In No Way Atlas
As you all probably know, I have a real problem with women’s summertime footwear. I recently started filling in on bass part time for my buddy’s cover band at a gig down the shore. And yes, it’s ‘down the shore’ because I live in Jersey. This weekly gig doesn’t help my aversion to women’s footwear. It actually enhances it with the fury and fiery passion of an erupting volcano coating an island’s heathen blasphemers with liquid rock. If my shitty bass playing doesn’t get me fired (which it probably should), then the barrage of thong styled sandals, gladiator shoes, and the occasional bare and drunken foot surely will.
I haven’t been modified in quite a while. I’m not entirely sure why, probably because I’m broke. I tend to modify mostly as a catharsis; I mod in times of exceptional strife and woe. It’s my way of remembering a difficult time of life, or a reminder that I am a person who can withstand whatever it is that is going on. I’m not sure my therapist agrees with my helpful catharsis, but her shoes are terrible, so “I guess we’re both not sweating it.” (Name that movie.)
Now may be as good of a time as any for me to modify. So much on the shoulders goes, kids. Recently, in the new novel I’m nearly finished, I wrote the sentence, “Where are the ones who carry on their shoulders all of the bullshit that you are too weak to carry? Where is Atlas?” I’d like to know the answer to that question. The more appropriate question may be, does Atlas even care about the weight of my things?
Likely he doesn’t. He doesn’t care that my aunt’s heart is failing and is in the hospital unexpectedly. He doesn’t care that my grandfather’s Alzheimer's is making him violent. He doesn’t care that my father is being blamed for family related things that were in no way his fault. Nor does he care about legs hurting, broken spines, jobs lost, surgeries, or poor bass playing. So whom do I ask, then, to play Atlas? (Clearly this is not as mod related as most other rants.)
There are two ideas that people will use to try to comfort others, and neither of them have any value. The first is, “It could be worse.” Yeah, I guess in theory, it can always be worse. Unless you’re the character in “Johnny Got His Gun,” then I suppose it can always be worse. My blood could turn to stone. That could make things worse. It could start raining penises in hurricane force wins. That would be worse. The only song on the radio could be “Teenaged Dirtbag.” Yeah, these things could make life worse, but that doesn’t make my shoulders stronger.
The other idea is, “Everything happens at once.” Yeah, it does. But that makes sense, doesn’t it. It seems as if life will always throw you a changeup when you’re looking fastball. Why? Because you’re looking fastball, that’s why. A better analogy is this. If your gloves aren’t up, you’re going to get punched in the face, but in the championship rounds, in rounds thirteen and fourteen and fifteen, aren’t the gloves so tired. Isn’t it difficult to raise them to block the punches. The guard lowers, and then, more punches. In round two, when your gloves were up, your opponent was popping you with one or two shots at a time. He wasn’t putting his punches together in flurries or combinations. Now that you’re tired and your gloves are low, his punches come in two, three, four at a time.
Is it about weathering the storm? Is it about withstanding? I guess that idea presupposes that you have no intention of preventing the punches from happening, or even to stop what is causing them to come. Wouldn’t that speak to the idea that the ability to withstand but not solve is what gets you through? That doesn’t seem very proactive to me. I suppose that there are those types of problems that can only be waited out. Hurricane type problems. These problems come, swirl their damaging winds, dump their violent rains. The only thing you can do with these is to wait. You look out of the window and marvel at Mother Nature’s wrath. You wait. Some of the problems we face are hurricane problems.
But what of the others? The ones that we have control over, or not so much control as it is the ability to manipulate its behavior or outcome. These are clay problems. A mass of monochromatic putty that we have to make into something. We have to take this clay and make it a useful thing. Here is the clay, make it something. What will you make it into? A beautiful sculpture? A something that is the manipulation of a thing that initially brought sorrow and woe, but is now a personification of gladness as resolve. Or an ugly thing. A thing that exemplifies more accurately what the clay made you feel when it appeared. A thing that sits staring, reminding you of how you felt when it was a new thing. The anger and rage, the frustration and helplessness. A beautiful sculpture, or an ugly thing.
Who am I to assume responsibility for things beyond my control. That is a question whose answer would quell most of the frustration and confusion. I can’t do anything about my grandfather’s insanity. It happens. It’s not my fault, and I am in no way involved. Why do I feel as if I need to do something about it? My aunt’s heart is a something that is its own thing. A thing that will do because it is destined to do, powered by an invisible fuel. Why do I feel as if my concern can help? It can’t. What can I do? How can I make value of these things? What can I do. OK, the bad bass playing I can fix if I practice more. But responsibility is a very important thing to me. Blame? I’m not sure that is the right word, but reasoning. Nothing just happens. Things must cause their happenings, and why can’t that thing be me. How did I bring these things to actuality, and what can I do to remedy them?
So I will modify in a selfish way of purging the sorrow of what is going on around me. I will pierce or tattoo, and use these things as a memory of this trying time in reality. Perhaps I myself am Atlas, and that is why I feel responsible for everything that is sorrowful around me. This world is heavy. The world of disease and illness and insanity and joblessness and purposelessness and loneliness. Perhaps I am the one who is holding this reality steady. I know that it isn’t true, but often my shoulders feel sore and worn. When does Atlas put the world down? When do the problems dissipate and we all get a simple respite from the woe? I suppose life isn’t built that way, and this rant is pointless. And short. This rant is short too. My mind is not in the greatest place, kids, and I needed to share with you that little, rattling marble in the bottom of the tin can of my brain. When the pendulum swings upward, you’ll get more poop jokes and esoteric film references, but for now, thanks for letting me vent. “What do you want for nothing, rubber biscuits?” Name that song. Stay beautiful, kids.
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