Friday, July 26, 2013

Life Is Simple

Above the desk in my apartment, I have two printouts taped to the wall, both containing inspirational words meant to motivate me and keep me on task.

The first is from Ecclesiastes 9:10:

“Whatever thy handeth findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

The grave – it always beckons, from the moment we draw breath. If eternal life awaits us on the other side, we still have to die to receive it. A hole in the ground, six feet deep, is the image that comes to mind more than angels strumming harps on a cloud that may have been produced by chemtrails, anyway. The image does not inspire me to act, but to feel that all action is futile. “. . . (T)he grave, whither thou goest,” indeed.

The other words of wisdom come from something I found online called “The Holster Manifesto” credited to Dave, Mike, and Fabian. Among its pearls are such phrases as “This Is Your Life” and “Life Is Short.” The rest is inspirational greeting card-style pap:

“It you don’t like something, change it.”

“If you don’t like your job, quit.”

“Stop over-analyzing. Life is simple.”

Yes, life is simple. As Ecclesiastes says, “. . . to the grave, whither thou goest.”



Repeat until you can’t.


© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks


Monday, July 15, 2013

Diamond Jim

There was a police car in front of a bar that I passed on my way home one recent night. There was also a police officer standing outside. As I walked past, he asked me where I was coming from.

“The library and the store,” I said.

I had two bags from the latter in my left hand, and I gently waved them as proof of my previous whereabouts. The officer seemed to find that satisfactory and he asked no further questions. I continued on my way, but wondered what motive he had for quizzing me. Had he received a report about suspicious behavior in the area? Had someone been assaulted or robbed in the bar?

It makes me a little nervous to be questioned by a police officer, no matter how pleasant his demeanor. This cop was agreeable enough, but what if my answer had not satisfied him? What if he needed one more arrest to meet his quota for the night? What if a drunken whore, having failed to incite the sexual interest of a male patron at the bar, wanted revenge against the entire male species and had falsely accused me of fondling whatever she wanted to have fondled?

I was falsely accused before.

It was the summer of 1971, and as I and two companions returned from downtown Cleveland on foot by way of the Detroit-Superior Bridge, we noticed two teenagers running in the opposite direction. We paid them no mind until we reached the center of the bridge, where a well-dressed man who reminded me of actor Harold J. Stone was loitering, smoking a fat cigar. I don’t remember if the police were already present or if they arrived later, but the man who would identify himself as Diamond Jim, the proprietor of a nightclub by that name in the Flats, soon accused me of having thrown a muffler over the bridge on to his Cadillac parked below. Of course, I didn’t do it, and neither did my two companions. Suddenly, I realized why those two kids we saw earlier had been running. One or both of them had done the dirty deed.

Diamond Jim didn’t care. His fancy car had been vandalized and he wanted to blame somebody – anybody – and I was the most convenient victim. I was a redhead. My two companions had dark hair and both wore glasses as I did not. I was the easiest to identify. I recall being quite passionate in my defense, but also a smart ass. When the police grilled me, my responses were tainted with anger. There was a question about my mother:

“Is she your real mother?”

“No,” I said, “she’s fake.”

As any viewer of Dragnet, NYPD Blue, or any dozen or so crime shows is aware, the police do not appreciate a smart-ass, especially if he’s only 14-years-old, and I was driven home in a patrol car. My bravado failed me once I got home. I burst into tears the minute I entered my house where my brother was the only one present at the time.

Nothing more came of the incident. The police did not follow up by investigating me further. Years later, however, fate, God, or something caught up with Diamond Jim.
I have to admit I’m a vindictive sort and I remember feeling a certain gratification when reading about Diamond Jim’s death in the newspaper. In 1985, he was remodeling his restaurant before the revitalization that briefly made the Flats, an area of Cleveland previously dominated by steel mills, into a center of nightlife. One day, someone entered Diamond Jim’s shuttered nightclub and forced him to lie down on the bathroom floor. He was then shot, point-blank, in the back of the head. A handyman was also murdered.

And just like that, no more cigars for Diamond Jim, and no more Cadillacs, and no more bearing false witness.

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Getting Rid of a Roommate

The spider that’s been making its home in my apartment for several weeks was crawling along the floor the other night. I tried to avoid killing it in the past, and made quite an effort to preserve its life when it scurried from behind the TV to the corners of the floor near my reclining chair. I placed a small wooden beam on the floor to block its path and hopefully encourage it to backtrack into whatever corner it had been hiding in. It stopped, but wouldn’t move back in the direction from which it came. I rolled up a sheet of paper and sort of brushed it against the spider, hoping the creature would crawl into the funnel I had fashioned so I could deposit the critter outside through the window. It refused to cooperate and soon made its way under my chair.


I had visions of it growing into a large, hairy creature that would one day crawl on my shoulder while I slept, then scare me to death when its legs tickled my flesh.

I moved the chair and the spider crawled out, but now it threatened to hide in the books and papers lying on the floor. Now I was using a broom to bring him out, but he must have found a hiding place secure enough to avoid facing my fury which was beginning to overrule my patience. I turned on the light in the hallway leading to the bedroom to see better, and when I stepped into the bathroom for a second I got a brief fright upon seeing one of those damn centipedes clinging to the wall. Whatever compassion I feel toward spiders does not apply to those other creepy insects and I smacked it with a newspaper. After throwing the centipede's remains in the toilet, I saw the spider attempting to crawl to safety on the other side of the room.

I’d had enough.

“You’re pissing me off!” I said, and I stomped it to death with my foot.

I wiped the spider’s gooey remains from the floor with a piece of tissue and flushed it down the toilet. And that ends my adventure with the spider that I first glimpsed a week ago clinging to the wall beside my bed. It makes me feel a little sad. I didn’t want to kill it, but I didn’t want it crawling on me either which it might have done had I let it wander freely about. I gave it a chance, but it wouldn’t cooperate in my attempt to let it live. Besides, I pay the rent on this place. The spider doesn’t.

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks