Ever get annoyed? Ever feel like someone needs to be told where the dog died? Or handed a crowbar and a tub of Elbow Grease to help them pry their head out of their arse? Congratulations--you've come to the right place.

And when I'm not commenting on the latest thing to piss me off, I'm trying to figure out my own twisted life. Because, hey, I'm like that.

On a gentler note: for anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, and other assorted bullshit: You are NOT alone.

And if you're looking for a laugh, search on the key word "fuckery." It's just my little thing (as the bishop said to the actress).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

In Which The Jim Jefferies Show Provokes Serious Discussion...

Well, three cheers for Jim Jefferies—as always, his show has provoked great discussion here at Chez FondaRiz.
Long-time readers will remember Jim as my celebricrush in the days before Al; I have remained a hardcore fan (and gotten Al hooked on his work).  I’m pretty upset that this is going to be the first time in seven years I’m going to miss him when he comes through in December—there’s just no room in the budget right now, sadly.  (I only got to go last year because the tickets were an Xmas present.) Oh, and Jim—I was fighting a cold and was still pretty squiffed after the show (and waiting for Al to bring the car around).  If I came off as creepy, sorry.  Your virtue is safe with me these days—Al is enough (and sometimes, too much. How anyone manages to deal with more than one person in their romantic life is beyond this 50-year-old).  Good to see you, though. (Like he reads this.)
Ah, well, the joys of adulting. *ptui*
But seriously… if you haven’t caught his show on Comedy Central, WTF is wrong with you?  It’s hysterical, thought-provoking, and just DAMNED good.  He seems to be having a good time, too. Nice to see someone who’s worked hard get some well-earned success. I’m still pissed about Legit being cancelled (way to go, FXX, you fucking idiots—you had a show that had a great cast, was hysterical, and had heart and soul AND brains.  Of course it got cancelled), but the Daily Show-style format suits him and his style.  His “roving reports” are on-point, and no one is spared.  
With all of the sexual harassment shit spurting out of the cracking fa├žade of Hollywood and politics, there was no way Jim was not going to touch on it, particularly all the bullshit coming out of Alabama and the current GOP contender for Senate (no, I am not mentioning his worthless name, the fucking pedophile).  Now, a few words about my life partner:  I refer to Al as the love of the rest of my life.  I waited 43 fucking years for him to show up, and if this happens to end, I am done.  No way I can put my heart on the line like this again.  We’ve been together almost seven years now, he’s my best friend and my man, we have fought like hell to make this work whilst dealing with family (my mother, her brother, the loss of the family home, and her illness and loss; his kids, his !@#$%^&*() of an ex-wife who is still under the delusion that she has some right to run his life; plus, all of the baggage two human beings accumulate on their journey through life); I honestly don’t WANT to work like this again.  He’s my hero, my honey, and I love him to death, and we drive each other up the wall and back down again, and we’ve got each other’s backs.
One of the reasons I respect him is because of his genuine respect for women, particularly me. He is not one of those weird, semi-effeminate male feminists who just LOVE AND RESPECT ALL WOMEN! He’s a normal guy who considers women to be beautiful, incredible, smart, and amazing—and treats them with respect. We work as a couple because we’re both deep into politics (and from opposite sides, although he is a reasonable Republican of the old school, not one of these moronic nutjobs that have destroyed the party of Lincoln); he’s an economist, I’m a historian, and we love to get into it.  Passionately.  It’s awesome.  And both of us ask questions and read and research and try to find an article or a news story that the other hasn’t heard about yet—it’s our friendly competition here at home.  To see his utter disgust for the way these men have acted… I’m proud he’s my partner. I am grateful I waited for him, that I held myself to a standard because it has paid off. 
So, anyway, we were getting caught up on Jim’s show, and Al asked the question a lot of people have asked, “Why did they wait so long to come forward?  Why didn’t they break this last summer?”
He was not challenging the veracity of the women—to the contrary, he believes them.  He lives with a survivor—he knows what we deal with, and does everything within his power to make sure I feel safe.
I looked at him and said, “Because the Weinstein story hadn’t broken last summer.  The word was out—that asshole had been banned from the local mall years ago.”
He looked thunderstruck. “Oh, shit. Of COURSE.”
It’s interesting to watch the emotions chase across his face in moments like this—Al is NOT a poker player and never should be—and his disdain, disgust, nausea… I am proud he’s my partner, that the very idea of harming anyone like that is so antithetical to who he is…
And then I dropped the hammer… “Although what’s REALLY galling is that no one believed any of these women or did a damned thing to help them until a MALE journalist broke the story. If it had been written by a woman, no one would have given a fuck.”
“You’re probably right,” he muttered sadly. 
And this is the galling thing for me about all of this—every fucking woman in this country (on the planet, honestly) knows this—if the article about Harvey Weinstein had been written by a woman, it would have been ignored. No one would have run it (and yes, I know the original outlet for the story dropped it).  Women have been talking about this for years—about the routine disrespect, harassment, patronizing, stereotyping, glass ceiling, abuse, lies, and general disregard that comes with having a pair of tits and an innie instead of an outie between your legs.
Years and years and years of not being taken seriously… of being told to “shut up and accept it,” being ignored, pushed aside… And now, you assholes are taking us seriously because Frank Sinatra’s son told you to.

Fucking hypocrites much? 

Monday, November 6, 2017

So this follows hard on the heels of the last post (which actually should have been posted on Friday) because, hey, I turned 50 today.
Half a fucking century on this planet.
Who'da thunk?
This birthday's approach was depressing the fuck out of me, but, thankfully, I have had a really nice, low-key day. 
This is one of those milestone birthdays, and, honestly... I dunno.  I don't feel fifty.  (How does one feel fifty, anyway?)
I'm still me--I still love my man, my ridiculous and awesome cats, Captain America, Marvel movies, good friends, the occasional drink, amazing chocolate, growing things, making things, cooking, debating politics... Nothing has changed, really, except I'm a lot greyer. 
Good Gods, has my hair gone white.  There's a cloud of white hair on top that looks almost like a fog coating the rest of my hair.  Not a lot of lines in my face (it's one of the few benefits of being fat), and the eyes... Yep, those are my eyes looking at me. 
I can't believe I've been alive this long; I didn't expect to make it much past 30, yet... Here I am.
My mood has lifted a bit since Friday (since yesterday when I broke down crying in pure frustration over lack of handicapped access in a library--A FUCKING PUBLIC LIBRARY in a town with a tax base that any other city would kill for)... The world doesn't look so hopeless.
I find it darkly amusing that I have turned out to be the most optimistic pessimist I've ever known.
I see all that is dark in this world--I am beyond upset with the state of the U.S., the dumbing down of this country, the idiot in charge in Washington, and the level of corruption that is systemic and endemic.  I have been predicting this for a long, long time--I saw this coming back in 1981, and over the years as the dirty tricks got dirtier and the politics got uglier and more blatant... I am just not surprised. I'm disgusted and sickened, yes--this is one of the few times in my life I really, really, REALLY hate being right--but I knew this was coming.
On the other hand... I couldn't believe the number of birthday wishes that showed up on FB today. It was really touching and really moving. The kid at the candy counter at the movies who wished me a happy birthday (after I sampled the birthday cake fudge--BLEEEEECCCCHHHH!!!!! It was like solid vanilla frosting.  What the fuck is the point?!?!).  The teacher at a local school texting me after she got the package of seeds and black raspberry canes for her kids' garden at the school... the nursing home aid who got a bag of magazines for one of her residents... the million little kindnesses that surround me every day, and knowing that, for all the ugliness in this world, I have found a place, a community, to which I make a positive contribution.
Spending the day with Al, who was heartbroken he couldn't make my 50th as crazy awesome as I made his.  We have to move house--every spare dime we have has to go into that moving fund AND we have to keep the bills paid.  We went to see Thor (which was AWESOME!!!! Not as awesome as Civil War, but still... FUCKING AWESOME!), he made dinner... we spent the day together and relaxed (and got some stuff done, too, but no crazy pressure today--I asked him for that for both of us).  Yeah, I wanted a big party, a surprise party, a costume party... but when there are other priorities, you don't ask your partner to further stress himself (and the finances) for a bit of vanity.
When we've found a new place and things are better financially... THEN we can celebrate.
That's probably the biggest change in me that I have noticed since leaving Hell's Vestibule--I am a much calmer human being.  I am far more zen, far more flexible. 
I am finally the person I want to be, at least in a couple of ways that really matter.
All that anger and rage that I took so much shit for has found an outlet in the garden and in food justice (I'm a voice, an advocate--I wish I could be more, I wish I had more reserves of both energy and cash to offer beyond enthusiasm, wit, and the strange ability to ask the right question at the right time, and the hard questions when no one else wants to). 
For all that is plaguing me, I am OK with me, with who I am.
That is not a small achievement.
I hope it takes whoever else is reading this a lot less than half a century to get to that point.
So, happy birthday to meeeeeeee...

In Which the Empress Attempts to Resuscitate her Blog

Hey, Folks.
Welcome to November. It is currently 71 degrees in Boston, and I'm wearing long shorts and sandals.
There is no such thing as global warming, evidently. *rolls eyes*
I'm currently listening to Arcade Fire's Everything Now album.  "Creature Comforts" cuts a little close to the bone, but it's a beautiful song.
So it's National Novel Writing Month, and I have no clue what to work on.  I have a novel in progress (co-writing with my best friend), an editing project in process (when don't I?), and, oh, yeah, we have to move.
Life is one great, big, all might clusterfuck at the moment, and I'm pretty much ready to curl up in a ball and not exist.
So... what have I been up to?
Dealing with being a grownup in a relationship.  We've been together for six and a half years, and honestly, while I can't imagine life without Himself, I also would love to run away and be a hermit. This is normal for writers.
We have been through a hard, hard fucking year. His daughter, whom I loved as my own, moved out at the end of January, and hasn't spoken to me since. Why? I expected her to take responsibility for her actions and her behavior, and that made me a Very, Very Bad Person.
There's more to it (involving his evil she-bitch troll of a fuckup ex-wife, may she die alone and screaming for mercy in a gutter, ignored--yeah, she's a lovely, lovely person. Until you get to know her. Can you tell what great friends we are?  Liars just don't fare well with me). Watching the man you love having his heart broken over and over and over by the child he raised and never turned his back on... Yeah.
Her loss.
Grief continues to haunt me.  I avoided catastrophic grief, but I am still mourning my mother. I am still fighting the nightmares from the past.  All of these ugly revelations of sexual harassment from the Hollyweird elite have triggered me deeply--too many reminders of how deeply and badly women are treated, too many reminders of my own upbringing and being told I was nothing next to the men in my family.  My eternal rage is very, very close to the surface, and the need to strike out is serious.
I continue working with the community gardens--it's work that I love, although these days, my physical health has deteriorated to the point where the only real tool I have left is my voice (and the brain and the education and the knowledge, when my brain works and I can focus).  My hands... the arthritis and carpal tunnel, deQuervane's, radial tunnel, tennis elbow, and bursitis, with the added sauce of rheumatoid arthritis and the accompanying swelling and fatigue, make writing painful. It makes everything I love doing painful--cooking, knitting, any of the half a million handcraft hobbies I have, designing, even reading... Holding a book is agony, finding a comfortable position where I can prop a book is impossible... The osteoarthritis is also spreading; my knees need desperately to be replaced, and my back and hips are getting into the equation.
Yet, I am fighting for disability because working full-time is beyond my ability these days.  I have a good job--doesn't pay much, but I like the work (love some of it), and love the people I work for and with.  I could be full-time, but when we tried to increase my hours... yeah. Spirit was willing, but the body pretty much told me to go fuck myself.
I have worked since I was 15 1/2.  I fixed my papers (you could do that back in the 80's--copiers sucked back then) to get my first job because I wanted money of my own, and I needed to get away from the abuse I was dealing with at home. I have worked for 35 years, and I would give damned near anything to work full-time again.  I have seven doctors who have stated that these disabilities (multiple--if only it was one, easily treatable ailment) are real, but a doctor who never examined me said I was fine.
Welcome to America, the country that hates its people.
More on the Era of Hatred later because that is also killing me.
The judge, in the first hearing, said that because I have a garden and could knit, I wasn't disabled. He disregarded the fact that the knitting was occupational therapy, and the garden... I do the planning, Himself does the work.  I know all about how to make great soil, what to plant where and when, what to feed them, when to harvest, and how to cook it.  I can't bend to plant, weed, any kind of sustained activity... but I can teach others how to.
I was raised to work, and that even if you can't do, you can help others to.  This is why I volunteer--I sit in roughly three meetings a month, a total of maybe six hours of my life.  I listen, I speak up, I offer suggestions, and I try to motivate others.
This makes me not disabled.
My hands shake... my handwriting is illegible most days when it used to be elegant. I lose my grip and drop things, spill things... but I could be an eyeglass fitter!
My employers changed my job so that, instead of prepping product for sale (I work for an amazing tea and spice company that also has a small organic flower and herb farm--I work in heaven), I am doing administrivia--the crap I have been doing for so long, I can do a lot of it in my sleep.
I would rather be out in the fields, planting and weeding, and watching things grow, but my body cannot do it.
So this is my life right now.  It is not what I intended it to be at this point, but... it could be so much worse.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Too Soon

There is a protocol in comedy clubs:  if an audience member feels that the comedian has made a joke about a recent tragic event without allowing for a decent interval of mourning, they will call out, "TOO SOON!" (For a great illustration of the affect this can have, see the film The Aristocrats.)

Last night, I found out one of my all-time performing heroes, an actor and comedian who has been a part of my pop culture consciousness since I was eight, took his life.

Robin Williams, dead at 63 by his own hand.

Al had just come home from his horseshoe league (welcome to suburbia--I like it), I happened to notice the posts on Facebook, and suddenly, he had a woman in a panic, melting down, going, "Nononononononononono..." and then bursting into tears and weeping.  I don't usually have that kind of reaction to a famous person dying, but this... this cut close to the bone, not just because of who, but how. Out of the sheer need to laugh, I bought Jim Jefferies tickets for next week. (I usually don't go to shows that close together.) And today, I made a pilgrimage after work to the Public Garden to the bench where he and Matt Damon were filmed for Good Will Hunting.  Someone started the tribute last night... by this afternoon, the delta of a path behind the bench was filled with quotes and prayers and wishes.  Someone had been kind enough to leave a giant box of sidewalk chalk.  I left flowers... yeah, the ones that say, "Too soon." People were gathered, silent, respectful. I had to leave... it was too much.

It was like losing Jim Henson, only this time, it wasn't just a piece of my childhood that was gone--it's someone whose worked shaped mine.

It started with Mork and those damned suspenders.  I had a pair of those suspenders, complete with pins. And a yellow shirt. (Hey, I was 10. Whaddya want?)  The improvised craziness of his performance coupled with the alien learning vital human lessons... it came at the right time in my development.

And then... then came HBO and stand-up specials.  A lot of kids from my generation got their comedy education from two places:  their parents' record collections and HBO. Carlin... I think I own almost all of Carlin's HBO specials.  Whoopi Goldberg's one-woman show on Broadway.  The showcases with comics doing five-minute sets (I remember Rodney Dangerfield and Roseanne, long before she dropped her last name or even dreamed of her own show, doing vignettes in between sets.) Richard Pryor's stand-up films. Bill Cosby Himself playing several times a day.

And Robin Williams.

An Evening with Robin Williams was filmed in San Fransisco, had to have been in '81 or '82; he framed the concert with a bit in the character of Pops, the crusty old news stand guy.  To this day, I can quote my way through it. "Hey, hey... Mistah Williams!"

Live at the Met... I think that was '85 or '86.  I could do those bits word for word, right down to the vocal inflections and accents.   Doctor Roof! "Making a sound like a baby in a blender..."  I have memories of watching that in our crappy little apartment when I was first married, and listening to the soundtrack on the CD player of my best friend's minivan whilst tooling through the back roads of the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia.

It's almost thirty years later, and I STILL laugh all the way through.

Comic Relief... well, by then, I was growing up a bit and couldn't afford HBO.

But I saw the movies; not all of them, but the ones that mattered, at least to me. Garp. The Fisher King. Hook. Dead Poets Society. Awakenings. Dead Again. Bits in Hamlet and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Aladdin. Mrs. Doubtfire. The Birdcage. Good Morning, Vietnam. Good Will Hunting. Death to Smoochy. Insomnia. And, his real triumph, One Hour Photo, the first performance I ever saw him give where he actually acted--dropped his schtick, his crutches, and threw himself into this sad, disturbed man who had nothing of his own, who just wanted a family, and saw someone who had it all and didn't care. THAT was the performance he deserved the Oscar for.

I didn't bother to follow him in the press--I just didn't care about divorces and rehab and gossip. I cared about the talent, the whirlwind of insanity that produced such brilliance. The couple that mattered... Phil Donahue, when he said he'd given up cocaine because of the death of John Belushi.  "Look at him--he was a bull. If cocaine could kill a big guy like that, what would it do to a little guy like me?"  The David Frost interview where, when talking about his first divorce and remarriage, the pain came through of the ugly things implied about the beginnings of his relationship with Marcia. The very real moments when the truly decent human being shone through the schtick.

Inside the Actors Studio (in its early days, when it was more than a flavor-of-the-month schmooze fest)... a master class in the art of the interview and improv.  James Lipton asked him, "What is your favorite sound?"  And Mr. Williams made a little brrrrrrrppppp--the sound of a tiny fart escaping--laughed and called it, "the great equalizer."

And when he returned to HBO specials... 2002, talking about Viagra... and 2009, after a relapse and another divorce...  

There is no single performer who has influenced my own style--my personal comedy and outrageousness--more than Robin Williams.  After all these years, yeah, I've taken the old schtick and shaped it and made it my own, but at rock bottom... I'm imitating Robin Williams.

And he's gone.  Suicide.  And my heart... my heart aches for him, his children, his family. How the hell do you process this?  Captain, my captain, NO! 

And it pisses me off--comedy never gets the respect it deserves.  Let me tell you something, folks--tragedy is TIT.  Drama is so fucking easy, it's ridiculous. Comedy?  Making people laugh?  Try it sometime. Get up in front of a room full of people and tell a joke. Or take a comedic sketch and play it. Or jump into an improv piece. Or tell a story that should either shock or offend and instead, make them laugh and commiserate. Betcha ya can't. Comedy--especially that of the stand-up variety--is an under-appreciated art form that takes INCREDIBLE perseverance and masochism coupled with a natural ability to tell a story, timing, and judgement.

It also takes a hell of a lot of pain. 

This is secret of great comedy:  it comes from immense, intense pain.  It comes from a place so dark that the only way to escape it is to laugh at it--to make fun of it, taunt it, give it the finger and tell it to fuck off.  The difference between the people who are chuckle-worthy funny (say, your average sitcom actor) and the people who leave you aching (or, in my case, having an asthma attack) from laughing is a two-fold factor:  a) pain; and b) the balls to laugh at it.

The problem, however, is the same as when taunting any violent, intelligent beast:  it waits. It stalks. It bides its time until you are vulnerable, and the evil fucker pounces.

And you, my friend, are dead meat because this isn't an external enemy you can run away from or call the police on.  This is your own darkness, your own self, the person who knows your failings the best and can beat you over the head with them until there is no defense left except escape.

Been there, and thank the merciful fucking Gods I have managed at those last moments to grasp a spar of light and hold on until the beast, the Black Dog, wore itself out and slunk back to its lair.

Too many haven't, and this is the latest in a long line of immensely talented, creative people who succumbed.  From all reports, he'd been trying to do the right things to take care of his depression. He had his addictions under control.  The problem with depression, however, is that sometimes, the meds don't work. Sometimes, the therapy doesn't help. Something triggers you, your brain chemistry changes, and you flip.

Been there. Done that. Thank whatever beneficent forces exist in this universe, I made it out the other side.

It isn't about being weak or stupid or selfish. It's because there's a broken circuit in your brain.  For some of us, it's genetic. For others, it just happened. For another group of us, it's because we went through some Very Bad Things and survived. No matter what, it's real. 

I've made this plea before, and I'm going to make it again:  LISTEN.  If someone you know and love is in this kind of pain, LISTEN. Ignore your fear, ignore your need to reassure yourself by talking and issuing platitudes. Just LISTEN.  Let them talk.  Get them angry and yelling if you have to, but don't shame them. Don't tell them they're stupid and ungrateful, or silly.  Just be there. Be the spar they can hold on to until the beast retreats.  

And be there to help them climb up on the desk and sound their barbaric YAWP!  

Thank you, Mr. Williams, for filling my life with laughter.  May your soul find peace and your next journey be happier.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Long Dark

Hey, kids, long time no blog.

There's an old curse (Chinese, I think) that goes, "May you live in interesting times."

Well, that could sum up the past three years really well.

On the upside, I am in the best relationship I have ever been in with quite possibly the best man who has ever walked in shoe leather, to borrow an old family saying.  It ain't perfect, but it's good.  We've both seen some shit, and the advantage of being older and getting in a relationship is that you know a) what you will tolerate; b) what you WILL NOT tolerate; and c) what's important. I looked back over this blog last week, at the entries, and the difference in my life is staggering. Not only am I a partner in a serious adult relationship, I'm a step-mother to an awesome 20-year-old in college.  I have a job again--it's part-time, selling tea and spices and medicinal herbs in a small shop, working for two amazing women--it's a good fit, letting me use my writing, marketing and cooking skills for a small business that can use it and, more importantly, appreciates it. I'm looking into starting a business--home baking, bolstered with a food blog and video cooking tutorials.  I'm a really, really amazing cook.  I had a huge garden last year, and this year it will be bigger (and hopefully, will provide all the veggies we'll need for the year). I learned how to can.  I've learned to knit.

On the downside, I lost Mum in September.  I feel like a lost child, to be honest. I'm relieved--she's no longer suffering.  But my heart hurts.  And I'm angry--I have to deal with all of her stuff.  It's caused a strain, to put it mildly.  I also lost Piddy on her 20th birthday--the stubborn little beast lived long enough to have her birthday turkey, and when she could only eat two bites, I knew it was time.  I buried a piece of my heart with her in the front yard--if you've never had a beloved animal companion (as opposed to a "pet"), I'm sorry.  Losing them is hard, but the benefit is astounding.  I'm hoping to get a rosebush to take root from the old bush at Hell's Vestibule.

BTW, Hell's Vestibule was lost two years ago.  It was a good thing and a bad thing.  We got most of it cleaned out, and the best part was that Mum severed all ties with her despicable younger brother, may he die in a gutter alone. She lived with us for the last year and a half of her life, and that's what a lot of my time went to--watching over her and making sure she was OK, but then, that was what I've done for a long time.

As a part of dealing with Mum's stuff, I had to deal with my stuff.  Going through over twenty boxes of files (most of them mine) and a 10x30' packed storage space brought on a bit of a crisis.

Fuck that, I had a meltdown of epic proportions.  One of my therapists (I have three these days--personal, couple, and EMDR, but I'll get to that later) told me I needed trauma work as she watched me fall apart during our couples session.  (We're trying to improve our communications--we've got the relationship down pretty good, but there are a couple of things we need to work on.  It's good, it's positive, and it's the Next Step.)  That led back to my regular therapist who told me about EMDR.  At first, it was going to be a six-month "adjunct" therapy--just something to help me over this hump and get me to a place where I could put the grief and anger into perspective.

And then I was told I needed at least a year if not two of it.  Because there was "trauma on trauma" in my life--that I'd been through too much.

The best way to describe that moment, that news, was like an emotional kick in the balls.  However, I couldn't argue with it because, honestly, kids, I'm not functioning.  I mean, I'm getting through the day to day, but barely.  And it's so hard to watch Al being patient with me, hard to watch his face when he's hoping I've had a good day instead of one of my typical days when getting the cat fed (we have a 2.5 year old tuxedo who is the light of the household--we rescued Miss Lulubelle when her people couldn't keep her anymore, and she has rescued our hearts more than once, particularly through the grief process), the dishes done, and supper planned means I have accomplished something.  But there are days when playing for hours on the computer or the Nintendo 64 are about all I can handle. Or hours of posting useless shit on Facebook. Or wandering from store to store, shopping for shit I don't need and projects I never complete.  I haven't been able to write, I haven't been able to read a book, and finishing anything is more challenging than I care to think about.

I can't handle most movies these days, especially if there's a lot violence in it.  I only made it through 10 minutes of Catching Fire, and I desperately wanted to see that.  I can't handle anything out of my comfort sphere, and that comfort sphere is about the size of a ping pong ball these days. I can handle working because it's quiet--we're in a small storefront, customers are polite and the community we're in doesn't encourage impoliteness, and the store itself is serene, so work isn't challenging--I get to write food blogs, research food and recipes, fill jars with spices and bags with herbs and tea, make beautiful window displays, all on a very relaxed schedule.  There is a zero asshole factor there--everyone there is NICE--good people, decent people, and all of us committed to the success of the store and farm.  It's the way it should be.

The television... with the exception of a couple of things (Legit, Once Upon a Time, Cosmos, and Sleepy Hollow--Al has actually gotten me to watch TV), I can't bear the fucking thing. The noise... the noise sensitivity is driving me insane.

And I feel like a loser.  I thought I'd taken care of this shit--I thought I'd done the work, done the therapy, gotten it under control and leashed in. And now, when I have everything to live for, when I have the life and the opportunities I've dreamed of, I can't function.

If EMDR doesn't work, I don't know what I'm going to do.  I have three novels waiting for me to finish them. I have a studio full of materials and a sketchbook of designs waiting to be brought to fruition.

I have everything to live for, and while I have no desire to die, the only real desire I have right now is to curl up and sleep and have the world go away and not ask anything from me.

So I'll take any good energy people can throw my way.  I'm still fighting--I have a reason to fight now, and his train is going to be pulling into the station in five minutes, and I need to pick him up.  I'm not alone in this.

And that... that makes a big difference. I have a reason to succeed, I have a reason to fight--I'm a part of something I've always dreamed of. We've built a life, a good life, and I want that life.

That's a good thought for the first day of spring.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Call NOT to Pray

"It doesn’t matter who you call “God”; what matters is how you conduct yourself in this world."

In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, I’m seeing a lot of calls upon God and to return prayer to school.
This bothers me. A lot.
The call is coming from Christians (at least it is on my news feed). 
Prayer does not have a place in the public school, at least not in our current climate.  Prayer means different things to different people, and my question to you is this:  your child is from a Christian family; however, the predominant religion in their classroom is Buddhism. What prayer should be said in the morning?  The “Our Father” for the ONE Christian child, or should there be a Buddhist meditation session?  The American principle of “majority rule”—after all, that is how we vote, and this is a public institution, paid for with public money and the budget determined by a POLITICAL body, so therefore, it is a political issue that should be determined by political rules—would dictate that the morning begin with a Buddhist meditation session:  a little incense, a mantra repeated… What if the predominant religion in the classroom is Judaism?  Islam? 
Do you see the mess this creates?
I went to Catholic schools for my twelve years of basic schooling; every day started with a prayer and the God-included Pledge of Allegiance.  My religion was dictated to me; I had religion classes every day.  Five months after that education ended, my affiliation with the Church ended, at least in my mind.  I took a couple of years to make it “official,” because I don’t believe in rash decisions about something so deep, but it ended because of a rational decision making process, a well-reasoned internaldebate, and the fact that it came down to one thing:  to be a Catholic, you have to vote the party line. You have to play by ALL of the rules.  There were too many things I did not believe, did not accept, and so, because while I have never accepted Jesus as a god-figure, I have always respected and followed him as a philosopher.  The one group Jesus had no truck with was hypocrites.  To call myself a “Catholic” and not play by the rules was to be a hypocrite and in direct violation of one (what I perceived to be) Jesus’s core values; ergo, I was no longer a Catholic.
Because I am an American, I had the option of other spiritualities and other faiths.  I had access to lots of information and could research.  I educated myself and made my choices.  Because of the research, I also became acutely aware of the efforts of certain groups to influence public opinion.  Because I am no longer a member of the mainstream, I became ACUTELY aware of the prejudices of EVERY group, my own umbrella group (and “Pagan” is a label that is an umbrella for a myriad of spiritualities) included.
“Prayer” is a very personal concept and the definition and execution thereof differs from person to person, never mind from tradition to tradition.  In Catholic school, we stood and folded our hands and bent our heads.  Muslims spread mats and prostrate themselves.  Some Pagans light incense on an altar and meditate.  There are as many ways to pray as there are people on this earth. 
Do you see the problem? 
There are two sides to kids:  one side is the side we cherish:  the lovely, happy, sweet darlings who are growing and developing and amaze us. The other is the side we despise:  the bullying, judgemental, evil little gobshites who tease, harass, beat up and otherwise torture each other. 
I was one of those kids who was bullied constantly, beat up, harassed, teased and made miserable by other kids.  The principal and teachers did nothing to protect me or prevent it, despite the fact that I was in a Catholic school and what was being done to me was against the very principles of the philosophy of the school.  I was different—I was the child of a single, divorced mother who lived in the Projects (at least for the first four years I was in elementary school), and most of the kids hurting me were from more affluent families.
Prayer in school—religion classes—didn’t make a damned bit of difference to their actions or behavior. For me, however, it did make a difference. I was far more thoughtful in my decision making, and how I treated others, especially as I got older.  I obsess about ethics rather than morals because morals can find a way to excuse and defend any level of disgusting behavior done in the name of what the moralizer calls “moral.”  Ethics, however, are exactly about conduct and right-action. My mother, as a parent, is quite possibly the most ethical human being I've ever known, and it was her example I followed.  I can only imagine that those other kids were living out their parents examples, their parents who were good, Church-going Catholics, in good standing with the principal and pastor of the parish.  
See what I'm getting at? 
What we DO need isn’t about prayer or religion. What we need is personal responsibility and awareness.  It doesn’t matter who you call “God”—be it the Christian God, the Judaic Yahweh, the Islamic Allah, or even Odin the All-Father—what matters is how you conduct yourself in this world.  As adults, it means the example you set for your kids because, folks, your behavior is what they will emulate, and if you tell them one thing but behave in another, all the prayer in the world won’t make a damned bit of difference.  They’re going to do as you do when it matters most, and think about that VERY carefully, my friends.  VERY carefully.  Do you want your kids kicking people when they’re down?  Or offering them a hand up? 
I may not have any children of my own, but I have quite a few of them in my life.  As someone who’s been a teacher (and who’s heading back into that profession) and a mentor, I am acutely aware that what I say and how I behave make a difference.  Words have power, but words backed with action have impact. 
Make an impact, my friends. Live your words. And pray that you find the strength to be the best person you can be. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ad Memoriam: America, July 4, 1776 - September 11, 2001

This past Sunday marked a painful anniversary for the United States. The image included today is Marcus Halevy's iconic photo from the week after; this image gave me hope. It still does. For me, the 9/11 experience can be summed up in three songs: “Three Little Birds,” by Bob Marley; “Times Like These” (live version, not studio) by The Foo Fighters; and “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen.

I really wanted to ignore the tenth anniversary for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, I hate how the fascist corporate whores who were running the country into the ground at the time used and abused the incident to justify an unjust war that has claimed millions of lives. Second, how 9/11 was used to destroy our Constitutional freedoms; third, how it was used to justify prejudice and has helped to create a movement towards the elimination of the First Amendment and a push towards turning the U.S. into a Christo-fascist dictatorship. I wish I was joking or exaggerating. Fourth, the fact that the cocksucking politico whores didn’t invite NYPD, FDNY, and rescue workers to the memorial… yeah. Fifth, after sending troops into Afghanistan 10 years ago, Draft Dodger/Retard Bush* and his corporate masters passed legislation cutting benefits for veterans and their survivors… Sixth, the survivors can’t get decent health coverage (and have been coming up with lovely forms of cancer) or benefits because, hey, why the fuck should the ungrateful legislative whores in the pockets of the insurance companies defy their corporate masters? Seventh, the Bush administration allowed the Saudi royal family and friends to fly out of the US on the day after, when all other private and commercial jets were grounded. Eighth, shall we discuss the Patriot Act? Christ, I just want to spit—September 11, 2001 – the day used as an excuse to destroy America.

And then, yesterday, while I was driving down the Lynn Fells Parkway on a glorious, beautiful, stunning September Sunday morning, I happened to flip the radio and come upon Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising.” I wept like a broken child because Bruce’s voice and lyrics captured the reality of the day for me—both anthem and hymn, praise and mourning, defiance and acceptance, and it flooded back—that horrible, awful day… coming out into the doctor’s waiting room from my appointment before 10 a.m. to have this couple who had just driven up from The Cape tell me what they’d heard on the radio, and me saying it couldn’t be true… and then… then the news. Frantically trying to reach the guy I had been casually dating because he’d been driving down to NYC every Tuesday for business. Calling former students and emailing and making sure everyone was accounted for because a few of our kids had gone to grad school down there (and I was never so thankful that I’d listened to my instincts and NOT gone to the Actor’s Studio for the MFA—it was in the same block as St. Vincent’s, one of the front line hospitals)… that horrible, empty feeling that something so ugly, so stupid, so evil could be done in the name of ideology.

Ever notice that “ideology” sounds a lot like “idiotology” when pronounced out loud?

All the dead. All those emergency personal. All of the ordinary people who did extraordinary things that day. All of those families, those children…

That was what was the good thing about that horrible day—we all were a little kinder, a little gentler to each other. As a nation, we’d been punched in the gut and realized for a few days what was really important—each other.

A few days after, I heard the Bob Marley song “Three Little Birds,” and I wept, grieving and knowing that somehow, it would get better.

I flew to Philly a couple of weeks later to see my best friend, KJ. My Mum didn’t want me to go—she was terrified of me flying so close to the time, and those planes… those planes had originated at Logan. Going through Logan wasn’t pleasant—seeing Staties in riot gear and automatic weapons was as shocking as it was the first time I went through DeGaulle in Paris. I had asked the people I’d been talking to on the plane if there had been a terrorist attack and was told, “Oh, no, this is normal.” It was painful to see it become normal here. Understand that I love to fly—I live for the moment of take off, when the plane “slips the surly bonds of earth.” It’s a magical moment. What transformed the experience for me that night was looking out of the plane and seeing lights—the Eastern Seaboard was lit up completely, shining in the night. I leaned my head against the glass, tears on my cheeks, proud, so proud to be an American at that moment—they had wounded us, but by the Gods, they had not extinguished our light—the nation founded on the principles of “government by the people, for the people” would not fall.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the live version of “Times Like These,” just the raw emotion of Davy Grohl’s voice transforming a nice song into a soul wrenching testimony of survival, and weeping because it was so fucking true: “it’s times like these you learn to live again; it’s times like these you give and give again; it’s times like these you learn to love again.”**

And then the morons started waving flags and chanting, “USA! USA!” on street corners. And people wonder why other countries hate us; why even our allies are disappointed in us. Could it be we allowed a functionally illiterate draft-dodging corporate failure, backed by an unethical, amoral, consciousless corporate tycoon to be the titular head of this country for eight years? Could it be that we, as a nation, have acted like a bunch of bullying, uneducated, ill-bred hooligans? Could be it be that we have forgotten our real history and instead believe in the government-censored fairytale the least-enlightened state in the Union approves of for the rest of us?*** (Christ, I wish I was making this shit up.)

That is what has made the past decade so painful for me—the destruction of the light of America. When our country was founded, it was by men profoundly influenced by the French Enlightenment and from families deeply affected by the English Civil War, not to mention the Reformation. This nation began as a commercial venture and penal colony, and when the time came and independence was earned, the law code those leaders codified was a direct reflection of it. The Constitution of the United States was a document born from a society trying to learn from history; it was never intended to be a static code that remained unchanged and unchallenged. The government established by Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams… they never intended that we would have the same government over two hundred years later. They established a base for us to build on, but never expected us to fail so radically by clinging to the past and ignoring history. They did not expect us to follow the example of the monarchies of Europe.

That is where we have failed, my friends, and how we, as a nation, have dishonored our honored dead. Those who died for this country, who gave their lives willingly or unwillingly, did so to uphold the principles of the Founding Fathers. The problem is that we no longer bother to study those principles. Patriotism is not blind adherence to the government’s policy—patriotism is the belief and love of the principles that governed the founding of this nation—that we are all created equal in the eyes of the law, that we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, BUT that with those rights, comes RESPONSIBILITY. We have forgotten as a nation the concept of citizenship; we have become rotten, corrupt—intellectually lazy and cowardly in the face of losing our creature comforts. We have allowed cowards, liars and thieves to take control of our government, and surrendered our wills to corporations, and our partisan identity is more important to us than what is best for our country. We have allowed our elections to become nothing more than muck-raking popularity contests that have nothing to do with public service and everything to do with lining the pockets of the winners and their corporate sponsors, while we allow ourselves to be sidetracked into discussions of irrelevancies and forget we are supposed to be voting for a public servant who will serve the common good, not just our special interests.

We have pissed on the graves of the honored dead and debased ourselves in useless warmongering, destroying not only our own citizens, but decimating the populations of foreign nations under false pretenses. We, as a nation, have sunk lower than France in 1789, and are following the example of Germany in the 1930’s. The pity is that, because we have allowed our schools to become indoctrination centers, history is not studied and ANALYZED, and we as a nation live in denial. Our people are suffering, and we are causing suffering around the world with our selfishness.

I wept Sunday for all that was lost on that beautiful September day in 2001—the lives needlessly, cruelly cut short and for the death of my country. Today, I pray for all of us—that we have the courage to go beyond our self-imposed limits and embrace our responsibilities.

May the benevolent Gods bless us all and guide us to enlightenment and compassion.

*W served in the AF Reserve as a pilot; he never saw combat. He was also seen rather erratically after the Air Force began random drug testing. W is a coke addict; note the present tense usage. There were reports (reliable, sadly) that he was still snorting when he was in the White House. His behavior pretty well confirms it. As for Dick Cheney, he was quoted in Rolling Stone, when questioned as to why he didn't serve in Viet Nam, "I had better things to do." Sorry, but if you're not willing to shed your own blood for your country, don't ask anyone else to, you cowardly scum.

** Surprised to discover that "Times Like These" came out in 2003. For some reason, I associate it with 2001. Time is fluid...

*** Truth: most states use textbooks approved by the Texas Board of Education. Be afraid. Be VERY, VERY afraid when the books your children use come from a state-approved board. Ever heard of Stalin? Hitler? Mao? Yeah--they believe in state-approved text books as well. When it comes to history and learning history, you don't want to learn the party line--you want to learn all sides of the story. Because hey, wouldn't it be awesome to learn a balanced view of history? One of the best anecdotes I have to share about this--and about the fact that even American history teachers in AMERICAN schools don't know their history: I had the pleasure of seeing Neil Gaiman speak back in June at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH on the 10th anniversary tour for American Gods. The novel contains interludes--his way of overcoming writer's block--which are anecdotes of how the Gods crossed the ocean. One of them involves a Cornish woman named Essie Tregowan who was a tranportee (twice!). For those of you unfamiliar with American history. the colonies were not established for religious freedom and human rights, but as a commercial venture and a penal colony (much like Australia). Neil's son was 12 at that point; he came home from school and told his father that his history teacher said that Neil was a liar.

Yeah. Evidently, they're not teaching history teachers about transportees--the other side of the King's Hard Bargain (hang or be a soldier). Being transported meant you escaped the noose, but instead were condemned to a (possibly) temporary servitude. If you read A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, you can also discover even more ugly truths about transportees and slavery. All true, sad to say, and all serious contributing factors to today's racial issues in the US (and other countries). What's even sadder is that people from other countries know more about our history than our history teachers.