That’s an interesting question, self. I think it was because I was trying to quit dipping so I was PISSED 24/7. Not at anything in particular, ya know? I just just wanted to be another lunatic yelling into the void of the internet. That’s the motivation behind all of my writing: I hate you, I think you’re stupid, and the world would be a much better place if everyone thought exactly like me. Some of that anger has tapered off though. Mostly because I went back to dipping.
Have you always been an angry person?
Actually, once upon a time, I was able to let most things roll of my back. But then I got got caught up in a pseudo-cult where I was emotionally abused daily, so I’ve got a lot of untreated PTSD.
Why do you think the world is dumb?
I didn’t say the world is dumb. Stop spinning my words. I said that it was stupid and pathetic. And that’s completely due to the fact that I’m not in control of it.
What would do if you were?
You know, I’ve thought long and hard about that. And speaking of long and hard, I’d probably make the metric system universal because 10.16 cm sounds a lot bigger than 4 inches.
What would you do about climate change?
I don’t see what the problem is. Florida’s gonna be underwater in a few years, so I say let it happen.
Who was your biggest hero growing up?
What would you do if you had $10 Billion?
Put it all on the Milwaukee Brewers winning the World Series. Also, probably light a few bills on fire.
What’s your proudest accomplishment?
Most people would say “graduating from college”, or “birth of a child”, or “becoming financially stable” or blah blah blah. Nah. For me, it was in high school when some girls made a ranking of the hottest guys in school and I ranked. It’s been all downhill from there.
What advice would you give the next generation?
Do all the drugs. Except meth. Have some respect for yourself for fuck’s sake.
When are you gonna finish writing According to Simon?
Having some story problems. Turns out that I’m not a historian. Plus there’s not a lot of opportunities for fart and piss jokes. So give it some time.
There are few scenes in the history of film that hit me harder than the Super 8 sequence in Paris, Texas.
Rarely do films like this get made. Especially now. Not without a dose of heavy handed social commentary and violence.
That’s not the case with Paris, Texas. It’s subject is simple: one man’s inability to face his problems. All of this juxtaposed against the vast American landscape that’s both empty and crowded…dead and alive. Wim Wenders’ vision of America is embodied by the character Travis, played by the enigmatic Harry Dean Stanton.
The first time I watched this, it was almost like a religious experience. I was 10 or 11 years old and stayed up late while watching cable to see some tities. Fortunately, nothing was on Cinemax so I switched over to HBO. Paris, Texas was playing.
I don’t know why I kept watching it (probably because you see some Aurore Clement side boob), but next thing I know, I was fully engrossed in the story. It was the first movie where, when it ended, I didn’t know what hit me.
It was probably at that moment when it occurred to me: THIS is why people love movies.
Some people hate Paris, Texas. Some say it’s too slow. Some don’t like Travis because he abandoned his family.
I personally like movies that take their time. And if you don’t like Travis’ decisions, it’s not like the movie presents him as mensch.
In fact, Travis…along with his wife Jane…are presented as two VERY troubled people. From the perspective of Travis, he had to leave at the end because he was utterly broken. I would go as far as to say that Travis’ entire existence consists of (unintentionally) ruining people’s lives.
This film is not only about Travis trying to reunite his wife and child (Hunter), but it’s also about ruining the lives of his brother Walt and his wife Anne who took custody of Hunter during his disappearance.
Another heartbreaking scene is when Anne fails to convince Travis and Hunter to return home, and she goes to lie down in Hunter’s bed. Even though Hunter wasn’t her actual son, she was still attached to him. And that’s the last scene Anne is in, never to be mentioned again.
But Wenders’ direction mixes realism with a childlike perspective (which resembles Travis’ emotional state) quite well. So, I think, that permits me to have a pessimistic interpretation of the ending: there was no way that Jane would maintain custody of Hunter, and Hunter would return to Walt and Anne with a better sense of his “real” family, which would likely cause further damage to everyone involved. Meanwhile, Travis, once again, ran away from it all.
Is my interpretation correct? I dunno. But that’s how art works.
So do yourself a favor: stay up late one night and watch Paris, Texas.
“What happened to your face?” Jacob asked as I met him at the Cyrene’s inn.
“I was attacked by one of Herod’s thugs,” I said. “They’re onto us. So watch who you talk to.”
“You didn’t tell him anything did you?”
“I told him I was a friend of Joseph’s. After that, he left me alone.”
“Shit,” Jacob said and rubbed his face. “Well good news is I met with Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Remember them?”
“The one’s from Rome?”
“Yeah. They sold some of their property in Judea. They gave the money to John to distribute to the widows outside of the city walls. It’s finally happening Simon!”
“Don’t let it get to your head!” I told him. “You still need to lie low.”
Just then a big burly fellow with six other men busted through the door. “Χαιρετίσματα Jacob,” the booming voice said.
“You’re Stephanos?!” I exclaimed.
Stephanos looked over to me and back over to Jacob. “Who’s dis?” the man asked in his Greek accent.
“Relax, he’s Simon,” Jacob replied. “He was a good friend of Yeshua’s.”
Stephanos looked me up and down. “I heard you were arrested,” he said to me.
“No, it must have been another Simon,” I replied. “I’m from Bethsaida.”
Stephanos was confused. He looked back to Jacob. “I was told that Ananias gave you money. Our women and children are starving too-“
“Now Stephanos,” Jacob interrupted, “I know where you’re going with this. But Ananias was very clear: he wanted us to use this money to help the widows of Jerusalem.”
“Because we’re Greeks we’re not as important as the Hebrews?”
“I didn’t say that. Please listen to me. I’m only respecting Ananias’ wishes.”
Stephanos was furious. “We’ve been in the streets for days while you Hebrews have been coward up in your homes! Do you support us or not?!”
“Of course I support you!” Jacob yelled then took a deep breath. “I get how you feel, Stephanos, I really do. But you gotta understand our situation. Herod and Pilate aren’t too concerned with the Greeks right now. But they are after us. We can’t be out in the streets and we don’t have the money to spread around to everyone. I’m sorry. But Ananias is a very successful man from Rome and a diaspora Jew just like yourself. If you go to him and explain your situation, he can probably provide you with some assistance.”
Stephanos stood silent for a moment then muttered something in Greek. He walked up to Jacob. “μη με σταυρώνεις,” he said. Then him and his six men left the room.
“You should’ve stayed away from him Jacob,” I said.
“And Stephanos is a convert. To Ananias, he’s still a Gentile. He’s not giving him the money.”
Jacob began rubbing his temples. “I need a drink,” he said.
We went down to the tavern where Levi was scribbling something down. “What are you doing?” Jacob asked him.
“The Greeks wanted something to tell the people back in the Decapolis. Something about Yeshua.”
I looked over the writing. He didn’t write much but it was all in Greek. I couldn’t understand a word of it. Jacob was puzzled. “Where did you learn to write Greek?”
“In school, here in Jerusalem” Levi replied, “I had to learn it along with Hebrew.”
“Maybe we should drop the subject of Greeks for the time being,” I said.
We sat silently drinking our wine for a few minutes. There was a commotion on the streets. Andrew came running up. “They’re about to stone some of the Greeks!” he screamed.
Jacob and Levi instantly got up. “Aren’t you coming along?” Jacob asked me. Against my better judgment, I put down the wine cup and followed them.
A few blocks away, a crowd was gathering. Some were shouting. Others gawked out of morbid curiosity. Moments later, Temple guards began dragging out seven Greeks. One of them was Stephanos.
Behind them followed a few members of the Sanhedrin, including Joseph. Standing beside him was Ananias.
“Thief! Thief!” Ananias shouted. “These men conspired with Yeshua to rob the Temple and overthrow the Romans!”
My heart began to sink. This was a setup.
The guards threw the Greeks in front of Herod’s black-cloaked mercenaries who had their spears ready. Meanwhile, the Roman guards stood back smiling at the whole affair.
A judge from the Sanhedrin stood among the crowd and faced the accused. “Conspiracy, sedition, robbery of Ananias,” the judge said, “are these accusations true?”
It didn’t matter what Stephanos said. And he knew it. From his knees, he laughed and looked at the crowd. “You stiff-necked people,” he said, “your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—”
“God help you,” the judge said.
With those words, the mercenaries plunged their spears into the bellies of the Greeks. A pool of blood formed in the middle of the crowd.
Levi screamed in horror and ran away.
But the crowd was just getting warmed up. They picked up stones or any disposable object and began hurling them towards Stephanos. He got bruised and battered and knocked in the head a few times but kept crawling forward.
Among the mercenaries, I recognized a familiar face: The scars….the scabs…the wiry frame. It was him alright. It was the man that attacked me a few days earlier.
And Stephanos kept crawling towards this man as the stones were raining down on him. When he reached his feet, Stephanos grabbed the man’s cloak and got to his knees.
I was too far away to hear anything, but Stephanos was clearly saying something to this man. Judging by his face, the figure was stunned by what was being said. But before the figure could react, a member of the crowd smashed a rock into Stephanos’ skull.
The man in the black cloak stood back with blood and brain matter splattered all over his face. He was in a daze.
Before the crowd could mutilate the bodies, Joseph stepped in to quiet them. That’s enough!” he yelled. “The perpetrators of the Passover sedition have been caught and punished! This matter is closed! Please return to your homes!” As the crowds dispersed, the Temple guards started dragging the bodies outside of the city walls.
Jacob and I returned to the inn in silence. We didn’t know what to make of what just happened. “Do we leave Jerusalem?” Jacob asked.
“Why?” I replied. “It looks like Joseph and Ananias took care of our problem.”
“Simon saw Yeshua come back from the dead!” Andrew said.
“I didn’t see Yeshua!” I replied. “How did you get to be so stupid?”
Andrew and I were meeting with Jacob and Levi at the Cyrene’s tavern after returning to Jerusalem. “What did you see?” Levi asked me.
“Look,” I said, completely ignoring his question, “I only came back to Jerusalem to bring Jacob back to Galilee. I already got Yeshua killed, I can’t let the same thing happen to his brother.”
“I’m not going back,” Jacob said.
“This might come as a surprise to you Simon, but people actually believe the Message. You thought the Romans could never be driven out of Judea, but everyone took notice of Yeshua. Including the Greeks!”
“The Greeks? We were only in Scythopolis for a few days. We barely spoke Greek!”
“Yeshua made quite an impression on them.”
“Yeah, they’re saying that he did all kind of shit,” Levi said, “healing the blind, casting out demons and sending them into pigs, making the lame walk…”
“Are you sure they’re not confusing him with one of the thousands of other lunatics that wonder around the Decapolis?”
“I’m telling ya Simon,” Jacob exclaimed, “these Greeks have some goddamned imagination. They think he’s some wandering miracle worker! There is some guy named Stephanos who followed us all the way from Scythopolis. He’s been screaming in the streets! He’s pissed about the crucifixion!”
“You guys didn’t talk to him, right?”
Right then, Mary walked into the tavern. She had the look of death on her face.
“What’s wrong?” Jacob asked.
All of us ventured outside of the city walls to Joseph’s tomb near the Mount of Olives. The women were weeping. I walked inside the tomb and Yeshua’s body wasn’t there.
“The Greeks?” I asked Jacob.
“How would they have known where his body was?”
Joseph was stomping down the hill up ahead. I looked over to Jacob. “Let me handle this,” I said.
Joseph was only a few yards away when he started yelling. “You guys have been an epic pain in my ass!”
“Now Joseph, calm down,” I said. “I’m only here to collect Jacob and bring him back to Galilee. I swear. I’m not here to cause trouble.”
“Like hell! All the Jews are gone but now the streets are crawling with Greeks! Ever since Passover ended, they’ve been piling into the city!”
“I know, but we have nothing to do with that.”
“Bullshit! This idiot here…” Joseph cried, referring to Jacob, “has been seen screaming on the streets with that lunatic Stephanos. And now all of you are grave robbing!”
I shook my head as I looked over to Jacob. “Joseph, we didn’t take Yeshua’s body. Mary came here this morning and it was gone. As for the Greeks, I don’t know what to tell you. We’ll leave Jerusalem and maybe this will all blow over in a few weeks.”
“Too late. They’ve been threatening the Sadducees and Pharisees because apparently, Yeshua was railing against them in Scythopolis! I know you were there Simon. So this IS your fault!”
Damn it, I thought. I looked over to Jacob. “This has gotten out of hand. We’re leaving.”
“If all of you are leaving, you better do it quick. The Sanhedrin wants this fire put out now! Herod is bringing in mercenaries from all over the empire. A few of them might be here now. You’re probably as good as dead,” Joseph said.
“Then that means you too,” I told him. “You’re as guilty as the rest of us.”
Jacob spoke up. “It doesn’t matter where we go. Do none of you see what’s going on here? The moment Yeshua spoke against the Romans and their collaborators, we had a target on our backs. We knew the risks. And we accepted them. Because look around you: lepers, beggars, widows, children sleeping on the streets. We can’t continue to live like this. Even the Greeks agree! Yes Yeshua is dead, but that doesn’t mean the Kingdom of God is dead too. We continue to fight for it or we die in the streets.”
Joseph was silent.
“It’s time for you to take a stand Joseph,” Jacob continued. “You’re either with us or you’re with Herod.”
Joseph looked down to the ground and thought for a moment. “I have no love for the Romans,” Joseph said, “but I want no more bloodshed. So I ask all of you: stay away from the Gentiles. They aren’t our problem. Let them take the fall for this Yeshua situation. If you can do this, I can keep the Sanhedrin off your scent.”
“But Joseph,” Jacob replied, “a lot of them are Jewish converts. We’re in this together.”
“Listen to me Jacob: stay away from them. And please, for the love of God, lay low!”
With those words, Joseph walked away. Jacob was beside himself. “What does he expect us to do?” he said to me, “we can’t just wish the Romans away!”
I put my hands on his shoulders to calm him down. “Jacob, he may be onto something,” I said. “Let’s face it: we don’t have the power to get the Romans out of Judea just yet. Our only choice is to play the long game. Alright? Now you might be safe in Jerusalem for the time being, but you’re gonna have to live to fight another day. Also, keep quiet about being Yeshua’s brother. Okay?”
Jacob nodded. “Are you going back to Galilee?” he asked.
I smiled. “No. I gotta keep you out of trouble,” I replied.
All of us went back into the city walls individually. As I was returning to the Cyrene’s tavern, a strange man in a black cloak pulled me into an alley and put a dagger to my throat.
“I got money in my satchel,” I said to him.
“I don’t want your money!” the man replied. He was a short, wiry figure with rashes and scabs all over his face. “I recognize you!”
“Well I don’t recognize you.”
“Don’t play with me! I saw you with that man in Caesarea.”
“Yeshua you fool!”
He punched me in the stomach and I fell to the ground. “Why are you in Jerusalem?” the figure asked.
“I’m just a fisherman. I’m here in town because of Passover. I’m leaving tomorrow, I swear!” I said as I was gasping for air.
“Why would I lie about that?!”
He kicked me in the face and I fell flat on the ground. The man continued his interrogation.
“Who do you know here?”
I crawled back to my knees. “Joseph, alright! He’s from Arimathea! He’s on the Jerusalem Council!”
“Can you confirm that?”
“We can go talk to him now!”
The man put his dagger back into his cloak and he helped me off the ground. He also dusted me off. “I’m sorry about the confusion,” he said. “There’s a lot of insurrectionists around. They always cause trouble around Passover. Can never be too safe, ya know?”
I wiped the blood from my mouth. “Indeed.”
“Alright, well you take care now,” the man said.
He walked up to the edge of the alley, looked to his left and right, and disappeared back into the city streets.
I’ve had this story in my head for awhile and just now acted on it.
I originally wrote an introduction but then said fuck it. All you need to know is that this is historical fiction, perhaps my least favorite genre, but this blog is all about challenging myself as a writer. So I’m giving this a go.
Just imagine if you were some nobody that got caught up in an incident that you believed had little significance, but it was actually the most important event in all of Western Civilization. I want to explore how reality turns to myth. I guess that’s the impetus behind this story.
I dunno, we’ll see how this goes…
Ain’t promising nothing.
Jerusalem, Circa 30 CE
Roman Judea is under the governorship of Pontius Pilate. Yeshua from Galilee has amassed a small yet devoted number of followers as messianic fervor sweeps the region. After causing a ruckus at the Jerusalem Temple during Passover, Yeshua is tried and sentenced to death by crucifixion.
With their leader dead, the followers of Yeshua await their fates…
…one such follower, and childhood friend of Yeshua, is Simon, the fisherman of Bethesda…
Joseph (of Arimathea) knocked me on my ass. He continued to berate me as I laid out on the ground.
“Do you know how hard it was for me to not turn you over to the Romans?!” he screamed. “All of these young ones,” Joseph then pointed to Thomas, John, Andrew, Levi, Jacob, and Mary, “…you and that idiot friend of yours could have gotten them KILLED!”
I leaned up and wiped the blood from my lip. I couldn’t feel a thing. I was too drunk. “Don’t worry Joseph,” I said, “you’ll never see my face again.”
“You’re damn right I’ll never see your face again! You have until sun up to get out of Jerusalem. If you’re not gone by then, so help me God YOU’LL be crucified next!”
Jude spoke up. “What about Yeshua’s body? Surely you didn’t leave him at Golgotha. It’s the Passover.”
“Do you know what I had to do Jude?” Joseph asked. “I had to talk to Pilate. Yeah! Face to fucking face! Luckily for all of you, he barely remembered this morning’s fiasco so I was permitted to take him off the cross. As for the Sanhedrin…they’re PISSED and will probably be looking for you guys. Which is why you better get the fuck outta here!”
“Just tell me where he’s buried,” Jude replied.
“I’m not telling you!” Joseph said.
Levi spoke up. “Just tell him father.”
Joseph took a deep breath to cool himself. “Because my idiot son here was an admirer of Yeshua,” he said, “his body has been placed in my family tomb TEMPORARILY, at least until all of this shit blows over. Then I will remove his remains. Now: please leave the city.”
Joseph departed the tavern and took Levi with him. The rest of the group stood around aimlessly. Jacob helped me off the ground. “Do we go back to Galilee?” he asked.
“I sure as hell am!” I replied.
“What about what?!”
“The Kingdom of God?”
“The Kingdom of God? Jacob, your brother is DEAD! He’s not coming back! If you know what’s good for you, you will return to Galilee and kiss your mother and tell her how sorry you are for your older brother’s death.”
Jacob began to weep and I instantly regretted my words.
He was only a kid.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “this was all my fault. I shouldn’t have agreed to come to Jerusalem. All of this could have been avoided.”
“I can’t go back,” Jacob said. “I can’t face her.”
He told me that he was staying in Jerusalem. I didn’t know what else to say to him. So I patted him on the back and he departed the Cyrean’s tavern. I thought I’d ever see him again.
“I’m going to Damascus,” Jude said, “I’ve got some connections there. Maybe now just wasn’t the time. I….”
“Let it go Jude,” I interrupted.
“But Simon, maybe this was just the beginning of something big…perhaps the end for the Romans.”
I laughed. “Are we experiencing the same reality? We just got our asses handed to us. Do you really think we can bring down the Romans?”
“Why are you here?! Did you not see all of those followers in Capernaum? In Cana? In Caesarea?!”
“I was his friend, Jude. I knew all of this was getting to his head, but I said nothing. I let the rest of you talk him into coming to Jerusalem. I said nothing. I let him go to the temple. I knew what he was going to do. But I said nothing. Well now I’m telling YOU something: go back to Damascus or wherever you’re from, and forget all of this happened. And I will go back to Bethesda where I will regret for the rest of my life that I was never able to bring Yeshua’s body to his mother.”
“And what of the Romans? What will you do if they ever find out what you did here?”
I laughed again as I drank another cup of wine. “They don’t care enough about me,” I said, “but if they did ever find me, I will tell them to send me to Rome so that I can tell the Caesar to kiss my ass.”
Jude shook his head. “Goodbye Simon.”
“So long Jude!”
As I was filling the wine skins, Thomas approached me. “Should I go to Egypt?” he asked.
“The world is your oyster, Thomas,” I said, “I’m going home.”
The two of us embraced for the last time. I thanked the Cyrean for sheltering us then my brother Andrew and I left the tavern. Maybe it was the wine, but as we were leaving Jerusalem, I was seeing Yeshua’s face everywhere. The guilt was unbearable.
Andrew wasn’t at all affected by the day’s events. As we traveled the road back to Galilee under the cover of night, he was cackling. “Boy, Joseph licked you good,” he said.
Andrew was a simple man.
“That’s because he’s a member of the Sanhedrin,” I replied, “if they ever found out he provided aid and cover to us, they’ll stone him for sure.”
As we stopped along a creek bank for the night, I laid out my bed. As I walking away towards the tree line, Andrew asked where I was going.
“Gotta take a shit,” I said.
As I got out of earshot of him, I kneeled down behind a tree and vomited. I closed my eyes for a few moments. All I could envision was Yeshua’s smiling face. Then I wept uncontrollably.
Finally I stood up and walked back to the camp where I found Andrew picking his nose. “Boy I can’t wait get back to fishin,” he said.
I laid down on my bed, looking up to the sky. “We’re not going back to Bethesda,” I said. “We’re going back to Jerusalem.”