Sunday, April 26, 2015


Mike McAdam said that the lessons you learn best are the ones you learn over and over again. More often than not in this life, I’ve found him to be right.
So I’ve monkeyed around, periodically, on this scam site called “” over the last couple or three years---maybe you’ve heard of it. They get you in touch with your old graduating class, and if you give them money and let them make you a “Gold Member”, you get to see who’s visited your profile and you get to communicate directly with these people---sweet stuff, I guess, if you care enough to throw the dough their way----my sentiments have always fallen short of a monetary contribution. Sorry, corporate exploitation….sorry, nostalgia machine.
I guess that, when I think of my adolescence, I think of Chelmsford, Massachusetts---my Dad was a Defense Contractor, and we went from a year abroad to Chelmsford. My parents had a rocky marriage. In late 1980, they finalized their divorce and we moved to Nashua, New Hampshire, two months into my senior year, and I graduated from Nashua High, mostly in a class of strangers.
I’d like to tell you the uprooting mattered a lot but I can’t say it did----I was a miserable, alienated kid, out of step with the out of step---I was bullied, intimidated and ragged on pretty consistently throughout the years---not going to bemoan my youth in detail---a lot of people I knew had it worse, and let’s face it---if we got a brownie point for our suffering, we might all be lined up around the planet, waiting for our goddamn Oscar.
I could probably run right up the cliché generator and characterize my teenage years as ones of quiet desperation—well, occasionally noisy desperation (hormones are a wondrous thing), but almost always desperation. Screaming Nerd-core before nerds took over the world. I couldn’t make it with the in crowd, I couldn’t make it with the out-crowd. I couldn’t make it. And when I left the halls of CHS two months into my senior year, I left like a ghost…I left without a word and it was as if I had never been there at all.
You could say Chelmsford left its scars, and you can ask the afformentioned Mr. Mike for verification. As friends, bandmates and co-conspirators we spent many late nights talking and driving aimlessly between southern New Hampshire and the greater Lowell area…there were nights when I’d take the wheel and he’d implore me, “dude, don’t go to Chelmsford!” Any time we wound up that way I’d cruise my old, darkened neighborhood and I’d rant and rave. It was a ghost town, all the kids I’d gone to school with, my enemies, had grown up and moved away, like I had…but somewhere in my head, all those ghosts were still walking around.
One of my big writing projects right now is doing up a screenplay of my first novel…if I were a Hollywood pitch man I’d tell the execs, “think Holden Caulfield meets Travis Bickle”---or “think ‘Better off Dead’ meets ‘Taxi Driver’ “. The story isn’t autobiographical, but I buried a lot of old demons in that piece of work.
Well, okay…mebbe I didn’t bury them entirely.
I’m not sure what it is about trying to reconcile yourself with the past that can send you in one extreme direction or another in an instant….all I know is, it happens. Not sure what set me off, either. Too much bad water under the bridge? Too much living out in the wilderness? Too much of my own trip to allow a sane bit of retrospect?
I had joined some Facebook Group, CHS Class of 1981. Don’t ask me why…I don’t know why. I’d like to tell you I’d “reconnected”, but I really hadn’t…..It was the ultimate Existential Scenario. Maybe some masochistic part of me wanted it---maybe no part of me wanted it. But like a moth to the flame….goddammit…..
I found myself on the site a week or two ago and plans were being made for a class reunion in 2011. Don’t ask me what Knight Errant in my Id was fired up when I got myself a gutful and wrote, “If we’re shooting for November 2011, can we bring our own firearms?”
Well, ha, ha. Mister Irreverent just couldn’t contain himself. The class of ’81 can blame the Boomtown Rats (Marilyn Manson wasn’t around at the time) and you can blame Child Psychology, but then I can blame the Class of ’81 and we can all feel a hell of a lot better.
My illustrious peers were none too amused.
The site’s administrator, an old peer I did not know personally, scolded me both publicly and privately, writing, “ hey C.F- I have to say that referencing firearms, with in the context of school, doesn't feel comfortable or funny at all. In fact it scares me, as an administrator in education, who hears constantly about the truth of rage and homicide in schools. Please consider the power of your statement. Thanks”
My first, knee-jerk response was to post, both publicly and privately, “I DID.” And I did, too….like I’m going to make such a loaded comment without realizing the ramifications.
At this point it was just pure confrontation for me. And anyone who knows me knows you don’t get me started on the subject of school shootings, because I’ve got very strong opinions on the subject. Kids were going postal long before Klebold and Harris turned it into a hot, hip, sexy trend, of course---at one point taping for “Abbey” back circa Columbine, my bro, Panda said, “when I was a kid, we didn’t go shooting up the school like they do nowadays…we just thought about it!” That off-the-cuff statement resonated, hard, with most of the adults I know. I wasn’t one of the kids who was going to go ballistic and shoot up my classmates, but I understood those who did. That was why, as a teen, I identified so strongly with movies like “Carrie”---someone had put on celluloid the gut-level wishes a lot of us alien youth were feeling. They tapped into a zeitgeist that a lot of people may not have been comfortable with…there it was, though---the sentiments were halfway socially acceptable because it hid behind the monicker of “horror”.
So, is this a taboo on the new frontier? I’m hard-pressed to give a shit, personally. On my own level, me and mine have done our damndest to improve things. We beat everyone to the punch with the “it gets better” trip by roughly a decade---at one point Shannon & I did our dead best to talk a kid down when we thought he might want to pull a Columbine. So, contrary to what some mental tubeworms want to say, I’ve never been “part of the problem”.
My friend on the website, though? SHEESH. “As an administrator in education, who hears constantly about the truth of rage and homicide in schools”?! She shows so much knowledge on the subject one might only surmise she’s read about it in the paper once or twice. And it scares her. Well, that she’s an administrator in education scares ME, and it makes me wonder if she could ever possibly help the situation, as alien as it obviously is to her. You could say I found a “teaching moment” in there, though, and tried to put some of this forth. By all means, open yourself up to the truth of rage, instead of just "hearing about" it. As an administrator, the "Truth" you hear might save your well as those of others. She never responded and I would guess that it was a wasted effort…but most of my efforts back then were.
I needed to stay the hell away for a few days and clear my head. Shit like that always impacts me and I need to distance myself from it. Several days thereafter I returned to my class’s site…not only had the thread I had caused so much trouble on been removed----everything I’d ever posted there had been removed.
HUH. Well, to quote Groucho, I wouldn’t ever wanna be part of a club that would have someone like me for a member….rejection was a constant to me as a kid; As a writer I’ve pretty much claimed it as a big part of my life. So, plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose.
I went to a bad place mentally and emotionally…but that’s all excusable….because I went to a bad place called Chelmsford, Massachusetts.
The next day I was driving downtown with Heather, She asked me if anything was happening online. So I had to finally work up the nerve and tell her what went down…”you remember that whole business with my graduating class? Well, I think I got banned from the site!”
Sometimes a good wife can just do one little thing in an abysmal situation and fix everything, and no one’s better than she is.
She laughed and fist bumped me.
Life was good again.

Copyright 2011, 2015 C.F. Roberts/Molotov Editions 


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Serge Gainsbourg-L'Histoire de Melody Nelson
The Flaming Lips-Transmissions from the Satellite Heart

Friday, April 3, 2015

Zoned Industrial and Then Some

Poem I wrote in 1996 or so, my last days in Nausea, New Hampshire....


and so i'm slamming away on the
assembly line packing books in
boxes---i've got it down to a system,
now--fitting in configurations of five
like clockwork--it took me a while
to get the hang of it but here i am
slogging away for the next three
hours--wiley is falling behind after
showing me a few useful tricks and
i'm impressed by my increasing
level of success--rat in the
proletarian maze of industry,
hammering away on pointless activities run
by a clock--it gets boring, naturally,
so i turn it into a private game, exceeding
wiley's progress and as i get better and
better i'm thinking, i've gotcha, wiley,
you old fart, i've really gotcha, i'm
catching up to your slow old ass--then i
realize, hell, i'm a rube of the first order--i
fell for the game, hook, line and dead
brain cells---that's how you become
a cog in their machine;
that's how they getcha.

Wrote that while I was working for this fly-by-night temp agency that would ship us out on overnight shifts to this Book Binding plant in Westford. Mass. Not long afterwards I would move to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I spent the next 11 years working in a wheel factory. That's another story for another time.....
       In those early days in Arkansas some of my closest friends were in a band that spent a lot of time rehearsing in a storage unit. I learned a lot about noise levels and zoning laws back at that time.
That time period had a lot of influence on a short story I wrote that was recently published in THE BIRDS WE PILED LOOSELY, issue #3.....check 'em out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!