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Pretty Corpse Blues

Pretty Corpse Blues

Live fast. Die young. Leave a pretty corpse.”

…well 2 out of 3 ain’t bad

Friends,.

Here’s a question for you? When you spend your 20s pursuing adventure, whimsy and danger, half-expecting to die young, but then suddenly find yourself in your mid-30s alive, under-educated, with no real specialization to speak of, what do you do?

This is the cross-roads I find myself at: What am I? What is it exactly I do? How long will I be staying in this place that I now found myself in?

I’ve taken to skirting these questions with cleverness: What am I? => What do you need me to be!; What do I do? => Whatever it takes!; How long will I be staying here? => As long as it takes! And while I have felt like a bit of an impostor boldly delivering these nonchalant responses when queried, they do carry more than a little truth. A lot actually, and that’s the problem: the inherent truth behind what I’m saying rather than the facade of bullshit. It’s like I haven’t declared a major. I haven’t tied myself down and committed to anything. Throw the fucking dice already, Dre!

I have been many things in my time but I never saw any of them through. I did them long and hard enough to get some validation and recognition and acclaim (I’m actually very good at whatever I put my mind to), and that was good insofar as it taught me how little fame/acclaim/validation actually means in the grand scheme of things. But there are a lot of unfinished books on my shelf.

My resume is fairly diverse: retail clerk, infantry rifleman, student, warehouse worker, waiter, actor/stunt performer/film-maker, home-stager, yoga instructor, jewelry-maker/silversmith, camp counselor, freelance translator and editor and most recently, musician. When I look back on that list it bothers me; a lot of those things I did because they were the path of least resistance, or because they seemed an expedient way to get something I didn’t want to work for, or even because they just sounded cool to do. I have been feeling for some time that I need to dig deeper and maximize my potential, to spend every waking hour more productively, to take bigger risks and to make greater/more focused efforts.

It’s funny to touch on these themes now, almost two years after writing a post entitled “…When I Learn to Fly” where I outlined a plan to travel the world learning, doing work-aways, etc. It didn’t go the way I thought it would, especially that year and a half I spent in Germany, in a relationship, getting engaged, etc., and looking back I see that when I wrote that post, I was still so fucked up from getting knocked off my path when things didn’t work out with me and my ex. I had no idea at that time that the other shoe was about to drop on me in a HUUUGE way. When I say things didn’t work out with me and my ex, I mean that for me, God died. My highest value, the crux of all my ambitions, the cornerstone of my future happiness and meaning -it got yanked out on some Jenga shit and I was left teetering thinking that I was just swaying.

Now two years later I find myself out of another relationship but its different. I don’t know that I was ever as wide open as I was in the previous one. I always had this feeling like I was living someone else’s life after having been knocked so catastrophically from my own. Well, now I seem to be back on track, not as skilled as that original post predicted I would be two years later but no worse for the wear. A lot of deadwood had to be burned away over the past two years since that original post was written.

Some of the chaos of the last two years. Do I need to integrate it all or is some of it just deadwood?

Most importantly I think I’m centered in myself in a way that I wasn’t before. I am no longer looking for the external validation that comes from women. I know that there is no salvation in the redemptive gaze of another. It is at best a distraction. I see the flames of my own personal hell in my rear-view in a way I never have before and truth be told, I kind of like it -I think the pressure is good for me. In the past I never really saw what was at stake but now I do and thankfully I feel up to the challenge.

When my “God” died and the whole structure collapsed I was adrift, but now I have a new highest value. I want to tell you what that is but its something like a block of marble that is still being carved, but its a beautiful, well-veined piece and its being carved deliberately and slowly by a master.

I can tell you that it has to do with embracing the role of the father -the bulwark against chaos providing habitable order for the ones I love, but it’s not just that either. It’s also the journey to that as well: the constant and never-ending self-improvement, the abandonment of destructive cycles of behaviour and their replacement with something productive. Doing the work essentially. Even if I never have my own family I want to keep that possibility open for myself because far too many times I have met the right woman but I have not been all that I could have been. I can remedy that.

There is something else too, like a joker in the deck that off-sets, complements and, when appropriate, supercedes the more methodical, logical and analytical approach: I have to keep trusting my intuition now as much as I ever did before -more even. (It’s hilarious because I was pretty adamant about that point in my post from two years ago and here I am still dwelling on it. Either I haven’t been pursuing that goal as intelligently/diligently as I otherwise might have or it is something which constantly needs work. Both I suspect…). In more esoteric terms, my throat chakra is still a little jammed up and I won’t be doing it any favours by simply just buckling down and colouring inside the lines. I have to speak my truth and pursuant to that, I know there are a few people who need to hear what I have to say. Perhaps in good time they will, but I won’t make their willingness to listen or lack thereof the defining criteria. Each day presents a myriad of opportunities for us to say “no” and set boundaries, to volunteer enthusiastically for something just outside of our wheelhouse, and even to make the risque joke that might divide the room. I’m taking these opportunities and getting out in front of the things I’m dreading rather than letting them find me.

One last point on my truth and my intuition: There is something I HAVE worked at consistently over the course of my adult life and never given up on, and that is wandering. I am good at it and the best day I’ve had over the last few months was my 24 hour layover in Panama City en route here to Nicaragua.

I was in a new place with everything I needed and only there for a short time. I don’t know if this is the type of way to live the rest of my life but for right now it speaks to me. So I’m going to pursue it, because I love it and because its what I’m good at.

I’m here. I’m alive. I hadn’t prepared for this, but fuck it, might as well make something out of the next 30 or 40 years. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

#prettycorpseblues

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Handling Things the Mature Way

My Friends,
   I have a real problem with being overly argumentative.  I am in fact horrible at conveying messages to a crowds which are not predisposed to liking what I have to say.  This is a real problem for me because I think I have some good shit to say.  At the very least I have some less cancerous shit to say than some people I know, all things being relative.  The most glaring manifestation of this argumentativeness and poor communication is my tendency to get embroiled in Facebook threads which devolve into flame wars real quick.  Its not because I hate the person, or so much that I object so much to their initial comments or posts (well, sometimes its that), but very often its how people rationalize their opinions when challenged (and I use rationalize in the loosest sense possible).  I think it bothers me when people don’t do thought experiments with their opinions, extrapolating premises out to the nth degree to see if they still hold water, or attempting to rationalize these ideas within a larger global picture.  And when you try and have a discussion with someone who is in a box like this, their truncated frames of reference and ideologies invariably lead to misgivings and resentment.

   So yeah, this cognitive dissonance is a very real problem for me, someone who operates on the foundational premise that that the more logical argument should prevail.  But in a slow, stubborn way I am becoming more and more aware that such arguments shant prevail if one is sufficiently determined not to be swayed

“Traditional sentiment is constantly in conflict with emergent knowledge” -Peter Joseph, “Defining Peace”

I don’t want to pull punches because if I can’t be brutally honest here then I can’t be honest anywhere, so I will say that as of late most of the head-butting I have been doing has been with buddies of mine from the army who post some super-moto, gung-ho shit, jingoistic tripe about Canadian pride, or bellyaching about how veterans don’t get enough respect.  I can’t stand shit like this but then I can’t stand a lot of things.  Interestingly though I see myself in the position of being able to call them out on their bullshit while being able to take their main bullet out of the chamber with regard to a rebuttal: “Yeah, well why don’t you try doing a tour of duty and then come say that.”
   Lol, been there done that and I’m still calling you out.  And just when I think that my street cred might actually mean something to them and that they might take my point of view seriously because I have gone through what they have gone through, they find some other ad hominem attack to go with which invalidates my points of view in their eyes.  Its very frustrating, but its a lesson which more or less jives with my view that you should consider the message absent the messenger; frankly I wouldn’t want someone to consider my views simply because I have shared a certain struggle with them, or because I have a certain credential in their eyes.  This type of selective attention seems to be the primary way in which we go about things today and its effects are mostly negative.  Don’t get me wrong, credentials have importance in many regards, but they should only serve as the cherry on top of a soundly-reasoned hypothesis-sundae, not the sundae itself.
   So anyway, I have as usual gone on a tangent.  My intent here is not to do a critique of the way knowledge is done (I find I do that far too often as it is), but to explain the way I am handling the inane bullshit and drivel I frequently encounter on the Facebooks.
   But first, a brief outline of the things which either cause me to comment rashly, face-palm hard, or ask myself, “Why am I friends with this person?”  
1. Super gung-ho army shit, jingoistic fervor and the aforementioned bellyaching that veterans don’t get respect.  While I do believe that the state entity is entirely responsible for taking care of any wounded (phsysically or mentally) solider and his family, I am more talking about this idea that John Q. Public doesn’t give a fuck about the military.  I am not sure where this comes from; maybe some people saw a disenfranchised Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump and feel his pain a little too acutely, but I can say that in 9 years of service I never had anyone say a sideways thing to me.  In fact they were all smiles and Hallmark cards, thanking me on the street, telling me how brave I was, etc.  I can’t speak for other countries but at least here where I’m at, the veteran is more or less revered.
2. People who post the most pathetic and desperate aspects of their daily lives for….I don’t know, pity maybe?  This shit gets old but there’s not really much you can say to someone who is complaining about how sick they are all the time, how exhausted they are, how much their kids cost, how tight money is, etc…  These are touchy subjects and unlike people with dumb opinions I don’t see any glimmer of hope with regard to helping these people come around.  As such, I never really comment on these posts, I just kind of cringe to myself.
3. People who make too much of politics.  Perhaps this one baffles me more than it should.  After all, I voted in the last federal election.  But hey, we all do stupid things when we’re young.  I get that it takes time for some people to realize that non-participation is the best route to meaningful change, and not established processes like voting, and many others never realize this at all, but knowing this still has not afforded me the patience I should have.  When someone posts something about how the Liberals are really shitting the bed and how the Conservatives would handle things better I will typically ask the poster something like “Do you think who’s in office really matters?” assuming that like me, they will look back to the chain of contrived causality which leads to a partisan system,  various offices and of course the media circus which ostensibly handles things with the highest journalistic integrity (wink wink).  But no, they take my question at face value and respond, “Of course it matters….”
4. Championing minority rights, a particular disease’s cure or the plight of a small nation by advocating the use of established, in-the-box resolution methods and not considering the root cause which lead to these problems.   With regard to minority rights, I think helping the black man is great, but if you try to help the black man by trying to help the black man you’re only going to piss off the white man, the brown man and the yellow man.  There are no minority problems, there are human problems.  We gotta start implementing solutions that help everyone and this might mean trying some new things and abandoning others.  This same logic applies to curing diseases.  I think a lot of people don’t really know how disease and addiction are fomented and thus believe there is a way to handle each related problem on a case by case basis.  Or even trying to “help” a country without giving it the means to help itself.  All of our solutions are not solutions at all, but ways of stroking ourselves to make us think we aren’t part of the problem.
   So anyhow, these are just a few of my favourite things.  And my master plan to avoid the frustration and rage that comes from being subjected to these inane ramblings every time I log onto the Facebooks?
   Unsubscribe.  This shouldn’t be that revolutionary to me because I have indeed directed friends of mine to unsubscribe from me when they complained of how their own news-feeds were full of updates whatever flame war I was embroiled in.  But I can actually feel waves of relief over me when I do this.  Its so satisfying to scroll through your news-feed and repeatedly lament the absence of a dislike or downvote button.  
   To be clear I haven’t unfriended these people as in most…all cases I still like them.  I just don’t wanna hear their stupid, tired, unrationalized bullshit every time I log on.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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