Float like a Butterfly, Bite like a Flea

I used to think every great epiphany I had was something swell to yell from the mountaintops. I’m getting over it now and it’s embarrassing when I see other folks doing it. It’s even more complicated considering messages like these sound awfully close to the thing I just claimed I’ve stopped doing.

It’s not bad to share ideas. It’s not even bad to give instruction but everyone’s an instructor these days. Once again, ye olde Internet rears its ugly head. Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man learned the hard way that with great power comes great responsibility.

I’m still doing it, though. This is a long form shut up. I can’t Riders of Rohan myself into every argument, yet we might as well argue the constellations. I’m not better than you, I’m fucking tired.

This is what the Internet does to us. Everyone has to weigh in. Oh, recently I’ve seen a couple of people, just a couple, say “I honestly know absolutely nothing about this.” If I were a sculptor. How wondrous!

I don’t want to nihilism everyone into hushing, but maybe I do.

Hell, the path to enlightenment could turn out to be long Facebook rants about the description of a John Oliver video that you didn’t even watch. I doubt it, but what the fuck do I know?

I’d rather write shitty poetry or a short story no one will ever read. At least there’s the odd one-in-a-million chance that it’s an original thought. Anything else sounds like seagulls. Dank memes and whining machines.

Haha, just kidding. Shut the fuck up.

Hungry Like the Wolf

If the timeline of American progress can be expressed as a viewing of John Carpenter’s The Thing, the guy with the defib just got his arms eaten.

Maybe you’re not familiar with 1980s horror films but that one terrifies me more than any of them, and I’ve finally put my finger on why.

I’m no film scholar, and I’m not even sure about Mr. Carpenter’s auteurial intent other than the obvious one of tapping into what we find so inherently terrifying, which is creeping, imminent death. We are naturally repulsed by tumorous crawling body horrors.

It’s tempting to peg Capitalism itself as the Thing, but I’d quickly alienate at least half of any potential audience. It’s really something more nebulous anyway, like society, “da Gubmint”, or universal concepts like selfishness or greed. Whatever it is, it has markedly progressed along with civilization and technology. There’s a balance that must be struck between oppression and bread and circuses unless you don’t care about cities burning, and American rulers (I’ll stick to America, dear reader, otherwise I’m talking out of my ass) have figured out how to skirt the red boiler-gauge line between people constantly complaining and being so miserable they get out in the streets and set shit on fire.

Any movement will be assimilated by the Thing when it gains enough steam. If it’s too weak, it dies. If it’s a worthy enough host, it is replicated. Mutated, tentacled and insect-like, it crawls across the face of the earth, rainbow-flagged, occupied, socialized, Obamacared, a faltering flaccid farce of what it was, now co-opted and safe for the ruling classes. Cha-ching, it’s a money making machine! The flower power LSD fueled haze of 1967 becomes buying the world a Coke in 1972. Merry Xmas, War is Over.

The Internet is such a wonderful steam valve for our angst, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. What a brilliant telegraph of temerity. As a reporting mechanism, it is grand, but more often than not the feedback cycle of attention-seeking-behavior and dopamine rewards gives our bodies the illusion of action instead of being a bullhorn for what we actually did. Do not misunderstand my sermon as accusatory: I am completely, absolutely in the Internet’s grasp. My half-assed attempts to escape it have been for naught. I have been clean for weeks, months at times, but I always end up languishing in this den.

If I were writing some activist blog or a Industrial Workers of the World newsletter, this is the part where I’d tell you how to stay genuine to your roots, but I won’t, because it would be another bullshit lie. When the Thing gets in, there aren’t any roots left. There are things that look like them. Probosces. Antennae.

Even statements like “the arc of the moral universe… bends towards justice,” are co-opted by stagnation masquerading as incrementalism, and we get frog-boiled into situations where every political candidate offers something slightly different to each American subclass but offers the same to the rest of the world: Forever War. We’re okay with that. It’s just a bit warmer. Just a bit warmer, still.

Ultimately, the slithering cancer wins out. It copies what is useful and throws out the rest. It builds a world on the backs of slaves and distracts us with flashing lights. If you own anything at all that you did not make by hand (clothes, shoes, appliances, electronics, or a car), you employ more slaves than my great-great-grandfather, who fought for The Great State of Mississippi in what he would have called the War of Northern Aggression, did. It’s just the way the world works, though, right? He probably said that too.

So, this is a dark place to be in. You’re tied to a chair and Kurt Russell is lowering hot wire into our blood samples. It’s okay. I’m tied to the chair as well and I don’t have any answers I didn’t read in a fucking philosophy 101 textbook or get told by a long-haired Poli-Sci professor.

The dearly missed Fred Rogers would tell you he likes you just the way you are. I wish I could find comfort in that now. Could he stare into the maw of this flailing, inside-out alien conglomeration and tell it he loves it? Would he? Should I?

The Man Jesus touched the lepers, but he had the power to heal them. I am only the aforementioned Shakespearean idiot. How do I plunge my hands into the chest full of shark-like teeth when I know my arms will be sheared off?

How do we sit in the snow, unsheltered and freezing, and light flares as we stare at each other suspiciously, knowing the Thing is out there and it’s coming? What if it’s inside us already?

I don’t expect answers from the Internet, because there aren’t any. I won’t insult you with solutions in this moment of pain. Maybe this is all we can do: Sit with each other as we wait to die. Pass a drink. Light flares. Fade out. Roll credits.

We know how it all started. Maybe they won’t fuck up the sequel.

Dirty Jobs, Done Dirt Cheap

I like Mike Rowe. He’s a likable dude. If you’re not familiar with his work, he’s the guy that got famous doing that Dirty Jobs show where he visits people who haul garbage or shovel shit, then he does essays and videos online about how you should be happy hauling garbage and shoveling shit.

There’s some truth there, but it’s buried in garbage and shit.

It’s easy to shoot the messenger, so here I go: I can’t forget the times when there have been stories of police brutality and civil unrest in the news and he’s gone out of his way to tell everyone how we should back the big boys in blue and be good little citizens. Those were hard words to swallow from such a usually-charismatic guy, but they echo the thoughts of millions of Americans who think that you can live your lives flying under the radar, hauling garbage and shoveling shit, and never be touched by the jackboot of oppression. That is, until you see a video of a 17-year-old at a routine traffic stop being tased until his heart stops and dragged, limp, across the pavement, then dropped face down on concrete.

Yeah, that cop got sent to prison. Yes, these are exceptions to the rule, which is that vast majority of us will survive a traffic stop. Some of us might have less traffic stops than others because of the color of our skin, and some of us might be more likely to survive, but Mike Rowe’s world is the one in which you just trust that everything is going to be all right, because that’s the system.

Most recently, he’s published a video where he tells everyone not to blindly follow their passions. This is, on the face of it, good advice. I’ve heard similar advice from Billy West at a Q&A session in Richardson, Texas, where he asked for everyone in college to raise their hands then told the hand-raisers to drop out. “You’re going to end up in debt wearing a paper hat with that fancy diploma,” he said. Then, he told us to be persistent, to never give up, and to never let someone “put you in a box and label it.”

What was key, though, is that he said “If you want to work in showbusiness, you can. You may not be the actor or the director but if your talent is doing hair or making clothes, you can do that. They need carpenters, people to machine things…” and so on. Sounds pretty Mike Rowe to me. They’re both suggesting that you find your talents and follow those. They’re not talking about blind passion, they’re talking about realistic expectations.

Most recently I was at the Dallas FanExpo and I witnessed Peter Capaldi’s Q&A session. A mother dragged her six-year-old up to the microphone and, after some prodding, she coerced him into asking about how he could work on Doctor Who when he grows up. It was cute, regardless of the circumstances.

There’s video of this so I won’t butcher it from memory, but the gist of his answer was that the boy needed to explore his talents, find what he was good at, be passionate and persistent, write a letter to the BBC, and maybe some day they’d want to talk to him. Our hearts swelled. We applauded. Perhaps that would be the case. Peter has been a Whovian since childhood, as evidenced by his heavy correspondence with the BBC, and he’s the friggin Doctor. It’s a nice thought. Hell, I’d love to work for the BBC, but I don’t have anything they need.

(You can stop right there, if you’re being so kind. I don’t fancy myself much of a writer. That is, not on par with what they’d require. There is that fear of being, as Mike Rowe said, the guy on American Idol who doesn’t understand how bad he is. I will wrap myself in a protective shield of self-deprecation if need be. This is my hobby.)

When I was a teenager and in need of more attention than anyone could provide, the latter of which is still the case, I began singing on the high school band bus. This led some guys to take notice of me and invite me to practice with their rock band. I can carry a tune but in comparison to the world of vocal talent I am mediocre at best. I probably could have gotten by on that and personality if I’d had any. I don’t know if there was exceptional musical talent in any of us except for the drummer, T.J. Burgess, who did follow his dreams and tour the country in various bands. I’ll never stop seeing the irony in that, because in our band he’d just picked up drumming and the guy who considered himself the band leader was always trying to fire him. T.J. was persistent, though. Tenacious. Always practicing. Never stopping. He got farther and further musically than any of us in that band, that’s for damned sure.

My father, whose philosophy matched that of Mike Rowe’s closely enough, wanted me to come up with a real career idea and do music on the side, as a hobby. He was supportive, though. He bought me a PA system (which I ended up selling), and a 1971 Martin D-18 (which I can barely play and has collected dust for 15 years). I don’t regret my dabbling in music but I wish I had at least gone balls to the wall if I had planned on doing it at all. I could have majored in music at Arkansas State instead of the mishmash of shit I ended up pursuing. I could have sold everything and gone on the road. Instead, I gave up at the first sign of difficulty. In retrospect, I was probably far too used to being petted on the head and given an award for everything. Public school fucked us kids up in the 1980s and 1990s with that “everyone is special” bullshit. Once again, I blame society.

There’s definitely a place in our current society for accountability. I keep coming back to that persistence thing and, while anecdotes are not data, it has been my experience that the people who just kept banging their head against that brick wall are the ones who found some purchase. There’s a corollary, though. They not only didn’t stop banging, but they figured out exactly where to bang.

It’s easy for me, as a late Generation X, early Millennial, Star Wars Generation whatever-the-fuck-I-am, to wallow in our Brave New Global Economy and point fingers at everything else except myself because, like it or not, that is a characteristic we share. Maybe I’m starting to sound a bit like ol’ Mike Rowe himself here but I do come from that MTV generation where we were all going to be rock stars. We were all going to be beautiful famous snowflakes and when I realized that not only were we not going to be on posters in teenagers’ bedrooms but we weren’t even going to be making $30/hr at a factory, that we were going to be sweeping floors and making coffee with our fancy degrees, there was a disturbance in the Force.

We’re rocking and rolling with that right now and, while I do blame society, I also think that maybe some of us should get right with hauling garbage and shoveling shit, although I, too, struggle with it daily. The rest of the world has for all its history. People right now toil their whole lives for little gain, and while politically I’d like for us to do everything we can to improve this situation, I’ve also realized that we aren’t so special that we won’t have to grit our teeth and haul and shovel, ourselves.

See, there’s enough self-hatred in me to take Mike Rowe and run with it. I can do it. It’s in my blood.

I can dream, though. I will dream. I will listen to Mike Rowe and take his broken clock messages and agree when I do and throw a fit when I don’t. I will spend my hard-earned money on shaking hands with actors and telling them how they gave me hope or occupied me during hard times. I will dream that someday I will find a vehicle to speak to more than a dozen people on Fucking Facebook. I will write in my spare time, as Mr. Rowe suggested, because I have to feed my family. There is great honor in not quitting your job and ruining everyone’s lives. There is dignity in working a service industry job where you are disrespected by management and customers alike. Stand tall, because you are doing the difficult task. You’re keeping yourself alive to fight another day.

So we’ll haul garbage and shovel shit. Some of us will be rock stars, but most of us will not. I can’t forget though, that every time I think we’re not meant for much, I see someone get published who can’t put a sentence together. I used to get angry about that, but now it gives me hope. If they can do it, why can’t I?

Well, maybe their uncle knows little Jimmy Patterson, but I digress.

I see you guys crying out for justice, on a number of issues, and I feel you. Maybe it can all be boiled down to this: Your experience ends when you do, and solipsistic as it may sound, you’ve gotta make your own fort strong before you go out and do battle with the world. If all you ever accomplish is taking care of you, you at least did that, and that’s worth more than Honorable Mention. I’d dishonor the majority of the human race who died from famine, disease, and violence, if I looked that gift horse in the mouth.

Maybe I have more in common with Mike Rowe than I’d like to think. Maybe I’m not as dirty of a commie as I thought I was.

Maybe we all balk when Dad Voice comes and tells us to like it or lump it.

So, here’s to us, The Loudest Generation. People have always whined, but we’ve got the tools to take that shit global. We will haul garbage and shovel shit. We will struggle, noble in our efforts. We will fight until there is no fight left in us, and we’ll never, ever, stop fucking complaining.

For I Have No Voice and I Must Complain

There was a time when I was beating my head against the brick wall of Capitalism full force. I had to imagine, as someone once told me, that it was slowly crumbling on the other side, but the reality of the situation is that there is an army of people over there with bricks and mortar as far as the eye can see, shoring it up. One person is not a movement.

I learned quite a bit in my years of being a labor vigilante. I can’t say “organizer” because I didn’t succeed in organizing anything. Maybe I was an activist. I wrote emails and made phone calls. I dropped off literature. I was mostly ignored because I live in a “right-to-work” state. This was confirmed by the fact that, when I could find people who would talk to me (the IWW was the best about communicating), they were absolutely terrified about what I was trying to do. I remember one guy specifically who told me to “delete everything” and protect myself. While I was protected by Federal law, I didn’t have a lot of recourse if I was fired, other than an expensive court battle.

He said that “you are at war now. It will never be over,” and although I feel that I have surrendered in a way, he was correct. It’s never over when you’ve given up and you’re living under occupation. If you don’t win, and you don’t die, you’re enslaved.

I know that I didn’t just worry strangers in more labor-friendly states. My friends and family began to stage a sort of intervention. I love them for that, because while I do care about my fellow workers, I was also throwing myself into a meat grinder without much support or chance of success. I was surrounded by people who were sympathetic but afraid. They had bills to pay. They had families.

It was also a self-serving action on many fronts. Here I was, a guy who had worked retail for years. I’d finally graduated college and I felt like I had nothing to show for it. The “recovery” after the Great Recession wasn’t an actual recovery for many, and this was where the whole “angry millennial” meme began. Welcome to the Dystopian Present. The precursor to climate change disaster Mad Max. When were we, as Americans, ever faced with so little hope? I guess apocalypse always loomed, whether it was the great wars of the 20th century or the specter of nukes falling, but the new assessment seems different. More final. When there’s a famine coming at the end of the century that no one seems to be trying to avert, I don’t have much hope for anything.

Over the course of my life I recall this idea of “progress”, that the human race was marching towards something better. As the years have dragged on those Star Trek dreams have been wrecked. The seemingly endless prosperity of the 1990s led to the Forever War of the 2000s onward. The current political climate doesn’t help, but that’s something I refuse to comment on other than making shitty jokes.

Maybe this is just my American mind getting a taste of Globalization. It’s always been pretty shitty everywhere, for most folks. Now that we’re getting a taste of toiling away our entire lives for not much gain, which has been the human experience forever, we’re recoiling in horror. All the more reason to try to improve life for everyone.

Here is the worst thing, though, for us who work to keep ourselves housed and fed and clothed: the same system that eats the world, and tells us we have to as well, calls us shitty losers for supporting it. It’s the abusive cycle of a brute who comes home every night punches his wife in the face and calls her cooking shit and tells her that no one else will ever love her. The company would pay you as little as it could, but it pays you this much because it has to. Love us or we’ll move overseas where we can really have fun!

Some of you are proud of a job well done because it is ingrained in you. Call it Protestant Work Ethic or whatever you want. I love working with you because you carry me when I am down. There is still plenty of that in me, but it’s crushed every time I’m treated unfairly. It gets choked out every time someone tells me they were forced to attend a meeting without pay, or that their company is dodging overtime with loopholes.

They abuse it. They schedule you for breaks you don’t have. They understaff you and then some, until the Skeleton Crew isn’t even a skeleton anymore, just a heap of discarded mismatched bones. Then, something happens. Your frustration turns you on the customers. The customers get frustrated by slowness or inaccuracy and turn on you.

There’s something I tried to impress on restaurant workers for a long time, when I was agitating. I talked to some workers who were being forced to attend meetings without pay. They were also woefully understaffed and they told me that they were sabotaging orders. This flies in the face of unity because those customers are workers too. They’re retail employees, cooks, teachers, nurses, gas station attendants, spending their hard earned dollar on a night out and you’re ruining it because some rich fuck won’t spend more on payroll? I turned it around. I said “if you’re going to harm someone, take it the other direction. Maybe they ordered the 6 oz. steak. Oops. Now it’s 12.” I can tell you right now that it didn’t work. Shit always rolls downhill.

And this! This is the frustration. That we are impotent. We literally cannot do anything in these states where, by law, we are hampered in our actions to organize. What are our options? Sure, go back to college. Again? Fuck. Please check and make sure you are in a field that almost guarantees employment. Nursing is hot right now, and probably always will be. Be prepared to get thousands of dollars more in debt, and work to support yourself while doing it. I will shit on universities all day for being life-mangling debt mills that leave people working at Starbucks with their fancy diploma, but there’s still value to an education, especially where professional skills are required. Tech is still doing well. Don’t forget the trades! We will always need electricians and plumbers.

Until then though? Until you slog through life with whatever action plan, until you make it as that actress or writer, until you land a job with a big airline, until you get your alternate teaching certification, until your adjunct faculty job turns into full-time, until you die ten minutes after putting together your last crunch-wrap-supreme, until then, what? Rage until your heart explodes? We can’t all get fired having a strike in a state where those are illegal.

This has been brewing inside me for a while now. We need a sign. Not a flag or a banner or a button or a pin. We need something we can put anywhere, any time. A symbol that no one else uses. A symbol of distress and protest. A symbol that lets other people know the situation without flying a red banner or telling our boss to go fuck themselves.

For example, there’s a debate, constantly, about how late you should enter a business that is about to close for the night. I mean, heck, if their hours say “open until 9pm” then you should expect service until 9, right? Some people even expect that if they make it in the door, olly-olly-oxenfree, they should be able to hang out as long as they want. In a perfect world I would agree with this.

Thing is, you have a shift that should be staffed with three that’s only staffed with two. Or one. Maybe it’s as simple as a flu outbreak or as complicated as one guy just got done working from 5 am to 2 pm at his OTHER job, because no one pays enough for people to get by on just one job, and came in to close the shop here, at his second job, and he’s physically exhausted. Maybe the other employee is a single mother working her way through college who didn’t sleep last night because the toddler kept her up. Maybe they’re not even allowed to put out a tip jar. Maybe they’d be out of there by 9:30 pm but your church youth group is going to have them there until 11. Hell, they’re getting paid, right? Maybe. Depends on where they work. Maybe they’re in overtime and they “had to” clock out because someone impressed that upon them.

Maybe you’re at a restaurant and the staff has had to endure multiple unpaid staff meetings. Maybe you’re at a clothing store and the person assisting you is off the clock because they’ve worked over forty hours and the company wants to dodge overtime by giving them comp time next week. Maybe the person finding your book for you has had so many missed breaks over the years that their company owes them thousands of dollars. Maybe you’re just an Intern! Maybe you’re salaried but you don’t even fit the legal description of a supervisor and are owed overtime. Maybe you’re given “special projects” to do, unpaid, at home. Maybe you can’t get your work done in the office because of bad staffing so you take it home with you. Maybe people on your floor are FUCKING DYING because there aren’t enough nurses.

What if there were a way to communicate to our customers, our coworkers, our students and our faculty, our patients, that we are in distress and we have no voice? That we cannot organize or better the situation? How can we communicate, at least communicate, to our fellow humans, that we are not being compensated. That we are understaffed, sometimes dangerously understaffed depending on occupation. That we are a door-to-door salesman that hates their job but has to pay child support? That we are shoving this credit card application down your throat because we’ve been threatened with unemployment and we weep at home because we thought we stood for something but you need to know that we don’t mean it when we say you’re going to get all these “benefits”.

How can we communicate that we want to teach your kids to be creative and curious and not practice for tests all day every day but we have to?

A symbol is something anyone can do. They don’t need special tools. Any object that will make a mark, and a surface. Chalk or marker to board, pen or pencil to paper. You don’t have to wear it. You wouldn’t want to because this situation is caused by lack of power. I have had the worst time organizing people because they are afraid of losing something.

There’s something that people do as a sign of distress all over the world. If it is discernible, they fly their flag upside-down. If it’s the same either way, they tie it in a knot.

What if there were a way to tell people “I’m doing the best I can but the system has me under duress. I want to improve things but I cannot because of my station,” but without the flag?

Some sort of Peace Sign for oppressed labor.

I’m not a graphic designer, but to me what is most striking is a backwards dollar sign.

It’s not in ASCII code so it can’t be typed. It would give corporate types fits trying to include it in emails. I’ve seen those warning emails. “Starbucks union may be in town! WATCH OUT!”

It’s not hard to draw. It can be put anywhere. A post-it. Receipt paper. Easy to create, conceal, destroy.

The thing about a symbol is that it has to be free and people have to use it. Well, as far as I can tell, this one doesn’t currently carry meaning. I’m not up to boiling this down into meme format.

We all still have to work. We have to interact with other humans who tell us not to be proud. We are forced to do things we don’t want to do in situations we’d rather not be in because we have to feed ourselves and our families.

If you can’t wear a union pin, maybe, at least, you could scrawl that somewhere by your register, or on that paper tablecloth.

Maybe it’s silly. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s like entering “sad face” on the latest clickbait.

As a “help me” and a “fuck them” and an “I’m sorry” all rolled into one, though, I think it could work.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Hot Pocket.

Message in a Bottle

I’m glad that Josh Duggar is an Arkansan so I have a good, relevant example to throw out there when people start complaining about restroom access. I’m 37 and I’ve never seen anyone’s dick in a restroom. Then again, maybe I haven’t been hanging out in the right ones.

I had stopped looking at Facebook for a couple of months because just reading about things like this gets exhausting. Everyone complains, then everyone complains about complaining, and my only recourse is to zoom out on the map settings of this game we call life and try to take a Southparkian third side. That’s a losing battle, though, because there’s always some fucker trying to metajetpack past you into the stratosphere of opinions and everything becomes dick waving (pussy waving?) one-upmanship. One-upwomanship? One-uppersonship!

It’s also shitty to suggest that other people shouldn’t have different opinions. I know that I know nothing and all that jazz. I’m attempting to stick to things I know something about instead of reading a headline and suddenly becoming a Ph.D. student in whatever I want. Rainn Wilson calls that being a “wikidiot”. He’s right about that.

That being said, I’m going to stop being the cool guy who tells everyone that online isn’t real. Of course it’s real. If everyone had built giant steampunk vacuum tubes and sat around firing missives at each other 150 years ago it would have been just as real. It definitely is tunnel vision, though. It’s a horse with blinders on, and the people driving have great interest in what you’re going to buy.

There was a time when I thought that I could be some kind of left-wing political commentator but it’s just not funny. It’s inane. If you want a bunch of smug fuckers to read your posts and masturbate over them, it’s definitely possible, but you’ll soon be sucked into the hellhole of meme creation and distribution, countermemes, metamemes, triple-reverse meta ironic memes, until you find yourself writing for Salon or submitting free content to HuffPo and wondering what happened to your life. Oh, nothing happened, because you probably still work at Starbucks.

I really hope I’m not working retail when the new $20 bills come out.

It’s pretty weird that some white women are getting all fucked up over being called a “Becky”. This is another thing I wouldn’t even know about if not for Facebook. The rage machine is real, yo. Facebook is a fucking crab bucket. You can throw a bunch of crabs in a bucket and they won’t escape because they’re too busy pulling each other down. You can throw a bunch of underemployed college graduates into social media networks…

AND I WILL POST THIS ON FACEBOOK, because that’s where everyone is. My only recourse at this point is to attempt to sit on the edge of the abyss and throw in stones, or messages in a bottle, and see what flies back out. Some Lovecraftian horror will probably grab my leg and drag me into the darkness. It’s okay. I’ll climb out again.

It’s hard to have 40,000 photos on a site, ten years, thousands upon thousands of posts, and not see quitting as burning the library of Alexandria. I’m not that important to you, but I am to myself. You are the only person you have, really, so think about erasing YOUR internet history, especially when you’ve spent thousands of hours chronicling, for better or worse, what you ARE. What you were.

Hell, looking back, I hate most of it.

Maybe we weren’t meant to diarrhea shit every thought all over the planet. What’s the point? There have been moments in my life over the past two years when I felt like I needed to barf out some hellish screed and I just couldn’t. Either there was no audience, or it was something I couldn’t talk about publicly, so I stewed. I ruminated. I fucking pushed it down sometimes and others I dealt with it. I felt… relief. I had stopped asking random strangers for answers. I had realized that there are none.

So this is the metascreed about all those screeds. This is the thought outside the universe, from the place I’m always trying to reach. The place outside opinions.

I think I can get along with just about anyone now because I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve realized that we’re all swamp apes fucking about, buggering on, ramming into things and exploding. Dropping dead like flies. It’s a goddamned war zone!

That’s the thing that keeps me kind when I want to be cruel. I know something hurt everyone. I’m not the messiah here. I’m such a stupid dickhead (I’m probably still the worst), but when I look at where I started it seems like I’ve flown a million miles in an angle somewhat approaching the right direction.

The big test is not staring at this and waiting for red numbers to pop up. The big test is letting this dump sit on the pasture and get hard.
The biggest test is not looking back to see if the chickens show up to peck it apart.

We’re all being blown to bits but that’s okay. My daughter picked a yellow flower for me, and I don’t know that I’d ever looked, really looked, at a dandelion up close. There’s a lot going on in there. You may have to remove your glasses, or put them on, depending on who you are.

I’m good at uplifting. Sometimes. Sometimes sometimes is all we have.

YOUR TEENAGER IS A BETTER WRITER THAN YOU

I’m not sure what’s worse than working in a bookstore full of books by celebrities who didn’t achieve their initial notoriety through wordsmithery. Perhaps it’s working in a bookstore full of books by people with YouTube channels, or selling books full of what seems to be Eighth Grade Level poetry right out of the lining of someone’s Trapper Keeper. We actually sell the fuck out of all of these, which is great, on one hand, because I get to keep paying my mortgage. On the other hand, people actually attend universities to do this shit and I’m not sure why anymore when all you need to do is either a) be Gwyneth Paltrow or b) a quirky teenager on YouTube. So start doing those and you’re set. Go get ’em, Gwyn.

I’m not gearing up to launch into a defense of why publishers used to be gatekeepers of content because look: the Internet is fantastic, and I’m totally a fan of this new Socialism Media Network we have going here where the masses have taken control of the means of production…

Oh wait, they haven’t. Everything is still owned by the same fat dudes with monocles and top hats. The thing that has changed is the submission form to fame, which used to include lots of writing on actual paper and mailing of large manuscripts to the correct people at the proper times, and now consists of farting something out into the digital ether and hoping that it tickles someone’s fancy.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of traditional pathways to getting noticed, but there are also a growing number of ways to produce little Brain Doritos and ship them all over the earth. Fifty Shades of Grey has been translated into 52 languages. Some guy or gal working on their doctorate in English is slicing their wrists open right now and one of our best sellers is Twilight fan fiction with the names changed.

So, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I’m going to start a series loosely based on Doctor Who about a time travelling dude in a box that shows up in women’s rooms at night and stares at them until they inexplicably have sex which won’t be a crime because he will be an extremely attractive vampire billionaire time-travelling space wizard.

I’ll remember you all when I’m hanging out with Jennifer Lawrence. “I wonder what the poor people with college degrees are doing right now?” I’ll wonder out loud, and she’ll do that giggle-snort she does and reply, “Making my fucking coffee.”