A true story about the Virgin Mary in Boyle Heights. Really.

These are the goofy giggly things that make me smile like a starfish.
DATELINE: Boyle Heights, California – Carlos and Esmeralda Reyes find themselves peering out the curtains of their living room window frequently these days. The crowds have shrunk but the occasional curious passerby (or passersby) still drops in unannounced in their front yard from time to time.

In fact, Carlos recalls an incident that happened last weekend.

“I was outside, watering, when all of a sudden this big bus just pulls up to our curb and the front door opens. All these kids, young kids, just started climbing out and even though they looked lost, they started heading right at me. This boy, about 20, asks me ‘Where is it, where’s the Virgin?'”

“I pointed toward the edge of the yard where the tile Virgin Mary is.” Carlos pointed toward the alley side of a large, rambling yard populated by Gardenias and several large, dusty, leafy trees. There, molded into the perimeter wall, is a large tiled mosaic likeness of the Virgin Mary. “That thing was here when we moved in but it was nice having the Virgin Mary watching over our house. Esmeralda has always lit candles for her.” Esmeralda, Carlos’ wife, has seen the couple’s simple, tranquil world turned upside down over the past several months.

It all began October 31 of last year, Halloween night. In typical fashion, the Reyes’ splurged on several bags of candy and other wrapped treats that they enjoyed handing out to the neighborhood children. “This is a rough neighborhood and we are one of the “good” houses where parents like to bring their children. We decorate it real nice and the kids enjoy it, and we give them candy, everyone is happy!” boasts Esmeralda.

On this past Halloween night, the daughter of one of Reyes’ neighbors, Carmen Lugo, invited her boyfriend, Kyle Sterling, a student from Humboldt State University in Northern California, to her parent’s house for the first time. After dinner, the couple decided to take Carmen’s young sister Trick or Treating. What had been a relatively uneventful evening of house-hopping for sweets suddenly transformed into an insane chain of events that culminated with the Reyes’ life turned upside down in the months since.

Sterling and Lugo waited in the yard while the young sister collected candy from Esmeralda who manned the front porch. Sterling suddenly froze. Carmen watched while he walked deliberately, as if entranced, toward the mosaic of the Virgin Mary which was molded into the Reyes house near the corner of the well-lit driveway. Sterling approached the Virgin Mary and began tracing a random embedded design with his hands. Carmen asked him what was wrong. He did not respond right away. Finally, he asked her to follow the outline his fingers traveled along. “Look,” he told her. She watched and stepped back. “You see?” he prodded. After a few minutes of watching Kyle’s fingers trace the same path, Carmen suddenly saw it!

Carlos Reyes leans back thoughtfully. His lined face seems to grow more lines as he recalls what happened after that Halloween night.

“I don’t know. Everyone says you can see it. I can’t. Esmeralda sees it…I just can’t,” grimaces Carlos. “After that, this guy must have gone back and told everyone because after Halloween, we suddenly got bombarded by all these hippie gabachos who just needed to see our Virgin Mary. They said there was the image of an ancient Sequoia tree hidden in her bosom! They said you could see it if you looked. If you allowed your eyes to see. They brought everyone and they lined up all over our front yard and would not leave the driveway for weeks! All these hippie kids, they needed to see this mysterious tree. Some of them sat on the ground and crossed their legs and wouldn’t leave for hours.”

From the sidewalk, Carlos and Esmeralda peek at the Virgin Mary with matching looks of leery longing. Longing for the day when the Virgin Mary which graced their house…was only that.

What do you think? A tree?

Inception is Hollywood

I don’t know a thing about all this movie garbage. Best picture, best cinematography, best supporting this or that, red carpets, speeches, gowns, outlandish, attention whorish behavior, it means squat to me. It’s bullshit. Hollywood bullshit perpetrated on an ignorant and bored public looking desperately for distraction, looking for glib forms of non-thought while the world collapses around them. I don’t care about any of it, I dislike the hoopla. If you want to see a movie, fine, go see it. The adulation and mythologizing of these superficial, cosmetically-enhanced elitists who purport to shape culture makes me sick. Don’t need it. And I work in the almighty “Industry” which congratulates itself as the most vital ingredient to the supposed survival of the diseased society. Self-delusion!

Look, I love movies, and I actually saw a good sampling of them this year. I saw Black Swan, True Grit, Winter’s Bone, The Social Network, and part of Inception. I say “part of” because I couldn’t sit through more than an hour and half of this overproduced, overacted and overhyped bloated Hollywood commercial product. Incidentally, it is the only movie I saw from this list for less than sincere motives. I saw it because I felt it was the thing to do since everyone absolutely raved about it. Leonardo DiCaprio is simultaneously my favorite and least respected actor. I really like the guy’s style, but his movies have absolutely sucked balls since the trashy epic of all time,Titanic. Anyways, Inception represented my feeble attempt at a demure relinquishment to the demands of Cinematographic peer pressure. I only saw an hour and a half; perhaps the flick redeemed itself in the last hour, but I doubt it. It was not a bad movie, but I detest the hype. I detest the sophomoric slickness and feeble-minded intellectualism that Hollywood fetishizes. And the sheep who flock to theaters and feign illusory comprehension of some half-assed wisdom the director might drone about incessantly if given a mike.

The concept of Inception struck me as curious and mildly ironic. From what I gathered, “inception” is the act of planting a thought or idea, a reality, in a subject’s mind (unawares, of course) by designing an architectural reality around the suggestion. By sculpting and designing a false reality so well that the subject has no idea that which he thinks is real, is not. Inception is about altering perceptions. Inception is what Hollywood is about. Altering reality and spoon-feeding the weak-minded some palatable and blandly pleasing realities they birth with their own private sense of boundary and to perceive as the mental and physical environment. Hollywood shapes reality. It plants the ideas.

It plants ideas much in the same way its fantasists tell us that we must suspend disbelief in order to acccept that a pretty 14-year-old girl with the mind of an adult woman can overcome 19th Century brazen Wild West anarchists unrestrained by law or morals. Or that a pretty 17-year-old girl can outwit her way out of destruction at the hands of murderous, tweaking, rural white trash Meth manufacturers. Hollywood tells us a load of crap and in exchange, we reward it.

Growing up quiet

It’s not that Bobby rejected the studiousness displayed by his sister and mother. Rather, he was bent on the acquisition of another skill: chess. The difference was that it was more important to him to study how to win the rook and pawn than to learn the three branches of government or where to move the decimal point in long division. The three Fischers, prototypes of Talmudic scholars, were always studying: Joan her textbook; Regina her medical tomes; and Bobby the latest chess periodical. The apartment was often as silent as a library. – “Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall – from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness”

Let me tell you, I planned to write about this subject tonight regardless, but as my life frequently enjoys doing, it throws some wild synchronous jab which perfectly substantiates or illustrates that which I want to discuss. See, I just came back from dinner at a medium-sized chain restaurant which I have alluded to before on these pages. It was my first time in almost a year returning to this restaurant. Upon entering, we were greeted with that nice Saturday evening quiet vibe, and the hostess took us to a table far in the back which certainly portends good fortune for someone like me who does not enjoy being immersed in the frantic dinner cacophony of loud kids and window-rattling screams. I didn’t notice until we were seated that she had seated us next to a table with a man and his three very young children. The oldest girl was about 9, and her younger siblings were a sister about 2 or 3 years of age, and a brother who was 1, at the most. We had just begun settling in and sipping from our drinks before the 1-year-old’s first belligerent shrieking demand pierced our ears. Fuck, it dawned on me. Our dinner was not to be peaceful tonight. The girls, perhaps due to their ages, were well-behaved, but the son would not shut the fuck up. Crying about food, yelling typical infantile commands at the castrated father who had ungraciously brought his brood here for dinner. The dude kept getting up from his seat in order to wipe the table or a mouth and to move food around and make sure his younger ones weren’t eating something that might shut them up for good. They kept asking and talking loudly, and at one point, one of them began clanging on the dish with the silverware. Each time the boy began shrieking in anger because of food he wanted or didn’t have or god know for whatever else reasons, I cringed and seriously dreamed of a world where restaurants offered duct tape to paying customers to silence the offspring of parents who carted their ill-behaved brats in tow, the same annoyances they had managed to raise in unruly fashion and bred to ruin and disrupt my peaceful dinners out.

See, I hate noise. I hate the frenzied sounds of chaotic human disassembly. Naturally, children are the most likely to contribute to this waking nightmare, but adults are quite capable of disturbing the natural order to peaceful ambiance. I was thinking of this after I read the paragraph quoted above from the new Bobby Fischer biography for it illustrated something I’ve always realized about myself, especially as it relates to others. I was raised in a quiet household. My dad would frequently read at the dining room table or smoke his cigars outside. My mom might clean up, read in bed, watch some television, but the volume in the house was never a crescendo of ear-shattering death like it is many other families, as I found out in later years as I grew older and experienced other ways of human “existence.” I learned that not all children and families experience the same measured sense of serenity and calm I entrusted as a child. And this dichotomy even occurred within my own family, for other branches of cousins, uncles, aunts, in-laws, were fucking LOUD. I recall that holiday events, when held at our house, seemed to boom the uncharacteristic, distasteful cacophony of yells and screams and exaggerated laughter and the house seemed to reverberate with an uncomfortable and unfamiliar quaky shudder in response to the strange human din. Nope, it was just my immediate family, my parents and my brother, who cultivated and relished this relatively contained and muted environment. This set the stage for my life. Growing up in such a restrained atmosphere creates a similarly restrained and thoughtful character; a sense of existence which permeated the entirety of my reality. Such silence of the outward world runs parallel with heightened states of introversion and introspection. And conversely, environments brimming with noise and chaos and disorder also denote high levels of extroversion and environmental involvement. A raucous household vibe dampens and hampers intellectual curiosity and destroys the peaceful march by which such a quality is most effectively able to flourish.

I recall many situations where I temporarily lived in or visited noisy households. You know the scene: kids running around screaming, crying, wailing, adults, in response, yelling louder and scolding and punishing; doors, screens, slamming, babies crying, items dropped, tossed, footsteps…it’s revolting. I can’t hear myself think, I can’t relax. Such an environment rattles my psyche because I was brought up in silence and I’m confounded that the existence of another reality exists where someone can only know a household of loud and jarring disruptions as the theater by which to grow and mature, and thus be robbed of any sense of silent or meditative introspection. Silence fuels the mind; loudness saps it. Two different worlds and I don’t want to be a part of the loud one.

So this father at the restaurant tonight, him and his annoyingly loud brat lived out the loudness that they know. All that they know. I embraced the silence that enshrouded the table, the pacific tone of subdued behavior and expression which followed in the wake of their welcome departure from the restaurant. I’ve often wondered if there is a racial aspect of loud vs. silent households, for most of the loud that I’ve experienced have been Hispanic. My culture is relatively loud and populated by swarms of agitated and dramatic children looking to make points, all at the same time. We are fond of parties and loud music and elevated voice tone and fiesta baby. The household I grew up in was not typical, and many of my friends seemed taken aback by the funereal tone of the house where I slept. However, there is a white family that currently lives in my building and they out-noise all the other Hispanics who live here. They have 3 loud kids and they are always running and yelling and screaming and slamming doors and they provide the beautiful counterbalance to any generalizations I might offer about elevated noise levels being the exclusive domain of Hispanic households.

Tonight when we got home, I turned the television on automatically and some stupid drivel boomed out the speakers about some ridiculous and intellectually pallid crap, so forgettable that I can’t remember it now. My son, returning rom the restroom, immediately turned my television off without comment. The silent action spoke words of…silence. This is a generational legacy and I believe it says lots about family lineages. Pay attention to the household noise level. This will dictate whether you are a match or not for that hot ____ you had the frist date with last night.

Buttoned-down Man

I kinda despise you. A lot.
I don’t like you, that’s for damn sure. Is it loathing?
But it’s not personal. Not at all.
I simply don’t like you, your type, the way you live your fucking impeccably maintained sterile manufactured existence.

Oh god, I despise you. Your hair always so tidy and preset, like a goddamned Ken-doll molding. It’s always the same fucking length, the same style, dude, it’s like your hair is prefabricated bush. How is it your hair is permanent, how does it never never dance or grow or tussle? What on Earth?

And your skin, your fucking peach-face, how can there never be a fraction of a fraction of an inch of excessive hair growth on that calf-skin, even after a full day? Like your hair, your face seems molded and spewed from the clear and plasticly outlined remnants of an artificially designed face. Your complexion seems etched from the Mattel assembly line and it’s perfection. Flawless. Nothing scuffs it, nothing grows where it shouldn’t or for longer than it should. Guys get 5 o’clock shadows, you, you don’t even get an 8:01 shadow. Do you have active hair follicles lying in wait under that serene sheath of facial tissue skin?

Your clothes, immaculate and flawlessly stitched are worn with humorless dignity. Never ruffled, never wrinkled, never stained, cuffed illustriously and creased with the precision of an engineered marvel. What in the world. Even your shoes, those pathways to the dirty ground, to the sludge of our eath, to the gutters and bathroom floors, never look as if they’ve stepped far from your bedroom closet shoe holder. Shiny, glossy, unblemished and unscathed by the shuffling gait of those less than you. Ornaments of virgin perfection capping the ends of your legs, a baffling barrier between your caution and the ravages of a filthy and disorderly world.

Even your goddamned car, so sensible, so European, tailored frighteningly synchronized to your wholesome persona. Sensible but classy, clean, clean, fucking clean. Your car is so goddamned clean. Not a scratch nor a dent nor the faintest smudge of dirt or dust disturbs its glittering paint. Where do you park that at night? In your hope chest? Do you shrink wrap it in the eerily sterile catacombs of your castle each night before closing the garage door? A sensible color too and there is nothing that is not sensible about you.

Your personality is reasonable and understated. Your behavior, your personality, your affect. You are one impeccable SOB. There is nothing out of place or perturbed in that embedded staid personality of yours. You are beyond stoic. You are an artificially disguised human being. You vainly attempt to portray the crass human interloping of the erratic nature of humanity, but the disguise, the vehicle, is too perfect in spite of itself and through perfection you mock humanity, you mock reality, you mock life.

Perfection to the degree it clamors within your walls is the anti-life.
Your being oozes perfection like an overly lubricated blade. No wrong move, no ill-thought out impulsive shit for you. Everything you’ve ever done was the diligent part of a rehearsed and planned course of lifelong action. There are no bends in your road because your road is one long, unquestioning march into oblivion.

You are buttoned-down man.

The sly chess move that is Barack Obama

I don’t believe in conspiracies in the “typical” sense. In the sense that they are secretive, grand and conscious orchestrations manufactured by groups of shadow people willing to perpetrate malevolent agendas on masses of blissfully ignorant humanity. I don’t believe conspiracies exist in this context for one important reason: humans are incapable of organizing such long-term strategic movements meant as unifying agents across the span of society for generations to come. Man can’t even organize a viable and fair socioeconomic system, much less structure and implement a timeless and effective paradigm shift that will disperse its effect over the next few hundreds of years.

I believe conspiracies exist insofar as all conspiracies are subconsciously provoked by the underlying “meta-layer” of our society and its evolving social mores. This culture we have erected and continue to perpetuate is a vehicle for the subconscious conspiracy. We attribute ulterior motives to all social phenomena but there is nothing ulterior because there is no motive. Each generation is so thoroughly self-involved and grief-stricken by its own eventual demise that it frankly possesses little, to no, will to rouse enough concern to alter anything of note. Change does happen. Society evolves, this is true. But all long-term change is hoisted on the back of our myopic fixation with the grave and at most, the posterity of the children we can see and hold now. We are unmoved by future generations we do not see, though we may pay it lip service. Conspiracies abound, but they are not conspiracies. At most they are social re-structuring, which in retrospect appears to be insidious and rehearsed and even orchestrated, hence, consciously designed.

In humorous and wickedly ironic honor of President’s Day, Ulysses posted a couple of photographs in a post entitled “Then and Now.” The “then” photo is a depiction of George Washington’s heroic and brave crossing of the Delaware. The “now” photo is one of those plentiful cringe-worthy stock shots of President Obama participating in one of his many apparent ill-suited physical activities. In Ulysses’ post, the well-known photo of the POTUS biking leisurely along a garden path with his standard fatherly jeans and a legally-required bike helmet seemingly lifted from the tousled scalp of a 9-year-old boy. This is the best our scrawny President has to offer in the way of masculine display, apparently. The other option was his limp-wristed bowling exhibition which thankfully is purged from much our memory.

Ulysses’ point is eminently clear, however. Our current President embodies the anti-masculine/heroic/leader image of all we predicate the concept of a noble American leader on. In all fairness, we might easily display the infamous images of George W. Bush puttering around on his Segway in contrast to Washington as well. Same effect, same message. Our recent Presidents have offered a sorry display of masculinity and this brings me to my “conspiracy.” Society’s unmistakable shift to the feminine, to “girl power” and its overbearing helicopter/nanny mentality is inherently female. The shift has degraded man’s power, and hence, his masculinity as well. Examples abound in the manosphere illustrating the shameful state of manhood as portrayed in the mass media. Often, the blame is blindly and joyfully handed to this very same media in a fit of conspiratorial victimization by MRA types. Nah, no conspiracy here folks. I highly doubt a mysterious cabal of Beta rulers is secretly convening and blueprinting the downfall of Modern Man in order that their Beta wimpiness may ascend to uncontested power. We get rid of the Alpha persona, we demean it and gut it, and the Beta is the new Alpha!. Makes sense, and in a manner of speaking, that is the conspiracy. For a multitude of reasons which I won’t even begin detailing here, the dynamic that I just described is in fact happening. As manhood and its ideal concept is castrated by modern society, a void has been created, a vacuum of sorts, and modern woman, reacting en masse, has masculinized herself in the process of instinctively filling the void left by dwindling man. There is no conspiracy. There are no vast machinations. Just social evolution instigated by a host of non-social factors.

In this context, it’s valid to assert that the President of the United States, at any specific moment in history, generally embodies the social paradigm of the era he Presides. The President is a manifestation of our vote and our cultural psyche; he is a manifestation of our social expression of what the “man of the house” is, or have been hypnotized into thinking he is. There is no surreptitious network fulfilling its insidious plans for society who dictates our vote. It’s our own integrated and culturally-learned values and expectations, writ large. The President is us. He is what we have been taught to expect.. President Obama is one of the least virile Presidents I can recall. Jimmy Carter comes somewhat close, but he was older and nevertheless had a sense of masculine dignity regardless of what his many detractors may think. He had that subdued Southern gravity. Ronald Reagan might very well be the last stoic example of a masculine President we’ve had. George Bush, while the Alpha ruler in some respects and manly in a feathery patrician way, still portrayed some sense of gentlemanliness. Bill Clinton might be that last truly masculine President, the last Alpha to occupy the Oval Office. Look, he did what most Alpha men of power are prone to do but he got nailed.

George W. Bush represented the dawn of a “new generation” of Presidents, the new breed of anti-masculine. GWB certainly did his best to assume the Alpha bad-ass image, but the problem is that he was a doofus. He was the archetypal bumbling sitcom dad you see all over television. You know him: the blue collar, beer-guzzling IQ-limited simpleton who is weaker (in all respects) than his serious and responsible wife who must pick up the slack for her emasculated husband. George W. Bush was this sitcom character. Everything he attempted to exude as manliness came across as empty buffoonery and bluster. He was a helpless comedian who still managed to bleed votes from an electorate sorely in need of a manly image even if the image was unabashedly fake.

And then there is Obama Barack.
The latest installment of what is a surely a Presidential conspiracy to cement the Fall of Man, once and for all. There is a twist to this conspiracy however, for it is more involved and involves several fronts. It is a chess move. I thought of this analogy because this weekend I bought Endgame, a detailed biography of chess master and mental exile, Bobby Fischer. Reading the book has rekindled my old interest in chess which I played voraciously until my 20s, at which point I realized I would never come close to attaining the slightest mastery of the game. Chess is a beautiful game of intricate strategy and its abundance of moves and patterns can be somewhat congruous to life’s social maneuvering. And of course, I thought of Barack’s rise to the Presidency and the conspiracy of our time. In my chess analogy, Obama’s Presidency is analogous to a rare and little-known chess move called en passant. Essentially, en passant is an “after the fact” move in which a pawn captures an opposing pawn that moves past a square where it could have been caught if it had landed on as well. This is the only chess move which allows you to capture another piece without directly occupying its former square. It’s a roundabout and “passive” manner of invading the opposition’s line. It punishes what “might have been.”

And I thought of how Barack Obama, the least virile President, managed to escape the watchful eyes of a demanding American electorate. An electorate which was so starved for masculinity that it celebrated the faux manliness of George W. Bush. The unmanly Obama was literally scavenged from the slush pile of wimpdom by virtue of his race. Obama is a bridge, but not one of color. He is the bridge of gender and its precarious placement in our cultural architecture. I doubt a white man with Obama’s effeminate physical foibles would have been elected to the Presidency. Obama, by virtue of his blackness, did not need to exude the chest-thumping Alpha-ass attitude in order to attain office. His blackness filled in all the blanks that his effeminate manner could not. Unlike the bumbling sitcom trainwreck that was George W. Bush, Obama is the slender herbivore who plays by mommy’s rules and strictures. He’s the President who leaves a press conference early because his wife has waited too long already…and announces it proudly!

Barack Obama is the new breed of President, hence, the new breed of Man, memorialized and enlisted as “the man of the house.” But the electorate hedged its hesitancy by making him black in order to not invest itself so deeply in an outward wimp. But Barack is the bridge. The bridge between the masculine to the feminine as expressed in popular thought. A female President is not far off, that is the path Obama’s presidency is busy paving.

Obama became President, en passant, he occupied a square through the back end because he should have captured that square on the previous move.

The pawn has moved to a new column and the game is forever changed.