Once Respected, Twice Relieved

21 Sep

I left my family at the airport this morning. How do I know my wife leaves me far too often? By the fact that I trot out that garbage poem more frequently than the postal service raises the price of a stamp.

I get anxious for her at the airport with those kids. Mostly the boy. He’s ferociously developing, just barely incapable of at least 97% of the things that he wants to do, so he reacts with violence to his frustration. I could see it as behavioral issues, stock up on books (I did get one to help us teach him to stop hitting. Cripes), or I could do what I do instead: Look at him as something of a savant. Face the world and say “Shut up and deal with him, people, you’re lucky to have him.” Which is neither true nor effective, but if I use it to get better at dispassionately ignoring my responsibilities to him and the world, I could eventually win at Survivor.

My wife and I were talking about this on the way to the airport – the generally disrespectful tone of the world. Those durn kids, and all that. The “me first” generation. I do blame feminism, in large part. Feminism is where it first became popular to view equal footing as kicking someone in the balls and walking smilingly on. You level the playing field by crippling your opponent. And it gets perpetuated in all the reality shows – especially the ones that are like Survivor, set up as a contest, with a victor in the end. You notice that all you ever hear out of those contestants is “I’m not here to make friends.” No, of course not. So why is it, then, that when you get voted off, you weep like a child and are incredulous that those people you trusted could do that to you?

She – my wife – operates in pretty influential circles at a pretty influential place. She notes that the majority of occasions on which praise is doled out by peers and superiors are those in which someone has stood up and shouted someone down. It is praise of the “You really told him!” variety. We agreed that there is something wrong where the only way people are able to define parameters is through conflict. You gain respect only by displaying an ability to issue condemnation. Respect can be had through the nobler behaviors, too, but that takes years to build. The fast road is the smackdown.

They are good people, though, and she is always quick to say so. I have met many of them, and she is right. It’s nice to think of her at work every day, surrounded by people as bright and capable as they are. I’m sorry she has to come home!

Come home she will, on Monday, with the children. She has relieved me twice this morning. First, with a text that all went smoothly through security. This can be hell with the boy child. Second, with a picture assuring me that a primary pacification method is having its desired effect:

Only the actual flight left to go, and here’s hoping she comes through it intact.

We Got Us Some Orwell Up In This Piece

20 Sep

Boy oh boy, does our government have issues, or what? Between its ass-backwards stance on the mohammed movie, and its complicity in that New York Alderman’s thrashing of the First Amendment for corporate extortion, I’d say there’s reason for real concern. I wonder what this is all going to look like to my kids when they’re 37. “Freedom of Speech” will be replaced by “Trepidation of Expression.” A business license will only be granted after passing a government administered “Acceptability of Personal Philosophy” exam. Orwell would be proud.

Maybe it will just all fall prey to the cycle, and by then we’ll be in a Mildly Utopian Cruise Control, the world relatively at peace. You sort of expect a catastrophe to get us there, though. Death toll? Enormous.

It’s funny – to me, anyway – how hard my mind tries to do something other than blame Islam. Not because I think Islam should be excused. Not because of “hey, it’s not all Muslims.” Not because I think there is any enlightenment displayed by exercising the passive apologetics that we get from our State Department. And certainly not because I choose, as so many of our intellectuals choose, to identify emotionally and humanistically with the bad guy. Their “plight” deserves no gestures of affinity. Blaming the movie for what Muslims did in Libya is blaming the dress when a woman gets raped.

My mind tries to do anything other than blame Islam because I am looking for another way to see this that might be helpful. But there isn’t another way. Everything is cliche. They need a message, and the message cannot be “Sorry about that, we’ll stop drawing your prophet.” Would the White House have allowed an American “Charlie Hebdo” this week? I’m a little worried that it would not have. What do I think should be done?

A Carpet-bombing of mohammed images. Not that impotent “draw mohommed day” from last year. I mean the big boys: Time, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, NYT, LA Times, and every major media outlet in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, et al, just floods the world with images of mohammed, all with the full support of our governments. We don’t need to actually carpet bomb anyone – yet – but to get the Western World together in a show of solidarity against the disproportionately homicidal “Religion of Peace.” Our leaders at the podium with a simple message: “Here it is, Islam. Our Embassy Guards and coalition forces worldwide are weapons-free. We await your response.”

Any thoughts on what might happen?

I’m not sure that it is an unreasonable idea. Obviously it’s doable. If ever the Western World could name a common enemy, it would be Islam. If this were politics or money we could easily see reasons for various nations to choose sides, create alliances, do the World War thing. But this is a faith that is at odds with the entire world’s understanding of peaceful coexistence. There’s only one side to be on here. And ignoring them is not an option. Capitulating had damn well better not be an option. Going to war with them is somewhat difficult, because they don’t wear a uniform, and they are intermingled everywhere out there. But we certainly can show them that we are fundamentally at odds with their idea that a cartoon is worth a murder. And that if it is anyone’s responsibility to reconfigure their interpretation of the basic human right to draw a picture without being killed, it is Islam’s.

We’ll see how it all goes, for now. A careful world watches the growing conflict gain momentum, but it still feels like a sputtering, distant thing. A careful world can get snuck up on if it isn’t paying close enough attention.

A Pirate Walks Into a Bar…

19 Sep

…and he has the steering wheel from his boat stuffed down the front of his pants. He orders a beer.

Bartender says: “Hey buddy, you’ve got a steering wheel down your pants.”
Pirate says: “Arrr. It’s driving me nuts!”

My pirate name is:
Bloody Davy Rackham

Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it’s the open sea. For others (the masochists), it’s the food. For you, it’s definitely the fighting. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

My Karmatic Comeuppance

19 Sep

Now here’s a song with a not-so-deeply-disguised metaphor. I don’t have the daddy issues involved, but I’ll take the metaphor and use it here for my own purposes. I do feel like I just crawled into a small car with a sleeping lion, locked the doors, and started pulling teeth. The lion, in my case, is the day. The past 24 hours or so:

You have to understand that the last mile of my rides home is just damn near straight uphill. The first 4 miles take about 15 minutes to cover, tops. The last mile alone takes another 15. It is steep. I come home, go to the basement, and turn a fan on myself while slugging ice water. The sweat just drips and drips as I catch my breath.

Yesterday I entered the house and was nose-raped by a stench that I now recognize immediately, but have no way to describe. I am comfortable, even as a writer, to have something exist in my sphere of responsibility that I have no idea how to explain. This smell is that thing. It may be a unique reaction of the cheap cork flooring helping the dog’s urine to off-gas as it soaks in, then mingling with the still air in the basement. All I know is that it has a strength, a depth, and a power that makes it so that you don’t so much smell it, as you wear it in your nose and throat like a quarter-inch film of warm polypropylene. I hold my sweat-soaked shirt to my nose and mouth while I clean so that I don’t throw up.

Part of me hopes that the existence of that intolerable smell where a simple smell of pee should be is an indication that the dog is not much longer for this world. Moving on…

We keep the dehumidifier in my son’s room. It is damp down there, and in the 9 month Rain-ter (winter, folks) we run it occasionally to keep things safe and healthy. I also place it in the hall where the dog pees in an attempt to dry out the cork tiles after I bleach bomb the accident site. Domestic rituals, the death of self-respect.

The boy’s bedroom introduced me to another olfactory violation, this one unmistakable: Shit. BUT THERE IS A TWIST! A surprise ending! You won’t have seen it coming! There was a giant puddle of vomit on the floor, all woven through with the grass she never stops eating. So why did I smell shit? BECAUSE THE PUKE WAS ALSO POPULATED WITH LARGE CHUNKS OF HER OWN POO, WHICH SHE EATS. FML is, I believe, how the web-savvy types are saying it.

I breathed through my filthy shirt and poured sweat into the piles of doghell that I was cleaning up, and 40 minutes later I was finished. These were not tidy little puddles – there was collateral damage. But finally, it was done, and the evening allowed me to wind down a bit.

But lo! Life is not composed of single days! Misery is no simple handmaiden to the sun and moon! I awoke this morning, the tickle of a burgeoning virus in the back of my throat. Tired, slow. Not going to ride the bike today. Get in the car and go get donuts, my sickness advised. So I did, and pulled away from Safeway. But on the mat beneath the gas pedal, my heel slipped slightly. I thought “That’s odd, I wond-” and suddenly it was in the cabin with me: The unmistakable stink of strange poop. I had stepped in it on the way back to my car. 56 degrees, windows down, all the way to work.

Getting my karmatic comeuppance, I have to believe. Something’s gotta go right, soon.

On Insignificance

18 Sep

Huge solar flare! Wheeeeeeeee!

Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun with Earth to Scale

Instant reaction from all of the internet: “We’re so insignificant! We’re so unimportant!”

Er, uh, I dunno, I tend to have a pretty hard time feeling insignificant. Or unimportant. I guess there’s a distinction. I mean, I have felt unimportant before, but that was High School, when you’re supposed to feel unimportant. It’s angst, man. But since then? Been feeling pretty important, pretty significant. Even if the sun is, like, totally big and stuff. Actually seems to me that the quest to understand the universe is in all its vastness is about figuring out how we can be significant to it. Hell, I’d say that’s the primary pursuit of life – making yourself important. But that’s cool, shove your hands in your pockets and kick at the dirt when you see the enormity of a solar flare.

Oh, and when it’s a few degrees warmer than the average on a Tuesday in February, forget all that stuff up there. Blame cars. Because you may be just another insignificant speck in the grand scheme of it all, but cars – whoa, baby.

Still feeling unimportant? Have a kid. Problem solved.

Feeling too important? Start a blog. Problem solved.

I get it, though. We are tiny, and the world is ever shrinking. One of the great amazements of life is getting the chance to go back to where you grew up and wonder at how much smaller everything seems. Of course the town has grown, they all do that don’t die altogether, but your house is smaller. The street out front is narrower. That patch of forest you played Cowboys and Indians in is barely big enough to hide two adults – how did it ever hold a dozen kids? The fishing hole – yep, we had one. I don’t remember where, but I wonder if I stood at the front porch of my old house and started walking, would I be able to find it? Would something in me know?

I don’t get to find out, not yet. Work doing the thing that work does – especially when you are significant – I have had to cancel my homecoming trip. I would have left tomorrow. Bummer. I’ll get another chance here soon enough to burn a few hundred insignificant dollars flying to a place that looks much the same but seems smaller. A place where all of the old play areas are probably gone, the schools surrounded by those trailer-home temporary classrooms, the yards we passed through and lots we scampered across and every little thoroughfare we used as kids all fenced off or marked off or just plain gone.

I think if there is one thing that feels markedly different to me about the world now as opposed to the one in which I was a child, it is the prohibitiveness of everything. We wandered. We roamed. City living probably has a lot to do with this, but I don’t feel like you can just cut through the yards on your way to your friend’s house anymore. People aren’t too keen on that openness. Everybody is too guarded, too careful, too frightened. I wonder if that comes from feeling insignificant.

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