I oft struggle to present new information in an interesting, and engaging, manner. Wearing a bathrobe to work helps, but woe to the new teacher forced into a dull curriculum that focuses on teaching-for-the-test and not on critical thinking.
Here’s where I make a typical excuse about how I’m pressed for time due to being a tired teacher with no recourse from grading an e’er growing mound of papers and spending all my free hours volunteering about the school. How difficult it is, then, to be a poor, beleaguered teacher beset on all side by obligations.
Damnable thing, that; just when you think you’ve got yourself a brilliant idea to write about, you sit your pathetic ass down and try to hammer out something worthwhile in the vain hope that maybe, just maybe, if you throw enough proverbial shit at the wall some of it will stick in a coherent enough pattern to justify calling it writing.
Christ, no wonder writers end up starving or blowing their brains out.
Trying to monetize my mad ramblings – who would pay money for this shit anyway? – is perhaps my greatest Sisyphean task, and one I frequently and mistakenly indulge with all-nighters of booze and tobacco, thinking that this one is the one to catapult me to success.
And after sobering up the following morning afternoon, I give it a laugh. Oh, how I am a creature of predictable habit!
“You think too much,” I’ve oft been told; and how damningly true is the accusation leveled! What did Bukowski have to say about writing?
“Don’t try.” And these are words to live by.
My on-again off-again editor (and using that term loosely here) said it best when I asked him to review some of my latest poems I was peddling for submission. “Artistic integrity,” he laughingly said. “Die in obscurity; that’s the only way to preserve it.” He struck a chord of clarity with that remark: why bother chasing dollar signs when I should be writing for writing’s sake?
After much introspection, booze, tobacco, fatigue, and ink upon the page, it is decided he’s absolutely right. Maxwell, you wonderful kike, you’ve nailed it like Christ to the Cross.
Let’s be clear: I’m no professional and don’t plan on achieving such status. I’m not half bad with a pen (so I’m told) and the hacked state of most publications these days indicates I probably could achieve some sort of fame as a professional writer.
Provided I sell myself out, of course, to the Almighty Dollar. People tend to like vulgarity in their blog posts, paving the way for a book deal, which leads to a movie deal, which leads to death by selling out and cocaine. And if there’s one thing you can take away from Ozzy, let it be that money ain’t success: the truth is inconvenient.
Be a travel writer! they say. You go on so many adventures, surely someone would pay you to write about it!
Perhaps, but that profession is bought and sold like cattle at auction. You want to write whilst on the move and make a buck doing so? Well fuckin’ a right! You certainly can provided you advertise featured products. I do love traveling, as we all know, but I’d rather starve than shoehorn in an article about how fantastic these Hiking Shoes™ are when doing so.
And I’m pretty fucking good at starving.
It’s no secret that the majority of published material these days is written with an ulterior motive: for the piece of rubbish to end up on the big screen as a giant shit show of a poor adaptation for the sole purpose of raking in the dough of suckers who ever after debate which medium expressed the author’s intent best.
That’s why we have “literature” like Fifty Shades of Gray, Twilight, and the shit clinging to the arid ass cheeks of Nicholas Sparks defining our generation’s literary contributions. Again, I’m no professional, but come on folks: if this shit continues to be published and publicized what happens to the real authors who are actually trying to make the world a better place with their words?
Sellouts are rolling around in their Scrooge McDuck money piles whilst the genuine artists are faced with a horrid decision: keep up the good fight and die in obscurity, or join the herd and feed yourself exotic sushi off an even more exotic Asian babe.
And lemme tell you folks, after having almost married an exotic Asian babe, it ain’t worth it.
Comrades, keep up the fight. Die in obscurity whilst sticking to your morals and guns. Write for writing’s sake and let no one persuade you to give it all up because “this could be a blockbuster.” You’re better than that. We’re better than that.
There’s a notch in the fence where a board has given way; a three-inch indention in the warped wood; the perfect amount of space to put a beer. Allows one to take a drag from a cigarette whilst simultaneously running one’s fingers through their hair, taking in the beauty of suburbia – that singular moment to contemplate and concern.
Yes, even suburbia can be beautiful, if one merely takes the time to admire.
The euphoria of finishing a book from cover to cover as lazy, gray smoke lists playfully about in the calm air; a feeling with few compatriots.
You can hear the laughter of neighborhood children as they chase one another up and down the block, giving Life to their still undaunted imaginations. Innocence before the misery of Real Life comes crashing through like a maddened bull against a Spanish matador, horns raised, red flashing, cheering crowds, and the abject danger of Man versus Beast as a single misstep can spell either victory or crushing defeat.
An apt metaphor for Life.
The beer teeters precariously in a sudden breeze, the old wood shaking ever so gently at the nudging of Zephyr. But it doesn’t fall – of course not. The beer – the stimulus – that can never fall.
Tobacco and paper burn together as they are inhaled inward. In a few moments, the delightful toxins are expelled in a plume of smoke and sigh of satisfaction. A swig of swill washes the acrid taste down.
You can look through the glass door and see the piles. Stacks of them, haphazardly arranged as if Ajax and Hector were tossing their Trojan boulders about, hopelessly aiming to slay one another with but a well-placed stone, always missing their mark and adding to the battlefield Chaos.
Monuments of knowledge and history and philosophy and warfare and womanizing and politics and chivalry and poetry and madness and tales and myths and legends. Thrown about the room as if Katrina had worked her mischievous way to the bowels of Paper Town, New Mexico, her mighty gales picking up each stack and depositing them about the place without reason. What use had Nature – Knowledge – for Reason?
In a structured Life of Order and Balance, the piles were anything but. They represented the face one cannot show the world: this is me.
These, philosophically gesturing to the askew piles, are me.
Where the heretical mix with the orthodox and the deviant with the pristine. Where the drunkard laughs along with the teetotaler, while the Muses sing songs of poverty and richness to the tune of iambic pentameter and spontaneous prose. Where the traveler on the road is met by Logic and Reason but quickly accosted by Imagination and Stream of Consciousness. This unstructured Chaos, this ode to madness, these, these! These very piles – this is me.
Books, of course.
Piles of them.
Books still in boxes. Books in bookcases, in bookshelves, on the coffee table, on the kitchen table, on the writing desk, on the painting desk, on the record player, the laptop, the sofa, the nightstand, the bed, the kitchen counters. Books in piles thrown about the place in absolutely every room, growing here and there by the day, an escape, an outlet, to worlds far more intriguing than the one of laughing suburban children.
Tomes filled with dangerous thoughts and ideas, of sexual deviancy and extreme piety. Books on obscure characters – lost to Time – with even more obscure authors. Books from the modern era and books from before. Spines broken and unglued (the work of many a sleepless night) with pages scribbled upon in minute handwriting. Here and there a few pages – hundreds? A dozen? – missing completely, but others supplemented by indexes of numerous pages.
Now that you’ve read this, they whisper, read that.
It is like hosting a massive party with every person you have ever met. Not everyone at this party will be similar, indeed, even tolerable of one another, but here they are. Gathered under one roof for one mighty bacchanalia of insight and introspection. Every famous and obscure author sending their second to represent them in this dusty hole of a town where the host is just as damningly confusing as his guest list.
Dark now; when in blazes did it become dark?
He reaches for the beer tucked away in the safety of the rotten wood, but it crashes to the ground before he can place his grip.
The contents splash about the yard – overgrown – and the laughter of children has now given way to the still of the night. How long can one be lost in their imagination? Ballast; where is the ballast?
He turns, looking through the glass door. A ha! He chuckles to himself. That’s where you’ve been hiding, my love.
The euphoria of knowledge becomes the best high, the thrill of turning the page the most alluring conquest. The desire for understanding becoming the stimulus.
People. Work. Taxes. Phones. Electronics. All meaningless. All paper. All blinding him to the crests of the mountains he’s built for himself to climb.
Seeker, he hears – a chilling whisper upon the silent wind. When did you stop Seeking?