AN ALBUM IN THE HEARTH, SLOWLY CURLING ORANGE AS IT DIES

Just about all of my direct ancestors are dead. All of my grandparents and great grandparents, and my mother. My father and I, we don’t speak and I’m unable to really make any effort towards that communication anymore, since I’m fairly sure he never heard a word I said anyway…and I may as well admit that I never heard a word he said, either. My mother’s brothers and sisters and their spouses are all alive and live three thousand miles away from me…they recently celebrated Christmas and New Years and I didn’t call, even though I had made noises that I would.

The truth is, and it will no doubt sound cold, I don’t miss them. Most of my mother’s sisters were perfectly decent and civil to me, but the fact is that I didn’t know them especially well and was never really a part of their orbit. In essence, I was the family member who wore his kinship like ill-fitting clothes, and discarded it when it was first possible to do so.

Having said this, I don’t pretend to emotional emptiness when I think of those people on this earth who have the closest blood ties to me. I love many of them. Others, I don’t, and I see no reason why I should pretend to love people I do not merely because we share common ancestors. I do think it odd, however, that the people who would have served as a bond between us…my Morgan grandparents, my mother…should have so neatly been severed, creating no real reason for us to communicate.

And where is the need to be with them? Or to be a part of my father’s life? Others seem to feel the importance of these kinships, and will tolerate a great deal of pain, discomfort and anxiety to spend holidays with the people who are their family. I’ve seen people who have nothing in common with their parents tolerate a continuous chain of friction and discord in order to maintain that familial relationship. Yet here I sit, thousands of miles from my blood, and I do not send them cards, I do not call them, I do not send them gifts, and when I think about them my mind has all the warmth and sentiment of a man pinning butterflies or dissecting annelids. I have two half-brothers, and I know from my own actions and thoughts that I love them…yet there is no urge in me to be near them, to share their lives.

Rather the opposite, in fact. I fear returning to Rhode Island about the same way a man who cannot swim fears the ocean…these strangers who share my blood steal from me every time I see them. They steal my adulthood. They steal my self-control. They steal from me the ability to reach down and comfort that cowering woodland beast that is my memory, fearful and timid and unable to understand why none of them ever seemed to care who I was or what I did. There were only a few people in my childhood who ever seemed to regard me with affection…two of them are dead, and one of them betrayed me utterly and to some degree destroyed my ability to truly open myself to others.

My mother’s youngest brother was born in March of 1971, roughly nine months before I was. I often feel that it was the sight of him that inspired my mother to attempt to give birth again, and which therefore led to the creation of me in the first place. Yes, Billy was adopted…my grandfather Morgan died before I was born, I never met him…but that never really seemed to matter to anyone, or at least not to my mother and therefore not to me. As we grew, Billy became my best friend…there exist somewhere in this world all the expected photographs of us doing all the things children do when they grow up together…and in essence, he was the closest thing I ever had to a brother. We pretended to be strange things we’d seen on my grandmother’s television or made up, we ran wild on my father’s family property and attacked each other with old fencing foils we’d found in the attic…we rode dirtbikes and shot arrows and walked the trails and went to school and picked fights with bullies and then, as we got older and went to different schools, it became more and more apparent that we really weren’t that much alike.

I didn’t like his friends. They were all loud and coarse…not that I’m not capable of being so, but they never seemed to have another speed. Whenever Bill would drag me along with them, the activities seemed to involve nothing but drinking beer scavenged from the dumpster of a distribution hub near our houses or coming up with elaborate plans to purchase vodka from a liquor store involving my mother’s glasses and a sweater that was supposed to make a trembling fifteen year old look like a man. (And yes, they sold it to me. Probably out of pity.) I learned for the first time how susceptible I am to the call of alcohol from those days, just as I learned slowly that Bill didn’t really think of me as his brother any more, if he ever had.

Eventually, my mother died, and Bill and his friends took the opportunity to turn her house…now my house…into party central, where they could come and get drunk every night and invite strangers who I had little knowledge of…and in some cases, a rather strong dislike of, having known them in the days before my growth spurt…into the corpse of my family home to intoxicate themselves free of parental supervision. And, in some cases, free of informing me that sixty or so strangers would be drinking heavily in my house, in the room my mother slept in and making out on the couch she died on. Indeed, I only discovered that this was the case after coming home from a painful weekend spent at my father’s house arguing about the future, about my behavior (I sometimes think I burned away my capacity to be fully human that year, weaving between extremes of grief and rage while trying desperately to kill myself with whatever substance came to hand) and about the future. At that time, I had no capacity to believe in the future.

I returned home to find that Bacchus had preceeded me. They’d finished the destruction I’d begun…doors were smashed, windows shattered, the bathroom a ruin, the stink of cheap beer and vomit all over the floor…and to this day, the sight of a party at my own house that I was unaware of is what really kills me. Because, to be honest, I was dissolute enough at that time to have fully supported the frenzy, even though I wasn’t going to be there, if only someone had asked me.

I threw them out, I remember that. Even Bill. Called him some names, ended up having to endure being yelled at by another of my mother’s brothers until he understood what had actually happened…and although it was another few years before we broke all contact, it was that night that destroyed in me the ability to feel close to my family, I suspect. Because it was Billy who I’d always considered my brother, and if your brother can use your pain in order to find a place to get drunk with his friends, then he’s not really your brother at all. And it may not be fair, but of all of them, he was the one I loved best…and when that died, nothing ever really replaced it.

Speaking to my mother’s sister Susan (who as a child I’m pretty sure I was afraid of, and who now I think of with a great deal of warmth, as one of the people who was never false about who she was, a rare thing) recently, she told me that Billy was trying to get my email address and should she give it to him…and now, almost a decade later, I honestly can’t even feel the anger anymore. So it’s all banked, the love, the hate, the pain…and all that’s left are a few scraps in the fire, and a great deal of ash.

I told her she could, if she chose. I have no idea what’s left unsaid, though.

EZRAEL’S TALES II: THE BILLY AND MATT SHOW

Since Pete saw fit to mention one of the most incredibly unusual aspects of my childhood, I suppose I’d better elucidate on what, exactly, the Billy and Matt show was so that any veneer of adult sophistication on this site can be finally sandblasted away.

I have no idea how old we were when we came up with this, or when we stopped, but it continued on long enough to be embarassing and it only stopped when we hit puberty and discovered that girls existed, so at least six years. That’s right: six years.

The Billy and Matt show was us basically deciding that the TV shows we watched when I would spend the weekend at his place (my dad had a bug up his ass about TV, so I mainly only got to watch it when I was visiting my grandmother…as you can imagine, this made TV a hot ticket, when otherwise I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have watched it at all) were all crap and we could do better. And in a way, we probably did…we decided to extend those imaginary games many kids play, the ones where we would wander around and pretend to be various characters from movies and television and comic books and plain ol’ books. One of the best summers of my life was spent explaining to Billy the basic plot of the Iliad so that he and I could pretend to be Odysseus and Achilles. I got to be Odysseus, which pissed him off when he realized that meant he died and I got to go on more adventures, so I had to extend Odysseus’ trip to the otherworld into this big adventure where Achilles and Odysseus teamed up to rescue Persephone from Hades…it was really equal parts Robert Graves and World’s Finest Comics, really, with Achilles as Superman and Odysseus as Batman.

I haven’t even gotten to the embarassing part yet. Sigh.

So we decided to extend those games even further, to ruthlessly loot both our imaginations and those few TV shows we liked, and come up with a TV show people would actually want to watch. We had no camera, of course, so with that logic particular to young children we simply decided to act as though everything we were doing was appearing on television. The clarity and focus of being a kid is not to be scorned. Anyway, so we began.

First off, there was the song, as Pete alluded to earlier. It’s long past left my memory which one of us came up with it…I’m sure it was probably a joint effort, although obviously by the billing in question Bill probably named our grand experiment. The thing is, The Billy and Matt show is a lot easier to sing than The Matt and Billy show for some reason. Try it and see what I’m saying…the beat is all off. The first one is da da-da da da da! The second ends up being da da da da-da da! I could sit here and try to work out the meter, but if you think I’m going to spend that much time on the hallucinatory excesses of my pre-pubescent years…well, I will, but not on metric analysis.

The Billy and Matt show! The Billy and Matt show! Always on the go! Battle’s all they know! From deserts to the snow, and fear they never show! The Billy and Matt show! (Hey, I think I was six or seven. Cut me some slack on the rhyme. At the time, I was just thrilled that it did rhyme.) With our theme song well in hand (to be honest, that probably wasn’t the only one…we were cutting edge, Billy and I) we moved on to the plot of our endeavour. I’m going to present it to you as if it were an actual television series, because while I’m mocking myself, I have to admit to being fond of just how damn strange the whole thing was.

WEBLOGGING – WHY?

Before I get rolling, I just wanted to point out that I’m probably going to screed a little more about the current State of the Union as I see it in the near future. I can just feel one of those blood-vessel popping tirades building up. But this isn’t going to do that.

I’ve been thinking about weblogs, about what they are, about why we write in these little daily snippets, why they vary so wildly in form and topic, about what it says about us. I’ve posted about this kind of thing before, both here in response to an article about weblogs as journalism last year, and here in one of my original screeds. I’m probably going to repeat myself a bit…can’t be helped, really, it’s not like my views on the subject have changed so much as evolved and like my writing teacher once said, You can tell F. Scott Fitzgerald a mile away, because he keeps saying the same things. It’s a sin of the verbose, not that I’m comparing myself to Fitzgerald, cause it would be like comparing a nuclear bomb with a neat roll of caps.

I don’t pretend to have any great insight into why others blog. I don’t know why Tara does it, say, and I’m dating her. So the chances that I have any great insight into why anyone else does it aren’t good. However, while it is possible that I personally am not the best example of why someone would go about this, I am the only one I know inside and out, the only frame I have to hang my thoughts on.

BORN

December 7th, 1971 – Matthew Rossi is from his mother’s womb untimely ripped.

I had a lot more to say here. I was going to comment on how people sometimes don’t bother to actually read and comprehend what I write or hear what I say before getting upset about what they think I’m writing or saying, but it seems less important right this second. Those that care will get the message, and those that don’t will not, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Tonight, I’m at peace, for whatever that’s worth. So have a safe and happy My Birthday, everyone.

I AM OBSESSED WITH THE

I am obsessed with the year 1809.

In 1809, Merriwether Lewis shot himself to death. Benjamin Bathurst walked around the horses and was never seen again. Thomas Paine died penniless and unloved, the mad gadfly of American Democracy and French Revolution. Franz Joseph Haydn died in 1809. Beethoven composed his Emperor’s Suite in 1809. Nicolai Gogol, Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Darwin, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Pierre Joseph Proudhon and Felix Mendelssohn were all born in 1809. Jean Lafitte first made his appearance in New Orleans in 1809. Both Napoleon and his nemesis Wellington were involved in battles and could be said to have nearly died in 1809.

What the hell was going on in 1809? Clearly something big, strange and potent was unleashed that year. Never before has so much genius entered the world, nor left it. This makes me wonder, and being the deranged harpsichordist I am, I have to try and construct order out of this temporal chaos.

I have a hard time believing that this was all due to coincidence or synchronicity. I choose rather to examine the world of 1809 and see if there are any forces that seem to be at work underneath the surface, ala Tim Powers. Obviously, whatever it was, Lewis knew about it and thus killed himself because the knowledge was too much to take. Perhaps he knew that the world was entering into a new phase, a mystical realignment of powers? Perhaps some awful King in Yellow figure was attempting a return?

Similarly, the war of 1812 and Lafitte’s role in said war makes me wonder. Perhaps the burning of the White House was an attempt to neutralize the gathering power of America’s Sacred King, our sacrifice to ensure the birth of the American Century? Is it merely a coincidence that the Emperor Norton was born a mere year later? Every Sacred King requires a Fool, after all…and Norton truly was a most sacred Hermean fool.

The Usual

We’re still going to war, I still don’t support it because I still keep hearing that we have evidence that Iraq is making weapons but even Hans Blix keeps saying Hey, if you’ve got evidence I’d love to see it already, I still don’t sleep much and am having an incredibly hard time quitting caffeine and the writing is going poorly and so on. The same old same old. I still love Tara and think love is the only antidote to the creeping terror that’s being used to coerce us into bombing and killing and closing our eyes to how those in power lie to us. I still think it’s likely that humans have a perceptive defect that prevents them from apprehending the world as it is. I still find it interesting that consciousness guru Terrance McKenna and racist lunatic Oscar Kiss-Maerth bascially both think that humans developed intelligence based on something we ate. I’m still pretty sure that the world is not even remotely what we think it is, that we’re not much more evolved than algae in the grand portrait of the cosmos, that all of humanity is simply one step on a far longer journey than we can comprehend, that we need to take responsibility for our own actions without assuming that we are the be all and end all of the universe. I still don’t know if there’s a God or not. I still find the arguments on both sides of that debate to be less than compelling. I still try and maintain some sort of philosophical outlook on mortality and I am still afraid to die.

As you can see, not much has changed around here. I just haven’t really felt compelled to talk about it. Maybe that will change. Maybe it won’t. I suppose that’ll come out as now changes into whatever it’s going to become next.

I realize this may be a somewhat dissatisfying update. I was considering musing about the complete lack of interest I have felt lately about going to see Lord of the Rings especially considering how you’d really expect me to be into that kind of thing…I mean, mayhem, sweeping plots across a grand tapestry, a modern fantasy epic…and yet my general reaction seems to be that it’s not important. It’s almost as though my mind is reacting to the general tension I feel by escaping from escapism. But then that kind of runs out of steam, so…I can only apologize if you were looking for more ranting from crazy Matt, or more conjecture from theorist Matt, or what have you. Right now the only Matt left is completely unsure of what he wants to say, or if he even has anything left to say at all.

In the middle of musing about death

The brooding in question was about death, of course, one of my favorite subjects. In particular, it was about whether or not it’s appropriate to be at least convinced that some ways of death are not to be pitied or feared. It started for me when I heard about Columbia and read all the opinions about that, all the tragedy comparisons and so forth. To me this seems entirely foolish for several reasons. The first is that just because something makes you sad or shocks and horrifies you with the weight of its dire nature, that does not make it a tragedy. The word tragedy comes from the greek for goat song and was used to refer to a specific kind of play that illustrated how men could be brought low by their own hubris in the face of what cannot be overcome by man, namely the will of the gods and of the fate that controls even them. So if it’s actually happening and not being performed by actors or in script form for them to perform later, it is simply not a tragedy. And don’t waste my time or yours telling me that context creates new meanings…a mistake is a mistake, and a misuse is a misuse. I know your dictionary probably has the definition of tragedy as a fatal or mournful event, and I don’t care.

Secondly, to my mind, the crew of Columbia died well. They died challenging the heavens, doing what they did well and most likely loved to do. They did not (so far as we know) die in a random act of violence, or of a disease that consumed their bodies or their minds slowly. They were not murdered to make a point. They were not killed for their shoes or their jackets, they did not die alone and unloved on the streets as winter tore the heat from their bodies and hunger drove them mad. They died returning from a successful mission, in the cause of exploring the cosmos and enlarging human knowledge, in a profession they all knew could very well cost them their lives. Certainly, their deaths are no cause for celebration. We should honor them, and the loss of them. But to be fair, there are far worse ways to die. We’ve seen that again and again in our history. I’ve seen such. I’ve seen people I loved die with their minds stolen from them, with despair and alcohol muddying their lives, or as viruses and infections ate them from the inside out.

This may seem callous to you. It is not intended as such. What caused their deaths, who is at fault, how could it be prevented…these are going to be debated again and again over the coming months. Someone told me recently that after Challenger, we made no attempts at space travel for over two years. That seems to me to be a poor way to honor them, what they intended their efforts to accomplish. Their legacy should be to spur us on, not to shut us down. It’s time to commit the time and money to the epic quest they died for instead of relying on aging technology and shoestring budgets. Ultimately, to me, it seems pointless to wail and weep and gnash teeth here. They died in the pursuit of our future. Far better that we take up what they could not complete in their names than sulk back in fear.

Would that all of us could die doing what we loved rather than all the ways time and life find to rot us. Few of us get that opportunity. They did. It does not seem such a bad fate to me, although I certainly would not have wished it on them. The best of all possible results would have had them live to complete more in the future. Hopefully, we’ll do it for them, inspired by them, and as a tribute to them.

That’s what I ended up deciding, on the jetty in Edmonds. When I do finally die, if it happens tomorrow or in forty years, I would hope to find myself dying well, in my own little way