Daniel Vollaro: “Riot of the Fiftysomethings”

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Riot of the Fiftysomethings

By Daniel Vollaro

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When I watched the news footage of the Capitol insurrection in January, my first thought was “there are a lot of people around my age out there.”

I am 56 years old, born two weeks before the Baby Boom officially ended and Gen X began, right on the cusp of a new generation but unable to claim membership in either. Maybe because of this generational liminality, I could not help noticing that many of the insurrectionists who broke into the U.S. Capitol, stole stuff, took selfies, chased down and beat cops, built a noose outside, and trashed the place were white men “of a certain age,” in their late forties, fifties, and early sixties. Someday, researchers will pin down the demographics of that riotous mob, but for now, I will trust my powers of observation when I say that it was not a young crowd.

What were they doing out there, so many lost souls from my age cohort?

Full disclosure: I have never identified with Trumpism—not even a little, not even in jest. He sounded like a fascist when he descended those escalator steps in 2015 and he went out like a fascist five years later by summoning his brownshirts to sack the U.S. Capitol. I have always believed he was a con man and a person of low character, and I have never understood his appeal—the meanness, the trolling, the compulsive lying. I want to believe that my opinion of the man is shared by others who possess a rational perspective on the world, yet I have watched smart, well-educated people around my age tumble down the MAGA, QAnon, and “Plandemic” rabbit holes, descending into unfathomable depths of irrationality.

Like so many other Americans, I wonder how the insurrection could have happened. Some of the causes are obvious. The insurrectionists had been lied to and manipulated by powerful people in government, including President Trump. And there were the militias and hate groups and keyboard warriors who whipped up the crowd, in some cases organizing small groups to break into the building itself. Racism was another ingredient in the toxic mixture that day. Some white people, when the chips are down, fall backwards into believing that being white is a zero sum game, with winners and losers. Trump is a master manipulator of their sense of racial grievance.

But there is more to it. The anger, frustration, and alienation evidenced in that crowd is shared by many late middle-aged Americans who would never have gone near that demonstration. Despite the MAGA hats and the politically charged context, the Capitol riot felt to me more like the symptom of a spiritual crisis than a political one. And if a “spiritual” crisis sounds too fuzzy and granola for you, think of it instead as a crisis of meaning. A crisis of meaning revolves around existential questions: Where do I fit into this world order? Economy? Society? Culture? What is my life worth? My children’s lives? Like I said, I despise Trump and Trumpism, but I feel like I have lived inside of that kind of spiritual crisis for most of my life. Continue reading “Daniel Vollaro: “Riot of the Fiftysomethings””

Cody Sexton “Diary in Reverse: Boys Will Be Boys”

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Diary in Reverse: Boys Will Be Boys

By Cody Sexton



“Are you going to cry?”

“No.”

“You know you are.”

 

The boy sat in silence not knowing what to say or do in response to this comment. He had fantasized about hitting the boy, several times, or any of the other children who made fun of him, but he knew he wouldn’t do it. Not really.

Another runner was batted home and took his place on the bench among his peers, being sure not to sit too close to the boy — the “pussy” — wearing the off-brand cleats.

He felt alone. He was alone. But it was the kind of alone where nothing anyone could have done would have changed anything, would have made a difference. He was just different, and how do you change that?

That boy was me. And this was the summer I, for whatever impulsive reason, decided it would be “fun” to play on our local little league team.

I’m still not sure why I decided to play. At the time the school I attended didn’t even have a little league team so I had to go to the next school over to sign up. I guess it just seemed like a good idea at the time, it’s what my “friends” were doing. I wanted to quit practically as soon as I started. 

“You start something you finish it.” My father told me.

I’m guessing he thought that it would help build or reinforce strong character traits? He couldn’t have been more wrong however. The experience taught me precisely nothing, except maybe how to hate someone properly.

Even the coaches seemed to not like me. I obviously wasn’t like any of the other boys, introverted, perhaps even a little shy, so they never understood know how to interact with me. Either because they didn’t know or simply didn’t care to know. With the other boys it was easy, with me it was hard. So they ignored me as much as they possibly could, silently wishing I’m sure, that I would quite the team.

Once during a particularly bad game for the opposing team, the pitcher had managed to walk the first two batters at plate, I was one of them, and as the next batter stepped up to the plate he caught a low one inside grounding it out to right field. That’s when I got the signal from the third base coach to run home so I took off, and crossing the home plate, managed to actually put another point on the board for our team.

However, back inside the dugout I was met with silence. My other teammates had ran the exact same play as I had, several times over throughout the season, making it across home plate either by hitting a home run themselves or were batted in as I was and whenever they did they were without fail met with applause from both the team and the teams coaches. Triumphantly greeted as hero’s with high fives and ass slaps. But there I was sitting at the end of the bench like an uninvited guest at a bridal shower. I actually began to question if I even made it home:

Did I even score?

Did I imagine the whole thing?

Had I never left the bench? 

As my doubt grew I sought to release it by asking our teams statistician if I had in fact made it across home plate, putting us ahead by another two points. She pulled herself away from the game long enough to say:

“Yeah”

And then promptly returned to cheering for her son. (Who, surprise, surprise, was also our teams pitcher). She never even turned her head to look at me.

So much for team building.

So much for camaraderie.

I got the hint and found my spot on the bench again. I had expected as much from my teammates, but at that age was still too naive enough to expect it from the adults.

I’ve likewise been told for years to “be the better person” towards people who’ve treated me like this, like shit, most of them have been relatives. I get told this because they of course know the other person won’t do it for me. (And why is it that we always demand introverted children to be more outgoing? Why can’t the extroverts at least meet us half way for a change?)

Still, I stuck it out and when the season was finally over I was more relieved than I’d ever been in my life. As I said I learned nothing and never meet anyone that later became a “lifelong friend” as my father had assured me would happen. One of those friends with which to share a few beers and talk about the “good ole’ days” when we played out on the same field as our fathers had before us and as our sons would after us.

You might remember the quote about how parents will usually let their children become anything they want, except themselves? I think about this a lot. And I think this is maybe why I was always so ashamed of who I was as a kid. I was never allowed to be myself. As you might imagine this can lead to ever varying amounts of resentment over time and as a result anger has been one of the only guiding sources of encouragement in my life. I could always count on anger. Anger was the only thing that made me strong enough to leave the only home I knew. I held onto it and nurtured it every night, reciting the litany of offenses over and over into the darkness of my room. I needed to leave. I needed my anger to help me leave. Anger has been the only thing of use my father has ever given to me. (And I’ll be damned if I ever let anyone take that away from me).

Nevertheless, I never again played any other team sport, having decided instead to dedicate my life to more bookish pursuits so that one day I might be able to live life as I am.

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About the Author: Cody Sexton is the managing editor for A Thin Slice of Anxiety. His work has been featured at The Indie View, Writer Shed Stories, The Diverse Perspective, Detritus, Revolution John, Due Dissidence, and As It Ought To Be Magazine where he is a regular contributor. In addition he is also a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee for his essay: The Body of Shirley Ann Sexton.

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More by Cody Sexton:

The Body of Shirley Ann Sexton

Heathen

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Image Credit: “SINGLE BRACKET SIGN: “LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD #2.” – Hamilton Field, Base Street Signs, East of Nave Drive, Novato, Marin County, CA” (Library of Congress)

 

Diana Rosen: “A life. Of sorts. Or, 18 ways to remember my love”

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A life. Of sorts. Or, 18 ways to remember my love. 

  1. My love is in the kitchen, baking popovers. The heat of the kitchen, or the intensity of his concentration, makes him sweat from head to toe. He delivers mine on a gold-rimmed plate, so proud. I break it apart, dab it in the accompanying jam and butter, offer proper oohs and ahs. He beams.
  2. My love is standing at the toilet, right shoulder to the wall, howling with laughter at the note I taped to the bottom of the seat reminding him to put it down when he is done. He doesn’t fail to forget ever again, and often giggles leaving the bathroom.
  3. My love loved and lost someone, that’s why there’s a fence of mistrust between us. I chip away. It takes so long, but he finally believes.
  4. He’s cleaned up the living room, set out candles mid-afternoon, made scones and tea for the wife of a friend who’s brought her diminished boy to spend the afternoon. My love coos and bills. The toddler giggles. The woman tries not to cry.
  5. He wants a child, but I’m no longer able. He misses his little boy with the hole in his heart that ended his life at three.
  6. My love and I play Santa and Mrs. Claus for the village holiday festival. Grown women sit on his lap, share intimate details of their lives. Children climb up, each totally astonished that he knows their names, not realizing it’s their parents’ friend Alexander underneath the red velour suit and snowy beard. Everyone wants a photo. I accommodate.
  7. My love looks like the Elephant Man, pustules of shingles up and down the left side of his face. Eventually, they go away but leave a post-herpetic pain I cannot take away. Nothing I do helps. I feel bereft.
  8. He brings me flowers. Picked by the highway. Brings me Japanese boxes, the amethyst ring, always unusual, pretty things. That they were bargains made me love them more.
  9. My love refuses to go to a girlfriend’s significant birthday. She lives way up in the hills during an era devoid of Lyft and Uber and I don’t have enough money for a cab and it’s too late to call mutual friends for a ride. She holds that against me for years. He does not apologize. This is my first view into the depression that comes and goes.
  10. My love and I tango in our gallery kitchen, belt out the soundtracks of operas, Broadway shows. He tapes me singing which was sweet, tapes me snoring, not so sweet. Shares thousands of words with me, their roots, pronunciations, he seems a veritable human dictionary. It’s not the same looking up words myself even in my mammoth Random House which sits on a stand he makes for it. We play word games in bed until one of us fallsin asleep. Usually him.
  11. His mother was beautiful and spent many hours admiring herself at her vanity table. Such a well-named piece of furniture, he says. He spent hours braiding her hair, fetching her ribbons, avoiding her temper. His father loved alcohol more than his wife or sons. His mother sent him to fetch his father from the neighborhood bar. He was five. This father, a sailor, and my love, a Marine who lied about his age, unexpectedly meet up in Japan. They drink together, of course. My love soon finds himself face to face with a Japanese soldier. No one else is around. My love bowed. Was bowed to in return. Each turned and walked away. He still thought the act was cowardice. I’m grateful his drinking stopped before we met. He quit his five-pack-a-day cigarette habit, too, then says he won’t kiss me until I stop my half-pack habit. Longest two weeks in my life.
  12. A girlfriend admits she’s never had a birthday party. We invite others, one friend brings a cake, my love makes dinner, all the women take their time hugging him goodbye.
  13. My love becomes old, age-wise, but the personality is so strong, no one believes his numerical age. The powerful energy still bristles, announces itself when he enters the room.
  14. My love reconnects with his oldest child, a daughter. They even appear on a daytime talk show on reunification. He is not who he was. I’m unsure how I feel.
  15. My love and I separate.
  16. My love recovers from a stroke but won’t let me visit. He feels diminished yet the strength of his voice, that deep radio voice, is still there, the mind is still there, his arms still work. These reminders fall on deaf ears.
  17. My love has a second stroke that puts him in a coma. His daughter comes to whisper love in his ear until there is no hearing left. I am the last to hear he died.
  18. Age fades the bad memories and leaves us with the good. He’d love today’s sunshine, hurry me up so we could go “saling” – – his dry-ground adventure visiting every garage sale in the neighborhood until the treasures surface. When I first trek through the swap meet in my new hometown, I laugh, walking countless aisles, recognizing all the many things we’d collected, then sold. As I left the arena, an ocean breeze brushed my shoulders as if to say, “Didn’t we have fun?”

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About the Author: Diana Rosen is a journalist and avid tea enthusiast, with six books on the topic, who writes poetry, essays, and flash fiction and creative nonfiction. Her work appears in RATTLE, Tiferet Journal, Mad Swirl, PIF Magazine, and Potato Soup Journal, among others. She loves exploring Los Angeles’s Griffith Park, the country’s largest public green space, which is her 4,000-acre “backyard.” To read more of her work, please visit www.authory.com/dianarosen

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More by Diana Rosen:

Dinner at Six

Hollywood Freeway

Mrs. Reagan, Who Lived Next Door

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Spring Rose” (2021)

Waiting for the Quiet

 

 

Waiting for the Quiet

By Teresa Yang

 

 

They just appeared one day, these huge black flies rubbing their legs together as if anticipating a roast beef dinner. My husband accused me of leaving the front door open for too long and allowing the invaders into the house.

These days the front door remains closed. Any opening is strictly as needed and transactional, to grab the UPS delivery. I leave the package on the table near the door, where the hostess gifts used to sit, so any residual virus can die a natural death.

That Saturday, though, the door was ajar for a full ten minutes. I was excited to see my friend Flo. I hadn’t seen her since February, since our last restaurant meal in a crowded, overpriced Santa Monica eatery where the virus was surely replicating as it was being invisibly transported on the burrata salad plate.

Flo’s visit had purpose. She was picking up some medical grade masks, ones that, to my surprise, I had offered to procure on her behalf. Flo’s mother had a heart valve replaced last year.

Mother’s lost some weight, Flo said.

Even though I no longer have a dental office, I continued to cold call my suppliers in search of masks and disinfection wipes. Once I even awoke at 5am to call a national dental supplier on the East coast.

I saved my rationed purchases like lifeboat seats, risking trips to UPS during quarantine to send protection to my children and elderly father.

When Flo’s shipment arrived, I inspected the flimsy boxes for the telltale ASTM3 label and could find none. So, from my dwindling supply, I gave Flo some authentic ASTM level 3’s.

Reclined in the front seat of Flo’s car, her mother said, “I’m going to compare these to my non-medical ones.” I was glad I had switched the masks. Flo’s mother knitted and crocheted, her eyes expert at detail work.

The flies must’ve snuck in during those ten minutes. Continue reading “Waiting for the Quiet”

AIOTB Magazine Announces our Nominees for the 2020 Best of the Net Anthology

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As It Ought to Be Magazine is proud to nominate the following poems and essays for the 2020 Best of the Net Anthology

 

Poetry

 

Rusty Barnes: The Act of Working

Caroliena Cabada: True Story

Leslie M. Rupracht: Hess Trucks and the End of the Double Standard

Anna Saunders: The Delusion of Glass

Dameion Wagner: I Have Returned Home

Brian Chander Wiora: We Might Have Existed

 

 

Nonfiction

 

Cody Sexton: The Body of Shirley Ann Sexton

Carrie Thompson: I Don’t Want Your Hug

 

 

Thanks to all of our nominees for sharing their work with As It Ought It To Be Magazine!

– Chase Dimock
Managing Editor

 

 

 

Image Credit: O.F. Baxter “Pointer Dog” (1860s) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

 

“What if Bill Mazeroski Missed First Base?” By Bruce Harris

 

What if Bill Mazeroski Missed First Base?

By Bruce Harris

 

Ralph Terry’s shoulders slumped. In leftfield, Yogi Berra turned, took a few steps back, but could do nothing but watch the ball sail over the ivy-covered wall. In his mind, a Yogi-ism. We scored 28 more runs than them and lost. It was true. Over the course of seven games, the New York Yankees outscored the Pittsburgh Pirates 55 to 27, yet lost the 1960 World Series to the Pirates. Or, had they? 

The Forbes Field faithful, 36,683 strong, stood as one cheering, clapping, screaming, watching as an unlikely hero, Bill Mazeroski circled the bases. The Pirate second baseman, known for his defense, jumped, waved his arms, and danced his way around the bases. With batting helmet in hand and a smile wider than Forbes Field’s vast centerfield, he ran smack into a celebratory mob of welcoming teammates. 

In one of the most exciting World Series ever played, the Pirates had defeated the mighty Yankees in seven games to become the champions of baseball.

Prior to his momentous blast, surpassing in importance and impact Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” four years earlier, Bill Mazeroski had hit only 11 homeruns in 1960. The seven-time All-Star would eventually be elected into baseball’s vaunted Hall of Fame primarily on the strength of his glove. Mazeroski won eight Gold Glove Awards during his 17-year big league career. The second baseman was no doubt just as surprised with the hit as the sold-out crowd and those watching and listening to the broadcast. 

While the Pirate players, rabid newspaper reporters, photographers, and assorted over-zealous fans jumped, whooping it up around number nine, the Yankees players walked slowly, heads down, toward the visiting team’s dugout. The six umpires, four around the bases and one each up the right- and left-field lines stood stoically in place, watching the dichotomy of emotions between the players wearing home white uniforms versus those in visiting gray. Continue reading ““What if Bill Mazeroski Missed First Base?” By Bruce Harris”