Trouble in Paradise: February 2019

Friday, February 22, 2019

MR. ED CHRONICLES - talk two with Marty

Mr. Ed had done so much good that he almost couldn’t believe it: he was sure that he had affected and made a difference in the lives of those that he talked with.The talks with Bradley and Jep had been more interesting than he anticipated, but it were the talks with the women and most notably Michelle, that had moved him on a much deeper level. Throughout it all he had almost forgotten that he had exiled himself from Moac to this small sea-side town by the name of Martossa. 
The life had been slow enough though, much slower than what he was used to in Moac, being the boss of a frozen pizza plant. It might not sound like much, but staying on top of the market took more heft and leaning intothan just making a good pizza. Itwas a shady business with bribes, intimidations and the whole lot. 
The only business more dirty would be that of a mob or politics. There were some in Moac who believed that Mr. Ed’s was a front of one of the big mobs that pulled a lot of the strings in town.


Mr. Ed had resisted the temptation to open the bottle at home. Then Friday came and Mr. Ed needed to blow off some steam. He knew from experience that if he did this at home– he would stay in and drink most of the bottleuntil sleep kicked in. Resisting thiswas a test of character, one of the things that only the strongest men were able to do. It fit in with the way Mr. Ed had always thought about life in general terms: men like Mr. Ed were the ones that did the things that normal men wouldn’t do. 

Mr. Ed walked the town that Friday night, looking for an indistinct establishment and when he passed the bar where he had hung out the previous week, he didn’t think twice. The food was simple, but filling. The liquor was endless and cheap. 


Mr. Ed walked straight to the bar and the stool that he had occupied was empty. On the one next to it was the guy that he chatted with the previous time he was here.
Mr. Ed taps his shoulder, and says, “Martee.”

Marty already had a few cold ones and despite his resolution to keep Mr. Ed at an arms length, he greets Mr. Ed like an old friend.
Indeed,” Marty says, “Take a seat, man.”
You want a next one?” Mr. Ed asks.
Keep them coming, I always say,” Marty says, “My girlfriend would like me to say no more often though.”

Mr. Ed sits back and sizes up the bar. 
Women keep us in check,” Mr. Edsays.
Now that is true,” Marty says, “Or at least they try.”

So what’s new?”
Same old, same old,” Marty says, “An old lady died, someones car was stolen (and returned), kids picked some fruit off a tree without permission, there was a kitchen fire someplace.”

Mr. Ed looks at the menu.
I’m gonna order,” he says, “You want something?”
I got it right here,” Marty says, pointing at his beer.

During dinner they talk along much of the same lines as the previous time: the Gulf war and how the armymakes and destroys men. Marty isn’t sure though how much Mr. Ed remembers of what he revealed that other night. He doesn’t want to pry, but then he does.
No one went completely crazy in your platoon?” Marty asks.
We went all went that direction in one way or other,” Mr. Ed says, “I still think about some of those experiences even to this day.”
We had a guy once who started butchering civilians without any immediate threat,” Marty says, “That one was pretty extreme.”
I bet,” Mr. Ed says.

Marty thinks: he doesn’t remember what he told the other night.
There’s no hunting going on around here?”
You hunt?” Marty asks.
If I hunt?” Mr. Ed asks, “I carry my own rifle.”
Once in a while I need to go out in the wild and shoot something,” Mr. Ed says, “I mean, nothing too much, but I just like the thrill.”


On the screen there is a live fight, somewhere far off. It’s only now though that they pay attention to it, because the barkeep just turned up the sound.
Things just got better….” Mr. Ed says, and they turn their attention to the screen.
O yes,” Marty says, “I got a kid who’s into that stuff.”
I used to fight myself,” Mr. Ed says, “Back in the days.”
The army?”
Before,” Mr. Ed says, “Way before…. I grew up in a tough neighborhood, so it was either learn how to fight or be the underdog for the rest of your days.”
You can’t relate, huh?”
Not really,” Marty says, “I did some boxing in the army, but it never really was my thing.”
The Dance with the fists,” Mr. Ed says, “Man, you don’t know what you have been missing….”


The fight is between a North-African and an Irish-man. The North-African is a good bit older and like most good fights it’s heavy weight boxing. Judging from the way they movearound the ring, it must be one of the later rounds. The two men keep zoning in and out on each other with a certain fatigue and heaviness. The older fighter has the upper hand, because it seems that he’s fighting out of a necessity. The question now is who has a surprise combo in store.
Like I said,” Mr. Ed says, “I like to hunt from time to time. I like the rush, because it’s a bit like that of killing a man in combat…. But watered down, if you catch my drift…. It’s like boxing, but then with protective gear: same movements, but less thrill.”

I got to disappoint you again, chief,” Marty says, “I have been in close combat, but I never came that close that I needed to kill another man. And I must say that I’m kind of grateful for that.”
I hear too many stories,” Marty says, “It changes a man; you’re never the same after that. Some say it’s what plunges a lot of guys into PTSD. That’s something I don’t need to experience first hand.”
Muscle and steel,” Mr. Ed says, “That’s what my unit commander used to say.”
Just like those guys,” Marty says, while keeping his eye on the screen, “AUOWWW.” 

The older fighter just knocked down the younger one to the floor.
That young kid might be fitter and stronger, but he lacks the proper motivation,” Martysays, “You can see: for the old guy it’s everything or nothing. Food on the table or dry bread.”
The fight is not over,” Mr. Edsays, “I say the young guy is gonna wear out the old one.”

You kidding me?” Martysays, “That guy looks as tough as nails. Even if it’s the last thing he does: he’s there to win….”
I’m telling you,” Mr. Edsays, “You can see his left hand drop the whole time. He didn’t do that at the start of the fight.”
That’s beside the point,” Marty says, “He has got the look: he’s there to do one thing and that’s to give that other guy a good beating….”
I thought you didn’t like boxing….”
Not doing,” Marty says, “But I do like to watch.”
Twenty dollars on the youngguy,” Mr. Ed says.
O you’re on,” Marty says, “It’s going to be the easiest twenty dollar I ever made….”


The North-African throws a few punches and the Irish-man wobbles on his feet.
That’s it,” Marty says.

The other guy doesn’t come back up.
I told you,” Marty says, “Pay up, loser.”
It was a good thrill,” Mr. Ed says, while putting a twenty on the counter, “But you have to admit: it was an interesting fight.”

Marty holds up the twenty and checks whether it’s real.
Sure,” he says, “What’s next?”
It looks like that was the last one,” Mr. Ed says, “Or maybe not.”


After the commercials another fight starts. These are the super-heavyweights. They are both strong, but also slow and they seem bend on causing major damage to each other. The bigger looks like a hillbilly, the slightly shorter one isaMexican.
ThoseMexicanscan fight,” Mr. Ed says. 
Let’s see,” Marty says, “I assume that not all of them are cut from the same wood.”
If you fight for king and country: does it really matter?”
A far away place, in their strangeness maybe even further then Martossa and the whole lot,” Mr. Ed says, “Coming from such a place I imagine there rests a lot on a man’s shoulders.”
Maybe,” Marty says, “But they might be of a different mentality over there.”
I believe people are much of the same all over the place,” Mr. Ed says, “Subjected to kings, despots, presidents, monarchs; it doesn’t make much of a difference.”
Good bye Charlie!” Marty says when the Mexicanlands a direct hit in the face of the Hillbilly, “You see all thatin a fight.”

Boxing, sports in general, it’s all about the same thing,” Mr. Ed says, “At the surface it’s about blowing of steam.”
And underneath is the primitive?”
Naah,” Mr. Ed says, “We have come too far: underneath of it we fight for our throne…. Our piece of the pie…. Our seat at the table…. Whatever you want to call it…. It’s all much of the same thing: to fight is to conquer.”
How about this,” Marty says, “The guy that wins that fight tonight…. I bet he just wants to drink a few cold ones and then he goes back to his girl…. She’s all riled up and I guess you can imagine the rest….”

Then what you’re saying is this: there are two kinds of men; the primitive; and the conquerer.”
They might be two sides of the coin,” Marty says, “Which side were you on when you were in the army?”
Ultimately to conquer,” Mr. Ed says, “But at the time, when I was behind the gun, I must admit: I was the primitive.”
You fought forthe king,” Marty says, “But ultimately…. I think we haven’t advanced that much since the age of cave-men.”

Mr. Ed orders two more beers.
Then what about this,” Mr. Ed says, “If we’re so primitive and all, how come the most primitive act of men these day is to hole up in joint like this and to liquor up.”
We have become domesticated,” Mr. Ed says, conniving and for a moment Marty can see the blood lust behind Mr. Ed’s eyes, “That’s why I have my rifle and I sometimes just need to go out and shoot something.”


Mr. Ed’s thoughts don’t go back to the wild, but they go back to his office building in Moac and the alley next to it. Two weeks before his departure to Martossa he had a meeting with a competitor in that alley. He had wanted to to talk with Mr. Ed and they took him to the alley when things got tough. Mr. Ed’s bodyguards had secured both ends. 
Mr. Ed had lost control that day. He had tried to intimidate the guy with words, but he just kept grinning with this smug look on his face. 
What do you plan to do, old man?” the guy said, “You gonna rough me up?”
The guy had his guard down and he didn’t see the low uppercut that Mr. Ed placed on his liver. The guy buckled and never saw the left cornerlandon his temple. His lights went out, and Mr. Ed had just gottenstarted. The guy was defenseless on the floor and there was no referee to call Mr. Ed to order. 

Marty saw the change in Mr. Ed’s face.
Yeah, how about that….” Marty says, and much like the previous week, his opinion about Mr. Ed was clear: this guy is a sociopath, don’t know how, and to what he does, but this is The Real Deal. 


TheMexicanhad gotten too confident and lowered his guard. The Hillbilly saw it and knocked him out then and there.
Oooowww,” Mr. Ed says, “You saw that coming?”
Marty thinks: a million miles awayand he says, “I guess that the other guy got lucky.”
Maybe,” Mr. Ed says, “He saw an opportunity and he seized it.”

Marty also thinks something else: this Mr. Ed guy might start babbling again after some more beers. What if this time he remembers the next day that he told certain things that were better kept private? To Marty it seems that this Mr. Ed guy is crazy enough to go haywire if the opportunity arose. 


It was the last fight of that evening and the music came back on. 
That’s it for me,” Marty said after he had finished his beer, “See you later buddy.”
Mr. Ed nodded, and said, “Yeah, sure.”


When Marty was around the corner he had forgotten about Mr. Ed. Martossa had always struggled with its bad elements and the simple fact was that they had struggled with things that were worse, much worse.
Marty put his earphones on and the track that he listened to continued with The Police and by coincidence Murder by numberswas on. It was almost a premonition of what would happen later that year and his role in the whole thing. Mr. Ed would be long gone by then, but something much worse would have taken its place. At this point in time it was just an eerie feeling that something bad was going to go down. Bradley had heard its voice. 
That’s what the return of a history came down to in Martossa: an eerie feeling and a crazy voice, heard and felt by some.



Friday, February 15, 2019

MR. ED CHRONICLES - talk two with Jep

When Mr. Ed was 16 he had left school and ever since he had worked 80 hours per week. He is what is called a self-made man: when he started working he didn’t have a dime on his name and some years later he had build an empire: Mr. Ed’s frozen pizza. By working hard Mr. Ed had build something for himself, and he had been able to because the times were right. These days it seems that just working hard isn’t enough. 
Sometimes Mr. Ed refers to our current times as the time before a new Dark Age where everything will be worse and more scarce for everyone involved: no more life long jobs, health care that can only be afforded by the rich, houses that have become very expensive etc etc. Privately Mr. Ed sometimes believes that the Dark Ages might have already begun, but out of a calculated notion that he might come off as a whacko he had always kept that one to himself. 
That kid Bradley reminded him of his younger self. Was he damaged in the same way? No. Was it as tough growing up where he did? Yes. The way things are dealt with these days is different though. Instead of therapy, Mr. Ed took up boxing around the same age and it had helped him to find a way to work things through. It gave him strength and confidence, or as he tended to describe it, muscle and steel. 


Mr. Ed wasn’t the only one that had gotten something out of boxing.

Jep never really had to defend himself in a physical fight since the age of 12. Before that, the fighting was mostly kids stuff that had the intensity, but lacked the viciousness. After that, the friends that he had made were enough of a deterrence for other kids to not want to try much of anything, but most likely fighting just became uncool.
A friend that he had made in college once took him to a boxing training and since that day he was hooked. It was addictive on levels that he had never anticipated. It was physically exhausting, both in endurance and strength. The best fighters were doing one-hand push-ups and were jumping rope in between sets. 
There was also something about practicing man to man combat, where the trainer would yell a combination and all the men on the floor carried it out like well oiled machines. At first you needed to think about how to carry out those punches, but at some point it became automatic and the strength no longer came from the arms, but from the hips.
Then there was the mental element where you might be faced with an opponent who might be bigger and stronger. The thing was not to be intimidated, but to fling a few punches that would let the opponent feel your superior strength. Then there were the semi-professional fighters and one of them was a feather-light-weight that beat Jep every time. The guy was small, but the work that he did in construction must have given him a bull’s strength. 
Outside of the gym there were the women that liked the physique and heft that came with boxing. On a personal level it also gave Jep peace of mind, because it allowed him to re-establish the equilibrium between the mental and physical state that was subtly disturbed by working in the unnatural setting of an office. 


On Monday night the training had been typical: the old guy that was by now in his seventies gave a training to about forty guys: “Left direct, right hook,” next combo, “Left direct, right hook, left upper corner,” and so on, and so on. 
After half an hour the first guys started walking out, out of exhaustion, partners changed every thirty minutes. After one and a half hour the old guy called it quits, “I want you guys to be able to go to perform your duty tomorrow,” he said in his grinding voice, “And I don’t want any complaints from the missus’s either….” A few guys laughed.
Jep changed shoes and put on a training jacket and went home. There he had a glass of milk mixed with soy-protein powder and syrup. He started cooking and in thirty minutes later he had a meal of chopped zucchini, pepper, garlic in a pre-made sauce, white rice and chicken breast. He was dining on the balcony to the back of the house, while drinking red wine. The outlook was on the courtyard between apartment buildings and it was usually completely quiet, despite living in a city of a million souls. Meanwhile he had face-time with a girl named Sally: willingly, hot and good in the sack.
Sally was in a whiny mood, which usually meant that she was nice and horny. At nine he went over to her house, a few blocks away. She was still a student and lived in a small room. His premonitions were correct. 


At five in the am Jep sneaked out, went back to his place to get ready for work. 
That day he didn’t get much done. He could permit a day like this, since he was considered to be a good coder: his output was generally higher than most of his colleagues. Not doing too much, he always described as meta-work: he was working on a level that couldn’t be substantiated (in other words: he just fooled around and didn’t do anything).
That night no one was available for dinner. Sally needed to attend classes at the university and most of his friends were busy doing other things. It had been a few weeks and it might be a good time for another session. 


The setting was different this time. Before they met in a sterile office in a high rise in a city that might be just about any metropole. This time the setting was a house in the suburbs that must have been turned into an office. It looked like a private practice.
Jep takes a few minutes to walk around. The most striking thing are the miniature boats that are all over the place. He figures that it’s either a look into Mr. Ed’s world or a standard d├ęcor. Jep peeks outside and it looks like it’s somewhere up north and just like in The West it looks to be winter. It might be a little more mild though; there’s no snow and in The West it’s usually in January and February that the temperature plummets well below zero. 

Mr. Ed enters the room some minutes after.
Winter in the mid-west,” Mr. Ed says.
Indeed,” Jep says, “A lot of snow.”
Nothing like back home, huh?”
Most definitely not,” Jep says, “I was looking at your collection of boats.”
I kind of have a lot,” Mr. Ed says.
How about a real boat?”
As a matter of fact I do have that as well,” Mr. Ed says, and he walks over to the book cabinet to pick up a model of a catamaran and hands it over to Jep. 
More modern than the other models,” Jep says, “How big is this one?”
Fifty feet,” Mr. Ed says, “Enough for recreational trips, it sleeps eight at most.”
It is,” Mr. Ed says, “But I take it that you didn’t come here to talk about boats.”
Not so much.”

Jep takes a seat on the couch. Mr. Ed takes a seat in the sofa chair.
I didn’t see you for a few weeks,” Mr. Ed says, “I figured that you found your groove after our last talk.”
I did,” Jep says, “I have a routine, which makes it easier.”
Then why did you come back?”
Maintenance,” Jep says, “I had a slow day today, I didn’t get much work done today and I didn’t much feel like the usual either.”
What’s the usual?”
Dinner, movie, drinks,” Jep says, “That’s the thing about the city: always something fun to do.”
Then today is a day for reflection.”

Possibly,” Jep says, thinking it over, “What was on my mind is this: I’m totally happy with my life as it is and in a way I could live like this forever, but it feels like it’s all on a high note.”
What do you mean?”
You know how you can only sing a high note for a very short time,” Jep says, “That’s how I feel that my life is right now: it has been a high ever since I graduated and in a way I can’t imagine that it will stay like that forever.”
You’re what? 25?” Mr. Ed asks, “At that age you’re at your prime, physically, mentally and everyone around you digs into that. You still have that feeling of someone in his teens that the world is at your feet, but at the same time you’re one of the big boys, because you have the cash to do things that are really fun.”
I know about that one,” Jep says, “Men peak at 25, women at 36.”
Just enjoy the ride.”

Mr. Ed takes a minute to look at his notes. 
Maintenance, fellow therapist, not practicing,” Mr. Ed says, “I told you anything about my story?”
Not so much,” Jep says, “But I can imagine that you’re a hard worker and that you haven’t been a therapist for most of your life.”
I haven’t,” Mr. Ed says, “I was in business, made a name and good money, and it’s only recently that I turned to this…. My way of giving back.”

Jep thinks: what exactly? Atonement?
We’re at different ends of the candle, beginning and end,” Mr. Ed says, “When you reach my age you tend to look both back and forward. I mean, I’m old, but I’m not that old, if you catch my drift.”
How you look back at things is what it’s all about at my age,” Mr. Ed says, “Does it make you feel good, or does it tear you up on the inside…. That kind of thing.”

Now it’s Jep’s turn to sit back and deliberate.
I once read an interview with a retiring shrink and his conclusion on the distinction between sanity and insanity at the end of his career was that between being able or unable to develop and utilize effective coping mechanisms,” Jep says.
Which comes down to the same thing,” Jep continues, “Something bad has happened, do you let it tear you apart or do you find some way to deal with it.”
It’s muscle and steel, son,” Mr. Ed says, and in a grinding voice he adds, “When you face an opponent: do you let yourself be intimidated or do you let him feel not to mess with you.”

Mr. Ed pours two drinks and it’s obvious that they have broken the ice between them. Jep still sees Mr. Ed as this shady guy, but they have established a certain understanding.
That’s exactly what is meant by that notion of the narrative identity,” Jep says, “Literally a story that enables you to live with your past.”
What was this one quote again?” Mr. Ed says, “Something about how we find ourselves at a loss in this vast, cold and unloving universe – and it’s ultimately us that invest it with a meaning and an essence and all that….”
It’s an almost-quote from some movie,” Jep says, “I don’t know the title, but for some reason it makes me think of that song I drink aloneby Thorogood.”
Even if you don’t go on a bender so much, it’s a damn good song.”