I hadn’t boughten a pack in maybe over six months. My ecig fits the bill. Mostly.
Something felt missing as I was making my way home. Not like a fundamental thing but more a minor detail, a bow on a present, a knot on a shoe. A sentence without a period.
Regardless of the horrible taste, the everywhere ashes, the smoke in my eyes — smoking feels right. The cigarette felt right in my hand. It felt right on my lips. The smoke felt right in my lungs. I felt right with the world.
And that feeling of “right” terrorizes alcoholics and addicts their whole lives once they’ve tapped into it.
There’s no going back. Something will always feel missing because we know.
I’ve never been in a hog processing plant. When I lived in Iowa I knew people who had though. Knew people who worked the second and third shifts. Knew people who worked on the kill floor. Work comes up in conversation as it does now and then and every once in a while I’d hear stories.
If a story provokes me hard enough I’ll form a complicated, detailed mental playhouse of it. And it’ll stick like glue, turn into an everlasting memory that my imagination makes all too real. It’ll become part of my story. Follow me around like gum on my shoe. For life.
I often accidentally think of the hogs in whatever warehouse room they’re herded into before they actually make it to the kill floor. Again, I’ve never been in such a place but I get sucked into the dirty, gritty gum when the hogs beckon.
It’s dark and hard to see in the pre-kill chamber. Because the corporate doesn’t want you to. The workers shouldn’t see the hogs nor should the hogs see each other. Seeing the animal eyeballs of panic would only amplify the room’s sweaty electricity.
The floor is concrete, permanent and unnatural. There’s no give.
The workers stand behind railings up above. They wear Leatherface aprons, backward capes. They’re the unintentional supervillains, paid by the hour.
I’m down with the hogs, moving as part of the chaotic herd. I’m not one of them because I always play the outsider but I am one with their stress.
Hurried hog silhouettes herding in panic. Unknowingly moving, running. The wrong way. Pivoting their front ends left and right because they don’t have necks. Looking for an out but only bouncing off one another and continuing their momentum forward.
The room’s energy is filled with heated power. I don’t know how big it is. It’s like being in a nightclub and it’s so dark that you become disoriented and lost.
I see flashes of chemically stretched animal flesh as the swine prison spotlights make their way to and from. Sometimes the lights are only a few hanging flood lamps, swaying with a gentle horror.
The pigs wear collars similar to those Rutger Hauer wore in Wedlock. I don’t know why they need them.
If I were a better artist I’d draw what I imagine as a comic book cover.
It’s never quiet either. The hog hoofs march the concrete in nonuniform muffled clapping. There’s a constant frenzy of short lived screams. Not death screams but outbursts of piggy alarm. Cry outs. High-pitched shrills of Mel Gibson’s Freedom.
The hogs are my lambs…but they were never real for me.
After I typed that last sentence I paused. I realized Clarice isn’t real either. But not to me. Movies and characters and plots can (and often do) take non-fictional places in my head. They become history.
In my darkest, blackest, most panicked times my fright is televised internally. As those pigs. In that room. My horror is nowhere near the magnitude as the hogs’ and being funneled into whatever electric chamber but…when dread overtakes me and I can’t think clearly…I generally see, hear, feel this warehouse space played on some twisted massacre loop.
Not long after Kathy and I divorced, I had an outburst outpouring captured in the song below. The music is much more audibly harsh than the scene I describe above, what I actually hear, but I had a recent breakup swirling and all. It was an attempt though to translate how the hogs manifest when I’m alone.
Hmm. I didn’t intend to go this far down the rabbit hole. I’ve never told anyone of the hogs before. They’ve been with me since the first time I saw Carrie and a sadistic John Travolta. The playhouse solidified when I lived up the street from a processing plant.
A couple of years ago when anti-socializing with the terrorized hogs in the slaughterhouse asylum, I told Jimi of whatever inescapable distress I was in the midst of. That I wasn’t taking my spiritual antibiotics, that I was just freaking out with the other hogs. I felt as if life had been hitting me with a shock rod over and over again.
I hadn’t prayed for a couple of days. Or sought spiritual guidance. All was lost.
Jimi said to me, “Well, ya better start praying again.”
The most divine answers are the most simplistic. I lose sight of that easily.
I talked about this not long ago in a meeting but want to reiterate its value to me. The value is the main reason I started writing this blurb that put my hysterical hog factory on public display. In the department store window.
Just because I haven’t prayed for a couple of days doesn’t mean that I can’t start praying again. Like right now.
Often times when I don’t do things that I should, my mind goes to this place where I can never do them again. I haven’t called a friend in awhile so I can never again pick up the phone sorta thing. And the longer the time since the last, the more I feel like I can’t. I have to give up entirely. Too much time has passed and I’ve lost my chance, the window closed. The department store turned off its lights.
I don’t know why this is.
But I can. I can pick up the phone. I can reach out. I can go to a meeting. I can pray. I can pick up where I left off. It’s not too late. It never is. I don’t have to quit completely. The only one who says I can’t is me.
Stop thinking, stop fretting. If I start thinking my wheels start moving. And then they start spinning. And then I never go anywhere.
Stop road-blocking, cock-blocking yourself. That was vulgar I know but whatever.
My point is we can (and should regularly) give ourselves permission to do the things that — for whatever reason — we tell ourselves we can’t.
Take the piggy out.
Embrace knowing that there are no warehouses. There’s only freedom from our own limitations.
What makes this issue really significant, however, is that to my knowledge, it’s the first time Batman’s co-creator, Bill Finger, has received a cover credit for the original Batman story.
Finger is, of course, the writer of the earliest Batman comics, whose contributions to the creation of the Dark Knight include the costume and color scheme, the origin story, the lack of superpowers, the words “Batmobile” and “Gotham City,” Robin, the Joker, and numerous other elements. Unfortunately, due to some legal trickery by his collaborator and actual supervillain Bob Kane, Finger’s never been officially identified with a “Batman created by” credit in any published works or films or other Batman media.
Somehow I missed this in my internet travels of 2014.
I had always believed that Kane was the sole force behind Batman. Okay, so maybe Batman was his initial idea but the “created by” part is misleading. Much of what makes Batman who he is is his story, his parents being shot, him being a vigilante and so on. Those things fall into the creation bucket as far as I’m concerned.
Bob Kane was one of my heroes and this took him down a few notches in my book.