Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Marriage Between One Evangelical and Another Evangelical


My cousin got married this weekend. He's 22, a plymouth brethren evangelical Christian and an all around good guy. His new wife shares his faith. He presented the gospel to her when they were in junior high. Ever since her conversion, they've been together. Even through four years of college, these kids didn't stop loving each other. They were married in an assembly church, and couldn't have done it better. So now it's official. As of Friday, May 29, 2009, we welcome another married Christian couple into the family.

There were three, distinct moments in which the gospel was presented to the wedding guests. Two of my uncles, and the groom's grandfather gave the good word. They reminded us that we can have eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ. They told us that we could be saved if we trust in him.

Now, it was a great wedding ceremony and reception. I felt nothing but joy for the new couple. It was a happy day, and I do not mean to bring that down in any way. But I just have to say something about giving an altar call while a bride and groom are actually being wed on at that very altar.

I think it's interesting. It's just that I am not so sure about eternal life. I mean, I don't think I really want it. It's a little excessive. By the time I'm 50, I'll probably be pretty tired. To go another 25 years will be more than enough. If somebody wants to keep living for trillions of years, well, I guess I just don't understand that. And I'm not sure if this really works in a wedding setting.

"Till death do we part" is such a beautiful promise. It's totally secular, but even the evangelicals love it. But when they "part" at death, the married people need to realize that this is a permanent departure. It's not temporary. The vow doesn't say "Until death do we part, which will be a brief break until we resume our marriage in heaven once we're both dead." No. Death is the end. And it's beautiful to tell someone that you will love them until you die, because that is true devotion.

And yet, evangelicals spread the gospel at their own weddings. In the midst of celebrating their soulmate, they set their eyes upon eternity. It's an interesting clash. Marriage isn't about eternity. Marriage is about life on earth.

Yet, upon reminiscing with my grandfather about his wife, my grandma, he reminded me that "we'll see her again." And all of a sudden, the concept of eternity has left both of us. We are concerned with true love. My grandfather loved his wife for 50 years, until death separated them. He is now without her, but his idea of heaven now includes one major ingredient, his spouse.

And I cannot say anything about this. I think that this particular longing for heaven is actually an example of real love. What good is heaven if our true love isn't there? Surely, it wouldn't be heaven at all if we couldn't recognize our spouse.

Heaven is real. We will see our loved ones there when we die. If you don't believe that, go ahead and tell it to the father who lost his little daughter to gang crossfire. Reason with the mother who is longing to eventually see her son who was killed in Afghanistan. The grandfather whose only remnant of hope lies in his belief that when he dies, he will be reunited with his beloved. Go ahead. Tell them to be rational. Tell them to give up their crutches. Tell them because you know better.

As for me, I will see my grandma when I die. And my wife. I will embrace them. I don't care about eternity, I don't care about evangelism. I just want to love. Love is more important than life anyway. Life ends after a while, love doesn't. My grandpa taught me that.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Swimming Underwater on a Single Breath of Air

The surf was fine, swells and babes abounded. Fun in the water was a board and a wave, but it was all precursor to the underwater city.

I could continue catching waves if I wanted, but the colors weren't appealing enough. There was a blue sky and white clouds, not enough to keep my interest.

So down I went. Like a torpedo, I cut through the water. Encapsulated buildings of red and green, archways of brown and gray. I swam past them with eyes wide.

For speed, I propped my feet against the old, antique walls. I bent my knees as much as possible. I curled myself into a little ball. And then, pushing off with all my might, I torpedoed through the watery avenues. Below were sidewalks, parking meters and lampposts. Through a courtyard and into a ballroom I went. High ceilings, intricate paint and gold lining surrounded me. So much better than flying. This was so much better than air.

Until I realize that I have been without air for many minutes. I have been holding my breath in this watery metropolis. Looking around, I am now in the middle of the ballroom. I am deep, and I cannot get to a surface for at least another two minutes. My underwater journey was too far. I should have only gone half of the distance. I should have saved some lung capacity for the swim back to shore.

So now I'm here, certain to drown. I am inclined to panic, but the ballroom is beautiful. I have no one to dance with, so I'll swim alone until the end.

Up to the top of the ballroom I float, swallowing sips of water through my nose. As close as I'll ever come to the surface. This ceiling is certainly the death of me, but it's loveliness softens my choke.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Selling What You Need


I'm not a salesman. I am not aggressive, smiley and chipper. Whatever it is I'm selling, you can choose to buy it or not.

Sometimes there are sales.

Only buy things that you need.

If I sell something, it's because somebody wanted it enough to pay for it. I am a middleman between your cause and effect. A useless tool, in need of commission.

You can support me by buying things from me, or you can read my blog for free.

I want to see anarchy. I'm tired of capitalism. I'm tired of governments. It's all anarchy anyway, we set up governments like wallpaper. They cover reality. Tear it all off. Get in touch with reality. Don't buy anything, steal. Don't save anybody, kill. Stop lying. Stop lying.

Stop lying. Stop lying.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Spiritual Nature of Memory

I've been coming to grips. When I die, a few people will mourn for a while, but I'll be forgotten quickly. There are maybe a few people in every century who actually leave a mark on history, and I am not going to be one of them. In my lifetime Obama will be remembered, and Bob Dylan. Maybe one or two others. But there are even some forgettable American presidents. Isn't that a kick in the teeth. If you can make it to the highest office and still find a way to get lost in the shuffle, there's no way a lanky redhead from Chicago's suburbs will be remembered.

Check out some of the people who actually are remembered. Einstein, Mark Twain, Jung, Kierkegaard and Darwin all had one thing in common; they were all on the cusp of something (respective to their fields). They may have been influenced a little bit by someone before them, but they brought things to the table that were completely new, revolutionary even. And once they got on that cusp, they elaborated extensively on it. Once they found something new, they dedicated their entire lives to it. These are the people who make history. These are the ones that we continue to study, semester after semester. Book after book is written about them, about how "important" their work was to the world (and still is).

And it's true, there have been a few individuals who led extraordinary lives. Because of them, our world exists as it is today. They will remain in the collective consciousness, and will never escape the history books.

Should I want to be a part of that group though? Is it really important to be remembered after I die? I'll be dead anyway, so what if people read about me 1000 years later? What's the point?

Cornel West interviewed Lupe Fiasco at Calvin College a few weeks ago. In response to a question about leaving a legacy, Lupe said, "if I have ever led anyone astray, I would rather not be remembered at all." Surely, a very humble remark. He is more concerned with with social responsibility than his own individuality. But I don't care if I've led anyone astray. I want to be remembered. Compare me to Hitler all you want, but I don't want to be forgotten.

Besides, I don't believe in leading people astray. I believe in free will, and if a weaker brother does wrong as a result of my influence, that's his problem. I say what I say, and you say what you say. But what I say will be remembered, because I'll say it first.

My grandma died a few years ago, but I remember her. I remember her because she was important, her life was meaningful. If she were not meaningful, not important, I would forget her.

So here is our gauge. How important was your life? How much meaning did you bring into the lives of others? That is determined in how you will be remembered. If memories of you fade quickly, you were probably leading a mediocre life. But if your name is repeated for hundreds of years after your death, you were probably on to something bigger than your own self.

I want to find that thing that is bigger than my self. When I do, I will devote myself to it. Lately, the only thing I can see is pain, suffering and death. I don't really want to devote my life to that, it would be quite contradictory. I think there's more. I hope there is anyway.

Einstein revolutionized physics. Mark Twain is known as the father of American literature. Carl Jung worked to establish modern psychiatry. Kierkegaard laid the groundwork for existential philosophy, setting the stage for Sartre and Nietzsche. And we can certainly see what Darwin has done for the science world. They set things off. They got balls rolling. With courage and patience, these regular men, no better than you or me, devoted their lives to a new idea. Not an old idea, mind you. New ideas.

And I know that I'll never be a part of their club. Because I don't know what the difference between a good and bad idea is. And if I simply latch onto whatever new idea comes my way, I very well could end up another Hitler. Truth be told, I don't really want to be grouped alongside Hitler in the history books. I empathize with Lupe Fiasco on this one.

I'll search for the new idea. And if I find it, the first place you'll hear about it will be on this blog. And by 2099, I'll be TIME's Person of the Century. Granted my arrogance (or insecurity) not destroy me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

TV Review: The Goode Family


If you weren't saddened by the cancellation of King of the Hill a few months ago, you can stop reading now. As a fan of all things Mike Judge, my following review will make positive remarks about the observational genius' latest cartoon sitcom. Are the haters gone? Okay, let's talk about The Goode Family.

I just finished watching the pilot episode. Throughout the half hour, I laughed a few times. Nothing was hilarious, but I felt the familiar warmth of Judge's trademark satire. As was the case with King of the Hill, Office Space and Idiocracy (and even Beavis and Butthead to an extent), Judge is still concerned with the theme of morality. That is, he is concerned with what people define as "moral" anyway.

King of the Hill delivered over 10 years of commentary on the moral majority in conservative America. Office Space made us ask "what's wrong" with our working lives. Idiocracy took a telescope to intellectual responsibility. And now, The Goode Family is going straight to the core of contemporary morality. What does it mean to be good? And can it be funny?

Following the lives of a "green family" in the suburbs, the Goodes are doing everything they can to live ethically sound lives in 21st century America. And how do they define their ethics? Well through ecology of course. That's how to "be good" nowadays!

Jokes were so numerous, it became hard to keep up with the rapid pace of the show. From forgetting the canvas bags at Whole Foods to accidentally buying two-ply toilet paper, this show was loaded with sarcastic material. And for this reason, I'm looking forward to watching it again next week. It might take all season for this one to really find a good flow, but once it catches the drift, it's going to be an incredible social commentary on the philosophies of the modern American do-gooder.

One of my favorite lines came from a character with minimal screen time, he was a liberal know-it-all with absurdly pretentious ambitions. This scuzzy teenager was talking to the teenage Goode daughter about his ambitions as follows: "If the Declaration of Independence were written today, it wouldn't be written at all. It would be a documentary film." Lines like this were at a rate of about 25 a minute.

The Goode Family has some very good ideas, and a lot of them are pretty funny too. We've been in need of a satire on the Green movement for years now, and Mike Judge is bringing it with all he's got.

So watch this show. Support the good art that makes us think while we laugh. And remember to ride your bicycle to work, recycle, eat vegan, quote Obama as much as possible and feel guilty about your consumeristic lifestyle. 8 pm Chicago time on ABC.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Babies Are Alive?


I visited a baby this weekend. Our friends gave birth to an amazing little baby boy about a week ago. I found myself staring at this kid's fragility, it's just an amazing miracle to ponder. The kid was really cool, and I'm happy for the family.

But as far as babies go, I'm not sure if I can support them these days. It's just, well, there are so many damn humans on this planet. We're overpopulated. I know it's creepy how China enforces governmental birth control on their citizens, but I'm starting to think that they might be on to something.

I just read a short story by Brian Aldiss called Super-Toys Last All Summer Long. In the story, citizens are not allowed to have children at all. The overpopulation problem has pushed it to this. So they basically use robot children for their parental, emotional purposes. Aldiss had an idea that I liked though: a birth lottery. It said that only couples who officially applied with the government for pregnancy would be eligible to have children of their own flesh and blood. This kept the numbers down and controlled.

Today, this is all too relevant. Since there is an overpopulation problem, here's what I propose we do: suck all the guys dry. Once a boy hits puberty, he should be required to go to the doctor to receive a vasectomy. And this is how he will remain, unless he decides that he wants to have a family someday. But even then, he can't just have his vasectomy reversed. He will have to sign up for the lottery. There will be no favoritism, no arian shit. The poor and the rich will all be in the same lottery, all races and religions. And only if he is picked in the lottery, only then will he be able to have his vasectomy reversed. 

I look around today, and I'm just disgusted by how many people there are. Have you ever been on a highway? It's unbelievable! What are all of these people doing? Who are they?

Maybe someday I'll have a kid, maybe even two. But adoption makes more sense than ever these days. And in an age when we have the most advanced, effective birth control in history, we're still dropping them out like they're hot.

I understand that a lot of couples become pregnant accidentally, and I have to just shrug my shoulders about that. If a sperm was so determined to go all the way, even amidst rubbers and pull outs and morning after pills, there's probably some destiny going on. If it's an accident, fine. That makes enough sense. Dick goes in, dick goes out, dick goes in, PREMATURE SPLOOGE! AH!, pregnant. Yeah, that's just nature. But what I wonder about is the couple "trying" to have a baby. "Trying" to have a baby? For real? Come on people, there's an overpopulation problem! Just adopt, for goodness sake.

It's obviously a problem when people are having kids for status' sake too. That's just sinister. Family man=mature and responsible. That's the mindset of all too many idiots in this country, it has to stop.

All this said, that baby I saw this weekend blew my mind. He made me happy. I wanted to smile and celebrate with his parents. There was real joy. And I didn't even think about overpopulation when I held him. He is a person, and he is here with me. We're in it together, and we'll work together to make things better. Maybe he'll even vote for the worldwide vasectomy law with me someday.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Wisdom of Grandfathers

"Time does not heal all wounds"

Some people actually fall in love.  They live with each other faithfully for their entire lives, and take care of each other until one or the other has died. Once one lover leaves, the other is left in pain. The pain is so great, because the love was so real. And nothing restores the lonesome lover, nothing heals them.

When a wise, beloved, old grandfather tells his children and grandchildren that "time does not heal all wounds," the sadness is brutal. He is so sorrowful, and so honest about it. There is nothing to argue, for he has experienced the real world, and will soon make his exit.

So we're left with our future years. As we go on, we will be severed and damaged until there is nothing left of us. We will celebrate weddings and births, and mourn our dead loved ones. There will be both joy and sadness, for a time.

But every hint of pain is a point in the direction of death. Our own death will be painless though. That is, my death will be painless. I might mourn yours.

When I die, all of those who went before me will welcome me home. Those I leave behind will cry, and will be reminded of what's to come.

Healing will not come. Death isn't a joke.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Your Opinions Are Useless


My creativity is dying. I have no passion for futility. Before we know it, we will all be dead. And everything we created along with us. All we can do in the meantime is love God and each other. (Just to keep sane. If we are so inclined.)

Everything I write is mere therapy. Prayer and confession, there’s nothing more I can do. I have no stories, and even if I did, they wouldn’t be worth telling.

I have barely enough energy to eat crackers. My foray into super-villainy is at a standstill. I realized that it requires a great deal of energy, strength I don’t have. I don’t have the strength to destroy the human race, but it’s still a wish. Humans must go away. Total darkness must come.

And yet, sex is still a priority. God is still alive. But death is stronger than us. God and death will prevail. We seek God like we seek an undertaker. We admit mortality and surrender our imaginations. Fairy tales are told to children before they go to sleep at night, instilling the metaphors for the tragedies of reality before we even know what a “subconscious” is. Ironically, it’s being crafted all the while.

And then we dream. We dream in color, and aliens exist. Our dreams tell us to love and hate, kill and fly. We awake to shit, and stick around.

The world is falling apart because it is in debt. Everybody believes in capitalism, and since they believe in it, it is their truth. Their truth is being destroyed, and chaos is ensuing.

But chaos has always been here. After God put the ticking watch of the universe together, he threw it in the air. Our lives are playing themselves out according to God’s will, but we’re also spinning and falling into an unknown. We’re crashing meaningfully, and much sooner than we all think.

Everything we create is in vain. Our mechanics are embarrassing. Ice melts and fires flicker out. And we think that we can write? When the last drop of ink falls, I will be millions of years decayed. The dinosaurs are lucky.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Boring or Mean? Mean or Boring?


As far as I'm concerned, there are two ways to be a shitty person. I could never figure out which person I'd rather avoid, the mean person or the boring person. Both types will bring grief, but when it comes right down to it, who's worse?

The mean person seems like the obvious choice at first. This is the guy who will call his girlfriend "bitch" in public. He swears at his mom. He's racist and loud, he is all about the middle finger and raising his voice. Rush Limbaugh. Oh yes indeed, the mean person is awful. At all costs, he should be avoided.

But what about the boring person? Why is it so important to stay away from this guy? Well this is the guy who makes life feel pointless. He doesn't add anything to conversations. He listens to Dave Matthews Band, but not because he even likes the music, but because they're popular. All of his stories are about getting drunk or high. He wears khakis, polo shirts and Sketchers. He has that haircut that is combed forward, pushed up in the front, with gel. He has nothing interesting going on, ever. He looks, sounds and acts just like everybody else. And the worst part is that he thinks this is how he should be. It's "normal."

I used to think it was worse to be a mean person. After all, this guy is intentional. You can't be mean on accident, you have to want to make other people feel bad.

I used to work as a server during college. Back in the kitchen, the radio was always on. One day, our manager asked which station to put on. One of the waitresses quickly responded, "B96!" Right away I turned to her and said, "B96? What are you, 12?" She walked away and said "Dylan, don't be mean to me..." I took that to heart. It was a mean thing to say. Just because I listened to B96 when I was 12 doesn't mean everyone did. And who knows, maybe some 30 year olds still listen to it. And so what if they do? Does that give me the right to make fun of them?

So yeah, being mean is bad. We shouldn't be mean to each other. It is a sin of comission. But boringness is a sin of omission. It omits the possibility of anything substantial. It adds nothing.

Of course I could say that when you're mean, at least you're not boring. Or if you're boring, at least you're not mean. These vices cannot be simultaneous. A mean person is usually quite entertaining. They demand attention, hurl a lot of clever insults, and always keep things interesting. A boring person is just too dull to be mean. They're incapable. And this is why I have to say (at least at this moment), it's worse to be boring. Being boring is like being a social handicap. There's no drive, no passion, no reason to be anything worthwhile. It slowly destroys an individual from the inside, but nobody else would know it, because it could just look like timidity or tiredness. Boringness is the great existential tragedy.

Why would I pair boringness and meanness anyway? I guess I think of them in terms of relationships. If you're single, which is the bigger turn-off? I'll bet most of the time it's boringness. Girls date jerks all the time, but a boring guy is just screwed. And he should be. Unless, of course, he has money. But that's a whole new can of worms. Which is worse: the rich jerk, or the rich bore?

Well, I just want you all to know how wrong it is to be boring. It makes pretty girls yawn, causes dancers to take their seats, and is the reason you stopped reading this post a few paragraphs ago.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tired or Drunk or Both part 1

A final exam on signage and exterior elevations. Coming around to pay me. But not one hint of best man marriage will take away the piss. It's thick.

Buffalo 66 and Blackhawk wins. Blackhawks win and LeBron is better. Basketball is the best sport, more than ever it's beautiful. B words and B B B, B B B B B B B.

For a Friday night, the people are muffled. There aren't any parties anywhere. Memorials are set up for dead veterans of war, and form fitting blouses are covered.

Let me feel you. I can touch you anywhere. On the surface. Inside. It's not rape.

A monster is an imagination. Problems are reality. Monsters don't kill, they only rile. Death isn't a problem, it's the end of reality.

We own a car, and drive it frequently. I go through the south and west side just to be around blacks. Occasionally nervousness tickles the bottom of my legs, and I hope for my own homicide.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Disagree

I am inclined to argue. When everybody agrees, I'm a paranoid skeptic. I have a feeling that even if everybody was right, I'd find a way to throw a wrench into the clockwork. It takes a hard heart, a stoic disposition and endurance to be disagreeable. But I have a sort of conscience, and it tells me to stand against the majority.

I could never be a preacher. Unless my congregation actively disagreed with me, and we argued during the sermon. I guess that wouldn't make me a preacher anyway. The preacher preaches. And the congregation respectfully listens. I don't want people to respect me, and want them to tell me that I'm wrong.

So here is my post. I am not going to preach, because that would just be annoying (for you and for me). If people aren't disagreeing with me, then I must not have anything interesting to say.

If you all agree with me, then I'm failing at life. I'll try to make my next post a little more disagreeable. I'll do my best.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Relevant Magazine is Bad


A year ago, I thought Relevant had the potential to be a noteworthy publication. I hoped it would someday become our country's primary source for relevant discussions about faith and culture in our post-modern society. And why shouldn't it be? Q-Tip and Mickey Rourke on the double cover don't necessarily scream "christian hipster." On the surface, Relevant Magazine looks like it might be above the Christian industry. But I came to work for them as an idealist. I left bitter, and educated.

I should have known better. First of all, Relevant's headquarters are in Orlando, Florida. A culture magazine cannot thrive in a place like Orlando. But Relevant doesn't care about culture. It cares about the next cool trend (and yeah, social justice is their latest "trend". If you can even imagine such a despicable thought.), and it wants to prove that christians can be trendy too. The inherent problem is that it's all a sham. Orlando is not trendy. Nothing that comes out of Orlando is trendy. Relevant is not trendy. It's just shallow mimicry. 

Relevant wants to appease an audience. There are a few people that pay for the magazine, and these people are dorky christian-college graduates living in the suburbs. Along with incompetent high schoolers and middle aged crises trying to "stay in touch with what's hip nowadays," Relevant's audience isn't interested in discussion. It wants to just feel in touch with the times. Herein lies Relevant's failure. Relevant is not in touch with the culture, so it has nothing to offer its audience. Nothing real, anyway. Nothing original or of substance.

But Relevant's biggest problem is their leader. Cameron Strang is a megalomaniac without a map. He wants great things, but doesn't really know what they are. He fires employees without remorse, even if they've done nothing wrong. Even if they only do things that strengthen the company. He has issues, and as long as he's at the helm, Relevant will be a joke.

Look at where he came from though. He went to Oral Roberts University, the same college Ned Flanders graduated from. His dad owns the largest charismatic christian magazine in the country, and is rich. He grew up in Orlando. These are not the ingredients for a respectable, influential publication.

Cameron got into trouble early on. He decided to treat the Relevant readership like they were his close friends. He hosted Relevant's podcast, and shared all sorts of personal stories with the listeners. He never drew the line between work life and real life. The two blended into each other, and came back to bite him. So when a personal problem comes along, the only thing he can do is take a sabbatical and leave his audience wondering, "what happened? Where did Cameron go? What's happening with his life, he always kept us up to date before."

Relevant Magazine was misnamed. It should have been called Cameron Strang Magazine. Even if there were articles written by other freelancers, Cameron had to put his seal of approval on every sentence. Even after copy editors and section editors got through with an article, Cameron still had the power to have his way. Why did he hire editors then? I'm still trying to figure that one out...

So he is a poor manager. That happens. Unfortunately, Relevant is actually a very small company. So when your boss doesn't really care about his small staff, well, it's just difficult (to say the least).

Here's what Relevant is good for: suburban youth pastors with goatees. It's just another "christian" magazine. If you look at their ads, it's nothing but seminaries and christian music festivals. The only people who want it to exist are those who believe that christianity can be hip. It's a shameful magazine, run by a shameful man. I hope it continues though. I hope the recession doesn't kill it, because this world needs mediocre writing and hypocritical religion on the newsstands. Relevant fills a niche. Without Relevant, the youth pastors have no idea how to keep in touch with the culture. If the youth pastors can't be relevant, how will they be able to prove that christianity can be cool?

Yeah, I'm bitter. But you would be too if you experienced what I did this past year.

I was talking to a couple of the kids in Anathallo, telling them about the travesty that has been Dylan Peterson and Relevant. At first, they were upset. But then they expressed happiness. They were glad that I had been relieved, because they never liked the magazine anyway. This is because Anathallo lives in a real city. They engage in real culture. They despise insincerity. So of course they don't like Relevant, it's the epitome of everything an honest, truth-seeking individual despises.

I could go on. But I'm just pissed that Chad got fired. I'm so sorry Chad. I hope you know how much better you are than Cameron Strang Magazine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

June Movies

Here are a few trailers that are making me anxious to get to the movie theatre. I don't think I've written anything about film on this blog before, but that's all about to change. I just watched a Kenneth Anger DVD, and now I'm craving some more of that good stuff. Moving pictures are one of my deepest loves. 

Here's what I hope will hold me over until October (and if you don't know what that alludes to,  I'm sorry.):

June 12


Well, it looks a lot like 2001 (set in space, future, talking robot assistant, creepy hallucinations, etc.), but man, I'm just hooked by this trailer. And an homage to Kubrick can't really be a bad idea anyway. Sam Rockwell was brilliant in Snow Angels, so I know he's got what it takes to deliver the goods.

June 11


It's a love/hate thing I have for Vincent Gallo. Actually, now that I think about it, I don't love him at all. I hate Vincent Gallo. But it looks like Francis Coppola has done good again. I'm always up for a good black and white with colored dream sequenced art film.

June 19


Woody Allen and Larry David. That's it. I'm sold.

I'm going to see these three movies next month. I'll be sure to write reviews here so my friends in Kansas City, Orlando, and all the other places in the country with limited release troubles can know what they're missing. But if anybody in Chicago wants to double date any of these, let me know. We're collectively excited for Whatever Works. Preferably a Curb Your Enthusiasm fan, Larry David can be pretty perplexing if you're not familiar with his work...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Late Night Laundry Acid


There's a lot of movement, energy and liveliness. Everybody likes to say the word "bustling." But it's for good reason. It's a satisfying word to utter. "Bustling." Go ahead, try it. "Bustling."

Unfortunately, the only time people seem to use the word in a sentence is when they need an easy adjective for busy downtown streets. "The streets are bustling." they always say. It's become a cliche of a sentence.

Downtown may bustle during the daytime, but there's nothing quite like a bustling, city laundromat at midnight. This is a completely different kind of bustle. This is where long walls of dryers spin socks and shirts around. The clothes even bustle. It's a hypnotizing bustle, especially with the looming twilight and eerily silent customers are in contrast. A late night city laundromat is a magical place, where neither nightmares nor good dreams are cultivated or remembered.

Outside on the corner, an old, dirty, bearded man on a bicycle is veering all over the road. He is yelling, "tomorrow's my birthday! But I'm getting drunk today!" He has balloons tied to his handles. He's talking to everyone he sees, asking if they want to celebrate his birthday with him. Most people avoid eye contact, and quicken their pace. Immediately they'll turn a corner. Like a laser beam they head into the el station. But nothing deters the old kook. He is celebrating his birthday tonight.

Across at the other corner, a middle aged bald man is screaming at pedestrians, "capitalists are pigs!" He holds up a sign that reads the same. He looks like he could have been laid off earlier this afternoon. With a polo shirt tucked into dad jeans, he isn't a veteran in the homeless league. But he's working towards 'rookie of the year.' "Capitalists are pigs! Sir, could you spare some change?" He has as much luck as his street corner colleague.

Eventually, the bald socialist and bearded bicyclist meet at another corner with a dreadlocked young man. A skinny skateboarder, apparently associated with these two scummy baby-boomers somehow. He has a ring in his nose like a bull, and it looks like there's dirt on his face. The bald one speaks loudly, "Hey, let's get some drugs! I got a few more bucks!" The young fella seems to be their source of nightly medicine. "All we can get right now is acid," he replies. "Acid!" the bald man is louder than the train above his head, "What about coke!"

"Nah man, acid."

"How about booze!"

"Acid."

"Coffee!"

"Nah, just acid."

And at the fourth corner, what looks like an old Vietnam veteran is wearing large headphones. He must be over six feet tall, and his shoulders are broad like a worn out theatre curtain. He's leaning forward against a newspaper box, playing a harmonica. Whether he's playing along with a song in his headphones, or just trying to pass time, he's blowing out the perfect soundtrack for this night. The clothes are spinning behind him, warming as they go. Another train above his head, drowning out his harp. The homeless acid trippers are still yelling, something about Hugo Chavez. And headlights meld with streetlights until nothing remains but a dancing darkness.

It's a magical night. Our minds are bustling.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Afro Wig on a White Man


Jack Mostert took the jobs that nobody else wanted. South side, west side, it didn't matter to him. If there was money to be had, he went to work. But the thing about Chicago, it had some bad neighborhoods. White folks call them "dark" neighborhoods.

Granted, there's a troubling tension between black pride and territorial stubbornness. When white hipsters ride their bicycles through the south side, they often find themselves avoiding flung bricks and remarks like "what the hell you doin' round here white boy? You best pedal yo ass out!" Oh, and they do. They pedal hard. That flat brimmed White Sox cap isn't saving this ironic college kid today.

Unfortunately, race always comes into this discussion. Englewood today, instantly brings to mind an impoverished black neighborhood. It's not racist to come to such conclusions, it's just the way things are. Statistics and history, they do their best not to lie.

Headgear won't prevent anybody from being held up at gunpoint, but even if stats could prove it, Jack Mostert never believed it. When he had to do work in the bad parts of town, he made sure to cover his fine, blonde hair with a puffy, black afro wig. He meant no disrespect, but it was enough to camouflage his impeccable whiteness for a good hour while other, less clever, white folks got their cars jacked simply for having taken a wrong turn. But Jack was disguised. He had to finish his job quickly before any of the brothers got wise.

Sure enough, through 60 years, this afro kept him safe on the south side. It was his wig for the west side. Madison and Ashland. Riverdale and Harvey. No neighborhood was too rough for this puff atop his noggin.

Today, Jack wears no wigs. He is over 80, and he still works in Chicago. There have been many close calls, but he still goes to church at Laflin. He takes busloads of inner city boys to Circle Y. He doesn't believe in racism.

Why can't a white kid be welcome in a black neighborhood? Are we still in the midst of a pendulum swing? Of course, white people have spent centuries oppressing blacks, and are not completely absolved of their wrongdoing. So maybe they still need to swallow a few more gulps of their own medicine.

On a road to independence, there are gradients. At the bottom, there is oppression, and a person couldn't be further from independence. This is where they are only walked over, they do no walking for themselves. They are far from freedom. But at a point, these people can rise up, and refuse to be walked over. Unfortunately, once they've tasted freedom, they could decide to take it too far. Once capable of walking, they now have the opportunity to walk over someone else. They realize that they were unable to walk over anyone when they were the ones on the ground, themselves being walked over. And so they take newfound joy in walking over a less independent fool. It's a new feeling, and since they experienced only the other side of it for so long, they want to feel it from the top.

White people have not been walked over, and probably need to be. Black pride is good, and should continue. But it should not be secluded within certain neighborhoods. Black pride must spread, over every pasty skinned American in U.S.

When we cease the black on black crime, and rise up against the white man, then we'll cry out to God with victory in our lungs. We will overcome the man. With songs and humility, we will devour his children before they come out of the womb. 


There are white folks with no freedom, and black folk with no class.
Brown-skinned men with phD's, and white girls with no ass.
Neighborhoods with crime and murder, and neighborhoods with drugs.
Suburban kids in Escalades, white and gettin' crunk.
The lines are drawn from cent'ries past, and shit we have today.
Like afro wigs on white men, keeping criminals at bay.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sin, Co-sign, Repeat

Whilst dwelling in Florida, I was living in sin. It was wrong for me to be there. As a lover of art and culture, I wasted much time and space by residing in the tourism capital of the country. I couldn't be a part of the community there, and therein lied the sin.

Oh, sin. People have troubled themselves so much over this human problem. They say, "I've been struggling with sin," and "Christ can save me from my sins" like they parked in a handicap zone overnight or something.

Or, they avoid their sin by trying to find it in others. "Homosexuality is an abomination" they say with straightened backs and confident smirks. All it takes is Bible verse memorization, and they can tell everyone what's right and what's wrong. And since they know what's wrong, that means they don't do it. They've been saved; they "sin no longer."

Ah the unrepentant problem of sin. It never lets go. We feel guilty, and so we ask forgiveness. We do things that are wrong, and feel bad about them afterward. We are such ridiculous creatures. We act according to our nature, and then scold ourselves. A kid in a youth group leaves in the middle of the opening worship song to masturbate in the church bathroom. The girl singing and raising her hands in the air had a tight shirt on, and he could only stand it for so long. He knew it was wrong, but he did it anyway. At the end of the night, he rededicated his life to Christ. Only to masturbate again that night in bed, thinking about the same girl with the tight shirt.

We are civilized. Highly evolved. We have values and ethics. We are not animals.

Arrogance. We are so arrogant. We believe in good, and that we should pursue and practice it. Oh cursed awareness, damn it. Damn this awareness.

If we were animals, we wouldn't have to worry about sin. We would kill, eat, screw, sleep and play until we died. Essentially, humans aren't any different than animals, but we think we know better. We think we have answers. Math and science tell us things about the universe. Since we have some understanding, we think we're better.

So then we have ecology. We have justice. Charity and religion. Ethics and logic. All of these man-made studies, only created as a means of trying to fix what only we have corrupted. There is no use for ecology in the animal kingdom, it is naturally upheld in the circle of life. There is no use for justice outside of humans, there is only survival. Charity and religion are only necessary because of how selfish and violent people are, not because of anything nature did. And ethics and logic are ways to make us feel like superior beings, devices that make ecology, justice and religion sound important.

We want to save the world, or at least make it better. But if that's really true, the answer is not to "go green." We don't have to get saved and help usher in the kingdom. There will never be perfect justice, because, well there will always be stupid people in this world. See, the only way we can make the world a better place is global suicide. Go to the source, the root of the problems. We have to rid this earth of ourselves, because as long as we're here, it will only get worse.

Our sin is residing in a place where we have no business residing in. I am not talking about one race or religion, I'm talking about everybody. There is no correct religion, no stronger sex or race. We are all sinners, and we all have to die. If we don't, things will only get worse.

In the meantime, we will try our best to uphold things like justice, ethics, religion and ecology. We will lie to ourselves and say that it will get better. But as long as we make ourselves feel bad for having wet dreams, there is no way we'll be able to make this planet a better place. As long as we continue to so arrogantly believe that we are going to "cure poverty," we will perpetuate the shit.

The only way we can escape sin is to either die, or revert back to our natural state. We have to stop acting so pious, so intelligent. The sun will burn out someday, and life on earth will become impossible. If we think we're special, maybe we should learn how to change the temperature of the sun. Or maybe we should stop dying. If we're so important, death shouldn't be something we deal with anymore. Death is for natural things, animals and plants. Not humans, oh no, we're created in God's image and will live with Him in eternity when we die... yeah.

So go ahead, struggle with sin if you have the spare time. As for me, I'm going in for the full-time supervillain gig. This world is screwed, so let's just get it over with and destroy this repulsive human race. But while I'm trying to take over the world, don't let me listen to any Tom Petty, Sufjan or Bob Dylan. Then I'll change my mind and start to think that humans might not be so bad after all. That wouldn't be very "supervillain" of me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Karaoke Death

Two Things.

We were invited out for some karaoke tonight. We couldn't go, because of some plans we made to acquire some cupcakes. But even if we hadn't made plans, I would have turned down the karaoke. I have absolutely nothing against Japanese culture, but I do have a problem with America's recent obsession with embarrassing, drunk douchebags singing bad songs in front of strangers. The American Idol thing is bad enough, but even that abomination isn't as frustrating as the local bars' karaoke nights.

There was that scene in Lost in Translation when Bill Murray sang Elvis Costello. That was great. But there are a few things that made that cool. First of all, it was Bill Murray. Second, it was actually in Japan. Very culturally appropriate. Third, they were in a private room. A private party of friends is a lot better than an orgy of off-key, drunk, white people in Wrigleyville. Private parties can only embarrass themselves, they're very inoffensive to the general public. Fourth, and this might be the most important, the song Bill Murray sang was by Elvis Costello. Singing the right song is important. When it's Kelly Clarkson, Blink 182 or Jason Mraz, that's just no good. But if it's Johnny Cash, Iron Maiden or Bob Seger, then we're on to something. Lastly, the group of people you're singing with, they must not be douches. Asians are always qualified for karaoke. If the majority of your group is Asian, that's a good sign. Plus, some people have better taste in music than others. I'll bet Dan Imbody would be a lot of fun to do karaoke with, but only as long as it's within a private party, in Japan, singing good songs with actual Japanese people. And, obviously, it wouldn't hurt to have Bill Murray present. But until this happens, you probably won't ever hear me singing karaoke. I just can't support the buffoonery.

And.

I watched a documentary on Townes Van Zandt tonight. He was great. But he reminds me to never ever do hard drugs. I've said it before, but drugs would just put me over the edge. Some minds just can't handle it. My mind would really have trouble with cocaine. I just know it.

Just sayin'. To anybody reading, make sure I never do drugs. Only bad things will happen. Things like karaoke in America. And, you know, other bad things.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Classic Rock Becomes Us


On PBS right now, The Police are playing some sort of reunion show. Sting is singing 'King of Pain.' I don't know what's wrong with me, but I'm really enjoying it.

These dudes are all middle aged, wrinkly and rich. Their crowd looks to be about a million middle aged women. As a general punk rock rule, Sting should be loathed. But man, when he sings "every breath you take," I almost turn into a homosexual.

Something is happening. (Not homosexuality. That was a joke.) The only music that makes any sense to me these days is classic rock. I can't listen to any music station in Chicago but The Drive. Today, they were playing Fleetwood Mac and I thought to myself, "this is brilliant. I've been missing out." What kind of weirdo am I turning into? The Police? Fleetwood Mac? Am I for real?

I still think that the music being made today is something special. Animal Collective, especially, is on the verge on something big. We'll see what happens to them after Lollapalooza. But more and more, I'm beginning to think that everything after the '60s has just been rehash.

It all comes down to these big three: Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Beach Boys. It'd be hard to find an artist from the past 40 years who hasn't been influenced by one, if not all, of those musical powerhouses. They completely owned the '60s. They set the stage for the future of rock and roll. And I don't want to hear about Elvis. That dude was all show, no heart.

If you check out the first song on the playlist to the right, I put a Creedence Clearwater Revival song at the top. Proud Mary. So great. Does music like this exist anymore? Can a timeless melody be written? Or are we going to have to settle for Lil' Wayne and the Black Eyed Peas? It's like everybody is trying to be Elvis. If you can be a controversial, semi-talented idiot, you can be rock star. I guess nothing ever changes. Thanks for your legacy Elvis. Ya douche.

I'm not interested in going to any reunion tours this summer, because the best show still happens when you're one of 50 people in a tiny bar, experiencing something new. The Police are old. They don't represent rock and roll anymore. Rock and roll requires youth and rebellion. I think there's still a little bit left in me. But this hardcore shit is just stupid. Passion and aggression my ass. It all sounds the same.

I'm an old man. Where's my gray hair?

-

Abrupt Bonus Post - a dream.

Last night, I dreamt I was walking around outside on stilts. I was ten feet up in the air. The sun was going down, and it was getting dangerous. I saw a wolf come out, it jogged towards me. I was nervous, but I hoped that I would be safe up on the stilts. It attacked the bottom of my stilts, and tore them to shreds. I was terrified. I fell to the ground, where the wolf was growling. I think I woke up after that. And it's a good thing too, because getting tore up by a mean old wolf would not be very much fun. No sir.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Playing Praying


I participated in some group prayer tonight. That is, in a group of about 15 people, I kept my head down while three others took turns speaking out loud. Had I interrupted at any point, the prayer would have ceased to be, suddenly demoted to mere conversation. But I think prayer is a good practice. It's still one of those things we have a lot of reverence for. We take it seriously, as a major part of the spiritual life.

During the prayer tonight, some of the topics included: emotional healing, sickness in the family, moving to a new place and spiritual discontent. And as an arc, a prayer for greater faith in God's will..

Before praying, we read a few Bible passages, and discussed them. We were reading about healing. Jesus healed, Peter healed and we read in James to pray for those who are sick. A lot of people disagreed about just what the passages meant, but nobody got out of hand. We had very civilized theological discussions.

Some believe that physical healing can come when we have faith. Others believe that healing only comes if it's a part of God's will. And still others believe that healing doesn't really happen at all. It was great to be able to have so many people disagree, and completely respect one another's differences. By the end, our host suggested that we go out next week and try to pray in a way we hadn't before, maybe even go to a charismatic church or tent revival. She encouraged spiritual open-mindedness. I really appreciated the suggestion.

But I still have my opinion. I was glad to ask questions and be asked, but in the end, I don't believe in faith healing.

First of all, everybody dies. Everybody. So if somebody is healed by the faith of themselves or another, it won't last long. Laying down some hands and saying a few words to make a quadriplegic walk sounds great, but it just doesn't happen. I have faith in God, but I trust the laws of the universe have been set up so we could learn how to live better within them, not defy them. The ultimate law, of course, being death. Things grow for a while, and then start to break down, then die.

There are always exceptions to rules. But death is final. You cannot "heal" death. And we're all going to die. It's natural, it's a good thing. We're not designed to last forever. Nothing is.

I'm not sure if the church fathers thought of healing this way, but a lot of folks in America and in the Christian Church believe in healing as a way of extending life. This bothers me. It is a completely counter-intuitive way for a human to think. Sure, nobody wants to live in pain, but we have no choice. Life is about pain. Suffering is inevitable. And I think we have to respect death because of this. After 70 years of pain and suffering, death is our great relief. "I shall be released," Bob Dylan sings. All of the great gospel songs try to dig some hope out of the grief of life. Our art is born out of pain. Our hope is only possible amidst suffering.

So why should we pray for those who are sick? And why should we pray specifically for their healing? Here's what I think. I think suffering reminds us of our mortality. Death and sickness bring our mortality front and center. So when we pray for the sick, we are suddenly making light of their mortality. In doing so, we have no choice but to consider the flip side; immortality. We are troubled by our dreadful mortality, so we find peace and hope in the immortal God. Praying immediately brings our attention to God. And it is good to ponder God's omnipotence. We cannot do it with any sort of success, but contrasted against suffering, we can feel its peace.

But why do we pray for healing? Well, first of all, this prayer isn't as simple as it sounds. A prayer for healing doesn't say "Please make my aunt feel better. Amen." it says, "God, you are omnipotent and omniscient. You could take this sickness away, you can do anything. I want this suffering to leave. I want things to be better. But I have no control of this situation. I hope you hear my prayer, God."

This latter prayer focuses on a spiritual nature. The former prayer focuses on internal, selfish desire. It's a shout in the wind. There is no enlightenment in saying "I want this to happen because I think it would be nice." Enlightenment comes when individuals give up their control and embrace the mystery of God's love. When we abandon our freedom to be gods, we allow the highest authority to take the reins. This is liberating, and humbling. As much as we want to get our way, coming to a place of complete denial through sincere prayer keeps us in check spiritually. 

Prayer reassures us of our mortality. It gives us time to quietly and humbly reflect on how precious our short time here is. So to anyone who thought, "well what's the point if everybody's just gonna die anyway?" there you have it. We shouldn't live our lives like racehorses. Awareness is ours, but only if we'll have it. Prayer is not a way of magically getting things we want, but rather a time to slow down and forget about our consumerism for a while. We can focus on hope, peace and love when we're in prayer. We can meditate on the God of the universe and beyond. It's not a physical thing. It's spiritual. Even within groups. Maybe we can all try it together sometime?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Where Do Dairy Queen Signs Go After They Die?



Most people don't think that there are many swamps in Illinois. But these people haven't been to Riverdale. This suburb is practically Chicago, right on the southern edge (As Evanston is to the north side, so Riverdale is to the south side. And they're as dissimilar as two suburbs can be). It looks and feels just like the south side, complete with occasional murders and gas station car jackings. If you can muster up enough courage to take the trek down Halsted, through the swamps and violence, past Harold's Chicken Shack and into the train yard under the viaduct, you'll find yourself at Artisan Signs.

And as of this week, this is where I work. I made sure to bring my camera today, because this place is intensely photogenic. I walked around their backyard for a while this morning. Check out this sign graveyard:

I wandered around this graveyard for a good half hour today. Everywhere I stepped there was sharp, plastic confetti. Broken signs from who knows what former business, who knows when. Sixties? Fifties? Who know... 

As much as I wanted to give some order to the massive piles of signs, it was clear that whoever threw this stuff back here had no interest in giving the dead signs any sort of organization. It's not like all of the restaurant signs are resting together on one side, and the deceased neon lies in the back corner. No, this is chaos. This is what it will look like when our capitalism caves in on itself. Intricate designs, bright colors and expensive lights will be reduced to scrap.



Piles of bricks, busted chairs, rusted cars and crumbling buildings. There's no life here. No hope. It's just a swamp, buzzing with those little bugs that you can't see until they're swarmed all over your face. Then you spit, and jerk your head down. Surely, this graveyard can't be good for the environment in general. The ground must be soaked with battery acid. But I'm not going to clean it up. All I can think to do with this mess is share it with you, dear reader. Look at the mess. Know that it's real, and always will be.

This is an image that has been in my mind as far back as my memory will go. The decrepit building used to be caked in graffiti. "Demon N Brat." I didn't know what it meant, but it made me nervous. I always wished that I could see that rooster's face. But I never really needed to, I knew what it looked like. It's a simple rooster. He would tell me, "don't come over here Dylan. Don't come around here. It's not a friendly place." And up until this week, I've listened. But lately, I've been feeling like performing some self-mutilation.

I'm trudging around in the Illinois swamp, but I don't own any boots.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Keeping a Grim Outlook

Forget it.

I've been trying to find something I wrote in a Word document, but it's just not happening. And I'm getting tired and cranky. I have to go to bed.

We don't have internet over here yet either, so I can only make these posts when I'm stealing a few extra bars from our neighbors.

Anyway, the post was going to be about how I think charity work is a crock of shit. If I find it, I'll post it right away. But I don't know, it feels like Jesus might not have wanted me to put those thoughts out into the public...

When are things going to settle down? Does anybody have anything good to say at all anymore? Jeez. Maybe we are living in the end times after all... God, I hate 2009.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Humbling Oneself


Starting tomorrow, I'm going to work at Artisan. This is probably a bad idea. I've been around the family business my entire life, and I've never seen anything but stress come from the place. I suppose it's still in business, that certainly says something. But I don't know if it should be...

"The Shop." My granddad started the business about 60 years ago. He was going to school at the Art Institute of Chicago and wanted to work in a sign shop part time. Since he couldn't find anything but union jobs, he took matters into his own hands. He continued going to school during the day, and worked independently in the evenings. Eventually, this kid's sign-work caught on, and eventually grew into one of the biggest industrial sign shops in Chicago.

Today, his daughter (my mom) runs the company. She took over just a couple years ago, and it's still too early to tell if Artisan will grow or wilt as a result. They're at least 20 years overdue for a facelift, but maybe my mom can make it happen. One step she recently took towards growth was asking me to come work for Artisan as a salesman. Again, this may have been a good move, but I don't trust myself these days either. This could be the beginning of the end for Artisan.

But I'll try my best. I'll go out and sell some signs. A job is a job, as they say. Whatever it takes to get rid of credit card debt.

And at the very least, I'm sure this job will make for some interesting new stories. A writer doesn't really have a "career" in sign-making, he just works briefly at sign shops for the sake of new material.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Life and Death of Patsy Peterson, aka Grandma


I saw my grandma last night. She's been dead for a few years, and still is, but sometime after midnight she spoke to me in the present tense. "Oh Dylan, I'm so old now. I'm an old lady," she moped from her living room chair. Sitting on the couch, I quietly smiled at her as she talked. I thought to myself, 'you were old.'

"If I want to talk to my grandkids on the internet, I don't even know how to do it," she sighed, "I can't be the grandma they want me to be."

I looked at her with such sad joy. "But you were a great grandma," I told her. I miss her so much...

"Eghhh..." she reveled in her pessimism, ignoring my compliment. Nothing had changed.

I knew that everything she said was merely a hybrid of my memories and my own projections of what I wanted her to be today. "What do I do, Grandma?" I asked with utter desperation in my voice.

While she was alive, I always went to her for advice. If I ever needed help, she was there for me. I could call her on the phone anytime, even if it was a Collect call. She always accepted the charges. And I could always stop by her place if I ever needed to take a nap on her couch or eat her cereal.

I need advice again, but even though my grandma speaks in the present tense, I respond to her in the past tense. She is sitting in front of me, but I know that she's gone.

Any advice she gave me last night didn't come from her, but from my own head. She can't give me any more help, and I have to take responsibility for my own life. But I still want to believe that I can make her proud. Unfortunately, whether or not she's in the past or present tense, I just don't know how to make anyone proud anymore.

Friday, May 08, 2009

When and Why People Get Married


I haven't even been married for two years. So far, it's been quite an adventure. I guess we're still newlyweds, but it really doesn't feel like it anymore. Jaclyn and I have been loving each other for over seven years. If I can the word into its general terms, we've been "married" for at least five years. By that I mean we've been devoted to each other much longer than what our marriage certificate indicates.

A lot of my friends and family are getting married this year. I wonder how many of them will last. Who will get divorced? Who will get pregnant within the first year? Who will have an affair? Oh, these horrible questions! I don't want to ask them, but 2009 America leaves me no choice. The concept of "marriage" is so screwed up in this country. I resent how the government uses the term. "Civil Unions" should be across the board. If two married people want to be recognized by the state, they should attain a "civil union."

Marriage is not defined by a date. My marriage didn't start on July 29th, 2007, but at some point before that. We celebrate our marriage on that day, because that was the day that we had the biggest party of our life. We invited all of our friends and family to come together for the biggest celebration of love we could imagine. We didn't dedicate ourselves to each other on this day, we celebrated our dedication... in style.

There are gay couples who have been married for years. They love each other and are dedicated to each other. They don't need a piece of paper to be "married."

And yet, some of my friends and family members have set the date. They will get "married" on a specific day. Even if they aren't wholly devoted to each other yet, they will be "married" (at least according to the government). They see marriage as an accomplishment, a benchmark in the road to maturity. The sooner they get there, the sooner they mature.

They will mature, but not in the way they expected.

Why do people get married? I don't mean why do people devote themselves to one another, I mean why do they seek out the government's seal of approval?

Most of the time, people don't really know why they love the person that they love. It's a great mystery, but it's something they can't deny.

Legal marriage, on the other hand, is something they need to have spent a lot of time and energy contemplating.

Once marriage is "official," it symbolizes two mature people who have come together for one greater purpose. Friends and family come to celebrate to officiation of marriage because they support and encourage the couple. A marriage ceremony between two people is never done outside of a community. On the contrary, a community MUST be a part of a marriage.

When marriage occurs, it is a community event. Whoever said that marriage is between two people is deadly wrong. Marriage is about two families, becoming one. This unity is strong, and makes for a strong celebration. The couple being wed should already be intensely in love and devoted to each other before the ceremony; but if that is the case, celebration is in order. Who better to celebrate a beautiful relationship than the friends and family of the two people who are married?

There are good and bad reasons to get married. A good reason is family. A bad reason is individuality. When family is strengthened, marriage should occur. But if family is weakened, marriage should not be rushed. If one finds individuality through another person, then he or she should not marry this person. However, if one is already an individual, and is in relationship with another individual who is not controlling or manipulative, then marriage should occur. Love will abound.

We always hear that nobody can tell two people what to do when it comes to their wedding. This is true, but if the two people getting married are doing the right thing, nobody will even WANT to tell them what to do. They will see the beauty plainly in the wonderful relationship, and will have no desire to question the marriage.

A community is important for this reason. If friends and family see problematic symptoms within a relationship, they will (and should) speak up. Nobody wants to see a community weakened, and a bad marriage will do just that.

There you have it my friends, my blog post for May 8, 2009. There are reasons to get married, but there are not reasons to love. Love ruthlessly, but wed carefully.

Cemetery, Revealed

It couldn’t have been more than two seconds. Mark opened up the door of his car and squeezed in moments before the ghastly, hooded figure collided into the door. Drew was grinding his teeth while he sat stiff in the passenger seat, watching the monstrous thug pound his fists on the windshield.

“Go! Just go! Drive!” Drew yelled at Mark.

Mark threw it in reverse, and escaped the scene. The horror was finally over. Drew was breathing so hard, he thought he may have developed asthma over the course of an hour.

The two friends drove down country roads for nearly ten minutes before one of them caught their breath enough to speak.

“Dude… what was that!!?” Drew screamed.

Mark was still breathing hard, and couldn’t do anything but shake his head.

“I mean… what the… agh!”

Drew was a mess of clenched fists and incomplete phrases. But Mark finally contributed to the lack of conversation with a suggestion: “We have to go to Adam’s house. We have to tell him about this.”

Drew didn’t really want to go anywhere at the moment. He was so scared, he didn’t want to ever leave the car. Now looking at every tree on the side of the road, and paranoid of every car that drove past him, he expected a torch to come rushing at him any second. But he agreed with Mark. And thought that maybe they could even spend the night at Adam’s.

After about five minutes, they arrived in Adam’s driveway. Mark turned the car off, and they sat their silently for a moment. It had to be past 3 a.m. now.

“Man,” Drew mumbled with his head back against the headrest, “I don’t even want to walk to his door. I feel like those freaks could be anywhere… How do we know they didn’t follow us?”

Mark calmly looked at him, a strangely comfortable look. Like everything that happened that night was not really horrific after all. Like everything that happened was somehow unsurprising and usual. Drew looked back into Mark’s eyes, confused.

SLAM!SLAM!

One on the driver’s side, one on the passengers side. A black robe and a white robe, slamming against the windshield. In the middle of a rural neighborhood block in the middle of the night, Drew started screaming again, “Turn the car on! Drive away! Get out of here!”

Amidst the new arrival of fear and chaos, Mark quietly smiled and said, “hold on…” looking out at the two hooded figures comfortably and calmly.

Drew twitched his head from Mark to the men outside, more confused than ever. “What??”

The two attackers slowly backed away from the car, putting their hands at their sides. You’ll never see a more confused face than Drew’s at that moment, as crinkled as a poorly packed dress shirt. The man in white pulls of his hood, and it is their friend, Adam. He’s smiling.

All of a sudden, Mark starts laughing. Drew’s jaw drops, and his confused face suddenly becomes enraged. “I’m going to kill him.”

“No man, haha, I was in on it too,” Mark confesses. Drew looks over at his friend, in no mood to laugh. “It was all a prank man. All for you. We were all in on it.”

Drew looked out at Adam. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. All this time, he was sure that this hooded figure was some sicko trying to kill him. The idea that it could be a prank never entered his mind.

“How… how did…” Drew was surprised and shocked. The emotions that ran through him at this moment were spinning on an axis in figure eights. “Let’s go inside,” Mark said, “we’ll explain everything."

The man in black was Adam’s friend, who had pulled the same prank on Adam years ago. Adam had pulled this prank on many of his friends before, and Mark just happened to receive the treatment last night. After such an exhilarating experience, Mark wanted his best friend to go through it as well. Every word was planned. Leaving the cell phones behind was planned. The secluded path down the train tracks was planned. Everything. It was an elaborate scheme, carefully executed. All for the sake of scaring Drew.

The four guys talked until the sun came up. Sitting at the dining room table in Adam’s house, they all shared stories of cemetery pranks from the past. Everybody had a slightly different experience. Some people try to fight the torch carrying weirdos, some turn around and run nowhere in particular, some cry and fall to the ground. Drew was the first person to run up to the street and try to wave down cars.

They were all laughing eventually. The night of horror had turned into fun. It was fun all along, but Drew didn’t know it until later.

Drew probably went back to that cemetery at least 10 more times. Some nights, he led friends down the tracks while he held the flashlight. Some nights, he put on a white or black robe and hid a lighter and pre-made torches in his pant leg. He scared people, and laughed with them when it was over. He still doesn't believe in ghosts, but has a newfound respect for the virtue of fear.

He’s still scared of the dark though. And sometimes when he’s hiding behind a tree in the cemetery, waiting in robes for his next victim, he looks behind his shoulder.

Because you can never know for sure if you’re really in on the joke.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Anatomy of the Haunted Cemetery


Yesterday I wrote a story about two friends in peril. This was a true story, based on something that happened to me a few years ago. I wanted to tell this story in the first place because it's such a fun story to tell. But I couldn't bring myself to include the ending (perhaps tomorrow), nor could I use my own name. I didn't want this to be a story told in first person, because I think what the story reveals is something much greater than just one of my subjective past life experiences. The story was about beliefs. It was about fear, rational thinking and strength in numbers. A story about life and death, mystery and fact. And as I destroy all of my artistic and literary integrity with this post, I think further about what it means to believe in things.

For years, I've called myself a Christian. Today, I still do. But when I say this, so much baggage comes with. To call myself a Christian means, to many, a belief in Jesus Christ as God and spiritual savior. Indeed, this is what I believe. But I believe many other things as well, things that many other Christians find blasphemous and disgusting. But a belief in one little detail offers me strength in numbers, belief in Christ gets me into the Church club.

I went to a Christian college. While there, I learned that Christians stick together, support each other. So if I wanted to talk to a school counsellor about finding a job after school, all of his contacts were Christians. Christian radio stations, Christian record labels, Christian publishing companies, and so on.

My belief in Jesus opens up the doors to all sorts of gainful "Christian" employment. Hallelujah!

But there's a problem. I don't want to be in a herd. I'm a carnivore, prowling solitary. I kill by myself, eat by myself, live by myself. So if I ever find myself caught in a job in which the "Christian" standard is upheld around the workplace, all of my co-workers are afraid of me. They see me as a threat, a lone artist with aspirations outside of orthodoxy. Granted, their herd IS safe, and I could also be safe if I humbly convert over to their omnivorous lifestyle, but my nature tells me to kill them. Maybe not all of them, but at least scatter their herd about. Startle up some chaos, ask questions that will get them thinking about new ideas for the first time in their lives.

In the story yesterday, there is little character development, but we can clearly tell that Drew is confident in his beliefs while Mark is unsure. Drew HAS beliefs, and he will act according to them. Since Mark's beliefs are not so concrete, he is cautious. But by the end, we see that the greater virtue was not found in confidence and unwavering belief, but rather fear.

Throughout the entire story, Drew is trying to cover up his fear. Even though his fear is real, he masks it with conversation and reasonable thinking. He refuses fear, even though there's good reason for its existence.

How often do our beliefs blind us to what is true? When we ascribe to a dogma, what do we give up?

Sometimes, being unsure of oneself is wise. It's not always "right" to be right...

The other thing Drew does in the story is that he convinces Mark to take him back into the dangerous place. Mark is not in a state of certainty, even though he was the one who went through the horrifying experience. Mark is weak, and Drew carries him back into danger with his bullheaded (and rational) beliefs.

We've all known religious people who do not harbor strong critical thinking skills. They believe in faith-healing and the prosperity gospel. I will not bash now, but I must say that these folks' will power is pathetic. They need a herd more than anyone. Since they are weak individually and existentially, they have to find strength in numbers.

Drew and Mark had to stay together to survive. When Mark tried to throw Drew the keys, he was basically committing suicide. But Drew didn't want to die. HE was the one who made Mark continue. In his desperation, nothing seemed more comforting than a herd.

But this story wasn't about the "right" belief. Drew believed something, Mark didn't know what he believed, but both of them had to run for their lives. There comes a point when our beliefs do very little for our survival. We like to think that we might make up for things in the next life, but really, who can be sure?

Sometimes it doesn't matter what we believe. Sometimes it's a mystery, sometimes it's easily understandable, but our pursuer is no respecter of beliefs. Believe what you want, but when it's time to run, run hard and keep up with the herd.

Because I'm the carnivore, suckas.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Haunted Cemetery

Drew always wondered what it would feel like to run for his life. What if he got a cramp? Would he be fast enough? How far would he go? All of these questions were being answered tonight, but he wasn't listening now. The only thing that mattered was survival. There weren't any questions at this point, only reactions. There was no time to think, only act.

But what was he doing here in below freezing temperatures, running frantically through rural Illinois? Why was he running? What brought him to his point of desperation? Why was this happening?

He remembered just a few hours earlier:

"I went to that cemetery last night," Mark, his best friend quietly told him as they drove away from the video store. "Oh yeah? How was it? Did you see anything?"

Mark was driving now, but he had been quiet all night until this remark. After a pause, Drew spoke up again, "Well, did anything happen?"

Mark was still quiet. It seemed as if he couldn't really find words to explain what he wanted to say. He looked straight ahead as he drove, remembering the night he walked along the train tracks.

Mark had been told by another friend who went before him that this small, secluded cemetery was haunted. Mark didn't believe in ghosts, but Adam told him that he saw something weird when he went there last year. Adam even said after that night, he never wanted to go back. He told Mark that he saw a black figure moving in and out from behind the trees and gravestones. It was the shape of a person, but never really looked complete. And before Adam left the cemetery, he saw a candle flame flicker in the distance.

When Adam told Mark about this experience, Mark just had to see it for himself. He couldn't believe anything without seeing it with his own eyes. So he asked Adam to take him.

"Adam didn't want to at first, but he eventually gave in." As Mark started to tell the story to Drew, snow started to fall.

"We had to park by these train tracks. I don't know, I guess there's no way to get to this cemetery by car anymore. It's that old. But it's about a half hour walk down these tracks, and then another fifteen minutes down this little old trail through the woods. We went when it was late, and even the walk was scary. But once we got to the cemetery we saw a huge, rusty gate. There's wasn't any sort of lock on it or anything, so we were able to walk right in. Adam had the flashlight, and was showing me how old the gravestones were. They were barely legible, but we could tell that a few of them were from the 1800s. It was actually a really cool cemetery, really old and tons of huge, straggly trees."

Drew wasn't sure where this story would go, but he could tell that Mark was serious. His tone was deadpan.

"I... I can't believe it still... but dude... I saw something."

"What do you mean?" Drew responded quickly.

After a sigh, Mark went on, "I saw... a figure."

"...Like...  a person?"

"I don't know!" Mark yelled. "I've been thinking about it all day and I don't know what to do about it!"

Drew could tell that his friend was distressed, "Well... did Adam see it too?"

It looked like Mark was trying his best to make sense of things in his head, "Yeah. He did."

"Well, then... you guys saw something. ...What was it? The black figure thing?"

"No. The opposite. It was white."

Drew pulled his head back, faking confusion. "White? What, like a bed sheet?"

"I don't know man. It was kinda blurry. but yeah, it seemed like a person. I don't know what to do about it. As soon as we saw it, we both ran. We ran back to the train tracks and then all the way back to the car. Then we drove to Adam's house and caught our breath. I couldn't sleep all night. I even stayed at his place."

Drew was suddenly intrigued. "Wait a minute. If you guys both saw something, then you really saw something. It's not like one of you imagined a ghost, you actually saw something that was actually there."

Mark subtly shook his head, "Man, I don't know what we saw."

Drew couldn't let it end like this. "Mark. Show me. Take me there."

Mark looked over at Drew for the first time. "Dude. I don't know if I want to do that."

"Come on, it's either a person pulling a prank or some weirdo. I don't know, but it's not a ghost. Maybe we can go mess with this person."

Drew was full of rational confidence, he still didn't believe in ghosts.

"Come on Mark, you've got a flashlight, right? How far is it from here?"

"Man, it was crazy. I don't think you want to experience it. Adam has sworn to never go there again."

"Come on, just show me. We can watch the movie tomorrow. Don't worry, we're two big guys, if anything happens we'll fight it out!"

Drew was half-joking, but Mark still seemed nervous. "Alright Drew. We'll go. But I'm telling you right now, I don't feel very good about it. It didn't... it just didn't feel right, being there."

Drew half-shrugged and smirked, "I just have to see this stuff for myself man. I need to understand this."



After a quiet drive into the country, they arrived at the tracks. They parked, and stepped out in the the starless winter night. It was already past midnight. "It is unbelievably cold. Mark, we are not doing any running tonight. I'm not in the mood for hypothermia."

Mark turned on the flashlight and looked over at him, "Okay." They made sure that their doors were locked, and slammed them shut.

They started on the tracks. It was dark, but it looked like these rails hadn't been used in decades. They were rusty and crooked. To the sides of the tracks, vast openness. It could have been fields of soybeans, or just prairie grass, but it was so cold and dark that it didn't matter. They were moving forward, bundled up in scarves and hoods, set on their final destination.

After about fifteen minutes, they saw a bridge. Not a bridge that they were supposed to cross, but a bridge that went above them, perpendicular to the train tracks. It was a road. They even saw a car drive over it. What a car was doing out after midnight on a night like this was unfathomable, but then again, so was walking down abandoned train tracks towards a haunted cemetery in zero degree weather.

Mark wasn't talking much, but Drew was excited. He kept throwing out ideas as to what the explanations for Mark and Adam's experiences could be. Mark never really responded, his scarf covering everything but his eyes, which were locked as far ahead as the flashlight allowed his vision.

"Wait! This is it!" Mark halted.

They had almost missed the trail, but there it was to their left. It was small, but gravelly and wide enough for a car (Though it really didn't look like a car had been on this path in years). It was lightly travelled, and probably for good reason. The air seemed to get tighter and colder the further they walked. Both of them were now completely covered by their scarves, their heavy breath visibly steaming through.

Drew tried to keep talking. It was a way to keep himself from becoming scared. Breaking the silence kept a human gloss over the dire walk. But Mark wasn't saying much. He knew it was close.

Drew eventually noticed a glimmer in the distance. It had to be about ten feet high. "Whoa. Is that it?"

Mark shined the light a bit higher, and they saw the gate entrance. It was foreboding. A passageway not meant to be entered, but only to be viewed symbolically as a metaphor for the door we pass through upon death. But Drew was thinking like a rationalist. He saw that the gate was made of metal, rusty and brittle. He walked right in, trying his best to keep any fear at bay.

"Wow. This is a really cool cemetery Mark." Drew couldn't believe how old the gravestones looked. Not one of them could be read clearly due to decades of open exposure to the elements. Dead leaves were crunching underneath the snow. Drew wondered why they weren't soggy.

"Man. Even if we don't see anything weird, this place is worth the trip. I think it's the creepiest place I've ever seen." It was creepy. There were trees all around them, but in the distance they could just make out a pond, and if they turned around it was nothing but cornfields.

"What's that!"

A sudden rustle of leaves in one of the far corners. Mark's flashlight sporadic. Drew saw that Mark was scared, so he tried to make sense of the sound, "It's probably an animal. A deer or something. Should we look closer?"

Mark didn't want to move. "No man, no. We should leave. We should go back. Let's get out of here."

Drew moved closer to his friend, "Hey man, it's alright. We're here together. If anything happens anyway, we can help each other."

Mark's eyes turned towards Drew's. Silence overcame them. But this time, Drew didn't break it. Mark whispered, "do you have your cell phone?"

Drew's head jolted back softly. He hadn't even thought about it. "Well, no, I guess I left it in the car. Don't you have yours?"

Mark shook his head, "No."

Another rustle.

Mark and Drew looked back, startled. Mark was searching with the flashlight. Briefly, a glimmer. Drew grabbed Mark's wrist and whispered, "wait... what was that..."

The rustling started to build. They slowly looked for the source with the flashlight, and about 20 feet in front of them from behind a gravestone came a figure. It was white, walking, moving towards them slowly.

Drew's face became distorted at the ghastly sight, and he quickly backed up two steps. Whatever Mark saw last night, Drew was now seeing for himself. After staring for what seemed like half a minute, Drew realized that it actually was a bed sheet. It was a person, wearing a bed sheet in the middle of a cemetery in zero degree weather. Drew barely uttered out some words, "What do you want. What are you doing here." Half of his voice had been taken away, he was scared.

Mark and Drew were not moving, they were frozen where they stood. Too stunned to run, caught between confused fear and logical reality, they stared at the person.

From the other side, another rustle of leaves. The flashlight swung, and caught a figure in black, walking towards them. They remembered Adam's story, of the black figure. They were seeing it for themselves now. This, too, a person.

"Who are you." Drew said.

But this figure in black moved more aggressively. It was suddenly too clear that if Drew and Mark didn't turn around and run, that these cloaks would be upon them.

Almost simultaneously, they turned around and ran out of the cemetery. Mark yelling, "Come on!" as Drew ran backwards, eyes fixed on the mysterious figures. "Come on Drew! Hurry up!" They weren't being chased, but they couldn't help but run. 

They ran to the tracks. Once there, they slowed down to catch their breath, but didn't stop moving.

"Those, (pant, pant) were people!" Drew said.

Mark wasn't talking, but Drew went on, "Those were weirdos! (pant, pant) What were they doing there! (pant) We have to come back with more people and unmask them! (pant) Why are they out here?" Drew started to feel exhilarated.

"Mark, those are some jerk kids or something. They must have seen our flashlight coming from a distance, and then waited there for us to scare us. They're sickos! They just like to mess with people!"

"I don't know man," Mark replied, "I don't know. That was messed up. I'm scared dude. I didn't like that."

"Yeah, but," Drew kept trying to ease Mark's fears, "it's not ghosts. It's stupid kids or something."

Drew started laughing. "Oh my goodness... that was crazy! I can't wait to tell Adam about this, we have to bring him back! We could bring weapons next time to make sure they don't do anything, and we'll find out who they are."

They were coming up to the bridge ahead, still at a quick pace. Mark looked over at Drew, "Dude, we don't know who they are. They could be in some weird cult or something. Maybe they even have knives. Maybe they sacrifice living things in that cemetery. Who knows!"

Drew was still smiling. He shook his head, without a fear in mind. There was no such thing as ghosts, and there was nothing to be afraid of. He looked up ahead as a car drove over them again. He was thinking about who he would tell first, when a flame emerged from behind the bridge.

Drew stopped walking. Frozen again, he saw another hooded figure. The flame was a torch, lighting up the hood of the horrible figure in front of them. It was moving towards them. Mark was frozen too, and didn't have any idea what to do. Turn back? Back towards the cemetery? Off to the side? Into the field without direction?

Drew turned around and looked back, another flame there. Drew's face contorted and he almost puked. They were being surrounded on the train tracks by hooded figures with torches, both about 20 feet away. "Leave us alone!" Drew shouted. They were still immobile as the flames grew nearer. The hooded figures said nothing, but walked steadily closer, now 15 feet away. All of a sudden, Drew feared for his life. He didn't know what these people were capable of. So he started to run. "Come on Mark!"

Off to the side they dashed. Mark yelling to Drew in front of him, "Where are you going?! What do we do?!"

Drew was heading towards the top of the bridge. He had seen a car before, and hoped to God that they might see one more. "Help! We need help!" Drew shouted as they scraped onto the road of the bridge. They saw headlights coming, and Drew stood directly in front of them with his arms waving. What a relief, someone was stopping to help. But they only slowed down, they didn't roll down their window, and they didn't listen to Drew's ravings. They were scared of him. They thought Drew was crazy, maybe even dangerous. What was this guy doing on a highway in the middle of the night? Drew screamed and swore at them as they drove away.

Drew looked over the bridge and saw the torches climbing up the hill towards them. "God!" Drew yelled, "What is this!"

Drew punched the air and started running. "Drew!" Mark chased after him, "Where are we going!" Drew didn't know, "Just run man! We gotta just run! Come on!"

Drew ran. He didn't know how fast he was going, but he had more than enough adrenaline to keep going for the rest of the night. Mark was always a few paces behind him. After a while, they didn't see the torches. Maybe they had outrun their pursuers. They decided to run back towards the train tracks. They left the road, and tried to find their way, all the while still running.

In the distance, Drew saw the profiles of houses. "We have to knock on one of those doors! They can call the police!" They started running towards the neighborhood, through a thin forest of trees, when a torch once again emerged from the side. It was chasing them away from the houses. Drew yelled and swore again, "Come on Mark!"

They had to run away from the houses now, but they wouldn't stop running. If they had cramps, they didn't know it. They pushed themselves, not knowing exactly when and if they would run back into the train tracks. They looked back and the torches were gone, but the hooded figures remained. The creeps were now running at full speed, and they didn't look tired either. Somehow, it was more terrifying than ever.

Now Drew was determined to just get back to the car. Mark, still paces behind, was slowing. "Here Drew!" he was fumbling around in his coat pockets as they ran through the trees, "I'm gonna throw the keys to you! You run ahead of me and get the car!"

"No!" Drew started to slow his run, "We have to stay together! You have to keep running! We cannot split up! Come on man! We can make it!"

Drew looked back and saw their chaser. Drew wanted to kill him now. This weirdo was terrifying them, and for no good reason. There was no reason for this. 

Suddenly they were out of the forest and running on a paved street. They didn't know what they had run through, but they knew that they were now on the street where they originally parked their car. They were almost there.

With Mark by his side Drew looked back, and couldn't see anything. They were barely jogging now, unsure of how long they were running. It was just as cold as ever, but they were a mess of sweat.

The flashlight still on, Mark pointed ahead and yelled, "the car!" Now was the final push, and Drew ran as hard as he could to make sure to just get into that car. They slammed their bodies into it, and Mark started fumbling around in his pockets. Just then, Drew saw the figure in white again. He leapt from behind a bush and was running towards Mark. "Come on!!!" Drew yelled, hands banging against the roof of the car. "Open the door!!! Mark!!!!"

Mark kept fumbling for his keys, and the figure charged closer. In this last visual memory, Drew started to wonder. What was he doing here in below freezing temperatures, running frantically through rural Illinois? Why was he running? What brought him to his point of desperation? 

And, why was this happening?

What was the reason?