Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Milk Things

by Brian Wask

Neither knew what it was like outside. Joe didn’t care. That kind of stuff doesn’t matter. I couldn’t wait to find out. I had plans. It was spring, but what kind of spring was still a mystery among the damp boxes, rusted-through paint cans and rigor-mortis cat corpses.

Joe refused to wear a mask, his lungs adjusted over the years, nasty cough to prove it. “You out all night,” he assumed. He didn’t care who his brother John sent to help. Lately he sent me, from the neighborhood, rubbing my eyes and drinking coffee. Always smelled showered. “Listen. A dairy worker goes to work one morning,” Joe said.

I pulled off my dirty gloves. “Where’s he work?” I put them on the top shelf next to the staircase, the door shut, its borders sealed with duct tape because the toxic fumes could kill the customers leafing through color palates upstairs– Joe’s brother nearby encouraging them to take their time: Colors make us smile and they make us sad and they make bees choose what flowers to pollinate, John’ll tell anyone pondering between dulls and fruit colors. We could hear him through the vent covered with cardboard.

Joe continued: “A dairy worker works in a barn with cows. He milks ‘em. Listen, don’t talk just to hear yourself talk.”

I searched my pockets carefully. Didn’t want to get that smell on my pants. “I’m not talking to hear myself talk. I don’t know where he works. Can’t a dairy worker be the guy who delivers milk to people’s houses?”

“When’s the last time you saw a guy delivering milk to people’s houses?” Joe shoveled through a pile of wilted paint cans, eaten through by their own toxic contents. The smell clobbered his sinuses. Still, he didn’t feel like moaning. That’s what the family wanted.

I was thinking about the milkmen I'd seen in movies. “Last time I saw a milkman was the last time I saw someone milking a cow.” I found my cigarettes in the top of my sock, sweaty wet against my ankle, a matchbook suffocated beneath the cellophane. I put a smoke between my lips.

Joe was occupied with a tail, definitely attached to a cat, one of many seeking food but finding poison. “Just follow me. A dairy worker goes to work one morning.” He looked up, seen the smoke dangling from my lip. “What the fuck!” He slammed the metal of the shovel on the floor. “You about to blow us both to smithereens. Use your head.”

I appreciated the warning. I really did. “Sorry. That was scatterbrain.”

“Jesus Christ,” Joe breathed. “What the hell you trying to do? C’mon, you gotta be thinking. This shit’s dangerous.”

“Dude, I wasn’t thinking.” I put the cigarettes on the shelf, the matches next to them. “Sorry. Tell me the story.”

“It wasn’t a story. It’s a joke. Forget it.”

“Tell me.” I put my gloves on– much too big for my hands. I leaned against the shovel, handle end wedged under my arm.

“One more time. A dairy worker goes to work one morning.”


“He smells something funny so he says to the cow standing above him, ‘Was that you?’ and the cow say’s back, ‘Sure was’.”

“The cow talks?” I was board leaning so I pushed the shovel, scraping an inch deep of solid chemicals against the wall.

“It’s a joke.”

“I got a good joke next.”

Joe thought about quitting. Walking up the stairs, pealing off the tape sealing the door and tossing his gloves at his brother on the way out. That would only prove the whole family right. No matter who the prick stuck him with he was staying put, putting up with whatever his dad recommended they do to get him to quit. “Listen to this one first,” Joe said, eyes encouraging.

“Go head.” I almost went for my smokes, forgot one second ago.

“Last time,” Joe said. “A dairy worker goes to work one morning. He gets down behind a cow, pulls on his milk things.”

“Her milk things,” I said.


“A he wouldn’t have milk things.”

"It's a joke," Joe said behind clenched teeth. He dropped the shovel, climbed the stairs, peeled the tape into a ball and threw his gloves at his brother on the way out. Bells jingled behind him. The woman flipping though the color palates clamped her nose. John smiled.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Common Sense: The Case Against an Out of Control Religious Right Hell Bent On Drinking the Blood of Infidels, Inspired by Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine­–

“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.”

“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

George Washington–

“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”

“There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson–

“The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.”

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”

“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."

“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors."

"It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherencies of our own nightly dreams.”

Ben Franklin

“As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity.”

John Adams–

“The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?”

“Can a free government possibly exist with the Roman Catholic religion?”


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Death Squad at the Door

By Brian Wask

Hell’s Kitchen NY- I was trying to stay quiet. My foot was tapping away cause the music coming from my head sounded like something from an M Squad episode, circa 1960. I heard my neighbor’s screams moments earlier. She was just a little old lady. Perhaps they thought she was my grandmother. Damn song. It’s a record. I can hear the needle. I’d recently posted my profile on I was looking for friends. My character traits somehow matched me with a unique selection of al Qaeda fans, including Dylan and Zakariya Boyd of North Carolina. We disagree with the US's policies towards the Middle East. As well I shared a love for early mornings with Denis V. Yevsyukov, a policeman in Moscow who recently shot up a liquor store killing a bunch of people. Also, internet gunsmith Eric Thompson, owner of TGSCOM Inc. He sold weapons and ammo to three American gunmen, who in turn killed because with guns it’s easy. Eric and I agree guns don’t kill people but some people with guns kill people; other people with guns kill animals; and the rest are people with guns in case they have to kill something. I tried to contact each one of the matches. Came out to twenty-one. Nice. I thought we’d get together and cause a little mayhem. Burn down a few bookstores. Kill deer. Poke pinholes through condom wrappers and hand them out at an inner city high school. Later, laugh about it over a good meal.

If the mob found me I’d certainly disappear– they attacked Clinton for going to North Korea to bring home two American girls looking at twelve years hard labor, and that was a good thing. Now I was stealing cable from an old lady in the apartment below. I used the same connection to contact my matches on the internet. My potential associates could land me at the gallows. Hannity’s henchmen spotted me via Google maps. That’s how they pinned her. My internet service– you suck Time Warner– came from her cable. They showed up with sticks and flames. They waited for night, soon after “America’s Got Talent”. David Hasselbeck was a riot again of course. When is he not? If one other person besides Bill Clinton could’ve rescued those girls from Kim Jung Il it would be the Hoff. He was snapping his fingers to the Texas Tenor’s “Proud to be an American”. What a guy. Next I heard the door below smashed in like the Feds did Tommy Chong’s Bongs. The TV blanked at the same time. I hit the light switch with a flying shoe. The room went black. I listened to the mob break the lady’s porcelain cats on the wall. She pleaded for mercy and they told her to call Medicare. Hilary Clinton’s a racist bitch. Obama’s a Trotskyist and he wasn’t even born in America. A proud voice reminded them he’s also a Muslim terrorist. Bureaucrat’s Death Panel! Activist judges! Tea bags!

My doorknob was wiggling. Someone was on the other side and they wanted in. I’d seen the same mob the night before on TV causing a ruckus over socialized healthcare at town hall meetings. They were at the 2000 re-count in Florida. They came to New York in 2004 and told everyone about John Kerry’s broken fingernail during Vietnam. If they got to me they’d tare me apart with their teeth, fuck if they get their kakis bloody. I curled into the corner of the couch, smothered my face with a pillow. They’re raving mad about Obama. This is the end of the line for bleeding hearts. If only they’d fight for gay marriage like they fight for money. What would my last words be anyway? Long live Yankees. Not the baseball team, but the Mark Twains. Their knives jingled. Silent. The door finally opened. It was my lady with groceries. She was alone and unharmed. She flicked on the light and noticed me wedged in the couch. A week of newspapers spread out over the floor. Is the old lady dead? Did the mob use her blood to paint a cross on the door? She told me to lay off the pot. I asked if she had snacks.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What’s with the War in Wichita

By Brian Wask

Hell’s Kitchen, NYC- In 2004 the journalist and historian Thomas Frank published, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” In the United Kingdom and Australia it was called “What’s the Matter with America?” The book was more or less about conservatives and Bush and things I promised I wouldn’t get into anymore. It’s too painful… and boring… and redundant… and beyond any logic. I haven’t read the book but if Frank figured out what was wrong with the Great Plains state I’d like to know. I have some ideas of my own. First, the population is 91% white. That doesn’t sound very fun. I’ve been there but I’ve never seen anybody. No whites, blacks or gays. Nothing. Not even at the gas station. It was self-service and there was a bucket to put the money in. I thought I saw someone standing alone in the middle of a state-length cornfield. But it was a scarecrow. My second problem, the Kansas Veterans Action Committee, spearheaded by Vietnam Veteran John Wilson, seems to think there’s no room in Wichita’s Veterans Memorial Park for a monument dedicated to the 200,000 South Vietnamese soldiers who fought and died beside Americans.

In a photo printed by the NY Times, Mr. Wilson, along with Douglas Brady and Phillip W. Blake (two old coots I wish my grandfather was around to smack the crap out of), proudly stand before a memorial that reads, DEDICATED TO THOSE LIVES AFFECTED BY VIETNAM. Not quite. I think. When some South Vietnamese Wichita citizens planned a future memorial to be placed nearby the American vets signed up against them quicker than they did the first time. But the problem with these guys is they still think the war is what they thought it was. And they don’t know it’s over and we’ve figured it out by now. Maybe that’s what’s the matter with Kansas. But I’m so proud. While a Jewish-American is buying surfboards for kids in Gaza, Kansan-Americans are telling Vietnamese-Americans they have no place near or in sight of the US military memorials.

Dorian Paskowitz is eighty-six years old, a retired doctor and a surf traveler. In the fifties, after two failed marriages, he quit his practice, moved to Israel for a year and volunteered for the army during the Suez crisis against Egypt. When he was turned down he moved back to the states and surfed full time. Last week he gave 12 surfboards to a Gazan surf community because he thinks they will make good use of them. He’s so damn right. Dorian’s got the message. Wilson and his disgruntled hate gang should take a page from the old Jewish guy. Instead, they eventually allowed the new memorial to be placed outside the park and behind a wall. “God will surf with the devil if the waves are good,” Dorian Paskowitz said. “When a surfer sees another surfer with a board, he can’t help but say something that brings them together.” I get it. And I don’t surf.

Maybe you got some hang ups and you still blame the Vietnamese. That’s common, and treatable. But what feels better? Wouldn’t it be nice to have something nearby future generations will look at and think we can have friends from different places? What’s next? At the supermarket no German knockwurst next to matzo ball soup. At the toy store no GI Joes next to Cobras. Wilson and friends, even though you look like dicks in the picture and sound like even bigger dicks in the press, I love Kansas and I want you to change. You look old enough to count your breaths and I hope you’re thinking better things when the last one leaves. This is just what I think. And it doesn’t feel good either.

(I reached out to the original GI Joe, the 12in. figure. I wanted to see what he thought about veterans turning their backs on allied veterans. He’s been strung out on heroin since ’82, when they started making the 4in. figures. But he thought it was pretty sad. In his words, “Everything kinda is.”)