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Nothing Lasts Forever

“Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.”       – John Adams

This morning, I was talking to a Trump supporting relation of  mine about Paul Manafort, and this relation said: “All the evidence they have is made up.” I stopped for a moment and inquired how they could possibly think that. The response was this: “Trump is the most honest president we’ve ever had and they are creating this evidence to make him look like a liar.” At that very distinct moment, I  made a decision.

Back in 2013, I started The Bastards with a few friends of mine as a way to vent our political frustrations. Our pieces did alright, one of them was even picked up by Yahoo and went viral in Detroit. Along the way we gained a pretty faithful following and I will be forever thankful to those of you who supported us. Whether it was by sharing a piece, buying a t-shirt, or just yelling out “fuck you!” Whenever you saw me in public. We had a podcast which seemed to do alright numbers wise, at least, on replays, and we were able to interview some incredibly intelligent people so that we could spread knowledge as well as rants. Unfortunately, we now live in a country in which facts don’t matter. The dimwit currently residing in the White House lies on a daily basis. His supporters either don’t care or they say the media made it up even though there’s video/tweet evidence. The Bastards excelled when people were sick of the bullshit. Back when we knew who our enemies were. Now it doesn’t matter, alternative facts have replaced the truth and love of an authoritarian has replaced patriotism. Everything that Chandler and I wrote about (in regards to the politics future) back in 2013 has come to fruition and it fucking sucks.

So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to shut the entire Bastards idea down until further notice. I’m still going to write, but it won’t be political. Mainly stories, pieces on different things, and the occasional interview. I am proud of what we did here, and I am thankful to Chandler, Diana, Chris, Jerry, Captain Obvious, Jon, and especially Jude (I love and miss you so much), and those of you who stood by us. One day, soon, The Bastards will be back with a vengeance, when the war against stupidity and shithead politicians reaches a boiling point. Until then, thank you and good night (always wanted to say that)

– CJ

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The Angel and the Badman

My name is Pete Williams, and I’m an orderly at St Mary’s Assisted Living Center. I’ve been tasked with passing on a story, though I must admit that I know nothing about writing, and even less about storytelling. There are parts of this that are nearly impossible to believe, but I need you to believe them. I was not witness to the first part of this story, but I witnessed the end, and I can tell you that every word you read is the Gospel Truth. I’ve added some notes between the parts I didn’t witness and the parts I did. I hope it adequately bridges the gap for you. I guess without further ado, I present to you the story of Albert Danforth.

 

Albert Danforth peered over the rim of his glasses at the small, mousey looking woman sitting in front of him. Ada Perkins had been Albert Danforth’s personal aide for the better part of a decade. She was loyal, never called in sick, and knew how to follow orders. Unfortunately, she worked for Albert Danforth, and that meant anything short of death would disqualify her from taking any sick days. She looked at him and spoke. “It’s just a few hours. My son is so sick and we are going to take him…”

“Ms Perkins” Danforth interrupted, “If I had a dollar for every single time a mother told me she had to leave early on a holiday because of a sick child, I’d be the richest man in the world. Christmas Eve is just like any other day. You will leave at your usual time of 4:30, and not a moment sooner. Now if you’ll please excuse me, I have to look over the Mitchell report. Good day, Ms Perkins.” Danforth watched his longtime assistant gather herself and walk out of the room.  The problem with people, Danforth thought, is that they never understand the benefits of a full day’s work. All this hooey about holidays and days off, it’s nonsensical. When you’re an adult, you work, and if that seems unfair, it’s because life is unfair. After all, was it fair that my wife Marie, my parents, and my siblings died in a plane crash and I survived? Is it fair that every Christmas Eve since then is spent alone with the shadows of the past stalking me from every direction? With this last thought, Danforth brought down his fist upon his solid oak desk. “Fuck Christmas,” he said as he stood up and walked over to the decanter on the window sill that held 12 year old Old Weller Special Reserve bourbon. He poured himself a few ounces and downed it. He closed his eyes as the burn moved from the back of his tongue down to his chest. No, no early leave today. In fact, an example must be made. No more weakness.” Danforth sat down at his desk and picked up the office intercom. “Ms. Perkins, will you please report to my office at once. Thank you.” He switched the intercom off, leaned back in his chair, and waited.

When Ada Perkins walked back in his office, he could see the hope. She thought he had changed his mind. Good. Let this be a lesson. “Ms. Perkins, as you know, I run a multimillion dollar business. I didn’t reach this level of success in the shipping field by taking days off or leaving early. Danforth Shipping Incorporated started off in my garage and is now one of the world’s leading shipping giants. There is no place for days off and early holiday leave, do you understand me” Ada Perkins nodded an affirmative. “Good. You can leave now.”  He waited until Ada had almost reached the door before speaking again. “Oh, Ms. Perkins, you’re fired, Merry Christmas.”

 

At the same time Ada Perkins was pulling out of the DSI parking lot for the last time, her husband Rashan Perkins was receiving a call in his son’s hospital room at the Detroit Children’s Hospital. He answered and listened intently. First concern flashed through his eyes, then anger, followed by rage, finally settling on despair. Tears rolled down his eyes as he hung up and placed the phone back in his pocket.

 

 

At 4:30, Danforth sipped on bourbon as he looked on with contempt as his entitled employees left for the comfort of their own homes. If I could, I would fire every last one of them, Danforth thought. There was a time when Albert Danforth had a soul, and he knew it, but that was in the past, and he never ventured down that path. Who knows what kinds of ghosts are lurking in the shadows, waiting to ambush him. No, this was the only way to go through life. The world has a habit of taking the good, and the kind, and the giving, and chewing them up before spitting them back out just to repeat the cycle. He finished his bourbon and sat down to draft a list of new employee rules that would go into effect on January 1st. I’ve been too easy on them. They’ve had it way too good for way too long and it ends now. Thus the head of Danforth Shipping Inc lost himself in his tyrannical ways and consequently, lost track of time itself. Suddenly, a loud knock came from his office door, nearly knocking Danforth to the ground. “Who’s there?” Danforth had regained his composure and was now looking for someone to tear into. To his surprise, a young man in a white suit with long blonde hair walked into his office. “Pardon the interruption, but I was wondering if you could tell me where I could find Ada Perkins.” The man’s voice was quiet but there was strength behind it.

“Ms. Perkins was fired this afternoon. Her whereabouts are neither my concern nor my business.” Danforth watched the dawning horror spread over the young man’s face.

“Surely you didn’t fire her on the day they are pulling their son off life support. Not even a man such as you could be that heartless.” Anger shined in the man’s eyes and Danforth smiled as he stood up.

“I must say, hyperbole is not a good look for you young man. Ms Perkins has a sick son that is all. All this nonsense about life support…you’re lucky I don’t call the cops and have you thrown in jail. You are trespassing in my office!”

“Sit down.” The young man’s voice was quiet but it exploded in Danforth’s head. Shocked, Danforth did as he was told. “You are a poor excuse of a man. Have you really become so bitter, so angry, that you would allow yourself to aid in the death of a child? Have your personal losses been so great, that they outweigh your duty to your fellow man?” The man had not moved from his spot in front of Danforth’s desk, but Albert would have bet the house that the man had grown three inches in the time they had been talking.

“Ada Perkins said her son was sick, not dying. If she had meant dying, she should have said so. Not that it would have changed anything, every day children die. It’s life. It’s the natural order of things. As for your tone, you know nothing of me. You don’t know where I’ve been, you don’t know what I’ve been through. Now kindly get the fuck out of my office.”

“I was there the day your parents welcomed you into this world forty three years ago Albert Danforth. I was there the day you took your first steps, said your first words, and cried your first tears. I was there the first time you fell in love, and I was there the first time you experienced loss. I was there when you were the lone survivor pulled from a tragic plane crash, and unfortunately, I’ll be able to say I was there when you turned your back on someone who has been nothing but loyal when they needed you most. Ada Perkins son is being taken off life support at midnight tonight because his family can’t afford an experimental surgery that could cure him of cancer and save his life. A 13 year old boy will die tonight, and all you can do is hide inside your contempt. You live a miserable existence, Mr Danforth, and I will see to it that you face up to that fact.” Without warning, the man started waving his hands around much like that of a conductor. After a few moments, bells filled the room, followed by strings, and a choir. The man started waving his arms faster and faster, now there were images floating around the room, distorted and fuzzy, but then clear and horrifying. There he was with his parents and grandmother  on Christmas Eve sitting on the living room floor, then terror as his grandmother falls dead off her chair. The images get sharper and the music rises, the young man’s arms whip around furiously, sweat forming on his brow. The next image, college, a young and full of life Albert Danforth kissing Marie Brown under the mistletoe at the center of campus, their eyes so full of life and hope as they stand in the snow. The young man’s arms move faster and faster and the music gets more frantic, the room darkens. A fireball suddenly engulfs the room followed by screams and the smell of burning flesh. A married and quite happy Albert Danforth stares in horror as his parents and his beloved wife are sucked out of a plane thanks to an engine explosion ripping the side of the aircraft open like a can of tuna. The young man’s arms slow and the music grows faint. Albert Danforth is in a hospital room with a cast on both legs and one arm. The eyes that were so full of life and love are now filled with rage and grief. Danforth hears himself scream but he can’t tear his eyes away from the images. The next scene is also a hospital room, but the young man laying in the bed is not Albert Danforth. It is a child and the child is hooked up to so many machines and wires. Faces appear next, Ada Perkins’s eyes are wet and filled with sorrow, while her husband’s are filled with rage and grief, eyes that Danforth is very familiar with. Suddenly the music stops, the images disappear, and the young man half falls into a chair behind him. Danforth tries to tell him to leave, but he’s unable to speak. In fact, he’s unable to do anything but stand there and shake.

A few moments later, without saying a word, the young man walks out of a still shaken Albert Danforth’s office. Tears form in Albert’s eyes and he ushers forth a scream containing twelve years of grief all at once. For ten long and horrible minutes, Mr. Albert Danforth is reduced to a screming, grieving mess on the floor of the office he so proudly kicked Ada Perkins out of a few hours earlier. In those ten minutes, Albert Danforth feels every second of his miserable existence. When it is over, he stands up, makes a few phone calls and leaves the office. As soon as he exits the building a cab pulls up. This can’t be a coincidence, he thinks to himself. He gets in and practically screams at the driver, “Detroit Children’s Hospital and hurry, we only have an hour!” The Detroit streets are clear of traffic on this Christmas Eve and they arrive in ten minutes. Danforth rushes in to the hospital, asks the woman at the information desk where Ada Perkin’s son is, and runs off down the hallway, trying to outrun both the clock and his memory. He gets lost a few times but finally finds the room at half past eleven. He enters the room and is immediately charged by Rashan Perkins. “You son of a bitch! You dare show yourself in my son’s room after what you’ve done to my wife?” Danforth sees the punch coming and tries to roll with it. It connects anyway, knocking him to the ground. “Please, I want to help, I’m here to help.” Danforth stands up and brushes himself off. “Ada, I am so sorry for my actions today. I wasn’t aware of the situation and now that I am, I’d like to pay for your son’s surgery.”

Rashan Perkins lowered his voice, “We don’t want your help, you miserable son of a bitch.” Ada places a hand on her husband’s arm to calm him. “If your offer to help is a serious one, Mr Danforth, we would be honored to accept it.” Danforth smiles.

“It is a very serious offer, and so is this, I’d like you to come back to DSI, not as my assistant, but as my partner. You know the inside staff better than I ever have and they respect you. There will be a few months worth of training and adjustments on your end, but I can think of no one better.” Danforth’s offer is met with tears and squeals of happiness and hope. The doctor is paged and the surgery is scheduled for Christmas morning. Danforth spends the rest of the night apologizing and explaining what had caused him to fall down such a dark hole.

The next morning, as Albert stands in front of a mirror attempting to tie a tie with shaky hands, a voice rings out from behind him.

“You did good last night, Mr. Danforth.” Danforth whips around to find the young man with the blonde hair standing behind him.

“Jesus, way to scare a guy to death, what are you doing here?”

“I came to say goodbye. I’ve been waiting twelve years for you to unScrooge yourself, and last night it finally happened. Merry Christmas, Mr. Danforth.” With that, the young man disappeared.

 

<Narration> Albert Danforth did indeed make good on his promise to pay for the operation as well as bring Ada Perkins back as a partner. They had a good twenty year run together. At his retirement party, Albert Danforth surprised no one by naming a man who had risen through the ranks over the last fourteen years as the new owner of Danforth Shipping Incorporated. The new owner’s name, if you must know, was Xavier Perkins, son of Ada and childhood cancer survivor. Within two years, Xavier had expanded the company and was named Time Magazine’s Businessman of the Year. In honor of the man who paid for the operation that saved his life, Xavier started the Albert Danforth Fund which allowed for 10% of the company’s yearly profits to be split among all employees at the end of the year. By the end of his third year as head of DSI, the company was netting over a billion dollars a year. As for Albert Danforth? Well, this is where I come in. Lets take a peek shall we?

 

I never liked working the Christmas Eve shift at St Mary’s. It always saddened me to see these nice elderly folk wait with anticipation for family to arrive, only to be met with bitter disappointment. People don’t like to admit it, but some people use places like us as dumping grounds. A place where they can drop off an elderly family member and walk away like they never existed. On the rare year I actually worked the Christmas Eve shift I always tried to interact with the residents as much as possible. There was one resident, an Albert Danforth, who I particularly enjoyed talking to. He was nice, funny, sharp as a nail, but I think he had a few screws starting to come loose. He had been with us for three years by this point, and every year a few days before Christmas Eve, he’d start getting excited about the visitor that would be coming to see him the night before Christmas.

“Pete” He’d say, “This man has come to see me every Christmas Eve for thirty years. He’s never missed a single one. Funny fellow, very odd in that he never ages, he looks the same now as he did thirty years ago.” I’d laugh along with him, but none of us had ever seen this visitor. Still, there was no reason to ruin an old man’s excitement. At any rate, this past Christmas Eve I found myself bringing dinner to Albert Danforth’s room. As I approached, I heard laughter. I entered the room and saw Albert and a young man in a white suit laughing together. Albert caught my gaze. “Pete, my friend, this is the visitor I’ve been telling you about every year.” I walked over and extended my hand.

“Hi, I’m Pete Williams, nice to meet you.”

The young man grasped my hand in his. “The name’s Gabriel and it is nice to meet you as well. Albert tells me you are his favorite orderly.”

I blushed. “He is a good man. Speaking of, I brought down a tray for him. Added a little extra turkey I know how much he likes it.”

Suddenly the room grew silent. “I appreciate that Pete, but I won’t be needing it tonight. I am going to leave with Gabriel.”

“Oh, okay, well, is there anything else I can do for you tonight Mr. Danforth?”

“Actually, Pete, there is.” His eyes moistened and he looked at me for a moment without saying a word. “Thank you for being so kind to me Pete. On my shelf next to the bed is a journal that I’ve kept for thirty years. Will you please write about those years and let people know that the magic of Christmas is not an illusion?”

“Umm sure, I can do that, I guess. Don’t want to do it yourself?”

Albert Danforth smiled at me and then asked the man in white the oddest question.

“Gabriel, before we go, will it hurt?”

Gabriel smiled and said no. With that they walked out of the room hand in hand. I stood there stunned for a few minutes, not understanding what had just happened until the scream shook me from my stupor. I dropped the tray and ran out in the hallway. There, lying lifeless in the middle of the floor, was Albert Danforth. I quit my job right then and there. Too much death, even if it is natural death. A few weeks later a package arrived on my doorstep. There was no address on it just my name. Inside was Mr. Danforth’s journal and a note that said

Remember your promise, Pete.

                                                -G

And so here I am, following through on a Christmas promise I made to an old man moments before he died. His last words still vibrate through my head: “Will it hurt?” Judging by the smile that was on his face when we turned him over that night in the hall, I’d like to say no, it didn’t hurt at all.

Why the Blue Wave is a Myth

Is the Democratic Party Brittney Spears, because Oops, They Did It Again. You would have thought after trotting out the second shittiest candidate in modern history, that they would have learned. But alas, apparently they are addicted to shooting themselves in the feet constantly. I realize a lot of you are going to be very angry with me for this, so I’m going to break it down in a simple manner so that anyone with a shred of critical thinking skills can get behind it.

1. Brett Kavanaugh: Brett Kavanaugh is a piece of shit for a myriad of reasons. Namely, it’s because he’s anti Fourth Amendment, he only partially believes in the Second Amendment, He was the legal mind behind the Patriot Act, and he’s a supporter of torture. If you want to go one step further, he’s also a partisan hack. That right there would have been enough to sink his shitty little battleship right then and there. But no, the Democrats decided to take a different approach. They went for the Sexual Assault approach which has worked so fucking well for the last two years. Now, before you start stoning me, I believe Dr. Ford. But it was also 36 years ago and this administration has basically rolled over and mocked every sexual assault accusation thrown at it. Now, Dr. Ford is getting mocked relentlessly, her life is pretty much ruined, and Kavanaugh was nominated anyway. Good fucking job there Dems. You had an easy way in with the anti second and fourth amendment insanity, as well as the writing of the Patriot Act, and you never once brought them up. As if that wasn’t bad enough, you let Michael Avenatti get involved which not only muddled everything, but gave the Repukelicans enough ammo to convince the country that this was indeed a witch hunt, and a mockery.

2. Faux Outrage/Hypocrisy: Democrats have been calling for Homeland Security honk Kirstjen Nielsen to resign because she lied about the Administrations Immigration policy. Pretty big, right? Let’s rewind a bit to the days of the Obama administration. I don’t give a shit about Hillary Clinton and Benghazi, what I care about in regards to Benghazi, was that Susan Rice was the one that lied about it. She was the one that came up with that doofy ass Youtube Video bullshit that was later trumpeted by Clinton herself. How do we know this? Because there are emails between Rice and Ben Rhodes talking about the lies they were going to use to protect President Obama. Not a fucking word out of Democrats there at all. In 2013 the IRS inappropriately targeted Tea Party/Patriot groups. Once again, not a fucking word. In 2012 David Patreus banged his biographer and divulged classified information. Dems defended him until the day he resigned. Next we have the biggest scandal of the Obama admin, and that was Eric Holder and his Fast and Furious crap. If you remember, Fast and Furious was an ATF program that purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel leaders and arrest them. Not only were none of the cartel members arrested, close to 1/3 of the guns were used in gang related killings. He was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to release data related to F&F. He did not resign nor was he held responsible by the Obama administration.

3. You got Cornered: The entire Democratic strategy in 2016 was Trump is a Sexual Predator that makes him unfit for office. Now, do I believe Trump is a sexual predator? I’d bet my house on it. Unfortunately, all he had to do was deny, deny,deny. After awhile people got sick of hearing it. Then, at the 2nd debate, he trotted out all of Bill Clinton’s rape accusers. Suddenly you found yourself backed into a corner and on the defensive. MEANWHILE, what you SHOULD have been going after, is Trump’s authoritarian streak. I mean, sure, you finally got there towards the end, but by then it didn’t matter. Hillary, in what can only be described as one of the most brilliant political moves of all time, decided to skip Michigan, Ohio, AND Wisconsin. By the time you moved the chains from sexual assault to the real fascist threat of Donald Trump, you had completely shunned three battleground states. Smooth move there. If I was running for President I wouldn’t visit any of them, I’d just stay home and run commercials. Seems like a winning strategy. Oh, I almost forgot, during Trump’s first year, Democrat Al Franken was accused of sexual misconduct (with photographic evidence). Suddenly, you only had one course of action. After two years of hammering Trump for sexual misconduct, the only acceptable solution was to convince Stuart Smalley to resign. But therein lies the rub. Trump on a daily basis defended himself (regardless of whether it was right) against these accusations. The moment an accusation came up against one of your own, you had no choice but to look and act guilty.

4. It’s Not About the Base: Up until the recent shenanigans and “I Am Spartacus” moments, Independent voters were largely willing to ride the Blue Wave in November. In fact, a month ago (if we’re to believe the polls) Independent voters were +14 for the Democrats. That is a ridiculous number. Although the polls taken earlier this week have that number dropping down to +10 which is still ridiculous. Unfortunately, that was for the house itself. The Senate numbers have spun way out of the Democrats favor. Two months ago, the Dems had a 41.7% chance of taking the Senate, which wasn’t out of the question. However, since then, that number has dropped to 21.4% which means that you’ve managed to fuck things up EVEN in the face of Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham’s insane bullshit. So, well done on that front.

5. Switch the Names: I could literally switch out Democratic Party for Republican party and this piece would still, with a few tweeks, remain pretty much the same. You see, the problem isn’t Independent voters, or voters who went for Jill Stein as a protest, the problem is that both parties suck. The Republicans are honest about their douchebaggery. You, on the other hand, hide it behind false platitudes and fake smiles. Every democrat I know, lost their shit when Cory Booker had his moment in the spotlight during the Kavanaugh hearings. So much so, that I even heard a lot of them say he should run for President. in 2017 there was a proposal up to lower prescription drug costs. 13 Republican Senators got behind it which gave it a good shot at passing. Well, until Cory Booker and a bunch of other Dems shot it down. Suddenly he comes out in 2018 and says that this election will determine the fate of our country. Are you kidding me? The next “idol” on the Dem list is Kamala Harris. She came out and whipped Brett Kavanaugh like a red headed step child. Impressive, right? But did you know that while AG of California, Harris argued against early prisoner release for prisoners who deserved it because she wanted prisoners to fight the California Wild Fires? Or how about when Steve Mnuchin’s (current Treasury Secretary) bank was found to have insane amount of violations against homeowners including manipulating bids at property auctions to cut off owner’s rights. Harris’ own attorneys suggested she sue Mnuchin and his bank on behalf of the homeowners. She declined to take any action at all. Sounds a lot like something a Republican would do, doesn’t it?

The whole point of this, I guess, is that if you’re dreaming of this Blue Tsunami that is going to wipe out the House and the Senate so that the Dems control both houses, you’re crazy. It won’t happen. Just like it didn’t happen in 2012, 2014, and 2016. Sure, it’s almost a given they’ll retake the House, but that’s about it. And unless the DNC comes up with one hell of a Candidate in 2020, you’re not winning that House either.

 

A Note to the Residents of Trumptardia

“When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism’.” -Professor Luccock

I know why you did it. You see, unlike most people who think you lot are just inbred rednecks (no doubt there are some among you, James Woods perhaps) who live in shacks by the swamp and eat gator 3 times a day, I understand your motive. You consider yourselves to be the ignored, the outcasts that have been left to fend for yourselves. You came from towns where factory life wasn’t just a romanticized vision of 1970’s America. I understand that. I honestly do. In a lot of ways you share a similar mindset with the original hells angels. You feel like you got left behind by DC so you were going to make them pay. I hate to break it to you, but it would have been better if you were just dumb ignorant yokels that couldn’t read even the shortest of Dr. Seuss books. At least then we could pass off your incredible lack of empathy, common sense, and intelligence to your gene pool. We could say things like “Oh, you’ll have to excuse Mark, yeah he’s a Trump supporter, but his Uncle Father dropped him on his head when he was three and he ain’t been right since.” Unfortunately, the truth is that you don’t give a single shit about the country. In fact, you don’t give a shit about anyone but yourself. You just wanted someone to blame for the fact that your lot in life wasn’t as good as you thought it should have been. You wanted to set the world on fire but you didn’t have the means to do it until that bloated orange authoritarian stepped into the spotlight.

Trump never hid his authoritarian tendencies. During his campaign he repeatedly wondered out loud if maybe the constitution was past its due date. He repeatedly trashed anyone that didn’t support him including veterans and disabled folk. He trashed our allies and he trashed our values. But you didn’t care because the people you were blaming for your lot in life were “butthurt” by all of it. Suddenly the snowflakes became the enemy. I was one of the members of the press that you hassled during a Michigan stop. I was there to report nothing but the truth and all you did for two straight hours before he stepped on stage was turn to the cage we had been put in and call us nazis and traitors. You did all of this because you wanted to be somebody. You wanted to count. I hope you feel like it was worth it, because here’s a newsflash: you will never be somebody and you will never count. You’ve shown your true colors by standing in line with a man who is dismantling decency second by second. You support a man who lies literally every single fucking day. You give your money willingly to an administration that is so corrupt (Scott Pruitt) that it makes Spiro Agnew look like a choir boy. You stand by an administration who blames democrats for a law that it could easily overturn but won’t. Thus everyday we get to witness children being wrenched away from parents and being stuck in cages as opposed to being sent back home with their families. You support a man who uses the Bible to justify things as opposed to the constitution upon which this country was founded. No, you will never count. When you are dead and gone, no one will remember you. Your life’s “work” will slip into the cracks of time and you will be forgotten. Just as it should be. You are not decent people. You are not the “misunderstood” patriots that the media keeps trying to paint you as. 100 years from now, when history classes cover this period of time, they won’t say “I wonder who those brave souls were that ushered in this new era of authoritarianism.” No, they will look at each other in disbelief and say “what kind of dumb fuck would ever willingly support this?” Your stupidity will last longer than your bloodline ever will and at night when you close your eyes, I hope your final thought before sleep takes you is that people like me will always be here to remind you of your treachery and your dumb fuckery. Enjoy your moment in the spotlight, because when that spotlight comes crashing down, there will be hell to pay, and I think you’ll find out that the very suckfish you support right now will be the ones turning on you.

Lessons From Wonderland

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road can take you there.” – Alice in Wonderland

When I tell people that Alice in Wonderland actually has a pretty good philosophical foundation, I either get the “Oh my god, you know me” or the always amazing “Son, have you ever considered putting the crack pipe down?” I realize that taken at face value, the world of Wonderland can pretty much be written off as the ravings of someone in the middle of an opium binge. That being said, if you give me ten minutes, I’d like to try to change your mind. Alice in Wonderland has some pretty badass life lessons in it if you’re willing to look between the caterpillar’s smoke rings. Don’t believe me? Try these on:

There’s logic in nonsense: Alice in Wonderland goes out of it’s way to throw as much gibberish at you as possible. However, if you think about it, it’s no stranger than the world we live in. The Universe doesn’t play by our rules. We like order and we like things to make sense. The Universe hands us a beer, punches us in the face, then tells us it loves us. Things happen that have no explanation or rational reason. At the end of the day, with all the weirdness that goes on around us, it only makes sense to say that there’s sense in nonsense. It’s part of what makes life amazing.

Be you, Be weird: It would not be wrong to say that most of the inhabitants of Wonderland could be considered batshit crazy by our society’s standards. It would also not be wrong to say that they are also unapologetically themselves. That in and of itself may be the most important part of Wonderland. It seems like everywhere you look today, there are people who try to fit who they are into a neat small box. These are the people who look like they’ve got it figured out on the outside but are actually screaming on the inside. This world…we are here for such a short period of time. Why waste it trying to be something you’re not? Who cares if people think you’re strange? You don’t owe them anything. You do, however, owe it to yourself to be true to who you are. I get called weird, strange, and daffy on a near daily basis, but you know what? At least people know that what they get from me is real. There are no walls or masks, just this mess of sarcastically weird carbon.

Dare to Dream: Alice was a dreamer. To the people around her, it was considered a serious flaw. This is perhaps the most beautiful part of Alice in Wonderland. In a world that wants itself to be grounded in reality, it’s greatest achievements were reached by dreamers. It was the dreamers who dared look beyond the horizon and gave us the universe. It was the dreamers who took ground travel and let it soar among the clouds. It was the dreamers who gave us the books that touched our hearts and helped shape who we would become. It was dreamers that used the power of music to heal broken hearts. Just because people say it’s impossible, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Go back in time and tell Bill Shakespeare about a laptop and watch him laugh you out of his hut. So be you, be weird, dream a thousand things before breakfast, and embrace the nonsense of this world. Like Alice said “You’re entirely bonkers, but I’ll you a secret: all the best people are.”

A Year Later, A Decade Wiser

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” – George Eliot

At this precise time last March 6th, I was at work awaiting word from my mother on the progress of my Dad’s bone spur removal surgery. Never in a million years did I think that by 9:30 that night, I’d be living in a world without him. In the coming days I heard from friends who had lost one or both parents before the age of 40. “The hurt will never go away, you’ll just get used to it” or “You’ll go through the stages of grief when you least expect it. Maybe not all five of them, but it will happen.” Those words, while greatly appreciated, also held no context for me. People said I’d go through an anger stage which I found ridiculous. I’d never be angry at my father for dying. Then one day I found myself in the back of our office taking a metal baseball bat to a stack of old VCR’s while tears of anger and frustration flowed freely. So much for not being angry. They said I would go through a bargaining stage. I scoffed. Me? Bargain? I don’t bargain with anything. Well, at least until I found myself at Gallup park promising the Universe I’d become the male version of Mother Theresa if it would just return my dad. They told me that I’d go through a stage of depression. No big deal, I thought. I go through winter depression every November-February I pull that shit off like a champ. Until the day I found myself sitting in a mental black hole and unable to function. They told me that I would go through things that I’d not understand until I actually went through it. That part I understood. In a lot of ways it was like going through cancer. Until you actually go through it, you will never fully understand.

I think to me, the weirdest thing about my father dying, is trying to reconcile the fact that one minute my father was holding on to my arm, the next he was gone. Everyday I walk into the office that he worked at and sit down at the desk that he sat at. On the walls are the pictures he had from his football days at the University of Michigan. Everywhere I go I see traces of my father. Sometimes I’ll be minding my own business and suddenly the image of him falling to the floor will smack me in the face leaving me angry and teary eyed. Sometimes I’ll walk into a place that he used to frequent and I’ll find myself reliving conversations we had. It’s hard to fathom the fact that he’s not physically here anymore. It confuses me and often times leaves me baffled because he had always been here and now…

It’s been one year to the day since I lost my dad and yet I feel like I’ve gained a decades worth of wisdom in that time. At the end of the day there is no rhyme or reason to why he died. The only thing I do know is that every day I am surrounded by him. Whether it’s memories or pictures, or even the faces of friends he had, he’s always here. And that’s the thing isn’t it? I don’t know the meaning of death. I don’t know why it’s a part of life or what mysteries it contains, what I do know is that while my dad is no longer here physically, he’s still here in many other ways, and in a lot of ways that makes it better because whenever I miss him, I can close my eyes and take myself to whichever memory I want to be lost in. I guess in philosophical terms, that makes him very much alive.

Christmas at McKinney’s

Christmas Eve is a time when many people throw around words like magical and miracles. It’s a time when people stop taking stock of their own world and venture out to meet the needs of others. That being said, I was never much of a Christmas person. My father was a drunk and my mother was so scared of angering him that my version of a good Christmas was one in which neither one of us got beaten. That all changed on Christmas Eve of 2016. See, here in Salem Heights, MI, we don’t have much in the way of entertainment. Our town has a population of 400 and after the tree lighting ceremony on the 5th of every December, people scatter to wherever their families live and we end up with about 87 residents every Christmas. Most of them stay home Christmas Eve, but people like me, Tom Lloyd, Burt Arnold, and Chester Moran all head to McKinney’s Bar. It’s a real small place on the edge of the town limit run by a good man by the name of H.T. McKinney. Much like Tom, Burt, Chester, and myself, H.T. doesn’t have family to go back to. His wife died in a horrible car accident back in ’07 and ever since then he lights a fire in the fireplace at McKinney’s and allows us old timers to drink for free, and share our friendship for the holidays.

At any rate, in 2016, Christmas Eve fell upon us and Salem Heights thinned out. I made my way to McKinney’s where H.T had already stoked the fire so it was burning hot and bright. Chester was in the corner of the 10 stool bar and Tom was next to him staring into his customary 12 year old scotch.

“Merry Christmas, Ted!” H.T. yelled as I walked through the door.

“Merry Christmas, H! Thanks as always for the hospitality. That wind sure is blowing a storm out there, I’d hate to be stuck in this weather.” At the sound of my voice, H.T’s little eight year old Shih-Tzu Tessa came barking around the corner. “Merry Christmas to you too, Tessa Bo Bessa!” I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out a small piece of jerky. After all the years of coming here, I have learned that if you don’t come with treats for the beast, she will pretend you don’t exist. I watched Tessa trot back behind the bar with the jerky hanging out of her mouth.

“How’s it hanging, slick?” Chester chided from the corner.

“Ask your wife, she knows.” I responded. Chester cackled and returned to his beer. Chester had never been married and as far as I know, had never had what us old timers would call a steady. In fact, if you had told me that he had never seen a woman in a state of undress, I wouldn’t be surprised. Chester was married to the bottom of whatever beer stein sat in front of him. He wasn’t exactly an alcoholic, but I think it’s fair to say that he had a habit of confronting his demons by drinking them.

“Merry Christmas, Ted, and Bah Humbug!” That was Tom.

“Merry Christmas to you as well, Tom, I see you are in peak holiday spirit.” We both laughed at this and then I sat down next to him.

“What’ll ye be drinking tonight, Lad?’  H.T. said in his faux Irish accent.

“Rum and coke, my friend, seems like a good night for that.”

Outside the wind started howling and the snow began to fall. These Northern Michigan winters are no joke and the weather service was calling for at least a foot and a half of the white stuff plus 40 mile an hour winds.

“Jesus,” Tom started, “that wind sounds like my ex wife in bed.”

“Who are you kidding Lloyd! The only sound your ex wife ever made in bed with you was laughter.”

“Fuck you, Chester at least I’ve been in bed with a woman” Tom retorted.

Chester cackled again and then returned to his beer.

H.T. brought me my drink and topped it off with a handshake. “It’s good to see you, Ted.”

“Jesus, H, you act like you haven’t seen me every night for the last 15 years.”

“I know, Ted. It’s just good to see you.” For a moment, a brief, startling moment, H.T looked like the saddest man I had ever laid eyes on. “Now drink up ya asshole!” Suddenly his eyes were filled with life again.

 

PART 2

As the night went on, stories were shared, laughter filled the room, and at one point Chester made his case to be the next Josh Groban by standing on the bar and belting out the worst version of O, Holy Night that the world has ever been subjected to. He closed his performance by accidentally stepping off the bar and crashing to the floor cackling the entire time. The hours passes and first Chester left and then Tom left leaving H.T. and I alone with Tessa the Barbarian Shih-Tzu. H.T. brought me another drink and once again that look of unending sadness filled his eyes.

“H…what’s going on with you?”

“Ted, you started out as a customer, then you became a friend, now you are the closest thing to family I have.”

“I appreciate that, H, I feel the same way. What’s going on?”

“This is the last Christmas Eve at McKinneys.”

“What? What are you going on about, H? Is it money problems? We can help with that!”

“It’s not just money, Ted. Yeah I’m sixteen thousand in the hole, but I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last week. They think I’ve got a couple months left.”

My jaw hit the ground. There are some things in life that are so unexpected or so jarring that words fail to come and this was one of them.

“Jesus, H. I’m so sorry, is there anything I can do?”

“I just want to spend the last few hours of Christmas Eve in this bar with you and Tessa. I’m going turn the closed sign on and we can drink in peace. Not that anyone ever comes in here after 9 on Christmas Eve, but still. I do need to ask one favor of you, Ted.”

“Anything, H. You name it I’ll do it.”

“Will you take care of Tessa for me? I wish I could leave the bar to you as well, but as soon as I’m gone, the bank is going to take it. I’m sorry, Ted.”

“Of course I will take Tessa. Don’t worry about the bar, it’s not the building that matters, just the memories that took place inside.”

Almost immediately after I spoke, the bar door was flung open. A man in a white suit and long white hair stood in the doorway.

“I apologize, I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything, it’s just the weather outside is not conducive to driving and I saw the lights on. Is there any chance of staying until the storm dies down a little?”

I could see H silently curse himself for not shutting the bar down sooner. Then, a softness appeared in his eyes.

“Absolutely you can join us, friend. Merry Christmas, here at McKinney’s the drinks are free on Christmas Eve.”

“I thank you so much for your kindness. Although I will take a water if you don’t mind, I’m not one to indulge in drink.”

H got the man his water and watched as he sat at the far end of the bar. He did not speak nor did he focus his gaze on us. Instead, he seemed intent on staring a hole through the water glass.

After a few minutes of awkward silence, H moved back down to my end of the bar and we talked the talk of two men with no care in the world. After close to an hour and a half, the stranger spoke up at the end of the bar. “Excuse me sir, I thank you for your hospitality. With that being said, I need to speak to you, alone.”

H shot me a glance and I felt my muscles tighten. My fight or flight was suddenly on high alert.

“You can speak freely here friend, anything you need to say to me, you can say in front of my friend here.”

Without warning, the man’s arm shot out and rested on H’s shoulder. H.T.’s eyes widened for a moment and then whatever had taken place between them, passed.

“Ted, I need to talk to this man. I can’t explain why, but he’s right, it needs to be alone. I’m sorry.”

“Are you sure? I can go out back and wait just to make sure you’ll be okay. We don’t know this guy.”

“It’s okay, my friend. I need you to trust me. Go on home and I’ll see you tomorrow. I love you brother.” As he said that last part, a look spread across H’s face that I had never seen before. It filled me with instant sadness though I knew not why.

“Love you too, I’ll see you at 9 tomorrow morning.” With that I walked out of McKinney’s and into the cold, unforgiving night.

 

PART 3

The next morning I trudged through the snow to McKinney’s and was shocked to find the County Coroner’s vehicle there. I walked up to Hiram the coroner and asked him what had happened.

“We got a call this morning around 8 a.m that H.T. McKinney had just passed away. Damn shame, especially on Christmas Morning.”

I stumbled slowly towards the door my mind reeling. How was this possible? I had just seen him a few hours before. Then my mind went to the stranger. Something had happened, an argument or maybe even a robbery. Maybe he was killed in cold blood. I wheeled around and asked Hiram what he thought the cause of death was.

“Honestly, Ted? I think he died in his sleep. They found him in a chair by the fire sitting there peacefully. He did not suffer.”

I stumbled back towards the bar trying to reconcile my emotions with the information I had just been given. The next hour was filled with paperwork and condolences and things no one ever wants to deal with. Finally I was alone in the bar with Tessa who seemed a step slower. I guess it’s true that dogs are more aware than we give them credit for. After mourning in front of the fireplace and crying into a bottle of rum, Tessa and I left the bar. I walked around the front where the fresh snow hadn’t been violate by boots yet. Tessa was bounding by my side eager to get back into the warmth of a house. As I turned the corner to the far front of the bar, I heard a voice calling after me.

“Excuse me, sir!”

I turned around to see the man from the night before standing behind me.

“I am sorry for your loss, sir. It is my duty though, to give you this.” The man with the white suit and the long white hair handed me an envelope. I opened it and inside was the deed to the bar as well as sixteen thousand dollars. I looked up to ask the man what this was all about, but he was gone.

That was ten years ago, since then I have taken over the ownership of McKinney’s Bar and in the spirit of my friend H.T., drinks are free every Christmas Eve. As for the man in white, I don’t know who or what he was, it took me a long time to admit that I wasn’t crazy, because when we were in front of the bar the day H.T. died, he didn’t even leave a bootprint in the snow. It was almost like he was never there at all.