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Monday, August 11, 2008

Stare Into The Face Of Horror

In the course of my life of late, playing music in a bar constitutes a perfectly normal evening, but at one of my recent gigs an odd thing happened. We were going about our business as usual, singing our songs while folks were eating and drinking and kids were running around and cowboys were dancing and tourists were staring, and everybody was getting pretty rowdy. The scene was happy, and nothing particularly weird was going down.

During the last set, three buzzcut guys in the back started yelling and whooping very loudly, to the extent that even the other drunks were shushing them. Then the tallest started "dancing" by himself right in front of the stage, and he stomped and stumbled and shouted for "Sweet Home Alabama" over and over... again, nothing overly weird in the context of a bar gig.

Then he dragged in his two buddies from outside where they'd been smoking, all three of them hammered out of their minds. One immediately fell on his ass and crawled outside, where he projectile-vomited into the shrubbery. The original guy tried to continue his "dancing" while propping up his third pal, a short, taut-looking dude who leered at my singing partner and wife, Kim, in maybe the scariest way I've ever seen.

I really thought he might go for her, and I'd have to pull a Keith Richards and take the guy out with my guitar. I truly thought he might jump her. I've seen lots of drunks and a few near-fights, but despite the booze-soaked, potentially volatile atmosphere of the typical honky-tonk, in hundreds of gigs I've never seen a fight. Everybody seems remarkably mellow around here, even when they're depressed and shitfaced. But this man was clearly dangerous.

There was something in this guy's vibe that truly worried me. He stared at Kim shamelessly, blatantly checking her out and thinking... well, I don't want to know what. He was not smiling, and the look in his eyes was as glazed and reptilian as I've even seen in an ostensible human - even one this plowed. I was so distracted by the vapor of sullen fury clinging to him I could hardly play. His overall countenance of apparent total insanity was really something to behold.

I don't know what happened, I just know that eventually he and his dancing buddy stumbled off. I saw them reeling just outside the door, and the dancer asked for a drink of water and promptly and deliberately smashed the glass on the patio. The bouncer wisely eighty-sixed them all, and after another song or two the gig was over anyway.

It was when we were breaking down and packing up that we learned they were all U. S. Marines, just home from Iraq.

I don't know anybody who's been over there. I don't know what those guys are going through, but I hardly need to know the details to be dead certain I've never had to do anything near as awful in my spoiled, cushy life. It seems ludicrously disrespectful and simple-minded to say "I've read about it," like some prissy dilettante, but I'm ashamed to say that's about all I've got.

I will say that I never have and never will blame those young men and women for doing what they have to do to survive, or for starting this ridiculous war. The unrepentant, psychotic, satanic frat boys from hell that are currently running this country are wholly responsible (notwithstanding the 50 million idiots in this country that voted for them... but that's another rant for another day...) and one day will be held accountable, in this life or the next. If there is a hell, the imps and demons surely wait with baited breath for the return of these scum.

But I also know that sociopathic behavior is almost never innate, it must be taught, usually by long-term systematic abuse. And I must wonder just what we're teaching the cream of our youth by putting them in a situation like they face in Iraq.

Our military is there illegally, under transparently false pretenses, and are in fact an invading, occupying regime. These kids must know this. And yet - probably in violation of their consciences - they have to defend themselves and each other every day. Constantly in fear. Constantly on guard. Constantly ready to kill or be killed at a moment's notice.

Maybe some of them will come out of it okay. Maybe some of them will be perfectly normal when they get home to Iowa or Vermont or Alabama or Texas. They'll get married, hold down a job that doesn't pay 'em enough, mow their lawns and bitch about insurance companies, and raise good kids of their own.

But not all of 'em will.

My own fear is that in a few short years, we'll have a bunch of vets in psychiatric hospitals, suffering from post-traumatic stress that makes the worst, most stereotypical "crazy Vietnam vet" look like the model of mental health.

Who knows what the toll of this useless war will be on the world? Are we wrecking the psyches of our youth, along with the untold murder of innocents in Iraq? Are we crippling our own future along with our environmental and economic lifebloods?

I tremble to think of the horror we've wrought, and I tremble when I think about that guy's lizard-eyes, and I wonder: if an otherwise peaceful New Mexico honky-tonk almost turned that bad, what kind of barrel of monkeys is Fallujah like?

The horror. The horror.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two years ago a good friend of mine was murdered by her husband, a soldier home for Christmas from Iraq (given leave for illness). He was the sweetest of men when I met him, we were all very happy for their marriage. I would never have believed he was capable of what he did to her, and HOW he did it. Makes me sick every time I think of it. In the span of a few years this war made him into a monster. Was it latent rage? Was it something he was predisposed to committing? No, it was the atrocities he was forced to carry out, atrocities that were demanded of him by a country that claims it is a "nation under God". There will be a reckoning. I still miss your laugh, Melissa.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would have been nice to have had a reply to my pain, but I guess you have to be one of the "in" crowd.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Banjosnake said...

Well, Anonymous, I'm not sure how to respond to this... I very rarely post my own comments to my blog (isn't that what the blog is for in the first place? I mean... I rule the roost here... who needs me to comment?) and in fact a quick check shows that since 2005 I've only done it twice up 'til now, and once was to thank YOU!
Secondly, while I understand that a sympathetic word from someone about your loss would obviously have been nice, and while I NEVER want to add to the suffering in the world, my own post (which I think was fairly sensitive, if I do say so myself) started this train of conversation, and (referring again to the above) I didn't think it was time for me to jump back in just yet.
Certainly, you have my deepest sympathies with respect to your loss and pain. While I have lost many in my family, I have never lost anyone in the horrible manner you did, and I can't imagine how bad it must hurt. Again, I'm sorry you were dissappointed by the lack of response to your comment, and my true and deepest sympathies.
Thirdly, I'm not sure who you're talking about when you say "in crowd" as a quick, unscientific check of the history of comments on my blog reveals a total of about five regular commenters. I had no idea that there was any "in crowd" and I certainly don't know who they might be... I just thought a bunch of my friends were reading this stuff!
I do not post lightly to this blog, nor do I imagine that I'm preaching to a void... I hope there's more folks out there checking this out than are commenting, but who knows?
However, I know every name but one that has ever commented on this blog, and as far as I can tell, they're all good people and I'm sure none of them would deliberately belittle or ignore your pain.
I once took a vow to tell the truth, so at the risk of offending you, I can't help but wonder at the motivation of someone who posts as "anonymous" (yes... YOU'RE the one I can't identify) complaining about an "in crowd." I don't question the legitimacy of your pain in the slightest, but doesn't your second post strike you as unduly needy, whiny, hypocritical, and self-righteous coming from someone who won't identify themselves to this alleged "in crowd?"
One last time: I feel for you, I sympathize with you, and I hope you can deal with you pain in a healing manner.
But grow up.

10:26 AM  
Blogger CJS said...

Re/ Anonymous's unhappiness: what Chipper said.

Re/ the original event: pretty damned chilling. A reminder that bad energy out into the world rebounds and resonates for decades after. If we're going to really "support the troops", we're going to have to hang in there while they try to heal from the crimes that have been perpetrated against (and, sadly, sometimes by) them.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Chipper, my name is Lee Wood and I have visited your blog for about 2 years now. You do not know me,I live in California, but I visit your blog often, at least 3 times a week. In my opinion you and Kim are caring, sensitive people with vast artistic merit.
I appreciate your blog more than you know,you have incredible wit and express yourself eloquently in a "down home", honest way. I always send you mental messages of good wishes and happiness.
When I read "Stare into the Face of Horror" I saw your love and concern for Kim and your compassion for the men who at first glance seem so undeserving of it. Your blog in my opinion, was about dealing with the evil in this world that threatens the people you love.
It was also about the emotional anguish people struggle with when burdened with memories of horrific events. I know you have suffered from the loss of many in your family that were dear to you, Chip.You would NEVER slight the grief "anonymous" has experienced. If that person had actually paid attention to your character and spirit, they would know that.
It is obvious anonymous needed a verbal "hug" but certainly had an awful way of expressing that.
What is astonishing to me about this blog is how it relates to my
recent loss. Considering the time difference between CA and Taos,
Chip wrote this blog just minutes after a coyote grabbed my beloved cat and ripped her apart. I had truly just looked in the face of horror. The cat was like a child to me, so loving. The coyote ripped her in half.
We all suffer deep sorrow in life.
anonymous, be asured that Chip sends his sympathy to us all when we feel anguish. He does not have to say it... his kind and understanding spirit is always there.
the sun has fallen
a lake of molten fire sprawls
under empty sky

1:46 PM  
Blogger Dharmonia said...

Wow, this is all quite overwhelming. Anonymous, I am terribly sorry about the terrible murder of your friend. I can't imagine that anyone ever "gets over" something like this; the only path is to try and find some peace, which is also not easy. I also had an acquaintance (a good friend of my best friend) who was shot to death by her ex-husband - no words to express the horror of it.

Lee, I am heartbroken to hear about your cat. I am also one of those people for whom the pets are like children, and I would be devastated. Be assured that your love for this other Being forged a karmic link that can't be broken.

Chipper, it's clear that your story, and the telling of it, was so powerful that it created one of those moments in which our hearts open. In those moments most anything can spill out, from suffering to joy, depending on what was being expressed by the powerful words, and where we're all at when we hear them. I was also strongly affected by this blogpost; it stayed with me all afternoon (and is obviously with me still, since I'm writing this in the evening.)

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Chip. I have never posted a comment on your blog before, so you must have another "anonymous" out there who keeps up with you. But, yes, you did offend me by your reference to my being "whiney", "needy", etc., etc., etc. As I reflected on what I wrote, I may have posted the second comment too hastily, at the time I was typing through blinding tears. Your blog entry struck a note with me and apparently with some others who have suffered their own horror, so within that space I live with daily I WAS feeling needy. Friends are sympathetic in the beginning, but try to get someone to stop and lend a shoulder after the "event" has sufficiently passed (for them) and you should be "over it" by now, and that becomes another story entirely. A story of indifference, something I have become accustomed to. I have found through the loss of my best friend that I am able to see through a person's "neediness", straight into their psyche, and sometimes they do need an emotional hug. I give it freely, without name calling.
Thanks for the compassion expressed in the other posts, though, I do appreciate it more then you'll know.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Banjosnake said...

Holy cow. Well, I obviously hit a nerve with this one, and I'm honored by the passion and depth of thought and feeling you're all so willing to bare before the world. CJS and Dharmonia, thanks so much for your support and deep level of understanding about human suffering and kindness. You are both so precious to me, you'll never know. My teachers, my kin. Lee... jeez, what to say? I've cried hotter tears from every pet that's passed on (naturally or not) than from the passing of my own parents, so deeply do I feel the connection with my animal friends. I'll argue with anyone any day who claims they don't have souls, and Kim and I say at least twice a week "I want the cats to live forever." Hang in there, friend... try to forgive the coyote for what came naturally for him, and peace be with you and your late feline friend. And thank you for your ongoing support of the blog and my art. And anonymous... well, this blog has certainly had some impact on you, and not all of it good. I still maintain that I cannot possibly know what you have been through with the murder of your friend. Once again, my true and deepest sympathies; for you, for her, and for her killer, who was not born a monster but turned into one by a cheap, selfish Harvard frat boy from Texas and his oil-well owning cronies. There will indeed be a reckoning. Now, it's tempting to debate the exact semantics of what I said when I dressed you down, but I'll refrain and say this instead: The real theme of this blog and it's comments seems to be about suffering and compassion. Our friend CJS (click on his link in his post above) just posted a beautiful piece of writing about this very thing, that trumps damn near everything any of us has said yet. I urge you all to go read it immediately. Sadly, I am not always as sensitive as I wish. Sadly, I will admit to often being one of those brutes murmuring "get over it." I own my many shortcomings, and I'm working on 'em. Anonymous, I think I was reacting to what I perceived as a veiled attack on those who read my blog; who are, for the most part, my good friends; and who are, enitrely, some of the most caring, compassionate, sensitive people you'd ever be gifted with meeting. I feel I can safely say that none of them would deliberately belittle your suffering any more than I would, and I resented what I read as a potential attack on them. There is not and has never been an "in crowd" to my knowledge, and if there is one, I'm not even part of it! I hope I've not lost ANYONE'S support and readership over this conversation, as I meant it to be a universal plea for sympathy and forgivness in the first place, but I stand by the content of my blog and my comments. If the way I have expressed that content has injured anyone, they have my fullest, most heartfelt apologies. It's all to frequent and unfortunate that so often our good words and well-wishes come out garbled and the content of our good intentions goes astray in complaints over midding form. Well, indulge yourselves... I'll be interested to read whatever anybody else has to say about all this, but I'm bowing out for now. Look for me on my next blog post or my next stage. I'm moving on! Peace be with you all: CJS, Dharmonia, Lee, the "in crowd" and most especially anonymous!

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Chipper, or is it Chip? I appreciate your last reply, really I do. I am quite sure you practice kindness on a daily basis, and yes, in a perfect world we would all express ourselves perfectly and without offending anyone, but as adults (compassionate ones I would hope), we can always give a kind word or two, even when what is coming out of someone at the time is pain, rage or hate. We've all been there, and more times then not have acted like children with a need for comfort in some form. Emotion got the best of me, and I am now just coming out of it. This has been enlightening, and became a deeper conversation then you probably bargained for, but that can be a good thing. Thank you all for your words, imperfect or otherwise.

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am about to share a deeply personal event in my life that I have disclosed sparingly with just a few of my friends. I hesitate to begin for fear that you may think me odd or even worse, not believe me. It did happen and it has made a powerful difference in my life about how I view death.
I had a beautiful sister named Allene. She was a long legged blond, fun loving, vivacious girl
that was so wonderful it is difficult to describe her. She attracted friends like a magnet, everyone loved to be around her great personality and beauty.
In time she found the man of her dreams. They married and moved out of state. I had not seen her for about a year when they came for a visit on their way to a holiday cruise to Puerto Rico. The day they were departing for the cruise,
the family was all crowded around the door saying good-bye to them. I was suddenly struck with an overwhelming deep sense of dread. Without thinking, I blurted out sobbing," PLEASE, don't go, I will never see you again!" If you knew me better, you would know this is totally out of character for me. But I kept saying it over and over, trying to keep her from leaving, clinging to her. My family was shocked at my behavior and Allene tried to soothe me saying of course we would see each other again. She asked me why I felt that way and I had no answer.
There was no clarity to this emotion, no reason, no description. I simply knew that this was the LAST time I would see
her blue eyes, her warm smile, or hold her graceful hand.
When they left, the family was really angry with me... why had I spoiled the departure. Was I trying to make her feel bad? Was I trying to ruin her vacation? Was I crazy? It was awful, I felt the true depth of depression. I was trembling, crying and felt sick. I had no answer, just an undescribeable sense of loss.
Allene was sunshine, music, laughter.... all the things that make you happy. I would never do anything to hurt her or make her feel unhappy.
Then a week later I had a dream.
I was in my bedroom and Allene appeared. She walked toward me and said, " Something has happened. I am going away and I won't be coming back. I could not leave without saying goodbye and telling you that I love you. I want you to not fear death, it is not bad.
Do not cry for me, I want you to be happy. When you think of me, just smile." Then she said, " I am going now,I have to go, there are other people I want to say goodbye to." Then she turned and started fading away.... I screamed out , please come back, you can't leave, I don't want you to go! I LOVE YOU! In desperation, I said, "Please, I have so many questions to ask you!"
She turned back to me and sat on the bed.
" You can ask me one question then I have to go." In truth, I had no questions...only the desperate need to keep her with me. My mind raced... one question, just one.
I said...." What does it feel like to die?"
She looked at me so sweetly, so calmly, so lovingly.
Then she said, " Hold out your hand, make a fist. Hold it as tightly as you possibly can.... tighter. Then open your hand very,very slowly. That is what it feels like." Then she stood up and said, "I have to go.... I Love you, don't cry." I had a quiet sense of Peace flow over me. She took 2 steps and vanished. I woke up.
The next day I did not say anything about the dream but it kept flowing through my mind.
I also kept hearing this thought in my mind like it was being told to me..." Hold my memory gently, softly, without pain. Let every thought of us together be one of joy." " Hold my memory gently"
The next morning we received word that Allene had died the night I saw her in my dream. She had just turned 30 years old. She had been in a "minor" car accident several months before the trip. She had gone to the doctor and they had said she was OK. The tests did not reveal that her organs had been damaged. On the cruise ship she fell ill but the ships doctor did not give her an examination, just sea sickness pills. She became worse and in dispair, her husband searched the ship for a doctor that might be on holiday. He found one that when first seeing her demanded that a helicopter take her off ship to the hospital in Puerto Rico. She died on the operating table in the hospital.
When the family gathered together for the funeral, an aunt that Allene loved dearly said," The night Allene died I woke up and saw her at the foot of my bed. She had come to say good-bye to me." I had told no one of my dream and hearing this was like an electric shock.
Love is powerful, it does not diminish in the dark depth of space and time. Love goes beyond death. Love is the only thing that survives death.
Hold your memories gently, without pain when you think of them... with pure love.

" Alone, together...
pealing like the sea,
we die
and after...
all things connected
like sweethearts."

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I believe your story, I believe the encounter you had with your sister was real. I have asked, no, begged, for a sign that Melissa was alright somehow after her death. The sign has never come. You are blessed to have had this experience. While I think I know somewhere in my heart that Melissa is OK, what really has shaken me to the core is the "faith" I had put in someone I had trusted, someone who I thought was a good match for my sweet "sister". Why didn't I see any telltale signs, why didn't I get a sense of foreboding about the marriage? These questions torment me. The rage I feel for our Government is overwhelming too. Consuming, really. Thank you for sharing this personal experience. Your last few lines mean a lot and have brought me a sense of momentary comfort. I'm going to hold that thought. Thank you...

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to thank you Chipper and Dharmonia for your kind words about my loss of Lucky, my cat. She was an unfailing antidote against boredom, a sweet, saucy little minx!
Anonymous, I am glad that you are on a path to healing your spirit.
Disharmony sown in spirit reaps imbalance in the flesh. Do not make yourself sick over something that can not be changed.
Chipper, one of the things about you that I like the most is that you put all of your cards on the table. Good or bad you say it as you see it. Sometimes we have to feel the sting of the needle to receive the healing medicine. The phrase "grow up" (it has been said to me before and I have given it a lot of prior thought...what does that really mean?)has little to do with age or maturity and everything to do with attitude.
Grow-Up = Be Strong
Being a friend is accepting another unconditionally, I never want anyone to tiptoe around my feelings like they were eggshells. Honesty is the best gift a friend can give, it holds a mirror to our actions.
Well, it is time for me to bow out also. This Post has been the first time I have joined in anyones conversation and I see that it can be addictive. Thanks Chipper for this venue, I have enjoyed this visit, you all truely have helped me with my loss.
You have an awesome way of expressing yourself, Chipper, and I am looking forward to your next
blog topic. In truth, I would much rather read anything you have to say than everything I have to say!

the guitar is gone
sweet music wafts in the night
stillness in the room

4:19 PM  

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