Don’t you hate this part — where a writer tells you about themselves? Okay, maybe you don’t, but I do. And believe me, it’s not any more enjoyable when you’re the writer.
I use a nom de plume for the very same reason or reasons Samuel Langhorne Clemons did. Because it was his, and it’s my, prerogative. Samuel Langhorne Clemons’ nom de plume was obviously Mark Twain and my nom de plume is obviously Cold N. Holefield. I will let you the reader determine, after an exhaustive study & evaluation of my work, why I chose this name. I’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t a random choice plucked from the abyss. It was a decision informed by life and the reality or realities we live in.
Many readers have come to expect some revelation about who or what the writer is, and traditionally, the “who” part of that who or what wins the day. The result is a myriad of long-lost & forgotten books, and many not yet lost or forgotten, littered with the cheesy, fluffy and mostly useless superficiality of the authors’ mostly unexamined lives. Some authors comply eagerly with this request, while others, like myself, shrink from it in horror. The Horror. The Horror. I don’t want you to know whether or not I’m married or whether or not I have children. You don’t need to know, nor should you want to know, the names of family members and pets and my favorite hobbies and foods and all the other dishonest ways, or in the least all the incomplete ways from a yin/yang perspective, authors describe themselves to include a Glamour Shots photo at the behest of their Publishers. Yuck. No way. I refuse, and dispose with, the “who” part of the who or what. The “what” is what matters, so “what” is what you’ll get. Be grateful — it’s the more authentic version, so please don’t feel deprived. About The Author should be About The Author, not about the pretentious mask the author has crafted in which to hide their innermost self from this sometimes, or many times, Cruel & Wicked World.
Perhaps some of you remember the 1992 VP Debate. It was the year Ross Perot ran for POTUS and his pick for Vice President was Admiral Stockdale. Needless to say, the Admiral was out of his element (being that he was not a politician) and it showed to the point of being comical. When the moderator finally called on Admiral Stockdale to speak, he infamously said, “who am I, and why am I here?” Look it up on YouTube — the video is out there. It’s worth the chuckle. I watched it live at the time, and let me tell you, I laughed my ass off. It was one of the greatest moments of serendipitous comedy I have ever encountered. The seriousness of the venue and the tension it created served to enhance the comical effect. Stockdale was obviously making a quip, however, it wasn’t meant to be self-deprecating as though he was clueless, but it came off that way. I rolled on the ground I laughed so hard and I couldn’t take anything he said thereafter, seriously. I could hardly take the debate seriously anyway, but the Admiral was the redemptive icing on that dodgy debate cake.
I’d like to channel the Admiral, but replace the “who” with the “what.” What am I, and why am I here? Great questions. Sometimes, or many times even, I ask myself the same thing instead of asking for you as I’ve just done. The answer, however, depends on the moment, because I’m on a committed journey of constant intellectual growth, so there’s nothing static or absolute that applies equally across the spectrum of time. The best I can hope for is to come close for the moment, but with the added caveat it’s subject to change and will change. A Rolling Stone gathers no moss, and I’m a Rolling Stone that’s allergic to moss even though I adore its velveteen texture. Seriously, have you ever petted moss before? If you haven’t, you should give it a try when no one’s looking — it’s actually quite lovely.
As to the WHY am I here part, I don’t exactly know why I’m here writing this to you at this moment in time. I don’t know if there’s an answer to this question. My Journey to this moment has been that of a river like the Mighty Mississippi — tumultuously replete with twists and turns and raging rapids and massive floods. Perhaps HOW I am here is more easily answered. I’m here because I’ve always been an inquisitive, expressive and animated individual since I can remember. I’ve always been a curious fellow, in the sense that I’m always investigating the meaning, and deeper meaning, of all things. And this inquisition coupled with a natural, organic passion & intensity has evoked a polarized reaction to me and my countenance throughout my entire half century of existence thus far. People either love me or hate me or just don’t care, and the ones who don’t care are pretty much apathetic about most things except for food maybe. I’ve had many people tell me I inspire & energize them, but contrarily, I’ve had many people refer to me as an asshole and a vile human being. That’s quite a polarized disparity of reaction and it’s tantamount to, and telling of, WHAT I am. I’m curious and inquisitive. I’m passionate & intense. I’m animated & expressive — a satirist or comic, if you will. I challenge. I provoke. I’m not brushed off easily. I’m tenacious and determined like a dog with a bone. I’m kind & caring & compassionate and empathetic. I’m brash & bold & provocative. I am not a soldier, although I am fiercely loyal to my loved ones and to those I care deeply for and to topics that profoundly interest me. As you can see, there isn’t much room for me in this World we’ve crafted — in this World that demands uniformity & homogeneity & conformity, I am one of the odd men and/or women out, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But most of all, what I am is a Thinker. Have you seen Rodin’s bronze sculpture, The Thinker? That’s me, in case you didn’t know. I’m thinking all the time and I’ve been told I think too much. All this thinking has gotten me into trouble throughout my life, because if you’re thinking too much, you’re not conforming enough, and if you don’t conform enough, well, you must be punished until you show the requisite amount of conformity. Seriously though, I am always thinking, and yes, I will concede, sometimes I’ll overthink a topic or subject. I know that about myself, so I take measures to temper it, but I don’t let it dissuade me from thinking. Thinking is part of what makes life so wonderful and a large part of what separates us humans from other living creatures that inhabit this planet. It behooves us as humans to utilize to the fullest the capacity we’ve developed to think. And that’s what I intend to keep doing until I can’t anymore, and when that time comes when I can no longer think, I may as well be dead.
If you think about it (pun intended), thinking is contagious if you refuse to take your daily prophylactic dose of mind-numbing mediocrity from The Establishment. I inspire people to think, but it’s not an easy or foolproof process. When you challenge people to think, there’s no guarantee they will. Quite a few, under the spell and deleterious effects of mediocrity, are disturbed when challenged to think. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and they react negatively and lash out against the source of the challenging inspiration. “Don’t rock the boat, don’t tip the boat over.” The System we live in and under does not reward thinking. In fact, this System we live in and under has a particular disdain for thinking and thinkers. It requires dutiful mindlessness for The Status Quo to perpetuate and it will go out of its way to ensure it. If you’re a Thinker and you’re caught thinking in public, or even in private these days, you may as well be caught naked, because the effect will be the same. Thinking, collectively and concomitantly en masse by the heretofore mindless, is the single greatest threat to The System absent a natural cataclysm. It quite literally is The Off Switch, and The System engages in all manner of acrobatics to ensure WE, collectively, never find it. I know — I’ve been the recipient of The System’s myriad malicious methods to mitigate & neutralize the contagion of free, independent and objective thinking. If this System has one commandment, it is, “Thou Shalt Not Think” — and I break it daily and encourage & inspire all of you to do the same until we power down this enslaving System we live & under and usher in a Brave New World that cherishes thinking and all the positive manifestations that will emanate from it when practiced en masse.
And finally, because I would be remiss not to mention this, I am a nascent sociologist, philosopher and anthropologist. I know, that’s quite a laundry list, but it’s true, I’ve always been interested in the Big Questions. Why are we here? What’s this all about? What’s possible? How did we get here? What are we really? What is all of this really? How does it all work? Is their anything beyond? In otherwords, I’m perpetually consumed with, and intrigued & haunted by, Existential matters. As I mentioned earlier, I’m always thinking and I’m eternally & religiously inquisitive, so no matter what topic I investigate, these questions are always looming and pertinent to it. There’s a basic theme I’ve been nurturing for at least several years now if not longer that runs through all my work and it is, Reality is a Lie.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with a short story from my past that exemplifies what I am. I’m also a story teller in a society that no longer appreciates story telling. In addition to being a story teller, I’m a social critic and satirist. My Catcher In The Lie blog is predominantly social criticism with a healthy dose of satire for good measure. My aim, as involuntary as it is, is to hold a mirror up to this System we live in and under so we can see its True Reflection. As products of this System we live in & under, I also hold the mirror up to particular individuals as representatives of the System at large. I now realize it’s something I’ve done unconsciously & unwittingly my entire life to date. It’s only the last several years that I’ve fully embraced it, and since that epiphany and precisely because of it, I’ve finally found my voice.
This first story relates a formative & defining event that occurred early in my life at approximately fourteen years of age. It was Thanksgiving weekend late 1970’s. I remember it was unseasonably warm in Philadelphia that year. The Rams were playing the Eagles — it was a rather dull, unremarkable game that couldn’t manage to keep my steady attention. This was a somewhat special day because my older brother’s girlfriend was coming to dinner to meet the family for the first time. My parents were in a tizzy trying to get the dinner prepared and the house in order. First impressions are vitally important, afterall. As part of this harried process, my Mother demanded I vacuum the house. Why she asked me and no one else, I can’t be sure. Perhaps it had something to do with me always volunteering to do so much around the house that no one else ever wanted to do — like borrowing the neighbor’s lawn mower every week to cut the lawn because my parents were too lazy & too cheap to buy one. In otherwords, I was a pushover or a sucker she felt she could take for granted and take advantage of in a pinch. But not this time. I was tired of being taken for granted. So, I refused. I was enacting Caesar’s edict in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) when he implored the apes, as their de facto leader, to say “NO” to their human masters & abusers. And let me tell you, did I ever pay the price for my recalcitrance. Yes, I disobeyed my Mother’s directive, but I was fed up with the injustice. She wouldn’t ask anyone else to do it and they weren’t doing anything. I have seven siblings and out of all eight of us, she targeted me. I decided to take a stand and rebel against the inequitable treatment.
Surely you’ve heard the expression, “just wait ’til your Father gets home!!” That was my Mother. She used my Father as the punisher and the enforcer. He happily obliged. He was a massive man — six feet five inches tall and three hundred pounds. When he got mad his whole face turned beet red and his thundering voice could he heard clear to the other side of the neighborhood. And yes, he would get physical with us, but in a way that didn’t leave a mark, meaning no cuts, bruises or broken bones, but the effect his manhandling had on your psyche was the same nonetheless. This time was no different. Mom demanded I vacuum one final time and when I refused one final time, she marched downstairs to unleash on me the Pit Bull that was my Father. I could hear him pounding up the stairs and I knew I was in for it. He was so massive, when he climbed the stairs he took up the entire width of the passageway. As a youngster, if you wanted to get by, you would have to go under and through the tunnel outlined by his legs which, believe it or not, I had done on several occasions before he caught on. Each step he took sounded like a detonation — the wood beneath his feet stretching to the breaking point as he ascended to the next plank. My pulse approached one hundred and massive amounts of adrenaline were released into my blood stream. I steeled myself for the beating to come. There was no where to run to and no where to hide. He had me cornered and then he went in for the kill. He annihilated me without leaving a trace on my body except for the shirt he tore to shreds. No kidding — he quite literally tore my shirt to shreds. He really scared the shit out of me because I thought this was going to be the time he really did injure one of us. Thankfully he didn’t — injure me, but either way, I was not only overwhelmingly intimidated & humiliated, but also, I was furious. I wasn’t going to take it laying down. I would expose him for the bully he was. But how? Don’t worry, I had the perfect plan keeping in mind that “sometimes, NOTHING is a real cool hand.”
Yes, I capitulated after my “beating” and vacuumed the house — and then I bided my time until my older brother and his girlfriend arrived. It would be an early dinner, around 1pm. My family traditionally did this on Sundays — an early dinner shortly after twelve noon but usually no later than two. They, my older brother and his girlfriend, arrived and all the typical niceties were exchanged and there was some brief conversation with the guest before settling in at the dining room table for chow. I remained upstairs the entire time until I was called down. In fact, I refused to come down after the first call-out for me so my parents sent an emissary in the form of one of my younger brothers. This time I obliged and made my way down to the dining room where the entire family, to include my brother’s girlfriend, was seated and waiting for me. If I could show you their faces. It was priceless — for everything else there’s Mastercard. Most of all, I wish you could have seen my older brother’s girlfriend’s reactive expression. It was a mixture of astonishment, intrigue, perplexity and shock all wrapped up in a tidy, carefully-guarded and highly-contained package.
Some of my brothers & sisters snickered. Others said quasi-admonishingly & disapprovingly, “Michael”. But my brother’s girlfriend said what I’d hoped she would say, and that was, “what happened to you — why is your shirt all torn and your hair all messed up?” Of course, I couldn’t tell a lie. She was a fellow inquisitor like me and it was my sacred duty to inform all inquisitive beings when they thirst for knowledge and understanding, so, I told her. I said, “my Father did it. He ripped my shirt up and pulled my hair & beat me because I wouldn’t vacuum the house for you!!” She went cross-eyed. She was short-circuiting. I’m certain my older brother had prepped her about our family — that it was large and chaotic and overwhelming at times, but nothing could have prepared her for this. She was so flummoxed she was speechless. How do you respond to such an admonition when you’re just meeting your boyfriend’s family for the first time? There are no self-help guides that can guide you through such an awkward moment, so, you remain silent and silently beg for the moment to pass as quickly as possible.
My Father tried to diffuse the tension you could cut with a chainsaw by making light of it — as though I was just joking. He laughed heartily and patted me on the back and said, “Mike.” He laughed & laughed and some of my more sycophantic siblings laughed with him in a team effort to quickly diffuse the awkward tension so we could get on with his favorite pastime, eating, and put the mirror I had held up back in the closet with the other skeletons where it belonged. What a great big closet it was (and still is) — cedar-lined — I love cedar-lined closets, and even though we moved from that house and moved from many houses, that cedar-lined closet came with us wherever we went. It’s here right now with me as I write this section of this book and it will be with me until I take my last breath or I remember my last memory before senility obliterates my essence.
My Father & Mother, within the subsequent year, were divorced. The Family was never the same. My older brother and his girlfriend eventually married and still are to this day. My Father never laid a hand on any us after that day. He later admitted that it made him realize he could really hurt us. Gee, you think? I’m happy I could be of help in enabling him to come to this realization, but alas, I received no credit for it. That’s the thing. Don’t expect credit if you hold the mirror up. Instead, you’ll mostly receive derision. No one likes a Party Pooper.
Just as the cedar-lined closet filled to the brim with skeletons and superfluous baggage follows me wherever I go, so too does the torn shirt. My wife tells me I wear it all the time. It’s defined me. It’s the mirror I hold up to The World. A mirror like no other, for it allows us to see things as they really are, in their totality, as opposed to the Norman Rockwell abstracted, white-washed facsimile Society sanctions. I truly believe nothing can change for the better in this World if we collectively cannot see things for what they really are in their totality — The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. And so, whether it’s voluntary or involuntary or some of both, I will continue to wear the torn shirt and hold up that mirror and perhaps, like the butterfly that flaps its wings in some obscure part of Latin America, I can initiate an impetus that ultimately alters the metaphorical weather & climate of this thing we call Society/Civilization. That’s also what I am. A cynical idealist, and no, that’s not an oxymoron.