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Sightings of America inside the Bunker Hill Monument

Monday 6/5/23

Yesterday I was doing my stairs in the Bunker Hill Monument. As I was coming down one time, a no-necked, pugnacious-looking obese goon was yelling at his eleven or twelve-year-old daughter. She was in front of him, and overweight herself, no doubt in large part because of the environment in which she was raised, and that this man was her father. The girl was crying and fighting to get her wind. And this guy was yelling at her to keep going.

Within the Monument--with its narrow, winding staircase--you see the whole of America if you are inside enough. Here you see the bad parenting, the hypocrisy, the projection, the cruelty. You see a child being set up to fail later in life. You see a lack of health in various forms.

I say to the guy, "Ease up, man, it's a lot of stairs. You need to pace yourself."

I only intervene when someone is being hurt or if they need help. People next to me say stupid, incorrect things all of the time, but of course I never interject.

In reality, it's not that many stairs, but to most people, fifteen stairs is a lot, and this is 294.

The guy's first reaction is to be a tough guy. And that's just one of those things that isn't going to go the way you want it to go here. He flashes me this look of anger. That look when you tell someone off. He's a bully. Then he sizes me up. I see the fear on his face. And he says to his kid, "Let's rest on the next landing," which was right behind me.

The poor kid. She shouldn't be in that shape. They must be stuffing her full of sugar and not taking the right care of her. The fostering of bad habits, with almost surely no healthy meals being provided and insisted upon. That helps sets someone up for a life of bad choices. Then you're having gastric bypass surgery at thirty-two.

On the next circuit, I encountered a dad giving his kids a history lesson. I witness these things often. There is never anything correct in these lessons. It's usually all as wrong as wrong can be. But the kids don't know that, and they accept what dad says as truth.

This guy tells his kids that the Bunker Hill Monument was crucial to our victory in the Revolutionary War--this obelisk that didn't exist at the time--because the Minute Men came inside and they shot arrows out of the slit-like windows at the Redcoats below.

The average American is a remarkable achievement in stupidity. The average American does not know anything about anything. By average, I mean, more than ninety-nine percent of all Americans. That this guy thought George Washington or whomever said, "We're gonna fight at Bunker Hill, and I need you to build me an obelisk to shoot some arrows!" isn't even surprising to me. I encounter the likes of this all the time.

You know how on Cheers Cliff Clavin would talk out of his ass? Like that time he said the Minute Men were really the Minute--as in small--Men. Clavin's remarks are closer to the truth than any of the history lessons I hear parents give their kids inside the Monument.

This idiot was really breaking it down, too. He made one kid stand in front of one of the openings as he said, "See how hard it'd be to hit you with an arrow from outside? But you could fire an arrow out a lot easier."

The kid is just accepting this, like "Thanks, dad," and the kid is well on his way to be an idiot in life. Super. Unless he renounces his father--at least internally--as a moron. Maybe a nice guy, but a moron. Then he just has to keep that to himself, or nod sadly when his future wife makes another crack about his ignorant parents after they get home from a Saturday afternoon visit fifteen or twenty years from now.

All of this factors into why I want to live in the woods. I'll just find something different to run out there. The steep land going up to a promontory.

Then we have the people who never consider anyone else but themselves. These are also obtuse people, who cannot grasp matters of simple logic. For instance: in the Monument, there is a single railing. It's on the left-hand side as you go up, which means it's on your right-hand side coming down.

Pop quiz: Do you know why it's set up this way?

Because you travel on the right-hand side. That means when you're going up, you don't have a railing, but you don't need one, because if you trip whilst ascending, that's not much of a problem, is it? People are walking. I'm the only one whom one will see running.

If you're coming down and you fall, then you might have a problem. So you get the railing.

How do you think this ends up working in many instances?

That's right: a jackass wants that railing for themselves going both ways. They are the most important thing out there, and what they want should be what goes.

No, you selfish, cretinous blister in human form: move your ass out of the way.

Unless it's an elderly or infirm person or someone who shouldn't be in there, I'll just stand there until you move. This one guy yesterday started bitching and so I asked him how dumb he was. Don't do that thing where you say something to yourself but not really to yourself because you want the other person to hear but not do anything you certainly haven't thought about what it might be like if they elect to say something.

All someone has to do is stick out their foot--and it can be an accident, because people are so damn clumsy--and I take a tumble and break my neck. Then who is writing the masterpieces to change the world and last for the ages? This guy who can't figure out basic walking protocol? I'm going to limit how often I risk breaking my neck, as a reasonable person.

I do have an amusing line I can use when I resume my stairs travels. "You'll see me again." Pithy and literal, but it makes someone think, "What the fuck does that mean? Is he going to follow me home? Pop out and attack me somewhere?"

Then I finish, and as I'm leaving the park ranger at the desk down below gives me this big rah-rah routine where she says, "You made it!"

Spare me the performance trophy nonsense. The whole performance trophy ethos/attitude of tokenism and defeatism and equating barely doing anything with a reason for a victory parade or vacation.

She thinks I've done the stairs just the once, never mind that she has nothing to do but look at a TV image of the top where she would have seen me pop up again and again. Part of her job when she is at this desk with this monitor is to be observant, so mark that down as a fail. Most of the rangers know me, because how could you not at this point, so much so that they come grab me to put me in front of the line before the doors open so that I don't get stuck behind as many people. And here's this woman I know, because I see her all the time.

There was a ranger giving a talk at the top of the Monument on my first pass--which was actually the first time I've ever seen one up there. He had his back to me so he didn't see me when I hit the platform and turned around, but on my second time coming he was going down and he made a little joke, "I'm like you now."

And I'm dripping in front of this woman. Sweat is pouring off me. We are a country where it's now a hip-hip-hooray achievement to go up 294 stairs? I'm not some misshapen lump looking for any excuse to celebrate any slight form of movement. You also see a lot of that. Many remarks are made by people on stair twenty-five how this is their workout for the week, and they sound so proud of themselves. They're not joking. They're being serious.

It's amazing that this is a daring thing to say, but you're supposed to be fit. You're supposed to be mentally fit, intellectually fit, emotionally fit, spiritually fit, physically fit. You're supposed to get off your ass--your metaphorical ass and your literal one--and try. You're supposed to push yourself. The more you push yourself, the easier certain things get, the further you're extending yourself, the more you're experiencing, the more you know, the stronger you are, the better you are to take things on, the more you have to give.

Get off your ass. In everything there is for you to do. The best you can. It's not perfect. You're not going to be as successful in all areas. What matters is you're mindful and you try.

It is important that I note that I'm talking about the garden variety lazy, excuse-making person. I realize that people may struggle with deeper issues. Depression, addiction, whatever they may be. That's different. Much.

Most of the time, though, in this context of which I speak, that's not what is at play. Sloth is at play. And a galling prevailing passiveness in life. Which society now enables. Think of how we see it in publishing, which is a subculture of handouts based on skin color, gender, sexual identity, birthright, favored mediocrity. In life, the passive, no-nothing, do-nothing hardly-alive slacker is rewarded. Have a platform, for instance, because what you say is the same stupid shit that these people say. So there becomes less and less impetus not to suck. You end up costing yourself, because you're not even alive. You're wasting all of your time on earth. And when a lot of people do that, it costs society. Humanity. We get to where we are now, as we continue to go down further and further.

This entire attitude of manufactured, enabled lassitude extends to everything in life. This isn't me banging on about physical fitness, though that's one symptomatic part/result of this attitude. We are so willing to accept putting forward no effort in anything in the whole of our lives.

I always thinks about this friend of mine who once said to me, "Oh, that'd be awesome if I had a Monument in my backyard. I'd be doing those stairs all the time."

It's made me laugh--a subtle little chuckle--so many times when I recall his remark. Because it's like, no, you wouldn't at all. First off, this Monument is not in my backyard. It's a mile-and-a-half away. So if I'm just going to walk over there, that means I'm walking three miles. That'll deter most people right there. That's merely the to-ing and fro-ing.

But if someone does those stairs once, they're done. They're very, very, very unlikely to think, "Well, it's a start anyway, I'll come back and tackle these stairs again tomorrow."

No. They're going to think, "This fucking sucks. I'm not doing this again. This is hard. I hated that. What was I thinking?"

And if that person somehow managed to stick it out for a week, it's exceedingly unlikely to the point of "no chance" that that week becomes a month becomes half a year becomes a year. You have to care and you have to try. This isn't a Monument thing. Or it's not just a Monument thing. It's a life thing. And no one cares and tries that much with anything. Because very few people are alive and almost no one is progressing. People are just there. Then they say dumb shit that no calls out as dumb because everyone else is just as dumb and they're doing the same thing. And that's it. They partner up usually for the wrong reasons, they have grandkids, they get sick, they die. It's like they were never really alive.

I'm going to be writing a book about stairs. Life explained via stairs. What stairs have meant for me. What stairs have taught me. The history of stairs. What stairs say about this country, this world, this era.

I'm a person who knows the real meaning of stairs.


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