No More Empty Fortune Cookies!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The True Story of My Long-Lost BFF

Facebook has been such a phenomenal tool in reacquainting me with old friends who I otherwise, probably never would have heard from again.
I suppose that can be good or bad. In this situation, it has been very, very good.
Sometimes, when a person lives the kind of life that leads them into rehab not once, not twice, but three times... a life that creates a rift between themselves and their family in which there is no contact for years on end, and a parting of ways with many, many friends; some through death, some by choice, and others through incarceration...well, that type of life often means you've left a path of destruction in your wake, harming friendships along the way with illogical thought processes and random, irrational actions.

That defines a good 15 year segment of my life.

There was one friend who I parted ways with about 15 or 16 years ago. We had gone through Jr. high and high school together. We room-mated after high school. We were BFF's. We were inseparable. We went through some of life's most tumultuous trials and tribulations together, the teenage years. We also celebrated some of life's most triumphant and exhilarating times together, moving out on our own for the first time, getting our first cars, first love...
I never thought that anything could hinder the bond that we shared back then, but as is so often the case, young emotions and immature actions created a situation in which we stopped being friends for a long time. It pained me. For years I hurt over the fact that I had hurt my BFF and that she had hurt me. What I hurt over the most was that we were not ever able to talk and get past it. It was trivial, after all, what had hurt our friendship, in the grand scheme of things.
Then one day I was at work, outside on a smoke break and I saw her step-dad and her mom coming into the store...they were so excited, she had just had her first child and they were there to buy a card and a gift on their way back to the hospital to see her. I've always remembered her step-dad saying to me "You two have been too close for too long to let anything get in the way of your friendship. You really should talk."
It wasn't too long later that she did visit me at work, and we spoke a bit. It was awkward, but I was happy for her and she seemed to be in a much better place, as was I. That was 10, almost 11 years ago. I didn't see or hear from her again. But I moved, and she moved, and you know, people move on with their lives.
And then Facebook came along.
I searched her out when I first found my way to MySpace and Facebook, to no avail. Then, a few weeks ago, I had a friend request from long lost BFF. I was ecstatic! We emailed, we exchanged numbers, we talked, and talked and caught up. We made amends. This past Saturday, long-lost BFF came to visit the Wifester and I with her two children. It was so wonderful to see her again, and to meet her beautiful kids. We visited and laughed and cried and picked up right where I wish we had left off. Only this time, it's so much better. We've both grown and matured and have better perspective today, and we've done so in similar ways. It's wonderful to see how well long-lost BFF is, and how wonderful her children are, because that really is a testament to the job she has done, which is a testament to her character, which I never doubted about her.
Our lives didn't turn out the way we thought they would when we were 13 years old and hanging our heads out her grandparent's window to sneak a smoke, or when we were 18 and in our apartment and living off of Ramen noodles and saltine crackers.
Our families may be a bit different than what we had mapped out for ourselves back then, but they are perfect for us, and we are perfect for them.
Sometimes paths never again cross, and you are left with an empty spot where a true, honest, and sincere friendship used to be, never getting a chance to make amends.
I'm glad that's not how this story ended.
Long-lost BFF and I promised to keep in touch from now on and never-ever let anything stand in the way again.
LLBFF's daughter was amazing. She is a budding artist, and was just so excited to receive some of my excess art supplies.
Her son was a charming and handsome young man, and he went home with a new Airzooka, which I know he'll enjoy. I can't believe Wifester gave up her beloved Airzooka, but she said she wanted it to go to a good home, and to someone who will enjoy it. I think she chose the right kid!
A few hours after LLBFF left our house, she called to tell me to say that artist-daughter was already practicing some of the techniques I had taught her during her visit, and had announced that I was her new role model. "How's that one feel?" she asked.
"Oh, honey, I should be no one's role model, ever!"
I replied between laughter.
I'm happy to have reunited with my LLBFF. It really was a wonderful reunion.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"One more card in that deck against prejudice and discrimination"

It has been an extremely long, uphill battle for gays and lesbian workers in Tennessee, but finally this past Tuesday, city council passed a sexual orientation anti-discrimination bill.

Sure, it does nothing to help people like me with who've experienced situations like that annoying firing by that employer who told me "We're a Christian organization, we just can't have a lesbian working here", because this bill only applies to Metro employees. It prohibits discrimination of Metro employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bill proponent Holly Spann said it well when she said "This is one more card in that deck against prejudice and discrimination."

Still, in my opinion, this bill falls short: It does not provide medical or pension benefits for same-sex partners. But we're making baby steps here. And I aim to celebrate all baby steps.

I know I should just be happy for these baby steps that Tennessee is making, and leave it at that, but I'm also concerned for the amount of time it is taking her to learn to take those steps.

Progress rather than perfection...I'm trying to keep that in mind.

RIP Mary Travers

according to the NY Times:

Update | 10:15 p.m. Mary Travers, whose ringing, earnest vocals with the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary made songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” enduring anthems of the 1960s protest movement, died Wednesday night in Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. She was 72 and had lived in Redding, Conn.

The cause was cancer, said her spokeswoman, Heather Lylis.

Ms. Travers brought a powerful voice and an unfeigned urgency to music that resonated with mainstream listeners. With her straight blond hair and willowy figure and two bearded guitar players by her side, she looked exactly like what she was, a Greenwich Villager straight from the clubs and the coffee houses that nourished the folk-music revival.

“She was obviously the sex appeal of that group, and that group was the sex appeal of the movement,” said Elijah Wald, a folk-blues musician and a historian of popular music.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lookin' and Leapin'

We're working like a well oiled machine around our house, I must say. We have our tasks, and each of us do them independently, contributing to the overall success of a peaceful and harmonious home life.
I cook, Wifester does dishes.
She carries in the groceries, I put them away.
I load the dishwasher, she unloads it.
Our system works well for us, and we like it.
That is, our system worked well for us until yesterday. Normally, Wifester takes the trash out, and I bring the can back to the house after the people come and haul away our garbage.
I had been cleaning out a closet yesterday, and ended up with a garbage bag full. So as I rushed out to place it in the can before the men came, I realized I was too late. Oh well, I thought, I can go ahead and bring the can back to the house. As I flipped the lid, I noticed a piece of paper stuck to the lid with a sticker or something, and a hand written note of some sort, but disregarded it and chucked in my trash bags. When I pulled the lid back down and retrieved the note, I was mortified to find what it read:

You know my theory on spiders, right? They are all waiting in hiding to kill humankind. They are. Don't laugh. THEY ARE.
I'm quite grateful to the kind men who left me the note, let me tell you that!
So my next dilemma was whether or not to move the trash can back to it's spot by my house, bringing the little killers closer to me and my family, or leave it out by the curb, not fulfilling my end of the trash duties. I moved the can. With knees buckling and fight or flight reaction in full force, I moved the damned can.

When the Wifester got home from work, I told her my story.
Her: "I'll have to spray the can out with that spider spray. There's nothing in there, right?"
Me: "Yeah, I threw in the trash bag."
Her: "What'd you do that for? Are you gonna reach in and pull that bag out?"
Me: "Hell NO! I had already thrown the bag in before I read the note."
Her: "And that's a perfect analogy for the difference between you and I. You leap. I look. What if that note had said that there was a bomb in the trash can?"
Me: "I guess I'd be all over the driveway, along with the spiders."

I guess the Wifester is right, that is a pretty good analogy for the two of us. She looks, I leap.
What are you? A looker or a leaper?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shopping Saved My Life

Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while, and those who know me in real life know that I usually boycott, or at least call myself boycotting that one certain big box retail store. You know the one, blue and white with all the smiley faces. Among many reasons I don't like to support them, some of the top reasons are:
  • the huge disparity between their male and female workers' wages (for same position, same qualifications) as evidenced by law suits and settlements.
  • while they are the largest profiting retailer, they are also the corporation with the largest percentage of employees who require public assistance for housing, food, and other basic needs. They make the most, but pay the least, making you and I support their employees with our taxes.
  • there is never an employee who can answer a question when you need one. even if you seek one out.
  • that creepy smile has to be covering up something!
I could keep going, but you get the idea.
Well, Sunday morning the Wifester and I decided to do a little shopping. Since we needed some hardware to split off the cable line and run it into a newly redone room in the house, and we also needed some groceries and a shower curtain liner as well, we decided that the Super Wal Mart would be the best get in, get out option. I concede from time to time and end up at the retail monster every 6 or 8 months or so with the Wifester, fussing and complaining, kicking and screaming, and constantly placing item after low-cost item in my shopping cart all the while...

On this occasion, we arrived, did our shopping which included grocery shopping, and left just as the after church crowd was invading. If you've ever been to Super Wal Mart, in the South, after church lets out... you know what I mean. If you haven't, do it just once, it's a real carnival! The trick is to get there before church lets out, though, so you can secure your shopping cart. Otherwise, you'll be S.O.L. and left to carry your foreign made, low cost, sweat shop treasures in your arms.
Anywhoodle, we loaded up our car with our loot and started to pull out of the parking lot when Wifester threw the car into park and proclaimed "Holy Shit! I have no brakes!" I heard the omnious sound of the pedal thudding the floorboard without any resistance and still felt the need to ask, "Are you sure?"
"Um, YEAH! Look" thump, thump, thump...
Ut oh. It was apparent that there were absolutely no brakes what-so-ever on this 2000 lb death trap.

We ended up having to call our neighbors to come pick us up so we could bring the groceries home before they spoiled. Thank goodness for good neighbors! We called AAA to tow the car...thank goodness for AAA!!!

"You see! That's just another reason to hate Wal-Mart!" I told Wifester.
But the Wifester was right, in retrospect Wal-Mart may very well have saved our lives!

It seems, according to the mechanic, that Wifester's breakline busted. I'm just relieved that it didn't happen while we were on the highway headed to or from the store. More so that it didn't happen while Wifester was on the Interstate, in rush hour traffic, headed to or from work.

And that, my friends, is how shopping saved my life.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Those were some big ole breasts!

The Wifester and I had dinner guests last night. I know, I know...we're becoming regular socialites. Now that I've moved my easel and paint supplies out of the dining room and into the back bedroom/makeshift "studio", we have a full dining room to enjoy again. So I called up my friend, Mountain Girl and invited her and her hubby, California Boy to join us for the first dinner in our new dining room.
I know the Wifester's answer any time I ask "So what should I make for dinner?" is always going to be "ENCHILADAS!" So I don't even bother asking her anymore, unless I happen to be in the mood for enchiladas as well. Since we recently had enchiladas when our soon-to-be married friends came over *waves at robin_nash and her boo * so this time, I wanted something different. I also wanted to make something that I haven't made before. I poked around on the and about a thousand recipe sites, but didn't really see anything that tickled my fancy. I knew I wanted to make something with the nice plump chicken breasts I had just bought, and remembered that I had some goat cheese...
I marinated my breasts, well, not my breasts, but the chicken's breasts in olive oil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, marjoram, and sage for a few hours in the fridge. Then I took them out, covered them with a sheet of saran wrap and beat the hell out of them with a meat tenderizer until they were flat like pancakes, maybe 1 1/2" thick...I donno. At that point, I placed them back in the marinade and made my stuffing.
For the stuffing, I cooked 5 slices of bacon, and set them aside to cool, then I chopped them up to tiny bits in my handy food chopper. I love that damned little gadget. Then, I took my little package of goat cheese, which had been sitting on the counter while the bacon cooked to let the cheese soften a bit, a couple handfuls of Italian bread crumbs, some minced garlic, some more oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage, and some salt and pepper and a little steamed, chopped spinach. I mixed this all up until it was completely incorporated together, then covered and placed it back in the fridge to let all the flavors come out. I let that set in the fridge for about two hours. I kept my bacon grease in the skillet. I'll tell you why in a few.
After the stuffing set and the flavors were peaking, I took the chicken breasts, laid them out flat, and spooned the stuffing mixture into them, then rolled them up and dipped them in Italian bread crumbs. Once all the breasts were dipped I pan seared them in that bacon grease, then set them in a glass casserole dish and baked at 350 for about 20 min. I checked the temp and my thermometer read 180 so I felt safe that we would not be suffering salmonella poisoning with this meal, and at that, I covered the dish and let the breasts rest for about 10 min while my brussel sprouts cooked. For them, I did a twist on Guy Fieri's "Bumped up Brussel Sprouts." I didn't have all the ingredients, but I worked with what I did have, and they came out great. I cut the sprouts in half, used some of those bacon pieces from earlier, some minced garlic, a few spoons of capers and some of the bacon drippings. When the sprouts were tender, I splashed some balsamic vinaigrette and viola, yummy, yummy sprouts!
The chicken, though... the chicken was so good! I've never made it before, but I guarantee, I'll be making it again! And if you like Italian spices and chicken that is tender and juicy and stuffed with yummy, yummy goodness, then I encourage you to try it too! One day, when I win the lottery and open my own restaurant...this chicken dish will definitely be on the menu!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Life Changed That Day

"You'd better come see the TV."
"One of the Twin Towers just got hit by a plane or better come down here and look at this."
I pulled the covers away from my face and wiped the sleep from my eyes, letting the information marinate a bit. I was stunned and I think in shock a little.
"What do you mean a plane hit the Twin Towers? That can't even happ..."
"It did, or something did. Come see!"
I rolled out of bed and descended the stairs to find Liliana and her youngest son huddled around the television, with a look of shock and terror on their faces. I knew instantly why she was more mortified than anyone else, her oldest son was out of the country, visiting their family in Italy, and at a time like this, you just want your family by your side, and she certainly wanted her son to be safely home, with her.
My own family was 3000 miles away, and on rocky ground with me, and I wanted nothing more than to run to their side and hug them.

As I poured my coffee and staggered my way toward the TV, I heard Liliana saying "Oh! My GOD, look at..."
That's when I saw it. The second plane hit. My knees buckled and my head spun. Did I just see what I think I just saw?
I did. I had to set my coffee down and wipe my eyes, trying to discern if I was dreaming or hallucinating or, if this was in fact actually happening.
From that moment on, my life has forever been changed.
There's a pre 9/11 America, and a post 9/11 America. That's a given, but what isn't often talked about is how our individual lives changed on that day.
I know mine did. My outlook, my thought process, my appreciation for those I love and for those who I don't even know has grown more than I can possibly measure or express with mere words.
Before September 11, 2001, I never thought that I would live to see an attack of that magnitude on our own soil, with our own machinery even.
Before September 11, 2001, I never thought that my country would return to such paranoia, discrimination, and prejudice as that which we fought so hard to overcome in the 60's.
I saw people mistaking Hispanics for Arabs and yelling foul, disgusting and obscene things at them. I saw some of the worst behavior I've ever witnessed in my lifetime.
I also saw some of the most beautiful displays of humanity. The pendulum swung fully both ways in the days following the attacks.
On the day after, September 12, 2001, my then girlfriend, the Wanderer and I rode around Sacramento and saw people standing on every corner holding candlelight vigils. Strangers holding hands and holding candles and waving flags and blotting tears.

I saw children collect water, canned goods, supplies of all sorts to send to the rescue crews.

This was indeed, a day that will stay in my memory and always illicit those thick, rigid goosebumps when ever mentioned. It is a single day, a horrific event that has helped to shape who I am and who I will be for the rest of my life.

How did September 11th change you?

self evident
~Ani Difranco

us people are just poems
we're 90% metaphor
with a leanness of meaning
approaching hyper-distillation
and once upon a time
we were moonshine
rushing down the throat of a giraffe
yes, rushing down the long hallway
despite what the p.a. announcement says
yes, rushing down the long stairs
with the whiskey of eternity
fermented and distilled
to eighteen minutes
burning down our throats
down the hall
down the stairs
in a building so tall
that it will always be there
yes, it's part of a pair
there on the bow of noah's ark
the most prestigious couple
just kickin back parked
against a perfectly blue sky
on a morning beatific
in its indian summer breeze
on the day that america
fell to its knees
after strutting around for a century
without saying thank you
or please

and the shock was subsonic
and the smoke was deafening
between the setup and the punch line
cuz we were all on time for work that day
we all boarded that plane for to fly
and then while the fires were raging
we all climbed up on the windowsill
and then we all held hands
and jumped into the sky

and every borough looked up when it heard the first blast
and then every dumb action movie was summarily surpassed
and the exodus uptown by foot and motorcar
looked more like war than anything i've seen so far
so far
so far
so fierce and ingenious
a poetic specter so far gone
that every jackass newscaster was struck dumb and stumbling
over 'oh my god' and 'this is unbelievable' and on and on
and i'll tell you what, while we're at it
you can keep the pentagon
keep the propaganda
keep each and every tv
that's been trying to convince me
to participate
in some prep school punk's plan to perpetuate retribution
perpetuate retribution
even as the blue toxic smoke of our lesson in retribution
is still hanging in the air
and there's ash on our shoes
and there's ash in our hair
and there's a fine silt on every mantle
from hell's kitchen to brooklyn
and the streets are full of stories
sudden twists and near misses
and soon every open bar is crammed to the rafters
with tales of narrowly averted disasters
and the whiskey is flowin
like never before
as all over the country
folks just shake their heads
and pour

so here's a toast to all the folks who live in palestine

el salvador

here's a toast to the folks living on the pine ridge reservation
under the stone cold gaze of mt. rushmore

here's a toast to all those nurses and doctors
who daily provide women with a choice
who stand down a threat the size of oklahoma city
just to listen to a young woman's voice

here's a toast to all the folks on death row right now
awaiting the executioner's guillotine
who are shackled there with dread and can only escape into their heads
to find peace in the form of a dream

cuz take away our playstations
and we are a third world nation
under the thumb of some blue blood royal son
who stole the oval office and that phony election
i mean
it don't take a weatherman
to look around and see the weather
jeb said he'd deliver florida, folks
and boy did he ever

and we hold these truths to be self evident:
#1 george w. bush is not president
#2 america is not a true democracy
#3 the media is not fooling me
cuz i am a poem heeding hyper-distillation
i've got no room for a lie so verbose
i'm looking out over my whole human family
and i'm raising my glass in a toast

here's to our last drink of fossil fuels
let us vow to get off of this sauce
shoo away the swarms of commuter planes
and find that train ticket we lost
cuz once upon a time the line followed the river
and peeked into all the backyards
and the laundry was waving
the graffiti was teasing us
from brick walls and bridges
we were rolling over ridges
through valleys
under stars
i dream of touring like duke ellington
in my own railroad car
i dream of waiting on the tall blonde wooden benches
in a grand station aglow with grace
and then standing out on the platform
and feeling the air on my face

give back the night its distant whistle
give the darkness back its soul
give the big oil companies the finger finally
and relearn how to rock-n-roll
yes, the lessons are all around us and a change is waiting there
so it's time to pick through the rubble, clean the streets
and clear the air
get our government to pull its big dick out of the sand
of someone else's desert
put it back in its pants
and quit the hypocritical chants of
freedom forever

cuz when one lone phone rang
in two thousand and one
at ten after nine
on nine one one
which is the number we all called
when that lone phone rang right off the wall
right off our desk and down the long hall
down the long stairs
in a building so tall
that the whole world turned
just to watch it fall

and while we're at it
remember the first time around?
the bomb?
the ryder truck?
the parking garage?
the princess that didn't even feel the pea?
remember joking around in our apartment on avenue D?

can you imagine how many paper coffee cups would have to change their design
following a fantastical reversal of the new york skyline?!

it was a joke, of course
it was a joke
at the time
and that was just a few years ago
so let the record show
that the FBI was all over that case
that the plot was obvious and in everybody's face
and scoping that scene
the CIA
or is it KGB?
committing countless crimes against humanity
with this kind of eventuality
as its excuse
for abuse after expensive abuse
and it didn't have a clue
look, another window to see through
way up here
on the 104th floor
another key
another door
10% literal
90% metaphor
3000 some poems disguised as people
on an almost too perfect day
should be more than pawns
in some asshole's passion play
so now it's your job
and it's my job
to make it that way
to make sure they didn't die in vain
baby listen
hear the train?

© 2001 ani difranco / righteous babe music

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Remembering Chopper

Amy slunk into homeroom late that morning after missing first period altogether. Her usually perfectly tousled and teased hair was disheveled and matted from the pillow's friction and I was pretty sure she still had on yesterday's clothes. Her eyes were red and puffy and she looked completely lost.
"Chopper's dead."
The words rolled off her tongue so softly that it took a moment to sink in.
I turned my full attention to her, noticing that her shoulders were slumped and face was solemn.
"What? How? Oh my god, Amy, OH MY GOD!"
The finality of what she had just told me was sinking in, and I wanted no part of this knowledge.
Instantly, flashes of Chopper ran through my mind. Chopper and Amy and I were a threesome during summer school. We stuck tight, hiding in Amy's car to smoke our parent's cigarettes and make fun of the kids who were there not because they skipped too much school, but because they just couldn't pass. The three of us were alike. We showed up on test day and aced it. Why bother showing up the rest of the week? And that's the attitude that landed us together that summer with all the kids who hated us for who we were. The outcasts. The strangely dressed, strange acting and hard to understand Others. That was us. We had each other's backs in that crowd of football players and cheerleaders, basketball stars and future wrestling coaches.
We had to, kids like us were open targets.

"Shot himself. This morning. His mom called me. He gave me this last night..."
She shoved her hand my way, which cradled a pewter dragon and wizard, Chopper's favorites.
"He told me he wanted me to have them. But I didn't know...I didn't know..."

The rest of that day was a blur. More information came in about how Chopper died. He picked a beautiful spot by the pond in the park and then blew his brains out, leaving his mutilated corpse there for some poor lady to find on her early morning jog.
I wonder if she still jogs.

I was perpetually grounded in those days, for one thing or another, and never allowed to use the phone, leave my room, have company, or do anything. I left a note on the kitchen table for my parents, asking for permission to go to the funeral, and was surprised that permission was granted.

I'd been to many funerals in my too short life already. Family and friends alike had died in my 16 years, enough that I had a couple of outfits designated for funerals already.
I picked one out and headed off with Amy to say goodbye to a bright, intelligent, and extremely humorous young man.

The funeral was surreal. There was a giant photo of Chopper, propped up in the middle of the funeral home, no one needed to see what was left of our friend, no one. We stared at the larger than life photo and reminisced about the events leading up to this. Chopper's mom was distraught beyond belief and I could hardly bare to look her way. After losing her daughter in a car accident the year before, I couldn't imagine what she must have been going through now. When the minister took the podium to conduct the services, I was relieved, hoping for some words of comfort.
As I pulled myself out of oblivion and focused in on what he was saying, I was mortified.
He told us that our dear friend, her son, would never see the fruits of heaven, and would be eternally burning in hell because he had committed the worst sin of all, suicide. To this, Chopper's mom began to sob hysterically. Someone placed their arms around her to comfort her, but I don't think it was much relief at that moment.
I turned back to the minister, who was by now in full exaltation, speaking with a zealotry I'd never before witnessed. He scared me. He told us that we were all sinners and would suffer the same torturous fate as Chopper if we didn't turn our lives over right this very moment to his Christ and if we didn't go out and save others from burning and suffering like Chopper.
I couldn't get the image of my friend, a good soul, a sweet, kind, loving person being chained in a lava filled, fire engulfed pit and screaming for help.
He was just sad. He was just a sad boy who didn't see any way out. He made a mistake. A very big and final mistake. How can this man stand here and tell us all how horrible and grotesque Chopper was? Did he even know him? Did he know the boy that would stand up for anyone who was being bullied, even if it got his own ass kicked? Did he know the boy who would give his lunch money to homeless guys? Did he know the guy who looked out for everyone else's best interest before his own? I didn't think so. Because if he had known that guy, he would never be able to stand in front of all of us and say these horrible things about our friend, her son, their cousin.

After the thing that they called a service, we got together and took Chopper's ashes to the pond at the park where he ended his life. A fitting place to sprinkle Chopper and set him free. We talked about the good times and remembered Chopper the way he should be remembered and did our very best to eulogize him in a more appropriate way than that which we had just witnessed.

I went home that day angry. Angry at Chopper for dying, angry at god for letting him, angry at that minister for all the things he'd said, angry at everyone who ever made Chopper sad...angry.
I'll never forget Chopper's funeral. I try to remember Chopper's smile and quick wit, but following that always comes the memories of Chopper's funeral. I've stopped being mad at Chopper and all the assholes that gave him a hard time. But I must admit, I'm still a little bit teed-off at that insensitive, arrogant minister who made Chopper's funeral one of the most traumatic parts of Chopper's entire, grotesque and sudden death.
I hope Chopper found some peace in death that he couldn't find in life. I hope Chopper's mom found some peace and comfort somewhere other than that awful man that presided over his funeral, and I hope that man isn't doing funerals for teens who've committed suicide anymore.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Clarity is often occluded by searching eyes

Navigating the labyrinthine entrapment that is Face Book, I've found myself reunited with so many people from my past that I never thought I'd ever see or hear from again.
It has been wonderful, scary, exciting and a bit melancholy to walk down those roads and remember these names and faces from what seems to be a lifetime ago.
It's a bit funny how time and distance grants a new perspective to everything. I've always heard and said "Hindsight is 20/20" but am now seeing a whole new perspective on what that saying actually means.
I wonder about the other friends and classmates of mine who left they look back at our hometown with the same scrutiny that I do? Do they hold a nostalgia for a home that probably never really was quite what they remember?

I found that most people, when asking about my family, are never at all surprised to hear that I only recently regained communication with them. The most common response being " I remember it was always very strained..."
Yeah, to say the least.

I think it was a recipe for a perfect storm of familial dysfunction. I was the artistic, agnostic, free spirit, liberal, budding lesbian being raised in an uber-Christian, bordering on fundamentalism, Southern -Republican, sports-centered home. Water and oil.

The Wifester and I watched a documentary last night about Cults in America. They said the number 1 misconception about cults is that people who belong to them always live in compounds. They went on to show many churches, most of which were identical to that of my parents'. They showed families who had left these churches, and entered a rehab for cult survivors. (Which, by the way, did you know that the U.S. has the highest number of religious cults of any country in the world? Many of which call themselves Christian fellowships. These are the "Religious Right" who influence lawmakers in our country and bully our Senate to vote as they deem appropriately. That's a scary prospect. )
As we watched this Sundance Chanel documentary, I was struck by the similarities between the way many of the children were raised, and my upbringing.
Finally, I looked to my Wifester and said, half jokingly " Honey, I had those same rules. I had those same punishments. I'm starting to think I may have been raised in a cult!" To which she casually replied, " Duh! I thought that was self evident."
"No," I insisted. " Sure, the church they belong to now I do believe is a cult, but I was raised in a Catholic church and Catholic school. I never thought of anything that we were taught or the ways we were punished as being in any way related to cult-like behavior."
"But the predisposition was already there, and you experienced it first hand. Later, they simply found a church in which their twisted beliefs were considered to be normal and they felt like they fit in there, that's all. But everything about your upbringing says you were subject to the same things as some of these kids that are in this movie."


It was hard for me to reconcile. I remember my parents being fun loving, joking, partying people. But I also remember the strict discipline, the religion and fire and brimstone, the constant reminders of what would send me to hell if I continued to think, act, or say...

I look at Wifester's family. They are Christians. They practice love, tolerance, and patience. They attend church. They work with the poor. But you know what they don't do? They don't abhor Wifester and I for being gay. They don't discount me as some evil demon who's corrupted their daughter, sister, granddaughter. They all welcome and embrace me into the family.
That's what Christianity is about, I believe.
Not this stuff we hear today from these fundamentalist extremist who preach to kill sinners, to hate those who disagree with them, who teach hatred and intolerance. It makes me sad that there are so many people out there looking for something to hold on to, and instead of finding something good and enlightening, something that fosters real introspection and growth, they find this virulent filth that masks itself as gospel and decays their ability to decipher logic from insanity.

I don't know how I escaped, without becoming a mind-numb lemming, I'm just glad I did.
I wish I could save them all, and show them how much happier, truly happier they could be without that fear, hate, and judgment constantly in their hearts.
Today, that is my wish to all those people who don't think they are in a cult, only because it is so hard to accept and admit that such a thing could happen to you.
I wish you a moment of clarity and an opportunity to heal.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Coincidence or Just Bad Juju

It's so hard to say goodbye to a good neighbor. They are sadly, all too often hard to come by. We've been lucky to have some good neighbors directly on either side of us for about a year now. Then suddenly, we noticed one neighbor packing up and moving out the other day.
It makes me sad for many reasons, only one of which is that there are already two houses on the street for sale, one of them abandoned and empty. The little cul-de-sac that is my home is changing. The scary thing is, who knows what kind of neighbor we'll get next. As a couple of gay women living in the South, that is a multifaceted hypothetical that I could work myself up into a panic pondering...

I noticed the fleeing neighbor in the front yard yesterday, and stepped out to talk, say goodbye, and tell him that we've enjoyed living next door to them.

That's when he tells me, "So, did you hear what happened?"
Loving to be in on the word, I pounced on that! "NO! What?"
"Well, "he says, "We've been renting that house, and we wanted to buy it. "
"Oh," I said, "We thought you had bought it." Remembering that it had hosted a sign that said Rent or Sale before he and his wife moved in last year.
"Yeah, so did we." he says.
What? My confusion surely showed on my face so he elaborated.
It seems that when he inquired about the house, the company told him that it was for sale, but he was required to rent it for 6 months, then he could begin the process of buying it. He was cool with that, and signed up. After his 6 months, he went to the company and said he was ready to start the buying process and they told him, Oh, well, actually, at this time that specific house is not for sale, but it will be in 6 months. If you want to continue renting for 6 months, at the end of that time you can buy it. So he went along.
Well, this was the end of that 6 months, and guess what? They told him the same story again, except this time, they told him that he'd have to wait a year, and on top of that, his rent was going to increase!
He and his wife decided to get a real realtor and are now buying another house. Actually buying it. But they were sad because they liked this house.
I was sad because we liked these neighbors.

When The Wifester arrived home from work and I told her the story, she said, "Wow, that's exactly what happened to the last couple that lived there."

Now, I don't know if it was the same realty company renting to that couple as was to this couple. That's asking for memory to go back further than mine is capable of. But for two different families to have the same wool pulled over their eyes in regards to the prospect of buying the same house and to both end up in an endless rental cycle? That seems to be a bit too much of a coincidence to me. Sounds like someone's rental company is practicing some bad Juju!

That's why god made Deep Woods Off

The Wifester never knew what a chigger was, that is until last weekend when we spent our wonderful weekend getaway in the cabin in the woods.

She's from Ohio where there's simply no such thing as a chigger. Queen Ann's lace grows rampant up there, and no one gets the joke about it being a "Chigger hotel."
When I asked all the Ohio relatives about chiggers, I got the deer-in-headlights stare, usually followed by "Chigger?" with a head tilt.
Finally, one aunt said "Oh, yeah, I heard a hunter talk about running into chiggers out on a hunt once, but I think he was in Kentucky..."
Yeah, I think the cold, cold winter prevents chiggers from making Ohio a home. Lucky them.
Wifester got her first, up close and personal meet and greet with the lovely mites, and is none too happy for it, I must say.
She's covered in red, itchy bumps and has a scowell across her face that would tarnish a cherub's mood.
"I HATE it here!" she protested last night, while scratching every inch of skin she could reach and simultaneously rubbing her back against the chair she was sitting in.
Poor Wifester. I've had my share of chigger bites. I grew up here, with a wooded back yard and camping and hiking my entire life.
That's why on our way to the cabin, I bought a can of Deep Woods Off, and I used it before we left the cabin, religiously.
Wifester opted not to use it, unsure of its effectiveness, or unagreeable with its odor, or just plain stubborn, I'm not sure which. Either way, she's the one covered in chigger bites, while I'm clean as a whistle. And that is why I say to my darling Wifester, "That's why god made Deep Woods Off"