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  • The Vale of Cashmere

  • by Sean Elder

    green forest

    This story first appeared in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others.

     

    Truth was, she used to be able to organize her thoughts, until Floyd retired. Now he was always hanging around talking to her, asking what she was doing. Every time he went out, which wasn’t often enough for her taste, he would ask her if she needed anything and then look angry if she did. Sometimes he’d look angry if she didn’t. Now she looked for errands for him, just to get a moment’s peace. When she sent him off for milk this morning she could have lived without it. But she couldn’t have stood listening to him complain about the bus ride to Atlantic City before it happened, not non-stop for the next two hours.

    “You’re creating your future,” she told him. “Whatever you’re thinking and feeling, that becomes your reality.”

    “Don’t give me that shit,” he’d said, putting on his coat and hat. He had been wearing that same damned hat with the stingy brim so long it had come back in style.

    “It’s the law of attraction,” she’d continued. “You can deny it all you want but that don’t mean it’s not true. “Everything coming into your life you are attracting into your life. You’re like a magnet.”

    “Well, this magnet’s going to attract some milk,” he’d said before going out the door.

    He had made fun of her ever since she first heard Oprah talking about The Secret but deep down she thought that maybe he believed her. Or would, if he would just give it a try. He would come home so angry about something that happened out there – the security guy asleep in the chair, or someone who wouldn’t give his seat up on the subway – and she would tell him, “Every bad thing that comes into your life, you make happen.”

    Sometimes that really made Floyd angry. “Is that right? Every bad thing? I made happen every bad thing that came into my life, Marcy?” He would tower over her, breathing heavily, staring at the top of her lacquered hair until she was silent.

    She looked closely at the big digits on the clock by the bed. It was almost 8:30 and she still had not done her makeup. From the drawer in the nightstand on her side of the bed she looked for her own pill organizer and then realized she had already taken it out. She put it under the light, right beside that picture of her two boys, smiling in the lap of a black Santa, and looked at Wednesday. There were still pills in the morning box but the evening box was empty. Maybe she took the evening pills by mistake. Not that it mattered ‘cause they were basically the same. Or maybe she hadn’t filled the PM part.

    Looking at the rainbow colored compartments (Wednesday was green, Thursday red) she thought of Wilson, who had the hardest time with his R’s when he was little – “Weeding Wainbow,” he would say about his favorite show, and his brother would laugh at him. She felt overcome for a moment and then heard her husband’s keys in the door.

    She took the morning pills, four altogether, as Floyd shouted at her from the kitchen.

    “Do you know how much they wanted for a half-gallon of milk?” She imagined his face as he said the price and the way he would look at her afterwards. He might be looking that way right now, even though she wasn’t there.

    “Cost of everything is going up,” she yelled back. Then she stood and headed for the bathroom. “I got to get a move on.”

    “Ain’t you even going to drink your milk?” She heard him swear as she closed the bathroom door.

    The bus driver turned out to be some white guy who’d been sleeping in the back while people waited outside. The whole bus was talking about it, even after they got out of the Holland Tunnel and were getting on the turnpike, people tisking and hmm-hmming until Floyd wanted to yell, “Who told you to stand out there in the first place? It’s not even cold.” But he kept quiet and sat by a window, alone thank you very much, though Tommy insisted on sitting right in front of him, while Marcy huddled on the other side with a bunch of ladies. They outnumbered the men five to one anyway; he let Tommy represent, going back and forth across the aisle like some congressman making a deal. Each time he went over to the ladies he would say something so low that Floyd couldn’t hear and they would all laugh and holler.

    “I think it’s about time for some music,” Tommy said after one of his sorties. He had a gym bag with him that also said Mets on it, and from it he pulled a boom box that he tried to balance on the seatback in front of him. He pushed play and Johnnie Taylor started in on “Who’s Making Love” and the ladies all laughed, even though the sound was kind of wobbly. From the front of the bus the driver said something, they could see him looking at them in the rear view mirror, but no one tried to hear him. In fact Tommy stood up, with the boom box on his shoulder, and started to shake it in the aisle, which made the driver get on the mike.

    “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to sit down.” He had some kind of accent, Russian or something, but no one really paid him any mind.

    The hits kept coming; it must have been some kind of collection since Floyd never heard a deejay. Tommy jammed the boom box between the headrest and the window so it wouldn’t fall down and turned around to look at Floyd, but not before looking at the driver, who had his eyes on the road again.

    “How ‘bout a little taste?” Tommy said, taking a half-pint in a brown bag from the pocket of his jacket.

    “Too early for me,” Floyd said, looking out the window. To him it always looked like New Jersey was halfway through being torn down.

    Across the aisle Marcy was in the middle of a conversation with the other ladies but she didn’t feel quite right. It started as soon as she left the building; she had picked out a brooch to go with her blue blouse, a little gold tree with red apples on it, but she had left it sitting in front of the mirror. Now she felt naked, all that blue stretching out below her chin like an empty ocean almost and she felt like she was being pulled back from drowning each time one of them stopped talking. That meant somebody was supposed to say something, you were supposed to jump in like it was a game of double-Dutch.

    “What I value most is the privacy,” Marcy said, but no one answered. She had a feeling she had said that before. The topic was assisted living and how to know when you needed it.

    “Until you wake up privately dead,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. Marcy didn’t remember meeting her before, a friend of Helen’s was how she was introduced, but she didn’t like her now. She had these gray and white streaks in her hair, extensions by the look of it, but it reminded Marcy of mud. Besides she was probably the youngest woman of the bunch, what was she talking about dying for?

    “My boy checks in on us every night,” said Marcy and immediately wondered why she had. It wasn’t true. Most times she had to call Eric and he never sounded too happy to hear from her. He did come to visit though, once a month at least. They saw less of him after his divorce, though you’d think it would be the other way around.

    “Where are we?” she said suddenly, looking out the window. Everything looked the same.

    “You keep asking that,” the lady in the Kente cloth said, or maybe she said. Marcy wasn’t looking at her and the music Tommy was playing made her feel lost.

    “Sending this one out for all you ladies,” said Tommy, like he was some deejay, and they all laughed but Marcy didn’t think it was funny. It was that song about sitting on a park bench that always made her sad. “I see her face everywhere I go/on the street and even at the picture show/have you seen her?”

    There was a hospital up there high on a hill and for a second she felt that the bus was going to take off and fly straight up to its doors. She closed her eyes and felt herself rise.

    They parked in the lot of the Showboat casino. Though they could have gone anywhere they wanted, the thirty odd passengers that disembarked made for the Showboat as if summoned, shuffling and limping toward the entrance in a broken conga line.

    “No one says we got to go to this casino,” Floyd said to the crowd of ladies leading the way.

    “The Showboat has a Mardi Gras theme,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. She turned around to give Floyd the fisheye, pulling down her glasses as she did. “Besides, we got coupons for the Showboat.”

    He fell in line sullenly beside Tommy who offered him another drink. Floyd took a swallow this time without pulling down the brown paper to see what it was. It tasted like mouthwash.

    “Jesus, what the hell you drinking?”

    “Little peppermint schnapps.” Tommy tried to slap Floyd on the back but the big man danced away, handing the bottle back as he moved.

    “What she mean by a ‘Mardi Gras theme,’ anyway?” Floyd said.

    Tommy shrugged. “As long as they got free drinks and blackjack I don’t much care.”

    Seagulls screamed overhead. Floyd saw his reflection scowling in the window of a parked Humvee. He went to New Orleans during Mardi Gras when he was in the Navy, how many years ago? He got lost and someone stole his wallet. A man dressed as a woman tried to put beads around his neck, he remembered. You could have your Mardi Gras.

    Marcy was among the first of the women to enter the casino and the air conditioning hit her like a cold wave. “Good thing I remembered my shawl!” she said but no one answered. The music and the sound of the slot machines, dinging and ringing with sirens going off every five minutes as if some crime was being committed, swallowed her voice.

    Marcy had thought to bring rolls of quarters and silver dollars. While the other ladies were getting change she was already pouring her silver into a red plastic cup provided to her by a girl in the shortest skirt she had ever seen.

    “You must be freezing!” Marcy said but the girl didn’t seem to hear her. Maybe she just got tired of people trying to talk to her.

    The slots area had thousands of machines and at noon it was already half filled, mostly old timers like her and Floyd. He and Tommy had set off in the other direction like there was a sign saying ‘Men, That Way.’ The carpets were in a pattern of red and orange and gold that reminded her of a kaleidoscope and the ceiling was made up to look like stained glass, though she knew real stained glass when she saw it and this wasn’t it. She felt like if she didn’t sit down she might just fall into the colors. She sat down at a quarter machine and began feeding it. She didn’t know where the other ladies had gone and looking over her shoulder left her none the wiser.

    “Y’all gonna have to find me,” she said and as if summoned a different lady in a short skirt appeared.

    “How you doing today?” she said. She had a tray filled with drinks and a notepad tucked into her belt. “Can I get you something to drink?”

    “Well I suppose you can!” Marcy turned in her chair to show her appreciation. “My name’s Marcy by the way, I come here from Brooklyn with a bunch of folks from my church group.”

    “Now isn’t that nice? My name’s Kim Sue. What can I get you?”

    Marcy smiled and opened her mouth. But she could not think of the names of any drinks, not just the fancy ones but any drink. She felt a trickle of sweat run down her back underneath her blouse.

    “It’s funny,” she said, embarrassed. “My mind’s just a blank today.”

    “Sure, no problem!” Kim Sue smiled back at her like one of those Chinese dolls, her name right there on her badge. “We have beer and wine and soda and mixed drinks.” She kept smiling at Marcy and continued. “I could make you a nice white wine spritzer, if you like.”

    “Oh, that sounds nice,” said Marcy, and it did sound nice, like a sprinkler in the summer time, the kind the boys used to play in. Kim Sue left and Marcy returned to the machine. Cherries and plums rolled past, never stopping at the same time.

    Eric used to chase Wilson through the sprinklers in the park and sometimes when Marcy wasn’t looking he would hold his little brother down and try to pull off his shorts in front of all the other children. She would get so mad at him, always teasing like that, knowing it would make Wilson cry and come looking for her, but she had a job then, looking after a little white boy named Oskar whose parents lived in Park Slope and worked all the time. Oskar’a parents didn’t mind too much when she brought her boys with her when she took him to the park. “As long as you remember,” the father said, “that Oskar is your first priority.”

    Well of course he is, mister doctor man! Why would my own flesh and blood come before your little prince? Good gracious, the things that man would say. If the wife heard him she would weigh in and try to soften the blow. “What my husband means is that we don’t want you to get too distracted. Three children is a handful.”

    Now that was the kind of thing only a white person would say. Where she came from three children was just getting started, even if she was done after Wilson, something her own mother could never understand.

    “Oh, don’t worry, ma’am,” Marcy would say. “I won’t ever let Oskar out of my sight.”

    All these people thinking someone was going to steal their child then, like the whole country had gone crazy. Soon they’d be putting their pictures on milk cartons and billboards and on TV during the news – “Have you seen Brandon?” Usually white kids. If a black kid went missing generally people know who took him.

    “Here you go, ma’am.”

    Kim Sue was back with her drink. It was in a big plastic cup with a straw that went in curlicues, like a roller coaster, like this was for a child. She started fishing in her coin cup.

    “Drinks are complimentary, ma’am.”

    Like I didn’t know that. She pulled out a Susan B. Anthony and put it on her tray. “That’s for you,” she said.

    “Very nice of you, ma’am. And if you need anything else you just let me know.”

    She turned to leave and Marcy was afraid to see her go. “Kim Sue, it’s like your momma gave you two names.”

    “Kim is my family name. Family name comes first in Korean.”

    “Is that right?” said Marcy. “Well I think family should come first, don’t you?”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    Marcy thought that was something else she should write in her book but realized that she hadn’t brought it with her, and then forgot what she had said. “But they probably don’t spell it like that in Korea, do they? The Sue, I mean.”

    “No, ma’am, we have a different alphabet.”

    “Now isn’t that something?”

    She was balancing a tray full of drinks while she talked to Marcy so she let her go, disappearing into the big Tiffany lamp around them. A band was playing Dixieland and Marcy strained her eyes to see them. The music seemed to be coming from everywhere at once, “When the Saints Come Marching In.”

    “Let me tell you another,” she said, sipping on her drink. The lady at the machine next to her looked at Marcy and then moved away, taking her quarters with her. She watched as the drink spun up the straw when she sucked. Here we go loop de loop.

    Sometimes Eric would help her push the stroller as they went around the park, and Wilson would run so far ahead she would shout after him. “Don’t go where I can’t see you!” she’d holler, and Oskar, too big to be pushed around in a stroller, would try and stand up and yell after her. “Go where I can’t see you!”

    Wilson would hide like that at home as well; hide so good she couldn’t find him sometimes. They were living in Prospect-Lefferts, more house than they needed but you could afford those big limestone buildings then even on a Con Ed salary and Wilson would go into different rooms and be so quiet that she would get hysterical, be practically beside herself by the time her husband got home. Then they would hear him laughing. “Got you!” he would say and emerge from the cupboard or from behind the sideboard and Floyd would get so mad. That one time he came out of her closet wearing her bra and Floyd just about went crazy; took off his belt and chased him.

    She put in a coin and pulled the lever: a watermelon; a bell; the number seven in gold.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

    She turned her head but nobody was there. Who had spoken? Just turning her head made the colors around her move and when she looked at the floor she saw the pattern there was moving too. It was like a flying carpet, the Vale of Cashmere –

    The Vale of Cashmere! That was the name of that strange corner of the park where she took the boys now and then. They were getting older; other boys took the place of Oskar, and Eric got too big to want to be with them. But Wilson kept her company as she made the rounds, bought them ice cream and wiped their sticky hands. People used to call it The Swamp and there was a muddy pond okay and some hanging trees.

    “How come you don’t play with boys your own age?” one of the kids had asked him once.

    “I just like to help my momma,” he’d said.

    He was the one who found out the real name of The Swamp, checked an old book out of the library and showed her on the map. There was a poem that went with it and Wilson stood up by the pond and put one finger in the air as he read: “Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere/With its roses the brightest the earth ever gave?”

    Another babysitter saw them by the pond once and came over to warn them. “You shouldn’t be down in there,” she said, afraid to come too close with her stroller in front of her. “They say men get together down there.”

    And after that Marcy noticed them, lurking about, standing in the trees. Once when she came down with Wilson and a stroller two men ran out, going in different directions.

    She didn’t think about it again for years, until Wilson was grown and still living at home, and he came back one night that first time with his face all bloody, drunk or high on something and smiled at her, blood on his teeth.

    “Hey, Momma, I been to the Vale of Cashmere!”

    That’s when Floyd said no more.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

    She turned and the colors whooshed like a scarf being wrapped around her head. She saw her this time, a little woman, no bigger than a dragonfly like the ones the boys chased in the park, Wilson would put them in a jar with holes punched in the top, while Eric tried to cover it up with his hand so they would smother.

    “I’m looking for three sevens,” Marcy said to the dragonfly woman. “Are there some other numbers to play?”

    “That is the question, isn’t it?” said the faerie. “Are there other numbers to play?”

    And then she flew away, just like a little hummingbird, and Marcy got up to follow her, passing into the pattern of colors and leaving her cup of coins behind.

    Floyd went through all his money the first hour. Not all his money but all the money he’d meant to spend, the money he put in his shirt pocket, seemed to fly off the table. Dealer beat him every time: if Floyd had 18, the dealer had 19; if Floyd sat on a 19, the dealer hit him with two bricks.

    “I guess this lady feels like she has to show us what a blackjack looks like,” said Tommy, when the dealer drew her third in ten minutes. She apologized to them both, even though they didn’t tip her, and Tommy’s luck was better than hers: He doubled down twice and made a hundred bucks in the blink of an eye. All Floyd could do, once he had spent the money he had earmarked for this outing, was sit there and simmer in his resentment while Tommy’s chip pile grew.

    That was when Helen, the lady in the purple pantsuit, came and asked if he knew where Marcy was.

    “I thought she was with you,” said Floyd. It came out like an accusation.

    “Well, we agreed to meet for lunch at three,” she said, “but then nobody could find Marcy. We figured maybe you two went off together.”

    And that’s how well you know us, Floyd thought. “Maybe she just went off to another casino by herself,” he said. Even though he was losing, and wasn’t even playing at the time, he didn’t want to have to leave his spot and go look for his wife. “There’s no law says we got to stay here.”

    “Blackjack,” said the dealer, flipping another ace.

    But after a minute he did get up to look, as he knew he would, leaving Tommy, who still had a hot hand and no doubt wondered what all the fuss was about.

    “Did you try the ladies room?” he asked Helen.

    “That was one of the first places we looked. They have sofas in there, you know.” She paused. “Do you think we should call security?”

    The suggestion made his blood pressure rise. “No, I don’t think we should call security. Christ sake, grown woman goes off for a few minutes and you want to call the cavalry?”

    “Does she have a cell phone?”

    “Our son gave her one but she couldn’t figure out how to use it.” This was literally half true: Eric had given them each one last Christmas, and neither of them could figure out how to use it. By the time Floyd got the hang of it he realized that the only person he would call was his wife, which was kind of stupid since he saw her all the time anyway.

    They looked all the places that they had already looked and the lady in the Kente cloth joined them, acting more concerned that Floyd felt. “We need a system,” she said, as they circled the room for the second time. The place was more crowded than ever and Floyd could hardly hear what she was saying. “How about I go stake out the buffet and you stay here?” she suggested to Helen.

    “How ‘bout I go stake out the buffet?” Helen said. “I haven’t had lunch yet.”

    Floyd said they could both go feed themselves and take their time doing it; Marcy would turn up. He stood like a sentinel beneath the bells and sirens of the Mardi Gras slots, scowling most of the time. He hated slot machines; there was no sport in it, as he often told his wife. Blackjack at least you were playing the odds. Slots to him was just dumb luck, like a rabbit betting it wouldn’t get run over when it ran across the road. Twice he thought he saw his wife, and each time he took pleasure in anticipating just how much grief he was going to give her. But each time he was wrong.

    By four o’clock they were back together, Tommy too, and they began to set out in search parties. They were a small group: most of the travelers didn’t want to leave their stations, since the bus was scheduled to leave at six and this whole business had already cut into their time as it was. The lady in the Kente cloth, who finally introduced herself as Niobe, took charge. She contacted the hotel security, who seemed to have some experience with old folks wandering off, and as the witching hour neared, and the day-trippers started heading back toward the bus, she went out and argued with the bus driver, who was pretty adamant about leaving on time.

    “You can’t just go off and leave an old lady alone,” she scolded him. The engine was already running, gently shaking the bus, while the AC gusted out the door in heavy welcoming breaths.

    “I won’t be leaving her alone,” the driver said. “I will be leaving you to find her.”

    He agreed to wait as they made one last search. A handful of them fanned out, going to neighboring casinos and restaurants, off the boardwalk and into the side streets. Floyd couldn’t help but think that Marcy was messing with him the whole time, and when he saw the impatient faces of the other folks on the bus – they’d lost their money and had their fill, they just wanted to go home – he couldn’t help but side with them.

    Most of the people he saw as he wandered were wearing shorts and T-shirts. Used to be people would get dressed up to go someplace. And when did everybody get so fat? Walking down the boardwalk, bag of French fries in your hand, what did you expect? The new motto for the city was “Always Turned On,” which he found kind of creepy. There was nothing that he saw that turned him on.

    Doors were open, air conditioning blasting out, cooling nothing. Floyd took to popping into places and doing a quick look around, not even asking half the time if they’d seen anyone who looked like his wife. One, they couldn’t hear you with all that noise and two, half of them couldn’t speak English.

    “You seen an old black lady?” he shouted at one girl scooping ice cream. Her nails were so long he figured they might end up in somebody’s cone. “Blue shirt, about this high?” She stared at him like he was the one with the language problem.

    He kept walking. Going in and out of the summer sun was making him dizzy, to say nothing of thirsty. He wished for the first time that Tommy was with him. That man would always stop for a drink. He saw people in those rolling chairs, being pushed by young people, girls sometimes. And you wonder why you so fat?

    Down at one end of the boardwalk he found what looked like a real bar. The crowd had trickled off as the sun sank lower in the sky. Go on, get out of here. A lot of good you been. Floyd ducked inside and felt the rivers of sweat roll out from under his hat and chill on his face and neck. His glasses steamed as he took a seat at the bar and ordered a gin and tonic. He perched on the stool and looked up at the game on TV. The waitress brought him his drink and man did that taste good. No skimping on the gin, either. He forgot to ask her about Marcy. His wallet was bothering him, he felt like he was balancing on it. When she asked him if he wanted to start a tab he simply nodded.

    “You got a phone?” She pointed to an old-fashioned booth in the back, kind Superman used to change in. The place was filling up, young couples waiting for dinner. Went back to the hotel to put your dress shorts on? Once inside the paneled wood booth he forgot who he was going to call. Eric, right. He searched the scraps of paper in his wallet for the number he never had cause to memorize and let it ring, go to voicemail, and then dialed again.

    “Hello?”

    “This ain’t no telemarketer.”

    “Hey, Pop.” He did not sound happy to hear from him and Floyd had already put enough change in the machine so he cut straight to the point.

    “We in Atlantic City and your mother’s gone missing.” He backtracked from there, explaining the whole afternoon in greater detail than Eric needed, but never did his son sound any more excited than Floyd felt. He asked the obvious questions – had they called the police? Who else was looking?

    “Did she have her cell phone?” he asked, pointedly.

    “That’s why I was calling,” Floyd said. “I figured maybe she’d called you.”

    Eric was silent, and Floyd knew that he knew he was lying. He imagined him at home, still in his work clothes, the sound on the TV muted, his eyes on the game. From his perch in the booth Floyd could see the TV over the bar. Jeter was trying to steal.

    “I’m sure she’ll turn up, Pop. I mean, where’s she gonna go?”

    “I know that.”

    “You got your cell phone with you? So I can call you if she does?”

    Floyd muttered something and got off the phone. That boy would go to his grave asking about those damn phones. He should just wrap them up and give them back to him for Christmas. Turn ‘em into salt-and-pepper shakers.

    When he got back to his seat at the bar Jeter got picked off and he ordered another drink. Now they could send the search party out for him. The tumblers were tall and when he turned in his seat he found he had company. Big old white dude with long hair and a pointed beard. He was sipping a Budweiser longneck and looking at the screen. His arms were covered in tattoos; dragons, snakes and skulls disappeared into his shirtsleeves.

    “Fuckin’ Yankees,” he said and turned to look at Floyd. “Nice hat.”

    Floyd turned to face his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “You wouldn’t believe how long I had this hat,” he said.

    “There isn’t much I wouldn’t believe,” the man said.

    They got to talking. Turned out he worked in a tattoo parlor on the boardwalk, which explained all the ink. Half way through his second drink and Floyd was feeling generous in his opinions.

    “Back in the day,” he said, “man had a tattoo it meant he’d been someplace. In the service, in the joint, you know.”

    “I hear you,” the man said. “These days it just means you been to the mall.” He drained his beer and held up the empty. “Buy you a drink?”

    “Let me buy you a drink,” said Floyd, and pulled out the fat wallet that had been giving him such a pain and laid it on the counter. Soon he had the pictures out and was showing him snaps of Eric, bragging on his job even if he wasn’t exactly sure what he did. Then one of the whole family, when everyone was young.

    “Where’s your other boy?” the stranger asked.

    Floyd made a face like he was sucking on a lime. “Wilson got killed in a hold-up ten years ago,” he said.

    “Oh, man, I am sorry. They catch the guy who did it?”

    “No, it was in Prospect Park one night. Lot of crime in there.”

    “That’s why I could never live in the city,” the man said, which struck Tommy as funny. Most people would be scared of him, even in Brooklyn.

    “So what happens when folks get old?” said Floyd, changing the subject. “Maybe they don’t want all those tattoos any more.”

    “Shit, you don’t have to wait ‘til your old to regret something stupid you did.” The man laughed and Floyd got a glimmer of a gold tooth in his head. “People come in all the time wanting to have tattoos taken off, usually the name of some girl that don’t love them anymore.”

    “Can you do it?”

    “Sure,” the man said. “Hurts like hell and costs twice as much. But we can do it. Easier just to change it, though.”

    “How do you mean?”

    “Well, there was this one girl who loved a guy named Chris and had it tattooed on her ass. Until she found Jesus and then we just added a ‘T’.”

    He didn’t smile at first and it took Floyd a minute to figure it was a joke. He smiled first. “Hey, I got one,” he said. The stranger’s eyes gleamed in anticipation. “There was this guy who loved this old girl so much he had her name tattooed on his Johnson.”

    “Now that’s gotta hurt!”

    “Hell, yeah.” Floyd wiped his mouth. “Then they broke up, you know, and soon he started missing her real bad. So he went all over looking for her, from Wisconsin all the way down to Jamaica. Then he’s in the bathroom one day and he looks over and he sees this other guy’s dick.” He stopped for a minute. The stranger kept staring at him. “Now I can’t remember that girl’s name.”

    “Is it important?”

    “Yeah, it’s the whole punch line.”

    “Uh, oh. Better have another drink.”

    He felt flushed and excused himself to go to the bathroom. There he stared straight ahead at the wall and read all the graffiti as if looking for a message. And by the time he got back to the bar he was not surprised to see the stranger was gone and with him his wallet though all Floyd could feel was a keen sense of disappointment: He remembered the end of the joke now. He had remembered that old girl’s name.

    ______________________

    voice from the planet

    ‘Vale of Cashmere’ was first published by Harvard Square Editions in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others. Sean Elder’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Salon, Slate, Vogue, Elle, Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Details and many other publications. The essay he contributed to the collection of men’s writings The Bastard On the Couch (Morrow, 2004) was reprinted on three continents; his essay on ecstasy, included in the collection of drug writings entitled White Rabbit (Chronicle Books, 1995) was called “seminal” by Granta; and a piece he wrote about being a stay-at-home dad for Oprah was included in her best of O collection, Live Your Best Life (Oxmoor, 2005). He has co-authored several books, including Websites That Work with designer Roger Black (Adobe Press, 1997) and Mission Al Jazeera with former Marine captain Josh Rushing (Palgrave, 2007). He also works as a book doctor and helped edit the forthcoming Making Rounds with Oscar by Dr. David Dosa (Hyperion, 2010). He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and daughter.

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  • All at Once: Excerpt of the Novel

  • I step onto a wide stone platform surrounded by water and lie on my stomach to peer down over the edge. At my approach, tiny fish scatter like drops of colored light; crabs pause, wary, then scuttle along the sides of the basin, stuffing their mouths as fast as they can with alternate pincers. After a while, a kind of brown finger wriggles out from the shadows. Another one emerges, then two more, and finally the bulbous body of an octopus comes into view. It skims along until the water is too shallow then starts to walk, using its tentacles as legs. When the water gets deeper it pushes off against the sandy bottom to glide, once more, just beneath the surface. It circles round and round my platform.

    aao cover

    My back begins to prickle, and I realize I’ll be burnt to a crisp if I don’t find shelter pretty soonthe ocean breeze masks the sun’s virulence.

    Standing up makes me momentarily dizzy. The tide has gone out, uncovering rocks studded with barnacles or slick with thick green hair. I head back toward the flat sand and continue walking, looking for a place to rest. I’ve just about resigned myself to the idea of a plastic chair, when I spot a barraca that’s not open for business. The beach in front of it is empty, the small structure shuttered; its thatched roof casts a nice, wide stripe of shade onto the sand. Gratefully, I set up camp, taking out the water and crackers I brought, spreading out my towel to sit on, and leaning against the barraca wall with the empty backpack in between for cushioning. A sigh of relief.

    The ocean is now more white than blue. At the horizon, a wavering smudge might be a cruise ship or an oil rig. The great mass of water is barely disturbed by shifting waves, fretful and sluggish like a dog settling down to sleep. There’s an occasional bloom of white spray when a wave breaks against rock; wisps of cloud trail across the sky. I yawn, lie down on the towel, and close my eyes.

    Now the landscape is reduced to the rustle of wind in the palm thatch, the faint piping of a distant bird, and the dull roar of the ocean. I stretch my arms and let them flop back down. Rolling my head slowly from side to side to loosen the tension in my neck, I notice that this movement causes the pitch of the ocean to vary ever so slightly. Intrigued, I try it a few more times, just to make sure.

    There’s a lesson in that, I reflect: reality changes according to your viewpoint. I roll my head once more from side to side then lie still again, listening to the tiny, ceaseless fluctuations within the monotone.

    An insect lands on my footwithout opening my eyes I flex my toe to chase it away, and realize that the gesture produced an infinitesimal shift in the ocean sound. Bizarre! I can understand the position of my head influencing what I hear, but the position of my toe? (more…)

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Home » Other Posts » Recent Articles:

The Don

by Rajani Kanth

After he leaves office, if he ever leaves office, people will wonder.

What made him The Don?

The Answer seems to have escaped the comprehension of the highbrow culture-vultures who dominate the airwaves, and soundbites, prompted by either bigotry or total devotion.

And it’s an important answer: just as he himself is an important political phenomenon.

No, it’s not his wealth.

Mayor Bloomberg, was a billionaire, too.

No, it’s not his tv celeb status, as a keen showman, either: Steve Colbert couldn’t rake in 70+ million votes.

Nor is it his xenophobic stances.

Rush Limbaugh couldn’t swing it.

*

So, what is it?

It’s a quality that rock stars used to possess in the Sixties, before rock, as a protest genre, was carefully subverted and routinised by the industry.

That they were truth-tellers.

It is this sense, that people had: that he told it like it is.

That he was speaking the unrehearsed Truth (to be sure, as he saw it), and that, too, stunningly, from Power.

It was a huge refresher: a change from the carefully scripted phony, hypocritical, mealy-mouthed politicos that have been the run of Washington Elites forever.

That was what mesmerized the jaded millions that voted for him.

Hitherto, they had turned a blind eye, and a deaf ear, to the gaggle of snake charmers who dominated political office.

Snake oil just didn’t cut it, with them.

But, here, clearly, was a breath of fresh air.

And it didn’t matter what he said, so gratifying was the assumption that what you saw was what you got.

Unlike the droves of career ‘politicians’ , a term of insult second , in power, only to ‘lawyers’ in the American lexicon.

*

Was/is he a truth-teller?

The Washington Post has tracked thousands upon thousands of his alleged lies.

But what about the scams of the Post (and its sister Media) itself, that misled us into so many gratuitous wars : who ,there, to track those for us all?

At any rate, with the Don, you got a mixed bag, in this respect.

He told the truth about many issues, and also covered up just as many others.

Yet, the latter were all of a see-through nature, like a little boy telling tales , with his hands in the cookie jar.

So, his indulgent fans readily , perhaps too readily, forgave him those excesses: being just as culpable, they knew, as he.

*

Is there a lesson, perhaps, in his example?

It’s an Empire of Lies we live in.

And people, despite the harsh existential threats they face today – unemployment, eviction, homelessness, poverty, insecurity, Covid, police violence – perk up to the one, who they believe, is not spinning yarns.

In a Post-Truth universe of Wholesale, Outright, Overweening, Corruption, they felt that he, au contraire, solo, was speaking the truth – to them.

Yes, I think there is a lesson.

In fact, a rather simple one.

But I doubt anyone in D.C. is keen on learning from it.

Spin, you see, is mother’s milk – in Uncle Scam country.

*

What do I make of the Don, personally?

Well, I regret, I am quite biased: I distrust Anyone who would be King (or Queen).

[© R.Kanth 2020]   

______________

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda,, A Day in the Life, and Expiations, is Trustee of the World Peace Congress

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Stu Krieger at University of California

UCR library reading from THAT ONE CIGARETTE with follow-up Q & A on writing and publishing Thursday Oct 8, from 4:30-5:30 PST

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THE ROAD NOT TAKEN: Fighting for Women’s Rights in Weimar

 
This article first appeared in Ms. Magazine
 

The following is an excerpt from THE ROAD NOT TAKEN—the debut novel, out September 4, by feminist playwright, documentarian and writer Susan Rubin. In the book, one woman traverses through space and time on an epic journey of self-discovery—and in an effort to change world history.

The café was crowded and the jazz musicians on stage were loud. The interior was so filled with smoke that my friends and I chose an outdoor table. I was smoking a long, thin, pastel colored cigarillo in an ornate holder. My fingernails were black and as I looked at my reflection in the window of the café, I saw that my eyes were all blacked, too. I looked around at my companions dressed in flamboyant reds and yellows. They too had on defiant smoky eye makeup, with bright red lipstick and lots of beaded necklaces over their glamorous dresses.

My companions were pleasantly tanked up, and so was I. We had been drinking everything in the café, from beer we had moved to mixed drinks. We ate no food and smoked one pastel cigarillo after another as we talked in loud voices with extreme enthusiasm for our subjects. (more…)

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Empire Tales

by Rajani Kanth

Pax Brittanica to Pax Americana?

Or, put another way, out of the frying pan, into the…

Well, that’s, regrettably, the sorry Tale of our Times:

The Rise and (approaching) Fall of the Anglo-Norman Empire(s)…

*

My vantage point, in these jottings, should remain unmistakable.

I write, explicitly, as an ex-colonial.

Now, that last term deserves explication.

Not all of us (in the colonial world) are ex-colonials, despite the fact of formal decolonization.

Ideologically, most . in the colonial world, still remain colonials (Left, or Right, persuasions are equally culpable in this).

I have made it my ‘mission’ to reveal the depth and extent of that brainwashing.

It’s a cheerless undertaking: but, someone has to do it.

Everything I say here is all embedded in my larger critique of Eurocentrism (EuroModernism).

We live in a world under the thumb, if less and less by the day, of one of the most formidable of global empires: the Anglo-Norman empire.

Calling it by any other name does us all an injustice.

Sure, the EU is a part of it, but strictly as a junior partner.

*

Progressives, in the West, are still mainly Europhiles (including the US, in that categorisation): even those that think they are not.

All I do, in my writings, is – if inadvertently – hold up a mirror to them.

And they may not like what they see.

I don’t blame them, in the slightest.

I couldn’t stand to see what they see, either.

But, it is also really a matter of a supernal ignorance.

There are many semi-literates, even in high places, who still think Europe pulled off its ‘industrial and scientific’ revolution solo, on its own.

They have no idea of the truth.

I have run Doctoral seminars in this area, for years, and could still give them , or anyone else, an education.

There is also, by now, a burgeoning literature in this domain, though , sadly, it does not percolate into lay perceptions.

But it is real.

So, the chauvinism of our Europhiles is merely that: chauvinism.

There is no ontic basis for it.

Their ‘ comparative advantage’ lay ever, and to this day, in but three domains: war, looting, and chicanery.

To state it simply: European Ruling Elites (inclusive of the US) are, on any scale, the most accomplished ecocidal, and genocidal, mass-murderers, in human history.

Which is why their continuing, monotonic , claptrap of ‘human rights’ is so obnoxious, aside from deceiving no one, in these torrid times.

Their putative ‘enlightenment’ was also, to a great extent, a case of feathers ‘borrowed’ (without acknowledgment) from the many cultures they made contact with, and conquered.

*

The operative logos for the original Brit Empire was simple: Divide, and Rule.

For the Ams (the US) who took over the baton, after WW2, it was (sub)Divide and (mis]Rule.

Whew.

Some difference!

For a while, there was another ‘difference’ which, by now , is quite levelled.

The Brits appeared more than ok with being hated: the Ams, leastways for a bit, wished to be loved.

Today, the latter appear ok with just being feared.

Of course, in all this, I am referring to the ruling elites, not the mass populace, which, everywhere, is cannon fodder and/or chattel labor for the rulers.

*

.But why should the twain be different at all?

They are cousins (one must give credit where it’s due, and bring in their eminent second cousins: Australia and Canada) in the flesh, and spirit.

The vaunted American ‘war of Independence’, par exemple, is a bit of a mild exaggeration.

It was not a great deal more than another case of ‘mutiny on the bounty’.

The Brutish Isles was no more an oppressor than the Colonies were.

In fact, given that the Brits did not practice slavery in England, it’s the US (i.e., the then ‘Colonies’ that was far more brutish.

Actually, it was Britain’s curbs on slavery (and westward expansion)that had the Colonies rise up, amongst some related issues.

So our daring mutineers were anything but liberators!

Indeed, more likely, the opposite.

One needs to graduate beyond grade-school propaganda to understand such matters.

But few of us do (no money in that, of course: I get it).

History is simply what historians say it is.

And winners of wars will – as everywhere – write their own (pseudo) histories.

Which the obliging gulls (media, intelligentsia, academe) , of left and right, lap up, eagerly.

But then again, that’s their job: they are only earning their paychecks.

To graduate from being gulls to being shills.

*

So, what unites the two lineages is not merely shared culture and history (although, as Bernard Shaw wrote, a century ago, they remain divided by a common language).

But Empire, Racism, and Capitalism (the order is important).

In fact, I consider Anglo-Normans to be masters, nay world leaders, in the science of exploitation.

No one else even comes close.

The US is still the lead case-study for that idea, I think, for anyone who wishes to investigate.

They took the antic Brit formula : and nearly perfected it.

Even chauvinism, in other words is expected to yield a profit: else , is deemed of no utility.

Hubris , if it must be, needs to pay tangible dividends: simple psychic satisfaction(s) will not suffice.

Britain made war for commerce.

The US makes not just war, but also peace, for commerce (this is the sordid rationale behind Trump’s abrogation of all extant treaties: there’s money to be made in re-negotiating ‘deals’).

The class structure, racial stratification, and gender divides, are all systematized ( this is a long-drawn, on-going, process ) for continuing surplus drainage.

No one, amongst the ruled, can escape the bite.

The world’s largest penal colony, the (industrial) world’s lowest real wage, the most under-funded public health industry, the most trigger-happy police, the most bloodthirsty military, the most extortionist financial sector, the highest concentrations of wealth, are far from being arbitrary, random, creations.

They are (all) integrally linked.

*

It is not merely the canny strategy itself, but the cool rationality with which it is implemented that is significant.

Take a glance at the grisly video where a cop calmly snuffs out the life of an Afro Am, on camera.

The cop is not spewing hatred, nor spitting rage.

He is, quite insouciantly, carrying out the demands of the system: keeping the subject population terrorized.

That was Britain, too.

The British general (Dyer) who , with typical Brit gallantry , massacred unarmed Indians – men, women and children – at Jallianwala Bagh (look it up) was also, on report, equally calm: only somewhat bemused at being tried for a crime that his nation had excelled in for centuries, across the globe.

*

That same icy insouciance extended to the business- as-usual, raw economic pillage as well.

Britain drained the economic life out of India: no army of leeches, or locusts, could have performed better.

So they could repave/renovate their filthy London Streets, with their ill-gotten loot, whilst the streets of Old Delhi decayed, with fading grace, into gutters.

No, England was never that quaint ‘nation of shopkeepers ‘ (Napoleon? Adam Smith?) , of literary allusion.

It was /is in the Modern era, a nation of prospectors, gamblers, hucksters, and fortune hunters .

And the US?

About the same, one would think.

But , more casually speaking, it could be styled, perhaps, a nation of used-car salespeople, with their ‘let’s make a deal’ approaches to everything.

To that extent , Trump is the one Prez who, above all others, represents their geist faithfully(though often-times he appears as a burlesque parody of it).

But it is also, make no mistake, a warlike, predatorial , aggressor state (like a few others).

*

Now, In terms of sheer soul-lessness it , surely, stands alone.

It is a breathtakingly sordid society because it is not an anthropic society at all, but a giant scatter of random individuals linked , via individualist self-interestedness, to various sites of production , consumption, and exchange.

Oscar Wilde captured it best when he quipped , aeons ago, that the US had leapt straight , from barbarism to decadence, bypassing the stage of civilization.

To which I must add that, today, in regression, it has reverted straight back to barbarism.

Fredrick Douglass knew all this in 1852, when he said , on the Fourth of July no less, that the savagery of the US, in his time, was unmatched by that of any other nation.

He should know, being an ex-slave.

MLK Jr , repeated that, a century later, when he called the US the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.

It still holds that (uncoveted) honor , today.

*

At any rate, now you can gleam how the putative ‘third world’ was/is manufactured, and made to order.

There is a causal, colonial , link between the prosperity of the West and the penury of its unfortunate colonies.

A historical contrast will help seal the point, dispositively.

Japan escaped direct occupation by European conquistadores; and so made its way to Modernism as a powerful entity.

But, India, the fabled wealth of which drew abject pirates and plunderers like Columbus to compete to seek a way there was warped, like so many others, into a ‘third world’ society (later, the World Bank and the IMF, eminent tools of empire, would assist in sealing its doom, for decades after WWII, until its latter-day , even meteoric , revival, albeit under Neo-Lib auspices).

As with Warren Hastings, Viceroy of Brit India, writing calmly back to the Crown reporting the inordinately high profits from the engineered famine in Bengal(which starved millions to death).

Both the Brit General (op. cit) and the Viceroy had only discharged their respective duties: like that member of Minneapolis ‘law enforcement’.

Lord Macaulay, one of the architects of British India, wrote a glowing bio of Robert Clive – Bandit Chief, and Servant of the East India Company , who went from rags to riches in a few years in India, like the lot of them – where he lauds him, more or less, as an ‘officer and a gent’, in recognition , obviously, of his impressive country-wide thuggery.

Just as an example.

They grew opium in India , as peasants starved for lacking food crops, and dumped it in China – against its express will – demoralizing and distorting that rich Jewel of the Orient, which has only now, in the 21st century recovered from that shock.

India, I fear, remains yet in something of a stupor, so deep were the wounds inflicted on it.

*

There are No Reparations possible for the historic crimes of the Anglo-Norman Empire(s).

Enough resources , to scale, simply do not exist.

In WW II alone, the saturation bombing of Dresden, the ghastly obliteration of most of N. Korea, and the dropping of nuclear devices on Japanese civilians: these are all egregious Crimes against Humanity.

This is no less true of their several fellow Euros – who now don a soft ‘social democratic’ guise – with Belgium leading the wretched Rogue’s Gallery, of a long list of like-minded European Nations, in terms of its outrageous atrocities in Africa in past History.

Leopold’s statues are coming down now: but that is far too little, far too late.

And NATO has also been at it since its inception , undeterred either by conscience or the UN Charter.

Look up their recent misdeeds in Africa and West Asia to know their scroll of honor.

That’s ‘western civ’ , in a nutshell: as experienced by its Victims.

These transgressions are not in some ancient history, it must be recalled, when the ‘rule of law’ may be presumed not to exist, but in the history of the Modern period, with the dissembling ideology of human betterment loudly parroted by the very conquistadores that ravaged , pitilessly, the non-European world.

And they haven’t altogether desisted, from any of it, to date.

By the way I have mentioned only the abominations of their public policy , as conducted by their governments (btw, today, as should be clear, all the so-called ‘multilaterals’ – UN, World Bank, WTO, WHO, et. al. – more or less, serve the Empire: on pain of being defunded).

Bring in the malefactions of their private Corporates (from the East India Company to Monsanto) and you get the full picture.

No wonder the sun never set on the Brit Empire.

As someone has quipped, even God didn’t trust the English in the dark.

*

Not that the US comes off one whit cleaner.

They strafed, bombed, and napalmed the daylights out of millions of innocents in Indo- China, possibly amongst the greatest war crimes of modern history – to which there is no one to hold them accountable.

And , none deterred, they followed this up with drone bombing civilians in Western Asia, with a bomb being dropped , non-stop, roughly every 12 minutes , to this day.

Consider that.

The truth is indefeasible.

Britain and the US remain premier scofflaw nations that break the very mold of the scofflaw nation: and have been so , uninterruptedly, for centuries.

It takes a titanic scale of carnage it would seem, to claim, and hold aloft, the banner of ‘egalite’ and ‘liberte’ : and to earn the credentials to preach the dissimulating drivel of ‘human rights’ to the world.

So please.

Spare us all the, nauseating, kindergarten sop of the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Human Rights.

They lived that down a (very) long time ago.

*

Ethnic chauvinism is to be found most everywhere, if in varying degrees.

But Anglo-Normans took it to stellar heights: indeed, whom do they not hate!!!

Yet, is their hate list most selective.

Germans, Russians, Chinese…

In effect, they hate anyone who can compete with them effectively: and only despise those who cannot.

I don’t need to draw up that latter list.

No, there is not much to choose between these two strains of the Late Modernist Empires.

Is there?

Actually, you knew I was putting you on.

Two empires?

They are really one and the same Empire.

The Anglo-Norman Empire.

One is just the Mark II version of the original.

At its current, Caligula, stage of Decay.

*

Britain, sans empire, reverted to its pathetic origins, in 1945, when its empire was lost, until the City of London (which rigs the price of gold , and interest rates, for most of the world ), in league with Big Brother across the pond , revived it again to a modest status by turning it into a strategic base for their , conjoint, imperial ambitions.

The US, today, appears in the throes of a similar decline, though largely self-inflicted than caused by any machination of its rivals.

The post-WWII power of the US has lain, simply, in its ability to print , at will, the world’s reserve currency , free of cost.

When that privilege goes, they go – notwithstanding the trillion dollar military , the 1000+ bases, and the throttling sanctions (8000+, in 2019) they have, willy nilly, imposed on others (costing, to cite just one instance, 250,000 lives of Iraqi children).

In the interim, the 21st century giants, India, China, Russia and Brazil, are slowly, finding their feet: and the second half of this century belongs, indisputably, to them.

However.

Whether they perform any better than the West, in the future, as good global citizens, remains to be seen.

I am no apologist for them , either.

But the stage is set for cataclysmic alterations of the status quo.

The tables , finally, are starting to turn.

*

Put bluntly, there is no getting round the fact that were it not for the EU and the US, the world would be , more or less, a relatively peaceable place today (even aside from the dual hazards of Covid and Climate Change).

But their supernal greed and werewolf power-lust have brought the planet to the very edge of collapse.

Empire and Civilisation , in a human society, necessarily stand at opposite poles.

When Euros(incl the US) slough off Empire – as they must, at some point – they, too, can resume construction of a genuine ‘western civ’ , that is worthy of respect.

And one that is more than skin-deep: you know what I mean.

Right now, sad to say, they appear far from it.

But we ex-colonials wish them well in that endeavour, as/if/when they are ready to commence it.

Maybe their reality, one day, might yet live up to the fanciful fairy tales?

Why not?

Change is, always, possible: even, at times, as an unintended consequence.

*

So , what’s the cultural difference between Britain and the US, if any, as two wings of the Anglo-Norman empire?

I will answer, via allusion, and trope (maybe semi-seriously?).

Britain has at least two civilizing influences operating within (one drawn from its working class, other from its erstwhile aristocratic governors) : Pink Floyd and Cricket.

Yes, cricket, the game of cricket.

America does not.

The minute the US starts tuning in (more) to Pink Floyd, and playing (more) cricket , it will begin to shed its barbarism.

It might even begin to take to drinking tea.

And give up its penchant for watching Pro Wrestling.

Pou quoi, you ask?

Because , from the one it could learn trace elements of civility, from the other intimations of pacifism.

🙂

We could call that a start?

Even if it moved no further than the UK, at the end of it.

On the other hand, the US may have a slight edge.

It, almost always, does the right thing.

Yes, it is true.

It does do the right thing..

If only after completely exhausting , wholly, and totally, every other available Alternative.

😊

The above is not my insight: it is (falsely) attributed to Churchill.

There’s a grain of truth to it (despite the attributed source).

For It has a dour, hard-bitten, harsh, pitiless, ruling elite, sans any trace of altruism, or generosity.

Like so many settler-colonial states.

But what choice do we hoi polloi have?

We have to be thankful (even hopeful?) for small , even minor, blessings, under the circs.

Whew.

[© R.Kanth 2020]   

______________

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda,, A Day in the Life, and Expiations, is Trustee of the World Peace Congress

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Toward Transcendence: The Way Forward

[A desperately brief Critique of Euro-Modernism* (EM) and a bare Outline of The Alternative]

(For Noam Chomsky)

By Rajani Kanth
 

I will make this piece short and simple.
 
The times call for such economies of style.
 
We need now to have done with the genre of immanent critiques, where we rock to and fro, endlessly, w/out getting anyplace.
 
Besides, old recipes, old formulas , old panaceas, have no place now.
 
It is, as so many of us sense, a New Game.
 
And it is time for Change.
 
BIG Change.
 
Indeed, it is time now , I think, for Transcendence (the antipode of immanent critiques): rising above/beyond routine, ‘authorised’ , modes of discourse.
 
Put differently, the Left, Right and Centre versions of EM theorising simply keep us locked in to the same otiose paradigm, from which there is No Exit.
 
*
 
There has been a new Physics for almost a century now.
 
A new Biology for but a few odd years: Epigenetics.
 
But we still retain the old, antiquated, Social Theory.
 
Modeled , if understandably, after the materialism of Classical Physics (Yes, so-called ‘social science’ was engendered in the spirit of Physics-Envy).
 
Time to jettison that baggage.
 
In its Entirety.
 
It is not only archaic, it is wrong, categorically, judged by the canons of Q. Physics.
 
*
 
Darwin’s idea of mutations finds relevance here.
 
He saw mutations as random.
 
And many are.
 
But some are not.
 
Some are ‘purposive’, in the minimal sense of restoring balance.
 
We are, likely, going through such a shift.
 
We humans have radically skewed Nature’s rude and rough balances, over a very long time: but far more precipitously in recent times.
 
Since WWII , over 60% of animal and plant life, even a higher percentage of large mammals, has vanished.
 
We have exhausted more planetary resources in that same short span of time than in all of human history.
 
Nature is, in a sense, now ‘intervening’ (or ‘reacting’).
 
But one must not read too much into that word (I am no fan of ‘new age’ fantasies).
 
I do not use it in any anthropic sense.
 
Let me illustrate.
 
Water finds its own level.
 
One might see it as seeking a certain ‘balance’, in its spread.
 
However, it does not ‘choose”, but follows its inherent properties.
 
So is Nature , following her own Logos, morphing her varied forces (and they bid fair to check our pretensions).
 
But we are different: we can, self-consciously, Choose.
 
*
 
Descartes said: I think therefore I am.
 
The Buddha, a far more accomplished philosopher, albeit 2 millenia prior, provided the needful.
 
He said: as/what you think, you are: and you become.
 
So, all change , when not the chance accident of history, begins in the mind.
 
The Collective mind.
 
And the Choice is clear: either we change, or Nature must suffer a disruption of Evolution.
 
She, apparently, is unready to suspend her long-delved plans.
 
So, either we Change , or we Go.
 
Climate change (as but one mechanism) will see to the latter.
 
Maybe, even regardless of what we do.
 
There is some paradox to this.
 
At one remove, she is not apart from us , but works through us.
 
Yet, she is the macrocosm , of which we are but sub-entities; so hers is the larger mind.
 
And her secrets are not always shared, readily, with us.
 
*
 
We need now to Reorient Life.
 
Here, but a few clues.
 
They will suffice: a word to the wise , they say , is sufficient.
 
We need to divest ourselves from this onerous fetish of incessant consumption and production.

Radically alter our methods/instruments in both domains (no mass production, no mass consumption).
 
Possessive, Asocial Individualism – the very (EM) scourge of our current history – needs be junked.
 
The Profit-motive, retired: it has served its historical use, if any.
 
The Adversarial Society, abandoned.
 
Competition, Monopoly, and Economic activity tied to, led by, Private gain, abrogated.
 
The Nation-State dissolved.
 
From Gesellschaft forms of organization we need to return, again, to Gemeinschaft forms, which is how we began.
 
Abjuring the spurious universalisms of globalization (ploys only for control and marketing) we have to relocate ourselves in face-to-face social relations, within a local culture – of ‘little’ traditions – of our own making, and within our own controls.
 
But, as I will imply, none of the above require any mass effort to topple the system.
 
Rather is it a matter of erosion of its principal , ideational, supports.
 
*
 
EuroModernist (EM) societies are engineered, artificial constructs, organized, historically, from above, by the machinations of commerce , capital, and empire.
 
They are NOT human societies.
 
They are rationalist, cold, uncaring, and mechanistic.
 
We are , au contraire, caring, feeling, organic, beings.
 
Classical Socialism failed because it did not raze that foundation.
 
The USSR – for all of its many successes, which must not be forgotten – still pursued the grail of GDP, no less avidly than its Capitalist counterparts.
 
But a bigger bowl of Goulash simply doesn’t cut it.
 
It does not answer to that primal cri de couer that animates our bosoms.
 
We have to realign, rebond, with our kith and kin (no matter how defined).
 
Rediscover our quashed norms of Affective Society.
 
Antic values: of Hearth and Home.
 
And re-embrace the basic joy(s) of our kind: Convivialism.
 
And know who we are, as a species.
 
Co-operative, caring, familial, and co-respective.
 
*
 
This is a far cry from how EM ideology views us.
 
The real scarce resource is not time, nor money : but love.
 
For we are Lovers, in short, rather than law-givers, conquerors, colonisers, and adventurers.
 
Or, calculating, canny, crafty , hucksters.
 
Time it is to bid farewell to the nostrums of Hobbes and Smith.
 
Doing was thrust upon us by the exploitative wiles of rulers and conquerors, and turned into a social value.
 
Becoming is a EuroModernist mantra, the talisman of accumulationist drives.
 
So much so that some religions/political traditions, took ‘labor’ itself as a commandment of morality and virtue (Arbeit Macht Frei) rather than a temporary nuisance to be swiftly performed and relinquished.
 
No, Labor is not the choice avenue to social Virtue (as in some variants of Protestant thinking).
 
It is drudgery, and worse: when performed involuntarily, and by force.
 
Arbeit Macht Frei?
 
Tell that to the Bushmen(and women).
 
*
 
All that Utopian thinking that followed the EM revolutions was, objectively, a waste of social energy.
 
And also caused a lot of irreparable harm.
 
But it was unavoidable: in recoiling from the dehumanization(s) of the latter, it showed up their manifold shortcomings.
 
Society had been turned upside down by the latter forces , so these idealists hoped to ‘re-engineer’ it : toward a better state of being.
 
Wishful thinking, at best: but who can blame them?
 
They meant well: but had not a clue about the ineluctable realities of human anthropology.
 
Lacking that, they borrowed their ideas, in that domain, of from either religion (Judeo-Christian ideology) or political theory (e..g., so-called ‘social contract’ ideas).
 
Which was to err grievously.
 
For we don’t need Utopia as Invention: we simply need to Rediscover it.
 
Nor can we simply , willy nilly, invent slogans, coin lofty declarations, and codify master plans for a New World: and expect human nature to conform to it.
 
*
 
We are programmed to live, tribally (parse that as kindred/community based) , in a joyful state (in Being, not Becoming, or Doing).
 
We are Mammals, Heat-seeking rather than Light-seeking.
 
Our greatest Human Need may simply be: to Huddle.
 
That is our species-being, our social DNA.
 
It can still be found , albeit now in remote parts of a world thoroughly ravished by EM ideology and praxis.
 
But it is also deep within us, and easy to locate: IF we can shuffle off the coils of religious and political shibboleths that hold us in thrall.
 
*
 
Our eternal ‘home’ is the humblest of societal units: the human family, at once natural and social.
 
Note that it meets not one single, vaunted, E-Modernist criterion.
 
It is not free, individualist, equal, nor democratic.
 
Wrap your head around that last sentence.
 
Not once, but twice.
 
Yet, it gives to us what we crave the most: a haven, refuge, and sanctuary.
 
What extra-terrestrial ‘heaven’ , conjured up by the tendentious fantasies of religious bigotry, could hope, even remotely, to compare with that?
 
Bears thinking.
 
*
 
You get the point (I hope).
 
We are natural, instinctual beings: an idea anathema to EM postulates, which prefers to see us as automatons who can take on any shape and form as per requirements of the ruling ethos , ideology. and political agenda.
 
Instincts are granted in the study of animals, but not permitted to intrude into the study of the ‘sovereign of creation’, i.e. , MAN (gender intended, in the original EM docket).
 
That came straight from Judeo-Christian ideas, where we are cast in the image of the Creator, until Darwin interrupted that chain of argument.
 
So we need to remind ourselves, again, lest we forget, in our hubris.
 
For all our pretensions, We are Apes.
 
Chimps and Bonobos, our closest cousins, have definable traits: so have we.
 
*
 
So, think.
 
And disburden yourself of repressive, ideological, chains that diminish you , and erode your energies.
 
For, as/what you think, you become.
 
And discover the rich troves of the Affective Life -lavish, abundant – you have ignored, or suppressed, for being stuck on the Wheel , ever since you can recall.
 
That is our real, imperishable, wealth.
 
The Virus has just given some of us the time/opportunity for some reflection on such matters.
 
Employ it well.
 
And get off the treadmill – of endless, unrequiting, toil – soon as you can.
 
After all, you are not , if you are reading this, a hamster.
 
We have been hoodwinked, forced, duped, and systematically misled, into thinking of ourselves in dystopian, sub-human, and asocial terms.
 
We have, in short, been forced to live a lie.
 
Contrast , in your thinking, how you live ,and function, to who we/you are, on the inside.
 
The rest will follow, as day follows night.
 
Let me repeat that.
 
Seek simply to Know Yourself : (all) necessary changes will, then, ensue.
 
*
 
We have been , alas, deceived by fine words.
 
One of the many unstated functions of language (which may well be a primary one) is concealment of motives.
 
Language is an indispensable aid to dissembling.
 
W/out that guileful artefact, our feelings, as humans, are all too easy to comprehend , requiring no interpreters.
 
Complexity of language is often associated with high density of oppression and exploitation.
 
No wonder elites monopolise language (Latin, in Rome, Sanskrit in ancient Vedic society)
 
And both religion and politics utilize language, to repressive effect.
 
*
 
Note that I am not outlining a nouvelle manifesto, in the classic EM mode of ‘we can be anything we wish to be’.
 
No.
 
Instead , I am suggesting that our contentment lies in effortless conformity to our anthropic species being.
 
So it requires no force, no mass movements, no marches, no revolutions.
 
Nor even consulting learned tomes of deep philosophy.
 
Simply an internal, personal recognition of the obvious, based on reflection alone.
 
And it will be found to be obvious.
 
Promise.
 
* EM, or EuroModernism , the specific template of Modernism that Europe invented and imposed on the world, consisted of , in my rendition: a very selective faith in a self-defined, triumphalist , reductionist, Science; a tendentious, self- serving belief in ‘progress’ ; a rampant philosophy of materialism; and an abiding conviction that no cost was too high, societal, military, or ecological, to impose this world-view, by force, on Others. It imposed the Restless Society on us all, ever discontented, ever transformational, sacrificing Being to Becoming. Understood, with care, it covers both the Tweedledum and Tweedledee Idylls of EM vintage: Capitalism and Socialism.

 

R E F E R E N C E S
 
Kanth, R . Farewell to Modernism: On Human Devolution in the Twenty-First Century, NY: Peter Lang, 2017
 
[© R.Kanth 2020]

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Caesura

 
By Rajani Kanth
 

Come, Let us

Fast

The Holy Time’s

before us:

And this

Moment

May not last –

Come, Let us

Fast

*

All the

Portents

Warn us

No Returning

To what is

Past –

*

The Feast

Was Exorbitant:

Cakes and Ale

lie in the

Waters cast –

So , come,

let us fast

*

The Antic

Gods do

rave and fume

Their Patience

will not last

*

Music’s

gone

cacophonous:

Dancers,

giddy, spin

too fast –

Night moon’s

hid

in storm clouds

dark

Party’s over,

Done ,

and Past

It’s Time:

To Pray,

and Fast

*

We

frittered

The Good

Earth’s

Bounty –

a Largesse,

Free,

and Vast

Oblivious,,

In Euphoria

That Nature –

She Bats

Last –

*

So, Expiating

Wantonness

In Exculpating

Piety –

Come, Let us

Fast

[© R.Kanth 2020]   

______________

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda,, A Day in the Life, and Expiations, is Trustee of the World Peace Congress

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Corona

 
By Rajani Kanth
 
[for my daughters]

 

In face of

Impending

Doom

 

And stray

Elephants

In the room

 

Let us

Resolve

To stay

 

Unswayed,

By light

Of day –
 
 
*

 

Banish

incumbent

Fear –
 

Cling

To what

Is dear

 

Uphold

Convenancing

Norms

 

Despite

The Pillage

Of Storms

 

In Faith

Of Healing

Light

 

Dispel

The Spreading

Blight
 

*

Countenancing

Calm

 

Defy the

Spating

harm

 

In sympathetic

Mode

 

draw

that mother

Lode

 

Of anthropic

Empathy –

 

and

Consilient

Amity
 

*
 
Avowing,

Do Good

By Stealth

 

raising

That Moral

Health

 

True source

Of all our

Wealth
 
*
 
Forswearing

meum

And teum

 

the Hubris

That swells

too soon

 

that does

all Nature

Impugn
 

*

though

Unguided,

Lorn
 

From

Primal moorings

shorn –

 

from love

and life

though torn

 

yet may

we

adorn

 

in humble

Trance

of Good

 

a universe,

cold,

forlorn
 

*

 

Know

All things

 

must suffer

change

 

Save the

Supervening

sky

 

whereunder

we live –

but to die

 

upon this

ruminatng

earth

 

where we

chart

 
an Unmindful

Birth

 
*

Into the Abyss

Of Night

 

Must we ,

Steadfast,

Go

 

Leaving

behind

In trust

 

Least one

heart that

will overflow

 

that can

and will

and must

 

fulsome

thrill and

throb

 

even the

mantling

dust –

 

that muffles

our mortal

glow
 
 
*

 

in wakeful

Reverie

 

long after

we are

gone –

 

in ambrosial

memory

 

unforgetting,

still,

live on

 

above

pity

or scorn

 
in that

breathless,

Eternal

Dawn

 

[© R.Kanth 2020]   

______________

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda,, A Day in the Life, and Expiations, is Trustee of the World Peace Congress

 

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Politics 101

By Rajani Kanth

The Romans had gladiators and lions.

We have elections.

Both, lavish spectacles for the masses to be , safely, immured in.

Elections, impeachments , they’re nearly on par with Pro-Wrestling, the closest simile I can think of.

Take your pick, and be entertained.

These are but legitimation games.

Unreality shows.

*

As I have written before, there are 2 kinds of Politics.

One pits the masses of the powerless and the property-less against the corporate oligarchy.

That’s deep politics.

The Other is simply an internecine struggle between contending power elites , for captaincy of the Ship of State.

And stewardship of the (visible) Public Purse.

What we are witnessing now , and do every 2/4 years, is the latter genre.

It holds nothing of real , lasting interest to the sans-culotte, who constitute the vast majority

of Electors.

They are fodder to the electoral mill.

It is – to be only partly satirical – a neat formula: You vote, They rule!

The First kind of politics is expressed daily in multiple fora, as people push back, in manifold ways, against oppression and injustice.

Occasionally, these struggles spill over into the electoral game – i.e. , into the Second domain of politics – where, in rare circs, they may have an impact.

Mostly, though, they are, sooner or later , betrayed/abandoned by their supposed champions.

Like the Labor Party in Britain, in the most recent election.

Though, like Sysiphus, the dispossessed simply dust off and struggle uphill all over again,

It’s akin to the Football Gag in Peanuts (Schulz/ Comic Strip)

*

So, turn off those TVs.

And resist yielding to the righteous passion that demonizes the one, or other political party, in the holy fire of partisanship.

In the larger analysis, there isn’t that much difference: the real opposition is not invited in.

As The Who sang it, years ago, “Meet the new boss,

Same as the old boss”.

For, as Max Weber understood it well, formal ‘democracy’ is a means only of legitimation of power (the real Business of State carries on , uninterruptedly, behind a cloak of privilege – in the legal sense – and secrecy).

If/When that effort fails, or falters, they simply switch back to their stark, original, unsavory, modus.

It is not pretty to behold.

Power is – to coin a phrase – a brute.

*

I do grant that the present juncture in history is quite momentous, even unprecedented..

It is not business as usual.

We are nearing the end of a long phase of near-unilateral global domination.

To return to the reference to Rome that I began this post with, let me repeat a much earlier comment.

We are, today, at the Caligula phase of Empire.

Beware!

The system now reveals itself , in many regards, quite openly: they, apparently, disdain to conceal their aims.

No more, or leastways far fewer, fig-leafs.

It bodes ill for the poor, the toilers, and the impuissant.

So, be governed accordingly.

[© R.Kanth 2020]   

______________

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda, and Expiations, is Trustee of the World Peace Congress

 

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The Beast

By Rajani Kanth

 
Scatter

not pearls

 

Into

Thin air –

 

They will

fall,

 

Or

flounder

 

Some

here,

Some there –

 

Though

traces

abound

 

O

Everywhere –

 

the swine

Who crunch

Them

 

chomp,

unaware

 

chewing

glass

pebbles

 

With

Same placid

air

*

 

Theirs the

Kingdom

 

Theirs,

The Time

 

The Porcine

Era

 

Of High

grot

And grime

*

 

They

plumb

The dark

depths

 

They

soar to

the top –

 

Heil,

Porkers

Ebullient!

 

cream

Of the crop!

*

They swing

High the

Sceptre

 

They wear

Low the

Crown

 

sporting

Talismans

 
Of bell,

cap,

And gown

*

An Age

In Retreat

 

In fulsome

Defeat –

 

with God ,

absconded

 

Fled from

Her Seat –

 

All are

subverted

 

The Rout

Is Complete

*

 

Ethics,

Denuded

 

Morals,

effete

 

Though it

slay

so surely –

 

Ah, the

Hemlock

Is sweet

 

Take a deep

Swig

 

It be Evil,

replete

*

 

The Beast

Is

upon us

 

No Exits

Withal

 

In

Spirit

Defiant

 

Let us

brace for

The Fall

*

Judgment,

dismembered

 

Reason,

Asleep –

 

The Path

be

treacherous

 

The

Abyss

Is deep:

 

What

They have

foul sown

 

Alas must

We

reap

*

 

be vain

To cry

Out –

 
Look:

Even Lucifers

Weep!

[© R.Kanth 2020]   

______________

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda, and Expiations, is Trustee of the World Peace Congress

 

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NOT YET is Launched!

Erik signing
Suicide hotline worker Erik Segall’s debut novel Not Yet has made it into Amazon’s top 5000 sellers of World Literature and in the top 1500 of Amazon’s Self-Help & Psychology Humor. “I didn’t even know that was a category! (#31 is “Fight Club” and #32 is “How To Live with a Huge Penis”),” quips Segall.

Erik Segall singing at B&N launch

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Erik with Pueblo’s famous author Terrence Damon Spencer on launch day

 
big 3
 
 
 

Food for thought

 

 

 

talk

 
 
 
 
 
 

Alas, poor Yorick

 

 

 

 

 

fist-to-5

 
 
 

How many people want to read Not Yet?

B&N

 
 
 

All copies sold out at B&N

 
 
 
 
 
 
More about Erik Segall and Not Yet at www.eriksegall.com

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