Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The War Of Keeping Peace

So much of what we do amounts to playing the role of peacemaker. I know that we're not meant to intervene, but very often we get what we call "chronic interactive strife," which is exactly what it sounds life; people in a long term, continuous state of tension. We get a lot of families; children who can't find peace because they can't get along with their parents. I'm usually there for the children, but honestly, I don't know who I'm helping more. I suppose I like to think it's the younger generation because I'm biased, more likely to think that they're not the ones creating the problem.

But the more you play this role of moderator, the more it raises the debate about at what point intervention becomes interference. That incident up at the stadium could have gotten out if hand, but didn't. But that stabbing by the post office in Manhattan, that poor kid, he just bumped into somebody, now he's dead. If I was there, would I have been able to stop myself from stepping in? Lira told me, "Different rules apply if it means you can save a life. I know, baby, It's not easy to tell, bit you develop a sense for it. Just use your best judgment."

I asked Tony what he thought about that incident in Manhattan. After what happened to him, he said, "you do what you can. Sometimes it work out, sometimes it don't." I asked which he thought his incident was, he said, "Both."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Did I Get Here? And I Don't Mean The Crosstown m21 (Or Do I?)

I fucking hate people who sit sideways on the bus. You know what I mean, some idiot wants to feel like he's in his fucking living room, so he has to lounge around, and stupid you, if you want to sit in your chair normally like a civilized person, have to look at the guy's fucking face. Or else, stare intently out the window. Now, the window's not bad, but what if I don't want to look out there? What if I want to sit forward? Who are you to dictate what I do?

See, Heaven gives you the freedom to avoid all that. In many ways, the earth bus is a microcosm of the earth itself. This is especially true for angels, because most of the dead are done with the bus, angels deliberately get on,knowing there will be this frustration to deal with. So why get on the bus at all? The rewarding destination? Is there a fear of general malaise? Is the litmus test for angelhood simply being so masochistic that we define our existence as pain, and need to "escape" the divine euphoria by jumping into the emotional frying pans of the damaged living?

I don't know, I haven't been an angel long enough. But if this asshole in front of me can stir up existence pondering and not make me want to punch him in the fucking face, maybe I've come a long way already. But still, I beg you, GET OFF THE FUCKING BUS.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Swing For The Fences

About ten years ago, I was driving my grandmother to the train station, listening to some oldies on the radio. An upbeat, big band Sinatra song came on, which made grandma a little nostalgic. I told her, "You know, swing music is very popular right now."

She asked, "You mean young people like it?"

"They love it."

She smiled and said probably the greatest thing I ever heard her say, "If I live to be a thousand, I'll see everything come back."

Grandma didn't live to be a thousand, in fact she died about five years later. Becoming reacquainted with has been a real joy. When you're a child, the age difference seems more drastic, yet the idea of losing them someday seem so foreign, it's simply not a possibility and certainly not part of your future. The older you get, the feeling that your relationship is on borrowed time increases, but this blind faith persists. It gets harder to hold onto, but it never disappears, and usually doesn't until the beeping turns into a steady buzz.

I reminded her about what she said the other day. She laughed, and I said, “How about in 990 years, I’ll take you to a Brian Setzer Orchestra concert? She said, “How about we get grandpa and go see Frank Sinatra and Count Basie right now?” I said sure. Great night.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kanye You're The Devil, You're Leading Me Astray

The other night, a few of us were gathering, and Sashial said, "Did you see what that motherfucker Kanye West did the other night at the MTV Awards?"

I said, "Who gives a fuck? It's the MTV Awards. It's not a critical touchstone, it's a big giant music industry wackoff."

Lira smiled and said, "I like how he breaks it down like that."

Tony said, "Hey, I love Kanye. But he went went over tha line."

"What did he do?"

Sashial turned on the tv and brought up the clip of his hijack and dis during Taylor Swift's acceptance. I've never heard her music, but you take one look at her and you can't imagine her deserving something like that. I said, "Yeah, that really sucks. But, you know, like I said, it's just the MTV Awards. Not like it's important."

But Marley was gazing at the screen, looking like she'd watched a dramatic silver screen death scene. Obviously, being Brian's Songed meant that she could see it a little deeper. "It doesn't have to be important to us," she said. "It's important to her. And he ruined it. Now she'll never get that moment back."

And that's how a scene from a pointless celebration of pretension epitomizes Marley. Not just her empathy, her perspective. I can only hope to be half the angel she is someday. Then again, she says I'm too hard on myself. All I know is, next to her, salutatorian is the best I'll ever do.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Power Of Positive No

Being a "nice guy" is often a nicer way of saying you're "too nice" (Just don't mention that to Christian Bale. Yes, we still get entertainment news up here.). One of the major symptoms of being too nice is having trouble saying, "No." You're too focused on the other person's feelings to even remember you have feelings of your own. There's a lot of, "Sure, I'll do that," "Yes, that's ok," and the pathetically proactive, "You need a hand with that?" People who do that often get stuck with responsibility, and sometimes fancy themselves as the good Samaritan. It's a little more appropriate to use the term "martyr," because the reward for all good deeds is usually the labels of "sucker," "chump," and the inevitable, "loser."

If you think I'm being overly harsh, then just think about how I feel. This is my attitude, and I'm an angel. My feelings have lightened considerably since I died, but I feel more in the joy of saving than the inherent good. I save humans in part because I feel they need to be saved; if they were inherently good, they simply wouldn't need us as much. And the "nice" stigma is something I still have to deal with.

I think that's why I relish the opportunity to say "no" to people. I don't do it for the sake of it, it's when it comes at a time when it's beneficial, and I just leap at the chance. Sometimes people need to hear what they want to hear, sometimes they need to hear the truth. Learning when to do what has been a continuing education process. The other day, I was watching over a lawyer. He was sitting at a bar, depressed because he was prosecuting a man he felt was innocent, not so much to further his career but more for the sense of loyalty to his job. He didn't tell me this, I'd been watching him in court, but when I sat next to him at the bar and started to chat over the score of the baseball game on the tv, he asked, "Do you think you always have to do what you believe when you're not believing what you do?"

I said, "No." The man was later found innocent. Did the guy throw it? Don't know. But it looked like he felt better, and regardless, I moved on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

And In This Corner . . . Some Suburban Dildo

I saw a fight nearly break out today. People are so fucking selfish. It's like you get cut down merely for showing respect. You know when you're walking at a sensible distance, but because more than an inch of space separating you from the person in front of you, some fucking whacked out asshole fuckwad insists on making it a walking space, because their time is just so much more fucking important than yours, and cuts in front of you? I was down there with Lira after an assignment, and we saw this guy have that done, not by one guy, but three. Older guy and two younger guys, his sons maybe. A whole family of collossal douchebags. So the guy cuts in front of them, the old guy shoves him, he shoves back, old guy shoves him again and they have a stand off where they're shouting "What the fuck!" over and over again. I think the old guy was drunk, because one of the young dudes patted him on the shoulder and said, "Let's just go." Then the guy who was the victim yelled, "Yeah go back fuckin' New Jersey," which the asshole family presumably did.

I asked Lira about what happens when things escalate like this nearly did. Are we supposed to intercede? Do we aid by cutting a situation off before it comes to blows and bodily harm is inflicted? She sneered at me, and said, "What's the matter with you? You know, after everything you've been through, sometimes it's like you haven't learned anything. You do possess memory, right? How 'bout a test, can you tell me your name?"

"Lira . . ."

"We're not peacekeepers, you got that? We're not living these peoples' lives for them, you have to let them choose their path or else they're just puppets; no emotion, no sadness, no joy. Then when they've gone to a place where they need guidance, then you step up. And if you haven't learned that by now . . ."

And I stopped her with, "Lira, you could have just said, 'No.'"

She smiled and said, "I know, baby. But you know that's not my style."

Can't argue with that.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

St. Manners

Cruelty is a fascinating concept. What is the genesis of evil? Insecurity? Anger? Frustration? You know, even in my worst throws of misanthropy, I was always courteous to strangers. They could be jerks, and being human, they probably are. But if you haven't actively shown any hostility then there's no reason for me to not be polite. My problem was always this idea of proactively coming to aid of the people I don't know, again, because of the same assumption I'm making about their character, simply on the basis that they walk the Earth. My point is, what the fuck happened to the concept of manners?

Marley and I went to a show in a little black box theater in the East Village. It's great, still being able to go down to Earth for entertainment on the slightest whim. You can replicate anything in Heaven, but if you're gonna work in the trenches, you might as well play there too. She was uneasy about going back there, she'd had some bad experiences there when she was homeless, but I assured her the area's changed a lot. First thing we see when we get there was a crowd of yuppies smoking in front of a bar, babbling about insipid crap no one with a brain should give a fuck about. "Which is worse?" I asked. "Then or now?"

She looked at me with her usual disapproving but nonjudgmental blank stare and said, "Then." Good thing, I needed to be kept grounded.

Anyway, this older guy in front of me was using the chair next to him like a leaning post, ignoring the fact that the crowded venue was growing short on seats. He kept leaning back and pushing the chair back into me knees. I endured it, but soon he gave the damn thing a shove and it banged into me. I finally told him to stop it, and he just stared at me. He did stop, but what the fuck is it with old guys and staring? Why can't they say a damn word when you confront them? What is the genesis of either their lack of consideration or obliviousness towards those around them. I'll try to break it down another day, right now I'm off to find something joyful.

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's Not You, It's The Douchebag

Sometimes on days I have no assignments, I like to just hang out in the subway. Subway platforms are a great way to pick up unassigned jobs, 'cause there's never any shortage of human animosity or frustration. Today I saw something really blatant. On one side of the platform is the local train, the express on the other. This young guy had just gotten on to the express train when the local pulled in. Apparently he preferred the local, because he got up to run out when the door closed. Hoping the door would reopen before it closed for good, he waited by it on the left hand side, as there was another man standing in front of the doors on the right. The man looked rather innocuous, fifties, portly, glasses and overall relaxed demeanor. But when the doors did indeed open and the first guy jumped out to catch the local, the older man reached out with his arm bent and hit him with his forearm. Not hard, but since the kid was moving fast to catch the other train, it made a bit of an impact. He was fuming, but unable to retaliate without missing the local, which he furiously jumped on.

I'd seen the whole thing, and followed the guy onto the local. Sympathetically, I said, "Wow, I saw what that guy did." And he goes, "What the fuck? I mean, why the fuck would he do that? It's not like I'd ran into him or anything."

So I said, "You know, you have to wonder what's going on in that guy's life that he would feel compelled to do something like that." The kid goes, "Yeah," and I just continued, "He's probably really unhappy. Or just went through something frustrating. It's actually kind of sad. No normal person would do that. The guy's suffering somehow."

The kid smiled and said, "I hope so." So I said, "You know, it's not really important knowing why people act the way they do, it's just recognizing that they're the ones with the problem. I know that sounds like bullshit reassurance, but trust me, whatever he's going through is gonna take a lot more to fix than a shot to your arm." The kid looked intrigued and shrugged his shoulders and I just got off at the next stop. I think it eased his temper, I wished Marley'd been there so I could know for sure. When I told her about it later, she asked, "What would you have done if that'd happened to you when you were alive?"

I said, "Probably screamed 'What the fuck?!' and pounded on the door." She smiled and said, "Yeah, I know you would have." She loves seeing how I've changed, especially since she helped make it happen.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


In baseball there is no clock. Kind of like being an angel. There's no stopping when the whistle blows or punching out at 5pm. Boy, there's an old term. Do young people even know what that means? They probably think it's just an expression, no need to think about the origins. Hundreds of years from now, I might be saying, "And when you were done for the day, you pushed the card into the machine, and it punched the time onto it so that they knew the time you left. Hence the expression, "punching out."

But I digress. Anyway, being an angel is not based on time, it's based on deeds, based on subjects. Usually, we meet our subjects, help an immediate crisis and leave, but every now and then you get someone who recurs. You do have to take breaks from time to time. You don't tire out, but fuck it, Heaven is still Heaven, you have to allow yourself time to enjoy paradise, even with the fulfillment being an angel brings.

So what do you do if you know someone might hit crisis but you want to, say, spend a few days at Disney World. I don't feel that comfortable having someone cover my subjects for me. Say Suzanne offers to help, which she always does, she'll jump at any chance to find a human to aid. But as confident as I am in her ability, I feel uneasy about relinquishing control. I worry about what happens, like I need to be in control, I have to know for certain that this person is being saved, and it's like the only way I can do that is doing it myself. Then I realized that there was once a time when I didn't want to help humans at all. Now look at me being overprotective. I guess paranoia is an unexpected sign of caring. And for me, a sign of growth. Never would have guessed that.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SIMPLIFY . . . simplify

I was talking to one of the older angels today. I was telling him about the person I was helping, and this was a pretty common one, just a person with a drinking problem who was beginning to alienate his children. Not from abuse or anything, just from not being around, being unable to see the family relationship as the positive reinforcement to avoid the need for vice escape. Happens all the time, no big deal. But this older angel kept on going on about, "Well, first, I set up a chart. I cross section all the person's weaknesses with their strengths. Then their likes and dislikes to increase likelihood of response. Then, I set up another chart of "Guiding Statements," and I plot reactions. As the results get more positive, I set up a . . ."

And at that point I told him I was just going to talk to Archangel Michael and left before my head exploded. First of all, I wasn't asking for any input (got that?). Second, whatever happened to just talking to the fuckin' guy? When we were at angel training school, we were basically harnessing our abilities, not really acquiring skills to put into practice. Inspiring the living shouldn't be mired down in procedure like that, if you need to put that much thought into it, chances are, this is not something you're made for. Obviously this guy was made to be angel since they made him one, but I've said this before, you can't teach talent. I'm not trying to be vain, but if I didn't have a talent for this angel business I would have never started doing it in the first place. Helping people should come naturally.

Then again, maybe angels are meant to be as different from each other as the humans are. I'm just glad I wasn't made like this guy. If I had to do all that crap everyday like he does, I'd fucking kill myself. And that's saying a lot, coming from a guy whose already dead.