Friday, August 17, 2007

Live Free Or Die

When I was in college, a well-known African-American fraternity practiced branding, burning their letters into the arms of the members, a psychic reverse from slavery and painful, I imagine, as all billy hell. Tattoos were just becoming popular at this time and seemed exquisitely painful to me given that the only tattoo I had ever seen up close was my Grandpa Charlie's one which had been done in prison with a broken ballpoint pen. It said, Live Free Or Die, a joke I suppose in jail or a more likely a wish burned into his body. I couldn't imagine a cattle prod taken to my skin and marvelled at the men walking around with their Greek letters, never to abandon their allegiance. The letters said more than say, a t-shirt. They said, badass, take back the night, they said I am a person who can endure pain, pain I have chosen because let's face it, we all endure pain, but most of it is inflicted on us from others until we learn to do it ourselves without help. Most of it doesn't look as cool as a brand.

A friend of mine's new amour asked him to take the pictures of his ex off the walls of his house, a request he honored quickly, dubbing the process re branding. I love the expression as it encapsulates the nature of a relationship in so many ways. You want to eradicate the past instead of having the past eradicate you. You want your picture on the wall, nobody else's! When another friend of mine complained about an ex being in a displayed group picture, her boyfriend said, What do you want me to do? and she said, Cut that bitch out. He didn't, of course. You have to endure certain things; you just do. I think about the scar tissue around the fraternity brothers' brands -- some of them burned clean, but others formed huge keloid scars, obscuring the meaning of the letters, leaving only the evidence of what had happened on a fateful night where they had bonded to something for life.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.” Elvis Presley

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: A Little Less Conversation Elvis

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!


Paul said...


the walking man said...

tattoos, brand or, scars do not bond you to anything for life except mutilation (or body art if you prefer.) Sounds a bit on the good old boy, secret handshake, password only club side to me. Skull and bones for them not able to afford Yale maybe?

But what the hell I hope they did them in a spot where now when they wear their three piece suits the scars are well covered, just like a smart cutter does.



Tuyet said...

I think I have scar tissue inside my heart.

Charles Gramlich said...

I still see these scars on students occassionally, although fraternities now will get banned for such things. They have a pretty big scandal about it at my university about ten years ago.

Elvis said...

Gimme a cheeseburger! With a side of pork gravy!

eric313 said...

Al billy hell is a hellish and painfull thing.

Cutting is the same way, only the scars fade when you do it young enough.