Since the shit bomb went off earlier this year. Since the sickness came, killing well over 200,000 like a Gatling gun. Since the astronomical loss of jobs happened under a racist Nazi President who is actively blackmailing the country by holding back any chance of stimulus until after the election thus sending millions to bread lines to fill out unemployment on sites that often crash, sending people to fight for jobs that pay very little. Since this all started white supremacy has come out of its dark and nasty “shit-hole” cave, and the republican party could give two shits about armed militia standing at courthouses, city halls, voting centers, but if a Black man is standing on the corner talking, then it’s okay for the police to murder him in cold blood. Since the republican party is not only killing Black men and women for sport, they are actively locking up children in cages down at our border with Mexico. They are separating those children from their parents and god knows what they are doing with them. They are also letting millions of everyday Americans worry about if they can feed their children. Since they are making parents choose between medicines and rent and food. They are letting the wage gap grow bigger and bigger by the day. Since suicides are at an all-time high, so is crime, and I can’t say I blame anyone for robbing a bank. I mean, what other options do people have besides going outlaw?
I was unemployed for six months before I found another job. It was the longest I’d gone without a job and they want to tell me, “The economy is stronger than it has ever been?” Go fuck yourselves. I’ve been on this floating rock long enough to understand when I’m being conned and screwed over. Television news (all of it) is almost comical to me now. Every day I wake up and think to myself: “What’s going to happen today?” And the comical thoughts I have are not of the stand-up variety. No, they are dark thoughts, and I use the dark comedy to hide my fears, my tears, my anguish, my disgust, my rage, my frustration, all of it given to me by a system that is all but ready to collapse. A system that doesn’t care about poor people—blue collar people, hungry people, immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ community. What else is there to do but manically laugh into the darkness? I have nothing else left in the tank. Shit.
When I think of these pricks in the republican party I’m reminded of a line from Once Upon A Time in The West, when Henry Fonda’s character Frank says, “The future don’t matter to us. Nothing matters now—not the land, not the money, not the woman.” And it’s true, nothing matters to them anymore. They only care about themselves. They don’t want to save the land. Instead of going green and creating millions of jobs, they want to drill it. Instead of putting more women in positions of power, they took away planned parenthood. Now they want to reverse Roe v. Wade and take away a woman’s right to choose. They want to control women, not lift them up. They don’t care about the future of the planet. They only care about themselves in the now. Fuck my child and one day her children and her children’s children. Fuck the grand children who have yet to be born. Fuck birthday parties, retirement parties, family vacations you spent five years saving for—fuck it all. Fuck me, fuck you, and fuck all of us. In their mind, you are born to learn their version of history, go to college to get meaningless skills, work for peanuts, produce, buy and buy, then when you reach a certain age, and the social security that they stole is gone, they’ll walk you out in to a wooded area and put a bullet in the back of your head.
Yes, since this all started, I have not only found myself going through forty different emotions a day, but I also found myself watching a lot more movies at night than I used to. First, I watched a lot of crime and thriller movies. Then I watched a lot of comedy films for cheap laughs to hide my fears. Then I turned to revisiting Westerns, especially the violent westerns packed with antiheroes like Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, or Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales, and High Plains Drifter. I also revisited a ton of other classics: The Shootist, The Searchers, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Tombstone, Unforgiven, True Grit, and many others.
What stuck with me the most in 2020 were Sergio Leone’s films: The Dollars Trilogy and the first two films in the Once Upon a Time Trilogy: Once Upon A Time In The West, and Once Upon A Time The Revolution, or Duck, You Sucker… A Fistful of Dynamite. I studied Sergio’s movies like I was studying to become a director in film school. The outlaw anti-heroes like Blondie and Harmonica, I found myself wanting to be them. The villains like Frank and Angel Eyes I imagined myself killing them. It was the kind of release I was looking for but didn’t know I needed. Sergio’s masterful directing combined with Ennio Morricone’s brilliant music, I found the movies to be uplifting. They were exactly what I needed to get me through to the next day. They saved me during those first few months. Not only did they save me, but I was meeting new artists, new movie fans, and new writers, from all over the place. I became inspired again.
My own writing started to change. I went from stories about forgotten people, people on the fringes, doing normal things like working two jobs to keep themselves alive, over to stories about people committing horrible acts of violence to keep themselves alive in a world that doesn’t give a shit about them anymore, because that’s how I see the world now. The westerns I have been watching, and the books I have been reading, from authors like James Carlos Blake, S.A. Cosby, David Joy, John Woods, Gabino Iglesias, Nikki Dolson, Sheldon Lee Compton, Rob Hart, Megan Abbott, William Boyle, and re-visiting Jim Thompson, etc. They turned me on to a world full of the types of characters I need in my life right now. A world full of violent, broken, and corrupt characters, but they are actually less violent, broken, and corrupt than the current world we are all living in now—if you can believe that.
No author or film maker could’ve ever imagined 2020 and what might be beyond, but what they are doing, what they did, has helped me and you deal with the world we are now living in. A violent and greedy world ready to kill and suppress most of us in the name of big business, oil, land, and power. We are no longer humans, we are numbers. We don’t deserve medical care or equal rights or a decent wage. We are no longer allowed to have worker’s rights, a place at the table. That world is gone forever. It’s a fairy tale now. A world that now reads: Once Upon A Time… (I’ll let you fill in the rest.)