Sunday, May 17, 2015

And Not Speak Again


I must be about forty-five or fifty years old.  Seen a lot of things, known a lot of people.  Some of those things, the stuff of nightmares.  Some of those people, worse.  

And I've had enough. 

I was born in Baltimore, Maryland on what Ma always said was an exceptionally chilly October morning in 1888.  My school on North Howard Street had two negroes, and only one Jew - me - and no one ever said much about it, so I never thought much about it.  We were just kids, you know?

That was a long time ago, and let's face it - for all their wisdom, kids are stupid.  We had no idea.  We didn't know that we were were better than the poor black kids from Barclay, or the poor white kids from Dundalk or Woodlawn - or any of those gypsies and their bedraggled old glue horses.  We had no notion that we were nowhere near as good as the folks who lived in Ruxton.  I barely knew the significance of my being Jewish.  We were all just kids.

I never learned these social delineations.  Maybe it's because my parents perished when I was very young, before they had a chance to instill such things in me.  My father broke his neck, assembling my second-place-winning 1899 Charles Street Soap Box Derby car, and my mother, who turned to a life of North Avenue prostitution in order to keep a roof over my head, died of syphilis about a year later.  

So, after a couple of hard decades of street-sweeping and streetcar maintenance, when the Great Crash came, my inability to blame the blacks, or the immigrants, or the socialists, or the rich people or gypsies or anyone else made me an odd sort of outcast - and no one liked an odd outcast.  I hit the road, and joined the ranks of America's wandering poor of the 1930s.

I had been a loquacious child, and I was a loquacious hobo.  I simply loved to talk, and I abhorred the slightest pause in a conversation.  To me, silence was time wasted - time that could have been filled with the exchange of thoughts and sentiments and ideas.  I wanted to tell the world who I was and where I came from, and I had an unflagging desire to know everything about each and every fellow I met.  

I had questions, and oftentimes I had ready questions for the answers.  I craved discourse.  I wanted to know all the why's and how's.  I barely knew the difference between Lutherans and Presbyterians, or between Jews like me, and those mysterious Orthodox Jews.  And I longed to meet another man named Solomon, so that I could ask him if he knew just want his parents were thinking when they gave him that name.

I had questions - and maybe, I let myself believe, a few answers.

But no more.

I've said too much.  I've asked too much.  My words have started more fights and ended more friendships than I care to recount.  It's 1938.  There's a movement in Europe to wipe "my people" from the face of the earth, and no one can tell me exactly why.  War is coming, and it sounds bad.  My hobo brethren never cared for my talkative nature, to begin with, and now almost everything I say begins with the word, "why."  

No one  likes questions that start with "why."

I've been beaten and robbed and chased and bitten and arrested and beaten some more, and worse - and most of this, it seems, has started with my inability to hold my tongue.  But no more.  I will not speak again.

No longer will I answer to "Maryland Sol Say-too-much."  They can call me Sol Saynomore.

But I won't answer.

Yet another post prompted by my good buds at STUDIO 30-PLUS.  This time, we were given the "loquacious" and/or "talkative."  I know *I* fit the bill, but did my hobo?  Yes, probably.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

2015: Oh, How I Miss Those Commies

I am fully prepared for the heaps of derision.  Some of you will likely heap derision on me for what follows.  Heaps of it!  Well, do your worst.  I've heard it all before, and then some, so heap away.

Most of your ridicule will undoubtedly stem from the simple fact that I am, by some measures, "old."  Some of your mockery will target my broad oversimplification of a myriad of current issues and events, deliberate though it is.  The remainder of your scorn will come from parts unknown - the "just because" effect.  

As I said - bring it.

"For we who grew up tall and proud
in the shadow of the mushroom cloud
convinced our voices can't be heard
we just wanna scream it louder and louder and louder..."
- Queen, "Hammer To Fall" (1984) 


A critical stretch of my formative years took place between the late-1970s and mid-1980s. Despite being raised in a rather liberal home (thank the atoms for that!), with parents possessed of enough inside information (thank the CIA for that) to allay youthful nuke-death fears, I often found myself unable to sleep. I was held awake by hazy, depressing fantasies of atomic fire raining from the suburban-DC sky, or by rampant, uninformed speculation as to the nature and timing of radiation poisoning from bombs that missed DC, but were close enough (my father was certain that the Soviets' guidance systems were so bad that their warheads targeting the Pentagon would surely score direct hits on Bedford, PA or Cumberland, MD).

These fears, at the time, were not at all irrational.  It could have happened. There were moments, I'm sure, when it almost did happen. I wasn't mature enough to embrace the "you can't live your life in fear" mentality, so it was rather stressful, when I allowed myself to think about it. Which was often.


I still live in the Maryland suburbs, fifteen miles outside the Beltway. Occasionally, just for old times' sake, I consider the realities of a nuclear strike on the Nation's Capital, but such thoughts don't even begin to keep me awake. Actually, nothing does.  Except cartoons. And caffeine. And west coast baseball games. And the assorted pangs and pains of aging. And the litany of threats and horrors of the 2015 world. 

Yeah, litany. Don't make me list them - and DO NOT try to come at me with any of that crap about how harmless and far away it all is, and how super-duper safe I am from every single possible liberal-media-invented (or, to be fair, conservative-media-invented) threat - domestic or foreign - to my way of life, if not my very existence. There are threats, large and small, and they warrant anything from a raised eyebrow to at least a healthy respect. And I don't even have children to factor into the equation. Imagine if I did! Then, all my fears, irrational or otherwise, would be justified!

Anyway.  Bombs, guns, riots, science stuff, crime, terrorism, sleeper cells, gangs, road rage, atheists, guns, religious extremism, guns, cartoons, bombs, Ebola, deficits, suicide bombers, guns, republicans, epidemics, taxes, guns, war, alex rodriguez, beheadings, genocide, mass extinction, homemade nukes, guns, democrats, gas prices, health care, poor people, racism, Hollywood, gay rights, guns, religion, bee deaths, oil, bombs, Kardashians, pornography (speaking of), decline, Seth MacFarlane, guns, Fox News, and MSNBC.  And that's just the things that will kill me before I can finish this Cruzan and Coke! 

And that, my friends, is why I MISS THOSE COMMIES.  Seriously.  I miss them SO much. We knew where they lived.  We knew what they could do, and how they would do it. Hell, we knew how long it would take. We knew what we would do if they did what we knew they could do. It was mutually-assured, and I think they called it "destruction." It was scary as hell, but at least we knew where we stood. The playing field was pretty much level.

Now, not so much. 

No, my chances of suddenly meeting a horrific fate have not dramatically increased, since the end of the Cold War, but I miss having just the one main monster in my closet. It's not a large closet, and it is becoming exceedingly crowded. I have dreams, as do we all, and sometimes they're bad dreams.

Bloom County, by Berkeley Breathed - used without permission (please buy all of his books/collections, because he is brilliant and I don't want to get sued)
Let the derision-heaping begin!

Another prompted piece inspired by my friends at Studio 30 Plus - this time incorporating "derision" and/or "ridicule" into my post. Heap away, guys...