ON THE FLOOR AT A KUMBAYA

It’s been years since I attended a large gathering of the faithful, and like any outsider I IMG_20180319_194139walked through the doors of the Toronto Congress Centre with a wobbly uncertainty. I felt goddamned ashamed. After decades of self-improvement, I still felt like that kid on the playground, the one that doesn’t look right and probably never will.

Maybe it was my blue suede high-heeled cowboy boots that held me back. Somewhere in my feckless psyche, I had decided on my birthday that half-century feet sautéing in Uggs could be teased back.

IMG_20180319_195047I mopped my sloppy brow. Now measuring in at 5’11,” I remembered that I’d forgotten to take my hormone pill before I left the house. I dreaded the shvitz that would surely come.

A Doug Ford campaign staffer with fabulous accessories and terrific elocution skills approached with a tablet to steer me in the direction of Registration. There, my name, email address, postal code and degree of commitment was recorded digitally.

Fantastic! With what would amount to a crowd of anywhere between 1500 to 2000 IMG_20180319_191908depending on who you asked, this campaign would lead off strong with busy hands in every sphere.

I remember when we did this on paper and by rotary dial telephone alone!

To say that Doug Ford’s candidacy for Premier of Ontario is well-organized is not to gloss it. I saw it with my own eyes. From the jammed media riser to the wet bars in every corner, everything and everyone was in its proper place waiting for the man of the hour.

IMG_20180319_194744For American readers, let me tell you that Doug Ford is not new to the scene. He has had his fingers in politics and business for years, not unlike his predecessor, who was very ceremoniously dumped for social and possible financial wrong-doing just weeks ago.

That Doug’s team hit the ground, boots on, just days after his election as party leader speaks volumes to how badly they want it. But who was there to give it to them?

Bloggers and op edders agree that Doug is a menace. He’s privileged. He’s wealthy. He’s IMG_20180319_194803pale-faced. And he’s a dude. Who in their right mind outside of the faithful would vote for him? And wouldn’t the faithful look exactly like him?

Breaking a sweat under the bright lights, I retreated with aching feet to the shadows to get a better look.

Seems the Ford people don’t all look like him. In fact, I noted as many Benz and Audi in the parking lot as half-ton pick-ups. Nobody wore fur, and nobody carried truncheons. And nobody seemed to be overly concerned about my lack of Ford decoration, as if they knew that everyone there, press included, would behave, and would give the man of the hour a chance to speak.

The platform party was pleasingly representative of Ontario’s diversity—people with youth, people with age, people with history, people with enthusiasm.  More like them filled the hall. They are believers.

As the candidate mounted the platform, he was taken up in embrace by the three female candidates he defeated at the convention. Swearing solidarity, they are also promising to stick around, stick their necks out and actually run. I can’t fault anybody for having the courage to do that.

Mr. Ford spoke for about ten minutes and about the only thing I can remember is that “we are in a mess” and he will “clean up the mess.” If that’s what his communications director wanted to get across, congrats. It worked.

IMG_20180319_191849I’m on the floor now, my heels telling me that it is time. From this vantage, I can only see shoes—Dockers, Skechers, Vans, Steve Madden, Nine West—and some stroller wheels. What I don’t see are a rush of youthful feet, what we used to call (and what is probably still called) the Wedge, young Progressive Conservative Youth rushing the stage enthusiastically with lollipop signs. About the youngest I see here are late twenties but mostly early thirties, the new twenty. They cheer, they clap, but they are also composed and earnest.

I also do not see or, more correctly from the floor, “hear” the hecklers. Not even one. Do throne speechthey only appear on-line or do they reserve their right to free speech for those in power? I guess I’ll find out when I visit the Preem, who’s currently busy answering questions about the Throne Speech.

The party is over, and Doug has left the stage. I’m still on the ground with my sore feet. I’m in a terrible mess. What shall I do?

I don’t have to wait long. A nice chap from Ford Nation offers a hand. He picks me up.

For The Daily Yammer, I am

A.B. Funkhauser

Conscientious Observer

campaign hat

March 20, 2018

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4

Website:  https://abfunkhauser.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

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Publisher:  http://www.solsticepublishing.com

 

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THE CLOSED WORLD OF THE FUNERAL DIRECTOR

The closed world of a funeral director is rarely glimpsed owing to the strictures of confidentiality scrupulously maintained by industry professionals. In SCOOTER NATION, the second novel in A.B. Funkhauser’s Unapologetic Lives Series, confidentiality, or more keenly the silence naturalized by a desire to protect the privacy of others, leads to inflated misunderstandings underpinned by a culture of myth and lore. What follows are a chain of events both comic and chilling.

 

E   X   C   E   R   P   T

Krause looked like she was going to cry: “Don’t you knobs get it? We’ve been sold to the Flexor Group. I just know it.”

Carla stiffened. “What did you see? Who did you see?”

The death business was a small, closed community with few strangers. Everybody knew everyone else and their business too.

“I only saw their feet,” Enid replied. “Black shoes. Square toes.” Her face whitened. “Loafers!”

Scooter Creighton dropped his lighter. “Are you sure? No mistake?”

Eyes 1“No mistake. I was wearing my bifocals. There can only be one person behind this.”

The ancient intercom on the garage wall crackled to life. Jocasta Binns had found them: “Put the damned cigarettes out. Meeting starts NOW.

Scooter Creighton nodded meaningfully at his companions. The rude bitch was clearly on a roll. Like most funeral homes that hadn’t caught up to the twenty-first century, Weibigand’s had a front door equipped with a tinny doorbell that sounded whenever the door swung open. More modern establishments employed greeters or hostesses that manned large semi-circular hotel-lobby like desks for a more personal touch. But Weibigand’s, experiencing a steady decline in business year over year, lacked funds to pay for such a person. So the bell, on duty since the 1930s, was the only way to know that someone had come in. It had not sounded.

“Jocasta turned the bell off!” Enid shouted. “Why the hell would she turn the bell off?”

There were only two possible explanations: Either some non-staffer had been assigned to inside doorstand watch at the door and had shut the bell off, or the doors were being locked and the bell wasn’t needed.

“My god,” Carla gasped, thinking of the square-toed, black leather shoes that, beyond any doubt, now stalked the hall above. Though there were many, only a single pair held any relevance.

Every profession had its own share of false gods and banal superstitions. Those, carried forth on a wave of feverish gossip backed by assertions that everything said was ‘true’, gave rise to fantastic mythologies that made a chosen few more significant than they actually were. Graeham Grissom of B.H. Hoage, for example, was the undisputed embalming god of their age while “Count Floyd” Aiken could ‘will’ new business into being with a stroke of a pen. That old age, arthritis, early-onset dementia and the public’s annoying preference for cremation over medieval embalming procedures decreased the field of competitors, and so guaranteed Graeham’s mantle in the first instance, had nothing to do with the stories spread: he made esoteric concoctions in the old Hoage basement that rendered his people ‘pliable’ ‘natural-like’ ‘soft to the touch’ and even ‘warmer’ without the slightest sign of decay, even after a fifty-four day hold. The same held for Count Floyd. No one could turn a prearranged funeral into an ‘at need’ simply by sending a get better card, yet Floyd’s people did die suddenly whenever he did, whether sick or not. That the deceased had crossed the century mark in every case had little to do with a great tale.

But there were other stories out there: stories not so benign and infinitely more sinister. eyesSome, it was said, enriched themselves through the weak willed. These were the mendacious pocket-liners who evaded the law and curried favor with popular opinion regardless of talk.

These were the ones to watch…

And fear.

The little group assembled in the Weibigand garage knew that fear and felt it now because it was right on top of their heads. Scooter Creighton, jaws clenched, ground the words out first, like a metal vise in need of oil: “It’s Clayton. He is in the building.”

 

SCOOTER NATION

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ON PROVENANCE: WHAT MAKES HEUER TICK

Who we are and what we are depends on how honest we choose to be. At least that’s how my character Jürgen Heuer (pronounced ‘lawyer’) likes to play it out in life and death. Born in Bremen, Germany with summers spent in the Austrian Tyrol he is literally preprogrammed to be a romantic.

His mother, a dreamer raised on Schumann, palinka shots and weeping Hungarian violins demands it. “Love, my love, and desire—Sensucht—longing: These are the things that make the history, the things upon which great legends are built. Without these, you have dust in your mouth.”

wandern

Yet Heuer’s love for things musical “the cicada’s song” or lyrical “… her tangs of violet commixing with scents of must, like the old place back home in Europe” are squelched by history and a profound belief that he is “born bad” and cannot undo it.

“Small, both in mind and body, he had tremendous appetites, all of which skewed towards becoming more than what he actually was.” An apropos description not of the man, but of the father, Werner, whose tastes “… classic in [their] narcissism, embraced the moldy old ethos of ethnicity over geography, and, as such, he was first in line when Anschluss came to Vienna…”

anschluss1

Werner Heuer has no time for art or music: “For him, the rhythmic tapping of jackboots on pavement went beyond forced occupation; it was the end of the road after a long trek.”

Eschewing his parents’ hang-ups, Heuer does his best to build a life in America that is, by all accounts, immensely successful and hardly lonely. But it is contrived. Dodging promotion, cruising the outer banks that frame society, he keeps to himself, except when he toys with the lives of others. When a young colleague joins the firm Heuer takes action, not swiftly, but slowly, the way he likes it: “The decision to ruin a young man half his age was taken lightly and on purpose, as if giving weight to the decision conferred unjust power on the youth. To Heuer, it was personal, but also a test to see if he could actually do it.”

All business, Heuer reminds me of another character, Irmtraut Weibigand, currently under construction in POOR UNDERTAKER, a work in progress. A woman of business, she wrestles with secret doubts about the veracity of her citizenship, place in the community, and the integrity of the people she tries to call friends. A raucous Chamber of Commerce luncheon exacerbates this, when she rises in defense of her frenemy Hartmut Fläche, whose effete manners and pomposity alight the simmering hatred of fellow Chamber member Conrad Hickey. Defending Fläche’s right to exist, Irmtraut loses her cool as she’s reminded that she’s as ‘foreign’ as he is even though she has been a part of the community for nearly thirty years. Well read, she cannot help but think of Shakespeare’s monster Caliban from the Tempest making a subtle but conscious comparison to her own place on the ‘island’ that is Portside, Michigan. Thinking back to her mother, her provenance and her roots, she is cut at the knees, reminding herself that no matter how fine she becomes, she will always wear homespun.

Like Irmtraut, like Werner, Heuer wrestles with his identity which takes centre stage anno domini. His inane Germanity  no longer an issue, Heuer wishes only to be cared for and remembered.

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