Monday, August 31, 2009

Lazarus Goldberg

I was getting ready to tank my "three a month" streak of pieces I had going this year, when I decided to poke back into the failed novel of yore to see if there was anything worth poaching. Sure enough, I came across the character of Lazarus Goldberg, the small town's mortician in the novel. As a reminder, the novel was a first-person recollection of a kid growing up in the 70s, mainly noting the goings-on of his older brother George, a troubled rock-and-roll kid. I figured, why not, makes for a reasonable read. And as always with late summer, I feel like I'm running on empty creatively -- happens every year. September will be better. (For the record, I titled each chapter of the novel after a line from a famous 70s rock song.)


When you were young, and your heart was an open book

Lazarus Goldberg, Jr. was the mortician's son and George's best friend. His grandfather, a gravedigger Jew in Poland, had fled his homeland in the 1930's, settled in our town, and immediately married a die-hard Irish Catholic woman, who were never too hard to find in our parts. They named their son Lazarus, and he went on to open the first and only funeral parlor in town. Like his father, Lazarus fell hard for a Catholic, this time Italian. They had a son and named him Lazarus Jr.

He was the guiltiest kid I ever knew and got as close as any of us would to George. He had the nickname Bluebeard, which came about through the cruelty of kids. Like anyone else, I had my fair share of zits. A rash here and there, moving over my teenage face like a pack of epidermal nomads, disappearing after a week or two of bad angst and Clearasil pads.

Lazarus was one of those unfortunate kids with permanent acne. Hence the nickname. Regardless of the embarrassing teenage cruelty, the name fit. He wasn't a bad looking kid, with a long, straight nose and flowing black hair. But the acne spread from one cheek bone to the other. He had other nicknames. Pizza Face. Zit Boy. Abe Lincoln. But somehow Bluebeard stuck. If some kid had been born with no legs, no one would have called him Stumpy. Lazarus had no control over his face. But I think other kids were grateful that someone else was so heartlessly damned with their minor affliction.

Lazarus couldn't give a shit, and this was his saving grace. Like George, he was once an incredibly sharp junior-high kid who fell into drugs and drinking by sixteen. He had been a model airplane freak and a Trekkie. His bedroom was a monument to Boris Karloff and World War II fighter planes. Werewolves, stukas, vampires, mustangs, Frankenstein monsters and Japanese zeroes. The planes dangled from fishing wire, and the glow-in-the-dark monsters crouched all over his dresser and window sills. At night, Lazarus' room was never pitch black -- he liked his monsters over the bed. He smelled like Tester's glue.

I thought that aspect of his life was enormously cool, but I wasn't too crazy for the Stark Trek infatuation. The rare times my snooty cousin Arthur from Schenectady visited, he and Lazarus hooked up and traded Trekkie information. Vague conversations about conventions; they spoke Klingon. Arthur ate a lot of potato salad and loved the Electric Light Orchestra because they married classical music and rock. He was a smart, bookish kid who worshipped Isaac Asimov. I thought he was a corny loser, as were all kids who got a little too far into Star Trek. Trekkies were KISS fans with brains. Instead of wanting to get laid and ride around in limos, they wanted to grill Leonard Nimoy on the controversial triffid episode.

Kids like this never seemed to care what anyone, especially other kids, thought about them. This trait served Lazarus well as his face changed colors. Lazarus would be walking down the street. He'd pass a bunch of guys hanging out, and they wouldn't say a word. A few steps away, one of them would grumble, "Argh, matey, there goes Bluebeard." Lazarus would turn to see who had said it, and all of them would look away as if no one had.

If that weren't enough, he used to take crap for being Jewish, although his family were non-practicing Catholics. It was the surname -- his grandfather, after running from the threat of Hitler, was too proud to change it. His family was wealthy by our standards, but by no means greedy or flashy. I could hear the parents talking through the kids, calling Lazarus, behind his back, another gold-digging Kike, although the kids had no exposure, positive or negative, to any kind of Jewish culture. Normally, kids who inherited their parents' anti-Jewish problems would express it with a stony, intentional silence in Lazarus' presence.

He was destined to be an outsider. George wasn't, but converts appear more zealous than true believers. George told me how he used to go over and help Lazarus build those small boats inside bottles. They would start out with a clear head, but after an hour or two of inadvertently sniffing glue, they'd both get loopy and conversational. They'd talk about girls, or the lack thereof, and how school was such a bad joke, how many of the students were even bigger assholes than the teachers. George found out that Lazarus didn't know much about rock and roll, aside from the occasional Top Forty song that no one could avoid.

So one day, George invited him up to the attic and broke out his favorite album of the time, Diamond Dogs, by David Bowie. The front half of the cover was a painting of David Bowie all done up in his glitter make-up laying out all spindly and bare chested. The back half of the cover revealed David's lower torso, which was that of a dog's. The album itself was loosely based on George Orwell's book 1984. Heady stuff for glitter rock, and it wouldn't have made it if David Bowie hadn't been so talented. It was George's favorite kind of music -- the kind that could kick your ass, yet make you think.

Once Lazarus heard the title track, he was converted, and it wasn't long before he and George were sniffing glue and lighting those plastic models on fire, recreating the Battle of Britain at the town dump. He was the perfect foil for George. Where George was sarcastic and quick with the put downs, Lazarus let people say too much then be intimidated by his silence. It was only his defense mechanism, but people thought they had to prove themselves to him. He was like his biblical counterpart, stalking the earth in total silence, while everyone stared at his haggard face and wondered what to say.

George called him Laz, for short, because it was rock and roll. The name stuck, although George was one of the few to call him this. Adults called him Lazarus, and other kids called him Bluebeard. Some nicknames were too dead-on. He never was openly offended. In fact, he used to go to Halloween parties as Bluebeard, throwing on an eye patch and gluing a stuffed parrot on the shoulder of his Jimi Hendrix brocade jacket. Without a doubt, he was the smartest kid I knew, in or out of the classroom. Where George would be out in a corn field all night doing mushrooms then flunking a test the next day, Laz would get as high, take the same test, and get an A. Had they been in a band, George would have been the lead singer, and Laz would have been the rhythm guitarist who wrote all the songs.

Whenever Laz found himself in front of a mirror, a place he tried to avoid, he'd pause, take an appraising glance at his reflected image, and murmur, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, what did I ever do to you?"

Most of George's other friends weren't as smart as he was, so he and Laz had an unspoken bond of intelligence. They often debated the true meaning of rock and roll in the attic.

"Rock and roll is art," George would state with a flourish of his hand. Laz would snicker, as would I, and George would throw a Creem magazine at my head.

"George, man," Laz would drawl in his slow voice of reason, "rock and roll is entertainment. Damn good entertainment. Beats the shit out of Larry Ferrari and his magic organ."

Larry Ferrari was a Philadelphia performer who had a television show broadcasting on the ABC affiliate we picked up on cable. He looked like a used-car salesman with slicked-back hair and played Lawrence Welk shit on a Wurlitzer while little girls in tutu’s and senior citizens tapped dance all around him. We once saw him playing at Hershey Park and ran in the other direction.

"Don't put it in a museum, man. It's not a painting. Yeah. It is a way of life. Of looking at the world. But one day, we'll both abandon it."

"Never," George hissed. He was listening to one of those never-ending Yes songs about hobbits and rainbows.

"Never's a long time, man. Don't you think it'd be kind of pathetic if we were listening to the same shit twenty years on?"

Laz was a visionary, but George either didn't believe in his vision or was too afraid to acknowledge it. He predicted the turgid, repetitive quality of AOR radio back when it was still relatively fresh and innovative. That's an easy call to make today, but back then, it was near sacrilege. He loved the music as much as George, but maybe having a mortician for a father made him believe in endings.

He swore he'd never be a mortician, the worst, most morbid job in the world. They lived in the top two floors of a three-story, the bottom floor being the actual funeral parlor, with "the room" in the cellar. "The room" was where Laz's father prepared the corpses for viewing. All kids were forbidden to go anywhere near "the room." From what Laz said, it was more frightening on a sunny day than any graveyard on a foggy night. It was real death. And his father's job was to make real death look somewhat human for the final goodbye.

"What's it like to die, man?" George asked Laz one day as we sat by the apple tree before sun down. Like any other kid, George was fascinated by death, talking about suicide a lot, but never really doing anything about it. He was bright enough to know that everyone got depressed to a certain point. And it passed.

"As if I'm the expert," Laz said. Talking about death didn't make him uptight, but since it was his father's business, it must have seemed old hat. His family lived death.

"No, man. But you told me your dad makes you help out."

I pictured Laz, dressed in a gray hospital gown with a matching face mask, squirming in that cold, fluorescent tomb as his father went over the fine points of applying lipstick to an old woman's cold, dead lips. It struck me that our father did the same with George and me on Saturday mornings by making us help him fix his car. Laz thought for a while before he answered.

"I don't know what death is like. But I can tell you this much, man. Whoever you are is gone. There's a big piece of meat that was your body. I believe in heaven and hell."

People tended to keep quiet when Laz spoke. There were three or four other kids hanging out with us, and they all stopped their conversation to hear his answer.

"What's it like to look in a dead man's eyes?" George continued.

"Like looking at a beat-up, old teddy bear with coat button eyes."

Lazarus smirked, then started laughing at his answer. George laughed along nervously, as did all the other kids.

"You don't feel anything when you look at a dead body, George. I'm sure you can relate to that."

George started howling in laughter. He loved to have Laz put him down, especially in ways other people thought was harsh. It was as if Laz understood his dark side and wasn't afraid to take shots at it. All the other kids thought George was too cynical and intense. Laz had some view of the complete picture, and he didn't feel at all threatened. My parents probably understood him best, in that unspoken, natural way, but they didn't understand rock and roll, which was so much of George's secret heart.

Laz's father was a little strange, but he liked George a lot. He often invited George over for dinner. The man would slip rubber ears and noses from "the room" into a mound of mashed potatoes. Being fascinated with death, George would ask him about his profession, and then spill the gory details to the whole neighborhood during ghost story nights in the summer. Strange, ugly stories of exploding corpses and dead bodies that sat straight up in the coffin and screamed. Laz's father gave George his favorite teenage put-down. Whenever one his friends got too rowdy in public, George would moan, "Man, you're about as subtle as a farting corpse."

For Laz, the worst part of the whole death routine was the idea of make-up. Every corpse put on display at a wake needed that final makeover. Some even needed a shave and a manicure. Laz told us he thought death was the Grim Reaper in a pillbox hat. He rang the door bell with scythe in hand, and exclaimed, "Avon calling!" Once inside, over tea and crumpets, he would do an informal skin-tone test with colored scarves then tear the soul from the lady of the house.

That kind of humor was necessary for a 16-year-old kid to routinely apply rouge to dead faces. Laz and George were so much alike, using gallows humor, rock and roll and cheap drugs to hide from their fathers' hopes. The major difference was when some rock star like Alice Cooper sung a stupid, catchy song like "I Love the Dead," Laz would see right through it. George would believe in it, if not for the meaning, then for the intention.

Naturally, everyone thought George and Laz were lovers. That only seemed to happen with off-center, long-hair, non-athletic guys who spent most of their time alone, like George and Laz. They told jokes that only each other got. So, once again, kids being kids, they had to think of something nasty to cover their own insecurities. Laz seemed to understand that so many kids were narrow-minded assholes, their only saving grace being their youth, which would go one day soon, but it bothered George. He wasn't big or strong enough to run around beating people up. So he got a reputation for getting higher than anyone, and damn near everyone his age seemed to be stoned all the time. Getting high was his sport. The more you could abuse yourself, the closer you could fly to the sun and come back, the stronger your soul was. If that were really the case, George had the soul of a warrior, and most of his friends would gladly die with him in battle.

Laz and George remained friends through those years, but drugs definitely put a distance between them. Laz was a gentle soul who liked pot, mushrooms, and, on a good, peaceful night, maybe some acid, if people with the right head were around. George was a gentle soul with a fighter's heart. So he'd try almost anything -- if heroin had been available, he would have tried it. Luckily, that was far outside our small-town price range and life style. Cocaine wasn't popular yet. Speed, acid, crank, downers. Cheap drugs. It didn't matter. The most amazing thing was people never knew when he was stoned. I did -- he was so much nicer with a head full of acid. But he could snort a few lines of crank, then sit and talk with our mother about her Irish roots for the next two hours, and she'd be flattered that George seemed to care so much about our heritage. This was a kid who found his place in life with the advent of remote control television.

Despite the camaraderie, Laz was such a ghost of a kid. When he was high, he pulled within himself and wouldn't say a word. George said it was like getting stoned with Marcel Marceau. This made him more dangerous, though. Laz was the one who, late at night, would run into a field full of bulls and play matador with a beer-soaked blanket. George once mused that if life were a deck of cards, he'd be King, and Laz would be The Joker, the wild card that could mean nothing or everything.

"No, man, no," Laz slowly laughed, "you got me all wrong. I don't mean that much, but I mean something. If I were a card, I'd be a One-Eyed Jack of Hearts. And, you know, man, in the land of the blind, the One-Eyed Jack is King."

"I thought Knowledge is king," George would goof on him. That was the opening line from a game show called Joker's Wild we watched every night after dinner. A silly game show that none of us would remember if television hadn't pounded it into our heads every night.

"And Lady Luck is queen," Laz would finish the opening line. They'd both crack each other up while all their stoner friends, once again, wouldn't get the joke. Even I got their jokes, four years behind them. It frightened me how either dumb and/or humorless the rest of their friends were.

"That's TV, man," Laz would grumble in his stately baritone, "this is the land of the blind."


In the tunnels uptown, the rat's own dream guns him down

Is it sad that so many of us turn out to be what we never wanted to be? I don't mean abandoning the childhood dreams of being a fireman or football hero. I mean hearing a song on a radio when you're fourteen and being so struck that you go out and buy a guitar. Or cutting up in front of your friends and realizing that you have them in tears. How many of us actually turn into rock stars or comedians? Even professional musicians or small-town impresarios? Not many. Sooner or later, it turns into another forgotten dream, more faded than crab grass on a softball field.

Of all the people I know from that time, Lazarus Goldberg Jr. is the one who walked farthest down irony's horseshoe drive way. Until we buried my father, I hadn't realized that he had come home to take over his father's business. He did it quietly, moving back home from New York City, where he had been working as a coroner's assistant. The biggest shock was that his face had healed. Just as Robert Redford managed to be considered sexy even with his acne scars, Lazarus had grown into a darkly handsome man. His black hair was as long as it had been, and the time spent examining death in the city had added an even harder intensity to his deep-set eyes. With age lines and furrows, his face had grown perfect for funerals.

Unfortunately, his wife looked like Tom Petty. It made no sense, other than it kept his string alive of being involved with women who looked like homely male rock stars.

A few days after the funeral, we went out for drinks. Even going casual, he wore a black suit with a skinny black tie. The only sign that he was kicking back was a black pork-pie hat tipped slightly upwards on his head. If Frank Sinatra had been in a heavy metal band, he'd have looked like Lazarus.

"George didn't have much to say," Lazarus said after we ordered beers at the near empty factory bar. It was about an hour after the post-work rush and a few hours before the hard-drinking kids came out.

"You noticed," I said. We had spent a lot of time together planning the funeral. He had given me 50% off the coffin for old time's sake. The man was good at his work, offering quiet comfort, not trying too hard. He had grace and style in a difficult situation. The only thing was, it never seemed to turn off. It was as if every waking hour was a funeral for him, in terms of his serious demeanor. He had dinner with George and my mother a few days after the funeral to pay his respects as a friend.

"Yeah, I didn't even recognize him. I didn't even know it was him, until I saw him standing next to your mother. Man, I'm glad I still have my hair."

"I thought you guys were best friends," I said. I've found that it never hurts to be obvious with memories. People never forget, but they have to be coaxed out sometimes. Lazarus smirked.

"I don't think George ever believed in the idea of 'best friends.' He had strong acquaintances, and I was probably one of the strongest. Sally Sullivan may have been a little closer because she was a girl at the right time. But I knew him better."

Lazarus ran his long, veined fingers over his scarred face. Even his hands looked like they were made to hold a shovel. I noticed that when the bartender took our order, she hung on every word Lazarus said and kept staring at his eyes after he spoke.

Lazarus related how he had found my mother to be basically the same person with gray hairs and wrinkles. He had found me to be much the same, too, only a little more responsible. But he said that he felt no connection at all to George. Not even a glance of recognition. Neither of them laughed or shared any memories.

"It made me feel strange," Lazarus continued, "like the life I lived back then never happened. Like I dreamed being a kid, loving rock and roll and getting high. So much of all that is tied in with George. I don't listen to those old songs or get high anymore. It doesn't make me sad, but, man, it makes me wonder. Do you guys stay in touch?"

"Not really. I'll call him once or twice a year, but we don't have much to say. I was going to ask you that, but I guess you already answered."

Lazarus shook his head.

"In my line of work, you come across a lot of strange situations. People dying for stupid reasons. The survivors doing all sorts of things, some beautiful, others ugly. But trying to talk to George the other day -- I'm not Mr. Personality, either. But I didn't get any feel for the man at all. That's my job, and I guess George is still faking people out. He got me."

"You think he's still pulling an act?" I asked.

He shook his head again, laughing for the first time.

"The more I think of it, the more I remember how much George loved Bowie. It wasn't just the music. Each album was different. George always hit on that. You'd have a Ziggy Stardust, and then a Young Americans, and then a Heroes. Each album sounded like someone different made it. I thought it was the music he was into. But I think George liked that idea. Who knows who David Bowie really is? David Bowie probably doesn't even know."

"So, if you're like me, you feel out of touch because he won't be doing any Ziggy Stardust songs in concert."

Lazarus laughed as we made our way through our beers.

"That would be lame, man. None of us want to be Ziggy Stardust any more. Maybe he’s left us behind. But it wouldn't hurt to see the line of reason leading to the way he is now. I'll tell you, man, it was unnerving."

"Sometimes when I think of George," I said, "I remember those lectures adults would give us back then. One especially. Remember how when you'd make a funny face and an adult would catch you, he or she'd say, 'Be careful, smartey pants. If you hold that face, it might stay that way.'"

Lazarus grimaced and laughed.

"Well, for one thing, now that we're around their age, don't you ask yourself what kind of brainless lunatic would say such shit to a kid?"

"Yeah," Lazarus said, "my Dad did the same thing with farting. Warning me that one day I’d crack a rat for kicks and shit my pants. He was right, too."

"Thanks for sharing. Sometimes, I think maybe George did the psychological equivalent of holding a funny face. I guess we all do when we grow up. Only the funny face is very sober and serious, and it isn't really who we are, but we wear it to get by. I think George made one of those faces in his head, and now it's who he is."

"Serves him right, that naughty boy," Lazarus whined, mimicking the nasal squawk of a school marm.

"What you said about faces," Lazarus went on, "it reminds me of how I feel when I have to look at a dead body."

I blushed, and Lazarus noticed.

"Please, don't get upset. I'm only going to tell you something about my job. Nothing terrible. It's the faces. They say that when you die, all that's left is only a body. But you can tell a lot by that final face. Some people's eyes look like they're watching clouds on a summer day. Others like they're staring into a black pit. Some faces are pure peace, and others are fear. That face is the one your parents warned you about. I never knew most of the people I lay to rest. So I can't say a thing about their character. But I tell you, I honestly believe the essence of a person's life can be seen in that last look. It happens every time. I get ashamed, like I'm seeing something too personal, more personal than any nudity. I have to turn away and wipe tears from my eyes, even if it's a total stranger."

I wondered about my father's final face, but I didn't ask Laz what he had seen. It comforted me that we could talk so openly after all that time. I reminded him how he swore he'd never be a mortician.

"Yeah," he grunted, as if I had shown him an embarrassing picture of himself.

"Look at us. The only thing weirder than you being a drug counselor would be if George was. The world's a strange, ugly place, man. Not friendly. Not the world we grew up in. And we thought that world sucked."

"I don't really miss those days," I said.

"Me neither. But you got to admit they were easier. Maybe because we were young. I find myself doing shit my father did. Laughing a certain way. Having a favorite chair that no one else can sit in. Thinking about kids like they're all maniacs and scumbags. Bizarre shit I can't seem to control. I don't particularly like being a mortician. Too bad it can't be like the old days when George and me would get high and run away from this shit."

Our drinking didn't lead to regrets as much as easy memories. The old days weren't all that great, but no better or worse than today. Drinking with Lazarus made me feel like Major Tom, floating in my tin can far above the moon. The planet earth was blue, and there was nothing we could do.

"Sooner or later, you got to stop running," Lazarus said with a sad smile. I half expected him to wink and hand me his business card.

I remembered how he had avoided mirrors as a teenager, as if he were a vampire trying to conceal his identity. Bluebeard, hiding from his terrible face. The taunts from other kids were one thing, but the mirror was too honest. Now, the mirror had become his friend.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Paying Dues at the Legion

My parents made a point of never keeping alcohol in the house, a habit I vaguely follow, too. I have a six-pack of Old Speckled Hen sitting around the past few months, only drank one, a few cans of Guinness and a few bottles of Bass – those have been sitting in there at least a year or two. I keep alcohol in the house … but rarely drink it. It’s one of those “thrill of purchase” things to buy a six-pack every now and then.

I’ve never seen Mom drunk. In the 70s she used to have a beer every evening, per doctor’s orders that she drink moderately to help moderate her blood pressure. Of course, we had redneck doctors, otherwise she would have been instructed to drink red wine for heart benefits, too. Mom has seen me drunk a few times, stumbling home from bars in that early 20s “still living at home” phase. Not uproariously drunk either: we’re talking quietly taking off my shoes later at night and tip-toeing to my bedroom, generally after reeling off a minutes-long piss in the upstairs bathroom. And, lest we forget that first drunk, as documented years back in – if you got a better first-drunk story, I’d love to read it.

I also recall once puking on the lawn at 2:00 in the morning, crawling a few feet away and falling asleep, waking up with our neighbor Frank staring and then waving at me at about 6:15 in the morning. (This was also during the regrettable bib-overall phase ... so I was wearing those and black converse high-tops ... i.e., I looked like a dick.) That’s what’s wrong with alcohol – you think you’re doing normal things – ah, just puked, it’s late at night, I’m tired, let me crawl to this patch of grass over here, ah, blades of grass so cool against my fevered brow, and nod off. But the reality is you’re passed out on a lawn next to a puddle of vomit. It aint right.

After awhile, alcohol stops doing you favors, literally and figuratively. Literally, you get past a few beers, you just end up abusing yourself, wasting hours in a strange state you vaguely or can’t remember, probably being sick the next day or at least feeling out of sorts. Worst-case scenarios, you get DUI’ed, or get in an accident while DUI, possibly causing damage to yourself or others. Figuratively, I can see in the long run, hard drinking does you no favors and only brings you harm.

I’ve never seen Mom drunk, but every now and then, I would see Dad drunk: paying dues at the Legion. That’s shorthand for Dad going out once a month and paying membership dues at an American Legion hall, I think in Mt. Carmel, PA, although I wasn't sure where he went. This was the 1970s, so he must have been a few years older than I am now, going through his 40s, since he turned 50 in 1978. As anyone in rural America knows, the American Legion in any given town is either a meeting hall with a bar, or an actual bar, often with an sign out front. In the 70s, it was a place for older World War II and Korean War vets to gather and have drinks together, often not having much contact with each other outside the Legion.

Does this still happen? I’m not sure what the differences are between the American Legion, AMVETS and VFWs, but all seemed to be roughly the same kind of places for vets to gather. You didn’t see Vietnam Vets doing that in the 70s – those guys were still in their 20s and had a real bad taste in their mouths over their war experiences, thus it might not have occurred to them to hang out at places like this filled with older guys with similarly harsh stories. I could surely see Vietnam Vets hanging out at an American Legion now, and I’m sure they do. But Iraq War vets? I wouldn’t know if Dad went to the American Legion in his 20s or 30s (he was mid-30s when I was born) – it’s possible he didn’t start going until later in life.

Seeing Dad drunk was like seeing me drunk – it didn’t fit the traditional experience of some stumbling idiot making more noise than a cupboard of dishes collapsing. No sob stories of the old man beating me with wire hangers, or getting Mom in headlocks. That shit never happened in our house, thankfully. (Sorry if it’s happened in yours.) I gather Dad liked to go out drinking in his 20s the same way I did, or millions of other people do. All I know is he only when out drinking once a month when I was a kid, and that was such an odd ritual that it hardly represented a whiskey-soaked free-for-all.

Dad always got dressed up to go to the Legion. His taste in clothes was legendary in its uniformity. When he was relaxing, he’d wear a collared, short-sleeved shirt, but it was rarely clean, always some sort of odd spot on it somewhere. (In later years, he’d just wear pocket t-shirts all the time, like we did as kids, when he’d chide us for dressing like slobs.) When working on the fleet of family AMC junkers he purposely bought to give himself a hobby, he’d wear his gray sweatshirt with sleeves and collars cut out, years before this became a trend with the movie Flashdance. The sweatshirt was cruddy with grease and oil stains – this was his usual weekend wear. For pants, he always wore a pair of dark gray corduroys, literally until they fell apart, and he’d buy another pair. He was inordinately fond of the Haband slacks store in the local mall. He never wore shorts.

I can see that I’ve picked up his fashion sense as I’ve grown older. I’m a uniformity person, too – white sleeveless t-shirt and khaki shorts, white socks, black sneakers. I wear this all summer long when not at work – in my mind, it’s too hot to wear anything more. I’ve taken the ribbings over a grown man wearing shorts, but that’s generally from guys with chicken legs. I look fine in a pair of shorts. And I’m used to wearing them from years of working out in gyms. This bothers me sometimes, as I think I should be walking around in fedora, dress shirt, slacks and expensive shoes … but it just doesn’t suit my lifestyle. Be glad I’m not walking around in loud Nascar or Ed Hardy shirts and sideways baseball hats, with attendant phony bad-ass tattoos and face jewelry. Still, I can’t help but feel haunted by that specter of adulthood I sensed growing up, even working-class guys dressed well in their leisure time.

Dad would put on a white dress shirt for the Legion, never a tie, but a dark blazer of some sort, dress pants, black socks and leather shoes – I should point out he normally wore black slip-on canvas loafers, the really cheap kind you’d find in supermarkets for $2.00 a pair. Basically black canvas sewed onto a small slab of tan rubber. I would buy these on a lark in my early 20s to mimic Dad and wear them occasionally, but I haven’t seen this type of shoes in years. (These got to be trendy in the 80s, especially when the black-and-white checkered version started appearing movies and videos.)

It was always a “what’s wrong with this picture” vibe to see Dad dressed-up like that. I got the same vibe when I saw Brother J dressed in a coat and tie for Dad’s funeral, as he normally dresses for working in a warehouse. You can see when a guy is uncomfortable in more fashionable clothes, and such was the case. Dad claimed to be more fashionable when he was younger, and he probably was, simply by dint of the times, coming of age in the 40s and 50s. It was always a major freak-out for us as kids to dig up old military uniforms in the attic and realize that Dad had a 26-inch waist … just unbelievable. I think the last time I had a waist that size was the 5th grade, and this was having a 32-34 inch waist well through my 20s. He must have grown quite a bit after leaving the army, because I later wore some of his old blazers while at college.

But we’d all be sitting around, watching Sanford & Son, or what have you, and Dad would come down the staircase like he was headed to the prom. Mom would blurt out something sarcastic like, “Oh, look, here comes prince charming,” and they’d laugh. She knew he was off to the Legion to pay his dues, because the only other reason he got dressed up was for church or funerals. I’m sure it would have been nice for him to take her out like that every now and then, but it rarely happened. They went out driving almost nightly anyway – just seemed to be more their style to hit a McDonalds, grab a Coke, then keep driving. They’d later add a mutt named Maggie that Mom picked up from the local pound to their nightly drives. (Wiped out Dad emotionally when that forsaken dog passed on quietly in her sleep one night.)

I don’t know what Dad did while at the Legion, save for have a few beers. I’m sure it was guys in the same boat, WW II and Korean War vets, working in factories, getting dressed up for one night a month to hang out and talk about their days in the armed forces. I’d have loved to hear this stuff, because Dad never discussed his war experiences at home. He’d drop bits here and there – his favorite story being the time he fell asleep on a bus in the midwest while trying to get back to the base, woke up with his head resting on a large black woman’s bosom, and they both realized the driver was going around in circles through the rain in East St. Louis.

I’m hazy on the exact story, but supposedly he was injured in a boot camp training drill. A live grenade was accidentally used with a bunch of blanks. There was an explosion, and the guys behind Dad were killed. He would have been, too, had their bodies not blocked the impact of explosion. But he took shrapnel in his lower back and legs, laying him up for a few months. In those few months, his platoon was shipped off to Europe, ending up in The Battle of the Bulge, where you were just as likely to freeze to death in a foxhole as get shot. When he came back, the war was over, so he spent a few months traveling around immediate post-war Germany, which was still a dangerous place, and took in a few days at the Nuremberg Trials, when Rudolph Hesse was on the stand. He then spent a decade afterwards traveling all over America doing mechanical work at various air fields – that much I know for sure as I’ve seen the Honorable Discharge papers, which dropped him back in Pennsylvania in the mid 1950s. His rank was some level of Sergeant, might have been Staff.

I would guess that most of the vets gathered in American Legion halls were like him – sergeants, corporals, privates – the guys who did the grunt work. I’d be curious to know how many officers would be found at the Legion bar – just seemed like one of those things the rank-and-file would indulge in far more. There would be Big Band music on the jukebox or radio. And the guys would talk, about the insanity of the service, work, families, etc. I didn’t know until I actually worked in Dad’s factory that he was fairly gregarious and got along well with people – he was quiet around the house. But knowing how he was at work, I could easily picture him having a blast at the Legion, the relaxing pull of a few beers helping out, too. He’d leave around 7:00 at night, usually get back no later than 11:00, often earlier.

And I could tell, he was tipsy. Flush in the face, relaxed, simply holding himself differently … the way we all do when we’re a little drunk. He’d walk in, take his usual place on the sofa, and quietly watch some TV. For all I know, he was seeing two TVs, but he never seemed that drunk. Even his voice sounded different, more conversational, which is the kind of thing you notice with someone who normally gives you orders. I can’t recall a single incident where anything more happened. I’m sure it was also in his head that he was in front of his kids, so he wasn’t going to take his pants off and climb a tree in the backyard. I’d say that must be an awkward situation, to be drunk in front of your kids, but judging by some people, it’s a fairly routine thing these days, and not unusual to act like a horse’s ass in front of them.

I don’t know how much his dues were, but I’m sure the whole thing was just a ruse to get away from the family for a few hours – a practice I wholeheartedly endorse for any married guy. Once a week would be even better. As kids, we always had reasons to break off on our own and do things after school – various sports practices and such. But parents were stuck. Aside from the drives and Dad’s Legion visits, they were there most of the time at night.

It should also be noted that right around that time, Brother M, as the eldest child, was going through his wild teenage years in ways none of us afterwards would replicate. But this must have scared the shit out of our parents, to think we were ALL going to do this, turn up drunk and stoned in at two in the morning, covered in clods of dirt and weeds, with a sob story about driving into the side of a hill to avoid hitting a dog. There are probably volumes of Brother M’s teenage misadventures to be told, but I only know a few, which involve essential elements like feces and vomit. Seeing as how he may be reading along here, I’d leave those stories for him to tell to avoid any potential embarrassment.

But in a lot of ways now, I feel like Dad when I drink, simply paying dues at my own legion hall, wherever that may be. We had an after-work get-together a few weeks ago that involved drinking on a rooftop of a 40-story apartment building in Manhattan, and that's quite an experience, especially as the sun goes down and the lights come on. I imagine it gets old fast if you live in a building like that, but not for people like me who rarely have that experience. I saw a few pictures of me from this thing the following week ... and I look like a very relaxed fellow, sitting way back in my lawn chair, smile on my face, BOMBED. I was bombed that night -- the host kept punching Coronas into my hand when he saw my bottle getting low, which pushed me up around the 7-8 beer limit. (I'm more comfortable with the buzz of 3-4 over the course of a night.) At that point, it's recreational for me just to get up and throw away my empty bottle, mainly to make sure I can still walk. Maybe it's from years of living in the Bronx and making sure I had my game face on when I got on the subway train late at night, but I don't think most people can tell when I'm really drunk. Plus, I can converse like a normal human being in that state, unless I'm totally obliterated, which has happened maybe a handful of times in my life.

Most other times, I'm just meeting a friend in a bar, hanging out, getting caught up, trading music, paying for our drinks, so not drinking more than a few. There are a lot of places downtown in Manhattan that have great happy-hour specials, so that's usually how it goes, right after work, getting those $3.00 pints before they magically double or triple in price at 8:00. It only adds to that Legion effect for me, although without fail, every damn bar I go to with a friend, there's only room for one at the bar, so we have to get a booth. I'm assuming most people at the bar around that time are regulars, and I've never been a regular at any bar, just never liked to drink THAT much. Even less now, much less than even 10 years ago.

What are my dues? What did I do in the war? Nothing. Jack shit. I suspect Dad would be fine with those answers. It's a shame we never sat down and had a few beers, but it seems like the drinking trains we were on in our lives just never ran down the same tracks, as he had given up the Legion dues night completely by the time I was of drinking age. I'd surely give anything to have a beer with Dad now -- or do anything, for that matter -- but it feels like his legacy does live on, in some oddly quiet way, a grown man, coming through the door around 11:00 at night, with some donuts to get some food in his belly before he goes to bed, maybe pop a few aspirins, check some emails ... much in the same way Dad would find his way to the sofa and watch the last half of Fantasy Island, or whatever else was on. I'm not sure why I'm that careful with my alcohol, but can't help but feel it's just as much genetics as any sense of manners.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Blueball Psycho

Like most people, I was troubled by the recent mass-shooting in Pittsburgh, where George Soldini, 48, calmly walked into a Latin Dance class at an LA Fitness Centre, turned out the lights, and opened fire with a few handguns he had stashed in a gym bag, killing three women and wounding nine others before turning the gun on himself. His intentions to do so were outlined in a blog he kept over the course of a year that apparently no one read.

What’s come out since then has been Sodini’s obsession over not having sex in years, and how this made him feel freakish, and ultimately homi- and suicidal. The most disturbing is a site that had the actual contents of his blog, which isn’t a long read. (While I don't advocate granting this guy's last wish to have his sick words live in infamy, it's worth reading once.) I’d like to comb through this and isolate certain passages that really struck me. Because much like the Virginia Tech massacre from April 2007 that I wrote about, there are so many annoying stereotypes put forth that they need some clarification. In the Virginia case, it was the media. In Soldini’s case, it was as if he was writing his clich├ęd, embarrassingly over-wrought “life story” – you know, his monument to not getting laid – that would serve as explanation of all this (when it explains nothing … a similar conclusion I came to in the Virginia shooting).

“Why do this?? To young girls? Just read below.”

From the first sentence, his core issue is put forth: not just that he’s not having sex, but his burning ambition in life is to have sex with “young girls.” There’s also a creepy video of him online, ironically about controlling his emotions, and even in that brief missive, he’s fantasizing about changing how he handles his emotions to better serve a relationship with a much younger woman. Later in his demented blog, he notes the young daughter of a local religious figure and a college-aged woman exiting a neighbor’s house in creepy ways. Watching that video, all I could think was, good luck getting laid by anybody. He’s got that officious “it’s under control” manner of speaking that always makes my skin crawl when I come across it in an office -- when I hear that tone of voice outside an office, I simply think the person is crazy. Why? Because it’s unnecessary – it’s someone trying to convince me he’s in control, when I can clearly determine if someone is in control or not. This guy sounds like a teenager trying to convince the world he’s intelligent … which is not an issue of intelligence, but lack of self assurance.

“Besides, dem young white hoez dig da bruthrs! LOL. More so than they dig the white dudes! Every daddy know when he sends his little girl to college, she be bangin a bruthr real good.”

That’s part of his first entry, where he laments the election of Obama as president. A theme he commonly touches on is his belief that everyone but him is not just having sex, but the kind of wondrous, life-affirming sex you see only in movies where there’s a soundtrack and two people with perfect bodies screwing in slow motion to a great song on the soundtrack. Well, that, or a well-hung Mandingo doing his thing with a white super-model … in either event, it’s a troubled man not seeing reality. I’m willing to wager no one at work caught on that he was a racist.

“Many of the young girls here look so beautiful as to not be human, very edible. After joining this gym, started lifting weights and like it.”

He’s objectifying, again, “young girls” as unobtainable sex objects – they’re not even human. It’s important to note that, because once he makes that delineation in his mind, it’s OK for him to kill them, since they’re not human to him. Like millions of other Americans, I go to the gym routinely. Flirt with women there. Notice the incredible shape some of them are in, and try not to ogle, which is hard as they dress to show off their bodies. And it’s not good to have that sort of casual, harmless sense of enjoying eye candy tied in with the deeper issues a psycho like this had. Granted, I’ve met a lot of creeps in gyms, particularly weightlifters, but that’s an entirely different breed from psychotic killers. Still, wheels are turning in his mind, if he stays young and fit – and he looks fine in the video and pictures – he’s still somehow in the running with these mythical “young girls.” (Some of the women he shot were, like him, in their 40s. I’d bet somewhere in his mid-30s he started developing this “young girls” logic to focus on his physical attraction to women in their teens and 20s.)

“No girlfriend since 1984, last Christmas with Pam was in 1983. Who knows why. I am not ugly or too weird. No sex since July 1990 either (I was 29). No shit! Over eighteen years ago. And did it maybe only 50-75 times in my life.”

He’s keeping count. And marking the calendar. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pam was Pam Dawber of Mork and Mindy fame, and he never really had sex with anyone. As I’ve pointed out many times before, life works like this: whatever you want to be a problem, will be a problem. If you’re not getting laid, and you want this to be a problem, it will be a problem. If you don’t want it to be a problem, it won’t be a problem. You decide. This guy was obviously in some fantasy world where everyone but him was getting laid, and their lives were wonderful as a result. He needed to get laid a lot more, if only to realize all your problems are not magically solved by having routine sex. I’d like to hear comments from female coworkers and such, even the mythical Pam, to hear what they have to say about him. The guy was this deeply troubled, yet he never did anything notably awkward or strange to women? I find that hard to believe.

“Just got back from tanning, been doing this for a while. No gym today, my elbow is sore again. I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne - yet 30 million women rejected me - over an 18 or 25-year period … Thirty million is my rough guesstimate of how many desirable single women there are.”

He was a narcissist, and I’m guessing the sex he had wasn’t that good, because he wasn’t fucking himself. If I could have seen him in the gym, I’d bet he was one of those 40ish guys in very good shape, tight stretch pants and matching shirt, sticking solely to the weights, gazing at himself in the mirror after a set of reps, posing … I see this all the time in gyms, guys constantly gazing at themselves in the mirror. It’s disturbing, but not something I dwell on as I’m too busy working out myself, and don’t even want to think what that sort of blatant self absorption implies.

“30 million women” rejected him? I’m willing to bet about five did. He was keeping score again: 18-25 year period. He was 48, meaning in his mind the rejection started at the ages of 23 or 30. I think he meant to say 48-year period. He projected his sense of failure onto all women – every single woman on earth had rejected him. Strange. I knew guys in high school who were no great shakes physically, mentally or emotionally. But they had a theory that if you hit on enough women, sooner or later, you’d get lucky … and they were right. I think Neil Strauss has made a small fortune with his book The Game putting forth the same theory … and I’d be curious to know if Soldini owned a copy.

“A man needs a woman for confidence. He gets a boost on the job, career, with other men, and everywhere else when he knows inside he has someone to spend the night with and who is also a friend. This type of life I see is a closed world with me specifically and totally excluded. Every other guy does this successfully to a degree.”

This is his fantasy world of relationships again. Over half of all marriages end in divorce, but he doesn’t seem to recognize those sort of things. Or married guys at work belly-aching about being married. Or married coworkers having affairs. Or the boredom so many people express about long-term relationships. Or fellow bachelors going through life and not being overly concerned about all this. And if you’re gay, you don’t exist in his world.

What do I think would have happened if he got a girlfriend with all this darkness swirling around in his head? He’d have probably killed her once he realized she wasn’t the magic girl with all the answers. I’ve seen plenty of psycho boy- and girlfriends in my time – people who lost control and did nasty things when relationships ended. Stalking, abusive phone calls, physical threats, etc. I’ve seen articles on this guy try to interpret “the line” one crosses to do something like this … and there is no line. He was just psychotic. Not because of his issues with women. Because he was psychotic. His issues with women were a symptom, not the cause, of his psychosis. What caused that, I don’t know. Bad chemicals in his brain? How he was raised? I don’t know; there probably is no easy, set answer. But the whole “lonely man not getting laid snaps” routine is just that. If he was gay and shot-up a gay bar instead of a health club? Same difference, although the story would surely have a different spin in the media.

“My dad never (not once) talked to me or asked about my life's details and tell me what he knew. He was just a useless sperm doner … Brother was actually counter-productive and would try to embarase me or discourage my efferts when persuing things, esp girls early on (teen years).”

This says a lot. His real problem may have been his inability to bond with other men. You’ll notice in his missives that he hardly mentions having any male friends, and the gym is apparently wall-to-wall “young girls.” Has negative views of his father, hates his older brother. One of the joys men should have in their lives is the ability to bond with each other – to be “guys” – to revel in that sense of manhood. Sodini’s life must have been totally bereft of this sort of camaraderie – he would have mentioned it somewhere in his twisted online journal. The one thing I gather from a lot of married men is the regret they feel over losing these sort of relationships due to familial responsibilities; they simply don’t have time to hang out with other guys. The easy out in this scenario is to focus on his chosen words, but the unwritten message is that Soldini didn’t understand or fully grasp how to be a man and interact with other men. And he thought having sex with "young girls" would be the key to unlock that door.

“Mum - The Central Boss ... Don't piss her off or she will be mad and vindictive for years. She actually thinks she's normal. Very dominant. Her way and only her way with no flexibility toward everyone in the household.”

A good rule of thumb in life: anyone over the age of, say, 25, still bitching about his or her parents is someone who’s mentally ill or just a shithead. (This is, of course, barring people raised by genuinely abusive parents.) But I think you’ll find most adults complaining about their parents go through life with a victim mentality; they see the same hostility and lack of caring in the world that they project onto how their parents raised them. I don’t doubt he has valid points about his mother here, but even if it’s true, and the relationship is that troubling, after a certain point in life, you just let it go. You’re an adult. You choose how you want to live your life. Life is better if you can maintain those sort of important relationships, but if they’re that genuinely problematic, you can let them go. (It should also be noted that minutes before he went on his killing spree, he called his mother and told him he was about to do something awful that would result in his death. He didn’t get her directly, left a message, and she phoned back moments after it was all over. Why did he call her?)

“I knew children of parents who grew up in strict religious homes. Religion has a certain stink to it of guilt, shame, fear, and that moral standard that always contradicts the natural tendencies and desires of a person.”

So there’s the dichotomy – he wasn't religious, apparently hated religion, but had not lived a life where he directly refuted religious dogmatism and lived a totally hedonistic, sex-all-the-time, wild-and-free existence … thus he’s a failure. This is like crossing a Porky’s movie with the religious tracts of Jonathan Edwards. The self-loathing intensified when he realized his sex-less life is no different from those of uptight religious people he seemed to loathe, e.g., these people were losers in his mind, thus he was, too.

“I see twenty something couples everywhere. I see a twenty something guy with a nice twentyish young women. I think those years slipped right by for me. Why should I continue another 20+ years alone? I will just work, come home, eat, maybe do something, then go to bed (alone) for the next day of the same thing. This is the Auschwitz Syndrome, to be in serious pain so long one thinks it is normal.”

I see twenty something couples all the time, too. Whether they’re happy or sad is none of my concern. Ditto forty something couples, or fifty or sixty something. I don’t envy or despise them. I know their realities are going to have the same mix of good and bad issues as mine. If they’re in their 20s, chances are good they’re fumbling through bad relationships that will hopefully end and teach them how to be better people, whatever else happens afterwards. A few bad relationships, maybe a blown marriage, would have done this guy a world of good in terms of grasping the bigger picture about personal happiness and who’s responsible for it. But, again, rational thought wasn’t his problem – there was something radically wrong with him.

“Some people are happy, some are miserable. It is difficult to live almost continuously feeling an undercurrent of fear, worry, discontentment and helplessness. I can talk and joke around and sound happy but under it all is something different that seems unchangable and a permanent part of my being. I need to realize the details of what I never accomplished in life and to be convinced the future is merely a continuation of the past … I made many big changes in the past two years but everything is still the same. Life is over. Even though I look good, dress well, well groomed - nails, teeth, hair, etc.”

It’s hard to fathom the shallowness Soldini lived with when his wish-list of accomplishments would have amounted to having endless sex with dozens of Barbie Dolls. Not writing a great novel. Or working on a cure for cancer. Or simply helping others in some way. No. Getting laid. By “young girls.” That’s it. That’s the life. That’s what it’s all about. I joke with friends about this all the time, but my three main goals in life are to stay sane, healthy and solvent. If I get married along the way, have kids, etc. … fine. If not, that’s fine, too. I don’t feel a fire lit under my ass to live life in an outline format – never have, never will. Sanity is the one part of that equation most people never concern themselves with, but it's obviously well worth anyone's time to do things in his life that keep him sane in some sense.

Soldini wasn’t doing that bad for himself. He had a steady job, that paid well, well enough that he could buy his own home near a major city (Pittsburgh isn’t a bad place to live), but I guess walking around an empty house in the suburbs only intensified his feelings of loneliness, as opposed to having the ability to enjoy his solitude. (You better believe I enjoy mine, and the harder issue I’d have would be giving it up if I got back into something again.) I'd guess that living in a suburb could intensity feelings of loneliness or failure for someone who isn't secure and stays single, as he'll spend his time surrounded by people fully engaged in family life. (The good thing about city life is you get all kinds of people and recognize there are many ways to go through life.) Then again, if a trip to a crowded Costco on a Saturday afternoon doesn't enlighten you that this shit isn't all it's cracked up to be, you're just not paying attention.

“I haven't met anybody recently (past 30 years) who I want to be close friends with OR who want to be close friends with me.”

That happens to everyone in degrees over time, especially once people get married and have kids. The key in life is to never make assumptions about how other people are living, regardless of positive or negative appearances. If you don’t like someone, you can easily project negativity onto that person, hope bad things happen to him or her, but it’s ultimately a waste of time and energy. Whether they succeed or fail is no skin off your nose. You should be working on your own sense of happiness/satisfaction with life. And if things aren’t working, you change.

It’s important to note the 30-year-mark, making him 18 when he stopped making friends, i.e., after high school. In so many ways he seemed emotionally mired in a teenage male way of seeing the world: insecure over sexuality, constantly measuring himself against some mythical standard (that implied “successful” people having earth-shattering sex with “young girls” every night of their lives), feeling attracted only to women around that age … which is a losing formula for a guy in his 40s, and probably not a good idea in general. I’ll find myself physically attracted to women in their mid-20s, but, boy, when they start talking, and I recognize how far along they are in terms of maturity, reality sets in. (I'm a Woody Allen fan, but can't watch his movie Manhattan because it's too creepy in light of later events in his life, and the thought of a guy in his 40s having a serious relationship with a teenager in high school is preposterous.) At some point in your life, you learn to value wisdom and experience … or you go through life blind and subscribing to philosophies better suited to “Crib” shows on MTV. (And I’m convinced there are millions of people who fall into this category, not just this lone psycho.)

“I was invited to a picnic, and I went. An older woman there, out of the blue, asked if I liked high school. Then quickly asked if I was picked on very much. Intersting why she would ask that.”

I’m assuming “older woman” means someone his age.

If a total stranger meets this guy at a picnic and deduces in seconds that there’s something off about him, shouldn’t there be many other people in his life who recognized the same quality? (I should also note that anyone starting a conversation like that must be a creep herself.) It’s virtually impossible to recognize the difference between a person who’s “creepy” in some sense and someone who is genuinely psychotic, and has lived his entire adult life trying to hide this from others. I’d like to think I’m smart enough to spot this, but I know I’m not. Very few people are – I’m sure an FBI profiler would have a lot of insight and abilities to spot someone like this. But their jobs are to track down people like this after they've started acting out, and I don't think I've ever read an instance of a potential psychotic killer being stopped before he goes on a spree.

There are plenty of odd middle-aged people out there, male and female, married and single/divorced, etc. You can think they’re all potential George Soldini’s, but they’re not. Whatever they’ve done wrong in their lives, whatever opportunities they’ve missed, whatever mistakes they made … it’s just part of the baggage that everyone carries. How well they carry it will determine how they live. If your eyes are open as you go through life, you recognize this in everyone. Want to pretend that nebbish guy at work is going to go postal? Go ahead. But his life is probably no better or worse than yours, and he’s going to go on living, the same way you will. The circumstances of our lives are one thing: mental illness is another. If you think your life is bad, I assure you, it could be worse. We live in such a spoiled society that most people can’t recognize how relatively easy we have it in comparison to previous generations. Then again, maybe that’s a problem, creating “failure” out of nothing because we’re bored with life.

“I was reading several posts on different forums and it seems many teenage girls have sex frequently. One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little hoe has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48.”

The internet is cancer for people with mental problems. He was reading teen sex forums. Why? Obviously, I know why, but how pathetic was that. That passage is the one that disturbed me the most. What anyone would hope to gain reading senseless junk like that, I have no idea.

The rest is just endless repetition of his core issues, until the end. All I can think is three innocent people had to die, nine others were seriously injured, and dozens of lives scarred because of this man, who was in desperate need of mental help. He didn’t “need to get laid” – this would have solved nothing. He needed to get mental treatment, and if that wasn’t an option, he needed to kill himself, as opposed to taking other people with him. It wouldn't surprise me if the gym was empty this weekend.