The Brotherhood of BOMP
by Flynn Washburne, July 26, 2017
Word on the street is, things are pretty rough out there, "out there" being the world in general and the United States specifically. I hear, and read, about it every day, in forum after forum, from pundits and politicians, pundit-bloggers and commentators, trendsetters and tastemakers. Everyone with an opinion and a means of disseminating it is of the same mind: the country is in bad shape. Potentially terminal, even. From the president to the man on the street, everyone seems agreed that we are hurtling headlong on a southerly tack aboard the USS Handbasket with a supercargo of tawny stowaways threatening to founder us.
It's a grim picture and if I were of a more susceptible and trusting nature, I might have formed an idea of a preapocalyptic nightmare society of armed camps battling over ideology, territory and seats on the Gold Line greeting me when I get out. You know me, though — I'm a noticer. I notice things. And I may not be a mathematician, but I can tell when shit just doesn't add up.
One thing I notice —- and it seems glaringly obvious to me — is that these doomsayers all seem remarkably well-fed. Their persons display no outward signs of abuse or malnutrition and their heads are all firmly affixed to their shoulders. They have nice, well-kept hair and wear tasteful, expensive clothing. They voice their pessimistic views via efficient communications networks using powerful computers at their entirely dispensable jobs for which they are paid enough money to not only live comfortably, but to choose from and purchase an endless and ever-increasing panoply of consumer goods. I think what they are actually sayng is, Things are not perfect. Or, more specifically, Things are not exactly as I would wish them to be.
Which, I believe, is the general condition of everything everywhere, to a greater or lesser degree. The greater being, oh, I don't know, hunted down and consumed by something higher on the food chain, or enslaved by people more numerous and powerful than you, or murdered for being born into a belief system that differs slightly from the better-armed one down the road. You name it and somewhere around the world someone is suffering it and would do just about anything for a brief respite.
Meanwhile, certain Americans are beeping and squeaking about the fact that some people living across an imaginary line to our south are coming over here to demean themselves in indentured servitude in exchange for enough to eat — and the privilege of not being murdered, and a thousand other things that don't in the least affect their ability to get up every morning and conduct their business free from hunger, want, fear, pain, and worry.
My new thing, and I freely and wholeheartedly recommend this outlook for anyone having difficulty finding something to be positive about, is to be appreciative of such blessings, boons, benefits and bounties as happen to enrich my life instead of agonizing over that which may detract from my enjoyment of it.
It's a simple concept, really. If you're up to your neck in shit, be glad it's not covering your head. Your chances of evolving into a shit-breathing organism, if there even is such a thing, before your brain shuts down from lack of oxygen are effectively nonexistent, and guaranteed your last thought is going to be, Man, I had it pretty good there with all that shit lapping around my shoulders.
By many measures, my life sucks. It's in its latter third and constrained by the Department of Corrections, neither being a desirable condition and thereby together, doubly unfortunate. It also presents something of a dilemma in that improving the latter situation amounts to no more than anxiously waiting it out, and the former to slowing down and savoring my remaining years. Balancing these two states requires some philosophic legerdemain, but it starts with being thankful, to wit: Yes, I am in prison. I am in prison in a climate and landscape better suited to nuclear testing than the survival of large mammals.
It's kind of a poot-butt prison, though, one where I don't have to worry about getting stabbed or thrown off the tier. Inside, the temperature is controlled to comfortable levels. I've got a bed to sleep in, enough food to eat, and nobody is abusing or torturing me. That' s pretty good right there. That'sv a baseline level of Things could definitely be worse. Plus, I have a guitar to play, a CD collection to listen to, books to read, and sufficient diversions and responsibilities to keep me interested and occupied. It is by no means an ideal situation, but when negativity bubbles up and I begin to dwell on what I don't have instead of what I do, and the niggling voice inside of me says, Dude, you're fooling yourself, I say back, Is that such a bad thing? Is it in any way helpful to feel sorry for myself?
Most assuredly not. Are there any benefits to be had by extracting such pleasure and satisfaction as is available and possible, being of use and in the moment, and productively operating within my constraints without focusing on them? Hell, yes. An incalculable amount. Plus, I have my health, and you really can't overstate the importance of that. If you doubt it, poll some rich people with terminal or painfully chronic diseases and ask them if they wouldn' t surrender every dime and go into debt besides for a cure. Hell, if I have so much as a toothache I find myself thinking things like, I would literally murder someone for five minutes free of this damnable pain.
No doubt there will be challenges in this area in my future, but for now I'm spry as a sprat and not a day passes that I'm not aware and grateful of it.
Throughout my life, people close to me have attempted to advise and instruct me in this direction, as I have usually been visibly and volubly dissatisfied with the status quo and appear so even if I wasn't, considering it something like weakness or surrender to not be at odds with my surroundings. This sort of attitude is great for fomenting revolutionary ideals and professsional misanthropy, but not very conducive to making friends. In youth it may have a certain appeal, done with the right amount of brooding intensity, but becomes progressively more unattractive as one ages.
I am reminded of a conversation I had just previous to beginning this ongoing adventure of mine, a time when I had every right to be dissatisfied and despondent, and was, in spades. My blue funk had joined forces with a brown study and was sewn inside a black depression impermeable even to liberal infusions of the ol' ring-dang-doo, usually a panacea of absolute efficacy.
To start with, I was at Wildwood. If you're unacquainted with the place, it's a trailer park a few miles east of Fort Bragg on Highway 20, and a more unsavory environment I have never encountered nor could ever imagine. Picture the East ·End of Dickensian London, only with meth. If a doughty enough squad of Marines could be enlisted to accompany a team of government scientists up there to take soil, water, and blood samples, it would immediately be declared a Superfund site, excavated to a depth of ten meters, and domed off for succeeding generations to deal with. Unfortunately, the inhabitants could not be reintegrated into society; we'd have to borrow from the Chinese alphabet just to name all the mutant hepatitis strains they've managed to develop.
Probably they'd have some value to science and would be transferred to secure govenment laboratories.
I thought, previous to my arrival there, that I knew every thief, junkie, lowlife and skeeve in the greater Fort Bragg region, but there was a whole nest of riffraff I'd never met, because they never left the place. I'll leave it to you to figure out what they ate. Hint: it wasn't Dominoes.
I'm pretty sure the sheriffs knew I was up there the whole time, but even they took the prudent course and waited me out. "He's gotta come out sometime," they no doubt surmised.
So I'm sitting there with this guy named, or at least called, Lunchbox, one of the most relentlessly positive people I've ever met. He seems to be immune to the wild mood swings that plague most addicts, though he appears to use as much as anyone. He's always cheerful and friendly, but on this particular day his sunniness could not find a chink in my grim and gloomy demeanor. Chin on chest, I sighed heavily and wished for the earth to open and swallow me up.
"Hey," Lunchbox said. "Snap out of it! It ain't so bad. C'mon, bud, flip the script. Turn that fuckin' frown upside down, whaddaya say? Huh? Huh?"
I sighed again and Lunchbox picked up a syringe, uncapped it and, like a dart, hove it at me where, also like a dart, it stuck in my shoulder. I plucked it out, looked disinterestedly at it, and chucked it lazily back toward him.
It fell short, sticking into the carpet by his foot. "That was a clean one, by the way," Lunchbox said.
"Doesn't matter, I probably deserve AIDS anyway," I said.
"Well, that's a hell of an attitude. Why don't you try looking at the bright side for once?"
"Because there is no goddamn bright side. What do you have to be so damn cheerful about anyway? You've got no teeth and tattoos all over your face."
"I do so have teeth. If I find I need to bite something, I'll put 'em in. And I happen to like my tattoos. I live on disability. I'm not going on any job interviews. I got a roof over my head and an old lady. She's ugly as hell, but that suits me. I ain 't no prize either. Look at you, you dumb motherfucker. You 're smart. If you're unhappy, do something about it. Do your time and move on. You ain't dead yet, and that means you can always turn things around. Here, I'·m gonna let you in on a little secret: BOMP."
"Bomp?" I asked.
"Yup. Bucket Of Magenta Paint. It's a kinda meditation thing, based on the therapeutic qualities of the color magenta, and a bucket is what paint is traditionally kept in. Can you fix the color in your mind? "
"Yeah, I know what magenta is."
"Okay, close your eyes and imagine a bucket full of shiny magenta paint. A white bucket, with a wire handle and a wooden sleeve threaded onto it to protect your hand. There's drips all down the sides."
"Should I paint something with it?"
"If that helps you, sure, but the main thing is to look down into it, into that shiny magenta circle, and lose yourself in it. Hang on one second."
He left the room and came back a few moments later with an actual bucket of magenta paint. "I keep one around for hardcases like you. This oughta get you started," he said, prying the top off the can and setting it at my feet. "Look in there for awhile, see how that makes you feel."
I dutifully inclined my head and looked into the bucket. It was kind of soothing … An hour later, and feeling like no time had passed at all, I stood up and shook Lunchbox's hand.
"Bucket of magenta paint," I said.
"Welcome to the brotherhood," he answered.
That paint had given me a smidgeon of hope, and a smidge was all I needed to abandon my plan of committing suicide by Wildwood — just basically stop resisting, let it overcome me and smother me like kudzu. To this day, I use it when I start to lose sight of the good things in my life. The bucket of magenta paint rights my course and orients my perspective, and perspective is what it's all about. Depending from where and how you view it, my life is a damn sight less than perfect, but things are looking up.
I left the village of the damned that very night, stopped at a friend's a couple miles down the road and was greeted at the door by a pistol-wielding Garret Matson — but that's a story for another day.