I bought a 2007 Jeep Liberty. The marketing material for it boasts of it as the most capable SUV of that year. The truth of that comes later.
There is only one Jeep for the enthusiast. You know the one. If you don’t, the picture below should be enough.
I don’t own that Jeep. I own this Jeep:
For the custom Jeep fanboys, my Jeep is not a real Jeep because it’s not a JK. Fair enough. My Jeep has car seat mounts, air conditioning, heated seats, a cargo cover, power windows & door locks, power brakes, power steering, satellite radio . . . the kinds of things that make a girl want my Jeep. The fanboys declared my Liberty to be a chick car. A real man owns a JK.
The Spose To I Didn’t Do
A guy like me is supposed to graduate from honors from high school. Then it’s college, meet a girl whom I marry, graduate with a nice white collar degree, punch in at a white collar union job, some kids, a string of Sundays keeping a pew warm and stay in my lane until death kindly stops for me. A guy like me would own a JK. I didn’t check off all the expected items on the orthodox bucket list. I bought the wifey’s Jeep.
The US Navy sent me home after two weeks of bootcamp. For most of my twenty-something I kept quitting college until I got tired of watching life pass me by through the windshield of a taxicab. Even then my first semester as a math major was a spectacular fail. Switching to English Literature just meant I could graduate with something. It didn’t mean a real job.
Marriage and family. Was a mess. I’m surprised my son came through as well as he did. The Empress became a legend on this blog with claims of kinship to the Triad Mafia. I’ve bumped along a near-do-well for forty years. Though I am from privilege and my adjectives put me firmly in the evil bin, I didn’t do the spose to’s many expect of me.
So . . . driving a chick car among guys who wonder if I am masculine enough is kind of awesome. I am also two years shy of my sixth decade of life. For most of human history 35 was ancient. I’m positively immortal. My days of angst over where I am in the dog pile are long past.
Once one is shunned you discover a freedom you didn’t have when trying to stay a member of the in-crowd meant angst, time & energy conforming to the expectations of others. It doesn’t matter if your shoes are from last season, your flannel shirt came out of the clearance pile at Goodwill, and your scent comes from body wash found in Dollar Tree’s trial size bin. You have time to do better things than fret because your card won’t get you that Nordies designer jean all your friends have.
My Liberty is shunned. It and I are free. We were measured against a gang of JK’s and held our own.
Liberty Can and Did
My Liberty and I were on an off-road trail with 5 other Jeeps of varying degrees of customization. Everyone completed the drive. My little chick SUV punched above its weight and won. Lesson? Do you. Do your best. If others trash what you are doing? Fuck ’em. This little Jeep of mine had a great day Saturday and shined. It is a very capable SUV.
I have bad news. The boomers co-opted “woke, yo“. I am young boomer. On the day I was born Shiro Ishii was granted immunity for war crimes, Eugene Bullard received the Croix de la Légion d’honneur, and Russell Langelle was arrested after meeting with Pyotr Popov. There were five more years of boomer births. We are old enough to be grandparents.
I don’t know about you, but for me, the definition of uncool is to have my grandfather using the patois of my generation. So . . . to hear Charlie Rose say he is woke is messed up. There is another problem with the phrase. It is the furthest thing from aware. To be woke is to become an automaton dutifully spouting the orthodox newspeak of the day. Your world in ninety seconds memorized and recited.
1984 didn’t quite happen the way Orwell feared. It happened. To be woke is code for being a disciple of the orthodox zeitgeist. One is aware of how the establishment must be fought against. The Establishment is a code phrase for a particular tribe that doesn’t subscribe to the orthodox zeitgeist. That the leadership calling out the evils to be battled is itself corrupt, authoritarian and socialist is conveniently forgotten.
The Struggle is Cold Peas
America is fractured. We are in a civil cold war. The boomers achieved their utopia as the previous century came to a close. Since then we have aged and the most radical thing we can imagine is refusing the cold peas in favor of the sweet potato mash on the buffet at the senior home. The men just want the TV remote and quiet.
Our kids and grandchildren aren’t having our idea of utopia. We wanted to be free to behave as our whim drove us to behave without suffering from the consequences of our choices. Our personal rules are fine. People need to respect our personal rules. Your personal rules are wrong and should be beaten down like a rented mule.
We blindly got old following our whim and willfully ignored what this did to our kids and grand-kids. Trump is a generational phenomenon. He is payback for our success being bratty toddlers in grown-assed bodies. Our cherished freedoms are reasons to want authoritarian rule.
One of my angels is perfectly fine with ripping up the constitution and coronating a king. As he sees it democracy at this scale–a worldwide empire of 400 million people or so, is both morally bankrupt and so bloated as to be ineffective. The exponential pace of government regulation and law creates a detrimental effect on its ability to provide the services it promises. The constitution interferes with what he feels is the role of government–to provide mercy on a scale impossible for him as one man.
Out of 400 million people, if 99% are mostly happy, that still leaves 4 million who are not happy. The way the propaganda is spread, there is no reason to make headlines out of 396,000,000 mostly happy citizens. No, the headline will be “4 million citizens suffer because of government’s failure to do its job.”
Obama’s signature achievement is the Affordable Care Act. As he left office the oft-cited 32 million uninsured Americans were still uninsured. This time, however, the regulatory cost imposed by the Affordable Care Act made it impossible for insurance companies to sell compliant health insurance plans and stay in business. Premiums have skyrocketed. The 32 million who were the object of all that government bloviating can’t afford the insurance plans offered on the Health Care Exchange. It is cheaper for them to pay the penalty imposed by the IRS for not having insurance.
We Need Cocoons with WiFi
For the yungins there is no penalty for buying insurance only when they need it and then dropping the plan once they’ve been taken care of. So, they don’t. Plus, they are annoyed with boomers for our blithe assumption that we can perpetrate on them any whim that strikes our fancy. Telling them that they have to fund our health insurance so we can get medical care for the damage we did to our health in our youth–it’s not being heard as a good thing. More dead boomers is a better thing.
Us boomers are getting old. Some of us are old. We keep marketing this trope, that X is the new 20, 30 or whatever. Fewer of our children and grandchildren are willing to play along. The kids are not fooled by our claims that a fifty-something is twenty-something young at heart and thus eligible for the affections of a gen-x partner. The obesity, the pill bag, the Twelve Step medallions, are all testimonies to the bogosity of our claim to the fountain of youth. Our healthcare is what makes their insurance expensive.
My son didn’t blink on hearing that my friend felt that the answer was a collapse of the empire and the coronation of a king. It made sense to him that a genocidal dictator could purge the country of boomer dead weight and straighten out the mess his generation has inherited. He pointed out that some kings began dynasties that lasted centuries.
Not every king, even every genocidal king, is ipso facto evil. Some fare well in retrospect. Mao’s legacy has mouldered into a fond affection for the cocoon he created for evil uncles (邪惡的叔叔). Democracy was supposed to improve the odds that you would get a good king. That went well. What defines a good king, though? One that coddles you cradle to grave in exchange for signaling your fealty? A king that is a champion who will fight your battles for you and get rid of those nasty right-wing nazis?
To be woke is to understand:
There is something/someone to blame for all the ills, personal and communal, that is to be battled against and defeated. Nazis are just the fashy enemy of the day. Give it time, there will be others, starting with opioids.
Happiness is possible only if you have privilege. You are apostate if you identify as happy.
Utopia is both possible and worth implementing even if we have to kill you.
I am apostate. I am the reason for your troubles. My adjectives: white, anglo-saxon, protestant, boomer, cis-hetero male, consertative, christian member of an establishment denomination, upper-middle class childhood, opposes abortion, believes in increasing the availability of guns and the kicker, was once a member of Berkeley’s longest surviving collectively run cab business-Taxi Unlimited. I am woke, yo.
Not Your Bae’s Awareness
I am woke to the failure of the proffered gods to meet our promised needs. Every election cycle I am promised that this Pimp Daddy will tax those evil, rich Nazis and give me a check. Obama said we could get free college, free health care, and money for our hoopties. I’m still waiting. Trump is President. The fucking John is President. So much for being woke.
Ralph Northam is the Democratic candidate for Virginia Governor. It’s the same few tropes we always hear. Gillespie is a rich D.C. insider who wants to take away your medical care, is racist, homophobic, wants grandma to stop eating wet cat food and eat kibble instead, and is a friend of Trump. Northam is the reasonable one who will get us jobs by retraining us in the trades. Were I a dutiful citizen of the orthodoxy I’d open the junk mail from the DNC and memorize the provided talking points.
I am not woke the way some wish I would be. My big beef is the arrogance of some who insist I behave myself and participate in the communal psychosis. This site and its primary author are deliberately defiant of those who want the world to come correct. My literary home is a village of the absurd. This is where the odd ones are. We are woke to different things than that.
The Way I am Woke, Yo
I am woke to Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. I remind you that over two thousand years many bloody kings have tried to kill us and end our revolt against the establishment. Every king that tried discovered that his genocide made church membership explode. I’m not asking for more genocidal kings so we can have more Christians.
But . . . Caesar made us a circus act. We survived him. I am a Christian. I follow Jesus, the martyred carpenter of Nazareth who died and rose again over 2,000 years ago. The way I am woke defines how I live.
Jesus said to him, [John 14:60] “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The last 15 years of my life have been a journey as I learn what it means to put grace first. I’ve spent 1400 words building to this: the establishment will happily pimp you out. You will never win against it. There is one who died a long time ago that can give you a winners way of life. It is He the I AM who I follow. John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The great I AM fomented a revolution that continues today.
And Old and Simple Answer
Most of what is expected of those who are woke drives them to misery and resentment. While propagandizing inclusion and love they foment hate and exclusion. Only the devout can work to prove their devotion and gain grudging acceptance into the fold. Even then there is no forgiveness. We are still immutably fucked because of our heritage and personal history.
I saw this on Facebook and still like it, “resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.” My health began to return to me once I renewed my labor to forgive and to surrender to Christ. I can talk the talk with the best of them. Walking . . . is a constant labor I still fail to fulfill. The old and simple answer is this: treat others as you wish to be treated. Love kin and enemies alike. Foment change by humble service to prisoners, elders, children and anyone else who will accept a self-less, small act of kindness done with great love.
Matthew 10:14, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” Don’t waste your time trying to win a war of words with those who disagree with you. Serve those you can serve and move on.
Our Secret is Out
Boomers, you are known. When your kids were young they had to know how to manage your behavior. It was survival. It’s a marathon from infancy to agency. The kids need us for a dozen years or so. So, they behave as they need to in order to get what they need and survive. That’s how they know us. We, with our willful defiance of establishment oppression, garnered their ire. Our brattiness interfered with our kids ability to thrive. It should not be surprising that they are relieved we finally started going to church regular and re-discovered John Bradshaw. The kids are woke, yo, to us.
We taught them fear and loathing. We said that the legion of boogeymen we blamed for our bad behavior was a real threat. The kids should be afraid of that legion. Our abiding aversion to misery became a battle cry to insulate our children from the ten thousand things we believed would harm them. Now, when they face adversity, those we protected don’t know how to cope.
Our secret is out and the kids are pissed. They are not having our whiny, self-entitled, blaming, co-dependent tantrums. Trump is in office because Hillary is the ultimate nightmare boomer woman. Our next president will not be a boomer. It will be someone younger and I’m not sure it will be someone reassuring to my old-fart boomer peers.
I left Inger in Farmville with Eugene at Einstein’s Bagels. Bless her heart, she was begging for money to buy a bagel. Gene fed her and started to talk to her about life as a hobo. Since then she’s been traveling with various groups the mainstream media labels “AntiFa”. She was in Berkeley this summer, staying at the Carlton Hotel and at first, ready to punch fascists. It got weird for her so after getting a slice at Blondie’s she went back to her room. Some of the teargas leaked through her window.
She was also in Charlottesville. A tule skirt wearing swinging dick screamed at her that she was a Nazi and threw a beer bottle that hit her in the head. Asshole. The only thing was a small confederate flag embroidered to the back of a Redskins ball cap. Oh, and Inger is a ginger so there is that. She baled to nearby MillieJo and then when that got weird also she hitched a ride to Owensville. She heard about the thing with the car on TV from her room at the Econolodge.
Richmond is home for Inger. It’s where she goes to decompress. It is the one city that understands angst the way Inger understands it. She hitched a ride from Owensville back to a Barton Heights house owned by a friend hoping to have a place to make a soft landing. That went well.
In the beginning the street felt right. She was down for the cause and didn’t want her purse full of first world tools. It was summer in Mendocino. One of the wettest summers on record but still . . . outside was working for her. Granny’s Attic had cool stuff.
Seasons change. Being off the radar lost its bloom after her Fort Bragg camp site flooded. She lost everything. Then she was in town begging for beer money and crashed. Full meltdown. 5150 for four days in Mendocino Coast District Hospital. The parents came and brought the purse. Inger got meds that made her feel weird. The docs said she had schizophrenia. Funny and not helpful were the hallucinations that overlaid Praying Mantis faces on the medical staff. Instagram filters IRL. The adults didn’t get it. Her parents had poopy faces. Huge ROFL.
Her Mom started with, “be a good girl and come home.” May her cunt close up from warts, bitch. The screaming match earned her a few more days in the psych ward.
On the Road Again
This was weird. Inside she met a girl who recognized Gene. She got a little back story on Gene that comforted her. The purse meant she could be warm & safe. Virginia bound.
Two Women and a Sign
Inger wants to do the right thing. Though she isn’t a Webb on my bloodline, she is a Webb. She shares with my kin an itch to fight the good fight for those she believes to be without a champion. Inger cares for the plight of the proletariat, bless her heart. She rides a bicycle to get around. For her, cars are evil. Except Tesla’s. Tesla’s are lit AF. This puts her in good stead with her peers, kind of. Her love of Tesla’s is sketch.
Tens of thousands of cars pass by two women who work the corner of southbound West Cary Street off-ramp of 195 and West Cary Street. The sign they hold is familiar, “god bless, anything helps.” One of the women sits in a wheelchair when she works. They both suffer from the usual satellite of boomer/first world/misspent youth health concerns–heart disease, diabetes, hepatitis, and back problems for one of them, arthritis for the other.
Of the cars that pass them by there were clergy and well meaning church-goers. They listened to gangs of Jehovah’s Witnesses tell them that they need to come to Jesus. They did their stint in CARITAS and aged out. Case workers from RBHA and Social Services did intake interviews. Options were proffered. Plenty have tried to get them off that corner and on to a more recognizable life for WASP, boomer women. They are still there.
What’s the Frequency, Sarah?
Their story is confounding. Both have advanced degrees. One of them has a masters in public administration and the other was a research fellow at VCU Health. Their curriculum vitae does not indicate begging for change with a sign on a street corner. That’s what they do these days. The signals are wrong.
Something else was wrong. Inger could not miss it. Of the two, Sarah clearly got her tramp on at Nordies. The other one seemed a bit more Target and Dillards. Still, the clothes did not come from a thrift store. Inger saw the YSL bag laying at the feet of one of them. The other one sipped coffee from a Kate Spade travel mug.
It should not be that two women about the same age as Inger’s mother and clearly upper middle class WASP would be trapped in the life on a street corner with a sign. Inger didn’t understand how it could be that two people of their status could be where they were. Only crazy people or addicts would give up their station for a life like this. Every day hustling for the price of a room on Chamberlayne Avenue. Each day another deadly paper cut. Why?
She was good with her anarcho-communist friends and their communal lifestyle, sort of. The nobile obligation fulfilled by living in Barton Heights got old last winter when the house didn’t have heat, functional plumbing or hot water. Dishes sat for weeks and collected mold and roaches. The refrigerator was a rat paradise of rotting tofu and organic, farm-to-table produce too far gone. The stove didn’t work. Housemates that cooked at all used microwaves and single burner electric hot plates in their rooms.
People came and went 24/7. There was never a shortage of weed, heroine, cocaine, esctasy, and liquor. Music blared from behind bedroom doors from 10am until 3am. At least one bedroom a night serenaded the house with moaning while fucking. Fights were frequent. The cops were never far away. This is not the utopia promised when she moved in. In Fort Bragg her noisiest neighbor was a squirrel.
Inger had been back & forth with her parents around their white privilege and the obscenity of their position when there were homeless children living under bridges in Richmond. Somehow, her parents were on the hook for the miseries of single mothers who rotated from jail to rehab to a shelter to the street and back. It was Inger that had the virtue high-road living with her anarcho-communist friends. Mom & Dad kept offering to pay cash for a turnkey house.
In the interview she was told that the house was a Utopian collective founded by the homeowner. There was no leadership in the usual sense. The tenants owned an equal voice in how the house was run. It was pitched as a safe, compassionate source of salt and light evangelizing anarcho-communism in Richmond. She was promised weekly house meetings. When she asked about paying bills one of the guys living there said, “property is theft. Money is an lie perpetuated by the bourgeois 1%.”
Inger loved house meetings and railed against the crime and drug use in the house. She fought hard to have the guys realize that a woman alone asleep in a room was not an invitation to fondle her or worse. She got nowhere. This was the revolution. They were fighting white privilege and patriarchy by molesting and raping women who were just trying to sleep. Inger wanted them to pay the bills and keep the lights on. She wanted them to fix the plumbing. How hard could it be to get the gas turned on and the furnace lit? To all this she was told she was speaking from her privilege and had false expectations of how a communal house is run.
“For a woman to suffer is noble“, one of the men said through a mouth full of pepperoni pizza, “Women can contribute to the revolution by making sure the men have what they need to fight Nazis.” Inger couldn’t help but hear echoes of the lies men told women at parties on the opposition side. How was this revolutionary?
Then her Mom called. Mom’s friend was the agent for a house on Stuart Street. Would she like it? Whether tis nobler to suffer abusive roommates in a festering sewer of a home or to be safe and comfortable? Nobility in suffering has a means. The communal home was losing its signal as such a means. Fealty to fighting white privilege and being a good girl lost to working toilets.
Inger loved the struggle. Cold showers and oodles of noodles are noble for only so long. Inger’s hair needs expensive shampoo and Givenchy is the only skincare line that doesn’t give her hives. Fantastic Thrift is ok but nothing near Saks. tbh, the struggle is real but still . . .
If Pops would not do Matthew 19:21 and these two women remained on their corner maybe the answer was a little wealth redistribution of Inger’s own. Daddy’s money served Richmond better by getting two WASP women back where they belong. Inger wanted to fix this. It was proof of her piety to Mao. She had the Stuart Avenue house. The next obvious step was not a ten dollar donation. No, Inger had to get their attention.
Electra Townie Commute to Virtue
It’s a short ride on North Robinson Street to Ellwood Avenue and up to Ellwood Thompsons. Most Saturdays the women took their breaks at the store. They were seated at a table outside. The “screw over my parents plan” was about to go actual. Inger locked her bike to a post near their table, “Hey, do I know you guys?”
Being known? These two? Bad idea, “No. Do we know you?”
“No, but I see you a lot on the corner. Can I ask you something?”
No, but it never hurts to play along, “Sure.”
“What would it take to get you to quit begging and live in a house?” Only a whale would ask that. This just got interesting. Bring on the tears, “I don’t know. We need so much. Abby missed her doctor appointment because her Medicaid ran out. She’s supposed to see her oncologist. She’s out of her diabetes meds. We’ve been trying to get up the money for a room but things have been slow. It’s hard to say, how much are you offering?”
✤ ✤ ✤
Inger knew a little about negotiating. Starting with this, that the first person to name a number is going to have a hard time. But, this was about redistributing Dad’s wealth, “I can give both of you a room and cover your bills for a few months, would that help?”
When you hook a whale it is important to land it, “Uhm, Abby? What do you think?”
Abby thinks she needs a spa day, “I guess.”
I’ve met my share of low caste folk whose idea of a whale is somebody who can afford Golden Corral instead of the dollar menu at McDonald’s. Abby and Delma sensed hot rock massages and designer shampoo. East Coast Provisions rather than Captain D’s. Inger was pleased at how easy this was, “Awesome,” she dug out a pen and post-it from her purse and scratched down her address and Instagram handle, “ping me so I know you are coming over.”
Relay Foods Gluttony
To-go boxes littered the table. Mary Kay receipts decorated the floor like tinsel. The Stuart Street house still had it’s Architectural Digest core but there was an overlay of feminine gluttony coating the postcard perfect scene. Under a goose down comforter on a Basset Wyatt custom sofa the leg of a boy drooped over the edge. Near his foot a Rose Gold iPhone bleated notifications every few minutes.
Inger heard that. She was at the back door one foot in the dining area and one foot in the kitchen, “I got it.” Boy’s arm flopped around and found the phone. He passed it from one hand to the other and raised it up above the back of the couch where Inger could retrieve it. Then the arm disappeared back under the comforter. Inger started scrolling through the notifications. There was a theme. Saturday afternoon both the parents and the bank were happy to see she had rejoined the living. By early Sunday morning parents and bank were alarmed.
Five figures of debt alarmed. It started with Relay Foods and a round trip in an Uber Black to Publix. Groceries for four made. Gotta feed the boy. Then an Uber out to Short Pump and Nordies to address the needs of two WASP women who were the means to screwing over the parents. Personal shopping for three. You can do a lot in five hours.
Welcome Back, Tramp Ladies
Then . . . Shockoe Bottom for three. Abby and Delma were the wings, Inger the bait and the prize. They caught a boy. Bottle service till last call, then the Jefferson Hotel and room service until brunch. Boy made moves but everyone was too drunk. Uber from the hotel to Stuart Street where the shopping had become clutter. Inger thought she’d be happy.
It was Monday morning in the third week of the month. She-monster week. Inger started an order with Tarrant’s for coffee, Orange Juice, some breakfast wraps. Card declined. Fuck. Other card declined. She kept trying cards. All of them shut down. Inger was a hung-over she-monster. She went back upstairs thinking she’d just crawl back into bed. Nope. Toilet first and hoping to keep it all off the floor.
She at least did that. There was a lot of music and cussing behind the bathroom door as she cleaned up the mess. Ok, you with your “naked shower” porn tropes, shut the fuck up. Inger had a pair of sweats from the Santa Clara post rape freak-out crash in a homeless camp. That and a Fantastic Thrift Reebok tank and dollar store flip-flops. Plus, hung-over and PMS. So not what you are thinking.
A Good Deed Punished
All of Inger’s cards were either overlimit or frozen. Her debit card was overdrawn. She’d started last Saturday with a stop at the teller to get some cash. The purse was behind the sofa where boy slept. Cash gone.
A lot of Saturday Night/Sunday morning was gone. She remembered little of it beyond 9pm. But she did remember paying cash to the cab and that she still had money left over. How could it be that all of her cash is gone?
She’d taken out enough to cover the hotel bill at Extended Stay America out on Glenside and West Broad plus money for groceries and some bus cards. She’d also made sure she had enough for the Shockoe Bottom blowout. This was many Benjamins missing.
Inger’s crotch felt sticky. She stank. Her stomach stopped making threats. The aftertaste of Shockoe Bottom still soured her mood. A feeling that things were not right loomed over the house. Abby and Delma were gone. Today was the day when they had plans to complete the task.
Whelp. Some things needed doing. She started the coffee maker and headed back to the master suite shower. Time to molt off Saturday night. Atomic Bakery granola, Silk Soy Milk, and blueberries stayed down. Progress.
✤ ✤ ✤
Back up the stairs to shower away the weekend. Not. Where boy once was he was not. A rumpled blanket and the outer layer of nightclub drag cluttered the couch. She heard a boy voice singing in her shower. It’s Monday morning. The license to invade spaces and test boundaries has expired. He’d better be worth this invasion of privacy, “What are you doing?”
“Lo siento, no lo entiendo.”
Awesome, “Yo no hablo español.”
“Entonces hablaré inglés. Who are you?”
“This is my house, that’s who I am.”
“Awkward. What happened to the two women who were here and said they lived here? They said I could crash on the couch. Esas dos mujeres dijeron que estabas alquilando una habitación.”
“Hey! English! I’m in a fucked up mood already without you to deal with. Do you see anybody else in this house?”
“Sorry. Hey, I’m almost done. Can I finish?” No, but the nine-tenths of posession, “Yeah, whatever. Hurry up.” Back downstairs she returned to cleaning up the detritus of the weekend. Abby and Delma had left dirty coffee cups and heirloom pie plates used as ashtrays on the kitchen island. Smoking in the house was worse than finding old turds on the Karastan carpet. Bitches.
✤ ✤ ✤
Boy appeared at the bottom of the steps in sweatpants, “What you got to eat?” Nothing for him, “You need to go.” The dejected look on his face was epic. Boy gathered his clothes, fished his phone out of the couch, and ordered an Uber, “Thanks for yesterday.” Yesterday what!? “Did we . . .”
“No nada de eso. Soy catolico. Mis padres no quieren que vaya al club. Me has salvado del desprecio de los padres.” His Spanish was straight out of Google Translate or a textbook, “Dude. I’m serious. Speak English.”
“Nothing happened. I slept on your couch, that’s all.” Damned straight. Tho, he was kinda cute, “You are not gone yet.”
“I know,” and he left out the back door carrying his shoes in his hands. Inger wished she’d asked for his Instagram handle. Her phone was now in Battery Save mode, still bleating out notification sounds.
Bless Her Heart, Not
She went to the front door to check the mail slot. As she leaned down to pick up the junk mail she heard a door knock. “Mam, please open the door.” She could see it was a couple cops. Shit. What the fuck!? “Hi. Can I help you?”
“Your parents called. They asked us to check on you. You haven’t been answering your phone and there are fraud alerts on your credit cards and checking accounts.”
“I’m fine. I had some friends over this weekend. Is there anything else?”
“I’m afraid there is, Mam. We have a warrant for your arrest.”
“Seriously!? seriously. That’s not possible,” very possible. Choices have consequences. “Please turn around and put your hands behind your back.” She did not comply. There is viral body cam video of a female cop chasing her through the house to the back yard only to run headlong into another cop waiting for her.
Crown Victoria Commute to Hell
When you are inside you are not on your own time. You are doing the people’s time. So, things move at the pace of the sheriff’s that run the jail. Being difficult slows that pace down dramatically. Inger’s tantrums and insistence on being in a safe space were not helping. Inger was in lockup and psych review for 3 months before going before a magistrate. The homecoming queen of Mountain View High School learned a brutal lesson in life under an outhouse glory hole. 3 felonies, embezzlement, mail fraud, and credit card fraud. Upwards of 45 years in state prison if convicted. The magistrate scheduled her trial for this winter.
Of the boy. He returned to VCU to resume his studies in Extended Media. As for Abby and Delma, they are still in Richmond on various street corners. West Cary and I-195 got too hot for them so they moved on. The same parade of well intentioned do-gooders continues through their lives, each of them intent on being the one who inspires the life change that gets them off the street. They park the G-Class a couple blocks away. That they own the hotel they live in is a well guarded secret.
One more thing. The woman that knew Gene showed up to visit Inger. She gave her name as Angela Inger has learned more about life and survival from Angela than the legion of social work and psych professionals who dealt with her. Inger’s lack of shoes pales to Angela’s lack of metaphorical legs.
The house? It’s still Inger’s. The family had The Maid Crew in to clean the place up. Inger’s Mom also found the boy and asked him to house-sit. We all have to live somewhere.
I have a Sunday afternoon hair ache. As 2016 came 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 hurt 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“.
In 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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. Our collected canon of foundational literature is absurd without understanding church history. A no-account carpenter from Nazareth wagged the biggest dog of his day–the Roman Empire.
Some tails wishing to wag big dogs want to us to forget particular narratives in favor of their own. These tails 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 and burn their bones. Grind every gravestone into gravel for concrete to build housing and factories of the peepul. Make Collective farms on the recovered land after the cemetery is destroyed. Replace the symbols of hate with symbols of collective progress.
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 get replaced by utopian land redistribution schemes. Things will be better once the story is dead.
Ovid was hated by Augustus. Augustus exiled him. Augustus became marble statues in a number of museums. Ovid’s poetry became children’s literature. There is not space to argue whether Rome was better without Ovid. Regardless, Ovid’s stories survived.
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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. As of this edit the city of Richmond, VA has a proposal before the City Council to remove all of the Civil War monuments. 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.
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. He is remembered. Rome fell, the church remains.
The crazy thing happened. The lowly became mighty. The mighty became lowly. The story of Jesus of Nazareth survives in spite of over two-thousand years of persecution. Our greatest recruiting tool is a bloody dictator who tries to eliminate us and our 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 became 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.
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. Restore Lumpkins Jail and other sites so the whole story is remembered instead of taking the Confederate Monuments down.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.