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Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted

I don't remember meeting Amanda, really. She was just sort of suddenly around, or on the other end of the phone (this was in high school in the early 1990s, when conversations were tethered to a cord coming out of a wall), or in a desk adjacent to mine in class. For a time we were inseparable, united in our vague lust for Ryan the Writer and our complete lack of interest in modern music.

It's possible we met at the birthday party of a mutual friend, but that cannot be our first meeting as I recall we were already familiar with one another, familiar enough to break away from the party to stroll around the grounds.

The party, incidentally, was held at an old folks home because the subject of the birthday party lived there--her parents owned and ran the place, and lived in a concise, simple apartment just off the lobby. Interesting place to throw someone a sweet sixteen. The residents either didn't mind or were too terrified of teenagers to emerge from their private rooms.

As Amanda and I circled the exterior of the home, we were aware of groups of giggling girls dashing from window to window, spying on us. We noted the attention, and enjoyed it a bit.

It was cold, and it was night, and I let her wear my jacket. And there was a light snow falling, which shivered through the orange glow of the security lights, lingering a bit in the illumination as if each flake, too, enjoyed a bit of attention on its way back into the darkness. Flakes of snow stuck in Amanda's blond hair (she had a name for the color of her hair but I can't remember it now; she had a name for everything, even things that didn't exist).

The reason I assume we'd met before this night is because it was very rare for me to go to parties. Rare as in never. And rarer still for me to break away from a group with a girl at my side, talking together as if no one else existed except us. Giggling spies aside, for that evening it was just Amanda and me.

Eventually we sat down on a set of steps. We shared a kiss in the light snow, my first real kiss, our hands resting in our laps and our bodies leaning into one another. A year later, when she was the first person (aside from the guy, Bo, I'd been snogging for a month) I told about my then-bisexuality, she laughed gently and said, "I knew you were the first time we kissed." Never asked her to explain what she meant--was I too soft, or too eager? Did I seem too hesitant? I'll never know what she meant, of course. It will remain one of the many mysteries of our complicated relationship I'll just have to wonder about until I die, and there's nothing else left to wonder.

After that first kiss, we returned to the party. We beat the giggling spies back to the family apartment, in fact, and for a moment we--I am sure--thought of it as our apartment.

***

Memory isn't a reliable thing. Most memories, to me anyway, exist in flashes rather than coherent narratives. There's the time I leaned forward from the back seat of my parents' Astrovan to kiss Amanda's hand resting on the seatback in front of me. We were on our way back from Huntsville, AL, to see a terrible production of Starlight Express, and my parents were in the front seat not really paying attention to us. A stolen bit of illicit teen sexiness seemed called for.

I remember sitting with her in Wilson Park--"Gay Park" it was called then, as it was before the internet and therefore the best place in town for guys to cruise for guys. It was again night, and we were watching the fountain at the park's center spewing water twelve feet high. A cop car pulled up and trained a spotlight on us, which caused Amanda to flush a bit, then grab my hand and break into a run. "We're not Bonnie and Clyde," I said to her. "Why are we running?"

"Cops with spotlights are looking for something, and I want to not be that something," she replied.

Fair enough.

Incidentally, the guy I ended up dating after Amanda lived in a house with a basement, and Amanda and I spent many hours in that basement with an assortment of people. The basement was standard-issue, with shag carpet (green, maybe; I don't remember) and wood paneling and an unused stone fireplace. And taxidermied animals. Dead stuffed things. When I confessed to Amanda, who was not formally my girlfriend because it had never really occurred to us, despite hours of being together and making out ("You know, Marc, you can put your hand under my shirt sometimes"), to declare anything to one another other than mutual love, I confessed it in that basement. She asked a few questions, shrugged, and then we returned to the room where Bo was sitting at a computer. She gave Bo a knowing look, and we resumed whatever it was we had been doing before the confession.

Amanda disappeared from my life, then reappeared, then disappeared again. The last time I saw her was on a trip home in 2010, and we met at Wilson/Gay Park. Fell into easy conversation, strolled around downtown Florence visiting old places. She was light and funny, a bit tired. We fell into old habits, making up back stories for each person we passed on the street, each contributing to the story until Florence seemed much more interesting than it ever was.

And then we hugged, and went our separate ways--on a streetcorner, just like the final scene of Annie Hall, which we were very conscious of and so both lingered for a bit, daring the other to be the first to walk away in order to allow the other to stand still and watch (in the film, if you haven't seen it, Diane Keaton strolls off into the distance while Woody Allen stands for a moment, watching her leave his life; Amanda and I had a joking fight over which of us would be which character).

So then she disappeared from my life again, and I assumed she'd be back at some time in the near future.

***

Amanda loved John Lennon. So it occurred to me I should end this post with a quote by John Lennon. But I'm generally a selfish person, and she knew this about me. She knew my love was Paul Simon, and she probably knew, if she ever thought about it, that when I came to write about her I would go with Paul Simon. She probably knew, if she considered it, that I would use a John Lennon reference as the title of the piece, but would ultimately cap off the piece with Simon. And if she thought about it, and if she knew that, then she was right.

It's a song about Carrie Fisher, actually. But the lyrics, like all great lyrics, mean something differently to each individual.

She can't sleep now
The moon is red
She fights a fever
She burns in bed
She needs to talk so
We take a walk
Down in the maroon light

She says "Maybe these emotions are
As near to love as love will ever be"
So I agree

Then the moon breaks
She takes the corner that's all she takes
She moves on

Monday, February 10, 2014

Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out

Disclosure: I am a fan of Woody Allen's life's work, which is not to imply I am a fan of Woody Allen's life. Most artists lead miserable lives. Not all, but most of the creators of art and literature and film and theatre and music, male or female, were and are dreadful human beings leading appallingly dreadful existences.

Nothing new to say: perform a talentectomy on any given artist, and you're left with an ambulatory asshole, a monstrous creation wandering without direction.

With talent, for instance, Oscar Wilde would be a welcome addition to any party; without talent, you're left with your peculiar uncle given to non sequitur observations after consuming too much wine, tolerated only by your shared eye-rolls with other dinner guests.

With talent, Pollock would make a great living as home decorator for the more adventurous among us willing to hire him; divested of his talent, Pollock would be the guy you hire to piss off the people you just sold your house to because they demanded you repaint the bedroom before they'd sign the papers.

"Talent," Woody Allen argues in Manhattan, "is luck." Except most talented people are notoriously unlucky--there are many examples to the contrary, but the list of artists meeting bad ends, talented as those artists were, is long. Suicide, murdered, murderers, persecuted, committed, cirrhosis, overdoses, venereal diseased, Nazi-sympathizers, bigots, and molesters of women, children, men. Talent may require luck, but being talented does not promise luck, or goodness.

Being an admirer of the talented, too, fails to lend one a luck guarantee, or a share in talent.

Fans of Lewis Carroll's work--and there are many, even if they haven't read his books--may find themselves in an unfortunate position when confronted with allegations of the writer's pedophilia, realized or fantasized. There's no evidence Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, an Anglican reverend and author of Alice in Wonderland, sexually assaulted Alice Liddell, but both Dodgson/Carroll's legacy and fans of his work have been left with a decidedly untalented question-mark on the subject. Pieces of Dodgson's personal journal are missing--destroyed--and it is said that the author exchanged bits of his opus with 10 year old Liddell for the chance to take nude pictures of the girl.

Quid pro quo, Alice.

Speaking of Alice, Walt Disney, the man who brought her story to a wider audience, was a misogynist anti-Semite. As the company he founded has in years since attempted to make amends for its founder's rather unsavory views of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it may seem incongruous to point this out except the company recently released a revisionist history of their founder, Saving Mr. Banks, which pushes a lot of bullshit at a lot of unlucky audiences about a very lucky, very talented man.

Someone else who disliked women and liked Nazis was Henry Ford. Ford won the highest honor afforded to persons not of German origin, the Grand Cross of the German Eagle. It is said he refused the honor, but Ford cars sold during Ford's lucky, talented life came equipped with a free copy of The International Jew, a collection of articles penned by Ford for the Dearborn Independent detailing for unlucky fans of Ford the many ways Jews were ruining the world.

Shout out here to Elsa Iwanowa. She brought a suit against Ford Motor Company some years back because, she claimed, she was forced as a child during WWII to work in a Ford factory. Forced labor. Enjoy your Ford Toughness, Ford fans.

Thomas Jefferson. Richard Wagner. Norman Mailer. Leni Riefenstahl. J.D. Salinger. Dostoevsky. Mishima. Vonnegut. Maria von Trapp. Messy lives. Talented, lucky. Talented, unlucky. To respect them is to lose a piece of one's soul, is to compromise one's own personal worldview shaped, in part, by their art.

(For noise, there's a documentary about Memphis on the television. Talk about messy talented lives both lucky and not: Elvis and Martin Luther King are mentioned.)

So.

Woody Allen. What to do about Woody Allen.

(On cue, the Memphis doc has now given way to a speech on international affairs from Carnegie Council. Ethics Matter, the Council says without a hint of irony.)

For me, Woody Allen's films saved me. Possibly not the best thing to say right now, but it is true. His sense of humor made me feel less alone when I was a kid, and I cannot tell you what a revelation his Love and Death was to me when I saw it as a 12 year old.

So I won't tell you. Just assume I got lucky when I came across an airing of it one night. Also assume I'm not implying I'm talented. Talent is luck, I was lucky to witness someone's talent, and now I'm in the unlucky fan group to reconcile his talent with his life. I named my dog after the dog in Manhattan, for chrissakes.

Also please don't read much into my statement about being saved as a 12 year old by Woody Allen.

Here's a fun fact: many of my influences are unsavory people. Great artists, but terrible people. A lot of my influences--artists and not--rattle around like ambulatory assholes in my head, and it's up to me to separate the good from the bad. And it's up to me to be ethical. And it's up to me to be responsible.

Talent is luck. Except it isn't luck. Talent is something far more complicated than any aphorism one can pithily spout over aperitifs or in a blog post. Child molestation, however.

Spousal abuse, however.

Slavery, however.

Murder, however.

Talent is not luck. Being moral is, probably, a talent.

Being influenced by talented, amoral artists is unlucky. All you can do is hope you get lucky enough to influence others to be better than your influences.




Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Let's break this down

'Duck Dynasty' is a show I've only seen once, under duress. It is a reality show that isn't reality, and is barely a show. Until last week, I had no idea I gave a shit about it.

This week, however, I care a great damn deal about it.

Such is the power of FOX News.

FOX News: We Retort. You deride.

Let's start with this. Here's a picture of Wisconsin during the height of the Teabagger madness (the Teabaggers, you recall, were hatched by CNBC's Rick Santelli, whom no one recalls, not even for the holidays):

Now. See that? Of course you do, unless you have a crappy browser. See how many people there are protesting what Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, a Santelli creation, made law? Certainly you see it. You probably saw it in 2011, when it actually happened.

There are probably more people protesting than actually voted for or against Scott Walker. I mean, who votes for a guy named Scott? No offense to Scotts, but even the Supreme Court was rather hazy on Scott votes. In the US, Scott is a nice name, but a bad omen once you go national.

See also: Scott, Ridley. He started off okay, but just say no to Blade Runner 2.

Also, Prometheus sucked.

Anyway. Enough about Scotts. Let us move on to Robertses and Palinses.

Here's this video.


Now. Let's break this down.

No. Let's don't. Sarah Palin is a fucking disgrace. For a woman who enjoys the freedom of speech to call our president a terrorist, and who demands the head of David Letterman, she is very quick to defend the right of free speech when it involves a fellow reality show idiot. If Phil Robertson had said "Sarah Palin likes it in the anus," I am sure she would be on FOX News demanding Robertson's immediate termination. Extermination.

But Palin says this (Be amazed, by the way, that I'm able to do a transcript--I'm actually so pissed I'm going through the video and typing what is said):

Palin: Good evening Greta. How are you? [Greta is good friends with the Palins, and also a Scientologist, which means Greta is very well.] 

Greta: I'm very well. This is sort of an interesting debate that has seized the country. I mean, even Harvy blah blah Harv is gay blah defends Phil Robertson blah. [Greta, darling, the six foot bunny does not represent all gays. Just because you know a gay does not mean you know all of us. Please stop making this about free speech. It's about fee speech--Robertson gets paid to say this.]

Greta: It set the country on fire. [Are you trying to say it looks like Palin's livingroom is on fire? Because you're right.]

Palin: Well yeah. And this is becoming a discussion now I think outside of the legal realm, letting attorneys decide whether it's a "free speech" in a, duh, uh, *sputter* ["free speech" apparently confuses Palin when others use it]...and the rurl [sic] of law or not and now it's becoming more of a discussion within the exchange of ideas in the public square, and in pop culture [shout out to Douglas Coupland!] whether we're allowed to express our personal opinions without uhm mvvv [sic] without threats of intimidation and mockery and criticism and loss of jobs and revenue [this is all one sentence, by the way, and she still has a job, and makes shit-tons of money] it's becoming a-a-a greater bigger issue [yes, this woman was not only governor but a vice presidential nominee, and is on television while you sit at home in your underwear wondering why 'greater' was needed as a qualifier of 'bigger'] than what it started out to be just a few days ago.

Again. All one sentence. Palin is the Joyce of politics.

Greta: Let me give you an out by explaining that free speech doesn't really work as you say it works.

Palin: Well, that's right, and [Palin has never met a period, and neither has her daughters, and yes I went there] that's why I say attorneys can discuss and argue whether it's a legal free speech issue or not [it isn't--A&E is not cutting out anyone's tongue] but Iheeeeeem hearing a lot of people [in my small town] start discussing now whether in our especially pop culture venues whether we're going to be allowed without threats of uh um a a a lot of intimidation and loss of opportunities to express our opinions [on, she does not finish, commercial airwaves, or in the commercial marketplace].

You know what. Fuck this. The Tea Party, of which Sarah Palin is the shining star, had their chance. They pretended to be about free speech and small government, and the voice of the people, but time and again they prove otherwise. The reason I began this post with a picture of the Wisconsin protests of 2011 is because that is the true voice of the people, silenced.

Even more, you have the men and women of Utah rushing--rushing!--to get married because they have no clue if same-sex marriage will be legal tomorrow. And I'm not even gonna go into immigration or black Santas or voter disenfranchisement or laws preventing women from doing as they see fit to do with their own bodies. Not gonna go into all of that.

What I will go into is something that pisses me off about FOX, and about Palin, and about the Tea Party in general: the gall.

These people do not believe in a First Amendment. They didn't get much beyond freshman comp, and only know about First Person. If it does not begin with 'I', they don't get it. Sadly, they also misunderstand the Second Amendment, and think it means the Second Person should be shot.

Once you get to Third, their mind is blown.

Anyway, to quote Sarah Palin: *wink*

Monday, December 16, 2013

Megyn Kelly and the Black Who Stole Christmas

So I fuck with the meter, and it's not that great a poem to begin with, but Megyn Kelly's really pissing me off right now so I did the best I could. There is no fucking reason why Santa should be absolutely white, and no reason why Kelly should argue that she's being tongue-in-cheek when she clearly was pissed off at the very idea that Santa is any color other than white--I mean, I spend most of my life with my tongue in a cheek--in several ways--and I don't know which I find more offensive: her use of 'tongue-in-cheek' or her insistence that an imaginary character is white (and don't even get me started on Jesus' ethnicity).

Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The hoodies were hung from the Christmas tree branches
In hopes that St. Zimmerman would soon do some lynches.

The white children were nestled, all smug in their beds,
While visions of Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will danced in their heads.
And pappa in his robe, and I in my trap... wrap. Wrap, not trap. Wrap!
Had just settled our brains despite the War on Christmas crap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter.
I sprang from my bed to see what was the clatter.
Clatter and clatter and clatter, I say.
It's the only thing liberals do: clatter all day.

Seriously, it's just clatter. Clutter and clatter and clatter and clutter
As if all Libs are consumed with smothering with "Other".
But I digress.
Did I mention I look great in a short nightgowness?

Peering from the window, I saw fresh white snow.
Nothing more than that, just a white soft glow.
There was a moon that shined down on us all
and nothing more to see as the snow did fall.

The flakes fell on the snow white as could be.
And all I could think was that the snow could be me.
Falling faintly and faintly falling, the snow was so white
That if it were me I would think it most trite.

Clatter and clatter and clatter some more.
It sounded as if we were besieged by unseen poor.
"On Casher, on O-care, on Tax'em and Big Governmentizing!
On Fair Wages and Self-Awareness and Nixon Demonizing!"

From the shadows emerged shades by the score.
I peed in my PJs, then peed them some more.
There were no white men to help with my fear--
my husband slumbered on, the sweet useless dear.

As dry as the wit when a news broadcast airs,
When I saw all the shadows my instinct was to pare:
"I assume you are all tongue in cheek. Now go away, go away.
Tomorrow is Christmas and a white Holiday.'

"Jesus is white, and Santa is too
So please stop attacking me--I've already gone to the 'loo
In my pants as if I had a chimney--fuck you.
I saw the dark poors, and opened my flue."

The clattering poors did something I would not:
They backed away as if they were shot
By Zimmerman and they did one thing more:
They smiled and they waved and didn't call me a whore.

Merry Christmas, they cried, and Happy Kwanza too!
Happy Hols, and whatever pleases you!
But I heard them explain as the melted out of sight:
It's important to remember life is not owned by FOX outright.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black Friday

Perhaps I've written about this before. Totally possible. But since the event happens every year, I see no reason why I should feel bad in repeating myself.

Black Friday is a day exploited, much like Sweetest Day and Mother's Day, by people who like making money. As we all know, the best way to make money in the US is to explain to other humans, domestic and foreign, why it is a good idea to lose money. If you can convince enough people that they don't need money, you can make a lot of money.

As Mr. Bernstein, from Citizen Kane, says: There's no trick to making a lot of money if all you want to do is make a lot of money. And there's no trick to making a lot of money if you can convince others to spend a lot of money.

So. Black Friday. It's an unofficial national holiday. A gross day where millions of people wake up earlier than necessary to fight over merchandise that none of them need for discounts that don't exist using money none of them have.

I did it once. I ventured into the beast of Black Friday.

It was a dark Black Friday, as it should be. It was 2 in the AM. Illogical for both me and the Sun to be up at that hour the day after a national holiday. And yet here I was (and here the Sun wasn't), awake and in line to enter a Target which promised great deals. I wasn't really there for great deals. I was there to buy Greg a video game.

This was a few years ago and Greg was working at a box store as I was shopping at one. He was getting a bonus to work where he was working, and I thought it would be nice to give him an extra bonus, so I ventured out in the early morning cold, and did my time in line, and eventually made it into the heated, luminescent Target world.

I had no goal, no determined gift for Greg, but I knew the store well enough to wander around. I went to the mid-store aisle featuring the bathroom items--towels, bath soaps, strange swirly things both mechanical and hand-cranked--and I wandered into the aisle for kitchen items. I did the  food aisles, and I did the clothing cloistures.  I skipped the toy aisles.

As I moved through the aisles of Target, I listened to Tom Waits music, pushed roughly into my ears through earbuds and a cord running into my pocket.

As 'Murder in the Red Barn' started up, I passed the garden section of Target, and turned down another illuminated aisle. Perhaps to best enjoy what happened next, and best recreate it, you should start listening to the song I was listening to. Please turn down your volume when you get to the part where I plucked my buds from my ears to process the threats coming from the Target employees.

[Begin]

Began? Cool.

Here's what I did: I wandered down a long aisle towards the games, and I began searching for one to buy Greg. I'd been in the very spot several times. I may have been singing aloud, "Pin it on a drifter," but who knows. What is certain is that, not long after I spotted a Silent Hill special edition, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and plucked the earbuds from my ears.

[End]

"Why are you here?" I was asked. The tapper was an employee of Target. She was bleary-eyed.

"Just looking." Honestly, I felt sorry for her. Neither she nor I needed to be where we were so early on a day that need not exist.

"You can't look," she replied. "You have to wait."

The bleary-eyed young Target employee gestured to a clump of people waiting behind a makeshift fence near the shoe aisles. All of the people were either staring at me with hatred, or staring at the Silent Hill games I was holding with envy.

"But I'm just browsing," I said. "I don't even know if I want this." I waved the Silent Hill package in her bleary-eyed face.

"You know you can't just browse."

Two things: I have absolute respect for those who do retail. And I absolutely hate arbitrary rules. So when I responded, "Yes, I can just browse," I knew I was being a dick. I also hoped I was underscoring to the bleary-eyed worker just how silly it was to insist I join the corralled herd of shoppers. The shoppers, after all, had a goal--they wanted a TV, or a specific game, or gaming system. I just wanted to browse.

But according to the Target employee, I could not just browse. I needed to wait.

"I've wandered all over the store," I said.

"Sir. You need to go over there." She pointed to the human Habitrail.

"I'm just looking."

"There are people here to buy."

"They probably won't buy what I look at."

And then there was a hand on my arm, and a security guard at my side, and a question: "Do you want to be arrested, or do you want to be escorted out?"

And the corralled people pressed against the makeshift fence, and some cried out for my arrest. I put down the Silent Hill collection--which I'd only picked up because it was the first game both G and I played together--and told the guard, "Let me go."

I'd like to say the bleary-eyed early-morning Target employee and I exchanged glances, but we didn't. What happened was I left, and walked over to a nearby GameStop, and stood in line for a bit to buy Greg a gesture of appreciation for his own time spent at work on Black Friday.

Again: Black Friday is a holiday created by those who have money, for those who think they need to spend money.

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