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The Dashing Life and Exuberant Times of Brian Harrison....And Other Rare Anecdotes

Friday, September 30, 2011

What is the Deal with this New Immigration Law that Alabama is Enforcing.

This is not an argument; this is only a story. I have no arguments. There really is no such thing as an objective argument. Only personal stories. -Of what one lives and experiences, thinks and believes. Hence we construct our views of Truth.

Once, many years ago, I recall driving from Alabama to Atlanta. I was on a main highway maybe an hour away from Atlanta. When my car broke down. Yes, it was a remarkable machine of contradictory moods and half-way destruction; Flip-lights and white. I loved that car but it was of a mercurial temperament. Anyways, she broke down on the side of this highway. And I sat in the median, without any knowledge of what to do. My car loaded with all types of books, but nothing worthy of car maintenance. (I wish quoting Shelly had a magical effect and could start a motor. I was soon to be wishing that if a person could quote the Bible, this being the steeple piercing horizon of the South, they'd magically stop their rush and help someone in need.)
It was an interesting place to be, for I sat on the trunk of my car and noticed all the traffic on either side of me like a sun-reflecting river. The sunlight hitting their windshields and the constant flow of cars. People coming and going. So many, many people. Everyone strangers. Everyone in a rush. But no one knowing about the stories or the lives in the vehicle next to them only in the space of a few yards. I was in a good position for a break down for I was up this gradual hill and could see the oncoming traffic and I knew that they could see me. In between these 2 highways of rumbling hurry, there was this beautiful median of grass, almost so large to be a meadow. I sat back taking it all in. I had no one to call for at this time, I didn't know anyone in the area. I would just wait on the good-naturedness of humanity that I was surrounded by.

Pretty soon, this good-naturedness I was hoping in, was more into rushing off to Atlanta to feed the homeless I am sure. I mean, so many people and not one would stop. I had my hazard lights on.And I don't look like a thug or punk, or even a hippie for I had short hair at this time. I mean, I even sort of resemble a Mormon when I have short hair. (Maybe that was the real reason no one stopped).

And I was in the South, where Southern Hospitality and Living for Jesus (pronounced with a strong "Jeee-sus!") are key words. But no. No one stopped. Not the flood of SUVs, suburban white families in route to the Atlanta Aquarium; I'd hate for them to lose a few precious minutes in front of a manta ray. Not the plethora of Ford Broncos, men who had worked hard all week in order to take a trip to a Braves Game. They shouldnt stop, I mean those baseball warm-ups are every bit as exciting as the actual game (Yes, exactly.) Not the myriad of business trippers who'd really like to check into their hotels before 5 o clock traffic envelopes Atlanta. (On this one, I am not being sarcastic and can actually understand.) Not even the church vans, on their route to Do What Jesus Would Do in today's world and go to Six Flaggs over Georgia. I mean, some poor kid may succumb to temptation and smoke a doobie if they don't get those kids to a roller coaster fast enough. However, no one stopped. But can I really hurl an accusation? For, I have been in their gas pedal pushing shoes as well and have not stopped. Enflamed by a tragic sense that I needed to get to where ever it was that I was going or the earth could very well blow up. Why stop? Poor schmuck, it was his dumb decision to not buy a reliable car, or gas up, or check his tires or whatever it was that has him on the side of the road. Not to mention the risks. This day and age crazy kids are likely to do anything. There could very well be a gang of kids with blonde hair and blue eyes, who sit around quoting Shelley, and when they have the chance they pose as pedestrians on highways, and cut out the heart (like Mary Shelley did with Percy Shelley's heart) of any who try to help. Dang kids will do anything for cheap, depraved entertainment these days.

Needless to say, I watched the cars. Like some enormously long funeral procession intent on burying the present moment and any kind act for the day. But from out of the zone of wheels turning to everyone's own individual predicament, this small, ugly, half-wreck of a car comes puttering out. Low-riding, with doors not matching the rest of the car. It stops right behind me. An instinct of caution forms for it looks like the type of car that would be a vulture of other cars or people stranded. Out hops this Mexican. He is very young, skinny. Is wearing a wife-beater, even has this skeezy little mustache that Hispanic jovens like to sport as an attempt to claim their much prized Machismo. A gold chain around his neck of some saint. I am sure he kisses it before making a dope sell. But he does the strangest thing. He helps me. He gives my car a momentarily quick fix. He completely shatters my stereotype of Hispanic youth, while probably affirming his own stereotype of us WASPs. "These white kids don't know how to do anything" I am sure he is thinking.
And then he even escorts me to the nearest car shop; follows me in his car which looks like it could use a visit there as well. I do not know this guy. I mean for all I know he could've been a Republican Senator's dark-skinned son. He could've even been in the military and had fought off a whole troop of Al-Qaeda spies. But I'd be willing to bet that none of these are true, and that the chances are pretty high that he was an illegal alien. I hate to stereotype...No, actually, I love to stereotype. I mean, if it isn't apparent from reading this. I stereotype everyone. I can't help it. From SUV drivers to Hispanics, from Church Van Drivers to Brave Fanatics. We all do it. I guess the problem is when we expect everything to actual fall into these stereotypes and leave little room for the good of someone to come out. The question is not whether he was an illegal alien or not. The question is...why should this even matter? He was just this kind individual who did a good deed. Alright, so Mexico could've beaten Brazil in some huge Soccer match that most Americans don't watch and he was ecstatic and loved everyone for a short time (there I go again) or he was merely doing Catholic penance for the shoot out he had at Grande Jose's Pool Hall (I just can't stop and need to do penance myself).

But it strikes me now, out of all those people that saw me broke down on the side of the road, it wasn't the church pastor who stopped or the theological seminary student who pulled over (albeit, if I know seminary students, this was probably due to his inability to fix a car as well). It wasn't the humble grandfatherly farmer, nor the leader of the local Boy Scout troop. No, it was some poor, young, delinquent looking Mexican. Who if I saw at Walmart, I'd assume he was a punk who was probably going to get free movies out of the Redbox machine. And the chances that he was an illegal are pretty high.

Reading the recent news on the Alabama Immigration Law made me remember this incident. Which really has nothing to do with the law. And it has nothing to do with labor rights. But everything to do with humanity, with judging, with the one thing that is beyond the law, compassion, with the idea of who exactly is our neighbor.

I don't know if you made the connection, but if you took this story and stripped it off its modern trappings. It is exactly the Good Samaritan Story retold. I had the fortune of witnessing this age-old plot play out right in front of me. This story makes me ashamed of this law being passed in Alabama and how kids, not different than you or I, are not going to school because they fear being deported. I'm sorry, I see nothing redeemable in this law. It seems very hateful and shows lack of perception. Thank you, state of Alabama, for making more Good Samaritans more and more rare.

Monday, September 05, 2011

A Slacker's Manifesto; A Recollection on Travel and How I was Possibly Working for the Mob.

Now let me reminisce for awhile on an old job that I used to have. I was spoiled outright. And the blame rests solely on this shady boss who lived in Las Vegas and ran the whole operation. I think back and out of all my 4 years as a dutiful employee for this man, this enigma of voice and wallet behind the bank card that I was given, and of those frolicsome years, I had never face-to-face met the man. I knew he was a business man. And from his voice resonating on the other side of the company cell phone, I knew him to be a direct, shrewd businessman who doesn’t waste words nor time on anything. He had the stereotypical choleric nature. Something that bordered on the verge of being feudal and chief-like, though lordly and protective. Early on, I discovered that he was a native of New York City, I think, Brooklyn. He had that shell-like hardball edge to him. Sometimes talked as though he was yelling out of a taxi. And this one deep, deep fact…He was more Irish than half the bumbling barflies you’d ever meet in a pub in Dublin or Cork, even.

All this left me with the sense that I was part of something much deeper than I could understand. Though, I never cared to probe. I never asked questions , I wasn’t supposed to. I didn’t chew the gristle, so to speak, I merely did my job. Calling stores and traveling to them . He would call me…maybe once a month, maybe not. That was the overall supervision I had. I lived free. I worked when I wanted and played much more when I didn’t want to work. It was an ideal job for a gypsy with issues in sloth and without any ties to a lady or a child or both. I wandered the Deep South. -Was this national company’s representative of that area of the US. Sometimes roaming down backroads where chicken trucks were the norm. Sometimes, wandering through the remnants of Dixie’s old cities, decaying next to the river…a Memphis or a New Orleans. Usually always heedful of the state trooper’s flashing lights. I was Huck Finn falling off the raft into strange tributaries.

We grow up thinking that there is such a thing called a “real world” where the structures and life vehicles that hold our parents and grandparents the same must hold us. Even in my current life now, I often hear people talking about a “real world” (whatever they mean by that), as though being a teacher in Korea is not real enough. This job, I held before, was a fantastical dream if one thinks that teaching in Korea is not a job. And yet, it was my first “real” job after the University.

Somehow throughout all the commencement speeches during graduation, throughout all the rallying of motivational education, and the long, arduous slog of toil and yawndom, through papers and textbooks, someone forgot to tell me that in the future it was both physically and economically possible to have a job that allows you to sleep in til 11 everyday. And this I did, well, maybe not every single day, but it certainly had got into a habit.
I make no pretenses. I try not to pretend what I can never be. I will admit, just in case you have made the mistake in assuming me to be one…but, I am not a snob of ambition. A snob of free time? Why, Yes,...of leisure, of tomfoolery and horseplay….with these I turn my nose, (fairly easy when it is resting on a pillow,) up at the rest of the productive world. And instead of going about my business, I aptly forge ahead with all various "businesses" and curiosities and adventures in the world. Seeing, thinking, experiencing alot. But not getting alot done. Some people call it procrastination. I term it motivational brainstorming or just plain soul-searching.

There was this one time that I asked my boss permission if I could take off a month from work and go to Italy. It being the slow time of the year, he said, “Yes.” So I did what any raving traveler full of admiration for high art, inspiring history, and damn good ice cream would do, I went to Italy.

Still another time, I left my job for 4 months. Call it bachelor-cowboy leave if you will.(Equivalent to a maternity leave;what I'll never get to experience). And I moved to New Zealand. I told my boss that I was to be gone a little while without any specificity in regards to when I'll back. He said it was okay. In my head, what was to be an entire year of bachelor leave, of roving manhood and feats of masculine island-tromping, I came back early soon after a car wreck. I decided that working for a job that required little motivational incentive other than taking road trips and folding a few T-shirts was in my best interest, was the best policy as far as goals in life or lack thereof, and the caged reality of this world with its motto. -Man must work for food. And if this is the sad truth, than going on road trips and calling stores whenever I wanted to, was better than breaking my back picking kiwifruit. No matter the location.

I called up my boss from this tiny island not far from Auckland, an island known through the Kiwi lands for its exquisite wine..though tiny it was. And my boss had been there. And all he remarked on was how there was this really good Irish pub nearby. I asked him if he still needed me. He was very excited and said of course. So I told him I would be making my way back home. I had simply to buy a plane ticket, stop for a week in Fiji, that sort of thing. Didn't tell a soul, I was coming home. Surprised everyone including my mother.

But hands down, the most slack that I was given. Was when I thought I could take a 2 month trip to Europe without my boss knowing about it. You know, 2 months to do the essentials...run with the bulls in Pamplona, Participate in the world's largest food fight, go on an ancient medieval pilgrimage, visit the Guinness Brewery, and kiss the Blarney Stone. You know all the stuff you can possibly squeeze into on a vacation to Spain and Ireland. I thought why bother with all the formalities of calling my boss in Vegas, all that bothersome red tape. Just buy a plane ticket and go. It wasn't til I was in Ireland that I checked my messages and found out that it was very important that I be in Mobile, AL in a week. Yikes. So I had to scratch the month long hike and pilgrimage in Northern Spain. I called our secretary, and told her that it was no problem. They never found out that I was making the call from an internet cafe in Cork, Ireland. Nor that that the "no problem" meant buying another round trip ticket (I wanted to come back to Europe for the Tomato Festival in Spain, you see) nor that the "no problem" was a cumbersome travail through 3 countries Ireland, France, and Spain, just to come back to Mobile, Alabama to set up a dad-gum T-shirt display rack on time. But I came back to Alabama and called off a life-changing spiritual pilgrimage to the cathedral where St. Thomas' bones are buried. For I am a good employee.

Maybe 5 months after this incident, it is the slow season, and I am in the Portland area visiting friends for 3 weeks. I decide to check on some stores in this area. You know, peak my head in the door. Do my job. When I found out that there was previously somebody else going around doing the same thing. It just so happened that a group from my company was up in the area checking on things. So I got this call from our secretary and she asked me if I was in the Oregon/Washington area for they too had heard about some long haired blonde guy going around the stores asking about shirts. I was in the wrong, for I had stepped into another's territory. My territory being the Southeast portion of the US, or actually the entire East. The Northwest was another's. I don't know if my boss was really peeved about it. I just knew by this time the economy was taking its toll on our company's expenses. And I was working less and less. Eventually, they only called me when they needed me. And The last time was a year ago. Hence, why I left a fairly interesting job and moved to Korea. Where I go to work everyday at the same time. It's not bad, but sometimes, in between pouting 6 year olds and story books, I think back to a time when I pretty much did whatever I wanted to. I think those days of frolicsome youth are over with. Spent. Gone like the US economy. Fitzgerald was always harkening back to a Gilded age. Perhaps that was my Gilded Age, not of wealth or luxury, but of carefree days, remarkable freedom, perhaps, waste as well.