Staying Out of Trouble

At the risk of sounding ultra-conservative (heaven forefend), I really don’t get it when people are incapable of staying out of trouble. I mean, I understand making mistakes, believe me. I’ve screwed up a time or two. But when you do it over and over and over again, and can practically hear Dr. Phil whispering in your ear, “How’s that workin’ for you?” You really have to wonder.

Is it about bad choices? Because I’ve managed to choose not to break the law my whole life long. It’s not always easy. I’d love to grab that brand new suede jacket and run like the wind, but I choose not to. Sure, I’d like a little instant gratification every now and then, but the first time you tried to play with a candle flame as a child, you should have learned that actions have consequences.

Is it about feeling like you have no choices at all? I can relate to that, too. I’ve lived in a tent. I’m 53 years old and I’ve only just now managed to scratch and claw myself to the very murky, sketchy bottom of the middle class. And I know darned well I’ll never be able to retire. Things are stacked against the 98%. It sucks. But at least I can look myself in the mirror.

You see, I never had much. But I knew I had integrity, and that no one could ever steal that from me. I could, however, give it away. I chose not to. Because it was all I had.

I guess what it all boils down to is what’s most important to you. Possessions? Control over others? Or your own self-worth? Maybe think about that before robbing your next liquor store. Because that money isn’t going to stay with you. Neither will the drugs. In the end, all you have is you.

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Assuming the Worst

When I was 11 years old, I brought some candy to school. They were those little, sugary mints that most kids have seen a million times. My best friend back then was kind of gullible, though, so when she asked me what it was, I told her it was drugs. I thought it was kind of funny, because by all accounts I was the most straight-laced kid on earth. I wouldn’t have a clue where to get illegal drugs. (Frankly, I still don’t.)

She saw me eat the candy, and bunch of my classmates did, too. I tried to tell her it was a joke, but she wouldn’t partake. I felt bad about that.

Then she went home and told her mother. Her mother called my house right after school, before my mother got home from work. And she screamed at me. I mean, she really, really screamed. She called me a little drug dealer and told me I was going to hell. I tried to explain, but she wouldn’t listen. She told me I was never, ever to talk to her daughter again, or I’d be in BIG TROUBLE.

So I didn’t. And that felt horrible for the rest of the school year. Then we each moved on to different schools and I never saw her again.

Lately that seems to be a recurring theme in my life– people assuming the worst of me. There has been a very sharp uptick of that since the most recent election. And it’s not even about things political most of the time. Is this the world we now live in? Hostile judgments at every turn?

It always takes me by surprise when these misunderstandings occur, because I have the exact opposite problem. I tend to assume the best of people, and then I’m shocked when they show me otherwise. So these negative assessments always feel like they’re coming way out of left field, and I’m generally so stunned that I can’t think how to defend myself.

The bottom line is that I seem to be losing people. And I can’t decide whether that’s bad or good. Where these people ever really my friends if they can think the worst of me? Should I have to work so hard to prove myself? Am I absolutely clueless as to the image I put across?

I really would go live in a cave somewhere if I could find one with wifi and pizza delivery. And a supply of sugary mints.

sugary-mints

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Merry Unbirthday

Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, is a controversial figure. Did he write the book while under the influence of drugs? According to this article, modern scholars seem to be of the impression that this wasn’t the case. And yet you’d be hard-pressed to overlook the drug symbolism, whether it be intentional or not. And was he a pedophile? He did like to take pictures of little girls, the composition of which raise modern eyebrows. We’ll never know for sure.

Regardless of your opinion of the man, I have to say he did get one thing right: He invented the unbirthday. After all, why should we celebrate ourselves just once a year? This concept holds great appeal to me.

So based on this delightful idea, I’ve created a tradition of my own. I have marked my calendar for the day of the year that falls exactly six months from my actual natal day, and on that occasion I celebrate me. I don’t ask for, nor do I expect, gifts or a cake or a party on that day. On the contrary, it’s more of a private, “me time” sort of thing. I pamper myself. I treat myself. I splurge on myself. I acknowledge how special I am.

I highly recommend this custom. In our fast-paced world, where we can so easily get lost in the shuffle, it’s an idea whose time has come.

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A very merry unbirthday to you!

Purple Hazeth, Sire

For centuries, Man has been experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs. Embarking on vision quests, shamans have made use of peyote, magic mushrooms, cannabis and other substances. You can’t convince me that some of the art we find in caves wasn’t done by someone on a massive trip.

What I want to know is how primitive man managed to experiment with these drugs without killing himself in the process? I mean, sure, some of it was probably accidental. Ingestion of the wrong (or right, as the case may be) mushroom most likely had psychedelic results. Walking past a field of burning marijuana plants was probably an interesting experience.

But some of it was surely trial and error. Holy crap though, would you want to be guinea pig number 2? I mean, picture this: shaman number 1 takes way too much of something and dies a horrible death. Does shaman number 2 seriously think, “Okay, so, now I’ll try it, but I’ll take a little less”? Not me. Uh uh.

I guess if you want something badly enough, you’ll make sacrifices for it. Or at least some people will. Personally, I’ll let someone else do the experimenting, thankyouverymuch.

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No way was this artist straight. [Image credit: thirdmonk.net]

It’s a Jungle Out There

When I moved from Florida to Seattle, one of the things that shocked me the most was the number of homeless people in this city. You’d think that Florida would have cornered the market on the homeless because the weather is so much warmer, but apparently not. I have no idea why that is.

Here they are everywhere. Not a day goes by when I don’t see dozens slogging through the rain or huddled on street corners or begging at the exit ramps. It’s truly heartbreaking, and it’s a constant reminder of how fragile financial security truly is in a city where the cost of living is completely out of control.

Ever since I volunteered with Operation Sack Lunch, the homeless situation has been in the forefront of my mind. Recently the mayor of Seattle declared a state of emergency on homelessness, and even as he was giving a speech about it, 5 homeless people were getting shot in the Jungle.

The Jungle is a mile long stretch under Interstate 5 in the South Seattle/Georgetown area. It’s a lawless, dangerous area where hundreds of homeless people sleep each night. There’s no sanitation, rats and garbage are everywhere, and you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting a dilapidated tent or a used syringe.

On the night in question, the police suspect a drug deal went wrong. The result was a 45 year old woman and a 33 year old man were shot dead, and 3 other people were severely wounded and taken to the hospital.

I can’t think of a more horrible way to end your life than to bleed out in a fetid, disease-ridden no-man’s land in the middle of one of the most prosperous cities in the richest country on earth. It’s just not right. It’s an outrage. I don’t know what else to say.

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The Jungle, Seattle. [Image credit: kuow.org]

Alternate Realities

As a bridgetender I get ample opportunity to observe people. I sit up here in my not-exactly-ivory tower, watching them come and go. Most of them don’t even know I exist. That can be lonely, but it also gives me a certain amount of power, and it’s power that I haven’t earned, so I’ve never quite gotten used to it.

People will say the most intimate things as they walk down the sidewalk. I’m not intentionally eaves dropping, but voices do carry. They’ll also do the most bizarre things when they think they’re all alone, so during the early morning part of my shifts on Saturdays and Sundays in particular, when traffic is light and most people are sleeping in or sleeping it off, I’ve seen some quite interesting things.

The other day I saw a guy who appeared to be dancing down the sidewalk. As he got closer I realized that he wasn’t dancing. He was playing imaginary basketball. His dribbling and his overhead passes were particularly graceful. His layups needed some work. He seemed harmless enough, so I let him play on.

On the contrary, shouting man seemed a danger to himself and others. He was disheveled and sucking on a marijuana pipe as he walked along, screaming and gesticulating aggressively. I was tempted to let him be as well, until he straddled the railing into oncoming traffic. That made me call 911. They showed up rather quickly, tested his drugs, talked to him a while, and sent him on his not-so-merry way. That’s the thing about Seattle. The city seems to allow obviously disturbed people to roam free instead of getting them the help that they desperately need. That’s something I haven’t gotten accustomed to. I feel sorry for all the ragged dirty people I see on street corners, talking earnestly to themselves.

There’s another gentleman who is very clean cut, and for all appearances is a functional member of society. That is, until he reaches the informational placard at the top of one of my bridges. It’s tilted sort of like a podium, and he appears to use it as such. He’ll stand there, thumping it with his hands, and speaking loudly and earnestly to the river. There’s no one else around to hear him except me. Sometimes I wonder if he really is a preacher practicing his sermon. He’s too far away for me to hear what he’s saying. Eventually he’ll hop on his bike and ride away.

For the most part I’m a live and let live kind of girl. As long as they are not inviting potential disaster on me, the public, themselves or the bridge, I just kind of shake my head and let them do their unique things. I think all of us, to a certain extent, live in our own little worlds. The majority of us are just a little more adept at keeping it to ourselves.

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[Image credit: differencebetween.info]

Dennis Rodman. Sigh.

If you are the one person on the planet who has yet to see the video in which Dennis Rodman has a full blown meltdown during a CNN interview, you can watch it here.

http://popwatch.ew.com/2014/01/07/dennis-rodman-meltdown-cnn-kim-jong-un/

Dennis, Dennis, Dennis. First of all, if you want the world to take you seriously, you might want to consider avoiding the following:

  • Appearing on television stoned out of your ever loving mind.
  • Announcing that one of the most warped, insane dictators in the modern world is your friend. This is a man who just executed his own uncle and has allowed his eerily brainwashed citizens to suffer through such an epic famine that most of them know firsthand what it’s like to eat grass to survive.
  • Implying that you know why Kenneth Bae has been held in North Korea for over a year when no one else does, because no charges have been filed.
  • Acting so stupid and out of control that your teammates who are sitting behind you look more uncomfortable with each passing minute.

But the most appalling thing that you have done, Dennis, is try to pretend that you’re only in North Korea for the basketball, and that your actions are in no way political. Sorry, dear, you don’t get to enjoy the privilege of celebrity without also having the responsibility. You are a public figure. People, God knows why, look up to you. Whether you (or we) like it or not, you are representing the United States. You are being used as a puppet to prop up an evil dictator, and you can’t say you don’t know it, because everyone with even the slightest bit of intelligence knows how much the people of North Korea have suffered because of him.

Have you broken free of your handlers and gone out in the country to actually see how the real people live? No. You’ve been wined and dined by a madman who must have supplied you with your drugs or how else could you have been so deep in a purple haze in such a highly restrictive country?

Shame on you.

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I’d rather stick my head in the jaws of a crocodile.

Apple Butter

I once asked my mother why on earth she married my stepfather, a man she never really loved, who caused untold amounts of destruction in our lives and was destined to have a negative impact on me long after his death, and she said, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Don’t all ideas seem like good ones at the time? I frittered away what little life savings I had on a really foolish investment, and now I can’t even afford to replace my ragged bed sheets. A friend of mine wanted an instant family, so he married a single mother and has spent the past 30 years trapped in a miserable relationship that is finally ending in the most vindictive divorce I’ve ever seen. I used to have a coworker who was the most charismatic people person on the face of the planet, but rather than go on to have a successful career by using that skill, she instead decided to do drugs, and now is a prostitute who is in and out of rehab.

And then there are those slow motion train wrecks that you can see coming from miles away. Women who marry men that have well established reputations for being Lotharios cannot seriously be surprised when they get cheated on, can they? And while we may be saddened, most of us are not particularly shocked when men who make their living getting entirely too close to wild animals are mauled or gored to death. And if you’re supposed to be on a diabetic diet and you don’t comply, you have to know your health is going to be negatively impacted.

But these “good” ideas insert themselves into our lives in mundane ways as well. Who doesn’t have an article of clothing in their closet that in retrospect causes them to cringe? And it’s a rare person who hasn’t been on a date that has left them somewhat less than starry-eyed.

I wrote this blog entry because I was thinking about apple butter. Whenever I visit Appalachia I always wind up buying a jar of this stuff. It’s the name that seduces me. Apples and butter sound like they’d be wonderful together, like a buttery pie filling. But I learned after my first purchase that there is no butter to be had in apple butter. It’s actually kind of bitter and rank, and I always wind up throwing this vile substance out after the first taste. And yet I buy it again and again because I’m usually hungry at the time of purchase, and because it sounds so good.

What can I say? It seems like a good idea at the time.

apple-butter

(Image credit: 100directions.com)

Why I Hate Shopping at Walmart

I do my level best to avoid Walmart at all times, but it’s insidious. It’s like a cancer upon the landscape. Sometimes you just can’t find what you’re looking for anywhere else. When that happens, I take a deep breath, try to center myself, and head to that debauched temple of crass consumerism to do penance.

My stomach starts to knot up just by entering the parking lot. Hundreds of cars driving slowly back and forth, baaaaack and forth, their drivers already entering the hypnotic zone, yet still ready to get into a fist fight if someone gets to that golden parking space that’s 129 yards from the front entrance instead of 133 yards, like the other 3 spaces they passed by.

As I walk toward the sliding doors that seem to suck you inside like a whale eating krill, I see dozens of people leaving, their carts heaped high with God knows what, plus the ubiquitous trio of screaming children. (I don’t know what aisle they go to to obtain these snotty little urchins, but for some reason that I’ve yet to discern, they seem to be quite popular amongst the dregs of society.)

As each cart-wielding consumer is shot out of the building like an overloaded cannon, in my mind I hear, “Cha CHING!” because Walmart seems to be some sort of automatic money making machine. If every person who leaves has spent 100 dollars, let’s say, that’s, well…a crap load of money. And a lot of these places are open 24 hours. You’d think they’d be able to afford to pay and treat their employees a little better.

But wait, I haven’t even gone inside yet. After running the gauntlet of Girl Scout cookie sales, American Cancer Society fundraisers, and please-will-you-sign-my-petition people, you enter what I like to call the Holy Nave. It’s that little alcove where you get your carts, and nearly get run over by people who are desperately trying to free themselves from the trauma they’ve just experienced.

One time, I swear to you, I walked in and there was a girl shaving her legs in the Nave! Carts were swerving all around her, but no one seemed to be reacting other than that. I was stunned. I don’t know what it is about this place that makes people behave as if they are in their own homes. People have been caught sleeping in Walmart. There are entire web pages dedicated to crazy things people have seen and done (or want to do) at Walmart. One woman was somehow cooking up drugs, and had been doing it all day long before she was caught. I have no idea how THAT had been overlooked, but there you have it.

So, you get past the Nave, and you are assaulted from every angle by mounds and mounds of…stuff. Things you don’t need, never wanted, can’t even imagine a use for. But there they are. Buy me! Buy me! No! Buy ME! And then there’s the mass of people swarming over these mounds like termites on a mission. I try not to look in people’s carts, because it just pisses me off. People who are clearly not financially well off, piling up their carts with useless crap, everything from swimming pool noodles to crunchy onion sticks, being active participants in their own down-troddenness. (That’s a word I didn’t even know existed before today, but it’s apropos.)

I try to get the one thing I came for and get out as quickly as possible, but first I have to detour around the people having their family reunion in the center aisle, avoid the one acquaintance that I was hoping not to see, and then come to a grinding halt in the bottleneck that is known as the check out lane.  It’s always about two miles long, and each lane seems to have either a wailing child or a fighting couple, or most likely a couple fighting because their child is wailing. I close my eyes and try to meditate, but I can feel my life force starting to be sucked out of me.

I finally deal with the long-suffering cashier and am grousing in my mind over the fact that I’ve forgotten my environmentally friendly grocery bags yet again, and God forbid Walmart offers you any option other than plastic bags because they’re just that powerful. Now everything seems to be a blur. I just have my eye on the exit.

As I drive away I wonder what type of ritual cleansing I can do to remove the spiritual stink of this experience from my very soul until the next time I am forced to do penance.

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If People Came With Warning Labels

On the drive in to work tonight, I was thinking that if people came with warning labels, life would be so much easier. But then, maybe not, because mine would be 10 miles long. It would probably include the following:

Does not suffer fools gladly. Tends to be grumpy if woken up abruptly. Prone to farting. Will become reflexively violent if her navel is touched without warning. Grossed out by tea bags, which she views as floating garbage in her beverage. Will frequently side with the underdog. Will likely become aggressive if she witnesses animal abuse. Will treat you with respect if you treat her with respect, but can curse you out in two languages if treated adversely. Passes out at the sight of blood. Prone to forgetting names. Will not do drugs or get intoxicated, so may be perceived as boring by those who are disinclined to more creative pursuits. Befuddled by conservatives. Not comfortable at parties. Often amused at inappropriate moments. Virtually incapable of insincerity. Quite willing to pay her own way, but usually lacks the funds. Actually likes reality shows. Won’t fold your clothes so don’t bother asking. Frequently accused of having an incomprehensible sense of humor. Apt to drag you to foreign countries. Can be influenced by new ideas. Works horrible hours. Subscribes to the philosophy, “Love me, love my dogs.” Keeps forgetting that one should always be fully clothed when frying bacon. Tends to avoid children. No longer has the cute behind she had at age 19. Hates to cook. Cleans only when absolutely necessary. Enjoys peace and quiet entirely too much. Practically blind without her glasses. Often loses her glasses. Hates to waste money. Not easily embarrassed. Has an annoying tendency to have no filter.

Really, what’s not to love?

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Image credit: http://www.outonlimbs.com