The ineffable joy of burning bridges
November 11, 2013 by Thomas Wictor
I’m not burning all my bridges. But I’m burning enough of them to make people upset.
This morning I got an e-mail request to be added to the mailing list. When I went to the site to do so, I saw that half of my subscribers have unsubscribed. I think most of them were the military folks, but I’m sure plenty were musicians who thought all I’d ever talk about was music, and others were people who thought I was a conservative or a liberal. That meant my books and posts could no longer be read, everything now being psychotically politicized.
Later, I saw that a monumentally inconsequential documentarian in the twilight of his career Tweeted the following:
Today, as every day, 22 American veterans will commit suicide. Happy Veterans Day.
People reacted with torrents of outrage, which is what this man wants. I’m indifferent to what he says about everything. He’s not capable of angering me, any more than Kim Kardashian is. This is the image of himself he put on the cover of his book in 2004:
At the time this is what he actually looked like.
Think about the pain this guy feels looking in the mirror. He’s filled with such self-revulsion that for his book cover, he had his head grafted onto another man’s body and demanded that his elephant-seal double chin be photographically removed. And you’re upset at what this pissy, compulsive gobbler says?
One of my heroes is General Anthony McCauliffe. He was in command when the Germans surrounded the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne and sent a surrender ultimatum on December 22, 1944. Many people know that McCauliffe replied “Nuts!” but what actually happened was that after he read the German demand, he laughed and said, “Aw, nuts!”
I laugh and say “Aw, nuts!” to most things now. If McCauliffe could do it when facing death, I can do it in response to mere negativity, pettiness, worthlessness, shoddiness, and attention-whoring.
At Sam’s Club yesterday, a floorwalker-kid greeted me. I greeted him back.
“You look like a totally bad-ass Santa,” he said.
I laughed and told him that now he’d get coal in his stocking.
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” he said.
Going through Mom’s things, I found a photo of an unnamed ancestor.
No idea who he is, but I like his looks. He appears to be completely insane.
My plan was to shave off the beard when Mom came home, but now I’m going to see how big it’ll get. I don’t even know I have it until people remark on it. I’ve burned my bridge to the youth culture.
In fact, I’ve burned my bridges to all groups. I abhor tribalism. If that means people unsubscribe to my mailing list, so what? I’m just going to plug along and see how things go. We had a little brouhaha over a magazine ad that resulted in me—with no notice—having to provide images. I took several shots of the Carmen bass in the workshop of Tim’s house. This was where my grandfather George worked on his guns. I’m very proud of this photo.
You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to take. I had to unscrew two lights; turn on fluorescents in the adjoining room; switch off the flash; and use a tripod for a time exposure as I squatted like a Hanoi street cobbler, my Santa-knees popping and cracking. But you know what? It came out exactly as I envisioned. Suddenly I’m a photographer again. I love the composition, the starkness, and the shadow.
While I was in the shop, I took a picture of the door because it contains the face of Satan. Can you see him?
The computer used to be there when I lived with Tim, so I’d surf, send messages to my doomed hippie-ghost, and gaze at the face of Satan.
That was so long ago. I burned my bridge to my doomed hippie because it had to be done. She would’ve dragged me down with her. And that’s why I’m burning bridges left and right. Nobody—and I mean nobody—will drag me down with them. Tribal loyalties always entail sacrificing individualism for the sake of the uncaring, unfeeling group. A political party won’t help me survive tragedy. A conclave of German-Mexican-Jewish-blacks won’t give me the strength to endure.
Military historians and music aficionados played no part in the clarity I achieved. The only groups to which I owe fealty are select family members, my friends, my publisher, the people who buy my books, and my publicists.
Tim’s with me. Last night he decided to put up permanent Christmas lights in the living room of Mom and Dad’s house. This would never have flown when my parents were alive, but Tim and I love Christmas lights. So up they went, and up they shall remain.
This is one of my favorite songs, and not just because of the incredibly tough bass line that took forever to figure out.
When I was young I used to have illusions
Dreams ain’t enough.
Father was rough. He didn’t care for learning.
Hell, life is tough.
Easy to say that everybody’s equal; then look around
See it ain’t true.
Working all day
But now I’m free of everything that drew me to that song. It’s an amazing state in which to exist.
The joy of burning bridges must be weighed against the isolation that comes with eradicating these spans. For me, the tradeoff was worth it. They were bridges to nowhere.
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