I have no idea how old I was when I was given a pen for a present. Birthday present, I think it was. I know it was before high school, because I remember flashing back to it when I first wore a suit, and several times thereafter. I think it was my grandmother who gave me the pen – a Cross Pen, if I remember correctly (I refuse to Google this to confirm) in its own hinged, satin-lined case. It was like being given my mortality, a miniature coffin with the dreams of my adolescence laid neatly to rest therein.
I don’t remember how old I was, but holy crap do I remember opening that gift. Unwrapping it, testing the weight, being confronted with a formal looking case (maybe like an eyeglasses case, but I don’t wear glasses, so wtf?). Upon opening the case, I find a… pen. It had a navy blue body and gold accents. No fruity scrollwork or decoration, mind you, just good honest hard-working faintly etched stripes in the metal, and a non-descript blue body. It was metal, it was loaded with blue ink, and it symbolized everything I came to hate in myself and others.
Understand – this was the same grandmother who later on told her acquaintances (don’t believe she had friends) that I was an engineer at Ford, when in fact I was an apprentice mechanic, and not even a terribly good one. I worked under a man named Jim, who was a good, solid dude who treated my dumb ass remarkably well. My co-workers were a huge guy named Lloyd who was nicknamed Sasquatch and a shifty-eyed short guy named Carl, who I later discovered I had gone to middle school with on the other side of the country. I even vaguely remembered him – he was my sister’s age, and my one real memory of him was watching him watch his friend Bobby play the Hendrix version of “The Star Spangled Banner” outdoors at a school talent show. Carl had a fucking hardass mullet at the time and was wearing worn high-tops and acid washed jeans. He was a classic junior-high stoner, who scrubbed his nails religiously after work each day so he could try to pass himself off as a lawyer when picking up women at the bar and assured all of us in the garages at Ford that he was still wicked pissah on guitar.
They were all better mechanics than me. And I was sure as fuck no engineer. But none of that bothered me anywhere near as much as the implications of that pen.
I remember at first being disappointed when I saw the pen, and then starting to recoil from it. I understood, even then, that this was the first step toward a future that I wasn’t looking for, but one that was being laid out before me. I was supposed to use my brain and not my hands. I was supposed to blend in and climb the social ladder, but I wasn’t supposed to enjoy it. I was supposed to outgrow my dreams and tastes, but particularly my values. I was supposed to sell out.
I’m not saying that I’m any great rebel, cuz I’m not. I’m no better than anyone else, but I try to make decisions that I’m proud of. The things that I’ve become proud of would have seemed very alien to that version of me that was looking at that pen back then, but they have roots that go back to that time and before. I’ve compromised on a great many things since that day, but I’ve made those decisions as consciously as I can, given them thought, and said no to a lot of things that I’m proud to have not become part of.
I’m writing this while sitting in my clothing shop. We’ve been open for two and a half hours, and I’ve made just over $50 in sales. If I was a different person, maybe the kind of person who would have happily taken the pen, I wouldn’t be here, and this shop wouldn’t be here. We would never have opened this kind of business if we’d listened to the advice we received when we were planning it. We were informed that the only reason to open a business was to make money. We rejected that then, and I reject it still. The business is here, and so am I. I’m proud of this shop, and our dedication to it, for all the wrong reasons. Drop by when you get a chance and waste some of your life with us, you might just find something redeeming about it.
I watch boxing. Not religiously, but I enjoy and respect it. ESPN’s boxing commentator is a guy named Teddy Atlas, who brings the aura of authenticity to their coverage – he’s everything you expect in a boxing analyst. He has a droopy eye from a severed muscle (I believe), he slurs a little, he’s astute in his observations and predictions, and he’s honest about what he’s seeing. So he’s kinda like Mickey from the Rocky series, and, in fact, he made his name as a trainer and still trains boxers from time to time.
One of Teddy Atlas’s favorite sayings is, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I googled it, and found that it seems to be a Maya Angelou quotation, and is a solid piece of advice. Today I found myself thinking about it while I watched the primary results roll in, with Trump increasing his lead over the field in the Republican race for the nomination. In the last month or so, Trump has talked about broadening libel laws so that he can silence dissenting newspapers and authorizing the use of torture, not just to try to gain information, but to punish terrorists. When asked about the latter, he’s responded that the side that plays by the more restrictive rules is at a disadvantage. He’s right about that, of course, but we’re not talking about a price war between rival gas stations at an intersection. We’re talking about becoming terrorists (more so than we may already be) to fight terror. He discussed ordering the military to go after the families of terrorists, a clear breach of international law. All under the mantra of, “Make America Great Again.”
I knew Donald Trump was a braggart, a boor, a loudmouth, a huckster and a con man before, but what I am learning from this election is who and what else he is. I don’t like Ted Cruz any better, but for sheer audacity in taking us in the wrong direction as a people, he can’t compare to Trump. I feel that Trump is telling us who he is, and we fail to believe him at our risk.
By the way, while I was writing this it occurred to me that Yoda might have just been a puppet version of Mickey from Rocky. Your thoughts?
I was reading a piece yesterday off the jalponik website about a guy who’s serving a life sentence for loaning his roommate his car. He’d loaned the car to said roommate many times before, with no egregious legal ramifications, but this particular time the roommate used the car to drive himself and some friends over to a drug dealer’s house, where they robbed the dealer and in the process killed his 18 year old daughter. All the while, the owner of the car was at home sleeping, (arguably) unaware of the crimes being committed with his car.
All of this is crap and awful. There’s not really a silver lining to be found, and I’m frustrated and sad about the whole thing. The focus of the piece was on whether or not this was just for the car owner, and it was a cautionary tale for the readers of this car-oriented website. I leave you, readers (if such things exist) to draw your own conclusions on that score, and it’s not really what I’m here to write about, but it does set the table. One of the threads in the comments became a debate over whether or not the prosecutor should have (not was entitled to, etc,) pursued the car owner for his role or lack of one in the crime. And in that thread I found this comment:
I just read something awful. It wasn’t written poorly, it just sucked. It was an essay from a Ruth Graham on Slate, where she whines about how she’s always wanted kids, but the parenting blogs that she reads make it sound terrible.
She simultaneously acknowledges that motherhood was whitewashed for generations, and that women were supposed to present as perfect and happy no matter what they were experiencing, and then complains that women today are oversharing about the challenges and scaring her. She ends, honestly, with a plea for mothers to take a moment while blogging to pity her for her dilemma. What they should do with this pity is anyone’s guess – back to whitewashing? Chuck her on the chin and tell her to buck up?
I was moved to comment on the piece, and wrote the following before remembering that I don’t like giving out my email and being tracked just to vent, and I don’t have a facebook acct (for similar reasons) to log on as, and I’m trying to put thoughts into this blog.
So here’s the response I failed to give:
This is wretched. Ending with a plea for pity for (wait for it)… not having problems?? My suggestion for the author: grow a pair. Of whatever you need to grow and have to stop pitying yourself. If you find that you’re too intimidated to have children, then please don’t. What the world doesn’t need is more children growing up with complexes b/c their parents couldn’t decide if they could cut it or not. If your (the author’s) response to what I just wrote is “Fuck you!”, then great! Own that, put me in my place, and have kids. But don’t sit on the fence and publicly whine that it’s the fault of someone sharing their experience that you can’t make up your mind. “Do or do not — there is no try.” — Motherfucking Yoda.
This is not my attempt to be internet tough guy, and I’m happy to post this here, where most of you know who I am and all of you know how to find me. This is an issue I’ve had with the direction we’re taking as a society, an issue I’ve had for a long time. I’ll probably blog about it before too long, and the title will be something like “How getting the shit kicked out of me was the best thing that ever happened to me.” I will not be making that post a universal prescription for happiness, and please let me write it before you take umbrage with it.
But to get back to the topic at hand, my issue with the piece is this: do your homework if you think you want to do something, and then decide if it sounds like it’s worth trying or not, but don’t complain that the thing you’re considering isn’t different than it is, or something other than what it is. Example: I ride a motorcycle. Not all the time. Every time I go out to get onto the bike, every fucking time, I take an internal poll to see if my desire to ride that day outweighs my desire to not take a chance on landing in the hospital. Or dying. There have been days when it doesn’t, and I take a car instead. What I don’t do is complain about how I want to ride my motorcycle, but I want it to be safe, so someone should build a set of training wheels for it, or they should stop all the traffic on the route I want to take. It is what it is – awesome and dangerous. If a new system comes along that can increase the safety without decreasing the awesome, I’ll support it. (And that, for those of you who don’t ride, is what the whole ridiculous helmet law debate is about; there’s a large portion of the riding population who believe that having to wear a helmet decreases the awesome more than it increases the safety. For them, wind in the hair is an integral part to the experience, and they are fighting any attempts to take that experience away from them. For me, I gots no hair, and I always ride in a helmet, but frequently in a t shirt. Because the wind on my arms is a very awesome sensation, and a risk that I’m frequently willing to take.)
The point here is that we’ve a large portion of the population that thinks it’s reasonable to ask the world to change to suit their preferences. I’m no conservative – I don’t think that things should never change – but this particular essay reminded me of another one that I read when I was a teenager, waiting in the dentist’s office for an appointment. That piece was written by a woman who was nervous in traffic, and complaining that people shouldn’t criticize her for slowing down while trying to merge onto the highway. Again: she was braking while merging into faster traffic. As a driving instructor and a motorcycle rider, this woman terrifies and infuriates me. She wants everyone to stop what they’re doing to accommodate her, and instead is creating a dangerous traffic pattern that dramatically increases the chances of everyone around her getting hurt. Not acceptable, no sympathy.
Finally, I want to address the possibly misogynistic tone of this blog post. Please be aware that although I’ve given two examples of women annoying me with their timidity and indecisiveness, that is not a trait that I’m attributing to all women or women in general. I’ve got several stories/examples of men doing the same things, and it bugs me equally, but the piece that set me off today happened to be written by a woman, and the memory it recalled most immediately also happened to involve a woman. The essay that I haven’t yet written but referenced earlier is about how I’ve attempted to overcome these tendencies in myself.
Well, I’m off to watch some Holly Holm MMA clips on Youtube. Until next time,
Last night I stumbled across the greatest tv show of all time. It took me a while to realize that I was in the presence of greatness, because I was initially in a state of shocked disbelief.
The show (needless to say) was “10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty” on Spike. It was transcendent. I only caught the last forty minutes of what turned out to be the third episode, but I immediately set the DVR to “kill” – I will never miss another episode of this show. In forty minutes, from which I am now 12 hours removed and therefore may be failing to remember some of, I witnessed/experienced/thought the following:
-Okay, there seem to be teams of 2 competing to discover evidence that Bigfoot exists.
-Wait, did that graphic just say that this pair was a biologist and a ghost hunter?
-Did that biologist just say that he refused to allow the ghost hunter to set up any traps? Didn’t someone else just say that they’re all supposed to be trying to trap animals right now?
-Hold on, now. This couple is supposed to be a pair of wildlife photographers. Did she just try to hide that trap by putting two handfuls of pine straw on top of a 2’ x 1’ x 1’ metal box? That box looks like it’s got a pompadour now, but it sure as fuck isn’t hidden!
-Now the same couple is arguing over whether or not the box has been concealed too completely to bother setting the trap mechanism inside. I can still see the box! Plainly! What the hell is wrong with these people?
And then it hit me. I was only five minutes in at this point, and was beginning to understand the majesty that was unfolding in front of me on my tv screen. This show was like The Biggest Loser, except that the people on it weren’t fat, they were stupid! And presumably, the dumbest one/ones would be eliminated at the end of the program. Fucking brilliant! That $10 mil was safer than if it was in a bank. These yahoos had no chance of catching Bigfoot, and only partly because Bigfoot doesn’t exist. This was the most glorious snipe hunt in history.
In the interest of full disclosure, it must be noted that although all the contestants were stupid, some were also fat. Other thoughts/observations/recap from the rest of the episode (in chronological order, as best I can remember):
-So none of the teams were able to capture any animals at all? What a shocker. Now they’re getting reamed by the scientists on the judging panel for their ineptitude – if they can’t capture animals that Bigfoot might eat, how could they hope to capture Bigfoot, etc. That’s a bit cold, dissing Bigfoot hunters for being incompetent to their faces. Then again, they did agree to be on the show…
-So that guy quit his job, sold everything he owns and cashed out his 401k to hunt Bigfoot? Surprised he hasn’t been Raptured yet…
Then it was time for them to go out and try to get 1) DNA evidence, and 2) Clear photographic evidence (I think) of Bigfoot to claim the prize. In other words, it was getting dark. So that evening, I got to watch the team of two female bow hunters poking around in a pile of shit, the origin of which they could only speculate upon. How the hell do you go bow hunting without being able to read scat? I don’t know a damn thing about hunting, I’ll grant, but in my world, that’d be like going to the junkyard to try to find a replacement transmission for my car and not be able to tell what make of car I was looking at while I was there. Seriously??
Anyway, they found a hair in the poo, which they photographed and attempted to collect. Mysteriously, no hair was found when their sample bottle was later inspected. This lends weight to my theory that Bigfoot is actually a ghost. Which, in retrospect, makes the biologist / ghost hunter team that much more reasonable.
Speaking of them, after night fall they came across some cows, which they had been expecting since the biologist had been able to identify cow patties he’d found. To his credit, he quipped that he wouldn’t be surprised if another team collected a cow patty as Bigfoot evidence by the end of the night. I was utterly shocked that no one did. But when he and the ghost hunter came across the cows, he decided to “stalk” them (a term he confessed to repeatedly) for reasons that remained enigmatic at best. While he engaged in cow stalking, the ghost hunter believed that she observed a large creature running upright from one tree to the next. It was around 10 at night, in the woods, and I didn’t notice her using any vision aids at the time.
Naturally, she freaked out.
She spent the remainder of the night telling the story over and over, and hyperventilating. As a ghost hunter, she pretty much dishonored the legacies of courage of both Shaggy and Scooby-Doo.
So while the biologist and the ghost hunter start trying to figure out why the cows spooked, at night, while he was “stalking” them and she was freaking out, the team of two Native American brothers appear. They had been observing the cows from the opposite direction, it turns out (while concealing themselves like hunting lions, no explanation given), and they were burning sweet grass. It was their edge, they explained, as they believed that Bigfoot was a spiritual creature and would be drawn to them by their beliefs and culture. Nobody could figure out why the cows had decided to move on. I wondered if maybe smelling smoke in the middle of the night had something to do with it, but I was in no position to contribute this theory.
Meanwhile, another team had made plaster casts of indentations in the ground, and discussed how the “footprints” contained crushed rocks, which would require a heavy animal. Heavy indeed. Another team found a “nest” which they photographed and claimed was covered with hair. Which they failed to collect. What were those two criteria to collect the prize again?
And finally, our intrepid wildlife photographers were engaged in another LOUD argument about whether she should use a red light or a white light to walk through the woods at night. She couldn’t see with the red, he claimed the white would scare Bigfoot off. All of this at about 60 decibels.
The next day, the judges reviewed the evidence collected, and sent one team home for having the weakest collection. Which team? I ain’t saying, wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise, but it was at this moment that I learned that I was watching episode 3 of the show. Which meant that there had been two teams that were even dumber than the ones still there!!
Mike Judge, my hat’s off to you. You, sir, are a prophet.
10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty airs new episodes on Fridays at 8PM (Mountain) on Spike.
Been thinking about Twitter and other social networking devices lately, particularly as I’ve watched Myspace requests pile up in my inbox, and I’m kinda overwhelmed by apathy. I like people, and I find individual people’s stories compelling, but I rarely find individual people’s lives interesting on a day to day basis. I don’t really care what you had for breakfast, or whether or not you liked that movie that I’m not interested in. I’m sure you don’t care about my life on that level, either, and I’m sure we’re both the better for it. I completely don’t care what celebrities are doing, thinking, etc, and I’m repulsed by the amount of tv devoted to celebrity crap these days. I realize that all entertainment is distraction, that all of it is bread and circuses, but I swear there is a difference between Paris Hilton and Kevin Garnett. Kevin didn’t work to be tall, but everything else that he is famous for is the result of effort he expended. I respect that. I don’t respect people who were born rich, married rich, had a clown car’s worth of kids, etc. Again, objectively, my taste is certainly no better than other people’s, but from where I’m standing, so much of pop culture just sucks. And my life is certainly no more interesting than that of a useless celebrity. So why broadcast it? I guess I’m just saying: find your passion, pursue it whole-heartedly, but don’t expect that everyone around you will understand what you find interesting about it. And then we can all be friends, at a healthy distance. Here’s my example for this piece: Duke City Derby will hopefully resume its season within the next two months, our new skaters are struggling to overcome the experience edge the vets have, and I’m playing with the idea of trying to race the Frankenzombie Corpse-doba in Grants this summer. These things matter a great deal to me, and I could give tons more detail, but I suspect that most people who read this just skimmed the last sentence. Good decision. Go out and play now.
Here’s what I see: our economy is in the shitter, at least in part to the falling value of our currency. Much of the falling value of our currency is due to borrow and spend government policies, particularly with regard to the Iraq war. We’ve seen this before — Nixon had to take the US off the gold standard in ‘72 largely due to the costs of the Vietnam war. This corresponds roughly with the peak of standard of living for the average American — in terms of buying power and wages, it’s been pretty much downhill ever since then. Meanwhile, the rich have never been better off in this country, with the possible exception of the Roaring 20s. Which, of course, created the right conditions for the Great Depression. So am I saying that we’re heading for another Great Depression? Not necessarily. If my worst case scenario comes to light, we’re heading for something far worse. See, during the Depression we still had the resources available that the economy would eventually rely upon to help right itself. Today, although we are still the world’s greatest consumer of resources (I believe we consume about 25% of the world’s energy), China is now developing its economy in much the same way that we developed ours at the start of the last century — through manufacturing, and the consumption of massive amounts of natural resources. So I’m not sure that we have resources available to right the ship if it starts to founder. Further, I do not believe that any of our politicians will take problems seriously until they impact the super-rich. So my tea leaves tell me that the price of gas may well double soon, and that this will begin the collapse of our country as we know it. We will be disproportionately effected by expensive fuel relative to other countries, due to our dependence on cars. And that dependence is no coincidence, by the way. Our society depends almost exclusively on cars in part because GM bought up most of the country’s trolley lines in the early 1900s and shut them down, forcing people to buy cars to get around. We then built our towns and cities more spread out than other countries, because it was cheaper to do so, and there was no reason not to, as long as everyone had cars. So our whole economy will be threatened by rising fuel costs, but we won’t go quietly. I expect that we will turn on one another and our neighbors. Look for us to continue to solve our problems with our military. I think America is about to become a much less polite society, both domestically and abroad. Let’s hope I just got a bad batch of tea.
So I’m flipping through the channels last night (Xmas eve) and today, and I keep getting stuck on PBS. Every time I flip past it, something catches my eye and makes me think “What the fuck was that?” And inevitably, what it is is white people doing stupid shit. In formal attire. This morning, it was two women performing some ridiculous dance wherein they were evidently not allowed to stand. So they just cavorted on the floor together, which kept inexpicably not turning into lesbian porn. And why would they roll around on the floor together if they’re not trying to either A) boink each other, or B) kill each other? Because it wasn’t impressive. I have a great deal of respect for dancers because they’re capable of doing astounding things with their bodies. But somersaults are not astounding. Nor is lying on your back or sitting on your ass. I can do all of those things right now, and I’m out of shape. Maybe there’s a symbollic element to the dance — they’re channelling lovebirds in a cage, unable to fly or some shit. But that’s more of an exercise than a performance, isn’t it? Atheletes need to stretch before they play, but we have the good sense to not televise it, because it sucks. And that’s my point: white people frequently try to pass off exercises that could help you perform better as performances. Great, you can roll around: now do that at the end of a tumbling pass in gymnastics, and I’ll watch. Quit doing vocal exercises (see: choirs and a capella ensembles) and fucking sing. Quit swaying and dance. Why do caucasians always sucker you? It’s goddamn embarrassing.