Hair Ache

I have a Sunday afternoon hair ache. As 2016 was coming to a close I wrote “Money“. Two weeks into this year as we were all making promises to do better this year I wrote 更多錢 (More Money). In May I posted “A Fist Full of Fiscal Fears“. 4500 words or so on a topic that has been burning in my heart since I was a kid. I love saying we can live on less. You need to live on less. Me live on less? How about, “no“.

Hair AcheIn 更多錢 (More Money) I promised to report back at the end of 2017. I need to spill so I don’t feel my hair ache so much. How am I doing? Terrible. I’m really good at hustling when the expenditures exceed revenue, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for FUB reasons. This, living on less when I am making a dollar an hour more than what I made in 2001, not so much.

I made all those nice resolutions about living on less right when a lot of us do. Since then I managed to pay for a flight/hotel/rental car trip for Chinese New Years, put a down payment on a redunkulous (24% for 4 years!) car loan, and not end up destitute in Mount Pleasant, SC after a road trip and hotel stay to see the eclipse. Most years, asking me to find a couple grand above my usual bills for travel would be too big an ask. It is too big an ask. I hustled, worked my ass off, and made it so.

How’s That Hair Ache?

In “A Fist Full of Fiscal Fears” I talked about the fiscal nuclear bombs set to go off in my life this spring and summer. It is the last week of August as I write this. The kids are back in school and though fall doesn’t officially start for another month we are all acting like summer is over. The bombs went off. I came out the other side still housed and still possessing my car and its loan. I made it through.

It is two-thirds through 2017. I used all my bad habits to get to this month with a better car and two big travel events in one year. So, clearly, when I want to, I can live on less. Yeah, I know, why not live on less and be a grownup? Y’know, pay down debt, save for retirement, keep my rainy day money instead of using it to buy yet more new shiny things . . . that. Tithe? Don’t say that word.

I write about money roughly quarterly. The topic keeps coming around to me and making my hair ache. This is yet another promise to actually, physically, truly be authentic when it comes to money and do what I keep saying I ought to do.

Things Work Out

Here I am again, with a Sunday afternoon fiscal hair ache on a payday weekend. One more time I don’t know how I am going to take care of myself for another 11 days. I used to start scheming, deciding who I’d boo-hoo at, pleading for money. But . . . being nearly 60 and able to work, working in fact, and the sympathy card lost its power.

But . . . as I like to say, “and then things work out“. I get in trouble and manage to come out stronger. I started 2002 a convicted wife beater, jobless, homeless, estranged from my son and his mother, and shunned by my family. As I sit in my favorite seat at Starbucks I have a house, a nicer car, better relationships with my son and his mom, and the family is grudgingly accepting the idea that I’m the titular patriarch on our bloodline. I’ve had the same job for almost 18 months. I’m doing ok.

To get here I maxed out the credit card and took money I’d budgeted for car payments to pay for my travel. Now that it is Sunday afternoon and my hair aches, I have to pay off the credit card and get back on track with car payments. I am behind with the City of Richmond so water, gas & trash collection are in jeopardy. Verizon is reminding me that I promised to pay them and I have not kept that promise. Verizon’s response? My phone is off until I pay.

Promises Are Free

Promises only gain credence in retrospect. Until they are fulfilled they are “Sed mulier cupido quod dicit amanti in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua“. So, rather than spend another 800 words convincing you that this time I really am going to make a change I’ll just say this: it’s the third quarter and I feel like I’ve failed. I accomplished a hair ache.

If only I had a house I could accomplish my goals. Once I have a car I’ll be able to get things done. I need to make more money to enable me to achieve my bucket list. I have the house. Cars have been the way I get myself around for most of my life. This job pays about 40% more than I really need. My excuses for not living on less are evaporating faster than moonshine spilled in the Mojave Desert.

I’ve said I’d live on less for years. And for years there have been seasons of fiscal storms that give me a reason to live on more. This year, though I am making a living wage, I had to replace my car, I was behind on my bills (wtf? how?) and it felt like a ceaseless march of fiscal thunderstorms across my checking account. Each of which became a reason why I’d start living on less next payday–for 40 years.

Tipping Points

The hair ache has to get bad enough that the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same. That is the tipping point for most of us. For 40 years I’ve been more stubborn, more willing to tolerate misery, than it takes to move me away from my bad habits with money. This has included being homeless more than once.

I can’t say why I am promising again to live on less or whether this promise is the one that will stick. I’ve seen many of my peers rise out of their homeless and criminal past to get comfortable only to backslide into another iteration of jail/half-way house/recovery. Will that be me? I hope not.

I am in a comfortable place. It is easier to slide into living on a bit more than what I make. Four decades of living paycheck to paycheck is a lot of momentum to overcome. But, quoting a Fellowship cliche, “nothing changes if nothing changes.”

Talk Walking Out a Hair Ache

My biggest grudge against God, against the church, against most everyone, is a failure to do as we say and say as we do. Virtue signaling is a venial sin. Don’t signal. Do. This puts an onus on myself. I am no better than those I accuse of sophistry if I too signal virtuous fiscal habits and still belly up to the buffet of first world resources possible with what I earn. Hypocrisy, more than a fear of backsliding, is what eats at me as each paycheck arrives and is spent.

It is the first day of September as I make this edit to the post. 2017 is nearing an end. The trend is toward another year of spending a bit above what I make. It is a “pick your moment” moment.

Goals for the second half: Tithe $1200.00. Pay off the credit card. Catch up all my bills. Complete Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Step 1”. So far, these promises are no better than Gaius Valerius Catullus‘ words from a lover. It’s the third quarter and I’m down by seven points. For better or worse, I’m stronger when I am losing. Will I win? Wait 4 months and find out.

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It Worked

Nobody Wins When the Violence Starts

I speak from experience when I say that once the fists fly the subject being argued cannot be what it was at the start. Now it must be about the fists or worse. There is another way and further on I’ll tell you that it worked.

It Worked
Flower Power, 1967, photographed by Bernie Boston on October 21, 1967, while he was sitting on the wall of the Mall Entrance of the Pentagon

I am sitting at a table in a Starbucks in Richmond, VA. The people around me are chatting about things important to them. I have a mug of coffee to enjoy. The HVAC system is dutifully cooling me down and evaporating off the sweat on my Eagles t-shirt. It is a pleasant Saturday afternoon. Charlottesville is a ninety minute drive from where I sit. As I drove over here I listened to reports on WRVA of a car driving into a crowd of counter protesters who were leaving the mall. One more act of senseless violence added to our legacy. WTVR reported that one person died and 19 were injured.

The event was marketed as a protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee from Emancipation Park. I’ve planted my flag against removing symbols of history that conflict with desired narratives. We should not attempt to bleach history of stories we dislike. My reasons why are explained in a previous post. That said, nothing justifies using a car to murder people.

It Does Work

I couldn’t enjoy my coffee and type this without saying something about today’s events. Violence ruins any hope of talking about symbols and signals and a desire to rewrite history in a more desirable narrative. Still, I’ve given over 300 words to something ugly that is not at all what I wanted to post today. So . . . moving on. Sorry, but I am moving on to what I wanted to write about.

I’ve said repeatedly that bullies are an opportunity to engage in creative mischief. The way you defeat a bully is to mess with his heart. Victory comes when he or she has lost his or her desire to continue the aggression. One condition of this victory is that the bully has to be capable of continuing the aggression. It is a tricky thing to do. It is not what most of us do when we feel threatened. Fight or Flee, are the two usual things.

So, an example from history and two from my own life are needed.

Flowers in Gun Barrels

The first example is from October of 1967, when a Vietnam War protester placed a flower in the barrel of a gun. Wikipedia, “When the antiwar demonstrators approached the Pentagon, Boston was sitting on top of a wall of the Mall Entrance when he saw a lieutenant march a squad of guardsmen into the crowd of demonstrators. The squad then formed a semicircle around the demonstrators, the young man in the photo emerged from the crowd and started placing carnations in the rifles.” David Montgomery wrote in a 2007 Washington Post piece that the person photographed putting carnations in gun barrels was George Edgerly Harris III.

I remember this wrong. I have it that Berkeley’s Bubble lady did this in the same time period as she faced down a company of national guardsmen who were blocking access to People’s Park. No matter, it is exactly the sort of creative mischief I speak of.

Git!

My second example is from last spring when I picked up a passenger from the Omni Hotel who said he wanted to go to the McDonald’s on Brook Road. He got into the front seat. I don’t expect you to know Richmond well enough to know that there is no McDonald’s on Brook Road. It’s cool. I’ll tell you as I told my passenger that the closest McDonald’s to Brook Road is on Chamberlayne Avenue. It’s about a $10.00 ride from the Omni to that McDonald’s One the way he decided that he wanted to sit in the back seat. So he crawled over the seat to sit behind me. And he began to tell me to turn down streets that were not on a cheaper route to his destination.

I’ve been a cab driver on and off for over 20 years. I make it look easy. When you ride with me it seems like I’m not that busy taking you to your destination. But . . . I am. One thing I am doing is deciding if I like your behavior. When I don’t your ride ends short of your destination.

This guy was weirding me out. I knew when he got into the cab at the hotel that I was doing the Omni a favor and had already decided I’d do the ride for free. It stopped being about money as he walked up to the cab. So . . . at the destination when he offered me $5.00 I told him, “git“. Not the right answer. But . . . I don’t care at this point. I want him gone. So, being something of an ass and not a very good cab driver is and was what I did. “Out! Time for you to go!” He got, cussing me out as he did. Whatever. I’m worth something more than $10.00.

It Worked Twice

#2. I have a coworker I’ve named Chihuahua. His first answer to everything is, “no.” It’s a bullshit refusal because most of the time if you wait him out he’ll do what he just refused to do. He’s also something of an Eeyore. Somehow God delights on pissing on him and him alone. Nobody knows the trouble he has seen. Also bullshit. But, you need to know these three of his attributes so that the following narrative makes sense.

I am a cube rat. I pay my bills fixing broken computers for a building populated by cube rats. My job comes from trouble. I like this. Now, to chihuahua. We got a request for web cameras from a VIP. Because some rats are more equal than others, this request got a more rapid than usual response and was handled by chihuahua. Chihuahua is accountable for the web cameras because our company sells both the thing and the service for the thing. There are invoices that must be generated for these web cameras. Stay with me, I’m getting to the point.

Our system of record is ServiceNow. Any work we do or equipment we issue has to be recorded in ServiceNow. Chihuahua refuses to use ServiceNow. He has a rats nest of paper scraps and post-its that he uses to track his work. Great . . . except paper in our digital tubes world is invisible. Only chihuahua knows what chihuahua does. When I asked him (finally I get to the story) if he had recorded his work in ServiceNow and assigned the web cameras to the VIP he said, “Piece of shit system. I don’t use that.”

Just So You Know

Ok, one more bit of back story. I campaigned to take over responsibility for logistics and inventory. Any movement of inventory affects me. The web cams going to a VIP affects me and those I answer to, “can you please update ServiceNow so it stays accurate.”

Ruh roh. Chihuahua does not like being challenged or held to account, “why should I do that. Isn’t that what you do all day? Or . . . maybe you think your stupid B-29 YouTube videos are why you get paid? Would you like to talk about B-29 videos to our boss?” Yeah . . . boom.

Now, as he said this he approached the door to my office and started to close it. This was going to be a closed door argument where chihuahua controlled the battle ground. Not. One thing the social workers tell you in domestic violence prevention classes is that if you feel trapped in a space gently try to escape. If your opponent won’t let you out then barricade yourself in a closet or bathroom or other safe space and call the cops. So, no, not staying in the office behind a closed door.

Trapped?

Thankfully, he did not. Our argument spilled into the common area outside my office. And this happened . . . he stopped barking. He was no longer on safe battleground. His trope, of being a boss lecturing a recalcitrant employee, popped like a soap bubble. Now propriety interfered with his idea of dressing me down and winning the fight. It didn’t help that I said, “the only one with a problem with using ServiceNow is you.”

I’d shut him down. +1 for me. But . . . chihuahua doesn’t give up so easy. On round two I repeated my walk through the door to my office. Once again, being in the common area outside my office disrupted his idea of being a boss. He went to his office and slammed the door shut, locking it. I heard later that he cussed out our boss and declared me to be the biggest asshole in the history of assholes. Yes, I am. My boss’ response? ✌

t’s too late to know if creative mischief would have changed any outcomes at the protest event in Charlottesville. When we are that heated it is our reptilian brain that is screaming at us to fight or flea. It takes extraordinary self-discipline to be the outlier and abstain from getting your licks in.

Bark First, Agree Later

I checked ServiceNow later and found that Chihuahua had created 6 requests for web cameras destined for the VIP. My inventory showed 6 fewer web cameras. Still a bullshit refusal.

I am supposed to ask you to seek out training in the sort of behavioral judo I practice. 1 dead, 19 injured. Too late. Except . . . the reason I have not been hurt in over two decades of cab driving is that I am weird. I do crazy shit that disrupts the usual tropes. I don’t know what that will be for you. Just . . . I keep finding ways to mess with people who want a pound of my flesh.

It’s working for me. Maybe it will work for you as well. Maybe we can tell difficult stories, keep symbols of a bitter past and do simple things like love kin, neighbor and enemy alike.

This posted after I published my piece. Worth a look:

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Heroic Misery

We exhault the ending. We don’t like the heroic misery that led to the ending. It would be awesome if we could just have the penultimate moment at the peak of victory all the time. One decapitated dragon bleeding out behind one handsome, sword wielding guy. On the guy’s other arm is a damsel no longer in distress. It’s time for the hero to return home and the dragon’s family to start plotting revenge.

Foolish Imaginings Sans Heroic Misery

We want foolish fantasies as our utopia. To be forever no older than 25, virule, surrounded by docile, willing women who fulfill our every desire, women who are Mary Magdalene in the bedroom and Mother Mary everywhere else. There will be only ecstasy, forever in the exultant moment of victory as the dragon’s head fell to the ground and his blood began searing the grassland. Never mind about the dragon. He needed killing.

We want a complete end to death and disease. No one would ever die, get sick or injured. We would all always be twenty-something invincible. All the foolish things we attempt at that age would never fail. The Earth would be Eden and free of all the signals of first world manufacturing. Our land unsullied by large scale farming that uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Everyone would have their forty acres and an ox. Ox? Yes. An Ox will plough a field. A mule? Not like an ox. Think I am kidding? Ask any Amish farmer whether he’d rather pull a plough with an ox or a mule. Thought so.

No hangovers, no escalating negative consequences from our success at achieving all seven deadly sins. No responsibility for our depravity and all the benefits. It is a toddler’s perfect world.

A Toddler’s Pastoral Paradise

One world government, dedicated to the pleasure of the peeeepul, fighting the rich and protecting us from the insults of the world. No one would hear anything that might be perceived as even slightly aggressive or a potential cause for a trigger. We could pee on the coloring books and eat the crayons and suffer no ill-effects. Our innovative way of expressing our opposition to the oppression perpetrated against us by those who would have us color inside the lines engenders praise.

Akim got into a 100 comment long thread with a few women. At the root of it was Akim’s assertion that pussy should be available on-demand. If a guy wants it women should provide. No, women would not have a say. Guy wants ass, guy gets ass. He built up an elaborate fictional world in which gestation had been offloaded to robots and women were sterilized at birth. Akim framed this as a wise goal of a future Socialist Party government. Free pussy would be a right. Free will for women would be at the whim of men.

Which is . . . stupid. Women shut down insanity like this since forever. Guys don’t have a growing child in their belly and all the resulting misery. Guys initiate gestation with sex. We get a taste of ecstasy and the woman gets a lifelong commitment to a child. Abortion? The memory of that unborn fetus never leaves the woman. Women care about sex because of the consequences to them when it works as intended and pregnancy results.

Teen Male Fantasy and Porn Trope

Akim hungered for his “should be” and refused to acknowledge some inconvenient facts. He sought solace in long-winded fantasies of a better world run by local, communal governing boards. It was a rather Maoist ideology mixed with fantasy about San Francisco’s Summer of Love.

The signals of hope & change? perf. Actual change? Can’t even. There is a political point to this. Trump voters want change. We want the chaos unleashed by attacking the career civil service, sacred cows like Medicaid, Obamacare, TANF and Social Security. A century of bigger federal budgets, greater corruption and increasingly, a government that exists only for itself is enough. We know that every coup d’é·tat means chaos and sometimes, civil war. The struggle is real, tbh.

 wait-a-minute

Now, I need to interrupt myself. I started this full of vim & verve sure that I had an epiphany worth 1500 words. I thought my political point would make it to the end of this piece. It won’t. Why? A word from God.

It was around 3am. I did my nightly wake, pee, flush, back to bed. And . . . God picks this moment to remind me that I still carry resentment from a single kickball game when I was eight. I’ve not been to the gym in three weeks. I have tons of good reasons why. They are all bullshit. This, a bitter root from my youth, this is what God showed me. Shit. Busted.

Epic Fail Heroic Misery

Old Wounds

So, a confession. I am averse to misery of any sort. Yeah, big woop. Not exactly news, that. I have used my heritage and position to belly up to the buffet of pleasures possible in my place and day. Asceticism? Oh the horror. Never.

One more thing to confess: I was teased just enough in grade school when trying to play kickball that I made an oath that I would *never* be caught playing sports. There is a medical reason for this. I have a hand eye coordination problem. Or . . . I did. Sometimes my brain tries to get my body to do something and it doesn’t go as intended. There were enough embarrassing fails as a kid that I’d rather dissolve into shapeless meat inseparable from an easy chair than do anything that requires hand-eye coordination and sweat.

Yes, that 5 years when I did Aiki Jujitsu did happen. The things I learned in that 5 years still help me. Deep down there is still that little boy who is embarrassed and wounded because the kids laughed when I tried to kick the ball and whiffed it. The same little boy who got pranked and ran the football to the opposition’s goal line.

It Needs Killing

So, there it is, the dragon that must be slain. I have to heal that little boy within me that swore off recess and kick-ball because of a couple minutes in my youth. I can’t say I am not an athlete. My rank in Jujitsu belies that. But, as my sixth decade approaches a life-altering choice is before me. I can spend ever increasing amounts on medications and incantations and doctors in an effort to get this glutinous body healthy or I can get myself to the gym and recover my former athletic self.

The easy chair will remain. Every day the choice is there: endure some misery for an hour or so at the gym or let the easy chair eat a bit more of my health. On this last visit to the doctor my A1C score was down a full point and I had lost some weight. I’ve not been to the gym in the last two weeks. When I was going my weight was under 230. It’s over that now. You can’t ask for a more concrete proof of whether exercise works. Work out? Weight and blood sugar scores fall. Collapse in to the easy chair? Things move the other direction and I die a little bit more.

Six miserable, one joyous

None of this is news. There are 7 major phases to an archetypical hero’s tale. The sought after exultant victory is achieved only at the end, after the hero almost dies. For six out of the seven phases there is misery of one sort or another. The story is a tragedy until the very end. You can’t accomplish the penultimate victory over the dragon without going through phases 1 through 6. Training is tortuous. If it isn’t hard you are not putting in enough effort. But . . . enough platitudes. I can spit out tropes and slogans with the best of them. The measure of whether I will win the battle with diabetes is still to be told.

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Run! Felina Run!

Run! Felina Run! It’s what was in my head as she told me about the pendejo who had invited her to stay with him on a visit to Richmond.

He was all that. He called himself Akim Kogan. Former addict, 6 years clean and sober !with tokens to prove it!, ex-felon on a long list of drug charges, tatted, long-haired, bearded, beyond 29, divorced, said all the right twelve step slogans . . . catnip for Felina. All good right?

Family Drama

We will get to that. I want to interrupt Felina’s nightmare. Jolana, it seems, has blown up this family gathering in South Carolina. My plans to chill with a cooler of beer in a hotel room have morphed into a tree-killing spreadsheet detailing everything Jolana wants in an epic family reunion. Lina has begged off and made plans to vacation in Kentucky with the in-laws. Way early on, Karelma dismissed the “let’s go total hippie and camp out in a farmer’s field in Oregon” plan. Merida will only see about half the sun covered by the moon. For Karelma, enough. She hasn’t been home with the fam in a few years. Between Jolana’s insistence that everything be perfect in Oregon, wait, sorry, South Carolina and missing the fam, Merida was an easy choice.

This event is wired to explode the way Jolana is rigging it. It *has* to go letter-for-letter the way Jolana has it planned on on her spreadsheets. It’s not going that way. My Dad, firmly attached to his baby-girl Lina, will be camping with her in South Carolina. So, there is that. I sort of like the idea of not going to South Carolina. Save for my Dad, the fam is finding other places to be that weekend. Because of my Dad I will also be in South Carolina. Tito will be with Lina and her in-laws in Kentucky. There is a Felina connection to this. I invited Felina and bae to use the other bed I reserved back in January. This ought to be good.

Bae Issues and Akim

Back to Felina. Felina and bae had an epic, bipolar fueled battle. Bae was evil on his face. He was the worst boyfriend ever. He should do the world a favor and just eat worms and die. Because . . . dirty dishes at the start. Felina’s Mom was also in Richmond lately. Felina’s Dad passed a few years before I met her. Good man, good life, but he went home to God after a battle with emphysema and heart disease. Felina’s childhood home in Puerto Rico was always a rental and without her Dad to keep the rent paid her Mom got behind. Plus, Felina’s Mom had the usual storm cloud of old people problems.

Felina had convinced her to buy a house in Richmond. No, I am not going to go down the rabbit hole of how a poor Puerto Rican woman of Catalan descent qualifies for a mortgage in Richmond. Ok, just a little: remember the Shrub era mortgage crisis? Yeah, that. So, taking care of Mom meant periodic runs to Richmond. Though, this being Felina, things with Mom tended to be stormy. Felina needed a place to stay while visiting Mom and Akim had been in her ear about how good it would be to see her. Bae’s geo-locus within 50 miles was suspicious because . . . dirty dishes at the start. She had to go somewhere. Akim was the Colonial Heights somewhere.

On a Warm Summer Night

Still Not Asking for It Run! Felina Run!It was fine for a couple nights. Night 3 there was tequila and roast chicken and an impressive sounding, long winded speech about how capitalism was evil on its face; including a dreamy vision of a utopian world in which no one ever got sick, never died and never aged beyond 27. Sex was easy, drugs were easy and the Internet was a government funded civil right. ‘cuz Felina and maybe he had a shot. She remembered bits and pieces of a rant about women weaponizing the word, “mansplaining”. There was something else about “rape culture” being a fraud. Akim didn’t get the irony of him mansplaining rape culture to an abuse victim. He was feeling his alpha dominance. Felina was feeling a need to sleep behind a locked door.

Sometimes You Need More Than Locks

Felina grew up Catholic so this New Age pseudo-Jewish drunken preening just weirded her out. Felina got off the couch, went to the bathroom to pee before bed and then to the extra bedroom. There was no hint from Akim that he was a prick. She slept with the door open.

I got a text message from Felina that she wanted to talk about a situation. That can’t be good. Then nothing until the next day. She and I had talked about giving her tanning bed time at my local gym. That turned in to a request to be picked up from the Pony Pasture in James River Park.

We headed to the Fan where Inger was crashing with some friends. I’m not used to having Felina cry. Usually she unloads a manic rant that runs 5-10 minutes and then either she’s at her destination or she gets quiet and falls asleep. This time there were tears. The makeup became a mess, “I trusted him! He’s been so good on social media. I stayed with him before and it was fine!” Still nothing on why Akim had gained a spot on Felina’s shit-list.

 A Level Down

This is what came through the tears. She had gone to sleep before midnight. She woke to find Akim’s hands on her. Another pig getting off by touching her. I heard this and wanted her to punch him in the balls. Make him hurt. She didn’t do that, “I went possum. We didn’t have sex or anything. I let him finish. He left the room and the next morning was all happy and shit. He had coffee, scrambled eggs and home fries ready for me. I hate eggs. I am vegan.

It’s a trope. Why don’t abuse victims stand up for themselves? Why didn’t she beat the shit out of him the first time he tried to hurt her? Some do. There are women that go to jail for defending themselves. Felina is not that woman. For all her fire she carries unspoken core beliefs about men that leave her vulnerable. She’s had men trying to get with her since she was a child. She’s internalized this intrusion as something men need of her. Men need sex. They need women. She is helping them. To which, I’d say, “Not like that!

A lot of the talk on the ride to the Fan revolved around boundaries. Maybe it was ok for him to touch her. Maybe this was a polyamory thing and she should have fucked him. Akim was older, wiser sounding, claimed a strong presence in the cube rat and bill paying world, a girl could do worse. He wasn’t as bad as the bicho she knew as a girl. Through it all I kept hearing things about bae that made me like him and his family.

Forgiveness Includes Justice

We talked about forgiveness. One thing about that. Forgiveness is not also foregoing justice. Where crimes have been committed the perpetrators need to be held to account. Felina, being firmly in the black-market, off-radar world, can get justice but it won’t come from the cops. The place where Akim is vulnerable is his carefully crafted beard that keeps his criminal truth ignored. I’ll never know if Akim escaped consequences. It’s not the sort of news you tell in Felina’s world. Shit just happens.

A bit about bicho. He’s not just guilty of sexual assault. He owns a sex-train of broken hearted single mothers whom he seduced and abandoned. All this free-love has accrued multiple child-support obligations that he has not kept current. Most of the cube-rat beard is a front. It won’t take much to break the spell and cause him some ugly karma.

We got to her friend’s house in the fan. The house was dark. Door knocks produced no response. After a few minutes I saw her disappear into the alley. She came back a bit later clutching a note. The friend had gone out with Inger and other friends to The Camel and would be back later. Felina had a key to let herself in.

There is no pithy wise ending to this. Stories like Felina either work their way around to a happy ending or they don’t. I pray that Felina and bae figure it out, take care of bicho, and settle in to being a good life, mayhaps back on Puerto Rico. Time will tell.

Last thing, a link some may need: RAINN. Don’t suffer in silence. Ever.

 

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Never Forget

Never Forget is not what we are told. We are to forgive and forget. That lives alongside, “Aquellos que no pueden recordar el pasado están condenados a repetirlo.” Third, to understand Christ, to grock this 2,000 year old movement of dissident Jews, you have to understand two things. The first is our history. The Bible makes no sense at all without knowing the history of it. The second is that the Way of Jesus of Nazareth is a deeply political movement. The bible is a political document. Our commissioning narrative is of three political dissidents martyred by Rome for crimes against Caesar and Judaism. To denude Christians of politics is to willfully deny the reason our movement started. The Jews wanted a revolution to overthrow Caesar. Jesus and his followers fomented a revolution within Judaism that continues today. No history and all of it is utter nonsense.

Some tails wishing to wag big dogs want to us to forget particular narratives in favor of their own. They stomp and shout in circles around memorials to the Confederate Army and insist that all symbols of the Civil War be removed from public view. History must be purified of the bloody stains left on it by White People.

So, by that premise, Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery is a stain on the national narrative that ought to be erased. Exhume the confederate soldiers buried there burn their bones. Every gravestone ground up into gravel for concrete to build housing and factories for the peepul. Collective farms can be made on the recovered land after the cemetery is destroyed.

Once forgotten, history can be repeated. Once the memorials and monuments are gone it becomes possible to pretend that the dark days didn’t happen. We will have a pure history correct in its details. There never was a Civil War. A peepul’s paradise can exist where the bitter memory of the War for States Rights once stood. The story can be killed because the tangible symbols of it are replaced by utopian land redistribution schemes. Things will be better once the story is dead.

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New Orleans Robert E Lee statue never forget

Further, these same tails foment a zealous nationalism that justifies violence and discrimination against their enemies. White People are innately racist and evil. White People stole land from brown people. Steal the land back and give it to designated brown people based on need. Every WASP oppresses somebody simply by being alive. The country will be better after we cleanse ourselves of WASPs. So, rinse repeat the genocide and turn the world deep brown.

The City of New Orleans recently removed the statues of General Robert E Lee and others. Charlottesville is considering similar measures to remove the statues of Civil War luminaries. If we don’t have to look at the symbols of slavery then somehow that will accomplish the goals of those who still carry angst because their ancestors suffered evil at the hands of White People.

Next, I know I am repeating myself. I am not the first to say this either. Those who nourish their angst for the sins of others keep themselves in pain. There is freedom in forgiveness. There is power in compassion. This is some old blah, blah, blah. You know this. And yet we still have those who claim it isn’t over, that they are owed their pound of flesh.

Auschwitz never forget

Never Forget

We must forgive. We must also never forget. Auschwitz-Berkenau must remain standing. Here in the South I want us to build memorials and monuments to our history. Richmond’s Lumpkins Jail is a parking lot today. We should rebuild it as a memorial so we don’t forget.

There have been purges throughout history. 秦始皇 through genocide and massive destruction of extant books, attempted to have history begin with him. Though he was successful some knowledge of Chinese history predating his dynasty survived. Words and story have an immortality difficult to suppress. The monuments may be gone but the memories and stories survive.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution was an attempt to purify China. Mao sought to bleed out capitalism so that nothing remained save for the revolution. It was a decade of brutal persecution that crippled China. As I listen to the Black Lives Matter folk and other nationalist movements among brown people I can’t help but hear an ache for an American Cultural Revolution to purify us of our WASP oppressors. We can begin in the South with the monuments remembering the War for States Rights.

In Praise of the Lowly

My Jesus was a no-account carpenter born in Bethlehem and hailed from Nazareth. He was the bastard child of Joseph and Mary. Everything we tell of his life is a farce of the Holy Roman Emperor. There were many before him and many since who died at the hands of genocidal kings. Their stories are forgotten. Jesus of Nazareth is remembered. His martyrdom is a cornerstone of our Reformed faith.

If we did as many suggest, and set about removing all traces of art remembering Christ we may make some headway at erasing him from history. Christians were a dissident Jewish rebellion against the Hebrew church and Rome for over 400 years. The mightiest empire in the world at that time tried to destroy us, to wipe the memory of Christ clean. Jesus must be forgotten. He is remembered. Rome fell, the church remains.

Immortal Story

Killing words is much harder than killing people. Story outlives genocide. 秦始 failed to destroy the words so we have 道德經 from the memories of those who followed it and survived. Mao’s genocidal attempt at making a purely Communist China lasted a decade. Mao died, communism has been sullied by capitalism. Where the virulent weed of capitalism has taken seed it has exploded the wealth of those infected by it. After all that there are Jews in Germany. That went well.

Never Forget

Finally, I want us to remember. I want the ache of what was done to stay so we remember why we must continue to forgive. Lucas 6:27, “Pero a ustedes que me escuchan les digo: Amen a sus enemigos, hagan bien a quienes los odian” means nothing if we have erased the memory of why someone is an enemy to us. Instead of taking the Confederate Monuments down we ought to restore Lumpkins Jail and other sites so the whole story is remembered.

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A Fist Full of Fiscal Fears


I need to talk about money bad. I need to talk about my fist full of fiscal fears. This has been true for years: I explain how much I make and how much I spend and it doesn’t add up. A living wage for me is about $14.50/hr. It’s been that amount for at least a decade. I worked at CapitalOne for a couple years, lived in a hotel and made $14.00/hr. A big reason for pursuing a leased house was to live cheaper in a better domicile. The hotel cost me roughly $900/month. My house with all the bills costs about $150.00/month less. So, do I have that $150.00/month? I do not.

A Fist Full of Nothing

Where is it? If I had put that $150.00/month in a savings account I’d have $4500.00 in principle. Dave Ramsey talks about having $1,000.00 in cash as a reserve. After paying off your debt the next step is 3-6 months of cash reserve. Assuming it costs me $2200/month to live, I need at least $6600.00 in the bank after becoming debt free. That $150.00/month cost savings is 68% of what I need in cash reserves. I have $500.00 or so.

I haven’t answered the question, “where is it?” Where is that $4500.00? Gone. Spent. On stupid stuff. $4500.00 of FUB.

Promises, Promises

As I type this I am a month behind on my utility bill with the city, I owe almost $400.00 on my cell phone bill and I don’t have the rent money due this week. My car’s inspection sticker expired last October and I have three traffic citations accusing me of driving the Impala with the expired sticker. The car needs another couple thousand to make it right even after spending $3,000.00 on repairs. I owe $540.00 on my credit card.

What I say to everyone is that I am broke. I can’t afford to do the responsible things with my money. Doing the right thing has to wait while I put out one more fiscal fire. I keep putting this off, telling myself that I’ll take care of it once I have a job that pays enough. Just a little longer and there won’t be so many fiscal fears and fires to deal with. When things are better I’ll do the right thing. I’m on the far side of my mid-fifties. Hillel, “אם אני לא לעצמי מי הוא בשבילי? ולהיות עצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, מתי??

I promised as 2016 came to a close, to tithe more and save more. It’s what you do when in the company of a case worker. You say the right words about doing the right thing while knowing you are lying. I am tithing less and letting the calls from collection agencies go to voice mail. My promises mean less than Catullus’ words from his avid lover.

 

The Fist Full of Fiscal Fears

One more thing. A couple months ago I maxed out my $750.00 limit on my credit card. Then I made my plans for a trip to South Carolina based on having sufficient available credit. If I didn’t pay off the credit card the South Carolina trip falls apart. So, I started paying $50.00/week and more toward my credit card balance.

The Impala needs too much work. Court dates on the Impala start next month. I need a car before returning to court. There are still bills that need catching up. It is the end of May. My employer is converting me from a temporary worker to full-time. I have fiscal nuclear bombs exploding in my life for the next couple months..

I’ll be getting paid twice a month instead of every week. I won’t see a paycheck until late in the first month. Rent, the utility bill from the city, my cell phone bill, and my light bill, all have to get paid twice in a few weeks to avoid the sort of fiscal nuclear bomb that would put me on the street. Plan for that? No. I ain’t got no plan for that.

Mo Money Mo Better?

Oprah discovered this. It is an easy slide up the economic scale. As income increases we expand our lifestyle to consume the increase. New vistas and possibilities open up as our income climbs. Some of us make polite sounding noises about the increase not changing our lifestyle. Right. Pay cash for a bucket list car? Why thank you, I think I will.

Each step up we say again that we are entitled to the shopping list made possible by the new economic level. It gets easy to forget the old roach and rat infested third floor walkup with hissing steam radiators that only seem to work in the summer. Cash for a genuine Rolex? Definitely.

Yet, when we lived in that dump and rode the bus we made ends meet. The budget balanced because it had to. Now that we have arrived and can buy a watch equivalent to over a year of wages our budget doesn’t balance. Mo Money isn’t on its own mo better.

Money won’t fix it unless you get at the underlying reason why someone can’t keep it together. I have to do the work to heal my broken relationship with money. If I stay the same then my post in December of this year will have nothing to show for my added $900.00/month.

The Challenge

Jesus tells us to take nothing with us. God provides for the sparrow. How much more will he provide for us? We live in an empire that is a top ten all time wealthiest. Our first world life affords us a base-line lifestyle most of the world envies. The challenge is to live a frugal life in this cornucopia of indulgences we bathe in.

This is my challenge also. To live a $15.00/hr. life while earning $5.00/hr. more than that. Resist the natural growth in lifestyle available because of the extra income. My history on this does not bode well.

Jesus Doesn’t Deserve This

A thousand words down and I finally come out with it. I have a huge problem with giving money to the church. I’ve held this grudge since I was a kid. You read pieces of it here. I don’t like blindly giving fish. I wish we in the west would slow down before we fly 10,000 pounds of rice over the African Savannah and push it out of the back of a C-130 because of that doe-eyed kid we’ve all seen in UNICEF TV ads. So much of what the church does with tithing bugs me. I give to the church grudgingly, when I give at all.

I am still a fan of Robert Lupton’s, “Toxic Charity” and Dambiza Moyo’s, “Dead Aid.” I want the church to be smarter about how it does missions and service. Just doing resource dumps is stupid.

But . . . countless times in my nearly three score years the church has had my back. There are many in a number of congregations who are angels to me. It wasn’t always cash. Sometimes it was strong words or prayer. Everything done for me was done without an overt demand for compensation.

I.O. Him

Name for me another organization that would provide food, shelter, mental health services, transportation, access to medical care, religious education and fellowship for free. Where else can you find a scholar deeply educated in scripture who will give of his time free of charge? Grocery store gift cards.

Is the church sinful? Yes. It is filled with people. People sin. Not all people. Enough people to make the two word premise valid. Churches are filled with messed up people who did some fucked up shit. These messed up people are there because something drove them to seek revolution in their lives by following the way of life evangelized by a no-account carpenter from Nazareth who was martyred over 2,000 years ago. 2,000 years is a long time to not screw up.

In 2,000 years, have Christians ever done anything to anger others? Have we sinned? Every damned day. So, I, along with many, who get self-righteous and point angry fingers at the church, need to check our selves. Since when did we gain the right to stipulate that we are without sin but those guys, those Jesus freaks, well . . . they are evil. It is not credible that I could justify my resentment and miserly contributions to the church because those guys don’t deserve it until they come correct.

Money Bull Sh*t

Right, so here we are. The right thing to say is, “I am sorry. I’ll start tithing more diligently.” Those words are crap. What we both know as I type this is that I still have some forgiving to do. I owe the church the recognition of what it has done for me for free in the form of a stack of Benjamins. I ought not continue to judge. My cries of poverty are bullshit. I’ll let you know how it went in December of this year.

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Good Cab

Bad Cab

Oakland in the 1980’s was a bad place for a good cab. Taxi Unlimited was a front for marijuana growers. Transportation was a side business for the collective. Providing a beard to growers so they could launder money was its primary function. Even with that it failed. Dianne Wallace’s Taxi Taxi was a good faith effort at running an ethical and well managed cab fleet. She failed because the margins on the cab business are in the single digits. She was a single Mom trying to raise four kids by running a cab company. The family got through but not without damage. Bay Area Cab was shut down by the cops because it was deeply in bed with cocaine dealers. Friendly Cab replaced it and replaced Black organized crime with the Patels. Same corruption, different kings.

This is the milieu I brought with me to Richmond’s Napoleon Taxi. I came from a corrupt cab business that only cared about getting paid. The drivers I worked with in Oakland made sport of cheating, stealing and lying. The cocaine dealers paid rewards to young gang-bangers for robbing and killing us. I had to make a living with murderous customers and enemy coworkers. Punch line? I got very good at my job. I was a top earner in a market that fought me. Napoleon Taxi, in their training, felt like a breath of fresh air.

Like a good newbie I did the pre-shift checkout of the cab, got indignant when the night driver didn’t bring me a clean cab, complained about maintenance issues, and dutifully filled out all assigned paperwork. I did ok, with one week bringing in over $800.00. Then the old habits from Oakland crept in. I stopped doing pre-shift. I discovered that if I kept a handwritten waybill I didn’t need the separate lists of account work. After sending an e-mail notifying them of a problem with a cab and seeing that the e-mail was met with crickets my old cynicism about cab maintenance came back. It began to feel like Oakland and the ruthless indifference I remember.

Back Street Story

That’s the back story. Add to it my melancholy/choleric nature and it is surprising I wasn’t worse. This brings us to the triggering event. I did ok. I got myself ready, got to the garage on time, got a cab, got in, did a cursory check of the inside of the cab–meter works, tablet works, credit card machine works and has receipt paper, cab appears to be clean, good to go. Signed on, got my first fare, start driving to it and . . . discover a cell phone laying on the passenger seat.

Now, if you leave something in my cab you will probably get it back. But . . . you will get it back when I turn in the cab at shift-change. The twelve hours I have are worth $25.00/hr. to me. Returning your lost crap costs me money. No, I don’t want you to pay me to drive to your location and return your shit. You can wait. Unless . . . how much are you offering?

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More things you need to know that help you understand why it ends up that this person could not wait. I was driving her cab. She owned it. She had done a night shift and had gone home–without her cell phone. The girl is one for whom her phone is a body part. Any time without her phone is like an arterial bleed. She *has* to have it. Addiction? Maybe. Only she knows that.

What this meant for me is that her phone starts ringing incessantly. Then it starts making noises different from a ringtone. She’s sending texts to it. Then my dispatcher calls me. I am to bring the phone back to the garage right ricky tick. No offer to find another cab for my fare. Nope. No consideration for the money I have to hustle that much harder for if I cancel this fare. This feels like Oakland again. So, I pick up the phone, reply to a text saying her phone is safe and to stop calling/texting it. Crime #1.

Crime #2

At the start of my shift I noticed that the brake pads on the left front wheel had worn down to metal-on-metal. This is something that can ruin suspension parts if it isn’t fixed. Folks, when your mechanic says you need brake pads, let him change the pads. It’s a lot cheaper than paying to have your suspension and drive train parts replaced. The cab company had put off replacing the pads so that now the pads and rotors needed replacing. I also noticed that the power steering was noisy. This could be as simple as being low on fluid and as expensive as a new steering rack and pump. But, it worked well enough that I could drive the car. Last, a third of the way in to my shift the transmission started slipping in first gear.

I reported the brake problem. I did not report the power steering problem or the transmission problem. In my Oakland days we would drive the wheels off of a cab. There is a reason sane people never by a car that used to be a cab. Us, the drivers, have wrung every inch of life out of that car. It is a new thing to me to have my cab company yell at me because I ran a cab for a shift when I knew it had serious mechanical problems.

My Defense

First, there are no fucks I’ll give to anyone I encounter in the cab business. Highest on my list of people for whom I have no empathy are fellow cab drivers. I learned my business from drivers who made sport of lying and stealing from each other. I am a mean cab driver. Next highest is my passengers. The quickest way to end my interest in your money is to cross the line between me and my customers. Somewhere equal to drivers is my opinion of cab company management. I’ve had to learn that Richmond is different from Oakland and I don’t have to be so mean.

Am I interested in the content of another driver’s phone? No. I gain nothing by knowing who her Facebook friends are or what her recent call history is. What I wanted is to get this annoying woman and her damned phone out of my cab so I can make money. But, according to her, I am some pervy voyeur who gets off on going through the phones of female cab drivers. Yuck.

I don’t have a defense for why I kept my cab on the road for 12 hours when I knew it was busted. The last thing I want is to come off the street and give up my time to getting the cab fixed or getting another cab to finish my shift. I’d rather drive it until it catches fire or needs a tow. Is this bad? Yes. I still do it.

Good Cab

The thing that is so odd to me and so good is that Jonathon of Napoleon Taxicab gives a shit. He cares. I got yelled at because I’d not followed policy. In Oakland, nobody cared as long as you paid for your shift. Richmond is different. Napoleon Taxicab is different. Napoleon still believes in bringing a better experience to their customers. I am happy I got chewed out and had to apologize.

Someone asked how a cab company can compete against Uber. It’s pretty simple. Uber is not a transportation company. It is a technology company that invented a way to order a ride through a phone. Their app is awesome. One problem–the quality of the car ordered and the driver working is a bit random. Uber assumes that they can overcome the skills gap of untrained drivers with their app. They assume wrong. Cab driving is a skilled trade that takes years to master.

We make it look easy. You get in a cab, mumble something about Social 52, and in a few minutes arrive outside the restaurant door. In the ten minute ride you might have confessed things that would make a priest blanch. We never skip a beat.

It is Not Easy

It’s not easy, though. The shifts are long, the pace is fast, and we can’t eat well or use the bathroom without consuming valuable time and money. We are expected to memorize thousands of addresses. We know that the Jefferson Hotel is in downtown Richmond and not in Jefferson City.

The job is dangerous. We drive around with our earnings for the shift. Cash accumulates on our person. Some see us as a mobile ATM. You threaten/hurt us and we give you money. This year a Napoleon Taxicab driver was murdered. We drive a lot of miles. The odds are in favor of us wrecking and hurting our passengers. We are expected to beat the odds and never wreck. We do beat the odds, mostly.

You would think that driving people from origin to destination would be an easy job. You would be wrong. Plenty try and fail. Napoleon Taxicab is one of the rare few who do it right.

 

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Ellipsis Sh*t

I want to like Verizon’s Ellipsis brand of tablets. I bought two. Both suck. The first Ellipsis tablet I bought was the 7″ that came out on Black Friday in 2014. It was ok enough. There is one flaw, however, that causes me to hate it. Verizon asked for 1GB of app space in the design and did not allow said app space to be expanded. The only way to change or update the apps on it was to wipe it and carefully load each app one by one until the app space was full. Then, because the app space was full, it would stop working. The ellipsis 7 is now my son’s problem.

It’s been 3 years. I like the idea of a tablet as a portal for consuming content. I want it for Kindle Books, Google Play Music, and Netflix. The third generation Ellipsis tablet, the Ellipsis 10, is available from Verizon for $99.00 on a two year contract. I signed the contract. I own a two year agreement to pay for a data plan on a tablet that sucks.

This site is not a tech toy review site. It is a whiner and complainer site. There is good news in the world. The sun does shine and because it is spring, there is another round of budding life. We don’t care. The Verizon Ellipsis 10 isn’t a complete disaster. Or is it?

The Data

Display: 10.1” IPS LCD 1920 x 1200 224 dpi, with light sensor and oleophobic coating.
Device Type: Tablet
OS: Android (5.1)
Camera: 5 megapixel rear, 2 megapixel front, 1920 x 1080 (1080p HD Video)
Hardware: ARM Cortex-A53, Quad core, 1500 Mhz
Battery: 9100 mAh
Connectivity: LTE Categry 4, Bluetooth, WiFi a/n, GPS, A-GPS

For Demo

The screen resolution is low. The storage capacity is 16GB. The version of Android is old–Lollipop. The sound is bad. It’s slow. There is no flash on the camera. The camera is some boomer-gen pinhole thing not worth the silicon it is made of. Low light performance? Please. You can’t add more than 32GB of Micro-SSD storage when a half-terabyte can be purchased for $70.00. It is heavy. I always buy cases and screen protectors for my devices. The case weighs enough on its own. The case and the tablet together feel like concrete shoes. Thin & light? Not this thing.

ProTip to those choosing products for a brand like Verizon: whatever specifications you feel you need? Double those. Three years ago 2GB was not enough app space and you asked for 1GB. This year you sold me a 16GB tablet when there are 32GB phones on clearance and the leading edge is 128GB. Your tablet will address an additional 32GB of mass storage when I can buy a half-terabyte for $70.00. The bar was set too low and this tablet suffers for it.

Parents: I hope you know this. Your kids will outpace any device you buy for them. Going cheap because, “it’s just for the kids” will make you the enemy of children everywhere. We live in a multi-petabyte world where 40GB is one movie. Ghetto welfare kids own 3D VR goggles.

You probably don’t mind slow 4G connectivity and having to spend an hour a week choosing which content to store on your device. Your children will put a tablet like this one under the cat litter and let the cat pee on it. The resulting fire from the LiOn battery is much more satisfying.

Ellipsis Fail

The thing that pisses me off about Verizon’s tablet is the overwhelming underestimation of what makes a product worth 3 Benjamins. They set the bar low so they wouldn’t disappoint. In going with a sure thing they made something that is only for demo. It works as a display piece on a shelf in the living room so you can say you have a tablet. It is fine as long as you don’t ask it to function beyond being pretty.

I don’t have 1500 words on this. I’ll keep it. I’m under contract with it for two years. As a rip-off Kindle Fire it’ll do. But I sort of feel like a teenage boy who finally caught the girl and she, once undressed is not at all what had been keeping him up at night. She’ll do but the idea and the actual are light years apart.

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Akio

Akio creates a problem for me. He was born fucked. Two addict parents self-medicating to cope with a buzzing swarm of mental issues. Generations of living on the dole. Akio is an addict. Depending on his mood, he feels either schizophrenic, anxious or depressed. He is homeless, in his first year out of jail, and surviving by being a hobosexual for a string of women.

Akio Winston

Survive

The survival technique is a bastard instance of the Oedipus complex. He wants  a woman who will mother him, marry him, not trouble him too much, and sympathize when the voices in his head say he needs to piss on the statue of Robert E Lee. I count seven attempts at being Oedipus. The current bae is pregnant and both of them say they are staying together. She says she can rescue him from his troubled past. I dunno.

The bae called a shelter program home until a well meaning Churchianitan woman rescued her. The brand is familiar: non-denominational, strong on virtue signal and evangelism, weak on missions and follow-through. Things were good when it was one Churchianitan woman doing a solid for the bae.

Add Akio and things went south. The woman is captive in her own home. Let me explain before you go calling the cops. Churchianitan is wheelchair bound and needs help getting up and down the stairs of her two story condominium. The bae is a sometimes nursing student when she isn’t stoned. Churchianitan is on prescription Oxycodone. Add Akio and the occupation of the house is feeding monkeys. I’m waiting for the phone call telling me that one or more of the three is hospitalized, incarcerated or toe-tagged.

❖ ❖ ❖

Last week Akio and the bae fought. She blames him. He blames her. The apology was underwhelming. At least one wall has holes in it. The flat-screen TV exploded after Akio punched it. One corner of the kitchen floor has scorch marks and smoke damage from a phone thrown in anger. There is no food in the house. Everything that could be stolen and sold is gone. A good deed thoroughly punished.

Your miseries cease being an excuse somewhere mid-twenties. Akio had it bad. I get that. He is one of many who ate an abundance of bitterness. The bitterness eaten by him does not excuse away his continuance of the life in spite of escalating negative consequences. Nor are we obligated to him because his portion was so large. His day when his blues justified his behavior have passed. It is no longer his fate at the wheel of his life, it is him.

Akio answered his fate by achieving early success as a drug dealer. We teach young black men that the only acceptable roles for them are sports, entertainment, crime or indentured servitude to crackers. Akio is tall enough to be dominant on the basketball court. Like many his age he believes himself to be a rap singer. The only trope he didn’t take up is indentured servitude. His greatest success was selling crack cocaine.

Five and six. The other approved path is college, a white collar career, a woman, kids, a mortgage, and so on for the next sixty years. It is the path well traveled Frost and I did not take. Akio is too messed up to make it work. Six is some low rent blue collar jobs and one more plebian tragedy.

Failure to Thrive

Behind Akio is a trail of well-meaning Churchianitans who tried to turn the course of his life. All have failed. Akio still gets high, still sells weed and cocaine, still finds willing women who help him try again to marry his mother and murder his father. He has not changed.

This is the problem Akio creates. All the usual racist tropes about why young black men self-limit don’t explain Akio. Everything usual that can be done to get him to change his ways has been done. He remains the same. It is easy to yell at the snowflakes on campus who have privilege and abuse it by trashing the school and enforcing an orthodoxy of resentment. Their crayons, blankets, low-lighting, soft music, and strict rules about what can and cannot be spoken within safe-spaces are easy targets. Yelling at Akio? About what? Many have yelled at him. He is still doing himself.

I wish it were that easy. A strong fatherly lecture about the deadly course of his life would bring about the epiphany we all want for him. It isn’t so easy. Addicts have to die to their old life before they can live the new one. Said death hurts. If the addiction is deep enough the death is sometimes actual.

❖ ❖ ❖

Addicts are not flawed nor stupid nor weak. To be an addict requires tremendous strength and intelligence. Addicts consume taboo habits they buy on the black market under threat of arrest or violence. Drug dealers are remarkable business people because they cannot write down anything they do. It all has to be remembered even while being stoned or drunk. You can’t have a permanent location selling something illegal. The business must thrive in spite of a lack of place. A good drug dealer is a remarkable and perishable thing. Addicts survive things that would kill someone weaker.

Maybe I could explain Akio in terms of his past–addict parents then foster care then adoption late in childhood, an ancestral legacy of criminal life, all the tropes about living on welfare in public housing. All of that is a cliche so common you wonder if it isn’t just lies. Is the sorry story just a hustle to get more? Maybe. Only Akio really knows.

Maybe the cause is us. Boomers did such an awesome job insulating our kids from the slings and arrows of outrageous first world life that they never learned how to cope with misery. We are able to ingest drugs to shut down our lives and sustain the bubble we believe is a right. We don’t have to suffer in this place and time. Every whim is available to anyone that seeks it. Pursuing the seven deadly sins as a bucket list is possible and perhaps, worthwhile.

Monkey Hungry

His past does not explain him. Nor does his residence in a first world city and time. Yes, he was born fucked. Yes, his single score of life featured a cornucopia of bitterness. No one taught him how to be resilient because it isn’t necessary when cocaine, heroin, codeine and much more can protect you. That is the hand life dealt to him. It is not, ipso facto, his fate. He is old enough to have his fate in his hands. His monkey can be starved out of Akio’s life.

Akio’s monkey would eat me if it could. It ate the Churchianitan. He recurs in my life, eats a piece of me, then gets angry because I am not enough. Which . . . actually . . . is a good thing.

I don’t like strays​ or damsels in distress. There is an alley cat living under my shed. Were I someone else that cat would join me in my house. I am not someone else. The neighbor adopted the cat and got him to a vet who got him healthy. Once healthy the cat tore up a couch because it made such a nice scratching post. I saw the couch on the curb last month. I’m not unsympathetic to the fate of the alley cat. He is staying outside. Akio wants more of me and disappears when I won’t give it. Fine.

The Tao 道教 of Akio

Nothing in my past prepares me for him. Therapy? He does that. Social Services? They signed him up for a crazy check and a SNAP card. Section 8? He got public housing and used it to consume bae #6. #6 put him out of his own public housing apartment. All that I know for getting one’s shit together doesn’t move the needle for Akio.

I love introspective conversations about why I am a hot mess. I’ll wrestle the great questions with you: what is my purpose? Why was I born? Is God a Loving God? Why do bad things happen to good people. Akio is occupied with finding his next meal. A daily goal is to get through it without bullet holes. The merits of Socrates compared to Gampopa? He ain’t got time for that. Mercy is a dollar menu cheeseburger.

I have books in me. My gift to him is words. He can’t eat words nor get high with them. They are useful as tools for getting sex. Words as an end unto themselves are foreign to him. He asks me how to spend the night inside and I answer him with Emily Dickinson. We are from completely different worlds.

The True Road 真道

He aged out of the window where blame can be assigned and a responsible party held accountable. It’s on him. All I can do is watch him die through repetitions of new bae, a honeymoon spate, promises to make it stick this time, a period of calm then escalating negative consequences and predictable jail or hospital time.

There are thousands like him in the inner city. They are the intractable metastatic cancer treated with Uncle Sam’s money for a century. I wish I had a solution for the problem he represents. The only thing I have is that his disease has to run its course. Whether it kills him and along the way takes out others with him is something only time will tell. Churchianitan is learning that rescuing him only feeds his monkey with her soul. I hope she puts him out soon. The boy is bad news.

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Change Agent

It is a buzzword: “change agent.” Change Agent gives a strong emotional signal and is perfectly ambiguous. It sounds forward thinking and daring without giving specifics. Around the copier it works to impress. Protip: don’t actually change anything. The art of the millennia is a strong brand that protects the status quo. No one really wants change, they just want to hook up with it.

The change they want to hook up with preserves their self-image as victims. We did such an awesome job raising them in a vinyl bubble that they expect to remain shielded from the slings and arrows of outrageous adulthood. It is their right to shake their fist at the injustices while we pay for their smartphones and organic, free range, gluten free bananas. It is our duty to provide for them their every whim. We owe them for the crimes we committed through time. Thus, we can’t apologize enough and we are obligated to provide safe spaces supplied with binkies, crayons, coloring books, and fast WiFi.

✠ ✠ ✠

Akio spat, “I have agency! I am my own, grown-assed man!” First fact about Akio: he hungers for a mother figure who will take him in and fill that god sized hole in his spirit where he wants his parents to be. Utopia for Akio is a woman who will give him a man cave, push plates of food through a slot in the door and otherwise leave him be. It is a fantasy that mashes up county jail with a twisted, tweenie fantasy of the Oedipus complex.

He has agency because his body is grown. He uses his agency to seek out women who will dote on him in the manner he believes will bring him serenity. The current woman is number seven by my count. Still rinse, repeat. The only thing she is missing is the maid costume.

The topic of agency has been on queue for a couple months. I watched the turf war over Tito between Jolana and Lina trickle into my life this year. Jolana’s campaign to rescue Tito from his evil parents goes back decades. We are, says Jolana, abusive parents who raised a wounded child beyond hope. His history is his destiny. He will always be broken and in need of care that only Jolana can provide. This litany is part of Tito’s milieu. Jolana’s incantations live rent free inside my son’s head. Message received and declined. Tito lives with Lina.

My Agent

This is what bothers me: I have attracted people to me who take it on faith that they have no agency. They have no free will. Their history is their destiny. Further, it is up to those around them to shield them from this immutable fate. We must meet their needs for them. What happened? When did it become the responsibility of the community to coddle and care for grown-assed men and women? Why is it our responsibility to be the wagged dog for every slight?

If you are underage your parents are responsible for you. They owe you all of what Maslowe said is essential. After that, north of 18 years old, it becomes less credible that the elders are responsible for your care. I expect you to fend for yourself. It seems that such an expectation is asking too much.

For Akio this plays out as a running demand that I fill the god sized hole in his heart with cash. I am an old WASP who grew up rich so I must have some money somewhere sufficient to compensate him for being born to shitty brown parents who were more interested in cocaine. I must pay for his misery because my ancestors sinned against his.

✠ ✠ ✠

Akio wrestles with God because he picked me as his golden goose. I am a cab driver and computer tech. I have an unhealthy attraction to new, shiny tech toys. He picked the wrong goose. I can’t afford his price. There is not enough money to soothe his broken heart. Forty acres and a mule? Can you control the mule with a PlayStation? No? Then the land and mule suck and Akio doesn’t want it.

God needs to step up. He needs to give Akio a woman who will be the mother he never had. Freud’s Oedipus complex was the product of a cocaine addled mind. I believed it to be bullshit until I met Akio. He and I fight because a core belief of mine is self-reliance. A man must be self-sufficient. He is the king of his castle the way Christ was King of the Jews. Akio’s master is the woman he’s schtupping.

Akio’s greatest fear is disapproval by his woman. She can’t have a mood, an attitude, a bad day, a disagreement or a kurfuffle. All must be well with her. He is a marionette whose strings are held by his woman and his fears.

Tito

Tito. I owe Tito an apology. Tito happened. He is actual. Tito became actual behind Cuncrawl. His Mom came to the city to see gringos. She grew up on Mayan farm land. Her people raised potatoes and coffee for export. Cancun’s bright lights drew her like a moth to an incandescent bulb. I was a bucket list item. Tito was not the plan. The plan was to trip the light fantastic and get home before the family figured out where she had gone. My plan was a little local debauchery on my vacation.

Our plans went south as soon as she showed me the pregnancy test. My vacation became a year of living in Cancun. I had a tourist visa that expired. We survived by hiding me. I worked as a farm-hand for room & board. Then the policía let her father know that I had worn out my welcome. I could go home or I could stay in prison. I went home.

Akio and Tito had it bad. There are others who had it good and still march against the horrors of the boomers. Problem? It doesn’t matter. North of 18 years old the adults become decrepit and senile. They return to being mewling babes. One may not claim agency but it arrives anyway. All the caterwauling will not change the need for resources and basics. Akio’s latest bae still needs to pay the rent and light bill. Groceries are not free. A job beats TANF and SNAP all day long.

Bae, Yo

The latest bae repeated what the other six said, “boy, you need a job.” She’s all about protesting Trump. She gets a crazy check and the condo is Section 8 housing. With all that she cut him off until he got a job. His resume is not helping: federal prison time for selling cocaine. I haven’t heard from Akio in a week. He drops out of my life for months at a time then pops up again when he’s hungry or broke or both. The current bae fears he has become toe-tagged. I hope the reason he’s disappeared is that he finally decided to give rehab a serious try.

A brief tangent–the art of cube rat life is to spew buzz words while insulating yourself from change. A fashy change agent is one that protects the safe space and forces outsiders to change so that they become assimilated. To evangelize an increased brand presence in the marketplace of ideas by actualizing its message in the information stream across all channels while ensuring safety and stability for our associates. Free corporate b.s. phrase.

Success Feels Like Failure at First

In the archetypal hero’s tale the bad guy seems to be winning all the way to the end. It is only at the very last, in the penultimate battle, when the hero is nearly dead or actually dead, that the story turns and the hero overcomes the villain to win the day. For Akio and Tito, it will seem like all is lost until the very last, when we discover whether they will complete their quest or be vanquished.

A key measure is whether they choose change, choose disruption, and fight. Many do not. We raised a generation of sheeple. The future is not so bright so as to need shades, Sería más fácil enseñar a un cerdo al vals.

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