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“Too much agreement kills a chat.”
–Eldridge Cleaver Add a Tooltip Text


I shouldn’t be quoting Eldridge Cleaver on Itchy Banquet for lots of reasons. For example, I am white and I don’t know shit. Furthermore, according to his book, which is filed under “autobiography,” he was a rapist. I don’t go around quoting rapists. Still, it’s just a book. Black words on white paper. So there.

Soul on Ice was published so long ago that the blurb on the cover calls it “new Negro writing.” It’s a paperback. The price on the cover is $1.95. ($2.35 in Canada.) The quote appears in the context of a description of Cleaver’s friendship with a Jewish guy in Folsom Prison. I guess Cleaver would take the devil’s advocate position when he spoke to this guy, in order to keep the conversation lively; in this case they were arguing about a situation in Israel.

I don’t like to argue. I have friends who will say things they don’t even believe, then stand by them passionately, just to keep things interesting. I get a hot feeling in my stomach when I get caught in an argument. I start to feel like I would do anything to get out of it. For example I will just change my position, or say ‘forget it,’ or I convince myself I don’t care anymore and the whole thing just fizzles there on the table like Pop Rocks in Sprite. I will do anything to get rid of that hot burn, my red face, my fear that the other person is going to do what . . . be right? Prove me wrong? Make me feel stupid? Kill me?

Feelings are such liars. And they happen in the body, which makes them seem very real. Especially fear. But fear shouldn’t be called a feeling. It’s too overarching and structural. Hate it.

And so I am not a lawyer, although I do know a lot of lawyers. There are so many of them. They’re like salmon and I am the bear. Not really, but they are everywhere. Nice people, most of them, but I don’t think the job actually entails that much arguing. They talk on the phone and surf the web and generate legal matter.

There was a time when I would say that the most discontented professionals I knew were lawyers. What I mean, is, many of the people I knew who had gone to law school later decided they hated being lawyers or wished they had done something else. But they felt stuck in their profession, usually because of staggering student loans accrued in law school. I don’t know what these friends thought being a lawyer was going to be like. Law and Order, I guess. Atticus Finch. Remember The Paper Chase? You do? You are OLD. Me too, so old that the people I know who don’t like their jobs don’t talk about it anymore. Lucky to have a job, I guess, or worn down by all the not-liking, or less entitled maybe. Paying for kids.

New invention: huge gigantic tote bags. My neighbor had one out in his front yard when he was moving. It looks like any other tote bag, except it is super-sized, you can fit TVs and old coolers and birdcages in them. These mega-tote bags have handles and everything. When you fill it with your old junk, you make a phone call and the trash guys come by and lift it up by its handles with a special truck. Then they haul it away. But while it’s in your yard, as you slowly fill it, all the grass underneath it will die. Please keep that in mind.