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Just Another Young, Dumb Anarchist.

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School Bus Spit

I spit on my school bus in the autumn of my eighth-grade year.  Not while riding in the bus, I spit ON the bus.   My academic record was blemish-free until the spit.   My motivation will remain a mystery, only the act itself is clear in my memory. Twenty years later and I’d do it again;  it made sense back then and still does, even if I can’t remember what possessed me.

Like any American eighth-grader, life was tumultuous and full of unidentifiable despair.  I had recently grown a respectable patch of pubes.  The times, as they say, were strange.  So I want to  be clear:  I didn’t spit on the bus because I was a run-of-the-mill angsty tween, the damned bus driver drove me to this tiny act of base retaliation.

Mrs. B was our bus driver for two years.  Two long years of  school days bookended by frustration and fear.  “Mrs. B”  is not an editorial abbreviation or a pseudonym, it was her self-chosen moniker. She was of Italian decent, apparently from up North, and assumed our ignorant Southern minds couldn’t grasp ethnic surnames more troublesome than say, Jenkins, Brown, or Williams.  She was saving our clumsy tongues the trouble.   Her geographic discontent was obvious.    Like most new northern transplants in Atlanta, she hadn’t yet realized a significant chunk of our metro-county demographic was largely Yankee.  She didn’t know my family had moved to Atlanta via Chicago and we were Slavic;  there was no chance her last  name was harder to pronounce than some of our family from Cleveland (try on “Znidarcic,” if you want the teacher to skip over you during roll call).  She figured “Mrs. B” was easier than explaining the pronunciation of her Italian name to a bunch of middle-schoolers.   These are the modern, peculiar, inter-American tensions propagated by an influx of Yankees to the formerly provincial South.  I wasn’t experienced enough to recognize it then, I see it everywhere now.

As implied before, I was a good kid.  Always was and always will be, even when I’m screaming and naked and setting things on fire. Even if my actions don’t jive with my intentions, I’ll always be a good kid inside*, that’s my nature.  But no matter how good I was, no matter how fucking Golden, there was always one teacher or authority figure with whom I seemed to be in conflict each year.   Which supports my thesis of me being a decent person, or kid, anyway–it was never more than one per school year.    In the third grade it was Mrs. Swenson.  In the ninth it was Ms. Bean.  Several others have been forgotten.   Other than being chatty I never posed a behavior problem in class (things haven’t changed).  More importantly, I was adored by the majority.  For some statistical or fateful reason there was always one in the group immune to my natural charms (which were only used for good, never to deceive).

So I’ve  justified spitting on the bus.  I recognize it as loathsome, despicable behavior, but I feel no shame.  How could she be so out of touch to consider me a troublemaker?  Didn’t she know my teachers?  They adored me.  Adored me in a legitimate way, nothing duplicitous about it.  So, after getting dressed down for some begrudging nonsense, after feeling like she had been picking on me with some hidden personal agenda, I shrugged and stepped off the bus, walked to the rear right side, and hocked a huge blob of phlegm–aiming for, but missing, the “0” in “306,” our bus’s number stenciled in  large black type against National School Bus Glossy Yellow.  It landed to the left of the ‘3’.   She had pulled the doors closed and was pulling away as I made my gesture.  At the time I was sure her impish ears heard the wet smack of spit on metal, but now I realize she saw me in the mirror.  The red lights had already stopped flashing and the folding stop sign lay flat against the bus, but she hit the brakes and brought the rest of the kids smashing into the backs of the vinyl-wrapped benches. I had already skedaddled a good 50-yards or so towards home.  You should have seen her, I don’t think I’ve ever had a curse called down on me like this–she didn’t say anything cruel or vulgar, but her demeanor chilled me from 50-yards out.  She leapt sidelong off  her seat and skipped all three steps to the asphalt, landing squarely on both feet and craning her neck toward my lunger. Once she’d confirmed my fluids had stained her bus, she turned toward me with a canines-visible sneer, bow-legged and hunching, with a waggling pointing finger, “I’m gonna report you to the Principal’s Office!”   Then she wrapped her pointed reptilian tail around herself, retracted fang and claw, and slouched back up the stairs to the driver’s seat. I’d recently seen The Godfather for the first time, so now I was convinced she was Sicilian. I had never seen a school bus lay rubber on asphalt until that day, and I haven’t seen it happen again.   The bus snorted off like an angry dog, belching plumes of black exhaust.

As an exercise in good faith, the quote is accurate.  A bit of harmless embellishment would make it scarier.  But I assure you, as I hope some of you remember, that being reported to  the principal’s office was a bone-quaking threat in 1990.  This was pre-OJ, back when kids still got in trouble for misbehaving;  today I could have flippantly called after her to “prove it” or get a DNA test.  Eyewitness accounts were deemed reliable back then and Mrs. B. had about thirty kids she could torture into ratting.  Spitting on the twinkie is one of very few We’re-Not-Gonna-Take-It-moments I had in my academic career.  I cherish those moments.    I have spent the majority of my life Taking it, but baby, deep down I’m a Giver.

So I was called in Monday morning after the incident;  I had to endure her nefarious glances in my direction until we got to school.  I felt sick, like I did every school day morning.  My mother worked in the copy room while I was in eighth-grade, before she went back to teaching full-time. Everyone in the office knew me personally from all the time I spent  kicking around waiting for a ride, eating stale birthday cake, or sneaking into the clean administrative restrooms.  More than a few sidelong glances were cast my way that morning, but only Mrs. Corley, our front office receptionist, asked me what was going on.  She was always very sweet and motherly to me, despite her usual icy demeanor toward those “other” kids.  I was one of the gang.  I told her.  She snickered and went back to whatever task that was busying her on her desk.  I was going to be a juicy little story for the office staff at lunch time.

Dr. Valerie Clark, our Principal, had a spectacular office compared to any other I’d seen in our school.  It was several cuts above the teachers’ lounge;  my first realization of the bureaucratic hierarchical refinements of the Georgia Public School System.  I remember a large American flag and a picture of the George H.W. Bush, although he was just plain George Bush back then.   Dr. Clark knew me personally, of course.  She was exceptionally professional, her no-nonsense approach with a touch of mother’s- love  was well-regarded.   I only got the no-nonsense side that morning, but we both knew she was doing her job, and I’ll always respect her for that.  After a brief scolding, I was sentenced to cleaning and sweeping Mrs. B.’s bus each morning after arriving at school for three weeks.  My sweeping time was usually spent goofing off in home room, no real agenda other than taking attendance. Nothing I couldn’t handle.  The sweeping was no big deal, but spending an extra ten minutes alone with Mrs. B. every morning didn’t exactly calm my ever-present school-anxiety.

My parents punished me too, of course.  I could count on my parents to be a little tougher on me than the school, and I’m grateful for that now.  My parents were proud of me in a way they could never admit, the parenting manual doesn’t come with a section for handling pride in your son’s expectorations.  They’d heard of the infamous Mrs. B., had enough accounts from teachers over the years to know I was good in school, so they knew the bus driver was the problem, not me.  And for your sake I wish I could remember what she did to spark such a tiny-but-disgusting rebellion on my part.  It doesn’t matter though.  Sometimes, no matter how good you are, there will always be subjective opinions that simply can’t be overridden, they just have to be dealt with.
If you’re one of the good kids, stay sharp, the world is littered with prejudiced assholes just waiting to make you look bad.  Be confident.  Be aware.  And do not take the tiniest bit of shit, not for a second, the world needs people like you.  When unruly authority has you cornered, if you suspect or observe tyranny at any turn, do yourself and the rest of us a favor:  take a deep breath, clear your lungs, and blast the enemy with something they’ll never forget.

Cheers,
Bill

*  Ok, ok, I know the old saying “The Path to Hell is lined with good intentions.”  I’m aware of the consequences of my actions, thanks.  I know the difference between thinking right and doing  right, so please for the sake of argument understand that I toed the line 99% of the time in school and elsewhere before I began to understand that adults aren’t any smarter than children, just older.

Written by billlobe

September 27, 2011 at 7:02 pm

How Nigh is the End?

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Humans are the only creatures with enough conscious awareness to comprehend our own demise while simultaneously worrying about it.  Doomsday prophecies have been around (most likely) since the first humans realized individual life was temporary.

Everything comes to an end.  Everything.  Earth will come to an end.  In a trillion years or so, our sun will eventually become a shining diamond in the galaxy no longer producing solar fusion, then it will cool to the ambient temperature of the rest of space, a few degrees above absolute zero, enabling it to relax and hang out with all the other old space chunks.  A trillion years is a long grind, the sun deserves a break.

But let’s not worry too much about the distant future, humanity in its current form will be long gone so there’s no sense in getting upset.  We spend much more of our limited time indulging ourselves in apocalyptic scenarios we feel are imminent in our lifetimes.  Is there real danger lurking around the bend or are we merely succumbing to predestined biological psychosis?  Is our drive to survive culpable for the multitude of Armageddon scenarios that litter contemporary media?  I’m not sure if it’s real or imaginary (there’s no way to tell), but I feel the quaking in my bones, too. We have a lot to worry about lately.

Before I get into the end-of-the-world concerns of the modern day, let’s look at a few bygone doomsday prophecies that came and went,  if only to demonstrate our perpetual fascination with the End of Days.   These fears have been around forever, but we’ve had the pleasure of watching them cycle continually over the past few decades thanks to modern media. What a bitch of a day-after it must have been for the convinced.

The list gets pretty long, but you might remember some or all of these:

  • Pat Robertson 1982, Biblical Armageddon (He ran for president not long after, what an optimist!)
  • Heaven’s Gate, 1997, Hale-Bop Comet apocalypse (They castrated themselves and committed suicide. Great follow-through!)
  • Nostradamus, 1999 (No one really knows what he was talking about)
  • Y2K (awesome  parties)
  • Giant Dinosaur-killer-style Meteor, constant updates (don’t go into Astronomy or watch the Science Channel)
  • God’s Church Ministry, May 21, 2011.  American Christian Radio Host Harold Camping  (now revised to October 21, keep your fingers crossed!).

I can’t include 2012 because we’re not there yet.  I don’t think 2012 will be the end of humanity, but I have an intuitive understanding of why popular culture has embraced this date as possible “end times.”  I’ve read the books and watched the documentaries.  Pick up Daniel Pinchbeck’s 2012 The Return of Quetzlcoatl if you’re looking for a smart read that handles the idea on a broad spectrum.  Or check it out if you’re into hallucinogens, either way it’s fun.  I can’t predict whether or not the world will end soon, I’m just some guy, but it’s obvious the human race is feeling something on the unconscious level that scares us–we can’t identify it exactly but we can feel it.

Whatever your personal fear, the fuel for the current apocalypse craze comes from two intertwined sources:  Over-Population and Peak Oil.  We’ll come up with new ones when these play out:

Over-population is self-explanatory if you’re half-educated.  Ever own a goldfish?  How big was your fish bowl, a gallon or two maybe?  How many fish did you have in there, one, two, three?  Maybe a couple big ones and a little school of tiny ones, maybe an algae-eater even?  Did you ever get fish-crazy and go to the pet store and buy a bunch of fish and try to cram them in the little fish bowl?  How many did you get in there?  Another dozen, maybe 50?  Everything fell apart, right, and you had to flush a bunch of rotting, reeking, tiny fish down the toilet in the hall bathroom no matter how many flakes you fed them?  This is a terrible ecological analogy, but you get the idea.  Finite space cannot support infinite exponential growth.  There are nearly 7 billion humans on the planet now, and the population has more than doubled since 1960.  The fish bowl is getting really crowded and a lot of us are nervously wondering when the big flush is coming.

Peak Oil isn’t a new idea, it’s been around since the fifties, but it’s getting a lot of press lately.  I’m going to do my best to summarize it succinctly, do your own research if you’ve never heard of it (watch The Collapse, an interview with Michael C. Ruppert if you’re in a particularly pessimistic mood and want a fear-inducing  intro course).  “Peak Oil” refers to the point in time when global petroleum extraction hits its all-time high, never to be reached again.  Reputable scholars think we’ve hit the peak already, but there’s significant debate about whether we’ve begun our decline in production.  Either way it makes intuitive sense to the oil-consuming public–we’re beginning to wonder what will happen as our demand for petroleum continues to increase while the supply dwindles.  The intuitive fear is greater than the fear of high prices at the pump; oil has been the keystone resource for global industry for more than a century.  Consider the middle-class population boom in India and China, all of them wanting shiny new internal-combustible powered automobiles, and you’ll start to feel the pinpricks of fear.  It’s a little like having only one glass of water for ten people.  Things are going to change.

And change, though constant, is scary.  None of us can predict exactly what will happen, Nostradamus could supposedly see the future and he missed the mark more than a few times.  People are starting to adapt now: the local food movement, an increase in cyclists, electric cars, wind and solar energy harvesting, home vegetable gardens, modern homesteading/getting off-grid, many of these trends are a direct result of the coming adjustment to the status quo.

But not everyone thinks ahead and plans accordingly, it’s not easy to prepare for the unknown.  Hence the doomsday crowd.  It’s much easier to be afraid than to think, even if thinking gives you horrifying information.   And although educated scholars are out there doing their best to disseminate mountains of information, the average guy on the street can feel what’s going on easier than he can rationalize it.  Our fear is so rampant we see phrases like “if you’re not paranoid, you’re not paying attention,” surfacing over and over again, each time it sounds a little more like good advice.   Always more fear mongering.  If you’re afraid you’re easily ruled.

Which is where our insatiable hunger for zombie-culture comes in.  World War Z, The Walking Dead, 28-Days Later, are all entertainment vehicles preying on our subconscious fear of civilized society drastically changing or coming to an end.  Hundreds of  zombie films were made in 2010, our love for the Undead has increased sharply in the past few years; the genre is ubiquitous now. Also,  zombie-entertainment conveniently combines our apocalyptic fears with other subconscious desires, like sadism.  Sadist or not, anyone who’s endured gridlock on an interstate has fantasized about ruthlessly beating a fellow idiot commuter (while smiling).  This subdued rage can be taken out on the Undead guilt-free.  They look  human, but they’re not, so go ahead and take a bat to their skull, it’s for the greater good.  Zombie films are dress rehearsal for end-of-the-world scenarios, and we can’t get enough.

With a little luck the change won’t be so bad.  I’ve dabbled in Anarchism, and even a little Nihilism on my more morose days, but I have an optimistic outlook for our inevitably “different” future.  Things will change, humans will adapt, life will go on.  People will die, people will live, and whatever the circumstances we’ll carve out a new niche for ourselves (probably a much smaller niche).  A lot of us will have to learn a new set of skills, and the pencil-pushers will have to rely heavily on those with the skills necessary for survival.   So don’t waste any more precious energy worrying about what the doomsdayers say, they’re only scared, like the rest of us.  Who knows?  The Big Change might come tomorrow, or it might not come for generations, but we all feel something coming, which means something probably is.  Be prepared.

In case of rapture, I’ll be in the shed with a bottle of good bourbon. Don’t bother me unless the music gets too loud, in which case you’re welcome to join me or fuck off.

Love,

Bill

Written by billlobe

August 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm