Wednesday, February 23, 2011

THE OUTSIDER: Born 2 Observe

I'm a congenital outsider. My three half-siblings - brothers seven, eight and nine years older than me - shared many bonds I was fortunately not privy to, including each having their childhood scarred by an abusive father, my mother's first husband.  They perceived my life as charmed.  Compared to theirs, maybe it was.  Everything is relative.

The only things I felt fairly confident doing were writing, drawing and, in small groups, anyway, making people laugh.  Comedy was very useful in my family.

Mrs. Collins, a bitter old hag whose objective was to destroy the scholastic potential of the eight-year olds she made miserable daily, accused me of cheating because the dolphins I drew didn't look a Rorschach test. "I said no tracing.  You traced this!" she hissed.  I was mortified.  Being utterly convinced of my own virtue, and shocked that any adult - especially a teacher - thought so little of me as to make such an unfounded and hurtful accusation, it was the first time I felt compelled to challenge a person in an absolute position of authority.  She wouldn't listen.  The other children, having some awareness of my moral character and prowess with crayons, were terrified.  I elicited testimony from a quiet, traumatized but resolute little girl who sat next to me.  It was an airtight defense.  "He didn't trace.  I saw him draw it."  Mrs. Collins took her time, but had little choice except to relent, sans apology.  I'm still surprised the old lady didn't snuff my star witness.  It was the trial of 1970.

Had it not been for dyscalculia, I would have excelled academically.  I performed very well in other subjects, and, as a result, over and over, despite my protests, I was placed in math classes which exceeded my ability.  I'd been set up to fail by an indifferent school system.  Worse, I knew it.  Learning disability?  Not in the early 70s.  Administrators and perplexed teachers said I was lazy.  They could not conceive of any reason why an otherwise intelligent, artistic, well-behaved child had begun to flounder in the shallow waters of multiplication tables.  But I could see the sharks, and they delivered.

I wasn't smart enough for the geniuses.  Asthama-on-exertion and unimpressive eye-hand coordination doomed me in athletics.  Shyness assured my failure as a ladies man.   My empathy, curiosity and general intelligence disqualified me from being a thug

How I hated school.  By thirteen or fourteen, I knew college wasn't going to happen.  Authority fucked me over, and I decided to hate Authority until the day I became plant food, one of the few commitments firmly intact today.  What came to be known as The Math Thing was my tortured undoing, and, as undoings often are, it was also my salvation; one that delivered me from - well, not Evil, exactly - but the selective blindness required by the all-too-human need to settle down with the right mob.

I've worked as a dishwasher, busboy, drugstore clerk and delivery driver, classified ad sales rep, cement truck loader, aircraft mechanic, medical management field rep, loss control transcriptionist, claims adjuster, legal support clerk, tape jockey, IT support technician, programmer, medical transcriptionist, reinsurance accountant, copy writer, typesetter, business writer, graphic artist and branding consultant.  I probably wouldn't have made it past the first two if I hadn't been (a.) born white, and (b.) developed an unnatural early fondness for polysyllabic language.

I try to stick with graphic arts, including, increasingly, photography.  

The whole problem with trying to earn a living in the creative arts in 2011 is the expectation by entrepeneurs and corporations that creative expression is intrinsically worthless except in the form of free labor.  Writing goes largely unappreciated monetarily, as content providers are all the rage.  Many of the people who appreciate photography enough to actually pay for a unique artistic perspective are, like me, taking up the art themselves.  Capital no longer translates into income or investment. "Thousands of people will see your work, for which you will be paid nothing, PLUS you get to put it on your résumé!"  That's capital, 21st Century style.

I can't eat my résumé, much less make a house payment with it.

A few days ago, a writer for a local news and entertainment weekly approached me at a live music performance by Beth Orton trying to wrangle some photographs "for credit."  I folded the piece of paper with his contact information and tucked it in my pocket, barely concealing my seething contempt for every self-inflated goon who works in "media" - you know, the ones who actually get paid for writing insipid bullshit, sometimes for mannequins who regurgitate it for teevee and film audiences.  Had he paid my door cover and paltry bar tab, there would have been quite a bargain to be had.  Credit, my ass. I do hope your iPhone pics give you a lifetime of pleasure, Andy.

Employers want it all.  Credentials.  Experience.  Ability.  Complete subservience.  A few months ago, my wife interviewed for a position at a local university seeking, among other things, a marketing professional who could work independently and rapidly assimilate.  Thank God, she didn't get the gig.  The things people are willing to do for health care. I fantasized about how amusing it would be to apply for the job myself, and, during the interview, emphasize my chameleon-like ability to rapidly assimilate.  "Rapid assimilation is my specialty.  It's what I do best.  I've done it a million times."  Like my brother "quitting" cigarettes.

If you have not yet located the point on this pencil, please forgive me for stabbing you in the eye with it.  It hurts me more than it hurts you.

This is the deal:  If you're coming here expecting the usual UFO boilerplate, either adjust your expectations or take a fucking hike. Those are your not-so-satisfying choices. I will not fit into that tiny little toy box you're dragging around, and, no, I'm not even willing to try.  Having just started this collection of musings, I have no audience to worry about maintaining... and I never will.  If, against all odds, more than a dozen unique visitors should ever find this page in a twenty-four hour period, it still will not matter one whit.  I cannot afford to let it matter because, were I to do otherwise, nothing else would matter.

Whatever I have written or may write here or anywhere else, the snarled, litter-strewn intersection of ufology and pop culture (are these not arbitrary distinctions?) does not, and will never, define me as a human being.  The obtuse loudmouths who will eventually endeavor to try me on the grounds of wherever I happen to be standing at any given moment, or where I once stood long ago, will fail.  You're a vicious lot, my dear UFO aficionados.  You do know that, right?  I love you anyway, but let's face up to it: This is a dangerous playground we've made for ourselves.  And I do believe it is of our own making.

March 1st will mark my 49th year on this hellish planet, and that is way too old to give a righteous grunt about my reputation, indulge in celebrity reach-arounds or bite my tongue to avoid offending the bloated UFOcentric egos splattered into pixels, ink and podcasts.  That game is a fucking soul-killer, and, if I wanted to play it, I would be crowing about my rapid assimilation skills and cashing the check instead of doing what I want, however I choose to do it (and likely starving to death, although I have a few dozen pounds to go). If people interpret this as sociopathic - and some do - then, fine, I'm a sociopath. 

My mission in life is simple: liberation.  Some days, I find it.  Other days, I don't.  Most days, I can almost taste it.  Rest assured - or don't - but liberation is the ultimate Lost & Found, a moment-to-moment quest pausing only for temporal satisfactions like the taste of fine wine, a lover's adoring glance, or the inhalation and exhalation of an exquisite smoke. 

Freedom's forms are as infinite and beautiful as the heartbreak they spawn.  I know better than to seek them in the fickle whims of public adulation.  I don't mind showing my flaws, as they are as fundamental to my nature as my attributes.  Of course, I would prefer to be flawless.  But that ain't gonna happen.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

The price of candor, in the material sense, is extremely cost prohibitive.  Just as it has always been.  We see to that, don't we?  Should you find yourself in a position to offset its brutal charges out of any appreciation for what you may - or perhaps, may not - read here at Skyward, I will not only accept your support, but will do so, believe it or not, with genuine gratitude.

Should your appreciation not rise to that level, that's okay, too.  Hell, it's more than just okay.  There is plenty of satisfaction in knowing you dog-paddled your way to the end.  Well done. 

Cheers, my friends & adversaries.

The best is yet to come. Always.

Love & Courage,


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