I donĎt know what I am on most days. Simply put, Iím a mish-mash of oft-conflicting influences neatly packaged as a pile of excrement covered in pale skin. And Iím good with that. In fact, the skin fits me quite nicely.
Last night my sister came to what she thought was my surprise birthday party only to find that the assembled masses were here to surprise her. And surprised she was. Oh boy, was she.
My gift to her was a 15 minute-plus slideshow of our entire lives together. And when you consider that each picture, document and whatnot appeared onscreen for a very brief five seconds, itís painfully obvious that I put a lot of work into this bugger. And thatís why I have not been blogging much of late. Thanks for the e-mails, but Iím still here. No, the former mayor did not have me killed or some such intriguing thing. You can dream, though.
Funny, while we were spying the video presentation, somebody made a remark about it being no wonder that Iím such an oddball. I like to think of myself as being unique, but thatís my take. Jerk, moron, asshole and a few other descriptive words have been bandied about many times over. But most of those derogatory terms were sent along direct from residents of the Heights. You know, the firehouse crazies.
But it got me to wondering and all. Yes, early on, there were plenty of earth-shattering things that went on when I was a kid. But at the time, I had nothing else to compare those trials and tribulations to, so I never gave Ďem much thought so long as I wasnĎt being punched about. Some soul-searching came about later on when my cognitive abilities improved somewhat. But, when I was a kid, kidnappings, premature death, the father-of-the-month club, the physical and mental abuse was what it was: our life.
How do events such as those shape a person? You got me, but sometimes I think I probably should have developed into a prolific serial killer or something equally deranged. All I do know is, if it donít kill you it only makes you stronger. Oh, and it makes you real happy itís behind you. Anyways, why am I the way I am?
Technically speaking, I am the direct byproduct of three broken homes, one loving mom, one overbearingly controlling grandmother, the woefully inept public education system with a sprinkling of community college thrown in and just for the recordÖnot a single male of the species. Yup, not a single adult male played any part in helping to misshape what I would ultimately become, so I figure I canít blame my mostly misspent life on any of them. Must have been the chicks. Must have been.
Well, there was that ten year stint I did with the step-dad, the peremptory nature of his parenting style and all of the frequent beatings it provided me. But looking back on my oft-confusing youth, I reckon the only thing he taught me was how not to lose your family. I never once did to my kids what he had done to me. And if I had, Iím thinking the associated guilt would have gotten me to leaping from the top of the Pomeroyís building right quick. I never once thought of being flogged while standing stark naked as an education of sorts, but his ďlessonsĒ sure did leave a lasting impression. As teachers go, his lessons were ingrained in me both figuratively and literally. And now that heís old and frail, I canít even muster up enough phlegm to hate him. Well, not anymore.
And as far as the aforementioned oft-conflicting influences are concerned, determining why I am the way I am is also well beyond my limited capabilities on most days. Grandma hounded us with the Bible and the Catholic Church. And so did those nuns armed with the oversized rulers she had deputized at St. Johnís school. We received a steady diet of religion. We attended mass, confession, a catholic school, CCD classes, and even got the reverent bit when we donned our Boy Scouts uniforms. And yet, just as soon as I had grown beyond the control of both of my competing moms, I sued organized religion for a divorce. I mean, they didnĎt fail for lack of effort, but Iím a heathen through-and-through. May somebody or other have mercy on myÖum, soul.
Neither my ma, my grandma or my grandfather drank much to speak of. And Iíve taken to drinking like most human folk have taken to breathing. I donít think of myself as one of them unhinged conspiracy theorists, except to say that until that centralized babysitter of a government of ours adds fermented weeds and suchlike to those all-important major food groups of theirs, they are all lying to us. And unless the wind is blowing just so freakishly right, Uncle Jiggy ainít never gonna down one of them black-ops government helicopters with no darned buckshot. I reckon if weíd concentrate more on guzzling brewed agricultural amusement aides, the secretive shock troops from the beltway wouldnít bug us so much anyways. I reckon.
My grandparents were peaceful, kindly folk. But when within earshot of vulgar language, they could get to flogging people with the very best of the physically abusive step-dads. My mom very rarely uttered a curse word, excepting, of course, for when she was trying but failing to reign me in. And being that I toss profanities around at a rate previously unrecorded in these here parts, I like to think I brought out the best in her. She loved crooners, do-wop and Patsy Cline. She absolutely abhorred electric guitars plugged into distortion pedals. Musically speaking, her likes became my biggest dislikes, and vice versa. Sheís been gone for eighteen long years now, but I still smile affectionately when I hear the now ancient audiotape I have of her trying to scream over the Alice Cooper I was blaring in my room. She hated it with all of her being. And I could not get enough of it unless it was played even louder. So much for her influence, ainít it?
I think what I got from those entrusted with my arrested development was that no matter what I endeavored to do with my meaningless life, I should refrain from lying, stealing, murdering or coveting the neighborís wife. Somehow they got those ten commandments into my demented head and the way I figure it, iffiní we all adhered to those rules, nobody would be hankering to behead anyone. The commandment list works practically every time itĎs tried. The much-ballyhooed ďGolden RuleĒ works quite nicely on most days. ďDonít touch my stuff and Iíll lay off yoursĒ is my less than reverent interpretation of those stone tablets and suchlike.
Someone once asked me how a Zappa freak such as myself could like a guy like Ronald Reagan, who was one of Zappaís favorite targets for acerbic social commentary that could ultimately get a person sued. My reply? You got me. I appreciated Zappaís liberal take on all things America. And conversely, I found Reaganís rapid-fire wit, boundless optimism, impassioned speeches and love of country to be politically invigorating.
In todayís poisoned political climate, Iím supposed to hate the likes of Frank Zappa but I cannot. The guy used humor and absurdities to attack those who he disagreed with, he did it in the most creative ways and his music was impeccably designed. What this suggests is that while we may reject what the other side has to say, if they say it in a way that isnít mean-spirited, maybe they wonít get under our skin quite so much. I dunno.
Why am I the way I am? I think I just said it as succinctly as I can say it: I dunno.
When it comes right down to it, weíre all screwballs to some degree. The problem is, too many of us are hesitant to admit it.
Happy birthday, Suzie.
IĎve been asked by quite a few people what I think of the proposed 9/11 memorial in Kirby Park.
Sure, itís been roundly criticized and, or questioned by residents, editorialists and writers alike. Yes, itís probably not near the top of list as far as what this city needs is concerned. Personally, Iím kind of nonplussed by the mere mention of memorials, so Iím probably not the right person to ask about all of this. I support my mayor, but lasting memorials is just not my particular cup of fermented weeds.
But one thing occurred to me while reading what everybody else had to say about this proposed memorial. The biggest complaint against it seems to be that the attacks of 9/11 did not happen here, they happened in New York City, Washington D.C. and a field in western Pennsylvania. And while thatís true, then why do we have local memorials to damn near every conflict weíve ever been drawn into? Weíve got memorials to those who paid the ultimate price all over the local landscape. Name me a conflict and Iíll point you in the right direction.
Where my distinction lies is that while we may not have personally become embroiled in any of those painful conflicts, those conflicts directly affected every one of us in one way or another. As a little girl, my own mom was traumatized by the air raid drills that were conducted right here in Wilkes-Barre during the height of WWII. She fully expected to be rained down upon by German bombers when she was but a sprat of five. And many years later while living in Connecticut, I fully expected the Soviets to one day vaporize that states numerous important defense contractors, as well as the worldís largest nuclear submarine base. Conflicts, armed and otherwise, affect all of us in some manner.
And as far as Iím concerned, while the attacks of 9/11 brought death and destruction to locales other than Wilkes-Barre, they wreaked their demented form of havoc upon all Americans. The attacks of that fateful day were an attack on all of us and our zip codes should matter not whereas the location of lasting memorials is concerned.
New York was not attacked on that sunny morning. America was attacked. We were attacked. And it is for that reason alone that I do not understand, nor join in the negative reaction to such a memorial being added to the local landscape.
Do we need it? Not at all.
Should we build it? I really donít see why not so long as the funding does not come out of the cityís general fund.
Look at it this way. If we build it, the graffiti slackers will surely come. And with a bit of steadfast surveillance, we could very easily find ourselves kicking the last snot out of the slackers in the middle of the night.
Mull it over.
The Times Leader published some more of my depraved madness today.
I was once told by an employee at that outfit that the reason they very rarely published anything scribbled by myself was because I was too long-winded and too acerbic. And that long ago conversation led me to the internet as a means to a mostly worthless end.
The question I have is, being that theyíve taken to publishing my forays into the depths of utter depravity and such, whatís changed? Iím still way too long-winded. And Iím still too acerbic. I guess the Times Leader has significantly lowered itís standards if a rudderless goofball such as myself can go and get himself published.
Frightening, isnít it?