Monday, July 28, 2014

Gentleman's Agreement

I used to be a serious person because it was easy.  I would fret and assume my thinking about a political question mattered, so when the public domain stirred up about foreign policy I would read people I assumed to reflect a reasoned and thoughtful logical position from each side (again, an assumption of 'two' points of view) and then agonize about determining which position could be right. 

For instance I was torn about events in the world after the terrorist attack of 9/11.  Of course we should hunt down the perpetrators and send a million guys with guns into Afghanistan once we determined (we is not me, but my elected and appointed government officials-even if I didn't vote for them) who was guilty as to all the evidence we could gather.  I assume the best about someone in our government, which is no longer a feature but a bug in my personal operating system. 

Iraq was a much tougher personal call to make, but with Saddam, 'anything but' seemed a reasonable alternative.  Once it came out that we were torturing our prisoners this worm turned, but sometimes good comes from ill.  My optimism rests on the solid ground of post event rationalization, like going to Mexican restaurant when I'm on a diet .
But now, I'm not reasonable about our foreign affairs, I'm reflexively and permanently in the 'NO' category.  The right choice about Libya, or the right choices about Ukrainistan or anywhere else just can't involve our 'strength' and 'resolve' anymore.  The endless impulse to 'do something' about 'bad guys' and helping people by helping them dismantle every public infrastructure with bombs.  Suppose whenever we think we have picked the good guys in a country we did everything but send them guns?  And if they insist on killing each other, well, go right ahead, America had its 'been there done that' moment in the 1860s.  We still pay for it, especially if you aren't white. 

My impulse isn't just "NO", I'm firmly in the "HELL FUCKING NO" camp now.  Let other countries rationalize deaths and destruction as progress, allow other political scientists from other countries determine how to have conversations grounded in reality with religious and political movements which are only understandable in the context of assuming human knowledge ceased in 1000 AD.  

Americans should be done with developing functional, just, societies  by sending men with guns and if we look at our own history, we should be a little more humble.  We stopped killing each other in the 1860's, except for sport.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spin Cycle Repeat

People come and go, in the same way months of silence happen on this blog.  Paragraphs get started but the momentum of the insight dims and the clever metaphor or trenchant observation looks stale or even worse, false.  When my writing or a friendship ends each is fossilized, preserved in stone on my computer or my faulty black and white memory.   Unpublished blog paragraphs and lost friend(s) never age, but sometimes reality intrudes and in front of you are the real people washing clothes in the Laundromat. 
I honestly don’t know why this couple is past tense for me.  One partner became angry at me for reason(s) I could only assume (and in my view a silly, minor faux pas in the scheme of things) and soon convinced the other member to take a similar stance.  Of course maintaining a friendship with the frequently obtuse and obnoxious author isn’t easy and maybe it was a litany of small schisms which turned into a canyon, but that’s unfair.  In love and friendship you give of yourself, warts included and acceptance is an unearned gift.  For this reason I issued a couple of written apologies and offered whatever I could do to make up for the sin I committed, which month after silent month proved insufficient to the offended.  One partner and I spoke during this time; they didn’t want to be in the middle of it.  Then one day, during a usual group email exchange among friends, I received a “Never talk to me again”.   That was it.  The response stunned and hurt me, I physically felt it.  When they walked into the Laundromat the usual Hispanic background music in the Laundromat gave way to an ominous and sad string quartet while people scurried behind driers and peered out.
I’ve been on the other side of this sort of thing and like all self absorbed blogger/diarists, consider myself pure of motive.  I have reasons and principles, facts buttress my observations and logical progressions lead to fair conclusions, insert harrumph here.  But at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter.  The fat warden wearing mirrored sunglasses speaks from the front porch, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”.   I try to argue the point, but I’m speaking Japanese to a Southern prison warden and the guttural shouting distracts from the subtitles in this movie.  These subtitles are in our every movie no matter the language, no matter how hard we try to suppress or deny or claim they’re too hard to read.  We all want to be loved and accepted.  We all fail to be loving or accepting.  We don’t want to go to the Laundromat because there’s no one to talk too. 
I couldn’t approach my friends at the Laundromat, I was scared.  Should I approach them, will they come to me?  I was halfway through loading washing machines and didn’t see them arrive-- did they see me, maybe the three years, the conversion to Japanese and beard made me invisible? 
It used to be that the introverts had books for these occasions of mingling with the unwashed, friendly public.  Pull out a book and “Don’t Fuck with ME” is your name tag.  One day I planned to wear sunglasses and read a book indoors to test the edges of polite dismissal of the public, but technology has intervened on the introvert’s behalf and given us cell phones, laptops and tablets.  My weapon of choice is the cell phone and my new cell magnificently intercepts the internet and repels the friendly no matter where I am-but is too small for comfortable reading if I’m wearing sunglasses indoors.  But none of these prior weapons, seven months of pregnancy and a gaudy wedding band protect even a women’s physical space, there’s always that guy who’s going to try to talk to you and touch your belly, which set of facts would have made me a really mean(er) introvertier person.  This slight detour shows the author is aware of the smallness of his social awkwardness; there are always bigger more important issues. 
I truly and deeply miss nearly all of my ex-friends.  There was a significant openness in my relationship with this couple, they knew, perhaps too much, of my troubles with my ex Some Woman (in truth, with ALL women) and have helped me through some bleak times.  My marriage mostly sucked and I have to accept my part.  Then the divorce and discovery of some of the truth afterward was more painful and humiliating, but they didn’t scold or judge me for obvious mistakes.  They applauded my steps in moving on, even when to any outside, impartial, observer I was just setting myself up for further heartbreak and humiliation.  Each scrubbed off a few of my warts so that I could present myself to the world again and their acceptance of Girlfriend for Life as a permanent fixture in my life was genuine and joyful.   They didn’t take credit as my shepherd or a bridge over troubled water nor did they claim all their actions were in my interest.  Sometimes they told me harsh truth in the way it had to be said for me to understand.  They helped me install curtains, praised my choice of colors, applauded every online or otherwise flirtation and always, joyfully and truthfully, put me in my place when I was my usual idiotic self.  Their only selfish act was deciding to never speak to me again.  I accepted the silence and the command and never tried to talk to either of them again. 
Then they’re doing laundry twenty feet from me, each of us betrayed and angry at our home appliances.  We could have had so much more, we could have shared fabric softener or piggy backed the giant washing machines for each other.  We could have talked.  Laughed.  Settled our differences?

I’m a boring old happy grump now.  Did my friends betray me?  No.  Betrayal makes me angry, it involves deceit and lies.   My healthy reactions to betrayal are forgiveness and distance in all dimensions of time and space, along with heaping doses of cynicism and spite revealing I’m not as healthy as I might claim.    Maybe I’m radioactive and contaminated.

But lost love and lost friendship………. find the word “saudade”, which is like remembering a summer day with a friend you haven’t seen in years during the coldest night of the year.  Or it’s about washing clothes at the Laundromat and pretending you don’t know someone.  I have reasons for my actions and inactions, lame excuses for when I’m short one quarter for a load of dirty clothes. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chappelle's Recipe

Wow, look at all the dust around here.

I've been struggling with the purpose of this place, it seems the need for release or reconstruction of history to protect my weak and shallow ego has abated. Not that anything significant has changed; I'm a mistake driven, blind to self sheteed (pronounced as Chappelle did for "shit head"). Just ask Girlfriend for Life and see the knowing chuckle and turn of the head. God, I hate it when I'm right.

She's so goddamn honest I know I'm better off talking myself into doing what I know she would tell me to do if I asked. A lot of times in this world you run into people who are one hundred percent honest about half of the story or half honest about the whole, I'm one hundred percent guilty of each crime and of the blind eye to myself. But the calm, funny, withering honesty with which she lives is something worth believing in. And maybe this author is finally unconcerned with putting on a show for anonymous readers or telling half a story regarding events I can't change or resolve anyway.

Girlfriend for Life and I have been together for nearly six years. Each passing month gets better; I become a little more open and unafraid because of her. I've had some moments of living this way, but often my own actions and fears sabotaged the potential future of remaining open and honest. Everyone wants to matter and be healthy, but the depressed are a little more egotistically introspective than is healthy or honest, among other things.

I'm married to someone much smarter than me and she splain's it to me, sans bullshit. A few months after we first met she told me she loved me more than a tiny puppy, with a perfect emoticon ending a perfectly timed confession at the perfect time of my life. Shakespeare's question- only her because of her-has been answered. I submit, but not often or completely enough and don't ask her any questions; I'm the one who won't like the answers.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Renter Stirs

Girlfriend for Life and I have had months of work and life situation turmoil.  We are rent paying squatters after selling our her house, still wondering what we will do when we grow up. 

Men get used to things in life, we like certainty, routine and pattern. Before Roger Ebert took charge of his own website/blog I visited the Chicago Tribune website every Friday morning. It was a routine I thoroughly loved—when something went wrong I was just as annoyed as when a Sunday newspaper delivery failed—which means it could ruin a day. For a time I had an electronic document of various paragraphs from his reviews and just as much to re-read them as a list of movies to see some day.

When I heard Roger died I thought of him as a writer, not the little round movie critic from the television show. I connect to writers and writing emotionally, so their passing takes me a little deeper than the usual celebrity passing. When Kurt Vonnegut died back in 2007 I was in a different place emotionally because of divorce and other issues and felt his passing intensely. I realized how different I was to the 15 year old who glimpsed the adult world through his eyes—he tried to tell me about the banal cruelty and lack of real love in the world. But Roger recommended a movie (Me and You and Everyone We Know)—a movie which turned me away from the nihilism of this moment of my life.

"--Now imagine these two characters, named Christine (Miranda July) and Richard (John Hawkes) as they walk down the street. She suggests that the block they are walking down is their lives. And so now they are halfway down the street and halfway through their lives, and before long they will be at the end. It is impossible to suggest how poetic this scene is; when it's over, you think, that was a perfect scene, and no other scene can ever be like it."

Few things in this world are more enjoyable than a writer who loves his work and to borrow from Roger, it's the writing which determines the greatness, not the subject. I think Roger's tongue in cheek running battle with the "video game is art" crowd came from his own reticence regarding his place in the world, his own writing was derivative and 'about' other writing or works of art. Roger Ebert kept growing and changing to something much greater than a movie critic, with his blog—some of his reviews were themselves art, a condensation of meaning, time and emotion into a singular space.

I lost my collection document after the back and forth of all my jobs and life. Like the long gone phone book I didn't think I would miss my little compilation. Just like all those movies I would make time to see when I had time. Two days before his death Roger wrote the paragraphs below. I read it and thought “Great-there will always be time for……….” The internet brings great things, but tomorrow exists only on movie screens and our imagination. 

"For years I devoutly took every one of my tear sheets, folded them and added them to a pile on my desk. The photo above shows the height of that pile in 1985 as it appeared on the cover of my first book about the movies published by my old friends John McMeel and Donna Martin of Andrews & McMeel. Today, because of technology, the opportunities to become bigger, better and reach more people are piling up too. The fact that we're re-launching the site now, in the midst of other challenges, should give you an idea how important and Ebert Digital are to Chaz and me. I hope you'll stop by, and look for me. I'll be there.
So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

No Cad, Do

Yes, it’s been a while as I’ve been allowing those stupid things like jobs, life and children interfere with the all-important rambling musings of Anonymous Fitty Year Old Man.

And despite my protests at the conclusion of my last posting I admit to being mired in garden variety depression. I absolutely have no reason to be depressed at the moment; my lover and our relationship is the best I’ve ever had, my job is as securely insecure as any American corporate position can be and my children live and breathe in good health.

These truths mean my depression and malaise is real, but acceptance of depression and/or mental illness has always been difficult for me. Occasionally I try to think of depression as if it were a brother to diabetes, except for being a forgetful old sod I have no problem taking a pill for physical issues, so why not take a pill for depression? After all with diabetes I could have limbs fall off and internal organs grind to a halt because of sugar clogging the gears and who wants to get old and die poorly?

But see the tiny bit of pride hiding behind the concerns of ‘dying poorly’ in the prior paragraph? For some reason I’ve been too proud to take medication for depression, in part because who would be ‘me’? I know that on any number of levels just the food I eat impacts my brain, but to specifically take a medication because of how my brain functions? That’s cheating. Why can’t I just think or will myself out of this here depression thing, isn’t it just a mood or faulty logic? C’mon now, just think better,; there’s “me” and then there’s “brain” and “me” controls “brain” so disappear you fucked up bad mood. No? I’m just a brain, I are be machine? I think therefore I'm Homer Simpson.

Well, perhaps, and perhaps there is just too much thinking going on for which I should just take a damn pill. If I still feel like shit after several weeks, take more or a different chemical. There is no honor or dishonor involved in the decision because it's not about me, or my brain. The question is if I care enough about the other people in my life to try to be a better, happier, man.

I do.

But now is the time for bad decisions because it's election season. Every presidential election I read the hand wringing and articulate writers regarding the historical, multiple, bad results of our politics, economics and historical culture which are culminating in the Bad Choice. Then further depressive musings telling me Mr. Obama is a cloned Ronald Reagan. Another article says Mr. Romney only supports asshole policies because he needs every vote of every absolute asshole, (the polls say 56 percent of registered voters are assholes but only 47 percent of likely voters are absolute assholes) in order to win the election.

Maybe the only answer is to drop out and write angry blogs supporting my impossible dream. In my world everybody earns everything they have, but there is so much sharing going on nobody needs to earn anything, but everyone keeps earning and sharing and loving and humping because that's what all good people do when we take our medication.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Joy Hidden Well

I’ve always wondered about the diagnosis of ADD, perhaps there’s a little bit of it in me? In school if I grasped a subject, I wanted to move on and if I couldn’t grasp a subject quickly (subjective-but bear with me) I wanted to move on faster. So math: boring, plodding math with its glacial accumulation of knowledge via practice (I hear my father shouting at me in first grade---the number is NINETEEN and I fretted about remembering all the names to infinity) wasn’t my cup of tea. At work there is a burst of brain activity in the first year of employment and after the new connections, new people and new ideas create a few new synapses between some aging neurons, the dust starts to settle. The less attention I pay the more I understand. It’s not a diagnosis; but a gift and talent he said lied to himself.

All of which is probably why I announced in these pages that I’m a pagan. I struggled with the realization of everyone I know except for the old boring people I saw twice on Sunday going to hell. Hell forever, fuck you fuck you fuck you burn die hell. In fourth grade you couldn’t even think about hell except to remind yourself to not think about it because it involves thinking the word. Thou shalt not bad words. And it was such a bad place the only word to describe it is the word which is the most awesomest bad word ever because it means......I didn’t have a clue. The mystery was solved by my fifth grade dream about dark haired, curves begat curves woman. Who cares about hell when I’m here with you.

Some believe life is determined by sex (the condition or the act), others find the truth in Black Swans, option theories and economics and then others find a common element or two between Republicans and Democrats and ipso facto, mumbo jumbo and abra cadabra, they are the same. Frankly, Scarlett, GODDAMN. I still look for the impossible Holy Grail, what does it all mean? Politics is a parlor game, debates without reference to fact and beliefs held out as principles from nature.

Where was I-indoctrinated, guilty, fundamentalist, all in with sin, Vonnegut, thought everything I wanted was the worst thing ever (great fifth grade dream, but choosing a woman because you want to spend time with her in a submarine?) powerless, broke, dispirited. I gave up on the God part(y) and I don’t know I’ll ever return. My current Sunday consists of reading weird ol’ Andrew Sullivan nurse his AIDS is gone guilt with a return to a thinking man’s Catholicism, which seems sacred enough and actually does make me think about God and mercy. Forgiveness like the bubble bath commercial-take me away, take the me out of me. Guilt, ascetics, hedonism, selfishness gone gone gone because I’m loved by God. If that doesn’t work I have my new Eastern mystery myth: give the good shit to others, keep the bad shit to yourself. Buddhists and Catholix™ are just the same since they talk about the metaphysical. Are there Buddhist heretics, did Buddha cast the passionate or the thin out of the temple?

But life or my brain left me kind of blue or clinically depressed. Ok, I should have written “and”. I resist the diagnosis because depression doesn’t take a day off, but depressed people do all the time. And on the tippy top precipice of depression I added a dose of diabetes type Southern/Southwestern cuisine fuck you/love you Paula Deen. Nice eyes, are those still yours? Another disease which requires implacable plotting, planning and living in the moment attention (or an endorsement from a medicine manufacturer), an ability I have in the word opposite from spades.

For a few months I followed a new plan of life because of the medical diagnosis, made amends for life prior to following the plan and felt better after getting over some irritability caused in part by medicine. The feeling better became the new normal. The new normal became the same normal. There isn’t any one event or task not finished which lead to depression returning, inertia becomes inert becomes in inside your head and words, too long.

Several weeks ago I decided to revisit the vaunted American medical system. Last year my insurance company learned I had gone several months without insurance during my unemployment, which meant every disease in my crumbling body was due to my going without Vitamin I insurance for three months. A conservative Supreme Court justice describes my plight as ‘economic inactivity’, but I was fucking broke and jobless, Your Honor, that’s why I couldn’t get any goddamn insurance. So I followed my new insurance company’s advice to take two aspirin, see a doctor in a year and avoid “pre-existing conditions”.

During the remainder of last year I followed a moderately healthy lifestyle and quit smoking for a shortish while. I ate a better diet until Thanksgiving. At Thanksgiving all hell broke loose because I let myself resume poor eating habits for just that day, three more months and an additional week. For months the diet was mostly green vegetables, nuts, berries (grubs?) and lean or fat protein and once I started smoking again I barely ate those at all because of the monotony. The weight disappeared slowly in a Twenty Four Hour Dancing Heroin, Simmons Richards Keith kind of way. Blood work in the fall revealed substantially better glucose numbers, which would have been even better with medication I couldn’t afford.

Let me tie all this up in a stunning insight which reveals all the truth you can handle. I may be ADD, depressed and diabetic but I’m fucking great with it. The cure to life is joy; the process of coping with the consequences doesn’t have to affect the cure. I absolutely dream of not having a job so that I can spend hour upon blinded, confused, rotting, sometimes too silent hour with Girlfriend for Life. The point of it all is joy and joy isn’t conceived or plotted or understood; it just is and there is boundless joy with Girlfriend for Life after we forget what I wrote here and I remember to leave the room every once in a while.

Friday, March 30, 2012


In God(esses) name why have I been paying attention to the Republican Presidential contest and the local blobbers, I mean bloggers, in the newspaper? People are writing in defense of restrictions to antacids, I mean birth control, because God wants you to suffer from indigestion since it doesn’t involve your government provided sex organs, the best summary and description I can use to explain the result of using thousands years old religious texts (well, not the texts themselves but what an Authoritah tells you they mean) as a guide to health science and how society should determine delivery of health services. I’m the kind of man who understands developing feelings about objects, events or ideas which in and of themselves don’t have any, but one of the reasons my GPA was infinitesimal after my first two years of college was my idea of using ‘my gut’ or revelations from God when taking algebra tests. The other reasons remain illegal or rejected by polite society.

Our current public political environment consists of over the top emotional responses to mundane decisions regarding discernable realities. I’ll go with a false dichotomy of two sides to a political or economic consideration because it’s easier to pretend there’s no point of view other than Yin vs Yang, US vs Europe, or Reality vs Republicans. But granting the first false premise in politics seems inevitably to lead to making the final collapse into, ‘there’s no difference at all’.

And of course there must be a capital G god because I don’t understand everything anything immediately, including how to program the cable box, so logically, all that I don’t understand is God because I need an ultimate authority. Let me generalize with the best of Men, what I don’t understand has to be explained anyway because of my ego, insecurity and because the Leader has to Know. I don’t understand, I don’t understand, all is God, cable boxes and an aphorism to hide behind when my principle collides with inconvenient fact and proven to not be universal. And you think you comprehend what I don’t understand, so it’s your fault if we don’t get along. God set up our Free Market State in Leviticus Economicus II, and I’m running for Governor because I know fear enterprise.

And then Republicans wonder why fewer and fewer college graduates become Republicans, at least until the pay check increases significantly. And don’t bother telling a Republican that our god-like founding father’s second greatest fear was the accumulation of wealth leading to an aristocracy of privilege.

Well, there’s that and dictating who (including US citizens) lives and dies in any country with a majority non-white, non-Christian population: wait, my bad, that’s called ‘defending freedom’. Finland leads the world in education if you measure success by a test score, because the FIRST time their students take a benchmark test is after 12 years of instruction from a teacher who must obtain a masters degree in order to get a job that is sought after because it pays well and offers autonomy. Imagine that, not checking a box but actually reading a 2200 page health care bill because you asked the world to be paid to do it and to bear responsibility for comprehending the same writing to the best of our your ability; rather than complaining that because the writing is long and complicated, it must be bad.

But I’m just a pagan with a bad attitude, a blog and a really awesome Girlfriend for Life who won’t let me just give up and smoke naturally healthy cigarettes until I plotz.