It’s gotten very cold very quickly here in Princeton, New Jersey. I love the cold because it reminds me of old Dunedin town and how it was easier to wrap up against the elements than against the dynamics in one’s own family or against some of the bullshit that went on at school.
Yesterday there was a respite and it was a bit warmer and the town was busy. Princeton seems to be some kind of ‘destination’ for weekend shoppers and tourists. Saturdays are generally hell and if you go into any store you might find yourself standing in a queue for twenty minutes. You’ll see well known Professors from the university running around in glee with three or four designer store bags and stopping every so often to tell someone how to punctuate a sentence. Yesterday the line outside the ice cream shop stretched all the way to Afghanistan and people were patting miscellaneous trophy pets and laughing.
I was in one café where I waited for the longest time on a simple cup of coffee before spitting the dummy and walking out. I like anger as an emotion. I find anger galvanizing and very few are prepared to ‘do it’ or show it these days…. not in a real sense at any rate. I always like those situations where the sophisticated gloss of society disappears and the truth comes out. The truth is what saves us and everything else must inevitably bring sarcasm, cynicism, and bitterness.
I find anger can lead to beauty and I also believe that tears are healing. I’m sure people have been saying this for centuries and I think they say it because it’s true…but they forget it as well…and quickly. I cry more than John Kirwan and it always feels good afterwards.
I am living in an America where almost no one says what they mean and very few mean what they say. Of course, George Orwell hit on this notion fifty years ago but now, especially in politics, this shucking and jiving has reached epidemic proportions and people think they are the ones who need Prozac.
It is a vast problem and it is very bad for human life. I see most people working on ‘evading the truth’ and barricading themselves against it in any way they can. They use desperate moves and maneuvers and they like to listen to angry invigorating music.
Then I see livid people on Facebook every day who just look to me like they are crying out to be loved. Being on Facebook is the first time in their lives they’ve ever had a say (previously they just worshipped U2 in their stadiums) and by God they want to scream their insides out. There are apparently drones in the sky tracking conversations and none of that should matter because it’s all a bunch of falsehoods anyway. But, you know, lies will get you in jail. That’s how justice mostly works. I like to post pictures of dogs and I try to be respectful.
In my family one never heard the truth. Anything that was vital to life was withheld and repressed. That’s how the world is now and in particular that’s how my family and Dunedin was back then. In World War One the Kiwis were known as ‘The Silent New Zealanders’ and I think this has been very bad for our emotional and physical health. Fuck the sheep.
When I was about twenty, I became very wild and five years later I ended up in jail for chemist shop burglaries. It’s hard to get caught, I mean a person has to try very hard and almost wave a flag at a cop, but I managed it. Like most people I was relieved when I got to jail. I’d finally gotten to where my father told me I was going to go and I enjoyed it.
I wouldn’t have gotten through ‘rock college’ but for a good mate of mine, Eru Hall. Eru and I played chess all day in the yard and on the back of his hand he had tattooed “King Rat” and his own nickname for himself was “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and he was. He was a Maori boy from Rotorua and he ran a tidy jail and the Screws were afraid of him. He had deliberately chosen crime in life to have a good time and his sister was a doctor. We were best mates and we laughed all day long.
Eru taught me how to play chess on a whole other level and we were probably the two best players in Her Majesty’s Prison at Paparua. But Eru knew moves only Eru knew and you couldn’t turn your back on the board. Whichever way it worked out, it was always as funny as hell. There’s a lot of honesty in street criminals and I love it.
I find it more refreshing than designer stores and probably it is less damaging for society too. I’m sure everyone in the world knows that it’s not the simple street criminals we should be worried about. It may not even be the banks or the corporates. It is probably the people who live in luxury, have no empathy, and who hurl the world a bit of cake from time to time. People who can’t love from their very depths and this applies to both Democrats and Republicans. The funny thing is that a lot of street criminals can love. I have always found that to be true.
Eru also coached me on the eight most important words in the English language. You’d get these people coming into the jail who wanted to crawl all over other people and let them know how important they themselves were. A lot of them might have been from another world (‘white collar criminals’) and they often thought they were special cases and deserved extra attention. Then they wanted the whole yard to know that they just weren’t guilty. None of us are really, are we? In my whole time in jail I never met anyone who thought they were truly guilty. Not in life either but we all are. I certainly am. I try to learn how to love and on some days it works. There’s a guy here in Princeton who comes from a colourful background and he owns a café and we talk freely and I love him. We resonate on a deep level.
In jail, Eru wore jeans hanging about his backside a long time before this style was de rigueur (jeez mate I sound like a university professor) and he wore high prison boots like they were jandals (flip flops). He was completely comfortable in his skin. He had a big twinkle in his eye and the air around him was always moving with extreme passion, he had what you might call ‘animal magnetism’. The Screws let Eru grow his hair and at this time they just didn’t do that, but no one was going to tell Bad, Bad Leroy Brown how to be. He was a Man in Full and in jail he’d found the exit to the trap of mankind.
These guys (the people who were loud, crowding, obnoxious, not guilty, moneyed, and self centered) would invade our air space from time to time like they were big noisy imperialistic B52 bombers. “That’s Cambodia, Captain.” “That’s Classified.”
Eru would try and concentrate on the board, with all this noise, but you could see the muscles and tissues in his neck tightening ever so slightly. It was a beautiful thing to watch as his neck expanded and you’d see him try and swallow the anger back because he just wanted to win the game. Then after a while he’d flex his hands and when it got too much he’d breathe out and stand and throw the chess pieces around the yard. I’d begin to laugh at this point because I knew what was coming next, the truth was about to visit us and it was a welcome relief.
Eru would look the guy in the eye and yell (in a very measured way, breathing perfectly normally) those eight most important words in the English language: “Who the fuck do you think you are?”
At this point in time the whole yard would go deathly quiet and people felt relieved and excited. Eru had just said what was on everybody’s mind and the noisy guy(s) of no real substance went and asked the Screws for protection. The Screws wanted protection too.
That’s what Barrack Obama needs to do. We are all waiting.
Me, I feel pretty good. I have a few people around me who I can tell what it feels like to be me and they usually reformulate things so as to make them palatable for my life, but they are not afraid to tell me when I am wrong either.
Then I’ve always had a few people who have told me the completely unvarnished truth about who I am. I am very, very grateful to them. They see me without all the veneer and they know me well. Life can be very vulnerable but I wouldn’t swap it for quids.
Thank you for reading, KemoSabe.
Princeton, New Jersey. October 20th 2013.
A Tinker’s Cuss started life on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page – it’s a new feature here at Off The Tracks and we’re repeating the earliest posts before carrying on with new words from Jim Wilson.
Click here to read A Tinker’s Cuss # 8