Fail. At bottom, a zeitgeist grounded in idealism, in how the world ought to be, will disappoint. No amount of tantrum or sincere feeling can change certain facts. That said, a brown-skinned boy who makes no claim to be a victim is a boy who must be crazy. He can be made sane by re-educating him in the Catechism of the Left. Only then, upon graduating from re-education, can he assume is rightful place on Jacob’s ladder as a member of the unwashed proletariat.
Good night sweet December. Another year, another season, another reason to talk about regrets. One more sunrise in which winter gives way to a hangover and promises to be better this year. It’s that reason for the season and the concomitant credit card debt. Christmas is my grumpy time. I’ve already phoned in the lament about our month-long binge of spending, feasting, and drinking that culminates on New Year’s Day with a solid hangover. If you want to read it, click here.
I was raised in the church. I’ve been a saved Presbyterian for most of my life. I know the reason for the season. And . . . you didn’t ask but my Google Search for the phrase, “the reason for the season” turned up 291 million hits. I think we have that topic covered.
I can say goodnight sweet December with a smile. My regrets faded to amusing stories of my salad years. My brand’s emotional melody resonates more love ballad than down and dirty blues. So, rather than blather on about how my cupboard is bare, my wallet wanting cash that isn’t there, I’ll live another day in my little heaven.
Y’All are All Pigs
Quickly, if you are a pig and are taking advantage of your privilege or position to get sex, you deserve every bit of consequence coming your way. Consent is a thing. Power imbalances are also a thing. Celebrate, flirt, do you. Just . . . the easy ignorance of boundaries was a boomer thing the youngins are not having. Defy that at your own peril.
That said, the noisy minority that is doing the usual and taking instances of the few to claim that the general is all like that, they need to check their narratives. Are there pigs? Sure. Do pigs deserve consequences? Yes. To say that the pigs are the way the rest of us are is not helpful. Saying that everyone is a pig just fills the headlines and does nothing to foment constructive change.
It’s all emo and whatever to scream at someone that they are a pedophile Nazi because they don’t agree with you in a manner pleasing to you. I know it feels good. Protip? All it does is make you look like an ignorant toddler. Merry Christmas Gene!
HanaKwanzaXMas from Us on the Naughty List
It’s Christmas Day as I type this. I’m at my usual Starbucks on Robinson Street. Inger’s place is an easy walk from here. She’s home but not the sort to appreciate an unannounced door knock. I texted her and got a Minions Merry Christmas gif in response.
Ray is with Itzel at the farm. I hear that Itzel got him a crocheted seat pad for his Ford 9N tractor. Ray arrived a nominal monk who knew a lot about meditation and squat about tractor farming. Since moving to Itzel’s farm he’s become enamored with old Ford tractors. Crocheted seat pad? Ask a farmer who has to spend 10 hours a day on a tractor during planting season.
Gene made it back to Oakland and the ashram. I hadn’t heard anything from him until my most recent piece. It seems I am a Nazi sexual predator. I was worried about Gene. He’s become almost normal in the last few years. It’s good to hear some passion in him.
I haven’t heard from Felina in a while. She’s back in Puerto Rico with her family trying to help rebuild. They got hit pretty hard.
As for me, I’m good. In 2016 I made the conversion from temp to permanent at work. This removed a layer between me and the client. It also solidified my status with my employer. I get PTO and health insurance in the deal. I also got a nice raise.
Normally on the Naughty List
I depict myself as an outlier in this space. At 19 I thought I understood what an evil hypocrite my Dad was. My troubles were his fault. Answer? Don’t live his life. Do something else. I never quite answered what else. Instead, I fell into cab driving and later, technology support. It’s been almost forty years. The recurring theme has been a tension between what I feel is the path my father set before me and my quest to find another less traveled road.
Since that cross-country bus ride to my grandma’s house in Albany, Ca. I’ve made a quixotic life following my nose. It came out ok, kind of. For the last decade, I’ve been regaining my seat at the table of my kin. We are WASP, from the landed gentry, found at interesting points in history making our small mark on crucial events. I inherited an expectation that I would settle into a white-collar union job, vote Democratic, marry, have some kids and stay in my lane until it was time to collect my gold watch and frequent flyer miles.
Something more interesting happened. Bits and pieces of it appear in this space. I wrote this if you want more than a hint.
Things are good. Yes, I am finishing the year with a mostly empty cupboard. But . . . the lights are on, the space heaters are making their annual feeble attempt at keeping the house warm, I still have my house and my Jeep.
My usual move at a time like this is to find a way to eat the comfort. I am alive when things are really shitty. I’m absurd. I like it when things are fucked up. It’s my normal.
I want 2018 to be abnormal. Rather than live at the limit and sometimes over it, maybe inhale for a bit. Slow down I move to fast, got to make the moment last . . . sorry. In 2018 I want to solidify my position so that there is some ramp.
New Years Resolutions don’t usually make it past the month of January. Our normal grind catches up with us. I stuck with the one about working out. I didn’t lose weight. Money? Money is my kryptonite. That and consistently going to the gym before work. And lifting weights. Lifting weights are really my kryptonite. The cool thing about New Years Resolutions is that December repeats until we become worm food. We get to make the promises again.
You can lump my list of resolutions into one bucket: things that I am conflicted about doing and are good for me. Without further, the list:
Work out in the mornings
Lower body and core strength. Because you can’t make me do crunches and I should.
Tithe at least 5% of my money. Tithing is one of my major malfunctions. I have fought this since I was a kid. With that, stop doing the person-to-person small acts of kindness as my primary means of giving to God. It’s time to settle my beef with the church and surrender to Him at the offering plate.
Purchase tangible goods like gold to build a better fiscal foundation.
Do the needful to reduce my debt and improve my credit score.
Give First Fruits
So . . . I have a short list of things I have accused the church of which justify my refusal to tithe. They are bullshit. The church is not the institution. It is also not the building. The church is its people. We remain a thick-necked and ornery species. It should not surprise me that the church reflects our thick-necked and ornery nature. But it did. I still carry that water as I near my sixth decade of life.
Jesus is an absurd king. His church is an absurd church. I am an idiot for expecting absurd, thick-necked and ornery disciples of a martyred carpenter to behave in a way pleasing to me. Yet I do. So . . . the tithing thing isn’t about the money. Nor is it about the ways in which the people of the church behave in ways I find obnoxious. It’s about trust and surrender.
After posting Hair Ache I had ambitions to live on $4.00/hr. less than what I make. I said I’d report back this month. This is that report. Did I accomplish my goal? No. Well . . . a little.
In 2016 I made my pilgrimage to Mount Pleasant, SC to see the eclipse. Earlier in the year, I celebrated Chinese New Year with my first flight/hotel/rental car vacation. Bertha, my old cop car, got too expensive to fix and instead of adulting and getting another car I let the expired inspection tickets pile up until I was in danger of losing my license. Enter Arty, my Jeep Liberty. 2017 was a year of using my resourcefulness to keep the throttle on my life mashed to the floor.
Good Night Sweet December
So I need a year to catch my breath. The thing I never count on in these cyclical bust/boom things is inertia. It takes time to pay down the cost of my bad behavior. There are things I do when money is scarce that are not smart. But . . . in the moment they are necessary for survival. What’s new is that with my job and such I can relax a little. At least, I will be able to relax a little after I clean up some of the messes that piled up while I stayed in survival mode.
What has to change is a shift from FUB and survival to a more settled fiscal diet. Leave some assets in my life instead of burning through them. It’s a counter-intuitive revolution. Move toward more boring. One of the methods is to tithe.
I’ve been syncopating my giving by tithing directly to those I encounter who seem to need a little help. It is how I avoided my beef with my fellow thick-necked disciples of Christ. It’s time to quit avoiding the fight and engage. With that said the charitable giving I’ve done person-to-person has to stop. In its place is the thing I’ve said I am justified in refusing to do: tithe.
The Talk to Walk
As always, there is the plan and the execution. I’m smart. I write great plans. As I say goodnight sweet December the task remains to execute the plan well. More about my progress in a few months.
We are only our worst moments. Most of us do not measure up when examined against the sins of today, of failing to have the liturgy memorized, of being out of uniform or of letting our virtue signal dim. Ever flirt with someone? Are you a cis-male wasp boomer? You are obvi evil incarnate, not worthy of a grave under the jail, you shameful, depraved sinner. Shame! Crucifixion would be too good for you.
As I make this edit, voters in Alabama voted for Doug Jones to replace Jeff Sessions. The Republican, Roy Moore, is accused of being a pig. All the usual tropes about white, boomer pigs shouted across traditional and social media. Shame! Moore is a pig and that is that.
Sin is weaponized. The current mortal sin is sexual misconduct. Everything from a hand casually brushing across the ass of a woman to full-on rape is treated the same. Anyone with the slightest mote of impropriety is labeled a predator. Give it time, though. The press will get bored with sexual misconduct and pick something else of gravitas to justify hating the target of the day. The sinner and sin will change. The need to keep you watching will not change. Leaders are rotten low hanging fruit.
The only possible leader is one who had an immaculate birth, was castrated before puberty and never even breathed anything remotely evil. Jesus of Nazareth was a bastard convicted criminal, so he’s out. Buddha was born a prince so he can’t understand because of his privilege. King David committed adultery. Though, Mohamed’s story qualifies him. He was an orphan. The surviving stories about his early life are free of any hint of sin. The Koran has a lot to offer the legalist left.
Far From Sans-Sin
Let’s run through my adjectives one more time. wife-beater, divorced father of one, white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, conservative Christian, pro-life, homophobic, misogynist, boomer, would register Republican if I could, Trump supporter that’s a dozen, a good start. I come from quality stock, from a generations-old heritage of solid socialist and communist kin. Shame! Then I became apostate.
Hate me yet? No? I must be doing something wrong. I’d rather be what I am–shunned. Please don’t add me to the nice list. Woe to me should I ever become a public figure. Those twelve adjectives become mortars fired at my reputation.
Now Entering the Colesium
In this current gladiatorial battle for control of the empire, we keep asking our leaders to be sainted god-kings. There must not be a single mote of sin staining their face. Anything that can be used against them is fired at them with all possible force. It is beyond taboo to suggest that our logs enter the stadium. The orthodox axiom is that our leaders must be beyond reproach.
Roy Moore is a pedophile abuser of women. Al Franken was photographed with his hands over the tits of a sleeping news reporter. Harvey Weinstein has dozens of accusers. He is depicted as a massive dickhead unsafe around anyone. John Conyers, a candidate for sainthood, resigned on the day I wrote this. Shame! He is accused of demanding sexual favors and fondling several women.
33 men accused of sexual misconduct says a story recently published in the LA Times. Obviously, men haven’t changed in spite of 169 years of feminist activism. Boys will be boys. Men are beyond redemption. Don’t trust a promise of repentance from a man, especially white, wasp, boomer men. Shame! Those men are despicable and always will be.
We Are Only Our Worst Moments
No one can repent. Words of repentance are meaningless. A tiger can’t change his stripes. Men will always be pigs and dogs. People are ugly and dangerous. White men are immutable racist, misogynist pigs. Nothing changes that. Shame! This is how it has been and always will be.
Some say we are only our worst moments. It is the law that matters. We must strive to please God through diligent adherence to the laws of Moses and Abraham. Even then humanity’s record with this is dismal. We are a thick-necked, stubborn and disobedient people. Our logs and motes become weapons used against us by those who hate us.
Moderation is a sin. One must zealously guard the brand. High achievers master the art of the virtue signal. They can safely stand above us because they keep their signal as a Philistine among Philistines. St. Paul is a piker.
Is That All There Is?
Clay Feet on Mount Olympus
I said this elsewhere, I trust a repentant sinner more than an untested saint. We keep searching for unblemished, untested saints only to discover that they too have sinned. Give me a Donald Trump or Ray Moore who has his one-year medallion. The god-king endorsed by Nancy Pelosi as one who is without blemish? I don’t trust him/her.
So, last night Inger came up for air. She’d been out with a guy who had the full costume. Mao jacket, Red-Army field cap, surplus cargo pants, Doc Martins, Galois cigarettes, fu-man-chu, you get the idea. What’s funny AF is he’s an Asian ginger. British Mom & Vietnamese Dad. South London accent. He’s macking on her, preening with his memorization of the Little Red Book and bits of Stalin. Again with the “sex is a need so sex is a right and I need sex with you so you should honor my right. Besides, someone said you were a feminist. You are not supposed to say no.” This is Inger. He’s lucky she didn’t make him bleed out.
Tumeric was full of righteous indignation at the horrors of Moore/Trump’s alleged nature as a pig, “Ray Moore should be impeached. Can we revolution now?” He was completely blind to his own slobbering hound behavior. His passion was his index finger radar locked on “those guys in the deep state who are secretly the worst ever, starting with Moore/Trump.” For him, draining the swamp meant re-education for anyone whose brand wasn’t brilliantly red. His brand was solid so of course, Inger should lift her skirt for him. Pro-tip: never come at Inger that way. Things will go bad for you.
What Pisses Me Off
The quivering, accusatory finger pointed at political enemies shuts down conversation about anything else. #metoo I understand but it is a bit frustrating. #metoo has become a mass hysteria where every man who behaved in the slightest way mayhaps sexually improper is thrown into the same lot as an accuses serial rapist like Harvey Weinstein.
This accomplishes two things. First, it makes the serious accusations of credible victims seem absurd. We can’t deal with actual harm because the pussy-hat clowns are too busy pointing a quivering finger at every swinging dick that walks by them and smiles. Second, it shuts down any conversation about our leaders that isn’t on the topic of piggish behavior. Everything has to be about sex. Protip: if everything must be about sex then the take-home is that nothing can be about sex.
Third, these pussy-hat clowns who are so enamored of their quivering fingers pointing at pigs ask for the absurd. Men must be eunuchs and virginal hermits. Fertile swinging dicks are a threat. In their hysterical accusations they also further a 19th-century notion of women as frail, delicate creatures needing protection from the cruelty of our fallen world. Men are pigs, always have been since Lilith ran out of Eden into the desert. They always will be and that is that. The cure for that is internment camps where men are taught Maoist doctrine and home economics.
Something I’ve noticed. The shrill, quivering, accusatory finger pointed at Roy Moore and others, only has strength while it can draw attention. Once the emo punch fades and we are all post-coitus sweaty the accusations don’t seem so serious. The news cycle moves on to other more emo-things. There are other erotic mountains to climb, other panty wetting stories to tell.
Because the political conversation has to be about pigs we can’t talk about anything else. Would Roy’s vision of an America made great again be any good? We won’t know because too many are nutting off on the latest teary-eyed ingenue accusing an old-white-pig of forcing her to give it up.
Let me be led by an absurdity. I surrender to a religious dissident whose words spoken to power got him killed. He reigns over me and through him, I am redeemed. Those who would point a shivering finger at me while reciting my litany of sins can just shut up. Would I vote for Roy Moore? Yes. I’ll take my chances on a guy who was a pig at one time but has become a follower of a crucified Nazarene carpenter. I don’t trust someone who paints himself as more pious. I’ll bet a bottle of shine that Doug Jones isn’t all that.
The forecast is cloudy. It is the summer of 2017 in Mount Pleasant, SC. Jolana, her daughter and her husband are at the KOA with my Pappa and his dog, Dexter. It is hot, deep South hot. This is hours before the solar-eclipse began its traverse of the USofA. It’s not gone well.
So . . . see if this sounds like a plan. Pull a pop-up tent trailer behind a Toyota Hi-Lux 650 miles to a campground in Mount Pleasant, SC. This is Plan B. Plan A was to fly to Portland, Oregon, then hitchhike and walk to Lincoln Beach . . . with the little dog Dexter and my 86 year old Pappa. No problem.
About the tent trailer. Jolana bought it from someone on Craig’s List. It has a toilet, a sink, a two-burner propane stove and a refrigerator. Good, good, right? No. None of that works. The ceiling leaks. The tent has holes. South Carolina mosquitoes, just saying.
The Second Time is Never the Same
I feel for anyone who lives wanting the world to be the way they believe it should be. Jolana’s more perfect world was a two week road trip to see the eclipse on Prince Edward Island in the 1970’s. In the summer of 2017 a total eclipse traversed the continental United States of America. This was a chance for a do-over of a rose-tinted memory of the eclipse of her youth. Jolana wanted to get the signal right. Spoiler alert: she got it wrong.
Last Winter I booked a room in Mount Pleasant just in case I decided to make a road trip to see the eclipse. Richmond saw about 85% totality and I was good with that. What I wanted out of a weekend in Mt. Pleasant was some beer drinking, maybe eating somewhere nice, and rest. The eclipse was a side benefit. Jolana had other plans. It was a Prince Edward Island Redo.
Jolana’s fond memory is tinted by the fog of time. It was not so blissful. There was the fight where Mamma took the station wagon and left us stranded at the campground. This is of no consequence to Jolana. She is a brilliant author of her fictional world that she inhabits as naturally as most of us breathe. In this world it was bollywood perfect utopia of family and storm free auspicious solar eclipse.
☀ ☀ ☀
It was a stormy drive to Prince Edward Island that only settled down after Pappa found a lobsterman who was offloading and had lobsters to sell. Mamma was soothed by a lobster dinner prepared by Pappa and Uncle Louie. My happiest moment was discovering easily caught flounder just offshore in knee deep water. That the god’s were grumbly was of small concern.
The event itself was magical. Jolana’s memory is of that moment when the sun slipped behind the moon and day became night. That’s do she wanted to redo.
Forecast is Cloudy Then Clear
Jolana and her crew arrived on Thursday to muggy, cloudy and afternoon stormy Mount Pleasant, SC. The KOA was 95% Class A motorhomes and one miserable tent-trailer and Toyota Hi-Lux that spewed out a gout of brown, spanish speaking people. Someone forgot to tell the gardeners that the employee sites were on the other side of the creek. That Jolana had a reservation . . . meant nothing until it did.
I took my time leaving Richmond on Friday and making my way to Mount Pleasant. The leg from Richmond to Kinston, NC was uneventful. I got to the Boiler Room after lunch. I had my butter-bean burger. It’s good. A bit too much like a grilled refried bean patty, but otherwise good. The second leg from Kinston, NC to Mount Pleasant took the rest of the day.
I made a visit to the campground Friday night. The hotel’s policy on pets was that they had to be in a smoking room and there was a nightly $25.00 charge. I told Jolana that it was a “apologize rather than ask permission” thing. For Jolana this was as good as permission granted. My mistake.
Pappy’s Gonna Die
It is Saturday morning. I’m comfortable under the blankets. It’s 6:00am. My phone rings. It’s Jolana, “Alan, escucha! Ésto es una emergencia. ¡Tenemos que venir ahora mismo! Pappa y Dexter se sobrecalientan.” She has a big speech prepared to explain why her crowd *has* to come over, “Estamos ardiendo. Son 93 ° F. Tenemos que tener aire acondicionado para Dexter y Pappa. No quiero poner a Pappa en el hospital. Él no puede hacerlo en este calor. Dexter también está sobrecalentado. No querrá dejar morir a Dexter, ¿lo haría?” Somehow my lazy Saturday has become an IRL telenovela.
Gotta love bipolar people. Everything is full-throttle. The move is to do a little tough love and let them steep in mosquitoes and Mount Pleasant heat. I invited them over. Punchline? Not even. It gets better.My Saturday now features a hotel room with Jolana, her husband and daughter and Pappa and the little dog Dexter. No worries, right? If the hotel doesn’t find out then no problem. They found out.
10:00am. Time for maid service. She knocked, spotted Dexter, and walked away. Then the phone in the room rang. It was the desk clerk, “please come to the front desk.” Busted. First of all, I was in a non-smoking room and there is a fine for having a pet in a non-smoking room. Second, it was Saturday and the clerk wanted to charge us for two days of pet presence.
Jolana’s move was obvious. She became coquettish and asked Pappa to pay the fine for Dexter with his card. He did. She promised to pay him back. She’s been promising to pay him back since I left in 1978. If Pappa could collect he’d be a rich man. He is not a rich man.
Punished Good Deed
Pappa and I talk to the desk clerk. It’s $150.00 for the dog. $100.00 fine for having the dog in a non-smoking room and $25.00/day extra for each day the dog is there, “Señor ten piedad. ¿Por qué mi hija es tan difícil? Jesús, ¿qué he hecho para merecerla?” Pappa pays and I hope we are done. We are not.
Jolana stopped at McDonald’s on the way down and got a 20 piece chicken nuggets meal. That was her food budget for a week on the road. Four people, three meals a day, five days, 20 chicken nuggets, a large order of french fries and a big diet Coke. The math doesn’t work for me either. Add me and it’s five people . . .
My plan was to find an open grocery store and buy a bunch of those salad kits. The ones that come in their own mixing bowl and even have a napkin and a fork. And a can of Bustelo coffee, a quart of orange juice, a box of Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, some lunch meat, sliced cheese, a loaf of bread, and whatever cheap beer the store had. Done and done, about $40.00 to eat for three days. Until Jolana and her crew.
Add One Hungry Maw
My brother-in-law went with me to the store. He only drinks Modelo. Woo. My niece ate all 20 chicken nuggets on the drive down. Jolana asked , “¿Cómo se supone que debemos comer si no tenemos comida?” My brother-in-law made me like him even more, “Nadie te garantizo comida Si te lo comiste todo, tendrás que rezar y ayunar hasta que lleguemos a casa.” We were in the store parking lot. He showed me the stash of beef jerky and corn tortillas in his bookbag. Smart man.
Final total at the checkout stand was almost a benjamin. Pushing triple what I budgeted for food. Between Dexter and a failure to plan I’m down over $200.00 on my budget for this event. I’ve gotten uncomfortable.
We got back to the room, unloaded and I left again to go drive around Charleston and take pictures (and calm down). When I got back Jolana and her family had eaten their fill. I had one breakfast sandwich left. The beer was gone.
One more thing. It was 7 miles or so between my hotel and the KOA. I got to Mount Pleasant with enough gas to make a good start on the drive home. I forgot to mention that Jolana’s HiLux was a sputtering embarrassment to the reputation for dependability of that truck. She didn’t want to drive it until it was time to hook the trailer to it and make the crawl north to home. Add 10 legs driving between hotel, KOA and grocery store and my gas didn’t look like it did when I got in on Saturday.
I am fond of saying that I live balanced at a precipice. A lot of my life looks like it will tip into disaster and then ends up working out ok. I’ve had my flights over the cliff to land in a patch of thistle. This leg is 15 years long climbing from the street to a few of the trappings of socially approved living. Along the way many have feared that I’ve hit a peak and am headed back to the street. It hasn’t happened yet.
So, trips like this one are done my way. I have what I need to make it happen. If nothing goes wrong. Add Jolana and my resourcefulness is tested to its limits. I’m the big brother so I’m the junior cash bull and shield from her foolish choices. This does not make me feel very fraternal.
1500 words, the bottom of most of my posts. Quickly, the eclipse was covered by clouds and not the event I had hoped. The cap on all this is Tuesday when I planned on driving back I was out of gas. Jolana hustled the campground to get up some gas money. I think she had to work under the table for a day cleaning latrines. I plead my case to Pappa who made Jolana reach into her bra for my gas money. Jolana had been telling everyone she had nothing left.
Tuesday Google Maps kept me on local roads until the Virginia border. I came home to a full-fridge and enough gas to get me to payday. One of the things I struggle with is the way Jolana seems to be ignorant of boundaries. She authors her truth with a willful defiance of objective fact or the truth of others. In that truth Pappa and I have what she needs. Because she needs it she feels she has a right to it. So, we don’t have a say in whether to provide. From our ability to her need.
I’m ok. It’s the weekend following Thanksgiving as I finish writing this piece. God provided. The hole Jolana dug in my life got filled by Christ’ providence. I’m used to scrambling when things are looking tough. But . . . by way of a conclusion, the above is an answer to why I live in Richmond.
Jolana is my opportunity to minister to my family. She tests my resolve to remain a faithful disciple of Christ. She stretches me in ways I complain about. Still, the “y luego las cosas terminan en armonía con Jesús” remains true.
If you are underage and your survival depends on adults, many things feel like God given rights. To be fair, much is a right because two people had sex and here you are. Beyond the age of ?12? or so, beyond puberty when it is possible for you to procreate and fend for yourself, the case that all needs are rights gets weaker. If you are a thirty-something sofa-rodent subsisting on pork rinds and Mountain Dew surrounded by a nest of old tech . . . the case that all needs are rights is very weak. The phrase, “out of the mouths of babes . . .” needs to be “out of the mouth of boys.”
The boy has a name. Inger won’t name him because he is a family friend and her parents like him. They hoped that he would gain some cred house-sitting for her. It is a futile hope. He kept the camera-ready artifice upstairs and junked the 19th century basement kitchen and servant’s quarters. In its place is a shrine to virtual existence. There are 9 32″ 4K monitors on a huge Ergotron stand. The desk where the keyboard and mouse would go is covered in pork rind wrappers.On the chair are a VR headset and hand-controllers. Behind the monitors is a Medusa’s wig of cable traceable to a table-height server box emanating the drone of cooling fans. This is boy’s mecca and home.
Boy’s name is unremarkable: Charles. Some call him Chuck E Cheese just to get under his skin. He is pink the way German/Scots/Irish are. His hair is blond. He is lanky the way some boys are when height came first. UofR graduate in finance, MBA from Virginia Tech and an up and coming career with Wells Fargo Advisors. Devoutly Baptist. A perfect 10 for Inger’s parents.
The Perfect Zero
Which . . . makes him a perfect 0 for Inger. She’d done well enough in drug court that she was out on supervised release. She had weekly appointments at Probation and Parole on Oliver Hill Way. The first thing she did is put boy out. The temple of tech had to come out of the basement. Everything Inger needed to do with tech she did on her phone and her laptop. That shrine to sofa-rodent life he built was an offense on so many levels, all five figures of them.
Charles (Boy) was fine enough as roommate and protector of the house. If he lived upstairs and if he would stop acting like a gen-y techno rodent with a penchant for old Apple computers. He liked her so he moved one of his Powerbooks to a bedroom upstairs. That lasted an hour. Inger heard his speakers thumping in the basement as he shot his way through PlanetSide.
Inger hates a lot of things. High on the list is any roommate that leaves evidence of using the bathroom or the kitchen. She understood that people need to eat and shower. That’s fine. She doesn’t understand sauce spills stretching from stove to floor, old pizza rinds arrayed around the trashcan, or hot-glued beer can towers. These are evils to be battled and destroyed.
Boy’s particular junk food tastes were a bit more white trailer trash. Tall Pabst beer cans piled near the trashcan with the detritus of many Dominoes deliveries. And the Utz pork rind bags and the Mountain Dew and Cheerwine bottles. Gross.
Maslow Level 1
The bathroom. He had a bathroom in the basement that used to be part of the servant’s quarters. It was rather art-deco/shaker in its look & feel. You could imagine Frank Lloyd Wright as the designer. The designer was actually an undergrad Inger knew that needed something for her portfolio. It was ok. If you could get past the green stains from the copper that had leached out of the pipes. Or the manicured path from tech-rodent temple to toilet edged by Little Debbie Snack wrappers.
If he could just use that bathroom she might be ok. The house has 14′ ceilings. It’s 20′ of stairs to the second floor. Twice a day the tech rodent/boy named Charles climbed the stairs to her bathroom. He left the toilet seat up. She could see that he missed the toilet more than he hit it. His dick must look like a pig’s tail.
She had Febreeze prominently displayed on top of the toilet. Civilized people understood why. Her nose screamed that he had no idea.
Maslow Level 1-B
The kitchen. Should look like the picture of it in Richmond Magazine. Inger ate out a lot because of boy’s failure to respect the kitchen. Underneath the pizza boxes, chinese take-out boxes, Little Debbie wrappers, pork rind wrappers, Pabst empties, was an award winning kitchen design. A first semester culinary school student would kill for a kitchen like this, if it was taken care of. And . . . the cleaning service was very patient with boy. They’d put it right only to have the food debris grow back like black mold.
Inger came home after bar-close on Sunday morning. The basement windows glowed blue. She could hear the thump of PlanetSide from the porch. A pig had spilled his kamakazi on her dress and then stared at her as she tried to wipe the bourbon and beer off her silk dress. Asshole. That was his move, it seems. In quick succession she pinched a nerve in his wrist and hit him in the throat. It felt good.
She walked away as he crumpled to the floor crying that he had been stabbed in the throat by a dude trying to kill him. No . . . you are a little bitch who can’t imagine getting whooped by a girl you wanted to get with. So you try to save face and say a guy stabbed you. Sucks to be you. Your blood is from the Bloody Mary Inger threw in your face. And maybe a few superficial cuts from the broken pint glass.
Out of the Mouth of Boys
Boy wasn’t in his tech-rodent cave. He was in the living room with a PS4. The food debris had spawned all over her designer rug. Inger went to the breaker box and turned off the circuit for the living room, “what the fuck?” She killed the basement circuits for good measure, “what the hell did you do that for?”
The house was nicely quiet, “You are in my living room.”
“You have the bigger TV.”
“It is my TV. Your shit is downstairs. What are you doing up here?”
“I have a right to be here just as much as you. Your parent’s said so. Fuck, I was almost through the map.”
“Boy . . . listen. Your right to be here is because I tolerate your stinking ass. If I didn’t need you I’d kick the self-righteous white trash racist out of you from here to McDowell County. You need to understand your place,” words like that are usually shot at people with a deeper skin tone than pink boy.
“Inger, fuck you. You are the one in drug court and on probation. You are one phone call away from going back to jail. Besides, I need to be here and all needs are rights!”
Some Needs Are Not Right
Inger lost it. When the cops came the boy was shocked to find he was the one in cuffs. Inger is average mayhaps a bit thin. Tech rodent boy is a bit bigger than average but he’s awkwardly tall. Whatever. The cops believed her when she cried that he’d beat her. She had bruises. He had some wild story about pressure points and pain and joint locks and he didn’t know his body bent like that. But no marks. The one with marks wins. Inger knew this.
“All needs are rights“, my ass. Boy’s tenancy concluded when he sent her a long e-mail from a gmail account claiming that sex is a need for men and thus, should be a right. In the middle of the message was some babble about how hot she was. Inger fought back the urge to get him fixed. He was gone. The cleaning service came out and put the house right. Her friend came back and helped clean out the basement.
All was well for a couple months. Until recently when the TV would come on just after bar-close and PlanetSide video playback thumped through the AV system. An attractive red-head’s stomach blew open in a video loop after being shot by a lanky, pink skinned soldier. Inger hadn’t thought much about a security system until this.
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
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: