Hoping the results aren’t The World’s End.
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
— Langston Hughes
“Let America Be America Again”
From time to time, to relieve the anxiety of days and nights, I like to draw things on paper. If I’m feeling like it could use some extra oomph, I’ll sometimes scan it into my computer and add a bit of Photoshop fun. So it is with that prattling little preamble that I am starting a new feature of items from my sketchbooks called Art Monday.
By no means do I consider myself an artist, except in the Art Brut or Outsider Art sense, I merely draw to entertain myself. My artist inspirations/aspirations are Gary Larson humor mixed with the macabre sensibilities of Charles Addams laced with the ennui of Edward Gorey and sprinkled with the decadently deranged Gahan Wilson.
When I drew this last night, I was in a dreadful horror mood and did up a quick little sketch up of a poor man of the cloth. From there, I imported it into my computer and began playing around, erasing old pen marks, dust from the paper, and adding elements to the picture. Because I thought this would make a lovely portrait, I gave it a frame and a gloomy background to produce a piece that I like to call Reverend Frost (Infected).
I’ll leave it to you to create your own little story of what arcane and forbidden evils were visited upon our poor vicar.
What makes a dream? Is it a message from the other planes of existence? Are they alternate realities? Are they just our subconscious flipping through the photo albums of our brains?
I woke up this morning from my trip to Sandman City with fun souvenirs. A lot of it dealt with money, large wads of cash. This isn’t too unusual as I work in a convenience store that does money orders so I tend to handle large stacks of bills and these last two days, I held quite a few Benjamins and Ulysseseseseseseses… (help! help! I can’t stop!) in my meaty paws. These and all bills above the $20 denomination immediately get dropped into a safe for security.
In this dream, I was attempting to count stacks of dollars, but these bills were of a different class: smart money. By that, I mean legal tender with smart technology built in. However, these bills suffered from lax security that made them susceptible to malware, which meant that as I was counting them, ads for porn sites, time shares, and all manner of spammy solicitations popped up over the images of our moneyed dead white men. Did I mention that I lived in a micro-efficiency apartment as well?
One room to bide them all, and in the darkness shrined them.
It was that kind of snooze.
Last month was my birthday. I hit the big ol’ 47. That makes me three years away from 50, which is rather daunting. It means that I’m firmly implanted within middle age and assuming I live as long as my parents did (both made it to 80), my life is more than half over. Maybe it isn’t.
Anyway, I was gifted a $50 Amazon card by a very, very, exceedingly very generous friend and I used it to help purchase my first ever pair of Dr. Marten’s: Bonny Nylon Chukka boots, en noir. I’m still breaking them in and there’s no better place to do that than at work with an eight-hour shift spent entirely on my feet. It’s taking some getting used to but as far as a good pair of hiking boots, I dig them.
After work last night, I trudged the mile or so to the nearest Kroger. My cabinet’s been as bare as Old Mother Hubbard so a major purchase was required. Mostly this is vegetables, fruits, spaghetti, sauce, cheese, and hot sauce (because what’s life without endorphin rushes, right?). Having some money left over, I opted for a case of beer because I do like drinking them and I found a sampler for a reasonable. Having thoroughly depleted my bank account and loaded down with several heavy bags and said case, I trudged off into the night to catch my bus about a quarter of a mile from the shop.
Because I’m of stubborn West Side Cincinnati make, I always soldier one with my groceries by hand and foot. Although it is often tempting, I never sneak a grocery cart from the premises because 1) that’s stealing and 2) I’m a firm believer in karma, that what you put into the world gets reflected onto you.
Across from this particular Kroger is a mega church, known as Crossroads, with a Saturday evening service that was letting out as I made my way through their parking lot — because short cuts are king.
Stubborn, but not intuitive. I say this because I had to stop several times to rest my hands. And because plastic shopping bags aren’t known for their durability, I started to experience rips and tears not even halfway to my destination. The boxes of spaghetti were peaking through the double layers and the large squash I purchased was bearing down on the bottles of hot sauce and by the time I was maybe 50 yards from my bus stop, chaos ensued and a couple bags gave up the ghost.
As I tried to recoup my groceries, and dignity, let’s be honest, I hear someone call from their large white pickup: “Hey, bud. Do you need a ride?”
And that’s how I met Kevin, a worshipper from the said megachurch. Displaying great kindness, he pulled over and offered me a ride back home, to which I gratefully accepted.
My relationship with religion is troubled, at best. I tend to see it as a man-made construction and one that blocks an individual’s path to God (however they determine God to be). It’s also a reaction from a couple of my very Christian siblings who always tell me to give Jesus another chance. And while I appreciate that they are concerned about my eternal soul, I’ve not felt fulfilled by Judeo-Christian constructs. I’ve been reading Buddhism and Taoism for the last few years and I feel more aligned with these Eastern beliefs, even though they clash harshly with this crazy Western world.
As we rode the five or so minute trip to my house, we chit chatted. I told him I was a writer who used to work in local TV and he told me what he did. When religion did come up, I decided to let go of the usual armor I put up with family and just talk freely. He mentioned that it was probably obvious what he believed, to which I joked that he could’ve just been there the free coffee and Wi-Fi, while I spake on my studies into Buddhism, Taoism, and Existentialism. He mentioned reading some Hinduism and how he found the notion of so many gods overwhelming and that the work you needed to do to please them or find whatever salvation was too much for him. It was an incredibly friendly conversation and, though normally guarded against proselytizing and being saved (thanks to one of my sisters), I did not really feel a need to put up any walls.
He talked honestly as did I.
When we got home, he helped me get groceries on the porch and, as we said goodbyes, he asked if he could say a prayer for me. I accepted, not because he got me out of a tight spot or for selfish, but for appreciation and respect for him. As he asked God to give me the courage and confidence to continue my growth as a writer, I prayed along with him and thanked him very voraciously afterwards.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in the things that divide us. I do it quite often, myself. We are shown paths that may not be what we’re interested in, are afraid of, or otherwise bristles against what makes us comfortable. This isn’t to say that all paths are equal, but that shunning them without consideration is foolish. Certainly, there are the obviously dangerous ones and there are the easy cake ones with no reward. It’s the difficult ones, the ones that do require hard work, determination, skill, compassion, empathy, perseverance, are often the most rewarding.
In the words of Terrence McKenna:
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”
Nothing is a memory jogger like Worcestershire sauce on a hard-boiled egg and, oh, what a whiff it was: remembrances of childhood and Easter Sundays and the time I farted while gagging after I’d shoved too many eggs into my mouth. Farting, in my family, meant that your moment of flatulence would become a family artifact.
Years later, they would tell about how I once farted wearing my Halloween clown mask and costume and, hence, was dubbed Stinky the Clown, The Clown Who Burned a Hole In His Clownsuit.
Or the tales of being teased because the pants I wore as a five year old had the Disney-owned Winnie-the-Pooh printed on inside waist meant that I had “Pooh in your pants.” Memory swings to memory like a monkey swinging through the trees, as my brothers would chase me around the house singing “Pooh in your pants! Pooh in your pants!”
It’s probably why I don’t like scatalogical humor.
Or fart jokes.