“Just had a conversation with one of the local homeless guys about Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Player Piano’ (one of my favorite books of all time) and the curse of idleness.
He also tallied up for me just how much money he has to spend on speed and booze to throw up; a bodily function he enjoys very much, but considers fairly expensive to achieve. Classic Albuquerque morning.”
This post on my Facebook today triggered a host of emotions and responses.
It’s a quirky reality of my day to day, as I own a little dress shop that is in the ‘student ghetto’ neighborhood of a university town. There is also a large homeless population in the area and we see and speak with homeless people every day.
Some followers on my page were surprised and dismayed. Some asked after my safety. I know that I have missed business opportunities because some people are uncomfortable with the neighborhood. They don’t draw the distinction between poor and dangerous. I hate to lose customers, but I love this little spot.
My knee jerk response was Of course I talk to the homeless people! Every one of us deserves space in this world. Not just food and shelter, but time and contact as well. But I think the conversation goes deeper than that. And it takes me back to The South and how I was raised.
Southerners, especially southern women, talk to people. We talk to friends, and we talk to strangers. We chat in checkout lines and sometimes even in traffic when the windows are down. It seems silly to just stand there with another human person and not share a friendly hello.
Now, I know that to people from other places, this habit seems infuriating. It was quite a clash of cultures when my Native customers, who are often taciturn, were shocked by my volume and my overly familiar conversation. We are seen as too chatty, as too invasive, and sometimes it comes across as incredibly false if it’s not how you were brought up. My meema was a queen bee chatter. She could not keep her peace in a market line or an elevator. It would begin with checking in on your day but would quickly advance to your health, your happiness, and the unavoidable “how’s your mama?”. If you didn’t know her well, you might have thought that this was all an affect but it was not. I have never known someone to genuinely care about someone’s day more than her. She remembered everyone’s birthday. She knew the names of the kids and grandkids of the checkout people at the Kroger. She knew if her bank teller was serious about her boyfriend and wept with her when they got engaged. That woman’s heart (and insatiable curiosity) were legit.
Not only can this be jarring if it’s not your cup of tea, but many of us have become awfully withdrawn just trying to survive the walk to work or school amidst the barrage of pickups, catcalls, and fear of stalkers and violence. Julia Sugarbaker was our collective hero when she shut down Ray Don Simpson, but it has hardened us, no? Being told to smile or be more pleasant.
Key Part of the video below:
A middle-aged man interrupts the ladies in a sushi bar:
MAN: Allow me to introduce myself — Ray Don Simpson.
JULIA: There’s no need for introductions, Ray Don, we know who you are.
RAY DON: (smiling) You do?
JULIA: Of course. You’re the guy who is always wherever women gather or try to be alone. You want to eat with us when we’re dining in hotels, you want to know if the book we’re reading is any good, or if you can keep us company on the plane. And I want to thank you, Ray Don, on behalf of all the women in the world, for your unfailing attention and concern. But read my lips and remember, as hard as it is to believe, sometimes we like talking just to each other, and sometimes we like just being alone.
For me, the lesson at the end of this is TALK TO PEOPLE. Seriously. Just talk to all of the people. What can we learn about life if we only speak to people in our own circles; in our own demographic or neighborhoods? Speak to people of different races, different abilities, and people well outside of your economic class, both wealthier and poorer.
For god’s sake, don’t let TV, or internet, or media be your guide to understanding others. Don’t assume that ‘The L Word’ speaks for all LGBT people, any more than watching “The Wire” makes you an expert on people of color.
Maybe try it out. Look someone right in the eye today and say hello. If you don’t share a language, at least share a smile and if you know them well, make sure to ask “How’s your mama?”
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?
Free Radicals will be CLOSED for Thanksgiving and Black Friday
Here’s the skinny:
There are a ton of good reasons not to shop on Thanksgiving and the day after. Here are just a few:
We used to call it Buy Nothing Day, and although that particular social movement has been moved to the weekend, we still celebrate the focus of it. I am not just talking about major retailers here; we literally buy nothing on those 2 days. As for me and mine, we will NOT shop on Turkey day or the day after. At All. If we run out of milk, whiskey, or toilet paper we are shit out of luck (yep. Intended.) so we try to make sure that we have all of the necessities needed in house before Turkey Day begins.
“But, why?” you ask… “What’s the big deal, Grinch? You don’t like the holidays?”
Not particularly, but we’ll get back to that in a bit.
You can certainly Grinch out on the commercial gift giving that surrounds this season and that is worthy of a long blog post in itself. We can argue the merits of big business vs. small business vs. mom & pop vs. handmade vs. homemade vs. no gifts at all. There are a thousand shades of grey between not funding corporate Christmas and buying handmade only (but where do they get their supplies, these crafters??) But no matter where you fall on the gift giving spectrum, we can probably agree that Black Friday (and now Blacker Thursday) are commercial inventions built only to serve an excess in purchasing. I mean really, there are 363 other days of the year that you can purchase your gifties for the loved ones in your life. So maybe let’s not join the orgy of buying that is Black Friday.
|There is also a little hitch in my step when I think about excess. I understand that this is a bit odd coming from a shop owner, business person, and capitalist who depends on the sales of things to pay my own rent and bills. But stick with me. I love stuff. LOVE IT. I also love stuffing my face as much as the next guy.|
|But I am a bit thrown off by a holiday season that has grown into so very much excess. We joke about what we can do with all of these damned leftovers when 1 out of 3 children in New Mexico are under nourished. If you choose to walk through a mall department store this season you will see tables and tables full of tiny, cheap, junk things that no one really wants; they are purchased as impulse items so that folks will have “more things to unwrap”. Maybe this year, in celebration of moderation, you could have an intimate, average sized dinner with your loved ones. And maybe just buy them one nice thing that they really wanted.
Now I certainly understand that there are plenty of folks who don’t give a rip about Thanksgiving and don’t mind working on that particular Thursday or Friday. I used to be one of them. Back when I was 18 and a family dinner meant a 10 hour commitment and a Bataan death march of politically correct small talk, I didn’t mind having to go into work. It cut my family dinner shift in half, and I was letting someone else at work off the hook by volunteering. Not to mention the grad thesis we could write on the ‘celebrating genocide’ part of the argument…
| But for me these days, it’s not a Thanksgiving issue. It’s a class issue. That’s right, buckle up… here we go. Many (not all) people who have white collar jobs have routinely enjoyed certain holidays off. Usually the big 5. It would be unheard of to ask an executive level employee to clock in on a national holiday. But for those of us in the service industry trenches, we are fully expected to be working on the holidays with a smile on our collective faces. Ever work at a porn shop on Christmas day? I have.
For generations, Thanksgiving and Christmas were 2 days that many of us in service *might* be able to have off. And every year more and more shops, stores, and restaurants are open on T-Day and X-mas. So if you find yourself in a lower income bracket, or are under-educated, you will likely find yourself working on one or both of these days. It’s not about Thanksgiving. It is about one class of people’s family time being valued more than another.
| And, although that’s just one more example of “those with the money make the rules” as consumers, WE ARE the ones with the money…
So back to my own family. We don’t shop on these days at all because we believe in voting with our dollars. As psychology has taught us: principles are a terrible predictor of behavior. Just look at congressional approval rate vs rate of incumbent reelection! We may cry and cry for change, we may all agree that Wal-Mart is a terrible soul eating corporation, but there they are…still raking in billions. Because people keep shopping there. Lots of people. It may seem hard to believe sometimes, but business really is as simple as supply and demand. If something doesn’t sell well in my shop, it goes to clearance and I don’t re-order it. Done.
If no one shopped, or bought gas, or went to goddamned McDonald’s on Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, or Christmas, they’d close on those days. It’s that simple. If no one shopped, there would be no reason to open.
|To those in the trenches, I’m sorry you have to work ungoldy hours on a National Holiday. We promise not to be part of the problem.|
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.
Another Day of the Dead has passed. A visit to the graves, handling the touchstones that remind us of those passed.
I was raised in a culture very different than where I live now. I never connected to the way I was taught to deal with loss and death; never felt like there was a proper salve for the wound. Since moving to New Mexico I have embraced this particular sacred day. It sits well with my heart.
I am blessed to be part of a community that has welcomed me and mine with open arms. A community that has never held me at arms length, punishing me for the color of my skin (or the lack of pigment therein). No one has squawked “Cultural Appropriation” and asked me to leave.
I love this place! The sunrises, the quite, the dusk, the food, the desert itself, but most of all I love that I found a place that is as welcoming and laid back as the place I left behind
Some guy from the Hispano Chamber of Commerce just asked me if we were chamber members. I replied “no”. He asked “why not” and then threw his business card at me and walked out. Pretty sure he answered his own question there.