I live in Las Vegas, a city like no other. Walk the strip and you see all manner of people, Americans most. Go into the casinos and you see a different, more moneyed shade of Americans, mixed with people from around the world.
I like to say I have an integrated personality.
Comes from experience.
I know man’s basic predisposition to take advantage of and disrespect others. To provide for our own – what some call greed – we will savage strangers. To same degree. Every grandmother and preacher out there.
So don’t argue with me about the sanctimony and purity of anyone or anything. No saints out there.
Especially me. I’m very flawed. This essay is about me and my flaws.
I admitting up front I have personal prejudices… I just cannot abide the people who walk around with their pants riding low slung or below their butts… their dirty underwear in public view. Everywhere on the Las Vegas strip, there are Fruit of Looms out in the breeze. It ain’t comfortable. I got no butt anymore and my jeans sometimes slip and I’m constantly pulling them up, ‘cause … just ‘cause. It ain’t comfortable.
I got thrown out of a place once here in Vegas because I refused to stand in line behind a fellow who had his entire colored jockey butt out there in front of me… inches in front… and I took exception.
And with the women roaming the strip, what is it with showing their bra straps? That’s just like the underwear thing with the guys, only just a little different. Listen if you wear some top that’s sort of off the shoulder and cut back off the shoulder blades in the back… don’t wear you god-damned everyday Maidenforms with the straps out there for everyone to see.
There is reason underwear’s called “under” wear. In our civilized society anyway, that’s the normal understanding of that phrase.
Conspicuously ignoring that tiny little bit of civility, puts you low on my sliding scale of humans who show evidence of social/cultural development.
Not that anyone who walks around with their butt out in public or bra straps a la Wal-Mart will read this. But for those who are reading this, that’s where I am on the subject. You got your butt out in public or your bra straps showing, you’re uncouth.
Also, just spent ten days in Denver, Colorado where multi-colored tattoos, long hair, ratty clothing and body piercings resonate.
Some communication is non-verbal, and I think the good people of Denver were telling me something… I’m different. I’m rad. Cutting edge rad. See this gold ring through the left side of my nose? I’m wearing it for you to see, ’cause it ain’t necessarily comfortable, especially with the colds you get in all-weather Denver. But see here, I am the new American youth. I can do what I want to do, like you can’t, ’cause you don’t have no nose ring, no tattoos either, I bet.
Well I do have a tattoo… After 9/11 I worked at CIA Hqs near Washington, DC for a year and a half with only a couple of trips south to spend time with Brenda, my wife. She was making plans to come up to Washington for our 35 wedding anniversary and said the neighbors were talking… like they hadn’t seen much of me for months now, and they were sort of wondering if maybe she and I were splitsville. So for our anniversary I got her name tattooed inside a heart high on my left arm so that she could tell the nosey neighbors she had her man branded. She loved that tattoo present and that first night in bed last I remembered was her rubbing her hand over it, to make sure it wasn’t the rub off kind.
So I got a tattoo. Not a full sleeve’s worth. Or a multi-colored one. Or one you’ll ever see when I’m dressed.
But it’s there for the same reasons the Denverites have their much more conspicuous tattoos. To communicate a message. Mine’s private. Theirs’ shout… something. About who they think they are, maybe. The new breed. Screw you ol’ timer.
I am Norman Rockwellian… more than I am protestant or southern or tall or white or married or republican. I am not ever fully the American characters he drew, but those are the people – his is the culture – I aspire to.
Born in 1942 I was raised in a small town during 50s and 60s – during the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius – I am Dwight Eisenhower in my belief in the sacred honor of American citizenship and duty. I was ten years old when Ike came into the office of the President of the United States and pretty much a man of 18 when he left the office to the Democrats.
Rockwellian and Eisenhower.
Those are my beliefs.
Plus I believe that the essence of being – the scale on which to judge human worth – is what a person knows and what he or she can do. What they can show about who they are… not say who they are, or what they plan to do, or what they pretend to be. I believe you can take a true measure of a person at 14 or 16 or 20 or 25, by asking after what he knows and what he can do.
Take any of your 14 year old neighbors or kin, what will he say he knows? What can he do? Try it. Ask!
There is enormous pretend in our lives now. Posturing. Superciliousness. Lack of substance. Enormous negativity. Tarnished goodness.
I know, I know that Socrates or some great thinker of a couple of thousand years ago said that the one great difference between the old generation and the new is that the old thinks the new is going to hell.
And I know that I just wrote that our great country is in good hand what with the thousand or so individuals I interviewed who were seeking CIA employment.
But aside from Socrates – who thought the world was flat – and those bright eyed kids who wanted to be US spies…. the mass of humanity out there don’t know shit and can’t do nothing.
No one forces them to – not life or our gov’t – families are a disappearing group to the sub-civilized in our society. And because they can get away with knowing nothing and having no skills, they say fuck you by flaunting their underwear.
Or that’s the way it seems to us Rockwellians and people of the Eisenhower era.
There was a very successful farmer in the northern mid-west I remember from my youth who didn’t want his children to read fiction or watch TV. Took away from time they should be working the farm, he said, or thinking about working the farm. Fiction he thought was make-believe. Life was real. Farms weren’t run on dreams. Or by kids sitting on their ass with their heads in the Land of Oz.
No farms much out there now. No families and family governance. You got a gov’t that’ll provide subsistence. Plenty of Oz.
What’s at America’s core anymore?
What the essence of our civilization?
Want a clue? What did that 14 kid say when you asked him what he knows, and what he can do?
On the other hand… You don’t need to ask an American GI what he knows, what he can do. Wearing that uniform, with its decorations and unit insignia, tells you what he knows, what he can do. He can, in his free time, wear his pants to his knees, his bra straps completely exposed, have the inside of his eye lids tattooed and if he’s a mind piercing through every feature of his face…. I don’t care. He is an American warrior. He fought for the right to the pursuit of his idea of happiness, so stuff it. No politician, no preacher, no newsman, no celebrity, no philosopher, no street wise pimp and certainly no old fart like me, has the right to judge the men and women who wear the uniform of the US military… which tells you this man or this woman has made a personal commitment – if necessary – to give their lives for this country. That’s non verbal communication at its clearest.