please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

My Photo
Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Friday, December 16, 2005

Birth of a Loudmouth

"That's a pretty tough coat," Smiley said.
"Thanks. My girlfriend got it for my birthday, yesterday."
It's a Pendleton. Brown and lined with sheep's wool. Keeps out the winds of the high plains. Smiley seemed to really enjoy it, and asked me several questions about Pendleton Woolen Mills products. I pointed out to him that they stopped making coats and blankets in Pendleton long ago, and indeed none of their products are made in Oregon at all, anymore.
"Now it's just Prison Blues, huh?", he asked.
Yup. I remember when they turned the funny farm into a prison in my hometown. My dad received a plaque with a strip of razor wire on it. Smiley found this amusing. I failed to ask him, yet again, where he went to prison, or why.
He's enormous, and a person I've never been unhappy to be on the good side of. A bouncer, as well as tobacco salesperson, he has plenty of professional tattooes, though several are clearly jail tats, and I'm familiar enough with the iconography to see that either he is Irish or was Aryan Brotherhood while inside (four leaf clover), and either killed two people, or is mourning two of them (two tears).
And yes, that particular prison is where Prison Blues brand blue jeans are made.
(Ahem.) At 2:58 P.M., Pacific Standard Time, December Fifteenth, 1970, I come into this here vale o' sorrow. It was in Astoria, in a hospital where my great aunt Impi later died, a decade or so after it became an old folk's home. Three hundred or so miles to the east, my grandpa claims that the thunder crashed, and a bolt of lightning split the sky, in Pendleton. My grandpa was a teller of tales, though rarely a bald-faced liar (okay: tall tale teller), unlike my mom's side of the family. He perhaps embroidered a little.
The newspaper where my father was editor put out a little special edition on that day, just for employees and family. It had a picture of me as a newborn, in my mother's arms, and a weird little poem that some long-forgotten sage wrote: it suggested that my name was to be "Michael Junior", which it is not. We've been averse to the Juniors in my family, going back to grampa, who always resented being one.
In the picture on that novelty newspaper, I have this little bemused grin going on that one rarely sees on the freshly born. I look eerily like my paternal grandmother. But I've seen the other photos that were not used, and my favorite is one where I am grasping the sides of my head with my tiny li'l paws and am staring confused-ly out of frame. The look is clear in its meaning: What the hell have I gotten myself into this time?
Shortly before I came outta my mama, I turned completely around ("like you were looking for luggage or something"-mom), though came out head first, though with the cord wrapped "gently" (mom again) around my neck. Needless to say, I lived.

A gentleman who calls Brooksville, Florida home asked recently, upon learning my age, How can anyone so young be so cynical? At least partially in jest. The answer, as always, is observation and experience.
Well? I mean...The world is in tatters, and we are to blame. Yeah! I know! Weird, huh? The power resides now, and always has, with maniacs who wish the general run of humanity harm, or do not care for them, at least. Uh-huh! Kinda interesting, right? It's all a giant lie, and the punchline to every joke is 'and then they died'. Yeah, but whatcha gonna do?
mmm, quite so, sir. yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. If it's worth the goin', it's worth the ride, to quote the nice Mr. Waits.
I wake up each and every morning feeling lucky, as I've said before. I'm surrounded by people I love, and who love me. The things I'm engaged in are good things. I live in a beautiful city, surrounded by a beautiful state. I've seen a lot of things, and all of them have taught me some, encouraged me to seek more. I'm a lover, a seeker, a thinker, and a ninja, baby: a killer of men.
Trying to turn away from the real possibility of this post becoming a t-shirt, let me tell you about a curious facet of my belief system, as a child. I had a belief in something called The Old World.
Nope, not Europe. The Old World was both a concept and a place (its capitol was Auckland, for some reason). It contained all the wisdom and things that have been accumulated throughout the years, by each and every one of us that's ever lived. Here's the thing; it was going away, and some of us needed to stand up and defend it, both by word and action.
I keep on noting with disgust how many people feel that history has no bearing on the present. Shit, how do you think we got to where we are, for good or ill? Fella the other day I'm talking to, since he grew up in America and was encouraged not to care about such things, finds it absurd when I point out the fact that the celebration that happens this time of year in western culture dates back to pagan times, and comemmorates the winter solstice. Without bothering to ask him whether or not he's aware that there was a lot of things that happened before Christianity, or that all (not some: all) of that faith's holidays are co-optations of pagan holidays, since they were so interested in the property-er, sorry, the eternal soul of all those nice people, and wanted them, after much grumbling, to be able to party and get drunk at the same time of year they always had-I wondered yet again at why we allow the Lie to get so big, and how if we are just backwards enough, we're proud of it. People is cabbage, like I always say, and you must always forgive them, since just being what they are doesn't make them immune to pain, one of the many proofs that they are Human.
(This went all sideways on me somewhere. I actually wrote this yesterday, first draft. Lost it; I was trying to upload this picture of me dressed up like a cowboy from a commercial I was in, last summer. didn't save the draft. I. Am. A. Fool. I had florid stories of what I did on my birthday last year, and five years ago. These are very funny stories, and very entertaining. But, at this point, I could talk about what I did last night...But I won't. It ended strangely. I invited all the people I wanted to see down to the Rest n' Relaxation, and quickly realized that I didn't want to be around people, or drink any more whiskey than I already had. This was not to be: anytime I stepped away from the table, my absence was noted with alarm, and even when I tried to have a casual conversation with the bartender, he'd hand me a shot and demand that I drink. This was my birthday where I get to call the fucking shots, not some goddamn bachelor party, you silly, floppy haired hipster bastard!)
This has gone rather beyond where I wanted to go. I'm happy to be alive. It's fucking awesome, in fact. Take care of yourselves and each other. If you do not, you will be subject to my august Displeasure, y'mortals....
Can't I be a little scattered? I'm thirty-five years old, fer fuck's sake.


Monday, December 05, 2005

The girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Let's begin with this delightful clip of Tom Cruise electrocuting Oprah Winfrey.

Gringa Alta Prima and I took the Scientology Personality Test, the other evening. We tried to portray ourselves as easily-led sociopaths who eagerly seek the approval of others and had no taste for scandal. They ask several questions about how one deals with loose talk, presumably about pseudo-religious organizations we might be considering joining.
Not terribly surprisingly, they found us to be in the "Unacceptable" range for most of it, with a minor spike into "Normal" (but not "Desirable"), in the under-ten-percentile, for our level of "Aggression".
So we'd be perfect candidates for brainwash-er, I mean counselling from this benign org. Just to be scientificated about it, I went back the next day and took the test again, this time answering "Maybe" for all 200 questions.
I may very well go back tomorrow and just answer "yes" or "no" to all of the questions, which would make me look really fucked up, and therefore a good candidate for forking over my hard-earned to these guys.
I was waiting for a bus one evening as a teenager. I was dressed entirely in black, and was sneering at all who came my way. Smoking a smoke. Along comes two middle aged people also in dark colors, also smoking, and also with a tired/bitter aspect to them.
They engaged me with their shared dislike of religion and psychiatry. Matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that had I professed a deep loathing of milkshakes (for instance), they would have been right there with me. Nonetheless, when I heard that they were Scientologists, I terminated the discussion. Besides, my bus was there.
They're an organization that claims to be there to liberate you from the twin mind-prisons of religion and psychiatry by being a little of both. As "South Park" pointed out recently, how not-religious can you be when you refer to yourself as a "Church"?
A few years after the above encounter, I was a jobless hippie, bopping down the street, looking for a job. I was approached by a beautiful hippie girl with hypnotic eyes. She pointed out that she worked for "a bunch of really cool people" who were hiring, and lost as I was in those eyes, I followed her...
Right to the Scientology center. I quickly assessed the situation: I would end up spending x amount on books and training programs...Leading to a situation where I wouldn't even be making less than minimum wage, but would be paying to have a job with them.
So I left, a little disappointed that a kind sister wasn't just interested in my devilish good looks. But I'd learned an important lesson.
A few years ago, somebody did a drive-by shooting on the Celebrity Center for Scientology, here in Portland. One of the victims didn't even realize he'd been shot in the ass until he pulled out his wallet next door, to pay for coffee, and found it covered in blood. I imagine that the shooter was one of the many people who have been fleeced of their limited funds, due to their gullibility. I have witnessed this organization sue the Cult Awareness Network into bankruptcy, then purchase them, only to put them out of business. All this, due to a bet.
The bet was between two science fiction writers; Harlan Ellison and L. Ron Hubbard. The bet ran along the lines of; I bet a person couldn't start a religion in latter day America, this being the 1960's or something. Now, if Ellison really said that, he wasn't paying attention. We're cult-happy and easy-answer happy in this country, and if I was planning on starting a cult, this is where I'd do it.
Well, Hubbard won the bet, to put it shortly. He capitalized on the alienation of modern humanity, its inherent distrust of the institutions that got us to where we are now, mixed with a thrilling sci-fi creation myth. Plenty of dumb shits bought it, especially famous ones.
Famous people are who they are most actively seeking as adherents, by the way. I found a briefcase in a parking lot in 1989 that contained a very primitive laptop (or perhaps just a word processor), and a bunch of mailings attributed to one Murray Marvin of Wilsonville, Oregon.
he spoke of the need to recruit famous people ("our largest client base", he called them), and the need to "wear our hats", and use "white PR", and how he was "on The Bridge", and how he was "flipped at the oppurtunity" to be a part of such a clearly wonderful undertaking as this.
It goes on and on. It has been noted that their website leaves a lot to be desired in terms of recruitment potential. They'd rather brainwash you in person, see, and figure that any old nut can get on the internet and fuck with them, as I have. Seems like a waste of money, though, for an org. that doesn't even do door to door.
1993: I am sitting in the house my girlfriend and I are sharing. Fresh out of bed, I don't feel like dressing, and so have put on one of her dresses, and am watching television. I hear a knock at the door.
Looking out the window, I see what must be two Jehovah's Witnesses: one tall lady, pinched mouth, looking very stern and humorless. Another lady, shorter, smiling that same smile that the girl with the hypnotic eyes had had. She would be doing the talking, then.
I answered the door in a dress. "Yes?" I said, as if everything was just perfectly normal.
"Well!", the shorter one said. "It's ...A beautiful day!"
"It certainly is," I said, "and you didn't come here to talk about the weather."
We stood there and debated scripture for a while, until they left. I wondered why, considering that they had come to force their belief system down my throat, I was not equally empowered to force them down to the basement to partake of my sacrament of that time, which was marijuana. Seems only fair.
Other personality assessments along the lines of the Stanford-Binet or the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory also have problems rooted in them. It has to do with that thing I was writing about recently: studies can't help but bear the fingerprints of those who pay for them, and wish to ascertain certain data from them. Indeed, just to get a job at Target as a security guard, you must complete a personality assessment with "true or false" questions like,
"I am fascinated by fire."
(Yes, yes I am. No, no I don't feel like burning down your store. So...'False'.)
Or the similar test I took online when I was applying for a job with AT&T. One of the 'true or falses' there was, "I feel that most people would steal if they felt there was no chance of getting caught."
(Actually, I do think that's true. 'False'.)
"I know why the stars twinkle at night."
('True'. We are seeing them not only from many millions of miles away, but also looking up through an atmosphere with curious refractive qualities plus a great deal of pollution. No wonder they look that way. The question I have is: why did you ask me that?)
Why is the lie always so obvious? Why don't more people see through it? Why?...Why won't Tom Cruise come out of the closet?
"South Park", again.
P.S.: I originally had a chart of my test results from the official Scientology site. It wouldn't let me put it on here. It barely let me download it. I tell ya': they control the spheres and the planes.