My apologies for the late episode today. A few problems occurred this morning: I woke up late in a hotel in Chicago and no idea how I got here. Just kidding, I know how it happened but, I drank last night, very uncharacteristic for me but I’m on vacation. Then, my computer died in the middle of reading. Below is an unedited bit of what I wrote on the train yesterday: it’s also read by me on the podcast.
Enjoy and let me know your thoughts.
Blood Like Water (snippet from the Train) post #1
There have been times and places when and where men pursue men to their deaths. Those places are distant. In war novels, too young men, given breath and blood in early pages, are fated to be stripped of both by stories end and most certainly, eventually, by pages end. Photos of their virgin lovers once or many times removed are intricately creased in their dusty bags with few other belongings and stared at as inspiration during desperate or scheduled masturbation, and, in cases of true love, into the quiet and panting moments after. Yo-Yo practitioners, card-sharks, whore-hungry alcoholics prone to rape, survival, and miserable continuation are all eligible for death by bullet or shrapnel complications, a life of destitute torture and not so vague remembrances, trauma induced sexual dysfunction, and often in the case of the latter-most, great political successes. The pursuit of man to death requires much preparation and acceptance, growing considerably, even exponentially with proximity. For example, the mental fortitude of a sword fighter, one in preparation for and understanding of the giving and receiving nature of death, must be far greater than that of a modern war-general whose days and nights are consumed with tactical board-game like decision making and a false but professionally necessary appreciation of ancient Chinese documents indicating best war practices. For the common man, the modern man, however, it is of no bother.
American cities are littered with pockets of barbarism. Gang-violence, street fights that herald street-kings, men willing to stand under dim lights and throw bare knuckled fists at each other in pursuit of respect and title, knock outs, knock downs, and most elusively, submission. Quit. A man considered the toughest on his block, his street, his neighborhood, or even his city, is rarely a match for a trained fighter, though. Champions of the world have to live somewhere. And this fact does leave a question in the minds of the wise and uninvolved and a longing for the common street king: on which street, in which neighborhood, in which city do the toughest men live?
The one unpredictable absurdity of life is faith, it cannot be measured. It’s primitive. Though, its evolution can come to its heights in a life time. That is, unlike other evolutionary elements that take generations, millennia even, to manifest. In order to understand the chaotic nature of primitive things, it is important to pick one primitive element existing in the modern world and measure the elements within it succeeding and failing. Prize fighting was a thing of the twenties, and not the roaring twenties. The dull back alley scraps on pain of bread and life rose from the desperation that only hungry men tired of roaring could feel. A fight that could be ended in as little as thirty seconds by a skilled handsmen leading it, is far less wearing on the body, the mind, and the spirit than a sixteen hour drudge through stockyard muck, lifting crates and inhaling smog day after day for pennies on the dollar. In a fight, unlike the latter, a winner is determined and a loser is still paid for his efforts. In depression era St. Louis, a mid-western city on the rise, working class losers were not paid, work was for purpose, never for reward or entitlement.
My great-grand-father was born in Park, Ireland in 1865 or somewhere about. By historical accounts, his birth came after the “bad time,” a moniker given by those so far removed that only the vague notion of bad remained. The poor writers, those in the trench, left with all the others. Only those too stubborn to concede or those too weak stayed. The former paid for their pride in hardship, year after year while the others died, highlighting the gaps in absurdity of spirit.
Coming home from his fourth consecutive 16-hour dig-shift with two more for the week (not because Sundays were off but rather because that particular job was set to complete in six days) Robert Park was dusty but, being still early in December, the air was too cold for a cold bath, the only option with a three month delinquent gas bill. So, he settled into his chair and the dust settled into him.
“Bobby. Can I fix you something to eat?” his young wife was accustomed to his ritual and so asked more on principal than genuine inquiry.
“No. You go ahead.” Once settled into his chair, nothing took place except for his work. No eating. No drinking. No lovemaking.
Mairin, Robert’s wife, was plain. She had thin brown hair that fell straight along the pale skin of her cheeks interrupted only by the protrusion of her ears. Her full eyes were a dull and stormy blue and seemed always tempted by the pull of thick eye lids. She was thin and soft. Her skins tone was even. It did not transluce with blue veins like other pale people. She loved Robert and for the most part believed him. Believed that he would do what he said he would, and believed that the bad times were temporary, despite a fading memory of before and no conceivable suggestion of anything else.
“Mairin? Would you fetch me the Gilligan McGregor folder?” he asked, never looking up from his pen as he sorted through his work. On the papers before him were intricate drawings of men and a paragraph of nearly microscopic letters under each of the dozens. The difference between each was so minuscule that if viewed turning quickly, they had a sense of movement.
In the hours between work and sleep, Robert worked. But, it was his work. When not working from his chair he would gather with the boys into the alleys outside of key locations rarely visited by the police: in the alley behind the slums just north of the river dock work yard, on the fields of St. Mary the Divine School during summer months, and in various basements of rich men who fancied the bouts. On occasion, in addition to the early mornings before work and in the evenings when the street lights allowed, Robert could catch a few of the fights during a lunch hour just behind the slum buildings. The boys ready to scrap would gather and take to the fights quick. Names. Weights. Records. May the best man win. There Robert was, lost in the crowd, in a place he understood perhaps better than any man, watching men fight. He studied every move.