Michael Vick Furor + I H8

So, my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers went out and signed pariah quarterback Michael Vick as what is likely to be a short term fill-in as a backup.  Predictably, a few dim, narrow corridors in the social media maze have gone ablaze with fury fired so hot that it quickly consumed all available oxygen, which resulted in secondary hypoxia for all therein.  That anti-Vick crowd, now gasping for breath, still writhes angrily on the floor, contorted in bitter and frustrated resentment.

vickAfter almost no thought at all I offered my own opinion elsewhere…

“Vick screwed up–but I think it’s safe, if not particularly correct or popular–to say that the business with dog fighting has a certain cultural element to it–and by culture I mean, yes: poverty, latitude, and race.  That isn’t an indictment of any group–different communities have their vices–poor people, and black people are inordinately represented among the poor, are more apt to be involved in dog fighting than wealthier folks–and it doesn’t hurt that the latter know better how to keep their hands appearing clean.

Dog fighting, and its associated abuses, was not taboo in Vick’s microcosm.  He grew up around it, like a lot of poor city kids, and while he probably knew in the abstract that it was wrong, it didn’t really sink in until he was hip deep in trouble. (and for the love of the gods why doesn’t the NFL hire a team of “cleaners” who would find these kids and see what they hell they’re into that won’t wash now that they’re famous, then make them stop?) Ignorance–or even the fact that in much of the word dogs = calories–doesn’t exonerate him, but it does explain what he did and why, and it’s long past time to move forward from what happened because, as those before me said, he’s paid what society demanded of him. And more. He went to prison and lost millions upon millions of dollars as well as the prime years of his athletic career. We forgive a lot worse people for a lot more terrible things.

He also worked his way back and, as far as we know, has been an exemplary citizen (and yeh, I’m knocking on wood as I say it) and an admirably professional athlete. The free agent cupboard is pretty bare, especialy at quarterback, and I can’t think of a better available free agent, between his maturity and his skills. I’m glad that the Steelers are going out and taking care of business pro-actively. If Gradkowski wasn’t hurt, I’d think differently. At this point, I don’t sign Vick over Bruce–but with no viable backup (Jones is still a project and then some)–there simply isn’t anyone else out there right now, and from a purely football standpoint this is a good signing.”

Within a few minutes of posting this, one of my “real name” friends stuck up an angry petition on her facebook page, that bleated “Michael Vick is a convicted felon and no-class piece of crap. He is also a terrible QB which is why he has no team.  Let’s united as Steeler fans – as NFL fans – and stop him from playing on our team! Steelers fans united! Sign to keep Vick from ever wearing the coveted Steelers uniform!!”

Ugh.  If there is one thing that makes me want to invite Michael Vick over to the house for a nice, “Welcome To Western Pennsylvania” meal, it is a petition. petitions are one of several reasons that I have stopped identifying myself as a liberal, which strictly speaking I never was, at least not by definition. Libertine, but not liberal.  As I’ve said before, my politics skew to the old school Bull Moose progressivism–populist, anti-corporate, strong domestic policy, etc–and the namby pamby sensitivity that accompanies “liberalism” as it is colloquially regarded, respulses me. These petitions are little more than vehicles for us to feel good about ourselves with the least possible effort–look, ma, I clicked against that guy who did that thing! I clicked hard, too!  I was really ticked off! I made a difference! Yay me!

We’ve become too weak, too fragile in our sensitivities, and it the case of Mr. Vick, we’re grossly hypocritical. He killed dogs. It’s a terrible thing. I love dogs. I love my 40 pound dog who sits on my lap and lets me hold her like she’s an infant. I prefer her company to that of all but a very few humans. Vick’s actions disgusted me, but how much do we ask of one man–at what point do we forgive? We work tirelessly to rehabilitate other criminals–we cheer them when they transcend their missteps, however vile, but because Mike Vick is famous he must be forever marked. If he was a stringy haired punk from the corner who’d done his time, cleared his parole, and got himself a new job, we’d point to him as gleaming beacon of hope for the success of justice system. But he’s a black dude who runs fast, and gets to be on TV, so he’ll never pay enough. Would we resent him if he got a job at Dairy Queen? No, because the schadenfreude would be washing over us so thick and warm we’d tremble in orgiastic delight.

Funny and/or Strange

Happy Scare The Shit Out of Your Dog Day


Commentary Journal

Cats, Hemingway, and Me

I was catching up on on blog posts I’d bookmarked, things that caught my eye on busy mornings or late nights to which I had attended to return long ago, when I came upon this one from Millie Ho about Art, Edward Gorey, creativity in general and–if you read between the lines–a whole lot more.

The post reminded me instantly of Hemingway, and not just because of the prominent photo of the artist Gorey reclined, asleep, and half-covered in his beloved cats.  It is easy to mistake this for a photo of Hemingway, as I initially did–and as many others on the internet have done, because along with the deceptively simple syntax and precise word vocabulary, the long line of marriages and adultery and more marriages, the fishing and the hunting and the boxing and the bullfighting, Hemingway is sort of famous for his cats.
tumblr_lmyfhszSUf1qiu5e6o1_400My first pet was a cat–a fierce, possibly deranged, copper colored striped cat that maybe weighed eight pounds which I named Amber, because I was a kid (geek) who knew what amber was, what it looked like, and that was what color she was.  This led to a lifetime–she would live to be 23 years old–of “that’s a stripper’s name” jokes, which none of us appreciated very much. Amber loved me, slept most of her life on my bed, and tolerated my mother and sister. She waged war on the rest of the world, dominating all the other cats and dogs in the neighborhood via sheer, hostile tenacity.  She twice ventured  to our neighbors’ yard and thrashed their miniature collie–a silly, lazy thing called “Boots” and cornered it on it’s own porch, then came home to sit in my lap, a tiny, purring little Genghis Khan.Literature Personalities. pic: circa 1940's. Author Ernest Hemingway watched by his wife Mary, feeds tit bits to the cat at dinner. Ernest Hemingway, (1899-1961) US writer of novels and short stories and Nobel Prize winner, also a keen sportsman. He was p

When the neighbor, in all her bright red-dyed hair and perfume-drenched glory marched down to our hovel to confront us, and pounded on the door, the cat launched herself at the screen door, from the inside, growling and hissing as she did to most visitors, the mailman, meter readers, extended family, and innocent passers-bycat on screen door. It was a little embarrassing, especially to my mom.  It was also a little bit awesome, in both the colloquial and literal senses of the word.

We never worried about locking our door–my grandmother couldn’t get past this snarling beast.  Forget some burgler–not that our house wouldn’t have been the last house of the block to draw the attention of n’er do wells, unless they were looking for warn rugs or a shabby old flowered sofa.

I never appreciated the cat.  I was a boy, and I wanted a dog, and when I got one–a stray German Shepherd puppy that started sleeping on our back porch one summer evening and couldn’t be convinced to go home–well, nothing really changed.  The cat loved me because I let her alone, I’m convinced, and she ernesthemingway_narrowweb__300x4700worked out some sort of deal with the dog.  She let it sleep on her porch, after all, and eventually shared her bed with him (after already sharing the antique double with me).  This was a dog she could work with–smart, respectful, quiet–except for his love of fetching things (tennis balls, rubber bones–he even carried a neighbor’s beagle puppy back to me one evening, perfectly gripped–unharmed–in his mouth.  That really was embarrassing.) Amber would never have degraded herself by fetching, though she did bring me the requisite corpses of small rodents and birds, but not as tribute mind you–but as a reminder, like the horsehead in The Godfather.

It seems ironic, in retrospect, that I under-appreciated the value of such an interesting companion probably because she demanded so little of me besides the occasional scratch behind the ears, the opening and closely of doors, some water and food.  Do we love based on the effort we’re required to make?  Perhaps not exclusively, but it’s something to think about.1.55811_image.jpeg

You expect a dog to provide companionship, but a cat–I’ve learned to expect, if not quite settle for, something called “affectionate disinterest.”  Psychologically, this is genius on the part of the cats, who could provide excellent advice on human relationships.  I had to learn that keeping my distance and moving (seemingly) reluctantly into relationships, more often than not, is a far better strategical approach than, say, the emotional equivalent of marching headlong into the brink.  064b

We’ve all seen Black Hawk Down, right?  In love, Tom Sizemore and a column of Pakistani mechanized infantry aren’t going to rush in at the last moment and save your ass when you crash and burn.

Better to be the tentative Pakistanis, biding their time.

But there weren’t any cats in that movie…


I Am Sorry I Am So Lame

My last post read like an editorial in a high school newspaper, and for that I apologize. I mean to do better, but it is late, and I’m tired, and I’ve been concentrating on this damn novel at the expense of the poetry and wit you deserve. More retro clipart at I’ll get paid for the novel, but I get nothing for the blog and even less for poetry–however, if you want more and better original content just let me know and I’ll set up a kickstarter or something–I’m a better poet and a better cook than that potato salad guy).

Send me some money and I’ll make a totally badass pizza. From scratch. Heck, I’ll auction off one of these bad boys (I do a veggie, too, and a white pizza with fresh garlic, just picked from my back yard garden yesterday) and if it goes for over $1000 or equal to .50/mile I’ll deliver it in person, along with an age appropriate beverage. SAM_0490

Ahem, where was I? Anyway, back to the lame posts:  today was the final straw.  My freaking chair broke–it was an old, straight-backed wooden chair that needed some of the dowels replaced.  It was getting wobbly, and I didn’t glue it, and I’m a BIG guy.  One of the dowels broke and it all just came apart.  Now I’m sitting on the most uncomfortable chair in known space–and it’s worse than a lot of the stuff they have in unknown space, too. (trust me, I know.)

It is impossible to write anything interesting when your ass is numb except for the occasional shooting, stabbing, mauling pain as a battered and abused nerve manages to fire.  So that’s where I am–seriously thinking about bringing a lawn chair indoors until I can make it to the thrift store for another comfortable antique.

What the hell?

Here’s a found picture to soften the blow.  That’s a lot of dogs–probably a missed opportunity for a trite jibe at Chinese restaurants.

But really, it’s a good pizza.  And no, I’m not drunk.  My ass just hurts.


National Poetry Month: Raymond Carver

HOPE   By Raymond Carver

“My wife,” said Pinnegar, “expects to see me go to
the dogs when she leaves me. It is her last hope.”
–D. H. Lawrence, “Jimmy and the Desperate Woman”

She gave me the car and two
hundred dollars. Said, So long, baby.
Take it easy, hear? So much
for twenty years of marriage.
She knows, or thinks she knows,
I’ll go through the dough
in a day or two, and eventually
wreck the car–which was
in my name and needed work anyway.
When I drove off she and her boy-
friend were changing the lock
on the front door. They waved.
I waved back to let them know
I didn’t think any the less
of them. Then sped toward
the state line. I was hellbent.
She was right to think so.

I went to the dogs, and we
became good friends.
But I kept going. Went
a long way without stopping.
Left the dogs, my friends, behind,
Nevertheless, when I did show
my face at that house again,
months, or years, later, driving
a different car, she wept
when she saw me at the door.
Sober. Dressed in a clean shirt,
pants, and boots. Her last hope
She didn’t have a thing
to hope for anymore.