Friday, April 18, 2014

Rock God Revisited

I want to tell you a story about someone.  Someone I was once very close to.

Sean was a friend once.  Hell, he was more than that.  We met on campus in 1992.  He approached me to tell me that my pro-choice button on my lapel sucked . . . but that he admired the guts it took to wear in Mormonville.  It wasn't long before Sean was giving my then-husband guitar lessons in return for tutoring in algebra.  My husband never did master the guitar, though Sean did teach  me the following fancy Allegro (no, that's not Sean playing):

My ex did manage to drag Sean through Algebra--a good thing, as Sean had already failed it twice and had no hope of finishing his degree without it.

When my husband and I separated in 1993, Sean and I embarked on what we affectionately called our "three month stand."  So called because there was no way we could have ever maintained a long-term relationship, so we went into it knowing it was only for a while.  Our politics, our world-views, and especially our relationship with intoxicating substances--none were compatible.  But Sean was fun, smart, impossibly tall, and had long, bleached-blond hair halfway to his ass.  Hey, it was the very early 90s.  Hair was still in.

Before you get any ideas about me, Sean was my THIRD partner.  The other two had been HUSBANDS.  He was my first AND last "fling."

For three months, Sean and I were together almost every moment.  I often blame my car accident, which really did do a number on my "impulse control" and ability to make rational decisions.  No doubt, that was part of it.  Sean had an ex-girlfriend, a toddler, and was only paying 25 bucks a month in child support while his ex (later his wife, even later his ex-wife) was living with (and being supported by) her hyper-disapproving Mormon parents.  We tangled often about that--about his being able to afford smokes and beer but not child support.

I remember one day, the ex showed up at Sean's (he was in a roommate situation with four other college students at a condo owned by the father of one of the students).  She was always nice to me, but always looked utterly wounded by my existence.  She considered me gravely, then said wistfully, "I wish I could be you--then he'd love me forever."

That poor girl.  Sean really did put off a shine that drew you, a warmth that made you feel you needed to be close.  I doubt it ended that way, but for a long time I think she was helpless to resist the draw.

For a few months, I hung out with the band Sean played with, learned how to run their sound board.  I don't say "Sean's Band" because it wasn't--they'd lost their guitarist and he was a hired gun.  They were called "Genghis Khan," and holy cow, they were derivative.  They practiced at an old farmhouse in the country.  Place was crawling with hundreds of ferel cats and kittens.  The vocalist was a Tom Keifer wannabe (vocally--looks-wise he was more a Sam Kinison clone), the other guitarist was so wasted most of the time it was impossible to get much out of him, the bassist . . . wasn't (they had no bass player), and the drummer . . . was sober and so much better than the rest of them. He and Sean should have started a band, left those losers behind.

Instead, he slogged along and fell deeper and deeper into the booze and drugs.

One day, Sean said he was really wishing he was back together with his ex, the mother of his lovely little boy.  I said he should go for it.  And he did.  Sadly, Sean had some serious impulse control issues.  He went back to his ex, I hooked up with my now-husband, yet Sean kept trying to get back with me.  Not for a long-term thing, but a "friends with benefits" arrangement.  He really just never could stop himself.  Something that haunted him all his life.

Finally, his advances became so enraging that I cut off all contact for years.

When we reconnected, it was via Facebook.  He'd gone through years of addiction, had flipped hot and cold hard-core religious (you know how the addiction thing can do that), but his politics had taken a hard swing left.  He admitted to barely remembering me--turns out, he'd been utterly addicted even then.  Most of that time was a blur for him.  We palled around on Facebook for a couple of years, but then he and his latest wife (not sure how many there were, at least two) fell apart.  It started with him taking responsibility, admitting it was his temper, his sarcasm, his drug use, but, as he always said, one of his greatest talents was turning things around on folks, and it went from being his fault to her being a faithless whore in record time.  It was all played out very publicly on his wall, and it was horrible to see.  Like a train wreck of meanness and deceit.

And then, because (he later admitted) this is what he did when things got rough, he turned on me.  And, to be fair, his other friends, too.  There was nothing special about me.  Because addiction circles so often fall into the "higher power" trap, Sean, seemingly out of the blue, went nutty on me over my atheism.  It was insulting, immature, unreasonable, and really quite shocking.  Like I said, "out of the blue."  My response?

I smacked him down so hard my hand is still stinging.

His reaction?

Shock.  He was stunned that I had come back on him.  Said that people usually just took it from him because that's how he was.  That was, in fact, the backbone of his apology:  this is how I am when things aren't going right in my life, and I am helpless to stop myself.  No promise to never do it again, just a wow, sorry I did that, I was out of line, but this is how I am.  Get used to it, because it's sure to happen again.

No.  No, I refused to "get used to it."  And I told him so.  Told him that I was sorry, but that, at my age, I didn't have a place in my world for someone prone to spontaneously erupting on me like that.  I didn't have what it took to tolerate abusiveness or drama.  I didn't NEED to tolerate it.  If he couldn't assure me that this was never, ever, EVER going to happen again, I was going to have to walk away.

He couldn't, and I did.

That was a couple of years ago.  Today, I opened the paper to come across Sean's obituary.

I gasped when I saw it.

Says he died of a perforated ulcer, and I'm sure that's true.  But what he really died of was a life of alcohol and drug abuse and an inability to get his act together in any meaningful way for any real length of time.  Apparently he'd just gotten a new job, was very happy, very optimistic.  But that was Sean--the same scenario played out again and again.  Like he was trapped, doomed to repeat that pattern until . . .

Until now.

Poor Sean.

And my son?  Well, he still plays that old white Ibanez (gone cream-colored with the years) I bought from Sean all those years ago.  Sean had two of them--he kept one, and the other wound up being my son's.  Is there some meaning there?

Probably not.

An update here:  the landlord is booting us, has given us 60 days notice to vacate.  This isn't an eviction--he says we're the best tenants he's ever had, has offered a glowing reference.  But he's selling, and he needs us out so he can do that.  Which leaves us utterly screwed and possibly facing homelessness.  Truly.  So please.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Karma Comes Back?

So, a post comes across my wall today, someone decrying the hit-and-run of her family's pet black cat.  Apparently, the cat was in the middle of the road and the driver who hit him didn't stop.  The driver BEHIND did stop.  This angry post went on and on about Karma and what a bitch it is, how hitting a BLACK CAT and then not stopping is a guarantee of deserved bad luck coming back.

Clearly, this is the case.  Karma obviously works because look what happens to people who let their cats wander on city streets.


This is the same person who, just last year, was positively cheering about the killing of stray/feral cats in her neighborhood because they might transmit diseases to her loose pets.

Are you serious?  You're worried about your pets, keep them INDOORS where pets BELONG rather than letting them wander. As it stands, I'm seeing you as the responsible party.  Hey, I GET having a cat that won't stay in the house--we had a big, black poof-ball named LOG who would dart past, pry open screens, and otherwise find his way out.  And, had he been hit by a car?  It would have been OUR fault.  No one else's.

Anyway, back to the black cat in the middle of the road.  I know it's so easy to assign nefarious motives to folks who've caused you hurt, but did it ever occur that maybe the person didn't know they'd hit your cat?  Or maybe they were afraid to stop for fear of a potentially scary confrontation with you?

The solution to your pets being hit by cars (or picking up diseases from strays) is to keep your pets in the house where they belong.  Let them out only in your yard, and only when you're there to keep them from wandering.  And stop passing the buck--responsibility for your pets is YOURS, not anyone else's.

And in case anyone is concerned, the black cat is fine.  45 minutes at the vet and all is well.  He clearly thumped the undercarriage rather than taking a direct hit.


An update here:  the landlord is booting us, has given us 60 days notice to vacate.  This isn't an eviction--he says we're the best tenants he's ever had, has offered a glowing reference.  But he's selling, and he needs us out so he can do that.  Which leaves us utterly screwed and possibly facing homelessness.  Truly.  So please.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Race Jumping/Steeplechasing: a rose by any other name

So, I came across a bit of incredibly self-serving, biased fluff in defense of steeplechases yesterday.  In case you're not familiar with the sport of steeplechasing, let me post this for you:

The argument that it's "tradition" is specious.  Slavery, child marriage, and genital mutilation of children are all "traditions," too, but that doesn't make them good or right.  Barbarism is barbarism, regardless of cultural swing.

The most common "defense" I've seen of steeplechasing/race jumping?

"The horses love it, too--they must, ever try to make a horse do something he doesn't want to?"

Oh, stop.  Hush.  Do you REALLY believe that's meaningful?  Horses are animals, and animals can be (and often are) trained to do dangerous things ALL the time.  Through the basics of conditioning, not only can they be trained to do dangerous things, they can be trained to WANT to do them.  They don't perceive the danger the way we do, they don't understand the risks.  They don't GET that they're being abused and endangered.  Hell, you can train a dolphin to be happy about carrying a BOMB on its back.  Doesn't make it a good thing.

I'm no PETA member.  I occasionally eat meat.  I occasionally wear leather (from non-endangered creatures).  I see the difference between chicken sandwiches and cock fighting.  One is food, and the other is the willful torture of animals for the sole purpose of entertainment.  I put jump racing in the same category as pit bull fighting.  Arguing that you "love them" rings disingenuous when you're putting them in danger every time they're on the track.  Serious, immediate, potentially life-ending danger.  Love?

I don't think so.  I think you're having fun, the casualties be damned.

And yes, I feel the same way about horse racing in general.  This is like that, plus awful.


Hoping to hit a new cemetery or two this weekend while the boy is playing paintball.  We got him a marker and barrel for his birthday, but he's been sick for a couple of weeks now, hasn't had a chance to play.  We didn't get him anything fancy (we can't afford that), but he says these products are good and will do the job.  I hope so.  

Here they are, in case you're curious:

That's a link to Amazon, where we bought it.

Another link, also to Amazon, where we purchased.

I'm hoping this turns out okay.  There is, of course, the fear that it's crap, that it won't work, that it'll break, etc.  I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like to just not worry about that stuff because you have the cash to replace things that break.

I don't fantasize for long because I've never been there.  I don't have a frame of reference.

Anyway, one of the cemeteries is an old pre-Civil War to 1900 jobber.  Used to be a church cemetery until the church blew away to Oz.  Looks like it might be tick-heavy and poison ivied, but it's only 40% photographed, and I'd like to make a difference.

Hopefully my back and knees will be kind.  Hopefully there won't be any bear traps.  

Or banjo players.

An update here:  the landlord is booting us, has given us 60 days notice to vacate.  This isn't an eviction--he says we're the best tenants he's ever had, has offered a glowing reference.  But he's selling, and he needs us out so he can do that.  Which leaves us utterly screwed and possibly facing homelessness.  Truly.  So please.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Institutional Sexism

Seems to be something of a theme lately.

I've been archiving cemeteries lately, with a lot of work in Congressional Cemetery in DC.  One of the things I've been poring over for information?  Wills.  It's not the first time I've run across this, but I've finally seen it so many times I wound up shouting about it last night.

What could piss me off in a 100-200-year-old will?

"And to my beloved wife, I leave all property (home, land) for the term of her natural life, provided she does not remarry.  At the time of her death (or in the case of her marriage), all property shall be distributed as follows . . . "

In other words, you own NOTHING, woman.  You may, because I am so kind, USE what is MINE, so long as you don't move forward with your life.

Sickening.  And yet it ties in so well with that whole "women belong to their fathers until they marry, and then they belong to their husbands" thing that has so long held us down.

It goes beyond that.  Oft-times, fathers would will to the husbands of their daughters rather than to the daughters themselves!  Think about that:  your father dies, leaving your HUSBAND your family's farm. Your husband dies when you're 23, and he wills the whole mess to his cousin or brother, with you being allowed to LIVE there, so long as you, at 23 years, never marry again.

Yeah.  Let that one sink in.  Your husband's cousin gets your father's farm because you're just a woman.

To quote Louis C.K.:

"Women didn't get the vote until 1920,  That means American democracy is 94 years old. There are three people in my building older than American democracy"

When I was born, women had only been voting for 45 years.  My grandmother was born into a culture that didn't allow women representation (though it merrily taxed them).

We're complacent.  We watch the wingnuts chip away at us, and we assume that things can never go back.  I'll bet that's exactly what the women of Iran and Afghanistan thought, too.  You do know they used to wear their jeans, their short skirts, their t-shirts to university classes, driving their own cars and working pursuing their own careers, with their own apartments, bank accounts, and autonomy, right?  You did know that?


Afghanistan, 1970s and today

Don't think they won't do this to us.  Complacency is the enemy of freedom, and our freedom is still so young that it could easily be quenched.  Roe v Wade was only 40 and a smidge years ago. And states like Texas are effectively overturning it by making access impossible.  And our silence is emboldening them.  And it's not just women--take a good look at what the right is doing to poor neighborhoods, to traditionally African-American neighborhoods--disenfranchisement via "redistricting" and doing away with early voting and absentee voting.  They've got women, the poor, and "minorities" in their sights, and they WILL silence us if we let them.


On a (closely) related note, this came across my wall today:

I used to have a friend named Aziz.  Abdulaziz, in fact. He was the (married) live-in boyfriend of a friend of mine.  His wife and kids were back in Saudi while he studied engineering (and American women) in the States.  One week, his brother and sister-in-law came for a visit.  Speaking to the sister-in-law was . . . enlightening.  She strenuously defended the horrid circumstance of women in Saudi.  Used words like "honor" and "revere" and "protect."  Told me how women have a divine duty to keep men from being beasts by covering themselves from head to toe and not ever being anywhere a man might be even slightly tempted.  That MEN should be responsible for their OWN behavior was a concept so foreign she couldn't begin to grasp it.

I was reminded of nothing so much as an old Mormon neighbor of mine who strenuously defended the LDS Church's treatment of women.  She used to tell me about women's "special" purpose, how women and men are inherently different and each made with a certain set of abilities and ways of being that rendered them perfectly suited to the tasks the church deemed proper.  Women holding the priesthood?  Oh, goodness, why on earth?  That's for MEN.  Women have Relief Society!  Female Bishops?  Pshaw!  A woman is a "helpmeet" made by das deity to support and lift up her husband, to the glory of them both.

Oh, my backside.

Nothing, NOTHING better perpetuates oppression than the permission of the oppressed.   Church leadership is made up entirely of Mormon men.  Like the Union and the Knickerbocker, minus the cigars and plus the unmistakable air of divine self-satisfaction.

And before you think I'm picking on Mormons, know that many other faiths are just as bad.  I mention Mormons in particular because my neighbor was Mormon.  Had she been Catholic, we'd be talking about the College of Cardinals right now.


Worried a lot about money these days.  Hubby is hoping for a better job, but there/s the very real danger that our credit will prevent him from advancing.  The catch there is obvious--if he could get this job, we'd have EVERYTHING (that's car and student aid included) paid off in 18 months. But we can't get it paid down without the job.  And the job probably won't come through because of the debt.  

He had me in tears last night, totally by accident.  He was out in the kitchen, I was here at the computer, and we were talking about the above-mentioned wills and husbands leaving homes for their wives' USE, but not actually leaving them the property to OWN.  Hubby said, "Maybe that's what I'll do--I'll leave the car to our boy, but with the stipulation that you may USE it for as long as you live and remain single."  I laughed and asked, "Why the CAR?"  And he said, "It's not like we're ever going to have a house or anything really worth having."

And I burst into tears.  I will, in just over 11 years, be SIXTY years old.  Sixty, and I'm not ever going to have a home.  It's been a dream my whole life.  A house, a little land, just enough for a few horses and my dogs to run.  Grow some food, not have to listen to loud neighbors banging and thumping, their dogs three feet from my window, baying.  


It really does just race by you, and there are no do-overs.  

Yeah.  That's enough sad for the day.  I need to try to look at it this way: at least we haven't attended any Red Weddings.

There is that.


Speaking of which, don't forget Game of Thrones is on tonight!  Episode One of Season Four!  

An update here:  the landlord is booting us, has given us 60 days notice to vacate.  This isn't an eviction--he says we're the best tenants he's ever had, has offered a glowing reference.  But he's selling, and he needs us out so he can do that.  Which leaves us utterly screwed and possibly facing homelessness.  Truly.  So please.