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Life in the Empire

The Strange Family with Small Lanterns

May 12-17, 2005

our German cousins

There was a time when strangers were welcome here
Music would play, they tell me the days were sweet and clear
It was a sweeter tune and there was so much room that people…
could come from Everywhere.

--Neil Sedaka

This day in May, 2005 I am preparing for a wake. Here’s what I did last year with my 401k “retirement” money: pulled it all out of the market and blew it all on taking the kids to Europe. Fact is, I’m never going to “retire,” even if I wanted to. I’m going to end up dying in the saddle, just like the Old Man. Spending my dotage tottering (or wheeling) about the lawn of my stately McMansion isn’t in the cards.

Oh yeah… the Wake. Who died? My Nation, perhaps… and I’m not sure when it happened. I just looked around and She was gone. It seemed like She would live forever… like a kindly old aunt who sends you crisp small bills in birthday cards. I told the kids stories about Her. I even took them for a visit one time… to the Sacred Ground of Gettysburg, the Wall in Washington DC. That was years ago.

They’re growing up fast, the kids. Pretty soon, they’ll be fully grown and starting their own lives. My babies are now contrary teenagers, and while I mumble and scowl at their piercings and pink hair (like an old man should), I admire their moxie. Years ago, I wanted to manage my “investments” wisely so I could send them to college to “compete in today’s competitive environment.” What a joke.

Checking my “investments,” I began to feel like Yosarrian in Catch-22 finding Milo Minderbinder’s IOUs in the medical cabinet. I learned Snowden’s secret. This metaphor is meaningless to anyone who hasn’t read “Catch-22,” and those who have can work the rest of it for themselves. If this life is all there is, then understanding the journey is far more important than the destination.

So the best “investment” I could think of was taking the kids to see where they came from: “Old Europe.” I wanted them to see other cultures and hear many languages and feel what it’s like to walk the streets of a big old city without being afraid of being robbed or arrested. I wanted them to eat real food and see what happens when people experience a real war. We could still see the damage.

This year I want the kids to see where they may be going. We are “looking for America.” But “ America” is a continent, and “Country” has become a kitschified collection of geegaws, yellow ribbons, hype and lies. Our Nation is more… it’s the dream of immigrants like my simple German Great-grandparents. These days their dream seems so simple and sweet, but they found it. They lived it.


Their Hessian home looked like a fairyland compared to the stark mudflat of Indiana where they came, found a regular job, worked at it for over 40 years and died after their life of work was finished. It doesn’t sound like much, but they escaped the princes who used them as pawns. They made a modest living in peace and relative safety. That’s all they ever wanted, and maybe… just maybe… their children could do better.

Now the princes use us as pawns. Our work is no longer secure. There are wars, rumors of wars, and the “church” has become a corrupt arm of the state. Maybe there is a place in our Land where people are still free from want and fear. We’re going to look for it, but I’m afraid we’ll just be “viewing the body.” I could be wrong. We’ll see. The “truth” can still be found if you know where and how to seek it.

In his May 2005 essay, “One of These Days,” William Rivers Pitt has said, “The frustration I feel personally knowing that I and everyone else are being deliberately deceived and misdirected is topped by only one thing: The rage, horror and sorrow I feel when I finally do manage to carve through the crap and get to the truth. Because the truth, friends and neighbors, is so much worse than you can possibly imagine.

Today we read puff pieces, not poetry or essays, and we look for entertainment, not truth. I share Pitt’s apprehension. I fear we will be strangers in our own land, flotsam in the revenue stream for carneys or criminals. Worse, we may be taken for “terrorists” because we wish to cross borders in search of the truth. Truth-tellers, even truth-seekers have become strangers in our current country and culture.

There was a time when strangers were welcome here.

Views: 15

Comment by waldopaper on June 14, 2009 at 7:10am
As you can see... we are getting smaller... and browner!

It turned out that the girls couldn't go... so Zeke and I did the road-trip to see ol Audiobox. We took the North route through Canada... almost didn't get in... even with Passports and flawless documentation. We swung out 90 miles to get around the Chicago suburbs... still not far enough. Spent nearly 4 hours going through that dystopian toilet before we got a clear shot at the border. Duluth was still cool.

Portland was cool. Hip-pies and a bicycle culture! Saw a small sticker on a lamp post... "The war is a lie and you know it."

We took the Northern US road back... through the Dakotas. Sad. Support the troops magnets and flags. I can't imagine what it's like now.

In Germany I said to ms waldo, "let's STAY here!" Well... what about... yadda yadda bla . Fuck that, I said... we'll figure it out. Needless to say... I lost that argument. So here we are.

Und I vould leef it if I could.
Comment by pan on June 14, 2009 at 7:49am
Every place is full of annoyances. Some have more, some have less. There is no place that is untouched. Perhaps there are some places, where the poverty is so prevalent, that the sickness of soul-rot isn't pervasive....Bageant was claiming he had found one for awhile....wonder what happened to that, does he still go there and strive towards cleansing himself of his Ugly Americaness or has he realized that that project can only be approximated?
Comment by BO on June 25, 2009 at 5:20pm
I don't know which is scarier...Waldo's hand in his cousin's pocket...or the sports pants his cousin is wearing.
Comment by BO on June 25, 2009 at 5:22pm
Oh wait. That's just Waldo doing his Eminem pose.
Comment by Mouse on June 25, 2009 at 6:26pm
Well I never, just look who's been sartorially inspired by our Waldo:
Comment by Mouse on June 25, 2009 at 6:27pm
Well I never, did you notice that Deek fellow seems to have modelled himself on our Waldo, or is it just a COINCIDENCE ??????????
Comment by curt on July 28, 2009 at 12:44pm
How did I manage to miss seeing this? Anyhoo, I seez it now.

I had a good fight going with the Deutsche Rentenversicherung : the German Retirement Agency over the last few weeks, years and today, I received two (more) letters. The one is called a "Bescheid" while the other goes into great detail and is called a "not Bescheid". WTF thinks me? So I eagerly put me weak reading glasses on and speadread the shite and up up and away goes my blood pressure as I (think thought) I see how the forkers have AGAIN cheated me out of the period between my high school graduation and my first day on the German retirement scam plan. We're talkin in the excess of 5 forkin years, folks. For some reason, I've been like your typical ex-GI just back from Baghdad, ready to kill any motherforker that even looks straight at me for no apparent reason. Don't know why, but I was in a very bad mood today. Not at all like me. These letters, because I misread the first one, put me in a rage as I proceeded to attempt to demolish a solid wood piece of furniture. Oak. With me bare hands cause that's how we do things, right?

Venting is a good thing. I went out to mowe the lawn and discovered my power cord roller is missing. Blood pressure already in the clouds, I decided to accept my fate. No mowing the lawn and no retirement pay. I'm fucked. And forked. So Ize thinkin. Ize wrong of course, but I wasn't gonna listen to nobody and there weren't nobody round anyhoo. I opens a beer. A root beer. A&W.

Sugar. Good. (you can see where this is going, right?)

Wifey gets home, plops down on the couch and says "so wadda they sayin now, them forkers?" So I reads it all to her and we see my mistake and .....

according to the Agency, if I retire today, I gets one third of what I gets as pay right now. But I can't just up and retire. I'm 49. I keep on readin and see the forkers stole one year off my life due to some change in law. They had been countin my 16th but not anymore.

2026. Sept. I'll be 66. If I live. And even then, my retirement will only be 2/3 of what I now get.

My blood pressure goes back up and I feel like JFK at Zapruder frame # 233.

I aint gonna make it to 66. But at least I have this shit cleared up. They have my name and number and the fuckers, ehem, forkers know they owe me. I guess I can be blessed. Good old Germany. My new home.

I was sayin to this guy last saturday that I ride pretty slow and if it hits me, it'll hit me from the front. Wifey would then get a portion of my retirement money. Better than a kick in the balls.

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