These are my parents, my mother Keitha 18, my father David 20 years old. His brother Bill and her sister Toni Marie. I won’t be born for five years, yet I already know this place very well in my future dreams. The Seneca Inn. It is the restaurant my grandparents own on route 5, before the time of the great atomization, and the construction of the corporate-friendly, human-hating thoroughfare called the New York State Thruway. The bride cleaned rental cottages since she was eleven. The groom would hitchhike across town to visit with her during courtship. She liked courtship. He liked cars and duck’s asses. My grandfather offered to buy Keitha a 1963 Jaguar if she would postpone marriage and go to Cazenovia College where she was accepted earlier in the year. She would take no part in that scheme! After a frozen honeymoon in Gettysburg (the groom’s bad idea), they set up housekeeping in a rented pink trailer a few hundred yards up the road.
I have been gorging myself on their memories my whole life, yet am unable to receive any digestive satisfaction. I am not born. I am only spirit of Christmases yet to come. In this future I have lived there exists a fullness like the unknown memory I have of this restaurant, the patrons, the staff, my grandfather who died before I am born to write this… Aunts and uncles will exodus—the two in the photo would be the first in the history of the world to leave Central New York for private and economic reasons. Before that, beyond the call of war, there was only localism. It was life, c’est la vie, and you made of it what you could where you were born. Family was slow and purposeful. Children met and fell in love in high school, and were married. Each could throw a rock to the family home of the other, and monstrosities like Ted Turner hadn’t a claim to a single living room in the county.
Christmas shopping downtown at the Busy Corner and the Boston Store. Then the settling in of rock n’ roll, the village shoe store moves to the shopping center, and then to the mall. My generation born and raised without knowing the joys of liquid lunch, any sad stories of the traveling salesman, nor even the occasional solace of loneliness bolstered by the rock of community trust that welcomes all travelers back to their sense of place.
I am still a sojourner in life. I am not home even in this town where I have lived for thirty years, 75 miles from the Seneca Inn. I go back to New Hartford and Utica for a visit and wax nostalgic over a time that never was, but will come again, soon after the Industrial Revolution explodes its local Chinese and Vietnamese families into the oblivion of an improving economy. Our generation has been transitional, instructed to follow economy, to look up to it like some admired uncle, and even most diligently, to send the next generation (our children) away to the better paying jobs of our imagination. The best paying jobs will always rob your sons and daughters of a future. College became a hate crime after the existence of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. And the Seneca Inn, of all it represents to me in my mind’s nostalgic lust, died the day Ray Kroc bewitched his first customer with a milkshake machine. I know and feel, most unfortunately, that without the Seneca Inn, over half the population of my town and yours suffer some form of chronic psychosis.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the arms of that waitress serving the cookies. She knows no joy but in the here today, here tomorrow.
Not too long ago at a poker night excuse to drink beer I was stuck in argument with an economist friend of mine about the U.S. tax system. At the time I knew a young man, just a year out of high school, who, upon graduation landed a job in a local factory making shoe boxes. It was the first year he had to pay federal taxes and Uncle Sam was expecting 17% of his income (it already took a big piece bi-weekly, but wanted more to make up the difference). My friend the economist thought that 17% actually might not be enough and suggested that maybe this young dude shouldn’t complain so much.
I was nonplussed. All I could blurt out was something like “That’s a lot of rent money to extort for another aircraft carrier!” I would hope that my friend got my meaning, but I believe it was lost to him. I don’t think he knew offhand the actual percentage of U.S. budget getting doled out to the military (few facts are surmised these days without iPhone back-up), but I’m sure he knew from private living and teaching experience that it comprised an eye-popping chunk of the treasury’s mother-load, and then some.
Worse, he probably went home and thought dualistically about my politics, as many often do—that I must side with evil if not the good. The “either/or’es” —you’re either with us or against us. The people who despise the out group and distrust those within. A very lonely club devised long, long ago by the first man to ever use the goodness of another for personal gain.
What I meant to say on poker night was that I would expect to pay 95% of my salary if I believed a government was using this money to help care for my family and yours.
All caps following, and I seldom use all caps:
IT DOES NOT.
The players think they got us by the sneaks. That in order to be good children we must pay our federal tax or else face the consequences. And the super majority of us will pay, no doubt about it. It’s scary not to. Good Americans, like good Germans before them, do not like to break the law. The players assure us it ain’t all that bad—each person is well represented by an incorruptible congressperson overseeing an arbitrary block of 600,000+ people, or, as in the case of one of my senators from New York, a massive baying herd of over eight million people.
I think you can tell where this is going.
Because we have no say in the money and how we are “protected” by decision-makers in Congress, then I declare that institution unlawful and illegitimate.
So, I believe we have an out-of-control state run mafia that does not show the slightest indication that any day now it will turn itself in. What to do…
I do not advocate insurrection—even while Congress legislates to kill off Americans. I do not think enough of us are angry like people of the past who were starving and therefore prone to anger. How many of us have a smart phone contract? Raise your hands.
See? We’re not truly angry resistors. Neither to Trump mafia nor Obama mafia. Actually in the great line of time, the super-majority of us are just ineffectual political wussies. It would be okay if some of us weren’t going out and copying our negligently homocidal legislators with horrific crimes to humanity. That’s what happens with disenfranchisement. The desperate with nothing to loose start hammering away at those whom they think win all the time. Even folks like you and me, working check to check, yet still attempting a check to power, even in the most limited ways.
Both Democrats and Republicans are ignoring a single-payer system—they take our tax money and provide insurance companies with sick, paying, animals. Both are guilty of watching our families get sick and die with our own money. The game being played now is refereed by Big Insurance and Big Pharmaceutical (“Big” is their word, not mine. I believe there are no tinier humanoids in the land).
I can explain this painting and therefore exonerate myself from the partaking of any violent radical acts in the future. I have my alibi, and owe much of its construction to the first career I could obtain while coming of age in crazy county, U.S.A. Whenever I’m given a bloated piece of anger meat, I let it rest for a few days. Then I marinate it in acidic thought and reflection, turn the burner up high, and sear in all thoughts worth keeping. I never take anger out of the kitchen and yet I rarely dine alone (Thank you wife and Internet). Onto channeling my next career as painter, which hard copies an illustration of a bloated Kentucky senator making decisions with the money I put aside for upcoming life and death. I don’t like his ideas. So I paint a dynamite auger into his neurocranium.
Works for me!
I can do this because I’m an artist and not a killer. I wish no final future for this man different from one of my very own mother. A peaceful, non-painful demise. I’ve smeared the end of the dynamite auger with an instant-acting opiate releasing ten times the strength of the most non-lethal morphine injection.
Again, artistic license. What else can a poor boy do?
“Dear Military Brass, Can You Please Stop Scrambling Our Children’s Brains With These Testosterone Smoothies?” 2017. Acrylic on poly (methyl methacrylate), 16 x 20″
Can you? Can you please stop? Just for a little while, please, please, please?
“I Know Lake Ontario Doesn’t Look Like This in April, but Maybe It Should” 2017. Acrylic on birch panel, 24 x 24″
“Only Jay Leno and Other Jingoes See the American Dream From Outside the Dollar Store” 2017. Acrylic on 500 piece puzzle for a dollar. What a deal!
“After Sacrificing 23 Pieces of Crap From the Dollar Store, I Planted This Baby Pear Tree” 2017. Acrylic on dollar store frame, 8 x 10″
“Dollar Store Frozen Chicken Cordon Bleu and Blueberry Muffin on Ceramic Plate Made in China, $3.08” 2017. Acrylic on plate, dinner plate size
“This Dollar Store Clipboard Does Not Want My Dream of Mexico Unless I Make It So” 2017. Acrylic on Chinese dollar store clipboard, 10 x 14″
“How I Look and Feel at the Dollar Store in Town” 2017. Acrylic on dollar store frame, 8 x 10″
“Even at 50 My Attempt at an Imaginary Alligator Should Spark the Professional Curiosity of a Bored Psychiatrist” 2017. Acrylic on paper, 15 x 11″
“For Those of You Living in 1 of the Other 195 Nations, the Reason Americans Don’t Love Trains Anymore is Because Our Brains Have Been Usurped by Cognitive Dissonance Aliens” 2017. Acrylic on Stepanov packaging particle board, 12 x 16″
“Rose Left For Work This Morning With Her Nose in a Better Place” 2017. Acrylic on paper, 11 x 15″
Rose is my wife. Or, I am her husband. They say possession is 9/10 the law, and to anyone looking, it’s obvious that we are close—married to the hilt— bearing all the positive and negative of that attachment vice/virtue the Buddhists claim is soul draining. So, emotionally, we possess each other, for better or worse, like good/bad attachments. We “get it”, and flow fairly well together, through good and bad, in concert with fluctuating hormonal balances—her month, my month, hair loss, hair gain… We have nearly mastered the art of cohabitation, and she, whether realizing it or not, is primed and ready for a sweet nirvana, if she ever desires/not desires its potential awakening.
Me, on the other hand, is an anxious mess. The culprit (if I must ascribe blame. And I must because I am not healed) is culture, and the roles it pressures us into, wittingly or unwittingly. Rose is breadwinner. We eat and stay dry and warm because she maintains acceptable work outside the home. A steady job that pays well enough for me to stay home and keep life about us steady and content. I am literally bread-maker—stay-at-home cook and part-time butler, part-time painter, writer, curator. These are the chores separating me from Rose, for we are both very sensitive, full time spouse and parent, and there should be no comparisons made in these departments. I am an okay cook, decent butler, yet would fail the most basic Emily Post white-glove inspection.
Selective breeding among male Throops carried on fairly well without me for 56,000 years, and then Rose and I came along and upset the stream. Damned it up good and proper, I’d say, for I haven’t gone a day in my adult life without some manner of confusion about my place and role(s) in a society that worships nothing but abstractions—namely, money.
To say I am an anxious person would be a gross understatement. I am more like an outwardly successful squirrel, yet unsatisfied with myself in a world of squirrels that covets and adores a mutual abstraction. Squirrels around me who act like squirrels day after day, accumulating nuts, building impressive nests, braving seasons and storms, but underlying every accomplishment is the pressing desire to accumulate the abstraction that will make the squirrel a new squirrel, refined prince or princess in squirrel kingdom. I am infected with the abstraction also, which makes me a constantly dissatisfied squirrel. Let’s say this abstraction occupying us squirrels practically night and day is the desire to accumulate human manufactured snow-globes. Many generations ago, some wise and economically trained squirrel scribes thought to create a falling leaf money supply to ease and simplify transactions among squirrels of Squirreldom, however knowing the ubiquitous existence of trees, sought a limited, countable base currency to give an abstract value to something that was readily available in Squirreldom—leaves. Leaf banks opened up practically overnight, followed by upstanding squirrels founding colleges and universities, the development of a million acceptable leaf-paying occupations (none of them nut gathering), and finally a culturally devastating, squirrel-separating atomization.
Anyway, I had a dream last night, my last one about money if hope can help it. I was at Donald Trump’s next wedding and the cheapskate expected a gift. 60 dollars is a lot when you can’t make that in a month from painting. Rose’s brother from D.C. was there with his wife telling her in a false admiring, deeply condescending way, that it was “too cool” that I painted—Oh, but I could see the mockery in his eyes and hear it in the tone of his voice. Shamed again! And not for the last time that night. After the gifts were laid out for all and sundry to see, Trump had my gift, a painting, taken out and thrown in the trash. Rose confided to me that she provided a back-up without my knowledge—a Samsung® tablet for the new bride. I was so mad. I stormed out of the tent and went to sleep on a servant’s cot in some nearby dusty garage.
Faith that my marriage is secure, I intend to reach my end beating to death inside me this false god money. Whenever I have deep doubt, (and that is as often as dinner), I will take that negative energy and with it, push as hard as I can into a positive dream. This money god has got all of us squirrels absolutely frazzled. All my nuts aren’t secure, but I know where to find them. I had no faith in gods. I want no faith in money. I’ll play my faith at this marriage and focus my dreams on a persistent present moment. I will continue to write and paint erratically, like a squirrel caught both ways in the road.
Friends, family, and safe acquaintances, please continue to buy the paintings I paint and books that I write. Heck, $50 is “better than a sharp stick in the eye”, as my bodhisattva wife often proclaims. I leave you now with a few paintings by me and a song by someone else.
“In November, 2051, Rose Will Be Out in the Backyard ‘Digging a Goldfish Pond’. Just Wave, and Carry On” 2017. Acrylic on Alexey’s packaging particle board, 12 x 16″
Please look the other way, and just listen….
2017. Acrylic on loose canvas, 41 x 13″
My friend and I are submitting to a regional show with the theme “abstraction”. I think I will frame this under glass, and sell it for less than what it cost me to make. The frame will be the big expense. It’s usually the case. I just want to see if Americans will barter or purchase a luxury item—it’s visible worth not even detected as a tiny greed smear on a corporito’s brain scan—even when it’s priced cheaper than a Denny’s® brunch and a few gallons of gasoline.
I do not fool myself about the material value of this painting. It is what it is. Canvas, paints, brush use, light overhead, man, man’s thoughts, man’s moods, man’s dreams, man’s hope, and man’s hands in his pockets—No, wait. After “man” it’s mostly a squat pile of private abstract suffering. And very few besides a friend or two would pretend to want a material representation of that big idea!
I can’t blame them!
And yet, people would want it, even more than shaving cream, if people’s desires were real and not abstractions. Not so much in want of the painting as any true thought, true feeling, true expression of another man or woman cut up into pieces, and each piece set on a cultural conveyor belt of behavior controlled and monitored by abstractions.
People would want it if they trusted men.
I don’t trust them either, hence the painting, another in an endless bombardment of material representations of Americans worship of abstraction.
And maybe after my demise, someone will pay a few thousand dollars for that “forest stream” painting. Provided the post-mortem marketing team is sharp and can make some abstract tool think valuable a material fool.