You Poor Bastard.

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Bastard Catcher In The Rye

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Something always happens.”
Holden Caulfield

 

 

It was nothing I had to do. I think some girl I wanted to maybe go out with told me I should read a goddam book once in awhile if I didn’t want to turn into a poor dumb bastard.  We never actually went out. But I read a book. A book called The Catcher in the Rye.  It turned out that I kind of read the book in the eighth grade, but it was at the request of Sister Thomas Moore, who was some kind of rebel I guess, because there’s a lot of taking the Lord’s name in vain in it. A lot. But it was the first thing I had ever read that made me want to write something;  and I mean write any goddam thing I wanted. 

And now, this J. D. Salinger sport, the author, he up and died.  It sounds terrible when you talk about it.  But it turns out the thing about reading that book was, when you’re all done reading it, you wished the writer— that poor dead Salinger guy— you wished that he was a terrific friend of yours and you could just call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.  That would be great wouldn’t it?  But now you can’t.  It’s all very sardonic when you think about it.  That poor bastard.

I guess I was just another alienated youth of the early sixties, and that angst-ridden little twerp, that Holden Morrissey Caulfield character, reached into my chest and massaged my heart, made it beat a little faster, made me feel a little more alive. He also reached into my mind and made me think a little deeper. Not always in a good way, just deeper. But mostly, it made me want to write.  At the time though, just having that thought made it feel like heresy and betrayal. I had already defined myself as a visual artist, and I only used a pencil to draw, if you know what I mean.

And a few years later, I was not a single sentence closer to being a writer.
 Instead, I had pretty much been forced to get involved in a goddam WAR.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not some flake who is always blaming someone else for questionable stuff that happens to me, but in this case, it was Emmet Conrad Jessberg III’s fault, if you want to know the truth. That’s his real name. Jessburg was one of these three guys I worked with, and all three of them were pretty witty bastards. Incidentally, none of them had ever been in the military; they were just sure that if I got drafted, which could’ve happened any day, or if I joined the Marine Corps with all my high school wrestling buddies, which I was planning on doing, I was going to wind up not ever breathing again, sealed up in a pine box. (Younger people may not know that I don’t mean drafted like being exposed to a draft of cold air which results in you catching pneumonia or something else that kills you; no, “the draft” I’m talking about was this thing the government had going to make sure they never ran out of enough fresh young soldiers to fight a WAR. They gave you a number, and if your number came up, you had a date with the Selective Service and, you had your destiny changed, all in one convenient transaction. They were a bunch of steely-eyed sonsabitches who maintained information on those of us low information types who were legally subject to “military conscription.”)

He assured me the only way I wouldn’t wind up a “miserable grunt patrolling a hell-hole jungle in Vietnam and getting my goddam brains blown out” was to join the Navy. He said it was only natural that a guy like me would be much safer on a ship, and that chances were good I could go to Europe or even Hawaii or someplace like that.  And he assured me that the ocean was really beautiful. I had never seen the ocean, but I could imagine it was a lot nicer than a mosquito-infested goddam jungle.

So through a strange and fortuitous series of events, instead of becoming a writer or a dead grunt, I avoided the draft and became a freshly-minted United States Navy puke; just another poor bastard without a clue in a quaint old uniform headed to a quaint old war zone.  And when I got there I eventually found a government issued ballpoint pen and began to scribble things in a journal. Apparently all that personal discovery was something I had to do, too, because, like immediately, some witty bastard from Lake Charles, Louisiana pointed out that if I expected to become a goddam writer and not some goddam bore, I should always keep a journal.  So I did.

I dug up that journal today and, mixed in with a lot of pretty embarrassing stuff about old girlfriends, (I was in Vietnam, for Chrissake) I rediscovered that I had been marooned all night at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines on December 17th, 1969, trying to get a flight back to the CONUS;  and while I was marooned there I was reading The Catcher In The Rye.

 

Sitting in Clark Air Force Base Passenger Terminal, the universal aroma of Marlboros
wandering through the scent of everything, and nothing at all.
I’m on my way back home, I think.
from my Navy Journal

 

I goddam hate cigarette smoke.   But I swear to God I was sitting right smack dab in the middle of Marlboro country.  The terminal had a visible blue haze that stunk up the place like some giant smoldering ass.  And there was cheap Christmas shit everywhere.  I’m not kidding.  Fake frosty pine cones, fake plastic candy canes, fake frosty Christmas trees, and lots of other fake frosty-looking stuff too heinous to put into words.  Meanwhile, penetrating the haze was this primitively rendered sound of somebody that sounded a lot like a bad Gene Autry impersonator might’ve sound if he was like, instead of singing Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, he was actually butchering Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. I mean the song, for Chrissake.  GAutryAnd there’s at least a hundred and ten other pukes being forced to listen to this as they’re sitting around in a nicotine stupor and smoking like goddam chimneys, waiting to get outa there;  I know it was at least one hundred and ten because that’s how many pukes were on the waiting list ahead of me— waiting for their goddam chair in the sky back to the CONUS.

The Navy had owned me and my tired ass for the past 722 and a half days, but now they were finally losing their goddam grip.  My indentured life was almost finished.  I was too frustrated to sleep, because my midnight flight had just been delayed 24 hours;  I needed to find something to focus on besides the smell of fifty million dead cigarettes, and all that shiny aluminum Christmas paraphernalia that littered the whole goddam terminal.  Even the head, for Chrissake.  I know baby Jesus would have been crying nonstop if he had been there.  Because some witty bastard thought if you had enough goddam decorations up every goddam place, some homesick jarhead, some lonely squid, or some broken-hearted grunt— might look at it for five seconds and would suddenly stop missing their mom and dad, their girlfriend, their brothers and sisters, or all the other lucky stiffs who weren’t sitting there in that smoked-up goddam passenger terminal in the middle of the goddam night in the middle of goddam nowhere.

Wayne McLaren

This was Wayne; he worked in the real Marlboro country. Another poor bastard.• 

But me?  I was lucky.  I saw a copy of The Catcher in the Rye at the Andersen Air Force Base terminal on the east end of Guam;  yes, goddam GUAM.  How crazy was that.  So I bought it.  It turns out that wasn’t crazy at all.  It turns out that a million copies of The Catcher in the Rye are sold every goddam year, and in 1968 there were already seventeen million copies of it floating around, so it wasn’t a big deal finding one on Guam.  They probably had a pallet load of them in the passenger terminal storeroom.  I’m not kidding.   And there I was, trying to stay focused at 3 A.M. by reading about some fictional malaprop. . . wait. . .  no.   I think I mean misanthrope— or maybe a malapropic misanthrope— or a misanthropic malaprop?  Goddammit.  A misanthrope named Holden goddam Caulfield.  It’s probably just because it was something familiar;  something that connected me to my home, and my past.
After all, Holden Caulfield was locked up.  That poor little bastard.  Jesus.

But me?  They let me go free.

 

*CONUS: Continental United States

 

  • Wayne McLaren, who posed for some promotional photographs on behalf of Marlboro in 1976, succumbed to lung cancer at age 51 on 22 July 1992. McLaren was a former professional rodeo rider who appeared in small parts in various television series and movies (primarily Westerns) throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and he modeled for print advertising between acting jobs in the mid-1970s, including a Marlboro campaign in 1976. McLaren, who had a pack-and-a-half a day smoking habit, was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 49. Despite chemotherapy, the removal of one lung, and radiation treatments, the cancer eventually spread to his brain and killed him. After learning he had cancer, McLaren embarked on an anti-smoking campaign that included the production of a commercial described as follows:
    In the powerful TV spot, images of the handsome young Wayne McLaren in a Stetson hat are juxtaposed with shots of his withered form in a hospital bed just prior to his death. His brother, Charles, provides the voice-over and chides tobacco companies for promoting an ‘independent’ lifestyle and asks, ‘Lying there with all those tubes in you, how independent can you really be?’

 

Riding Easy, Riding Forever.

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I never wanted to be anybody else.”
Wyatt, Easy Rider

Peter Henry Fonda  •  February 23, 1940 – August 16, 2019

You know who he is.

That’s right, Jane Fonda’s little brother.  The one who changed a chunk of our culture with the film, Easy Rider.  There are going to be a lot of articles about him now that he’s ridden off into the future; maybe Dennis Hopper, too.  I’m doing this one out of simple gratitude, for shaping my long relationship with choppers, and perhaps much more.

I made the long flight back from Vietnam to the CONUS in December of 1969. Poignantly, I moved to “Normal,” Illinois, and got into school on the G.I. bill.  That spring I bought a royal blue 500 cc Triumph twin, and started chopping it immediately.  I, along with thousands and thousands of others, had been introduced to choppers by Easy Rider, a bit of cinema that has influenced the culture in ways both good and bad, for the past fifty years.  And for that, I thank him.  He’ll be resting in peace for a bit, but eventually he’ll be riding easy again, in a brand new world.

Easy Rider 500 cc Triumph Twin

Triumphs used to be called “Trumpers,” but it was slang, not a slur. How things change.  It made a sweet sound, but you’d literally get your ass blown all over the road. Notice the aluminum bar struts; seriously; you had to really hold on.

Back in this world tho, it’s a time to take a look back at where we’ve been.  Easy Rider has had more of an influence over my artistic style than I may understand, and with Fonda’s passing, it’s an opportunity to take another look at just what that is.

I can easily trace the origins of my desire to mess with bikes to my desire to mess with cars; I was an early adapter to drag strip culture and tho my early trial and error days were mostly bolt-on projects, with the help of a couple friends I swapped out the six banger in my first car with a full race v-8.

Easy Rider 500 cc Triump Twin

See? It looks Normal, don’t it?

1966 XLCH Sportster

Rear fender already chopped off; new leather seat, risers with pullback bars, no mirror yet; front brake unhooked. Otherwise a stock 1966 XLCH. Photo by TPK circa 1971

Bikes are a different animal. Handlebars were the first thing I changed on my bike.  “Z” bars were new in the early seventies, at least in Normal.  The aluminum bar struts that replaced the shocks were intended to lower the bike and look tough, but they damn near broke my butt and maybe my lower spine.  I hand-painted the stars with a brush, because well, blue tank.  And my rep; I was an art major. And off to school we go.

I might have looked this way in 1972 even if Easy Rider had never been a thing. Who knows. Yes, I needed those glasses; I rode in my father’s WWII flight jacket. I swear, that was the last pocket tee I ever owned.

The following spring, someone made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  I sold the bike, and a green ’63 Volkswagen beetle with Big Daddy Roth slicks and Cragar mags on the back, to a guy who said he had to have them both.  I grinned and took his cash, but by the end of the week I had forked it all over for a low-mileage ’66 XLCH.

That was 1971.  And that was a crazy summer.  “You know I smoked a lotta grass. Oh Lord!  I popped a lot of pills. But I never touched nothin’ that my spirit could kill.”  (Got to know several women who liked to ride on choppers as much as I did, too.)  Hell, you could pay the rent, buy food, drugs and beer, and still afford to build a chopper and date a girl— all on a decent factory summer job paycheck. Huzzaaa.

“You know, this used to be a hell of a good country.”
—George Hansen, Easy Rider

Meanwhile, towards the end of that June, Senator Mike Mansfield‘s amendment was adopted by Congress. It urged withdrawing American troops from South Vietnam at “the earliest practical date.”  It was the first time in U.S. history that Congress had actually called for the end of a fucking war.

The 8″ over fork tubes came next, with a new spooly spoke wheel; cause, we doan’ need no stinkin’ front brake; we lookin’ cool and we be indestructible.  That winter, I painted the tank and fender in the basement, with a cheap badger airbrush running off a CO2 bottle.

I really wasn’t into God then.  I hadn’t even learned how many of my high school buddies had been killed in Vietnam yet.  But I greatly respected and admired Michelangelo’s work, especially his face of God from the Sistine Chapel.  I drew the panels on either side of the tank with pencil, one in black and white, the other in psychedelic purples.

It turned out that a guy that would one day become the best man at my wedding became a roommate about then, and he rode a sweet little XLH with an emerald green paint job.  There’s nothing but corn and soybeans for miles in every direction around Normal, but we rode the shit outa that restless tar. . .

Easy Rider God Tank Right

So the bike reminiscence is for some historic perspective on my personal two-wheeler journey.  But. It’s really never been about choppers, Easy Rider, or even Peter Fonda.  It’s about the journey— and making the journey last— forever.

It took me decades to learn that all that matters is the experience of living this life, and that relationships with people are ends in themselves.  The rest is mostly just scaffolding.  If you aren’t continuing the eternal journey, you got nothin’.  It’s a choice we all get to make.

Sure, I love riding a chopper on a fresh morning with perfect air, warm sunshine; watching the headlight bounce down the night highway with a thousand points of light overhead. Even the periodic bug in the face. And my curiosity is always on fire for whatever the next iteration of all that is, farther down eternity road.  I’m all in.

In October, 1971, Australia and New Zealand decided to withdraw their troops from Vietnam. And by the end of October, the total number of American troops still in Vietnam dropped to a record low of 196,700.  By December of the following year, my whole world would change forever; but that’s a blog about as long as book, a book that. . . well.

Easy Rider God Tank left

The face of God from the Sistine Chapel.

So.  Peter Fonda launched a cultural shift that has made it into the 21st century, although it is hardly recognizable.  You can still watch Easy Rider as way to at least partially reboot your brain, as I did before I started this blog.  But it didn’t really work the way I thought it would, as so many things stuck out as weird or time-worn;  except he seemed to get religion during his acid trip.. . but you really can’t go back.  Time marches on, bla bla bla. But there’s really something to that; we keep moving forward, ever forward, some kickin’ and screamin’, some resigned to it;  some just taken off the planet without so much as a second’s warning.

This time we’re in now, now. . .  now— so often lacks that spark of spirit, that knowing deep inside where you have to find the courage to look before you can see— a recognition that life goes on forever, if you want it, really want it;  no half-assing it.  And Peter Fonda’s passing into the great beyond, the next world of reawakening, is a perfect time to wake to your trip— following eternity road.  Saddle up.

Easy Rider Reflectivity

My chopper evolution landed here:  Reflectivity    2003 — current.  This will do me until I can get my hands on the throttle of whatever replaces it in the next world.

 

Reincarnation: I Wanted To Come Back As A King, But. . .

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Reincarnation as a weed?

If you are really going to get stuck in an endless round of successive incarnations as man or woman, some kind of beast, or a weed, you might as well come back as a nice Sativa-Indica hybrid, right?

The idea of reincarnation originated in the observation of hereditary and trait resemblance of offspring to ancestors.

The old custom of naming children after grandparents and other ancestors was due to the belief in reincarnation. Some races originally believed that a person died anywhere from three to seven times.

This belief was is some measure a residual distortion of the teachings of Adam about the seven mansion worlds, the worlds that immediately follow this life, and that we as individuals move from one world to the next by having our forms— our bodies— progressively modified to reflect our spiritual progress.

Even in the times of Christ, there was a lingering belief in reincarnation; Jesus found it difficult to convince mortal men to believe that their souls did not have a previous existence. The older Jewish teachers, including Plato, Philo, and some of the Essenes, also tolerated the theory that humans could reap in one incarnation what they have sown in a previous existence; so in one life they were believed to be atoning for the sins committed in their preceding lives.

But it was the Brahman priesthood in India, who have maintained their religious hegemony even to the present time, that are largely responsible for the perpetuation of this devitalizing notion.

It isn’t new or novel for religious priesthoods to exalt themselves over the very teachings they extol. And the early Brahman caste sought to exalt themselves above all else. They taught that the sacrifice to deity in itself was all-efficacious and all-compelling in its potency.

They went so far as to proclaimed that, of the two essential divine principles of the universe, one was Brahman the deity, and the other was themselves— the Brahman priesthood. The priests presumed to exalt themselves above even their gods.

But they went so absurdly far with these presumptuous claims that the whole precarious system collapsed before the debasing cults which poured in from the surrounding, less advanced civilizations.

“The vast Vedic priesthood itself floundered and sank beneath the black flood of inertia and pessimism which their own selfish and unwise presumption had brought upon all India.” —The Urantia Book

This abusive indulgence by the priests led to a fear of the non-evolutionary perpetuation of self, in an endless round of successive incarnations as man, perhaps some kind of beast; even as a weed.

But none of these beliefs was so stultifying as the belief in the doctrine of the reincarnation of souls. This belief in an apparently endless, monotonous round of repeated transmigrations robbed many people of their hope of finding not only deliverance in death, but spiritual advancement to something higher and progressively more profound— in eternity.

In their efforts to save themselves, the Brahmans had not only rejected the one true God, but now they found themselves with a “hypothesis of an indefinite and illusive philosophic self, an impersonal and impotent it— which left the spiritual life of India helpless and prostrate”— from that unfortunate time, to the present day twenty-first century.

This has resulted in the relative destruction of mortal desire and human ambition. For more than two thousand years, many of the better minds of India have sought to escape from all desire, and this has virtually shackled their souls in the chains of spiritual hopelessness.

The modern day fascination with reincarnation is destined to be no less spiritually debilitating.

http://www.urantiabook.org/newbo…

 

The Saving Hand Of Jesus

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April 7th is the date of the Crucifixion of Jesus. 
It’s always a good day to accept the gift of eternal life— and begin the journey into awareness of the promise of eternal life through progress in the spiritual realm;  now, and forever.
Start here.

On the Trell With Sarah Palin

•  •  •  SCATOLOGY WEEK  •  •  •

Scatology Week: palin turkey A workman draining blood out of turkeys looks on in disbelief as an unidentified man tumbles down the turkey wafer conveyor belt while Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin babbles about how brutal the “time consumption” was for her on the campaign “trell.”
WTF does she think it would be like if she had been elected?

WASILLA — The sound and smell of bloody turkeys hung heavy in the air as a hyper-caffeinated Sarah Palin bulldozed through another interview today, this one with local Alaskan television.  Remarkably, the governor was entirely oblivious of the goings-on behind her.  The ex-vice-presidential candidate, who is no stranger to turkeys, spoke in stream-of-consciousness breathlessness, while a workman methodically cut turkey throats and drained their blood:

( Accurate transcript phonetically spelled )

“…I have the same values and convictions, en positions, en policies, um jist a greyter appreciation I think for uh what other candidates go through, ya know it’s it’s pritty brutal the, the uh, time consumption therrre and thee uh, uh innnergy that hasta be spent in order to git out’n about with the message on a national level greyt appreciation for other cannadetts who’ve gone through this but also jist a greyyt appreciation for this greyt country there’s soo many good Americans who are jist, desiring of, of their govermint ta kinda git outa the way an allow them ta grow an prahgress an allow our biznisses to grow an prahgress so greyt appreciation for those who share thatt value, meh and it was a blast everyday was jist a blast out there on the trell.”

(At this juncture a strange man in some distress tumbled down the processing conveyor full of turkey wafers, behind the governor;  he was later identified as a Detective Thorn of the NYPD, and he was insistent that the green wafers were not made of turkey, but were in fact “…made of people.”  The governor’s interview continued unabated.)

Any other future plans for office?

Uhm yaa know, plans jist include ah  ah  eh gittin’ through uh  eh  the budget process were goin’ through right now buildin’ the state’s budget based on ah the price of oil that has plummeted so greyytly an rainin’ in tha growth of govvermint, and uh  uh plans like that that havta do with um helping ta govvern this state and building this team that is continually being built ta provide good service to Alaskans, so in my role as governor thats thats what my plans are all around.”

So why was today so important for you, personally?

Ohhhh well this was this was neat! It I wuz happy ta git to be invited ta particapate in the this an an uh, ya know for one ya needa little bita levity in this job espeshly with the uh so much that has gone on last coupla months that has been so um political obviously that it’s nice ta git out an an do somthin’ ta promote a local business an an  ta jest participate in sumthin’ that isn’t so uh heavy handed politics that uh invites criticismCertainly we’ll probly invite criticism fur even doin’ this too but at least this was fun.

Well. Fun for you, Governor.  Not so much for the turkeys;  or Detective Thorn; who also turned up dead shortly after his trip down the conveyor belt. By insisting it would be fine to allow yourself to be interviewed with a turkey executioner, you have once again single-handedly demonstrated your uncanny penchant for shittin’ in your own mess kit.  Scatologists everywhere salute you.

•  •  •  SCATOLOGY WEEK  •  •  •
This concludes our half-assed coverage of Scatology Week;  we hope our nation’s current scatological politics will not become a permanent part of our heritage as a free and gaseous country, but will instead become the rarely necessary punctuation of a history ripe with the fragrance of defiance in the face of so much effluvia from our shitbag political leaders and their shitbag fans followers.  May they decompose in peace.