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

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.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Excerpt

From Me, Judy: A Life In (and Out of!) Pictures by Judy Garland, As Told to a Highball Glass

A little known fact about Wizard of Oz. Would you like to know this? The dog. The fucking, goddamn little dog, Sherry was its real name. No, Barry. No, it was a girl, so Sherry. Sherry the Toto wonderdog made nearly one hundred dollars a week more than I made for working on Oz. Can you believe that? Here I was, just coming off of success after success, and who was Sherry? Some nobody just off the animal catcher bus, new in town with not a piss to pot in. Probably gave Lou Mayer better head than I did. The little bitch's breath always smelled like peanut butter.

Terry! Toto was Terry, not Sherry. Do we have any sherry? No. No sherry. And no more Terry either--she died many years ago. As did Mayer.

The hilarious thing about Terry. One of the hilarious things, but the one I found more hilarious of all, like break your whale-bone corset laughing hilarious, was the public relations people at MGM decided, while promoting the film, to leak a story about how I'd grown ever so attached to that money-grubbing beast, and desperately, ever so desperately, wanted to adopt it. Not true, of course, but it made a nice story, and helped sell my fictional relationship with Toto. Which, to be honest, never made sense to me as an actress. Here's a farm girl, raised in Kansas--how the fuck could she be so delicate and so attached to animals. She'd probably seen many animals die in horrid, abrupt ways, and if she were so incredibly delicate she would never have lasted on a rural farm to begin with. No attachments, Dorothy! You're on a farm! Even the dogs are commodity, darling.

My stars! Dorothy almost had panic attacks at the slightest hint of violence. Well, I'm sorry, dear, but life is hard, as any farm girl knows. Read some Willa Cather and get back to me.

But the studio insisted I wanted to keep the dog. Terry. Terry the dog. Yes. They also, the year before, just as Love Finds Oliver Hardy was being released, wanted to plant an item in Louella Parsons' column about how I wanted to adopt Mickey Rooney, but--I'm sorry, not Oliver. Andy. Love Finds Andy Hardy. We all know no one ever wanted to adopt Oliver. And oh my god, I just saw Oliver! and could not believe musicals have become such dreary, colorless affairs. Bring back Minnelli, I say. Put some color in there, dazzle the people. They're already sitting in the dark--they don't need to see the darkness on the screen as well. Would a nice, vibrant purple literally kill the director?

Apparently, Mayer really wanted to sell me as a matronly type that would adopt simply anything. Mickey, the damn dog, simply anything. So I adopted the habit of accepting whatever the PR people wanted me to say.

Love finds Andy Hardy. Isn't that divine as a title? It's so... destiny. As if, when you're lost, you merely need to stand still long enough, and love will find you.

Of course, on the set of Oz, when I stood still, the only thing that would find me was that fucking dog. The only things that got humped more than the Munchkins during that shoot were my goddamn legs.

So the dog made one hundred dollars more than I each week. Couldn't sing. Couldn't dance. I carried her furry ass around for most of the scenes. But there she was, Terry the Totodog, raking in a good chunk of money while I attended countless fittings and screen tests and reshoots. The dog spent most of the downtime licking her nonexistent balls or being petted by the crew, while I had to carry this clunking hulk of a film on my shoulders, and get paid scale for my efforts. Victor would yell at me. With the dog, he was a dear.

Is it any wonder I turned to self-medication? My self-worth was ruined. I was literally worth less than some dog to the studio, to MGM--me, a singing, dancing, performing wingless monkey who had been called 'the greatest entertainer in history' by Fred Astaire himself. Fucking Toto.

Honestly, people think my greatest disappointment is my love life, or my failure to win the little golden fella for A Star is Born. True. True all, those were great disappointments, and there have been many more in my life besides, but knowing I worked for one hundred dollars less than a tiny dog with no lines and no big numbers stung me to my core.

I get the last laugh, however. I suppose. I mean, history knows I am female. Poor little Toto shuffled off this constrictive mortal coil with most everyone in the world assuming she had a penis. And she probably died with a needle in her arm too. Ah, Toto. Not in Kansas anymore. Or anywhere really, since dogs don't go to heaven.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Haunted Houses

While you'd never get me to say for sure, it is possible I grew up in a haunted house.

From the street, the house appeared to be slouching towards you like a boxy creature--there was a front porch running across the front, a long grey slab with bowed white pillars at either end supporting a steeped, shingled, confrontational roof. At the peak of the porch roof was the flat exterior of the second storey, made only moderately more expressive by two windows.

And slatted black shutters. The shutters, which naturally seemed to me like the windows' eyelashes, with the windowed eyes turned sideways because I was a kid and could imagine such things, were inert, screwed into the house's exterior.

Basically useless, those shutters. Ornamental.

And since the upstairs had been added sometime after the initial storey had been built in the 1900s, that second level never appeared quite right. Its slightly-offness combined with the confrontational porch roof and the staunch yet bowed pillars at either end of the porch slab to give the house a prowling quality, a forward momentum ever so slight.

When standing outside on the street in front of the house, my bike-handles in my palms, I'd glance over at the house, and know that the rear of the house was tidy and taught, and think the back legs of most animals are where the true power is. When an animal prepares to pounce, the push-off is from the back. The front legs bow, the forehead pushes outward, and the shoulders lean slightly into the direction of intent.

Anyway. Haunted, this beast of a house. And wonky. It was an old house, rather plain. Like Shirley Jackson's Hill House, none of the interior right angles were exactly right angles, so that the overall
experience of being inside the house gave one a perpetual sense of not being exactly in the right part of any given room--as if one need only to move a few inches to the left or right to stop the distortion the walls and ceiling seemed to encourage in the way they met together. Even peering out of the windows gave one a slight sense of nausea as they were old windows, wavy with time. I used to stand inside the house, and shift from my right foot to my left foot while holding my spine straight. Each shift brought a different view of the houses across Prospect Street. Shift left, and I could see the front porch of the Mann's house, and their patio furniture and gaudy summer flowers. Shift right, and the view would dissolve--I could still see the flowers, but now their front door and a porch swing.

Always in sight was the tree I begged my parents to plant. (Spoiler: the tree survived.) 

Looking out of those windows was looking at a Mad Magazine folding puzzle, without the folding.

Oh, and there was a twisted oak tree that had an aborical osteoporosis. Every bone inside the withered, wrinkled skin of that oak hinted at a tortured existence, and the oak, when taken as a whole, looked like a witch unsure of which direction she wished to strike her first curse. And there was a tiny metal shed next to the tree that had seen better days--had, perhaps, been the victim of the oak-witch's directionless curses. And a wizened old lady in the green house next door who died in a violent way not long after we moved in.

Her name, by the way, was Mrs. Parrish. Her house had right angles, inside and out, as did her car, which was as long as a hearse and drove her to her death.

Prospect Street was a quiet street in a very not-special part near--not in--the historic district of downtown Florence, Alabama. To be in the historic district meant living one block over, where every lawn was manicured and most homes had plaques screwed into them like the slatted shutters of our own home's upstairs windows. To be near the historic district meant being surrounded by old people and lawns converted into parking lots.

So, being near and not in, I grew up in an old house with old people all around me. The Manns across the street were sweet, old, dying. Mrs. Parrish, who tolerated me for a summer or two as I wandered through her yard and occasionally her house, was sweet, old, and dead. Her house remained vacant for quite a while. The Manns, across the street from us and always at deaths door, survived our 7 years tenure on Prospect Street, but not much longer. There were the Terrells at the other end of the block, who were an older couple with, improbably, a daughter merely two years older than I. And that was about it.

The oldness--not quite historic, as that was a block over--quality of Prospect Street was interesting. There's this thing I once wrote about the racial tone of the street, which I won't go into right now, that still existed, for instance. There was the need to be quiet and contained as well, which I didn't get.

And there was the old house I lived in, which seemed always on the cusp of leaping from its foundation and pouncing onto a victim on the street.

Inside the house, the inexactness of the corners, where floor met ceiling and ceiling met wall, distorted perception to the point where one--me--always thought one--me--was missing something out of the corner of the eye. The dissolving windows broke up beams of light in such a way that fractured sunrays splintered in unexpected ways, played across rooms in demented patterns. The age of the structure caused it to make unexpected sounds depending on the weather--like the deformed oak behind it, the house would pop and sigh as the temperature changed. Beneath the carpet and tiles, the floor would give or straighten. The house breathed. It felt its surroundings, and reacted as any organism would  react.

But I said it was haunted. And it may have been haunted. Those distortions of light through imperfect windows may not always have been distortions. Certainly the television turned on and off as it pleased, and more than a few times there were shapes that moved just out sight in the inexact corners of rooms.

Once, a friend of my parents, who slept upstairs in my room as I curled up between my parents, asked, over breakfast the next day, if I'd been running up and down the second storey hallway all night (Nope).

Also, there was a thing living under my bed, a thing that looked oddly like Grover that used to wake me up when my mom couldn't. From a deep sleep, reticent, this thing would squeal, emerge from
beneath my bed, bite me on the nose, and shriek, "Get up Marc!" in such a demented way that I'd fear for my life if I drifted back to sleep.


(Side note: Years later, when I hit junior high, Mom would unscrew the valve of my waterbed and shout, "Wake up or drown!" So it is possible she tired of my inability to wake up as early as 3rd grade, and hid under my bed with a Grover puppet to scare me into awareness... but I never owned a Grover puppet.)

Pretty skimpy haunted house story, yeah?

Yeah.

Then it burned down.

I'd been living with Greg for two years when the house burned down. I had not been living with that odd house for 15 years or so. The house with its strange oak tree in the back and it's prominent forehead and its confrontational front porch roof, just on the edge of the historic district of downtown Florence, Alabama.

Never Google your old home. If you do, you'll start missing every tree.
Like most of the old people who were there when I was there as a kid, the house burned away, dissolved, and left not much more than a place for more trees to grow and develop deformities needed to give angles that aren't quite right.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Five other times the House Stenographer has been dragged from the floor

Tonight, the House Stenographer--the person appointed to sit quietly and carry a big typing hand--was dragged from the floor. She yelled about Masons and God, and perhaps a sticking 'Q' key.

Here are five other times in this history of the US House a stenographer has been pulled from the House floor.

1776. Luddy Cartwright took the initial notes of the second Continental Congress. He was removed from the hot Philadelphia room when he insisted the Continent was not represented, and therefore should not have a Continential Congress. Instead, he suggested a Colonial Congress.

Cartwright was later proven to be a Navajo.

1860. On Oswald Clemmons first day as House stenographer, he shouted, "Gentleman! I support President Buchanan. I support him so much, I am carrying his child!" When asked for proof, Clemmons cited the recent Dred Scott decision, insisted he was a free-born white man, and denounced his own pregnancy as against the State. I had sex with that President, Mr Buchanan, and as a free man I am still a victim of the Dred Scott law. Dred Scott is to blame! Long live Oswald Clemmons. The outburst was stricken from the record. The typed pages, however, are still accessible in the Library of Congress, with a notation from Helen Thomas: Wow, I'm impressed he managed to write all this while being ripped from his pen.

1942. The only thing Stenographer Jed Susaki managed to type: Help, America, I'm being dragged right now from my assigned po. Port of call? Post? Point of origin? No one knows what Susaki meant to type when he typed 'po'. He was in a position to do a lot of things, but Susaki never managed to complete 'po.'

1953. While waiting for the Senate to end, because Strom Thurmond wouldn't shut up, the House stenographer sent a note to the Senate stenographer: It's okay. We'll always have Paris. 

2002. Gordon Gorson typed a few words, then looked to the House. "You saw me type everything right?" he asked. Speaker Dennis Hastert asked for a review. The House went into recess. Gorson never returned, and his stenography machine remains under investigation. Hastert, who currently credits Scientology as his stenographical hero, refuses to speak of Gordon Gorson.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

God Bless You, Mr. Boehner

This is inspired by the brilliant commenter who has been doing fanfic of the government shutdown. His David Foster Wallace is spot-on.


Listen. John Boehner has come unstuck in time. He went to sleep one night with a bottle of whiskey beside him, a teddy bear in a glass case, a comfort and a joy. Then he woke up in a bathroom stall in a truck stop, his breath smelling of mustard gas and roses.

John Boehner said this to himself: What the fuck.

His ass, hovering above the water in the basin of the toilet, replied: Poo-tee-weet.

***

John Boehner remembered a fallen comrade. He remembered Newt Gingrich. Poor old Newt Gingrich, who had been run out of office for stealing a good deal of money. So it goes.

***

Sitting on the toilet, in the restroom in the truckstop, Boehner spied notes scrawled on the fake porcelain walls. He spied this: Shit it down. And then he spied this: You mean shut. Shut it down, not shit it down.

Boehner's ass replied: Poo-tee-weet.

His skin was the color of a Tralfamadorian. His bottle of whiskey was somewhere in the past. Boehner sat on the white toilet, his pants around his ankles like House pages, wondering how he had arrived at this moment. Wondering, of course, what Newt Gingrich was doing right now.

***
Newt, by the way, was on television, telling people exactly what he would do in Boehner's shoes.

So it goes.

***
Boehner stared at the words before him. Shit it down. Shut it down.

Pure art.

Next to the 'Shut it down' comment was this: For a good time, call the Salvation Army. Boehner considered this, and even reached for his phone. He bent down to his ankles and fished through his pants pockets. No phone. So he settled back onto the toilet seat.

Poo-tee-weet.

***

Tralfamadorians were orange. He knew that. They were the color of two-day salmon left in a warm refrigerator. And they were in his mind, which was currently more busied (busy busy busy) by the graffiti in the stall than by the alien life. "My name," he said to himself, "is John Boehner. I have a penis 3 and a half inches long in the fourth dimension, and I am currently the color of a Tralfamadorian."

"And I have no idea where my whiskey is."

The last line was thrown in for comfort.

***

Poor old Newt Gingrich resigned because of publishing shenanigans.  He saw the wreckage of a political system he helped shut down in '95, and grabbed a book deal from it, and paid the ultimate price.

Poo-tee-weet.

***

Shit it down.

Flush. Except not flush--there was no handle to flush the toilet where Boehner, orange skin and whiskeyless, sat. There was a sensor. If Boehner stood up, the toilet would flush. If he remained seated, the cloudy water in the toilet basin would remain still.

So it goes.

***

Shit it down. Boehner read the words. Considered them. Shit. It goes down.

Shut it down. Boehner read those words as well. Considered them.

Poo-tee-weet.

Boehner was forced to consider his own ass.

***

Orange skin. Talkative ass. A toilet reluctant to flush until someone stood up. Boehner longed for the whiskey teddy bear, and he loved his new orange skin. He stared at the words on the bathroom stall, and made his decision.

His ass, again, went Poo-tee-weet.

And he remained seated, knowing there would be no flush until he stood.

Gingrich, meanwhile, continued to speak about his own government shutdown.

So it went.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking the last one

First off, spoilers. Secondly: duh, spoilers. Thirdly: spoilers are not confined to only one show.

Much ink--virtual or no--has been spilled over the trend in television known as 'the anti-hero,' which is a semi-fancy way of saying most male characters on television right now are assholes. Anti-heroes have been around since the beginning of television, of course--Jack Benny was, I would argue, one of the first popular, if largely benign, TV anti-heroes--but Tony Soprano really kicked up the movement, almost single-handedly launching the trend which now dominates most TV series.

When writing about this trend, it is obligatory to tip the hat to James Gandolfini's near-flawless portrayal of Tony Soprano, and then applaud Tony's creator, David Chase, who guided the mafioso through six solid--if occasionally uneven--seasons of The Sopranos on HBO. Fine. Why buck convention, even if it means ignoring HBO's earlier series of male assholes (literally and figuratively), Oz, a show which centered around hardened criminals doing harder time.

For simplicity, I'm gonna focus on three recent shows--not only, to be honest, for simplicity; honestly, these are the three shows I'm most familiar with (I'll skip Dr. House, no doubt an asshole and a hero, but a stagnant one and therefore less interesting). There's a connection between the three shows I'm writing about that is missing, for the most part, from House. The shows: The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. The connection: a change in worldview, and a poor skill set in place for the three main male characters to cope with the changes.

Which is not to say the three men--Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White--don't try to comprehend the new worlds in which they find themselves. They do try, or at least delude themselves about the attempts.

In Mad Men, Don listens to the latest release by The Beatles and confesses not to understand why anyone would like it; in The Sopranos, almost every part of the mundane new modern world Tony encounters is perplexing, strange, sometimes threatening; Walter White, of course, has the change within himself, and cancer eats at his body just as relentlessly as the new drug world he finds himself in eats at his soul.

Perhaps the popularity of such characters has something to do with our own fear of a world that is changing quickly. Who knows. I do know that the rise of The Sopranos matched, step for step, the pace of the internet into becoming an almost inescapable aspect of life, like it or not (a good portion of us, surprisingly, do not like at all, thanks).

Breaking Bad debuted in 2008, a year which famously saw both a woman and an African-American man run viable Presidential campaigns, with the African-American going on to run a successful
campaign against a lily-white war veteran of a certain age, and an attractive, comfortably dumb younger woman. When the Black guy won, a good portion of the American population promptly lost their minds, raging like Walter that they, not some Black guy, were the ones who knock.

Naturally, if you're knocking, you're outside wanting to be in. And these angry white people, mostly men, aren't unlike Walter, forever outside trying to get in, and then, upon gaining entry, promptly trashing the place (blowing up an old folks home, setting a meth lab on fire, shooting countless hosts).

Word to the wise: If angry white people come a-knocking, perhaps turn off your lights and pretend to be out running errands.

So what of the popularity of Mad Men? If we can (superficially!) tie The Sopranos to the technological anxiety bubbling beneath the surface of pre- and post-millennial America (Sopranos debuted in 1999, after all, the year of Y2K), and if we can connect the enduring fascination with consummate son-of-a-bitch Walter White to Tea Party insecurity, how do we account for what, in my opinion, is a terrible show made good by virtue of its style?

And yes, Mad Men is a bad show. Let's just get that out of the way. I hate-watch the shit out of it. Maybe when the final season starts up, I'll also hate-write about it, but for now, it's enough for me to say: Matthew Weiner, you're writing schlock so please stop acting as if you're fucking William Shakespeare with a cool cast.

Anyway. Mad Men. What can we connect it to to make a superficial, broad statement about change and fear? Mad Men is a show about media, and advertising within media, so it stands to reason Mad
Men is about the decline of conventional media outlets (networks, newspapers, magazines, radio)  and the rise of upstarts (blogs, Netflix). As our options expand, the technological anxiety we felt in the late 1990s and early 2000s has shifted to the fractured way our society consumes information. Don, quickly becoming old-fashioned and out-dated as Mad Men marches through the 1960s, embodies the dread some of us have of becoming too fractured. No longer do we go to one of the three nightly news programs, as we all have our own general news outlet from which to choose, each of which confirms or rejects our own personal worldview. When confirmed, we feel at peace. When rejected, we grab the nearest bottle of whiskey, divorce our wife of a decade or so, marry our secretary, and have a fever dream every other day.

So. Breaking Bad. The finale, as you may know, was last night. In it, a monster regained a bit of humanity (it is claimed by some, anyway, that Walter regained his humanity--I don't think so; he held two innocent former co-workers hostage, coerced them into doing his bidding, murdered several (admittedly awful) human beings; and bravely evaded justice by suggesting his wife use the final resting place of his brother-in-law as a legal bargaining chip).

The last episode of Breaking Bad was not, in my opinion obviously, an exercise in the hero becoming an anti-hero becoming a hero. Certainly he took a bullet for his former cook-partner Jesse, but he did originally intend to murder the guy, only to discover Jesse had already paid for his own sins. Walter is fine for sin-paying by others. For himself, not so much. Despite the terminal--imminently terminal--nature of his lung cancer, Walt fails to do the right thing, give himself up, and once and for all get Skyler, his wife, off the hook.

And what of Skyler? The final scene between the husband and wife was an echo of an echo of an echo. How many times have we seen them discussing matters both serious and frivolous while sitting in a kitchen? This final time, of course, found them sharing a conversation in a different kitchen, a kitchen stupefyingly more depressing than the depressing White house kitchen. Skyler chain-smokes. Skyler does not smile, does not express even a hint of joy. She is clearly broken and empty. When she tells Walt not to pretend he did all of it--the meth, the money, the murder--for her or the family, she has no reaction to speak of when Walt responds, "I did it for me. I liked it." Only when Walt hands over the lottery ticket and explains to her the significance of the numbers--finally, a show that explains what the lottery numbers mean!--do we see any real emotion from her.

But no emotion from Walt. Skyler still has an ounce of herself. Walt and Heisenberg are both long dead. What is left is Mr. Lambert, an amalgamated man who is all parts but no sum.

It's hard to call Mr. Lambert even an anti-hero by the time he drives onto the Nazi compound. Certainly, anyone who kills neo-Nazi meth-dealers is, under normal circumstances, something less than a hero but something a lot more than a villain. Yet Mr. Lambert is the author of the entire endgame. Walt may have created these Nazis and handed Jesse to them, but Walt, forever powerless, left them to their own devices in order to disappear into the snowy woods of New Hampshire. When Mr. Lambert drives his car onto the compound and enters the KKK Klubhaus, it is as something more than a villain, something less than a hero. Mr. Lambert is the worst possible human being: he is a writer, taking over the treatise on impotence Walt left unfinished.

Everything works out for Mr. Lambert. The neo-Nazis search his car's interior but neglect the trunk. They take away his keys, but place them in a location easily accessible to him. They take umbrage at being called liars just as they are about to shoot him in the head, and bring in his former partner Jesse--beaten and manacled--to confirm the fact that Jesse is their slave, not their partner. And they all neatly die, just as Mr. Lambert scripted. In a final flourish, perhaps a sublimated expression of guilt, Mr. Lambert the writer even allows Jesse to exact his own revenge. Mr. Lambert spares Opie Hitler (Todd) from the hail of bullets, and lets Jesse break the guy's ginger neck.

Mr. Lambert even scripts his own demise. Ever the control freak--the one trait shared by Walter White, Heisenberg, and Mr. Lambert--one of the bullets from the Lambertmobile's murderous trunk-gun fatally wounds him. And how does it wound him? It wounds him by slamming into his body as he throws himself onto a confused Jesse. Mr. Lambert gets to feel himself a hero one last time by not only sparing Jesse's life (a life he himself ruined in a most spectacular way, mind), but by giving his own life for Jesse's.

Mr. Lambert also gives Jesse a demented happy ending, decreeing that Jesse drive off into the night, cackling like the madman he no doubt truly is after everything he's been through. Then he gives himself a happy ending: Mr. Lambert writes that he goes into the meth lab of his own design, lovingly stroke the cooking containers, and then die peacefully just before the police swarm in to bring him to justice.

Again, the one trait shared by all three characters Bryan Cranston so brilliantly played was their need to control a situation (remember, one very clear habit of the vessel known as Walter White was that he took on the traits of those he'd murdered). Walter never controlled anything, as much as he wanted to. He bluffed and blundered, but he was a helpless man in an unhelpful universe. Heisenberg, who eventually murdered Walter White, also sought to control the events and the people around him, with mixed results, sometimes even adopting the impotent cunning of the helpless Walt to find the best way to bluff, but usually relying on an uncanny ability to manipulate through a stoic, adopted ruse of coldness and reputation. Mr. Lambert got everything right. He inherited from Walter the ingenuity, and inherited from Heisenberg the psychotic ability to detach from any situation. Mr. Lambert's ending was his own choice, made possible by the two men--Walter White and Heisenberg--who had come before him.

In the end, Mr. Lambert was, sort of, the legacy of Walter White.

I'd wager, also, that we're done for a while with the anti-hero trend in television. Not completely, of course, but Mr. Lambert, aka Heisenberg, aka Walter White, aka Mr. White, scripted the eventual demise of that trend. Quite apart from cutting to black just as the bullet hits the brain (as in The Sopranos), or ending with a no-doubt lonely, heart-diseased man dwindling away as the comfort of the Eisenhower era melts far into the past, leaving only Women's Liberation, Stonewall, and even more Beatles albums (I'm guessing--Mad Men hasn't yet began it's final act), Mr. Lambert addressed the issue head-on: change is inevitable, and one must use what one has to resist it. There may be no redemption, but if one desires it enough, there's a way to plan ahead and force the world to be as you wish even beyond the grave. Which is exactly what Mr. Lambert did.

Junior will get his money, laundered through the successful, despised couple who stole your research (even though they didn't). Skyler will use your benevolent (cough) gift of a lottery ticket to find something better than money: she'll find closure in the decayed bodies of Hank and Gomez; even better, she might find a way out of the legal predicament you put her in to begin with. Nazis will die--very bad men who had it coming. Your partner will escape both his pain and his own justice. And you get to die in the temple you created for yourself, smiling.

Not even the great Tony Soprano pulled off that hat trick.

Addendum: It does interest me--in relation to Breaking Bad's popularity being tied to the Tea Party and angry white men facing a changing world--that Walt's initial foes were Latino--brown Chileans and Mexicans--but when faced with true racism, Walt/Heisenberg/Mr. Lambert realized just how disastrous his choices were. By accepting the help of the neo-Nazis--angry white guys with no real direction until HeisenWhite gave them direction--it became all to clear to Walt that he himself was now beyond hope. The same trend has happened with the Republican party (bet you didn't think I could make this political).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

We all break bad from time to time

One of the best shows ever to hit television comes to an end tonight. Maybe you've heard? I mean, it's been mentioned a few times, both by myself and by about 200,000 other people. Breaking Bad. It's a show. Look it up. Maybe Netflix it or something.

First time I heard of the show, I was going through this, which I've written about numerous times so won't dwell on it. Let's just say it seemed awkward for me to watch a show where the plot centered on the dad from Malcolm in the Middle apparently opening fire during a family vacation to the Grand Canyon. Each website I visited had a banner ad for Breaking Bad. Each magazine I read featured a glowing but qualified review of the pilot episode.

Two previous television shows I loved had recently ended: The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. Both Sopranos and Six Feet represented two sides of the same coin for me--a coin of family business--and when they ended, I realized I'd started watching both while in Alabama, working for the family, and that I'd moved on to a town far away, not working for the family.

And when I saw the first ads for Breaking Bad, I realized I was now out of the family business. My responsibility was to someone I'd chosen rather than the people who had raised me.

Which is to say, when I decided to watch the first episode of Breaking Bad, I brought a lot of baggage to the episode, and didn't want to send up any red flags, as my husband Greg had been very hurt by my meth interlude. A lot of people had been hurt by it, really, but only one person lived with me. Greg. And I didn't want Greg to think I was fetishizing meth.

But Breaking Bad does not offer up meth as a fetish. Meth is clearly a destructive element. Even in the first episode, it is made clear that Walt's choice to cook meth might as well be Walt's choice to do meth. There's little moral wiggle-room right from the beginning of the show. Meth is bad, mmkay? Cooking it or doing it, the choice is the same. No bathtub will wash you clean.

I watched the first season in blissful silence, not telling anyone I was watching, processing my own private demons. Greg--always worried about me and suspicious, rightfully, of anything I did--had no clue this show was helping me put things into perspective. Just as Sopranos and Six Feet helped me understand family, Breaking Bad helped me understand marriage and myself.

Over five seasons, Breaking Bad has helped me understand I am, for instance, not the one who knocks. I am not a bitch. I am just a guy who is fine with a spouse, a dog, and a struggle from week to week to make ends meet.

I am not someone who will try to cook meth, do meth, or watch someone choke on their own vomit.

In short: I am not a bad person.

I will never sit beside my own pool and watch either ducks or pink teddy bears float in it. I will never endure a montage of myself cooking meth or everyone I know dying while Sia sings.

When I finally showed Greg an episode of Breaking Bad, I prefaced the showing with, "Look, I am sorry." It was embarrassing for me to tell him I'd been watching such a brilliant piece of television since I'd already scared him by living the opposite of what the show was about--I'd already admitted to being a consumer of Walter White's product.

Four years after that, there is a last episode. And nothing to replace it, really.



Friday, September 13, 2013

McCain Pravdas on Putin's Gray Lady

So fortunate to have Senator John McCain to guest on my blog just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin. Today, it was announced that Senator John McCain would write an op-ed for Pravda in response to President Vladimir Putin's New York Times column.

My fellow Russians, I could have once--at one time--been your president. So I'll call you 'my fellow Russians' even if I am not a fellow Russian. Truth be told, it's not clear if I'm a fellow American either, much like the current American President who beat me in 2008. I was, you see, born in Panama.

Columnist John McCain
Truly, because of my Panamarican birth, I like to think I'm a citizen of all nations, and that I failed to be president in every one of them. So, when in Turkey, I am amongst my fellow Turkensians. When in Germany, I am a fellow Germanian. When in Greece, I'm a fellow Greecan. I am of the world, and the world is of me.

Last week, your true president--who defeated me in an election I didn't really run because I didn't register the proper papers--wrote an op-ed for the American "newspaper of record," the New York Times. The Gray Lady. "All the news that's fit to print." An important American paper in an important American city. Your president published this op-ed on 9/11/2013.

September 11, as I'm sure you Ruskies are aware, is a very important day in the American calendar. There are, no doubt, important days for you as well, but here in America, September 11 is so important that foreign countries would do well to keep silent. If I were president of Russia, I would know that, I assure you.

But as I said, I lost that election because of improper paper filing. Another election I lost was the one I ran in 2008, against Barack Obama. Also I lost one against former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. And one against Queen Elizabeth II, but as my advisers assure me, that wasn't really a loss as no election took place. I still campaigned for the Queenidentcy, but polling numbers were not in my favor. It's a shame.

I would have made a great Queen of England and her territories.

Sometimes I wonder if perhaps Panama would elect me.

Anyway. Russians. I am writing to you in this open letter because, as the person who elevated Sarah Palin to such a lofty position by nominating her as my running mate--and thereby sparing you all of the discomfort she must have caused by constantly staring at you from her kitchen window--I feel you owe me a favor.

Elect me. Please. Issue a recall on your current president. Allow me to rule your country in a fine and respectful way, in a way that does not insult the office of the Russian president by stooping to Maureen O'Dowd levels column-writing. As your president, I swear never to appear in the New York Times' op-ed pages. I will write for Pravda.

It is disgusting that your primary representative--that one--should debase himself by running to the Times to give voice to the international community. Trust me. I know. The Times endorsed my opponent in my previous election (I forget which election. I think the one against Angela Merkle. Or maybe against Xi Jinping).

When I ran against Barack Obama, I ran not for myself, but for the presidency of Iran. And I selected as my running mate a woman who could not hold her own water, but instead held the water for everyone else--seriously, it was rather amazing how selfless she was; give her a bottle of water and tell her, "This is you water," and she would drop it immediately, but give her a bottle of water and tell her, "This water is for Jesus, and all who know Him," and she would cling to it for days.

I stand by my choice of Sarah Palin. And I stand by my determination to be president of a country--any country--before I die.

Like the old song says, "Panama. Pana-ma-ha. Panama."

Thank you for your attention, Russians.

Oh, a final thing. Your president said Americans are not exceptional. I disagree. Americans managed to commit a massive genocide that would leave Hitler woozy at the knees, and managed to steal and sell the people of another continent, without consequence. That's pretty exceptional. No UN intervention, no foreign powers calling in drone strikes.

Also, if any Native American reservations or countries in Africa--except Egypt--are ready for a new leader, let me know. I'm senator of Arizona--I'm happy to preside over anywhere.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Vlad the Implier

Sochi: Land of Milk and Money
Putin did a guest post for me. I'm honored.

Recent events surrounding the Winter Olympics here in my country have inspired me to write a bit about what I plan for the homosexuals of the world. And for the heterosexuals.

It is true. I do not like homosexuals. But I am only one man. I am just like you, and have no real power over the individual loves of each and every human on earth. Try as I may, I cannot physically insert myself into each person's life. I can only make laws, and those laws state that homosexual propaganda is a bad thing.

These laws are limited to the borders of my country. Russia. They are not international laws, and should cause no concern to any other nation. We have this in common: I too wish Johnny Weir would keep silent.

You know, when I was a teenager, I knew a homosexual. For the convenience of my American audience, I will say his name was Todd, because watching Americans try to pronounce Russian names is a painful process, and I do not like to endure pain. I do not endure pain. The only time I allow myself to feel pain is when Americans are pronouncing Russian names.

To observe Americans spelling Russian names is worse. More painful to me. The Cyrillic alphabet is not so very difficult to decipher, Americans. Must you act as if it is an illiterate, limbless child attempting Morse code? It is a beautiful script, our Russian alphabet. Elegant. You do not have the monopoly on readable fonts.

We do not have Comic Sans in Russia. We do not need it.

Todd--not his real name, as I said, but it is the name you will call him by--liked men. He liked men so much he wanted to join with other men, to become something more than himself, which is an abomination. I did not hate Todd. When I killed him, I felt his sickness leave him, and he was at peace. It is because I loved him--as a human, "no homo," as you Americans say--that I did this. Todd's last words were, "My sickness is leaving me. Thank you, Vladimir. Thank you. You have cured me." The remarkable thing about his last words was that I did not hear them, as I had crushed his windpipe with my bare hands. But I felt them in my mind.

"Thank you, Vladimir. Thank you for murdering me."

This was Todd
It was a beautiful moment for both of us. As was Todd's funeral. A beautiful moment that made me who I am today. And made Todd who he is today. Which is to say, without that moment, I would not be President of Russia, and he would not be relieved of his homosexuality in a grave just outside of Leningrad. I mean, Saint Petersburg. Saint Petersburg.

So now we are having three things in Russia that involve Americans. We are having the Olympics. We are having Snowden. And we are having homosexual corrections, which do not really involve Americans from our Russian point of view but do seem to invite American homosexual attention. Your gays stopped buying Russian vodka as a form of protest. I am pleased with this. The less drunk Western homosexuals, the better. They will be less likely to breed if they are sober.

About the Olympics: We will not tolerate homosexual athletes. Any show of homosexual solidarity breaks our current laws--we do not send our athletes to your country and tell them to rob banks or microwave kittens, so please do not send your athletes here and tell them to protest our homosexual reformation laws. It is rude. Respect our laws just as, in Atlanta and the Salt Lake, we respected your laws. We did not let our pole-vaulting team kill a single one of your fruity diving team members. Quid pro quo, America.

About Syria: I have already announced my intention to solve the Syrian issue. Lay off. If you prevent my friend Assad from gassing--or not gassing!--his own people, I will call an audible, and replay Colin Powell's UN argument for invading Iraq on a loop. This audible will be broadcast from one of our many Russian satellites, and will interfere with the series finale of Breaking Bad, as well as the season premiere of How I Met Your Mother. I predict there will be riots in the street. I will also--because America has a proud and active intelligentsia--replace each copy of Thomas Pynchon's wonderful new novel with the autobiography of George W. Bush, just because I cannot both call for an end to chemical warfare in Syria and simultaneously poison you all with what I have come to call Litvineko Solution.

Finally: About Snowden. I do not know of any Snowden, so please do not ask about him. Just do me and my country the honor of not being homosexual, and of doing as I say when I say it.

In conclusion, I must add that you Americans are not exceptional. If you were exceptional, you would be proud of having a non-White President no matter your opinion of his performance, and you would be happy to defend homosexuals both at home and abroad. You would be horrified at the fact that another leader is gassing his own people. Exceptionalism is not about nationalism, and all you Americans seem to have is a nationalistic streak without the need to rise above and make yourself truly exceptional.

I must go now. I am told one of my closest advisers is considering having sex with his long-term secretary. Both are men. I must save them. I am, as you Americans say, a superhero.

Love and kisses,

Vlad



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Post-Race America and Me

Some years back, I lost any real, sustained interest in politics. I lost it after the long Democratic primary of 2008. I blame a horse.

Honestly. I blame a horse on my sudden lack of real political interest. Eight Belles, the first filly (apparently) to run in the Kentucky Derby in nine years, was the proclaimed pick of then-Prez-candidate Hillary Clinton--a woman who earlier in the year was favored by those 'in the know' to win the Democratic nomination, but, by May of 2008, had slipped to the dark horse category because of Barack Obama's strong performance.

Obama showed no amount of irony when he picked his own horse for that year's Derby, and chose Big Brown.

Big Brown won the race. Eight Belles knew for whom the eight bells tolled, and broke two ankles. She was euthanized on the spot, and suddenly the Run for the Roses was a media metaphor for the Race to the White House.

Politics became quite literally a horse race.

Certainly, politics, especially the politics of Presidential ponderings, has always been a horse race of sorts, but seldom have political pundits made it so nakedly about racehorses. Big Brown and Eight Belles became Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and Hillary Clinton's supporters were defacto beating a dead horse as they continued to flog their candidate toward the finish line long after she'd expired.

True: I didn't want Clinton to win. I was entranced by the new face in the crowd--Obama--and thought there'd been enough Bushes and Clintons wandering around the White House since Reagan.

Also true: It seemed rather disgusting to watch the media seize upon the death of a horse, in a sport I already found distasteful and cruel to animals, as a way of articulating a Presidential campaign, and as a way of titillating an American audience suffering from ADD and an itchy remote-finger.

For a while, I relied on Jon Stewart on The Daily Show to help me navigate the muddied track of American politics, but it didn't take long for his inspired commentary to reinforce my beliefs: if politics is about the Art of the possible, covering politics is about the Art of the inevitable. No one, it seems, watches a news show to see what is possibly there. They watch it, instead, to reinforce what they already believe to be true.

Rather than see the random acts that caused poor Eight Belles to break her ankles and be put down, most consumers of American news appeared to buy the notion that an unrelated horse race meant something to a Presidential race. Hell, it's old hat to really, truly call the election cycle a "horse race," as if we're not electing, but betting on, a candidate.

Tonight is the night of the New York mayoral primary. I know which candidate I hope wins. I am not, however, obsessively refreshing the results, nor am I watching all NY channels at once. I haven't placed my bets, I'm not in the stands with an elaborate hat, and I have no taste for a mint julep (which, to be honest, tastes like a combo of Crest toothpaste and Scope mixed with Kayo syrup).

Also tonight, the winner of the 2008 Kentucky Derby, President Barack Obama, gave a rather unfocused speech about the events in Syria. I do not have a horse in that race either, which is all the Syrian conflict seems to be about if you spend a lot of time reading Facebook feeds and online blogs (which I do) and watching news networks (which I don't).

For me, Syria should be about chemical weapons. For others, it's about winning small
victories with 'like' posts and recommendations, and ratings galore.

So there's Eight Belles, running a race she doesn't really understand, being the subject of a Presidential metaphor beyond her interest, with broken ankles on a muddy track. And there's CNN, FOX, MSNBC (ah--now I get why angry commenters always TYPE IN ALL CAPS: all the channels they watch are aggressively capitalized), and tomorrow the ratings for each channel will be released. We all saw the same speech, no matter which station we picked, but somehow the ratings will matter.

Tweets will be reported as if quotations from Cicero, and a winner will be declared.

We'll hear Boehner's response to the speech, we'll hear Bloomberg's response to the primary, we'll hear Limbaugh's response to palaver, and serious journalists will cover all these things just to keep up their pageviews.

Life, of course, is not a race. But a lot of people seem to think it is, and are hoping opponents break their own ankles.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pets

Let's kill some time.

As some of you might've noticed, I have a dog named Waffles, and I like taking pictures of him. For example:
Waffles considering his options


Lots of pictures of Waffles. I am unapologetic about this habit of mine. Waf's a very photogenic dog.

I grew up with dogs, more or less. My dad liked the idea of having dogs, but he didn't seem to appreciate the joy of a dog, so before I was 11 years old we had Boo, a collie; Peppy, a mutt; Butkus, a boxer; Churchill, a Shar Pei; and assorted other dogs along the way, all of which were given to good homes we could not provide.

There were some fish as well. The first aquarium my parents purchased was when I was a toddler--I flushed the fish down the toilet while screaming "BE FREE!"--and then, once I reached the age of reason, they bought another aquarium.

I flushed nothing.

Somewhere in there, we had a rabbit. The rabbit lasted about as long as a dog--about a month.

True story: when I was about four or five, my parents got me a kitten for Christmas. They kept it in the garage overnight, and intended to surprise me with it on Christmas morning. Except my dad coated it in flea powder, which is toxic to kittens, so on Christmas Day I was presented with a dead kitten.

Note: Never put flea powder on kittens.

Pets rely on us for their own survival. Certainly, some pets make a go of it in the wild--if they're let loose, they can become feral, foraging through garbage or whatever. They can sometimes fend for themselves--the parakeets of Telegraph Hill come to mind (and we had a bird too)--but I don't think those fish I flushed down the toilet (BE FREE!) survived. Hell, my first kitten had a rough go of it, and died in the garage on Christmas Day.

Merry Chris....oh christ.

So, before Waffles (here's another picture)
Me, Greg, Waf, my step-dad

So, before Waffles (wait--here's another another picture)
Waf is doing this right now

So. Before Waf, there was Allie. I wish I had a picture of her. She was a very beautiful cat, with grey and light grey stripes, and... well, a cat. She was a cat.

Allie was a cat I found when I was 10 or so. 5th grade. Whatever age that is. We had several dogs and fish during my time with Allie, which is to say that Allie was a constant during my formative years. Transitions happen. Allie kept me grounded.

I found Allie in a vacant house, as a kitten. The house was under construction, as was she, as was I. We'd recently moved to the new neighborhood, and it felt to me that everything was in flux, so I understood why this tiny kitten was upset being stuck in an incomplete house. As I rode my bike around the still-forming neighborhood, I'd hear her screaming--mewling--from the still-under-construction house, and eventually dragged my mom to the house, demanding answers. Of course what I was asking was, "Why do we feel so incomplete even though we're in a finished home?" but what I actually asked was, "Can we keep her?"

Mom said yes. I named the tiny kitten Allie not, as most assumed, because it was a nice pun on 'Alley Cat,' but because I was a very gay kid, and I really loved Jane Curtain's character on Kate and Allie.

For the kids, here's what Kate and Allie was to me: Golden Girls and Woody Allen movies.

Allie was my favorite pet (until Waffles). There were many dogs and fish along the way, but Allie really was my only steady relationship. It's very important to stress this: most of my life was a transient life. Dogs came and went; houses came and went. Allie, however, was the most consistent thing I had.

My parents eventually got a divorce, when I was an adult and with a little brother 18 years younger. And he, too, has already endured a number of dogs. But never a cat. Never a cat like Allie.

Allie's end came just after I returned, btw, from a trip with friends. When I got back my dad told me he'd given Allie away because I didn't seem to care for her anymore. One of my mom's friends assured me Allie was happier where she was in the proverbial 'farm upstate.'

Ah well.

Here's another picture of Waf.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Taking the OD out of 'Method'

The eight year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was last week, and it reminded me of something. Wasn't really sure what, exactly, but when I heard about the anniversary, I thought of Mother Bush saying that the impoverished African Americans of Nawlins were actually very lucky, and I thought about heaps of donated food and clothing rising up from the square at Lincoln Center that Ann Coulter dismissed as signs of liberal guilt, and I thought about Shep Smith having a conscience breakdown on FOX News.

But there was something else.

Then, tonight, I saw this article on Salon.com, and remembered: the way I found out about Katrina was when the guy handing me a glass pipe, who knew I was from Alabama, asked, "So, do you think your family is okay?"

I shrugged, and inhaled the smoke coming from the pipe. Exhaled. "Why wouldn't they be?"

The guy--not sure I knew his name then and certainly don't recall it now--was much older than I. Fit. Bald, but hot, I suppose, not that I cared.

Before I continue with this, I want to stress that I no longer do meth, and in fact only spent a month or two seeking it out. It was not a very pleasant part of my past. There was nothing dignified or cool about it. This post is about how I realized just how destructive drugs can be.

That said, I'd also like to add I wouldn't change what I did. The experience remains an experience I'm glad I had, because it helps me understand others.

So. Hot older guy. Glass pipe. Katrina moving into the Gulf of Mexico. Me naked on a bed in Chelsea, Manhattan.

Dude had a nice apartment. It wasn't squalid--most guys I smoked meth with did not seem like meth addicts at all. They all had nice apartments, were clean and well-satorial'd, with pianos in the den or expensive art on the walls. More than the meth, I think that was what appealed to me--at the time both G and I were having financial difficulties, and he was working long hours so I spent a lot of time alone in our hovel. Couldn't afford to go to shows or join friends for dinner. The first guy I met online who, upon hooking up, offered me meth, was a guy who regularly appeared on FOX News. An entertainment lawyer. His apartment was stellar, in midtown with a great view and a balcony, and after he got me fucked up he took me to his bar, where the cast of SNL was having an after-show party. I made an ass of myself--I was fucked up, so of course I made an ass of myself--but I loved being in the company of famous people.

Of course, because I made the ass of myself, I was quietly escorted out of the bar and left disoriented on 8th Avenue. I walked around the block a few times before grabbing a cab home, unaware that there was snot pouring out of my nose. The cab driver said nothing, but kept the window down because I had b.o. as well. I remember being in love with the wind coming in through the open window, and pulling up my shirt to feel the wind on my chest.

Another guy I met up with--again online--had a partner who was directing a show on Broadway. The partner was out for the night, so this guy had me over. Beautiful apartment, stuffed with Broadway memorabilia and autographed posters of the revival of Cabaret and Chicago. A mask from Phantom. A photograph of Guy and his partner with Angela Lansbury. I imagined myself standing with Angela, and took the glass pipe when offered. "Your apartment," I said between hits, "is amazing."

"You should take off your pants," Guy responded.

So the summer of 2005 went. The guys weren't important, and while I can't swear I was always careful, I was at least responsible. Tests, months and years later, came back negative.

Apartments. All beautiful, all full of things, and all those things were things I wanted to own. Later, when I tried to explain all this to Greg, I couldn't pin down why I had done what I did. I couldn't explain the attraction to the men. All I could say was, "But you didn't see the piano!"

So. Dude who asked me about my family's safety.

We met online, as usual, and he mentioned Olympia Snowe, which indicated to me that he was smart. Or at least well-informed. Turned out he may have worked for Snowe in some capacity--but he was definitely a Republican.

Most of the guys I met during those few weeks were Republican, by the way. I guess the only way one can deal with being a conservative homosexual is to cut it with drugs.

Greg was working, so I was free to do as I wanted. So I did. I went downtown, and to Dude's apartment, which was as fabulous as I'd hoped. He had kids, and there were pictures of his family all over the place; there were prints of Thomas Kincade, which clashed with the giant Salvadore Dali prints. Ornate Indian rug. Simple couch. Tasteful chair. Glass coffee table. A piano near the giant glass windows overlooking the Hudson.

I was dressed in camouflage cargo shorts, flip-flops and white t-shirt. Dude commented on the shorts. "Did you get those in Alabama?" he asked.

I shrugged. Nervous. Didn't want to really say anything until the first hit on the glass pipe.

After the first hit, I was fine. I pretended the apartment was my own, and took off my clothes, as did he. "You're not into me," he said at one point.

"Of course I am," I lied.

"No, I'm not your type. It's okay."

"Whatever." I went for the pipe again.

A bit later, he asked what papers I liked to read. Because my mind wasn't working anymore, it was beyond me to explain that I didn't read newspapers anymore--I read blogs. Still do, for good or ill. "Papers?" I replied. "I do the Times. My local paper back home."

"No, what do you read?" He was asking this while pushing my head down to his crotch.

"Words," I answered. Quoting Hamlet because I didn't get his point. "Words. Words."

Still don't know what answer he wanted from me, but a bit later he launched into an Olympia Snowe discussion. Then fielded a phone call from his ex wife--their daughter had broken her glasses, and she needed him to send money to buy new ones.

"That's terrible," I muttered.

"Glasses? Yes. So you have empathy for people who break their glasses. Interesting."

That was when I realized something was off. Something was wrong. I was using people in a very obvious way--not for the drugs, which is expected, but for the life. Dude's response to my casual concern about his daughter's glasses broke through the muddled meth mind I had going on, and made me see myself from the outside: a guy who came over for sex and drugs, and wanted neither. Or really just wanted the drugs, and the attention, but not the sex.

Then Dude, who was still on his smartphone but no longer talking to his ex, said, "So, do you think your family is okay?" And I responded, "Why wouldn't they be?"

It was then that I heard about Katrina. (Spoiler: My family was no where near the hurricane). Dude explained, while standing naked in the doorway, that a hurricane was tearing through the South, and that Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi were getting slammed.

And I didn't care.

True. I didn't care. I was so fucked up that I just asked for more pipe. And Dude gave it to me. And when I left his apartment for my own several hours later, I still didn't care.

Then I did care. In our apartment after Greg got home, I told him everything. He threw a coffee cup at the floor--not at me--and then called my parents. Coming down, I realized just how terrible I'd been over the past few months, and over the next few days I watched the Katrina drama play out, the awful devastation and the meth-like reaction our government had to the devastation.

So. Yeah. Eight years. I'd like a little credit here: After I confessed to G what I'd done, we went together to a Narc-Anon meeting for meth addicts. Greg probably should've kicked me out but he stuck with me, and insisted we go to this meeting, and it was a terrible experience. So many lives ruined--absolutely destroyed beyond repair, yet all of them trying to repair anyway, proving that no life is done until it is done.

After the meeting, G and I walked to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. I wasn't sure if G and I were still together. Didn't know if he loved me. I was still flashing on the Dude who asked me if my family was okay, and unsure if I even was worthy of love anymore because if I couldn't answer that simple question, perhaps I wasn't worthy of love. "So, do you think your family is okay?" "Why the fuck are you asking me that?"

"Do you think your boyfriend is doing okay?"

"I don't know--how's my ass?"

But we walked from the meeting, and I had the balls to tell Greg this: "I will not go to one of those again. I will just stop the drugs."

Ballsy, right? After what I'd done, I'm still asking my partner to trust me.

And Greg said: "Okay."

Then we had a nice dinner, where Greg glowered at me and I understood why he would. And I made him laugh, and loved to hear him laugh. More than anything, I wanted to hear that.

So. Yes. Meth is terrible. Even eight years later, for a summer, it haunts you. And if you survive doing it, I suppose, it teaches you how to care for others, but only if you put the pipe down.

Edited to add: David Carr is awesome.

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