I’m sure it’s because I’m getting older and people are dropping like flies and the madly spinning world values oil and money and gadgets over all else, but I find myself this holiday season wondering at how cheap life has become and shrugging at the constant horror headlines that, were my sympathy synapses firing properly, should bring me to my knees.
They don’t. It’s a survival instinct, of course; selective reading, etc., but one story that sticks is the one about Mark Loesch being murdered on his bike this summer because, said the cops, he was in a bad neighborhood buying weed — even though there was no empirical evidence to support the claim.
The day of the Star Tribune story, which featured a photo of Loesch’s widow and one of their four children, I had a conversation with someone who was outraged at the cops and the media and, citing Loesch’s autopsy results, noted that he was "clean." What a word. And what if in the end, your life was reduced to how "clean" your blood was, how "purely" you lived, how perfect or imperfect you were?
I know almost all of my neighbors, many of whom read this paper in this Hamlet we call Southwest Minneapolis, and this is what I know: They are stay-at-home and working moms and dads who drink and smoke weed and do other things rarely, occasionally, frequently, and like it’s going out of style. They are self-medicaters, self-indulgers, and loving parents and spouses, and people gone bad and good and everything in between.
They are divorcees, happy family people, sad singles, vice-versa, etc. One called me up the other morning to see if I thought drinking a half a fifth of rum every night means he’s an alcoholic. One confessed to me that she eats dark chocolate every day. One wants to kick his late-night television addiction and get more reading done. One goes to gay bars at nights and doesn’t tell his wife. One flirts with anything with a pulse. One drinks wine everyday after work. One does cocaine and is thinking about rehab.
Fill in your own blank here.
It’s probably a cop-out to say that strange times demand strange distractions, but we must admit that these are nothing if not strange times. Rob Sheffield, writing in Rolling Stone, put it like this: "Ignoring reality has become our national psychic self-preservation strategy — not challenging reality, denying it or bothering to change it. We’re tuning out everything that threatens to invade our willfully oblivious bubble. We keep hearing that newspapers are dying, and we keep hearing it’s because of all this shiny new aweso-media, but it’s probably just because ignoring any kind of news is now a fundamental part of the nation’s daily routine for not losing what’s left of our shit."
For my part, I’m working on my own unreality and my own obituary — just in case. Something like …
He loved wine, women, and song. He loved his wife, his family, sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, especially Jeannie C. Riley’s "Harper Valley P.T.A.," which he famously called "the best country ballad about the hypocrisy of polite society waiting to be redone into a new country smash hit," and the Buzzcocks’ "Ever Fallen In Love With Someone You Shouldn’t Have Fallen In Love With," even though he never really bought the "shouldn’t" part because, while he was not the smartest cookie on the block, he came to know that regrets are a beautiful learning tool, and so he tried his best not to judge people, to observe rather than react, and he believed firmly in the whole "he without sin throw the first stone" thing that Jesus preached.
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.