The Road By Cormac McCarthy

Most post-apocalyptic novels start with the actual end of the world as we know it.  Nuclear war.  An asteroid.  The cancellation of How I Met Your Mother.

Cormac McCarthy doesn’t bother.  He puts a man and a boy on a long march to the sea, hoping to escape one more winter in their northeastern home in an America that no longer exists because most life on Earth no longer exists.  The world is not only abandoned, but nothing lives on the surface.  The animals, save for a stray dog spotted in the ruins of an abandoned city, are gone.  The plants are all dead.  Almost every human they meet – less than two dozen over a period of months – is surviving by cannibalism or stealing.  The man and the boy survive on meager supplies they bring with them, looting the occasional house, a bomb shelter, and a wrecked oil tanker.

It’s hard to say exactly where the man and the boy are from or where they are headed.  They do seem to end up in South Carolina based on descriptions of the coastal plain and a city near the end that looks suspiciously like Savannah, Georgia.  But the south is anything but warm in this ash-covered husk of a world.  Even in places where temperatures are warm, it snows.  The sun is a rumor, a hidden object that turns the sky a meager grey.  The stars and moon no longer appear, thanks to a perpetual overcast.

The crux of this story is the man’s drive to keep the boy alive at all costs in a world where, by all rights, both of them should have died long ago.  We’re not told what destroyed the Earth, but a flashback scene on the night of the cataclysm and a scene on a blackened plain where corpses had been burned into the asphalt of a highway imply that multiple asteroids started Earth’s rapid demise in a single night.  All the man knows is that they are alone, they cannot survive another winter where they are, and there’s a vague chance that things are better in the south along the coast.

The Road has as much of a happy ending as possible in a dying world such as this.  But even happy endings can be heartbreaking, and how the man and the boy reach their destination is more heartbreaking than anything else that could happen to them.

Fear Addiction

I don’t know what it is about this country, but it seems like too many Americans aren’t happy unless they’re afraid of something.  These days, they’re afraid of stupid things:  socialism, the H1N1 vaccine, public healthcare, that big scary black man in the White House, Muslims.

And before it was black helicopters.

Before that, it was communists.  Though, and let’s be honest here, the communists didn’t exactly inspire hope and admiration when they were in business.  Nowadays, the only real communists are in North Korea.

People seem to think these are scary times.  Witchy times.  Why, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have told us so.  And if you think being a leftie gets you off the fear rollercoaster, the more extreme greenies will have you believe we have to move back into caves right this minute and Michael Moore rails against capitalism (while pocketing millions and outsourcing his web site off shore.  Nice one, Mike.  Can you say “hypocrite”?)

America, step back.  Take a deep breath.  Turn off the 24-hour news channels (except maybe ESPN).  Wallowing in fear helps no one but a bunch of overpaid fear-mongers out to sell books and movies and advertising slots.

Here’s all you need to know about the talking heads on TV.  If they’re screaming, weeping, demonizing anyone not exactly like them, or hollering about “the enemy!”, they have nothing to contribute to the national dialog.

Do not listen to them.  Do not engage them.  Do not permit them to earn a living in this manner.  Turn off Fox.  Change the channel when Carville shoots his mouth off on CNN.

Of course, there’s a lot of reason to be uneasy.  But people, don’t be stupid.  One guy told me he wouldn’t get the H1N1 shot because they make it from the virus.  I asked him if he’d ever had other shots.  When he said yes, I said, “Well, that’s what those were made out of, too.”  The problem is Glenn Beck said this on television, then got all weepy.  Yes, kids, he got weepy over something ever child is taught in health class from fourth grade onward.

But a lot of people are out of work, more than any time since the late seventies.  Of course, we’re uneasy, but listening to the sanctimonious talking heads who “thank God for [their] enemies” only makes the problem worse.

Instead, reject fear and pull together.  If you have a job and you have a little money, help out your neighbor.  It’s a jobless recovery, kinda like the one in the mid-1930’s.  How do you think people pulled through then?

If you have a lot of time on your hands, why not donate some of that time while you’re looking for work?

And for God’s sake, stop quaking in your boots when the next person coming around the corner is black, is white, speaks Spanish, wears a kafikah, or sports a bumper sticker that contradicts your politics.  Embrace the differences.  It builds numbers.

Most of all, make a decision not to be afraid.  Fear makes us stupid.  America accomplishes absolutely zero when it’s afraid.  It does no good to fear change.  Cowards fear change.

The brave embrace it, control it, and use it.

Be brave.

MTM Cincinnati – Cincinnati’s Most Famous Resident Musician

Cincinnati has spawned Adrian Belew, Nick Lechey, and James Brown/P-Funk bassist Bootsy Collins.  However, the city’s most famous musician has resided here full or part time since the mid-1990’s.

Ladies and gentlemen, Indian Hill resident Mr. Peter Frampton…

And no, he doesn’t say what everyone says through the talk box.  He really does say “I wanna thank you.”

More posts at the My Town Mondays blog.

The Last Gamble of Doc Holliday By LT Brooks

Born in rural Georgia in the decade before the Civil War, John Henry Holliday led a hard life.  His father, only happy when he was a soldier, was miserable and took it out on John.  His mother developed consumption (what we call tuberculosis) when he was ten, just as the Civil War began.  His father went to fight for The Cause, leaving him to tend his mother.

When she died, the war had ended, the South lay in ruins, and young John was only happy in the presence of his charming cousin Mattie.  So off to Philadelphia he would go to become a dentist.  He planned to setup practice in Atlanta and marry Mattie, but that cough, the one that killed his mother, developed before he graduated.  John left Georgia – and tragically, Mattie – forever, heading west to practice dentistry and save his lungs.

It was in Dallas that “Doc” Holliday discovered his two true talents – gambling and gunslinging.  When he wasn’t fixing teeth, Doc could be found dealing faro, playing poker, or providing security for the railroads or Wells Fargo.

But despite most legends being mostly myth, a gunslinger develops a lot of enemies, and Doc was no exception.  He moved from Texas to Colorado to Dodge City, Kansas, north to the illegal mining camp at Deadwood, and eventually to Arizona.  Along the way, he picked up a persistent common law wife, best known as Katie Elder, who refused to leave his side.  He also became fast friends with Wyatt Earp and witnessed the murder of Wild Bill Hickock.  In Tombstone, he became a fugitive after the Earp families famous vendetta ride in the wake of the OK Corral shootout and its aftermath.  Eventually, he settled in Colorado, where he spent the last of his days trying to stay ahead of the consumption that killed his mother.

The Last Gamble of Doc Holliday is a well-researched novel that leans heavily on the truth, but weaves in myths that put Holliday in a positive light.  It should.  LT Brooks has written from Doc’s point-of-view.  Which is not to say she white-washes Holliday’s life story.  Holliday is long-suffering as a child and teen, driven as a dental student, but quick-tempered as an adult.  His tempestuous relationship with Kate Elder included a lot of mutual abuse, and sometimes, Holliday held a grudge.

Two things really stuck me with this book.  One was Holliday’s relationship with fellow gunslinger Bat Masterson.  The two never liked each other, according to Brooks, and yet the respect for each other was deep.  If one picked up the story midway without reading those early scenes between Holliday and Masterson in Dallas, one might suspect they were closer friends than Holliday and Earp were.

The other is the love story between Mattie and Doc.  The two never truly parted, though they never saw each other again since Doc left Georgia forever.  Mattie had and gave up their child and refused to marry again.  And yet the letters between them sustained each other through their trials over the years.

The jacket flap states that Brooks, whom I met in 2005 at a group book signing, was working on a second book.  If so, I’d like to see it.  She’s painted an intriguing portrait of one of the Old West’s most iconic figures.