War Is Unhealthy For Children And other Living Things

 

 

 

 

 

J.T. HILLTOP

 

The effects of the booze and drugs didn’t manage to dull the fact that my brother is dead in some country called Vietnam! It did however manage to leave me an ass kicking hangover teamed up with emotional overload. Jameson’s body, or what’s left of it, is being flown home tomorrow from Vietnam. So now what? Time to make preparations Old man war lover said of his son’s death . Just what in the fuck did that mean? How am I supposed to cope with losing my mentor, my big brother?
Kids in school barely spoke a word to me, afraid I had a dozen eggs hanging precariously around my heart. Maybe I did. I told them at work I needed a little more time off which of course was not a problem. Mom was in her denial stage wearing a fake smile but her vacant eyes betrayed the true feelings. One look at the hollow abyss of her glazed orb sockets and the masquerading smile fooled no one. Dad had spiraled downward and was drinking way too much, which for him was quite a feat. His precious fucking reputation around town had now become the poor martyr that sacrificed his son. Bullshit on that. Jameson was the one who fucking gave his life and Mr. well respected man about town was soaking up the sympathy like it was he himself that had fought in Viet fucking Nam. The only possible good side to all the bullshit was that my sister Mandy was coming home. Mandy sweet and innocent Mandy my older “true hippie” sister who had left home. I had always suspected my father of kicking her out of the house but Amanda maintained she left on her own. At the very least I was sure Dad had made living here impossible for her. Mandy had left and moved in with her boyfriend upstate New York in a town called South Fallsburg. I had been to visit them once when Ken and I drove up to the Catskill Mountains town to get away for a week two summers ago. Her boyfriend Todd had studied Club Management at Sullivan County Community College while Mandy took some photography classes and worked part time as a bartender at the Bending Elbow. Todd finished his two years and landed a job at a resort club in Monticello as assistant manager. The last time I heard from her she was still working and was trying to find work as a nature photographer. I would find out soon enough because part of the preparation was getting a room ready. I really missed her.
Dad was too drunk so I had to bring Mom to the Funeral Home to make arrangements. Jesus shit this must have been the hardest thing I ever did. Mom sat and nodded her head as a sleazy mortician described what services they offered. It was downright offensive that he was asking my Mom about tips for the gravediggers, and did she want to spray some air freshener in the casket. I mean I know it needs to be done, but all we were getting from the US Army as I understood it was an American flag and a uniform once worn by my brother and his remains. Remains? He died in a fucking bomb massacre and truth is I have always had a distrust of the military but give me a break. They most likely scrapped together whatever organic shit was left of the troop that were killed and shared it among the families of all the deceased. Who really gives a shit if it smells nice anyway? The fucking topper was getting her to buy a vault so the “a umm, bio-organic scavengers don’t infiltrate the casket.” Oh, do you mean so the worms, maggots, and grubs don’t eat his body? There is no God damn body you scumbag, only remains! But again, I guess he had to do what he had to do. I would absolutely hate a job like that. The memories of all the bodies being discreetly removed from the Nursing Home patients that died flooded my mind. I imagined a similar conversation took place with their families and thought how many of them wouldn’t have even cared about the worms and such. But Mom did, and I knew it was all about her and not me. My loser old man couldn’t even make it to the funeral home. All that did was added to my already boiling distain for his sorry self-pitying ass.
On the ride home I knew I needed to get Mom talking. “When is Mandy getting home?” As if on cue Mom broke out of her desperate trance. “She is coming in Sunday night. I can’t wait to see her Can you pick her up at the train station JT?.” I was going to respond but she immediately regressed back into her sad and morose meditation. Jesus shit this was tough, and I have no idea what to do. I let Mom wallow through the five steps of mourning as I continued to attempt to make sense of the world. This fucked up Jameson free world. I can’t handle all this death shit man, I gotta do something!

 

 

 

When we got home from the funeral sales floor the old man was sitting in his recliner and was clearly out of it. My anger began to gather in the pit of my stomach and work its way up into my overloaded brain. I looked at that sorry excuse of a man and decided that this was the time. I got right up in his face. “Why don’t you get up off of your self-centered pitiful ass and go comfort my Mom? She is in so much more pain and all you do is sit your worthless ass here and get drunk and feel sorry for yourself. Where are your patriotic self righteous principles now? Jameson is fucking dead! Dead! I told you this war would kill him and now it has. Mom cries every god damn night and all you can do is drink beer. You call me worthless well what the fuck are you?” It was the first time I ever cursed in front of my Dad and it felt strangely good. The only thing that could have possibly felt better was if I had a picture of the look on his stunned face. He had no clue what to do because in his cold heart he knew I was right. I just read that asshole his rights and I liked it! He was speechless and I sensed his angst not directed at me for a change but at himself. He looked sheepishly toward my Mom, looked at me and then back at her again. I believe he was debating whether he should try and beat me to a pulp or go and comfort his wife but surprisingly after a short deliberation he chose to do the right thing. As soon as they embraced I knew it was time for me to head to my room, my fucking sanctuary. I needed some comforting too! I also realized that things had changed profoundly here at home and nothing will ever be the same. Sometimes my life is just so fucked up I am not sure what I should do.
As fucked up as it was though as soon as I walked through the door I knew what I was going to do. I knew that I was gonna snort some morphine pills. The twin tablets Ken had left me had been singing a sweet love song to me ever since they made it into my pocket. I grabbed my stash, a cleverly hollowed out bible, and grabbed the pills. Next I pulled out my new Grateful Dead Album. It was a live double album of the Dead who are by far my favorite band. Not a Deadhead yet but I have seen them quite a few times and I own every album they have made so far. But today this album would serve double purpose. Music to soothe my soul as well as “drug paraphernalia” to soothe my brain. I opened the album cover and placed the pills in the center of one side. With the back of a soup spoon I crushed the 2 pills into a pile of powder. I had seen movies so I knew what to do and I took out a razor blade so I could chop up the pills even finer. Then out came my driver’s license and I formed two long lines of white powder. I rolled up a 20 dollar bill, put one end in one nostril and closed the other with my finger. I sniffed hard and fast as if I were a Hoover vacuum cleaner until both of the lines had gone deep into my sinus cavity. It burnt so much I thought I would get a nosebleed but I immediately clasped my nostrils shut so nothing would escape. Next I drew in a hard breath through my nose like a strong sniffle. Jesus shit it was like I could feel it making its way up my nose and into my brain. I looked up feeling like I was going to sneeze, my eyes began to water, but within 15 seconds a new sensation set across my whole body. Wow, a warm and fuzzy! It really is warm and fuzzy, and as if by magic every bad thing in the universe disappeared. Not gone but certainly forgotten, at least for a short while. I whispered to myself intending it for Ken. “This shit is like 10 times better than ludes man, you were right! I felt good.” Not just good man, great. Fuck everything man. James is still dead, my old man is still an asshole, my Mom cries all the time, but at the same time, everything is okay. Not gone, but okay! Holy shit, I think I just found a new religion. I will now become a morphine-ite and worship the serenity it has bathed me in. And the music was perfect, I had chosen side 3, an18 minute jam called “The Other One” and I closed my eyes and drifted. Praise Jerry. It was Jerry Garcia’s guitar that scooped me up in a magic carpet and set me on a course to wonderland. I was chasing Grace Slicks White Rabbit and feeling great. I plopped on the headphones to help drown out the sobbing and reconciliation of Mom and Dad. I wondered for a second if they were going to have sex, and nearly threw up in my mouth a bit at the thought. Fuck this man, I need to drift off in this music. Take me away Jerry. So Jerry and Sister Morphine took me by the hand and walked me down into the garden of serenity, hoping the piper will lead me to reason. And a new day will dawn, if I can only stand long, and the forests will echo with laughter. I really love laughter. As always the drugs took me away, so very far away from this mad fucking world! Knowing it was Dangerous didn’t make me more cautious, it made me want to continue doing it forever.

Continued Tomorrow

 

I Know What Its Like To Be Dead

jl

John Lennon wrote the tune after hearing Peter Fonda whine about how he died and came back to life during a hallucinogen enhanced party. John didn’t care much for Peter so he credited the words to a female, but it just underscores his brilliance as a writer. Another flash of brilliance was writing I am The Walrus in response to an English class dissecting his words and searching for hidden meanings. That was John Lennon, genius and member of a historic and cultural phenomenon rock and roll band that blew into our lives in a vortex of world changing thoughts. Imagine!

The Fab Four, the boys of Liverpool, The Beatles. In retrospect I use the Beatle as a barometer of the status of my coming of age. They shook the very foundation of our country in one performance. That performance was on another cultural institution, The Ed Sullivan Show. Back in ‘64 we had only one TV for all of us to share and after family deliberated in the traditional family democratic fashion we all watched what Dad told us to. That was my introduction to a one sided democracy, but I was too little to engage in politics at that time. No matter, it was cool, the times were different then and that’s how most families viewed this high tech medium we called the idiot box with bits glowing tubes hidden behind the screen. The family gathered and watched one of three available channels, and The Ed Sullivan Show dominated Sunday evening prime time in most homes. I was excited because there was some new band from England on the show that night and they had girls screaming their names. I have four older brothers so my introduction to rock and roll was their 45 record collections of acts like The Everly Brothers, The Four Seasons, and a slew of others including Elvis the Pelvis Presley. I sat on the floor transfixed as The Beatles played a few way cool tunes! Mesmerized! When they finished I had an epiphany. I now had my own music to listen to, not my brothers or anything else. I called my good friend Ray to make sure he saw them, because our world was about to change and I knew it. The Beatles. The next day I decided I was gonna take the greasy kid stuff out of my hair and try and sneak some mop top looking bangs past my Mom.

Growing my hair proved to be much more difficult than I believed it would, but I kept at it. For years! Through tears, arguments, fights, and a few times being physically dragged up to Frankie The barber for a nice crew cut I did everything within my limited power to have a Beatle haircut. Eventually I prevailed but it left some lasting bad feelings with my folks. All from that one night of Ed Sullivan which changed my life. I rocked out to the hard driving love song of the boys and other acts like them for the next two years. In December of 65 is when Rubber Soul came out. Game changer!!! I was all of ten years old and suddenly my music world expanded immensely. Unusual instruments and sounds and their hair went from cute mop tops with bangs to a longer cut, like a girl. That’s what I wanted. I read every teen magazine article on the Beatles, bought Beatle trading cards and whatever 45’s came out, and was changing along with whatever The Beatles did. The next album was “Yesterday and Today” which is when I learned what controversy meant. The cover of the album was described by Paul as “Our comment on The Vietnam War” , sometimes referred to as “the butcher cover.“ The boy were dressed in butchers smock with meats and plastic doll parts on them. It pissed off my Mom and Dad, so I knew it was important and I embraced the Beatles even more. Now at age eleven, I was learning about politics while listening to even newer sounds by my hero’s.

Toward the end of that year is when Revolver came out, and it had the song I spoke of in the title” She Said She Said” which grabbed me instantly, along with many other psychedelic sounding songs. I went out to Spencer Gifts and bought black lights, lava lamps, strobes, and Day-Glo posters. I was dressing according to what they wore, or what the “Mods” were wearing on Barnaby Street. I attempted to part my hair in the center and grow it longer. That led to out and out battles, in which I did some profound personal growing. I began fully understanding politics, and in two years I would understand what Timothy Leary meant by “Turned On”

After Yesterday and Today, it was Sergeant Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and Yellow Submarine and by 1969 I was on my way from being a “Mod” kid wearing the latest fashion, Nehru jackets, love beads, granny glasses, and balloon sleeve shirts to becoming a hippie. As the Beatles changed, so did I. John Lennon had more influence on me than anyone else in the world, including teachers and family, and I had never even met him. But I listened to every interview, read every story, and followed all the escapades involving The Beatles in general, and John in particular. My devotion to peace, my devotion to equality, and my coming to understand hypocrisy was all due to following John Lennon’s philosophies.

I remember when Kennedy was shot but didn’t fully understand the implications. But I got that it was a profound moment in all our lives. I was much more aware when King, and Robert Kennedy were shot, fully aware of the implications. I followed the happenings of the Chicago Eight, or Seven if you forget Bobby Seale, became involved in protests, sit ins, attended peace rallies and was far more in tune to life than ever before all due to growing emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and politically along with The Beatles. I was fortunate to grow up in that era an I took full advantage of what they offered, way beyond merely their music.

I wasn’t prepared for what happened December 8th, 1980. Now another cog in the working class with a family. I was painting my kids playroom and listening to the radio when the music was interrupted to tell us that John Lennon had been shot an killed. It was a deeply felt emotional punch to the solar plexus. I put the paint brush down, sat on the step ladder and wept. The collective shock and sorrow felt by fans was like Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes. They call me on an on…..Across the Universe.

That’s why I mourn John Lennon as a family member, because without even knowing who I was he helped shape me into what I became. Rock In Peace Mr. Lennon, and thank you for sharing so much of your soul with a world that needed you. Peace..
IMAGINE .

To Sir, With love

JJ

I Know What Its Like To Be Dead

A lyric from one of my fave Fab four tunes penned by John Lennon. The Fab Four, the boys of Liverpool, The Beatles. In retrospect I use the Beatle as a barometer of the status of my coming of age. When they took the US by storm I watched them on The Ed Sullivan Show. Back then we had only one TV and after the family deliberated we watched whatever we decided my Mom an Dad had chosen to watch. It was my introduction to a one sided democracy, but I was too little to engage in politics at that time. No matter, it was cool, the times were different then and that’s how most families viewed this high tech medium we called the idiot box. The family gathered and watched one of three channels, and The Ed Sullivan Show dominated Sunday evening prime time in most homes. I was excited because there was some new band from England on the show that night and they had girls screaming their names. I have four older brothers so my introduction to rock and roll was their 45 record collections of acts like The Everly Brothers, The Four Seasons, and a slew of others including Elvis the Pelvis Presley. I sat on the floor transfixed as The Beatles played a few way cool tunes! Mesmerized! When they finished I knew I had my own music now, The Beatles. The next day I decided I was gonna take the greasy kid stuff out of my hair and try and sneak some bangs past Mom.
Growing my hair proved to be much more difficult than I believed it would, but I kept at it. For years! Through tears, arguments, fights, and a few times being physically dragged up to Frankie The barber for a nice crew cut I did everything within my limited power to have a Beatle haircut. Eventually I prevailed, but that one night of Ed Sullivan changed my life. I rocked out to the hard driving love song of the boys and other acts like them for the next two years. In December of 65 is when Rubber Soul came out. Game changer!!! I was all of ten years old and suddenly my music world expanded immensely. Unusual instruments and sounds and their hair went from cute mop tops with bangs to a longer cut, like a girl. That’s what I wanted. I read every teen magazine article on the Beatles, bought whatever 45’s came out, and was changing along with whatever The Beatles did. The next album was “Yesterday and Today” which is when I learned what controversy meant. The cover of the album was described by Paul as “Our comment on The Vietnam War” , sometimes refered to as “the butcher cover.“ The boy were dressed in butchers smock with meats and plastic oll parts on them. It pissed off my Mom and Dad, sso I knew it was important and I embraced the Beatles even more. Now at age eleven, I was learning about politics while listening to even newer sounds by my hero’s.
Toward the end of that year is when Revolver came out, and it had the song I spoke of in the beginning,. “She Said She Said” which grabbed me instantly, along with many other psychedelic sounding songs. I went out to Spencer Gifts and bought black lights, lava lamps, strobes, and Day-Glo posters. I was dressing according to what they wore, or what the “Mods” were wearing on Barnaby Street. I attempted to part my hair in the center and grow it longer. That led to out and out battles, in which I did some profound personal growing. I began fully understanding politics, and in two years I would understand what Timothy Leary meant by “Turned On”
After Yesterday and Today, it was Sergeant Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and Yellow Submarine and by 1969 I was on my way from being a “Mod” kid wearing the latest fashion, Nehru jackets, love beads, granny glasses, and balloon sleeve shirts to becoming a hippie. As the Beatles changed, so did I. John Lennon had more influence on me than anyone else in the world, including teachers and family, and I had never even met him. But I listened to every interview, read every story, and followed all the escapades involving The Beatles in general, and John in particular. My devotion to peace, my devotion to equality, and my coming to understand hypocrisy was all due to following John Lennon’s philosophies.
I remember when Kennedy was shot but didn’t fully understand the implications.But I got that it was a profound moment in all our lives. I was much more aware when King, and Robert Kennedy were shot, fully aware of the implications. I followed the happenings of the Chicago Eight, or Seven if you forget Bobby Seale, became involved in protests, sit ins, attended peace rallies and was far more in tune to life than ever before all due to growing emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and politically along with The Beatles. I was fortunate to grow up in that era an I took full advantage of what they offered, way beyond merely their music.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened December 8th, 1980. Now another cog in the working class with a family. I was paining my kids playroom and listening to the radio when the music was interrupted to tell us that John Lennon had been shot an killed. It was a deeply felt emotional punch to the solar plexus. I put the paint brush down, sat on the step ladder and wept. The collective shock and sorrow felt by fans was like Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes. They call me on an on…..Across the Universe.
A friend who taught me right from wrong, and weak from strong that a lot to learn. What can I give you in return? To Sir, with love…Peace
IMAGINE .