This thing of blogness I acknowledge mine

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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

There was Six Feet of Water

Ten years ago, I was standing in the livingroom of a strange man's house, not entirely sure why I was there. Or, rather, I knew why I was there, which was to do illicit substances and engage in various acts. I just didn't know why I'd bother to be there.


Fitzgerald famously said that there are no second acts in American lives. Ten years ago, I was attempting to prove that not only were there second acts--there were as many as fifteen to twenty.

The livingroom was a nice room. Very austere, but in a tasteful rather than severe way: a grey cloth chair shaped like a proud, jutting jaw; a black leather sofa slouching before an expansive set of naked windows; a rug more complicated than my brain's neural network; tables and framed art and a random monolith of bookshelves.

Plants.

Empty space.

A floor lamp.

And me, standing in the center, wearing a pair of camouflage shorts and nothing else. The strange man stood near me and asked, "You're from the South, right?"

I nodded.

"The shorts reminded me." This was a sarcastic remark I was unable to recognize as sarcasm at the time. "So your family okay? They aren't in danger."

"Far as I know," I replied, swaying to music that may or may not have been playing.

The strange man, who claimed to be an aide for Olympia Snowe (or perhaps I misheard him), inhaled smoke, passed the smoke to me. "I only ask because of the hurricane." Pause. "You do know about that, right?"

No. I did not know about Katrina, hitting as I was taking a hit.

+++

The most important thing Greg ever did was toss a coffee cup into the floor. The cup splattered like a bug. Parts of the cup flew around the kitchen, bounced on the tile. "You." Greg said the word, but didn't connect the word to anything. It was just "You," and he was correct. "You" was enough.

I'd told him about the dalliances. I'd told him about the drugs. The only casualty was a coffee cup.

+++

Louisiana. Louisiana. They're trying to wash us away.

And they were trying to wash Louisiana away. It was awful to realize what the Strange Man meant when he asked about my family. "So is your family okay?"

Yes. They're okay. My pants are okay.

"It looks bad down there." The Strange Man put a hand on my naked arm. Then he moved his other hand onto my other arm, and then his mouth hit my mouth.

+++

George Bush does not care about Black people.

True. Not a fan of Kanye, but he was right.

+++

There are many things I may do to alienate myself from humanity. Alienate myself from the persons I love. Alienate myself from aliens. But what I'd never do is allow an entire city to sink into oblivion. And that's what happened 10 years ago--a government, which previously failed to protect a country from a terrorist attack, let a major city die. I was in a bad way then. But I was a citizen. I was not an entire government.

+++

I own my mistakes.

GWB dances in New Orleans.

Who needs image rehabilitation? And who cares more about image?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

On the Whole, I'd Rather Be In...

On a recent trip back home, there was a moment when even my father told me, "It's okay to be
gay."

We were at a funeral and greeting fellow mourners of all ages from 60 to 92, and an elderly couple approached me. A man and a woman. The woman inhaled her sentences, speaking as if she instantly wanted to take her words back. The man spoke as if he were trying to return her words to her.


First, the couple spoke to my father. There were many "How are you" and "Long time no see!" exchanges, then the perfunctory, "And you remember Marc. Marc, you remember [Name] and [Name]."

The couple beamed at me. "All growed up," the man said.

"?eh t'nsI" the woman responded, touching my shoulder.

"Too grown," I replied. "Course I remember. Been a long time." A half-truth and a full-truth. I vaguely recalled them from my extremely distant youth, and it had been a long time. Looking at their faces, hearing their voices, what came to me was a tastefully-decorated trailer, a whiff of a scandal, and my paternal grandparents. Which is to say we were nearly relatives by Alabama standards.

After shakings of hands and slappings of backs, conversation resumed.

[Name] asked dad how things were going for the family business. Dad asked [Name] how both [Name] and [Name] were getting around in the old mobile home. (The answer to both questions were decidedly different. Both answers were delivered with upbeat voices.)

Then [Name] turned her attention to me and asked, "?tey deirram uoy era, oS"

She was grasping my hands and smiling so sweetly I'd lost concentration. The need to be kind overwhelmed my instinct to shout, "What?" And we were at a funeral--I was of the family, but not in the family. It was not a time for reunions from my past when so many had gathered to reunion with direct decedents of the deceased. A line was forming behind [Name] and [Name]. The visitation system was being gummed up by this short misty-memory reunion.

"I'm sorry. I didn't understand." I leaned closer, pretending that the noise from the room with the dead body and the funeral flowers was too much.

"!?tey deirram uoy erA" she shouted in my ear. I was reminded of a character in Lost in Yonkers. Gert. Gert inhaled her sentences as well, but not quite so enthusiastically that she sucked them back in, a letter at a time.

[Name] reached in and grabbed my arm. He abandoned Dad's arm, which he'd been holding during the business/mobile home portion of the discussion. "She asked who you married."

Swear to god, [Name] echoed: "Who'd you marry?"

"Ah."

And before I continue on to my answer, please understand a few things. I'm not about to excuse what I said, but I do think there were some... issues entering in to my response. For instance, we were at the visitation slash funeral of my step-grandfather, and while I'd been treated like a relative, I was aware I was an outsider. Not in a weird outsider way. I was welcome and loved. But it was not my place to set a tone for the visitation slash funeral. It was not my place to intrude.

I hadn't been home in nearly half a decade. Alabama has been through superficial changes, but on the way in I'd passed a few church signs saying, "Until this country stops legalizing sin, it is Lost." The capital 'L' always made me cringe.

"Married. No. Not yet."

[Name] squeezed my arms and said, "Aw, you get'm."

[Name] squeezed my hands and said, ".lrig emos dnif ll'uoY"

And they were gone. The line behind them filed past. Dad said, "You could've told them."

"I panicked."

"They're so old they probably wouldn't understand enough to care."

Then later, during the part of the funeral where the preacher, or minister, or whatever acknowledged the survivors, my name and my brother's name were included with the grandchildren. Thing is, all the grandchildren had the names of their spouses called out. When it came to me, I was just Marc Mitchell, spouseless.

Lesson learned. Never go back to a state actively fighting against reason and law.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Not a Clip Show: A Love Story

There will be retrospectives--for decades--about Jon Stewart. Unless it is revealed Stewart was
drugging and raping women, or preferred the "company" of marmosets, or murdered 10 people while using a pseudonym, Stewart's legacy is fairly established, and there are people far more capable than I weighing in on it, on him, on the Daily Show, and on the political ride we've survived these 16 years.

So I'm not posting clips of his show, or searching out quotes from interviews he's given or from interviews of others about him. All that already exists. Depending on your political POV, you can find whatever Jon Stewart persona to suit your fancy.

The persona I'm going with is the Jon Stewart who kept me sane in a period of absolute insanity. And I will miss his much-needed, unique insight into the madness--you always need a fool to point out a hawk is not a handsaw. And I relied on Jon Stewart to routinely say a bald eagle was not a cudgel.

Greg and I fell in love in no small part because of our mutual appreciation for 'The Daily Show,' btw. We had little in common but we knew we wanted to make the world a better place. Both of us were trying in our own way--me by attacking most everything; Greg by applying reason to unreasonable situations. The first night I spent at Greg's apartment in Florence, Alabama, was more of an accident than anything. We were both uncomfortable. We were both baffled why I was still there, and hadn't gone home. We were both bored, and lonely.

So we watched The Daily Show together. And laughed. And bonded. And in one episode we realized the sexual attraction wasn't a generic sexual attraction. We actually enjoyed each other as human beings.

Some years later, trapped on a bus trip to the Rally to Restore Sanity--the bus was paid for by Arianna Huffington--we realized how much we loved each other... because any couple experiencing truly terminal cracks in the couple facade would've torn each other facade from facade during the HuffPo bussing from NYC to DC for the rally.

Quick aside: John Waters famously said that if you go home with someone, and that someone does not have books, do not fuck them. I would add that if you go home with someone, and that someone does not like Jon Stewart, don't marry them.

Greg and I have been through a lot of awful things. Who hasn't? But the one thing that grounded us, brought us back to both earth and to ourselves, was The Daily Show. The one thing reminding us of how we actually became a couple and then, surprising even ourselves, husbands was sitting down four nights a week (unless Jon was on vacation, which happened a lot) was to watch a man articulate our mutual disgust for media.

Don't get me wrong: There are many reasons I love Greg now, but the reason I started loving him is because the night I stayed too long at his apartment he said, "You remind me of Lewis Black."

Jon?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Liquid and Magic


Like liquid, she thought, watching the man's hands fly across the piano keyboard. She was sitting in the first row. Not a very good front row seat. Most of his hand movements were obstructed by his shoulders.

Like liquid, she thought all the same. Also, like a magician.

Some years later, typing, she realized the connection between the water and the magician. Her water broke as she was transcribing a letter for her employer, and she asked to be excused from her desk.

“Now?” the employer asked.

“I'm in labor, I think,” she replied.

Her employer swiveled in a chair so that her view of the city was obstructed by a shoulder. “But I'm in the middle of dictating.”

She continued typing. The contractions came fast. By the time her employer finished-- “Sincerely yours” --the baby plummeted onto the floor and remained there, waiting for an encouraging slap or any sort of encouragement to take an independent breath.

She stared at the employer. The employer, who heard the sound of birth and—startled--swiveled back to face her, stared back.

“For god's sake, woman,” her employer said.

Her fingers moved like liquid across the keyboard before her, typing FOR GOD S SAKE WOMAN.

“No jesus no. Pick it up. The... that, there.”

She knew where the gesture from her employer ended, but she was afraid to look. She was afraid to think. She kept her fingers hovering over the home keys, and her fingers trembled.

“The baby. Pick up the baby.”

Pause.

“The letter is done. Take the rest of the day off, if you like.”

She printed out the letter. Cut the cord. Scooped up her baby. Returned home for the day.

It wasn't often she took an early day. She didn't know what to do with herself at first, but the infant now breathing against her chest gave her a suggestion. The infant kneaded against her chest and screamed out suggestions like a needy cat. Gently, as she walked from work to the train, she lowered one corner of her dress, lifted out a breast from her bra, and offered it to the infant. The infant took the breast. The infant became silent. Passers-by glanced at her with expressions she didn't bother to decipher.


Once she got home, she cleaned herself and the infant. She called her mother, who was glad to hear the letter had been finished.

Then she called the father, who told her never to call again.
She thought about the way the pianist's fingers moved like liquid, and how the notes appeared even when she could not see the fingers. She thought of magicians, pulling rabbits out of hats.

“I knew you were coming,” she told the infant resting in a pool of blankets on her bed. “But warn me next time.”

Both she and the infant locked eyes for the first time, and both acknowledged there would not be a next time. How silly. The cord was cut. The breast was suckled. The infant was washed, the afterbirth was ejected on 2nd Ave, and the letter was signed 'Sincerely yours'. All that needed to be done up to the point where she locked eyes with the infant had been done. What remained was what was to come.



The father knocked on the door a few nights later. She slid out of bed. The apartment was one room if you forget the bathroom, and so everything was where she needed it to be: the bed, the sink, the couch, a computer, an oven, and the infant in a mini-fort made of wood and cloth and feathers. She slid out of bed with only one thought: Please stay asleep, infant. Please don't let the knock at the door make you cry.

Her breasts were sore. Her body was sore. Each day she returned to her employer, and each day she typed dictated letters, and each day she carried the infant with her. When the infant screamed, she pulled down a corner of her dress and slid from her bra a swollen breast. And there was silence. And dictation. And no one said anything, but used their faces to express everything.

Knock.

Her employer gave her two weeks to find someone to deal with the infant. “If in that two weeks you don't find anyone, you'll be dealing with it yourself.”

The infant was at the time on the employer's floor, crying for her. In her lap was the computer she used to type out the employer's messages. Her breasts ached, but her fingers continued moving like liquid and she caught herself typing, “Dear Sir: It is with great sorrow that we report that if in two weeks you don't find anyone, you'll be dealing with it yourself.”

She quickly deleted the sentence, and resumed transcribing. Resumed typing.

Her breasts continued to ache. The infant continued to cry.

Knock.

Another conversation with her mother did not end as well as she hoped. Her mother was elderly. Going deaf—but aren't we all—but not yet senile. “Grandchild!” her mother exclaimed. “But how is the job?”

“Mom, we already went through this.”

“Anyone can get a child! But is the job okay?”


Knock.
She slid from the bed on the first knock, and tripped over a toy the infant was too young yet to enjoy.
It was an easy walk from the bed to the door. Toy aside, there weren't many obstructions. No doors, no walls, no halls. And the infant remained asleep, which was good. She didn't wan't the infant to retain even the slightest hint of confrontation between the father and herself. “Remain pure,” she whispered. “You just keep dreaming.”

The light from the street waved in and out of the apartment as each car a floor below pushed past the building. She felt as if she were under water, moving toward an escape hatch. The closer she got to the door—hoping always hoping for the father to keep his next knock to himself—the more she felt as if she were in liquid.

She felt as if she were a magician.

Hands, moving, making magic and art.

Knock.

The infant moved. She could hear the light cover rustle as the shoulders of the infant shifted.

“Don't,” she thought. She didn't say the word. She thought it.

Knock.

She knew from the sound of fabric the infant had tossed off the light cover. She knew from the sound of breath the infant was about to wake up.

Through water she made it to the door. One hand closed on the knob and the other on the latch and she turned both at once. Fingers worked, and as the door opened, as if magically, the father was standing in the hallway, backlit by a dim light and holding a stuffed bear that had seen days far better than she had seen.

“What the hell, babe” was all the father said.

She took a step into the dim light. Behind her there was another intake of air.

The infant erupted. A scream so primal she was sure ancestors heard it.

“No hell,” she shouted.

“I wanted to give you this,” the father said, shoving the stuffed bear at her.

“Scream,” the infant said.

She took a look at the father. At the bear. She considered all the letters she had typed over the past few weeks. She said this: “That bear is a contract.”

The bear went into hibernation into the father's coat. She shut the door. She was now in the liquid and the magic.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Heritage is a Dish Best Served Old

A lot of articles lately quote Southerners afraid of one thing: Loss of heritage.

Heritagectomy.

Southerners fear, more than anything else, a removal of their history. They also fear a realization of it.

Appomattox, I'm not kidding, is a foreign word to most Southerners.

Heritage.

Here's the thing: Heritage is not a thing that is taken away. It is a thing one carries about like junk DNA, still in one's very fiber even as he or she continues to evolve, change, grow, and gain distance from that heritage. To be in possession of a heritage, one must be in possession of a past and a future. To have a heritage, one must not be in full possession of a present.

In other words: The past is in you, no matter how useless it is. To have a heritage, you must be in the future at some distance from your own past, and if you keep trying to make that heritage a present, well, you're a stagnant asshole incapable of growth, change, or lacking in any of the adaptation techniques necessary to prolong the species.

As a Southerner, I get the need to celebrate the brave time when my region of the country rose up against the Northern devil, or whatever. Truly, it's a tough call to say some of the grunts in the field just fighting to keep their families safe were traitors and racists. Perhaps some of them weren't guilty as charged--perhaps some of them were just impoverished and desperate young men dying for a cause they didn't fully comprehend just because they wanted to protect Ma back at the homestead.

But does that warrant willful ignorance 150 years later? It's a dry irony to say this, but does slavish dedication to an idea so far gone in the past--gone with the wind--call for such modern dedication?

150 years ago, there was a very dedicated and determined thought that actual human beings were so awful they could only survive if we treated them as cattle. In 1920, those humans finally got the right to vote. Those humans were women.

Heritage is not a thing on which to cling. It's a thing to toss aside, and look at with considerable distance. To keep heritage as a permanent thing--always present, always constant--is to turn it into something else: It is to turn it into a stagnation.

It's like he's pan-handling.
Removing Civil War memorabilia from public lands is not a removal of heritage. Absolutely, we must continue to sift through the dust of our national heritage, to understand how that dust created the soil of our future. But to say this is a denial of heritage, this progress, is to forget we're leaving a heritage of our own, and a pretty poor soil upon which others may build, cultivate, and grow.

Again, here's the thing: If Southerners continue to cling to the past, the past will cling back, pull down, and smother them. That stupid flag will mean nothing to future generations because it will be a shroud wrapping a very large part of a very united country, covering decay and nothing more.

Heritage is junk DNA. Carried with you, and no one knows why. "The South will rise again." Sure. But before that happens, "That strand of DNA involving gills in your neck" will be activated. We'll all regrow neck-gills before the South Rises again, if the South keeps living in the past.

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