Steps in the Right Direction

I saw an interesting bit of performance art the other day on the Seattle waterfront. Four people, dressed in black, wearing the masks that Anonymous has made famous, were all silently holding screens that had streaming videos on them. Upon closer inspection, those videos were of slaughterhouses, and they made me squirm.

Members of the group Anonymous for the Voiceless were working the crowd, handing out cards with more information about animal cruelty. I left there feeling horrible that I had just had fish for dinner. I hate animal cruelty. I really do. But am I a vegan? No, I am not.

However, I am proud of the fact that I eat about one tenth the amount of meat that I ate when I was growing up. I do love my veggies, and there are just so many delicious meatless options out there nowadays that meat is not nearly as necessary as it used to seem to me.

I went home and tried watching some of the videos that they mentioned in their literature. Some were too disturbing for me to sit through. Others were a bit too radical for me to take seriously, like the one that said that the domestication of animals was tantamount to slavery. (That one made me look at my rescue dog and ask him if he was happy. He gave me a big old sloppy kiss and went back to chewing his butt.)

Here’s the thing (and yes, there’s always a thing): I agree with most of what these people were trying to say. I just take exception to the way they were saying it.

Implying that anything but perfect behavior is utter failure is nothing but emotional abuse. Because none of us are perfect. None of us.

I may not subscribe to your religion, but that does not mean I’m going to hell. I may not eat what you want me to, but that doesn’t make me incurably evil. Life is not black and white. It’s shades of grey.

I do believe it’s important that we know where our food comes from, and the environmental impact its production causes. I do believe that there are a lot of moral incentives to going vegan.

I just think making me walk away feeling like sh** about myself is not the best way to convert me to your cause. We should all be praised for the positive efforts we make in any and all walks of life. Steps in the right direction are just that: steps in the right direction.

Maybe stop focusing on the ultimate destination and appreciate the well-considered journey. Baby steps are important. Not everyone is going to reach your finish line, but all efforts theretoward are praise-worthy.

anonymous

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Go Away, Secret Admirer

It happened again. Almost exactly 13 months from the last time. And it rattled me. It still rattles me.

Late at night, someone left a flower on my car here at work. This time a pink rose. No explanation. No identification.

With the motive unexplained, the only conclusion I can reliably draw is that someone was here. Right here, where I was standing now, alone in the dark. Someone being secretive.

And because all other information has been withheld from my emotional database, it becomes, intended or not, a very eerie form of passive aggression. As I said when I wrote about the first incident, the secret admirer thing becomes creepy after about the second grade. Please read that blog post for more details on my thought process regarding this behavior.

In the meantime, here’s a handy rule of thumb: If you think you need to remain anonymous in order to take action, then DON’T TAKE ACTION. Either man up, step up, and own what you do, or leave people alone.

Please.

Pink Rose

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The Limit of My Tolerance

We have reached a point of such divisiveness in this country that it’s really hard to even get through a day without disagreeing with someone. That’s fine. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. In fact, I’d find this world rather boring if everyone did.

But what is even more tragic is that we are losing the ability to maintain a respectful discourse. I blame social media for this. We are now, more than ever, able to interact with total strangers and yet remain virtually anonymous to them. For some reason, that seems to allow the more crass amongst us to be outright hostile.

My whole life, I have put up with a mountain of crap from people who make these Facebook trolls seem like punters. Because of that, rightly or wrongly, my threshold for abuse is rather high. But I do have a hair trigger when someone attacks one of my friends or loved ones. You do that, and you have then entered the no-fly zone.

I will warn you once. But if you don’t correct your course to a more courteous trajectory, I will shoot you right out of my airspace. And I’ll have absolutely no regrets about it. Because life is just too freakin’ short to put up with hostility.

This isn’t the same as unfriending someone whose posts are irritating to you. A cousin did that to me, and I was shocked by that. It’s something I’d never do. This isn’t about ruffling feathers. It’s about basic decency.

I have very little control over the direction in which this country is going, but I sure as heck can control the tone of my Facebook page. Believe that. So agree or disagree with the people that I care about. That’s your business. But do it with courtesy, or we’re done.

No Trespassing

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On Being Recognized

It’s happened a couple times before, but it never fails to take me by surprise. There’s nothing as flattering/unsettling as being recognized by a total stranger. For a split second, I feel like a rock star.

I stepped out of the bridge tower just as two women were walking past.

“Are you the one that operates the bridge?”

“Yes I am.”

“What’s that like? Is it a good job?”

“Best job in the entire world.”

“But don’t you get bored?”

“Well, I write a daily blog called…”

“Oh! Is that you? I read that! Can I shake your hand?”

Like I’m somebody, or something. It made my day.

It’s really strange to realize that your anonymous little life isn’t nearly as anonymous as you think it is. I work in isolation. I blog in isolation. And yet people rely on me to get from point A to point B, and people read what I write. Go figure.

It’s so easy for me to forget that. I spend so much of my time being silent that I forget that I am making an impact in my own way. A quiet little noise.

And so do you, dear reader. Always remember that it was tiny drops of rain, imperceptibly, over time, that carved out the Grand Canyon. We all matter.

Isn’t it great?

http _i.huffpost.com_gen_1585786_thumbs_o-GRAND-CANYON-RIVER-facebook

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On Being Anonymous

So, this happened: I got off work very late the other night. The city was relatively quiet. And there was a flower stuck in the door handle of my car.

I stopped. I looked around. No one was in sight.

I tried to let my better angel speak to me. I really did. I really, really did.

Maybe it was from my boyfriend. Awwww, how sweet! I do love flowers. But it was a single red carnation that was mostly wilted. That doesn’t sound like his style. (And sure enough, the next morning when I talked to him, he confirmed that it wasn’t from him.)

Or maybe it was from someone who likes bridgetenders. Or drawbridges. Or just some random person attempting to brighten someone’s day. Or maybe he or she saw the bumper sticker for this blog on my car, and is a fan. Well, that’s nice.

But the devil on my other shoulder insisted on weighing in, too. “Stalker,” she whispered. Or some crazy person obsessed with me. Someone trying to freak me out by invading my space. “See how close I can get to your car? And you’re alone at night…”

And why the anonymity, huh? What have you got to hide, bearer of wilted flowers? Who are you?

For future reference, that secret admirer thing? That becomes creepy after about the second grade. Reveal yourself relatively quickly (like, within an hour), or don’t do something like that. A simple note, stating your intentions such as, “I had this flower and felt like making someone smile.” That would suffice. Otherwise, even if you mean well, it becomes a power play and a mind f***. It’s not kind. At best, it’s disturbing. At worst, it’s aggressive.

Just sayin’.

Carnation

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Viral Days

It’s funny. You can float along in cyberspace, completely anonymous to all but friends and family, and then all of a sudden, BAM! The limelight blasts you right in the cornea.

It’s happened to me a few times. It’s always unexpected and seemingly random. And it feels very strange. I had one of those days recently. Two things happened at the same time.

First, I wrote a blog entry in response to something that had been posted on the website of The Stranger, a local alternative news publication that I actually happen to like quite a bit. But they stepped on my drawbridge toes, and I had to speak up about it. Out of courtesy, I shot them an e-mail to let them know that I was mentioning them in my blog.

The next thing I knew, my blog was getting a lot more views than was normal. This year I’ve been averaging 135 views a day. But on this day, I got 470 views, and the next day I had 283. What was going on?

A quick bit of Google sleuthing made me realize that The Stranger had in turn blogged about my blog! So I was getting an influx of readers from their site. They hadn’t even told me. They didn’t even talk to me about it. But there you go. A few more seconds in my 15 minutes of fame.

The other thing that happened I kind of brought upon myself. I posted pictures of my dog Quagmire on a Dachshund Facebook group page. All I did was ask folks how old they thought he was. Well, my goodness. The post has been “liked” 390 times so far, “loved” 209 times, and shared 3 times.

It’s also gotten 178 comments. The consensus seems to be that he’s “cute” and “sweet” (little do they know!) and that age is just a number. Many say that Quaggie is lucky to have me. (Yay!) They also say that their dogs started getting grey as early as 2 years old, or as late as 11, so his milk mustache is not an accurate predictor. The vet says he’s anywhere from 5 to 9 years old. The average guess on the site seems to be that he’s around age 8. (Quagmire is keeping his own counsel.)

Either one of these two incidents would have been mind-blowing. Both happening on the same day was… surreal. Thanks everyone! Now, please forgive me if I crawl back into my cyber-hole and marvel from afar.

limelight

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Outing the KKK

Back in the early 80’s, when I was 17, I was driving to a local park with an African American friend of mine to go swimming. To get to this park, you had to go miles down this rural road to its very end, then come to a stop at a T junction and make your turn. Normally this wasn’t a big deal, but on this day it was about to get nasty.

Let me set the scene: Small town Florida, where racism was not only commonplace, but rather militant; where it was still acceptable to mention that you were a member of the KKK in the high school yearbook, amongst your other affiliations, such as the pep club. And we were on a stretch of road where my friend had once been shot in the face with a bb gun by a total stranger. The fact that we were even in the same car together raised eyebrows.

And as we approached that T junction, we saw a hooded member of the KKK handing out flyers to everyone who stopped at the stop sign.

“Oh, shit, I’m dead,” my friend said. I knew what she meant. This is a small town, and she’d be recognized. They may not take kindly to her being in my car. They’d know where she lived.

“Hold on tight!” I said, and went off the road, straight at the guy. (I wouldn’t have hit him, but he didn’t know that.) He threw his pointy-headed self headlong into the kudzu. He was too busy picking palm fronds out of his teeth to recognize anyone as we sped off.

I have to say, that was one of the proudest moments of my life.

So, when I read an article that said a group that calls itself Anonymous is planning to reveal the name of about 1,000 Ku Klux Klan members, I was thrilled.  Yes, there’s freedom of speech in this country, even for hateful KKK speech, but you shouldn’t have a right to hide. If it’s your conviction, this hatred of yours, then own it. If you know you have something to be ashamed of, maybe you should rethink your philosophy.

Anonymous is apparently a group of hackers that are currently targeting the KKK, but in the past they’ve also targeted Scientology, the Westboro Baptist Church, and child pornography rings, so I consider them the good guys. I’d love it if they outed the KKK.

But here’s where it gets uncomfortable. If I don’t think the KKK should be allowed anonymity, then in all fairness, this group Anonymous shouldn’t be, well… anonymous either. Here’s the thing about facelessness: it brings out the worst in people. While this group is currently doing things that I happen to adore, it wouldn’t be hard at all for them to turn to the dark side. That’s what scares me.

So yes, Anonymous, please do shine a light on those KKK cockroaches. But lift up your figurative hoods as well. That way we can all shake your hands. And keep you honest.

kudzu

What’s a Brother to Do?

Hi! Blue here. Mom needed a day off from this blog. And who can blame her, after what my little brother has put her through?

Last night she came home after a very stressful 12 hour shift to find an anonymous nastygram on the front porch. “Your dog has been barking for the past 2 ½ hours. If you can’t be a responsible pet owner, you should leave, because your barking dog is preventing 20 different houses from enjoying their homes.”

These notes are always anonymous, aren’t they? And grammatically incorrect, too. I mean, I’m a dog and I know that houses don’t enjoy anything. And if the person didn’t have the courage to identify himself, I’m quite certain he didn’t go from house to house taking a survey to see if everyone is on the same page. And believe me, my little bro isn’t the only barker in the ‘hood.

Regardless, the stupid little mutt needs to learn to shut his mouth. When Mom went outside, he was trapped in the neighbor’s yard. That’s why he was so hysterical. He had dragged his fat butt under the fence, and then couldn’t fit on his way back. I tried to tell him. But would he listen? Noooooo…

So in the pitch black, with a feeble flashlight, Mom had to find the hole and actually dig it even bigger to get the fool back home and quiet. And now she’s going to have to buy chicken wire, yet another expense she hadn’t counted on, and add it to the bottom edge of the entire fenceline after another long day at work.

And we had it so good, too. Mom had put in a dog door so we’d be able to come and go in the back yard. But now we’ll have to be closed in again, and that’s going to suck when she has a 12 hour shift. My brother and his wanderlust seem to always ruin it for both of us.

Mom, I really try to keep Devo under control. You found my collar in the neighbor’s yard while you were digging. That proves that I stuck my head under the fence and gave Devo a stern talking to. That’s my version of events, anyway. What’s a brother to do?

Oh, and by the way, the joke is on the nastygrammer. On the tenth, the new neighbors are moving in. We’ve met them, and they’ve told us they will have three, count ’em, THREE dogs! There goes the neighborhood!

Since I don’t get to write very often, I wanted to send a special shout out to my friends Mor, Caly, and Little A! Arf!

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Generosity Makes an Impact

Recently I pulled up to the gate at a tourist attraction, stupidly surprised that I’d have to pay for parking, and realizing that this meant I’d probably have to go without lunch because in my world, every penny counts and there aren’t that many pennies available.

And then the parking attendant said, “Go on through. The guy ahead of you paid for both of you.” Now, understand that this was a complete stranger to me, and he had no idea how big an impact he was making. I tried to keep track of his vehicle during our individual hunts for a parking space so that I could thank him, but we got separated. But I’ll never forget that gesture.

I know, because it’s not the first time I’ve been the recipient of such generosity. One time I was visiting my mother in Las Vegas and discovered that at the time, about 23 years ago, you could pay 100 dollars to fly from there through the Grand Canyon, then take a shuttle to the rim, and stay in a hotel and fly back the next day. That was a lot of money at the time, but I’d never been to the Grand Canyon. How could I resist? So off I went on this amazing adventure.

Taking the shuttle from the rim I learned that the hotel was at a bit of a remove, and I was chatting with the shuttle driver to see what there was to do near the hotel that evening. We passed an Imax theater, and I said something along the lines of, “I could go to that, but how much does it cost?” He said it was 8 dollars. I probably sighed, because I only had 5 dollars. Oh well. As he pulled up to the hotel and I was getting off, he handed me a 10 dollar bill and said, “Enjoy the Imax.” I was so touched. When I got home I wrote a letter to his boss so he’d know what an amazing employee he had. And whenever I think of the Grand Canyon, I think of that man, who just wanted to make a total stranger smile.

If I ever am in the financial place to do so, I intend to pay these things forward. It doesn’t take that much, really, to reaffirm someone’s faith in humanity. Try it.

generosity_552

[image credit everynationgta.org]