The biggest causative factor in crime just might be sheer stupidity combined with attitude

da joint

Preternaturally brilliant comic and social commentator, Richard Pryor, once offered an observation to Johnny Carson just after having completed a gig at San Quentin Prison: (I paraphrase here) “Johnny, I looked at the scary-looking dudes in my audience and all I could think was, I am so glad there are prisons and I am so glad you people are in one.” In other words, they were mighty mean looking Mothahs.

wilkieI once toured Wilkinson Road (Wilkie, in bad guy and cop parlance) Prison in Victoria when I was addictions counseling. I mean, really, why not check out the provenance of some of our clients. All I could conclude at the end of the tour was, I never want to be in prison, so I guess that stifles any ambitions i might have harbored to be an outlaw.

Prisons are quite awful places. Big heavy doors slam behind you as you go from venue to venue and if the place seems disagreeable you cannot just get up and leave or somebody might shoot you.

During my time counseling I had as clients a reasonable number of guys out on ‘conditions’, which meant they got probation provided they completed a substance rehab program. We had one of those, and the province paid money for the boys to stay with us, so WTF.

I can honestly say that I never really had a problem with these guys, nor did they intimidate me. I’d handled the police beat and court beat in my newspaper days and I admit to a voyeuristic fascination with what makes people turn to a scofflaw life.

snakeIn court I often made mental note of what led to somebody appearing before a judge. Well, there are a few reasons. Some of them might be mental instability, substance abuse, crappy upbringing and so forth, but the predominant reason in my esteem was ‘stupidity’. I mean really, buster, did you honestly think you could get away with that? I ended up liking the fact that most crooks were pretty dumb because it leaves the rest of us a bit safer.

Stupidity was the big one, and if you combine stupidity with attitude and sometimes arrogance and you have a reason why places like Wilkie exist. I’d see young guys stand before the bench dressed in slovenly duds, sneer on their lips, and answering queries with a shrug. Attitude all over the place and I’d think, man, the guy at that bench has the power to decide your immediate future. If ever there was a time to be ever so polite, not to mention being decked out in the nicest duds you can find, then this is that time. But, stupid is as stupid does.

I have mentioned before that I once spent a few hours in a jail cell. I’d say that was pretty much my unproudest moment. Why was I there? I drove drunk. See what I mean about stupid? Fortunately, the incident enabled me to take stock of such stupidity. I changed lifestyles and would never do such a thing again.

Oh, and when I appeared before the judge I was decked out in a nice suit and tie and was ever so polite. It helped. The good lady judge even apologized after she told me I would not be able to operate a motor vehicle for a year.

To me that was a small price to pay for not having hurt somebody or worse by my stupidity.

The (second to) last bastion of manhood has fallen by the wayside

woik on car

Used to be that a fellow, no matter how browbeaten, nagged, neglected and abused by his spouse he might be, could at least go into the bathroom, unzip, take a long leak, and then damn well leave the toilet seat in the pointing skyward position.

But now it seems some enterprising Dutch woman has invented a thing called the Pmate, Go girl and some other such products, which serve to remove that last bastion of masculinity from benighted menfolk everywhere.

go goilGuy is out for a walk in the woods with his wife, and he could formerly, gloatingly say “I have to have a pee. I’m just gonna unzip by this tree. If you gotta go, honey, I guess you’ll have to find a secluded spot, drop pants and panties, expose your elemental elements to all and sundry, and then let go so that any passer-by could catch you in a very undignified position.” No longer. He can make ready to make water, and she can stand right beside him and do the same thing through this little cardboard device.

It’s not right, I tell you. For a long time now men have found it increasingly difficult to, well, be men. Now they are going to find it virtually impossible. “We can stand to pee,” can no longer be gloatingly recited. That is just one of the societal adjustments with which males now must contend if they want to survive in a world in which conventional mores and behaviors are being rent asunder and are dropping away faster than Sharon Stone’s underpants once did.

Let it be understood that earlier generations of males had it easier, primarily because they still made the rules. My old man, for example, had it easier. That is because life was simpler, and wants and expectations were fewer. A man could dream and ponder, but if he was a member of that great middle-ground of North American males, he knew the dreams would remain just that. With few expectations, there are few resentments.

peeingMen didn’t actually need much to carry them through their days, either. All they needed was a roof over their heads, three-squares a day, a wife of some sort, a deck of cards in the sock drawer that illustrated 52 sexual positions (49 of which seemed exotic and alien in terms of their life experience), a pack of cigarettes, some power tools, a pint of rye on the upper shelf in case company dropped by, and a job to go to. Same job. Day in, day out, until retirement.

A scenario: My old man is out in the driveway doing a valve-job on the 1953 Chev. A man could do that sort of thing in the 1950s. As life was simpler, so were automobiles. Manufacturers simply assumed the average male owner could grind his own valves, replace a head-gasket, carry out an oil-change and lube, and rotate his tires without the intervention of a mechanic. I, on the other hand, look beneath the hood of my contemporary vehicle, and what I see there frightens me, and I wouldn’t dream of doing anything other than checking the oil level. Just too many damned electronics. Cars didn’t have electronics once; they merely had electricity and electrical connections. You had a battery, distributor, coil, spark plugs, ignition and assorted lights and fuses, and anybody who had passed grade eight had learned all this stuff in school.

So, back to Dad and his valve-grinding. He’d work there for a while, cursing a bit, and smoking cigarette after cigarette. The neighbor from down the street would wander up. He would look under the hood, too. The two men would get into a conversation about valve-pitting. They would reminisce about other cars of their experience – “I had a 36 Willys, and it was hopeless with valves,” – and they would continue to ‘jaw’ in that regard. Sometimes conversation would switch to power tools. If they talked about women – their wives or others – they didn’t do within my earshot. Kids were rarely if ever privy to adult conversations back then.

Generally, men didn’t talk a great deal – especially to kids. They were men, you were a kid. You had little to contribute, so you were going to be ignored or, at the most, be asked to hand the Old Man a particular wrench that was just beyond his reach. No, men didn’t talk to kids, but they did yell at them. My Dad yelled at me a lot. He didn’t hit us, or “whale the bejesus” out of us, like some fathers did, but he sure did yell.

Eventually the scenario for men changed. We became more affluent; women became more assertive and evolved from Harriet Nelson and June Cleaver into ‘modern’ women like Mary Richards and Murphy Brown. Not always a salutary transition within households, but if men were going to survive within the family unit, albeit with a diminished role, then they had to find within themselves sensitivities they’d never been forced to bother about in the past.

So, men came to be involved with ‘nurturing’ for example, and learned that nurture went beyond saying things like: “Buck up. Be a man. Boys don’t cry,” and “Never hit a girl, no matter how dirty they fight.” The ‘new’ male was expected to ‘relate’ to his kids. When with other males they started to talk about ‘relationships’ and ‘sharing’, and less and less about valve jobs.

With that sort of man, for whom Alan Alda provided a kind of role model some twenty years ago, all elements of lifestyle like smoking or excessive drinking came to be eschewed, and were replaced by running, cycling, and going on family hikes with the entire family. Such men also persistently and tiresomely tried to relate to their kids, and to form strong bonds with them.

Some men refused to go along with the new ethic and they either backslid, or they carried on regardless. In fact, they became even more adolescent than males of yore, and took to wearing backward ballcaps in lieu of ‘man hats’, restored venerable ‘muscle cars’ and took to riding Harleys well past an age in which they should know better. For such cases of arrested development, Sturgis SD became the New Jerusalem.

They also, as new men, went to retreats, beat drums, and felt it was their bounden duty to be carnal with any and all females that came within their scopes. If the other guys chose Alan Alda as a mentor, they selected Tim Allen, with all his grunts and brain-dead posturing.

Such guys – guys’ guys – could also rest assured that they never needed to return the toilet seat to horizontal, and that they were the only ones who could pee standing.

Until the Pmate appeared on the scene.

There is no simple way to headline this so I won’t even try

rose

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

Mark Twain

Did ya really think so you wonderful and wise guru of mine. When it came down to your last minutes on this silly bit of fundament weren’t you scared a little bit shitless?

I have been debating how to approach this blog for a few days now. Death has been around a bit of late and it has been a far from amusing thing. So, rather than being excessively morbid I simply decided to explore the topic.

In fact, I have had two people within the scope of my life die in the past month or so. Well, they were in the scope of a lot of people’s lives, but they were also in mine. Shan’t go into details about the circumstances of their demises other than both were much too young. Anybody younger than I am is too young, and they were considerably younger than I. Both deaths hit me hard even though by my age I am not a stranger to death. That neither of them deserved to die goes without saying and that compounds my grief over them. But those same thoughts apply to anybody we lose — permanently.

You might notice that I used the terms ‘dying, death, and dead’ and that is a carryover from my days of writing obituaries for the newspaper. And there it is a taboo to use such sanitary euphemisms as ‘passed away, passed on,” or the modern term ‘passed’. “If a person died they died, don’t pretend anything else happened,” said my editor of the day. He was right. The other terms are a matter of refusing to face the reality.

Death has a number of meanings for us as individuals. If the person was family, or dear friend, or even acquaintance, we will miss their presence in our lives. Some deaths, like spouses, parents, or especially children stagger us and in many cases life will not be the same again.

doveWhen I once offered condolences to my late mother-in-law when one of her favorite siblings had died, she said: “Every death in the family just diminishes me a little bit.” It is said that if you have a religious faith it makes it all easier. Maybe it does. No atheists in foxholes, as it were. Strikes me though that the devout mourn as much as anybody does. We need to. It’s part of the process that enables the rest of us to carry on.

That’s pretty much true. A best friend died accidentally and hence unexpectedly, when I was in my late 30s. I have always felt a bit diminished since that time and I still miss him. I miss him because I liked him so very much. We don’t get an excess of such people in our lives.

The most poignant aspect of the death of somebody close is that it cannot help but remind us of our own mortality. If our cylinders are functioning as they should, none of us welcomes the thought of our own demise, even though we cannot help but be left with the thought of “why them, rather than me?” Well, no clear cut answer to that me buckos or buckettes.

Do you ever find yourself looking at the obituaries? If you are younger than 40, probably not. Once you enter the realm of middle age it becomes a part of your regular reading and, if you are like me, you hate reading an obit of somebody younger than you are. It scares you just a tad. No, I want all my obits to concern older people – preferably past their centennial mark and I want them to have been death-defying boozers and chain-smokers who defied all the odds. If somebody younger dies I want it to be because he/she was riding a unicycle across the Grand Canyon.

Am I afraid of death? I’m not certain. I am unnerved by the concept of no longer being. So, no, I don’t want to die and I will confess in light of the foregoing I have been thinking about it a bit. Got to try to adhere to the wisdom of Twain.

Publish and be damned — or so I’ve heard and I guess that’s where I am

boook

So, yesterday, I did a remarkable thing – for me. I actually sent off a manuscript to a publisher. As I am in a sort of legendary realm in terms of procrastination, this was nothing short of an amazing achievement.

Now, all I have to do is sit back and await the rejection notification and console myself in the sure knowledge that guys like Hemingway, Fitzgerald and countless others could have wallpapered rooms with their rejection notices.

But, one thing was a relief, as I expedited my manuscript, and that was that this particular publisher would accept electronic submissions. How cool is that? I did not need to print off multiple chapters (at considerable cost), stuff them into a big envelope, ,but be sure to also include a SASE so that the bastards could send the whole thing back to me with a subtle stated: “Screw you, how dare you send such drivel our way?” but muted to the castrated statement: “Does not meet our needs at this time.”

It was that sort of folderol that led me – despite having a number of completed manuscripts – to procrastinate outrageously over the years. And procrastination, if carried on long enough can be a bit soul-destroying.

Or, as a client of mine when I was addictions counseling opined: “Procrastination is like masturbation, in both cases you’re just fucking yourself.” Indeed you are.

publishSo, I was delighted that I could send all my chapters by email. That opened up an entirely new world of potential rejection for me. As a consequence of me having sent the thing off, I actually got a reply. A reply that indicated they got the thing. May or may not be a good thing, and I shall remain optimistic.

All of this means is that ‘I write’ and I also write better than some people who have seen their musings published. So, why haven’t mine been? Well, maybe because I haven’t sent them off.

The other day I was having coffee with a dear old friend who proceeded (most diplomatically, I might add) to, as the parlance goes, rip me a new one for not sending my stuff off to publishers. I heeded her admonitions, and the very next day I acted on them.

And today I am scouring the Internet to find other publishers who might be interested in some of my other stuff. It’s just a wonderful brave new world for me.

I’m in an earnest attempt to cease coiting myself.

In gratitude for the invention of ‘tapas’ I’ll almost forgive the Spanish for bullfighting and Franco

tapas 2

There are many ways to intimidate me, and I’m not about to tell you all of them. But one of them is Thanksgiving (or Christmas) dinner.

All the good and cheery folk are gathered and there is much bonhomie as toasts are made with crappy rose and then oohs and aahs are expelled as a big honking dead bird is trolleyed to the table that is already replete with steaming bowls of mashed potatoes, corn, Brussels sprouts, and likely a few other things that are then to be garnished by gouts of gravy and cranberry sauce.

You might think this is all nice and good and welcome. To me it’s not. It scares me. It’s too much. I feel challenged and I feel like I have a job before me to scarf all this stuff down just so I can get rid of the obligation to eat. I know this is absolutely a First World problem and I feel guilty about not being more appreciative. But, to me it’s sheer gluttony.

I am not a person of huge appetite, and that can be problematic. Oh, I do have some other well-pronounced appetites but they aren’t calorific and are basically a lot more fun than stuffing my maw with foodstuffs.

sushiAnd that is why, when I am eating, I love smatterings of ‘little stuff’. Then I don’t get scared. A couple of years ago at the end of a Hawaiian Islands cruise we spent a few days in Waikiki. While on the cruise we had partaken much too generously of the buffet offerings and we felt it was time to regain sanity in our noshing. We took a walk one morning, and then near the end of our stroll through the resort high rises and along the beachfront on Kuhio Avenue, we though we should think about lunch of some sort. But, nothing thrilled us. We had simply had a surfeit of grub and were satiated.

Yet, a gnawing in the gut told us something should be consumed. Then we passed a sushi bar. Perfect. Little bits of food beautifully arrayed a la japonaise. It worked. See, it was little food, and multi-choice little food.

On another occasion we were in Victoria and had been away for a few days and had grown equally offended by eatery food choices. Why do I want to spend money for meatloaf that isn’t anywhere near as good as what I make, or a steak that is disgustingly overpriced? And then, Wendy suggested a tapas bar. Perfect! Little food.

The Spanish don’t have a great track-record in a few realms, like bullfighting and decimating indigenous peoples in Central and South America in the name of the God the Spaniards subscribed to. Granted, they have produced some pretty decent painters, from Goya to Dali to Picasso, and some good poets. Yet, I will forgive them any national sins for their invention of tapas. What a civilized way to eat. Just little bitty-bits of food that only make one want to move on to the next one.

All-round, I like small foods. Hate cocktail parties, but love scarfing down hors d oeuvre in significant amounts. Give me those deviled eggs or little cracker things with shrimp on them and I am very happy.

Offer a tray of French pastries and I am as gluttonous as Don Juan in a brothel. Send around one of those sandwich trolleys in an English tea shop – you know, the ones with the little sammies – and I can rack up a pretty healthy tab.

This is all going to say that Wendy and I decided we are going to try to eat tapas-style in future. It’s be good for us and also inspire us to find some meal alternatives.

Not necessarily for the faint-of-heart or the pure of soul

censorship

I have often wondered if young people today become sexually-jaded at a much earlier age than I did. In this I am referencing the reality that enables a young male especially (and I am considering males since I am one) to cruise the Internet and see every bit of salaciousness and sometimes even disgustingness known to humankind in vividly animated format and even with sounds. A static photo cannot reproduce moans, after all.

Whippersnappers today have no idea how filthily good they have it. Smut was much more elusive in my psycho-sexual formative years. Yes, there were the calendars on my dad’s workshop walls. Called ‘girlie’ calendars in their day and they mainly consisted of artistic renderings by the likes of Petty and Vargas of diminutively bikini-ed young ladies – never a nipple was to show, and the concept of exposed pubes was beyond the pale of anybody’s reckoning at that time. I think young fellows of my generation might have gotten the vapors at a glimpse of pubic hair. Clefts were utterly beyond reckoning.

Our only other access to grown-up lady stuff were those nether-garments that lurked beneath the Dior-knockoff skirts in the catalogues of Sear’s and Eaton’s stores where there would be page after page of otherwise respectable ladies showing their high-waist panties, panty-girdles and stiletto pointed brassieres. Those pages were mighty well thumbed by us, though never perused if mothers were nearby. We just knew they wouldn’t understand.

As I grew older there were the magazines; and like the girlie calendars, these were known as girlie magazines. Again, pretty discrete stuff and if a photo cut well down into the crotch line there was not to be a hint of pubic hair within view.

You want a bushy bush, then you had to look at one of those sophisticated little European mags where they showed ‘everything’ a little girl had and that a little boy wanted. In my recall, in fact, most of the females shown were far past little girl stage and were often heavy-set Teutonic looking women who looked like they might have done a fair amount of labor on a farm. They also had hairy legs and armpits. I didn’t actually have any of those but a friend actually posted off for some and he gladly shared them around.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that North American and UK magazines took the bold step and showed pubic foliage. We had finally arrived at a world as sophisticated as European smut-perusers had known about for ages. I recall it was Penthouse that broke the pussy-pelt taboo in North America, about the same time that Mayfair did in Britain. In fact, Penthouse was initially published in the UK and that was why publisher Bob Guccione got so brave and dared to defy the crotch shrubbery antagonism here. Oh, to be sure crotches had been shown in publications before Penthouse and Mayfair, in nudism magazines, to be precise. The problem was, the crotches in those mags were all Barbie Doll pussies in that there was no cleft at all. Just smooth and non functioning. No suggestion as to how such women urinated. Anyway, the last through the gate in the realm of pubic hair display was venerable (by the 1970s) Playboy. Always more discreet than his bawdy rival Penthouse Hefner didn’t want to turn his ‘sophisticated’ magazine into a grunge-fest. At least not until market-share losses forced his hand.

titsWith the advent of the Internet, however, and I can understand how disquieting this is for parents, holds were no longer barred. Anything you can comprehend smut-wise, perverted-wise, revolting-wise can be found by all who would cruise, be the cruiser twelve or ninety, prostitute or priest. Chacun a son perversion, for it’s all there in a blaze of color. Do they still sell dirty magazines any longer? I haven’t checked for ages. My point about parental distress over access is not unfounded. A woman I know, mother of an elementary school age child was helping her son with a project one evening. He was writing something on famous zoos. She thought she’d help him with what he was doing, so she Googled zoos. But then she didn’t realize that her objectives were becoming increasingly specific and while she might have thought she was going to see a picture of pandas in San Diego she ended up with some bad behavior with a donkey a few miles south of San Diego. She promptly shut down and offered to make her little boy some hot chocolate.

All for this evening, dear. You’re looking tired. You can finish tomorrow and I’ll find you some books at the library.”

I am not a prude. I don’t think there is anything inherently evil about erotica or blatant stick-it-in-and-do-your-thing-in-whatever-orifice-you-choose pornography. Not everybody has scintillating personal interactions that can tend to ‘needs’ so if people want to get off I am certainly not one to stand in their way. I like sex very much and sometimes I can even like vicarious sex.

Of course erotic images can also lead to fetish imagery running the gamut from, say, urolagnia (panty wetting and so forth right through to so-called ‘golden showers’) to much more blatant and to many offensive items. I mean to say, we all have our preferences and we all have our areas of revulsion. Choose your own. You will know by your own reaction if you have reached a personal limit. I, for example, have zero interest in anything involving physical pain or some of the more disgusting areas of humiliation. I accept the fact that others may have preferences that offend the bejabbers out of me, but I don’t have to go there.

All this being considered, do I believe in censorship? No I do not. As I stated, we all have our limits and if something offends, damn well don’t go there. Truly there is nothing new under the smut sun. It all goes back to Boccaccio or de Sade at least. People get up to monkey business, and sometimes they like images of shenanigans by others.

But, at the same time, I have zero tolerance for exploitation or any item involving minors. That’s illegal stuff, and it should be. I naively assume any image I look at involves consenting adults. I hope I am correct in that assumption.

Am I my brother’s keeper? I hope so. He has certainly been mine over the years.

Photograph (3)

I just finished a telephone conversation with my younger brother. Hadn’t spoken to him in much too long so it was an agreeable thing. It’s always an agreeable thing, mainly because I both love and like my brother.

All things considered I should have been a seething mass of sibling rivalry when my brother was born. I was five then and I’d had the world all to myself for half a decade. My parents were mine and my grandparents were mine and in the manner of children, I did believe I owned those people. And then this mewling, puking, pooping little wretch came upon the scene and disrupted everything.

Yet, I don’t remember feeling in any way Freudian about the matter. When you are five a crying baby doesn’t cause you too much angst. And since my mother wasn’t particularly doting I don’t recall feeling a dearth of her presence or any sort of divided affection. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I simply don’t remember such a thing.

I think I was maybe a strange child, but when adults oohed and aahed about how cute my baby brother was, I kind of agreed with them. I thought he was kinda cute, too.

Anyway, as years went by nothing much changed between the two of us. In the photo you can see me looking at my dorky best at about age 11. Of course we fought. Fought like hellions. We were siblings. And we were left with no residual hard feelings. We also found a certain amount of unity was to be valued in dealing with the parental units. It’s invaluable to have an ally.

We both went in different directions as time went by. I was much more academic and in that I tapped into my artsy-fartsy mother’s gene pool in terms of talents. She too wrote and painted. My brother was like the old man, mechanical and creative in the realms of dirty fingernails. No surprise he ended up in the automotive industry.

But, in so saying, it doesn’t mean it was ever a contest of intellects. My brother is a bright guy and in some realms I cannot hold a candle to him. That shows in the way we discuss.

We discuss all and everything: newsworthy stuff, TV, films, music – he is immensely knowledgeable about music of all genres from virtually every generation – people, family members, and we can go on for hours and hours.

As years went by we grew closer and found we had much more in common than we had thought, and indeed that we had in common when we were younger. Added to which, and I must add, I found out what a truly cherished brother he was when I went through a bad patch after the breakup of my 2nd marriage. I called him and my sister-in-law often and they both rallied with amazing amounts of moral support for me. I think it was the first time I had ever reached out to family in such a manner and their stalwart help was invaluable to me. They aided me in making it through a rough time, and I will never forget what they did.

So that’s it. My testament to my bro.