THROUGH A LOOKING GLASS DARKLY


I grew up in Wonderland. I can say this now, after having lived and died a little in some of the ugliest cities. Brevard, NC is an impossible town, and it should have died like it did every night at 9 PM when the traffic lights down town went off duty and reverted to four-way flashers. It should have hemorrhaged to death when so many of us left it, bleeding.

Life after Brevard consisted of marrying your high school sweetie, snagging a second shift job at Du Pont or Olin with the right influence, and hopefully, getting a double wide so say, in ten years and with a lot of overtime, you’d get a real home one day. Or you could get out, go to college, find a decent job never once thinking of the wounds or how inane it was, back then.

Exactly an hour later almost as an addendum, the one TV channel with consistent reception reminded our parents it was 11 o’ clock, and somehow, as if it were possible, not knowing where we were was the last thing they heard, the constant back question: Do you know where your children are?

Yes, we were cuturally deprived. The population inside city limits strained to top 5500. You knew everyone and everyone knew you, and even if you did not comprehend it, there was security in this, and a little resentment at not being able to live so unanonymously. The lone radio station was AM, and on week nights, the melodious voice of John Anderson brought us serenely to “the close of another broadcast day”, promptly at 10 PM and the strains of his voice were the last heard of the day for many of us.

You waited on everything in Brevard, and you waited for Brevard to catch up to the rest of the world, but it could not, and you knew it.

Mustangs, Barracudas, Chevelles, Impalas- all those horses and nowhere to run- the dichotomy of excess speed in a town that prided itself, almost to the point of codification, on operating at the pace of thickening molasses.

Go ahead and laugh at this, but on Friday nights in summer, the parking lot which now comprises Princess Plaza was cordoned off for square dancing. Do-se do, I kid you not. The whole town turned out. You slapped your face with Canoe or English Leather, slick in your favorite jeans, leaning against -something-until you found the courage or waited for the competition to die down so you could sidle up to Anne or Beth or Cindy or Marsha and ask for this next round?

You could not help but worry just a little because what if the Hokey Pokey really IS what its all about? How would you know? Left foot in, do-se-do.

Maybe you’d get lucky. Maybe a friend shared a can of beer with you, fresh from a “run” to Hendersonville. Not enough so you could feel it, but enough to leave a taste in your mouth for more, and enough to taint your breath and enhance your image. Image was all we had at times.

The bowling alley was the hottest place in town, except of course for Hardee’s. Before everything and after everything, there was Hardee’s. The simplicity of it was its appeal: you want to be found, go to Hardee’s. There you’d catch a glimpse of a wild Mustang perhaps, or split an order of fries. Even the cops had names like “Elvis” and “Tinker” and most of the time, they’d be hanging too, only parked conspicuously in the center of the lot with the window down.

Paegentry and dances were relegated to the American Legion, and we cut up, showed off, smoked an joked under the ancient machinery of a WWII anti aircraft gun whose trajectory would have placed a round about three feet over the court house and made impact say, close to Wal Mart, windage and elevation being considered.

To the students at Brevard College we were “townies”; to the tourists we were “hicks”. Always, there was this battle for our own town. Some of us fought it while others hung back considering Brevard not worth an ass kicking. But we shared a common perplexity, and try as we might, could never grasp the concept of driving 100 or maybe 150 miles just to look at LEAVES. White squirrels were common as mud, and any kid who had his driver’s license over 60 days knew every waterfall within 30 miles by rote.
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As inevitable as daffodils in spring were the well-intended young women who arrived from UNC-Asheville. I never asked, but there had to be some deep spiritual power that propelled them onto the capstone of the court house retaining wall to save our dying town.

This was done usually at the top of their rather expanded lungs and usually, when mixed with the background of traffic, was for the most part unintelligble. But you learned to read their faces and even if you missed your appointed hour, you knew something serious was going on, and that there would surely be a next time.

“The City On The Hill” has been euphemised since the time of the ancients. In the Bible, it signifys both strength and depravity. Nostradamus saw it over and over and over. Those few of us fortunate enough to have lived there knew its pinnacle conjoined at the corner of Main and Jail House Hill, precisely where the wisewomen from Asheville stood.

They call Rome the Eternal City. I argue with history from time to time.
If you lived this Brevard, you know it like you knew your first kiss, you know it now with your eyes closed, it has always been. It resides on tongue- tip like the good news ready to spring forth across the land, it is deeper than skin, a fabric of which a part of you is indelibly woven.

My best years. Wonderland and “The Last Picture Show” with a Buck Owens twist. Red pill or blue, it is waiting for you.

WRITING FOR GHOSTS by D.L.McHale


ghosts

It is 4 a.m. and once again I am planted before the keyboard attempting to craft words into clever sentences…and there you go, failure in the first keystrokes. The good news, based upon my dearth of hits on WordPress, is that no one will read this anyway.

I once envisioned myself a budding writer, but now I am thoroughly convinced that feeling was nothing more than insomnia in the early morning hours combined with a pot of cheap coffee flushing out last night’s indigestion (don’t worry, that’s as graphic as I am capable of writing!)

I know I could be a good writer, if it wasn’t for all that grammar and words and things. But who am I kidding? It’s all about the words…the fucking words! (Hey, I used “dearth” in my second sentence…doesn’t that count for anything?) Well, I don’t have words or ideas or pesky plots, but what I do have is way too much time on my hands, so here you go.

When I write, I don’t have a particular audience in mind. Well, sort of, I guess…I have the ghosts of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Hemingway, and Plath. Sweet Sylvia Plath. Lots of dead people who, while not necessarily helpful critics, at least show up in my head and watch the circus of confusion unfold. Sometimes I can hear the occasional clicking of the tongue, a sure sign to lay on the backspace and come at a line from a new direction. Or maybe the clicking is the melting cubes in Ernest’s posthumous cocktail. The revolver of his pistol being locked into place? Who knows? The point is, I’m often guided by the whispers of spirits.

It feels as though when I write it has less to do with me having something to say than something that has to be said having me to write it. (Wow, I just plagiarized myself..that last line was something I wrote a year ago!) But it’s true, nonetheless. I often find that it is sufficient for me to just press the keys, and somehow the story will tell itself. Don’t believe me? I just wrote everything above without a thought in my head.

The key to being a great writer, I’m convinced, is to be a great reader. There is nothing I can say now, or will ever write, that hasn’t been said or written before. But a studious reader understands that there are a million ways to say the same thing, and that’s the beauty, and salvation, of writing. You don’t have to be original. You just have to have a unique dialect. In my case, it also helps to have a really poor opinion of most of today’s writing. I continually lie to myself and say, “I can do better!” And sometimes…I do. Then I pull down a worn copy of Pushkin and think, “shit..fuck this!! I can’t write!” And again, I am right.

So I continue my early morning ritual and if it’s true what they say, that if you give 1,000 monkeys 1,000 typewriters, in a thousand years, one of them will bang out the complete works of William Shakespeare, then surely, if this continues for a thousand mornings, I can bang out something worth reading.

10 Reasons You Should Not Discuss Politics on Facebook by D.L.McHale


facebook

I see a lot of things I disagree with on social media. And, to be honest, I’ve probably posted more than my share of things that are disagreeable. It’s hard to keep our personal beliefs to ourselves when we see things online that we take issue with. Let’s take the subject of politics on Facebook.

For me personally, I have many friends and family members on Facebook who are on both sides of the fence politically. From time to time I have posted something politically charged, only to go back a little bit later and remove it after I’ve thought about the possible repercussions. I am now fully committed to never doing it again.

So, I’ve come up with some reasons why none of us should post about politics on Facebook. Nothing that I’ve written is intended to silence anyone. My sole motivation is to keep relationships on Facebook intact, and invite the reader to look toward more appropriate forums for political debate.  Here you go….

  1. You could alienate family and lose your friends.There is no reason friends and family can’t discuss political issues calmly and respectfully…but for heaven’s sake, do so in person! If you don’t feel comfortable expressing opinions at the dinner table, why would you feel so comfortable doing so online? Don’t be a coward! Most people feel righteous and powerful when they are safe behind their computers and post things they would never say face to face. Being an online political bully is no different than being a bully in person. Remember, even if you are right doesn’t make it right! And what does it say about you as a friend that you are willing to hurt the ones you love just to express your political leanings?
  1. You could lose your job. Posting your strong political beliefs on Facebook is personal, and it’s not business…correct? Bullshit!  If your employer feels strongly about a political issue and you go on Facebook and post totally derogatory rants counter to what they believe, they might take your post personally and professionally. You want your employer to like you and factor you into the culture of the business they built. And while you have every right to hold opposite beliefs, you don’t need to invite career disaster just to put your opinion online.  Employers hire people they know, like and trust. Period. If you are willing to accept the consequence, by all means, post away.  But after the election is over, and you sit there unemployed, not sure what happened, don’t blame others for your indiscretion.
  1. You are wasting your time. “Your clever meme changed my political beliefs” said no one ever! You’re not going to change someone’s political beliefs on Facebook. You may think you have the most compelling argument, but guess what? You don’t, and neither do they. You can debate and debate, but you’re just wasting your time. People are different and believe different things. If you truly love and care for your online friends and family , quietly accept it, agree to disagree and move on. Life’s too short. Let your vote be your voice.
  1. Facebook is the wrong platform. If you’re bound and determined to spend time arguing over political issues online, perhaps you should go to a political blog or a news site and do so. Don’t ruin everyone else’s experience on Facebook with your political rants, no matter how passionately you think others NEED to hear your point of view. No one wants to limit your freedom to fight for what you believe, but ask yourself, is Facebook the right forum? Last week you were posting photos of your precious niece at a ballet recital.  This week your niece’s parents don’t give a shit about you because you called them stupid on political issues.  If you are willing to damage your close relationships to express an opinion that evaporates in the next political cycle, by all means, do so. Perhaps you should go into politics yourself where you can sacrifice your loved ones as long as you get your soap-box to stand upon. Fair exchange, right?
  1. There’s enough politics in the media. One of the reasons I use Facebook is to laugh, have fun and converse with my friends and family. I don’t use it to get worked up or stressed out over something I see that I disagree with. There’s enough political coverage in the mainstream media. More than enough. Keep it there and leave the politics to the pundits. As much as you believe you are the end-all in political debate…you are not. Get over yourself. When all is said and done in this election, you Mom will still be your Mom; your maid-of-honor will still be your best friend. Your aunt and uncle will still be part of the fabric of your life.  (Well, maybe.)
  1. You might lose 50% of your clients. If you’re marketing your business on Facebook, you absolutely NEVER want to go down this road on your Facebook business page. When you post your political beliefs on your business Facebook page, I guarantee you just lost up to 50% of your potential client base.  And for what?  The right to feel right?  I have a lot of strong opinions, but none of them are valued over $1.00.  But hey, it’s your business.  If you feel everything you’ve worked hard for and sacrificed for is easily given up for the right to be King of the Mountain of Facebook, by all means go for it.  I’m sure your candidate will mail you a check to cover your loss.  What, nothing in the mailbox.  I’m sorry.  Keep posting…maybe it will be in the mail next week.
  1. You’re just feeding the troll. I’m sorry for name-calling in a post that despises name-calling, but let’s face it: you’re just making yourself another Internet troll. And Facebook is infested with trolls. It’s too easy and you are not nearly as clever as you think you are. Half-truths and shallow talking points are what the internet are made of. The troll diet consists of apples and oranges as they attempt to equate things like the rainbow flag to the confederate flag. These people don’t deserve your attention; they’re just antagonists. They don’t want rules. They just want to fight and prefer it to be unmediated. That is exactly the platform Facebook provides. It’s a place where people feel comfortable making huge rhetorical leaps, without facing the challenge or consequences of having to back it up. Do yourself a favor and just stay out of it.
  1. Keep your political posts to facts and figures and funny (not mean) things. Don’t pretend you know what you are talking about. Are you an expert on foreign policy, or do you just have a personal opinion? Can you talk with expertise on the nuances of global economics, or are you just pissed because your paycheck is shrinking, rather than growing? Keep it to the facts as it applies to you
  1. When you comment on a friend’s post, don’t make it personal – ever. If a friend’s Facebook posts are offensive to you, “un-follow” them until Election Day 2016. That way their posts and cheap memes won’t be visible to you.  Or, if they really go too far, “unfriend” or “block” them. But please, don’t do this for family members with whom you may be breaking bread or sharing turkey in a few weeks’ time.
  1. Join a closed Facebook group dedicated to your political point of view .Rant all you want with those like-minded individuals. But don’t think that just because it’s closed, your posts will be private; they won’t be. Join Twitter and leave Facebook behind for now. You can “follow” those who believe what you do and they can reciprocate. In that way, Twitter is very incestuous, but keeping it all in the family can sometimes be a good thing.

Agree or disagree with my advice? Instead of beating up on others, go ahead a beat up on me at dennis.l.mchale@gmail.com. Trust me, I have nothing to lose. I promise, I won’t be offended and perhaps your family and friends will still love and accept you after election day.

LOVE IS A MANY SPLINTERED THING by D.L.McHale


Love…

Whole platters of
Expectation
Handled timidly by
Waiters
and
Waitresses
of desire.

Carelessly slipping
Through now
Trembling fingers,
Once bold and sure.

Tragically
Tumbling beyond
Last moment grasps,
End over end,
Sadly spewing its
Delicious contents
in a hopeless
Death spiral.

Nothing remains
but a shattering
Introduction
to the cold, hard
Floorboards of reality.
Love is a many
Splintered thing.