No Pulse, Just a Finger

Charlie Boy Inside

Inger got him arrested. Her time in the Bay Area included a year at Sennin Kai. When she got back to Richmond she started over with Eric at Richmond Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Inger trains because it keeps her sane. All that boomer childhood whim indulgence and self-empowerment was worthless. It filled her with anxiety. On her first night at Sennin Kai a Tai Kwan Do blackbelt questioned one of the instructors whether Aiki Jiu-Jitsu was effective. She didn’t see what happened. She only heard the groans of the Tai Kwan Do dude as he lay on the floor trying to recover. He signed up. Shameless Yoast SEO pander: No pulse, just a finger

So, Charles (Boy) of my previous post about Inger, went to jail. Inger had a quiet year. She rented a place a couple doors down from me. The Stuart Street house? It’s still there. She still has it. It’s too bougie for her, she says. So she splits her time between East 15th Street and Stewart Street. If you ask me, Stuart Street has too many bad memories of Charley Boy.

Escalade, No Pulse, Just a Finger

All’s been well until recently. Inger knocked on my door last Saturday. She’d seen the Cadillac Escalade parked in front of my house for a couple weeks. She thought maybe it was mine. Curiosity drove her to peek inside.

That’s Not Happening

What she saw pushed her that last little bit to my door and an insistent knock, “ALAN! FUCK! ANSWER THE DOOR! There is a finger, a human finger on the back seat of that whip!” I hate answering the door in my PJ’s. She kept pounding and shouting about a finger on the back seat of the Cadillac Escalade in front of my house, “Give me a minute!” I put on some jeans and my old Eagles t-shirt.

Inger was at the front door. Two locks, open it, she blows by me and takes a horse stance next to my couch, “A fucking finger on the back seat of that whip. Oh my fucking God!

Oh yay! My Saturday routine just got disrupted. Never mind couch slugging with PBS on until mid-afternoon. Now I had Inger going on about a finger she saw on the seat of a sketchy looking Cadillac Escalade. Life in the ghetto for a WASP. Woo.

No Pulse, Just a Finger

So . . . it’s Saturday. Priorities. I made coffee, a French omelete and home fries. Inger wasn’t hungry or happy. She couldn’t stop worrying about the finger on the back seat of the Cadillac Escalade. Was it a guy’s finger, girls? How did it get there? Now with breakfast made I called the cops. They got to us in about a half-hour. And . . . closed the street.

Cops leaving East 15th Street, No Pulse, Just a FingerAwesome. My car was parked behind the Subaru. Forget going anywhere for a while. The one time I park in front of my house Inger finds no pulse, just a finger.

Inger doesn’t drink coffee. She found the loose tea I had and made herself a cup of Oolong. Wait?! What?! You pig. Taiwanese tea, asshole. OMG! Racist even.

Talk about awkward. I’ve got a SHYT in my kitchen amped up about some suitcases she found in the Escalade. Inside was powder cocaine, cash, and clothes. The front seat was strewn with bags and wrappers from a late-night drunk food binge. A couple Four Loko empties were on the floor, shotgun spot.

Party Remains

The powder cocaine was in bricks. A couple kilos. By now the cops had tape closing the street at both the Edwards and Gordon ends of the block. A CSI unit showed up. It’s not like TV. They are very methodical and slow. The clothes were early gone-to-the-club casual. Thongs, bras, jeans and oversized t-shirts. Inger didn’t see anything that looked like guy stuff. Except maybe the glimpse of surplus army boots in the way-back.

Inger knew too much. She denied going through the Escalade. She said she only stood outside and took pictures with her phone. Uh huh. In my cab-driving years, I gave rides to thousands of drunks and addicts. Many of them were  Cartel members. It was my job to make snap decisions about the likelihood of a given fare ending with payment and polite goodbyes. By dint of repetition, I got pretty good at it. Inger’s version of the events leading to her hugging a cup of Oolong tea in my kitchen did not add up.

I asked her how much cash she saw, “Not that much. Some benjamins.” Her purse was on the floor next to her. I could see at least one bundle peaking out. Inger’s family has money so it’s possible she’s walking around with 25% of my annual salary in cash. It’s possible. There is an abandoned Escalade in front of my house being scrutinized by criminologists. I’d bet there are more possibilities Inger isn’t ready to confess.

Charlie Boy

I wondered why she would risk pissing off drug dealers by helping herself to a couple bundles of Benjamins. Inger was a Daddy’s girl and her family had money. All she had to do is ask. Yet she’s in my kitchen wearing designer clothes that have the scent of a thrift store. She looks like she hasn’t slept in ages. She smelled of stale beer and sticky sex.

Charles (Boy) had been stalking her. Inger went so far as to get a restraining order. He ignored it. She was in a manic/paranoid mood of late, texting me incessantly that her laptop would power on and alert her to a tweet from someone who seemed to know exactly what she was doing right then. Inger even started taking the battery out at bed-time. No effect. Still, messages came. She could solve this just by replying to Charlie Boy, maybe joining him in Sid Meier’s Civilization for a while.

Inger bought a gun instead. She was against guns but this asshole was getting scary. Let that fucker violate the restraining order. Then Inger wondered out loud of the finger was Charlie’s. That seemed to make her smile.

Exit Out the Back

Inger and I were getting fidgety. We peaked out my back door and discovered that the cops had not closed off the alley. Good. Processing the crime scene was going to be an all-day thing. Let the cops do their job. She and I closed up the house, headed to the alley and made a right turn toward her house. This wasn’t over.

Some Housekeeping

I’ve given up on the popular conversation about Trump. I voted for him so I guess that makes me a racist, Nazi asshole who hates everybody and especially the golden children of the left–LBGTQ, brown people, and women. I am a born-again Christian, so that adds to the depth of my evil. I’m done trying to engage with those who believe with cult fever that God is on their side in this fight for the soul of our democracy.

I’m resigning my seat at the table where the task is to throw rhetorical bombs at the other side. I don’t want to talk about it. There are plenty who are talking about it. I can opt out.

I’ve said my piece on philosophy and religion. I’ve written a statement of essentials in Nutcracker Ushers. There are 277 published posts on this blog covering current events, religion, politics, and philosophy. At an average of 1500 words each, there are 416,000 ways to be pissed off at me for something I said. I think that’s enough.

I’m more interested in Inger and the other characters I’ve created in this space. So, for now, I’m going to concentrate on a serialized novel telling this story: what happened to that finger, the cocaine and clothes in that Escalade. There was no pulse, just a finger.

 

 

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Forecast is Cloudy

Deep South Hot

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.Forecast is Cloudy with a chance of cable tvMy 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.

Precipice

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.

Home Safe

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.

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Run! Felina Run!

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

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

Family Drama

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

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

Bae Issues and Akim

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

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

On a Warm Summer Night

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

Sometimes You Need More Than Locks

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

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

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

 A Level Down

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

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

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

Forgiveness Includes Justice

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

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

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

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

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

 

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What Are We?

Fashy Boy asks, “What are we?” and Felina answers, “friends.” This does not sit well with Fashy Boy. Fashy Boy, it seems, pitched the idea of meeting the fam and Felina agreed. Meeting the fam is a “we are a thing” move. He was hoping for more than “friends“.

It is amusing that under all Fashy Boy’s cross dressing and eye shadow is a good Baptist who wants his woman to jump the broom with him. All that energy invested in Felina must mean something. They even said that phrase, “I love you.” Why wouldn’t they be a thing?

Away from the shores of the Mississippi he is androgynous leaning fem and flirts with cis-boys. At home in Raymond the narrow ties and Dockers come out of the closet. They posted a picture on FB that looked like Grant Wood’s, “American Gothic“. Lately, Felina went to the salon for help with her blown out bottle blonde and pink dye job.

So . . . Men are necessary evils to Felina. She’d like kids some day so that means a guy. She’s tasted clams and lost her appetite for them. Too much drama for one. She keeps men around like dusty dildos and Dollar Store tool kits. Not needed, mostly, but sometimes a girl has needs and a guy can help. Until Fashy Boy.

Felina doesn’t have beau’s the way some would wish her to. That would mean dealing with expectations and dirty toothbrushes. He can wash his own damned clothes. She breaks dirty plates left in the sink and throws them away. Never at the bae, just close enough to make the point. Fashy boy accused her of being crazy abusive when he left a plate in the sink and it went flying across the kitchen to shatter and fall behind the stove. That happened early on one of their newish overnights before the whole meet the fam thing happened.

✤ ✤ ✤

It was Fashy Boy that moved the stove and swept up the broken plate. This was before I picked them up this morning at 3:00am at a gas station just off I-95 at the north end of the capital of the South. The bus ride was an epic mess. They missed their first bus on Thursday and could not get another one until this morning. Fashy Boy had made noises about taking care of her, which to Felina means he had money for this pilgrimage. Not. Felina was out of pocket for the whole thing. Felina may be full of the ways in which men have burned her but the flame still flickers. She still hopes that a guy will be able to take care of her.

Fashy Boy’s status with her was not in a good place. Felina did the needful and got them back to Richmond on one of those generic white buses that always seem to have Cantonese speaking staff. A1 Auspicious Travel or whatever. I expected Felina to be cold to Fashy Boy. I expected her to be on the bus by herself. Neither happened. They were repacking their stuff after the driver had tossed it. Felina had wrapped herself with a blanket as a skirt because it was 25°F and when they left Mississippi it had been short skirt weather. They moved together like a couple who were past the ‘spose to phase.

They loaded themselves into my car and we headed off to the Fan where they had friends who were going to put them up. The ride to their crash-pad was short and filled with the business of making Raymond home. Felina was nervous because this is the biggest commitment to a boy yet. I didn’t think Fashy Boy would be the one but these ten minutes with them in my cab were telling.

✤ ✤ ✤

You know a woman picks a man when she starts talking about babies and plans and a purpose and a cause. She can rest in his life knowing that beyond the usual strom and drang of married with children he’ll be fine. There are enough women who are down for the cause and claim to not need men. Then 28 happens and as annoying as it is, the social pressure to settle down gets loud. Felina is a long way off from that. Still, her old soul tag comes from dirty feet while walking through hell to the other side. Fashy boy under the makeup feels like red peas. She found a purpose in him and that feels really good.

She also found rest in the small act of kindness by Fashy Boy when the plate smashed and fell behind the stove. In her family that would have been the opening salvo. It would have been on and after the cops left they’d have to go to the dollar store for paper plates. Fashy Boy just stared at her, shook his head and got out the broom. After a stony silence while he started cleaning up all he said was, “are you done?” No, she wasn’t.  He’d not done what she expected. This melted her. She got the dust pan and helped him throw out the shards.

Trust is Felina’s kryptonite. Hers is a world absent of mercy and grace. In her world every slight, every hurt, resentment or past sin is another round to be fired at the one causing duress. Grace, forgiveness, mercy are impossible and desperate hungers for her. Fashy Boy’s small act of kindness fixed it for her. That was what sealed the deal. She was his.

They unloaded in front of a house on Monument Ave that is on the annual Junior League decorator tour. I figured a different sort of place. It must be nice to have friends who offer crash pads that have appeared in Architectural Digest. As I drove off I made my own bets as to when I’d hear that they’d been to the Hinds County Courthouse and made it legit. In the meantime, I’d say these two are a thing. Not what I expected or wanted. Probably better, though.

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The Last Hippie

Berkeley thinks too much of itself. Within the small world of the Bay Area the recent riots on Telegraph Avenue are still news. 3,000 miles away in the Capital of the South we are worried about whether it will snow next week. Inger had a room at the Hotel Carlton that weekend. She had one of the better rooms with its own bathroom. It didn’t prevent her from finding a nigh comatose heroin addict collapsed just at the top of the stairs as she headed to her room from Blondie’s Pizza.

Last Hippie, Berkeley 2017 RiotsLong before the protest made the news, Inger was hitching her way to Berkeley because she’d gotten out of rehab, hadn’t really found a place to live or a job, and heard that there was going to be a protest in the Bay Area. When she shipped her purse home with her clothes she kept her id and one of her high limit credit cards. She wanted to be disconnected from her parents and the life set before her. Roughing it is fun for a few days but it doesn’t take Inger long to be a little homesick and wish for hotel towels and a hot shower.

Inger is all about social justice. She very much wants world peas and an end to all the miseries white wealthy are accused of fomenting. All that helicopter parenting did not instill in her a desire for a quiet, Stepford Wife ride to the shores of the Styx. It left her with an appetite for Lucifer’s buffet. She was at core, an obedient daughter. The heat of living on the uglier side of the railroad tracks has been a siren call since middle school. It has felt more authentic to her than the sterile world of Staten Island. Berkeley was her Mecca, her place to pilgrimage where she could find sage hippies and a thrill that ran down her leg.

Eugene Lefkowitz is a fictional Berkeley eccentric often found in People’s Park. He is variously deluded and believes he is the Emperor of the People’s United Democratic Free Republic of Berkeley or in more centered moods, an acolyte of Gurumayi. Gene was off his meds, had left the ashram to find some of his old friends from his Taxi Unlimited days, hoping to quiet some of the voices in his head and find the camaraderie he remembered from the 1980’s squatting under the house behind the cab office. Gene had some money, always did, and was driving an old Dodge Dart still painted with scenes from the Sistine Chapel by another of the Taxi Unlimited collective members. Gene was headed back to Berkeley, stopped at Einstein Brother’s for breakfast in Farmville, VA where Inger had parked herself outside with a sign and a cup.

Rehab didn’t take for Inger. She was supposed to do six months, did three weeks and signed herself out. She had her ID and one of her credit cards so she could have run a tab and gone full first world. First world is what set all this off so like, no fucking way, seriously. No, she was miserable on the sidewalk in front of an Einstein’s Bagels in Farmville, VA determined to beg and hitch her way as far from the old life as she could.

Not everyone comes out of Bishop Eustace ready to major in MRS and settle in to kids and an expensive divorce by age 29. Some, like Inger, just can’t get rid of the feeling that all this privilege and setting up for success is bullshit. There has to be more and it isn’t catechism, Women’s League and all the rest. The Baptists just seemed to want to do friends with benefits with the preacher. She’d seen enough of the Reformed tradition that she thought they were pussies for hiding in the Bible and not taking on all of what it meant to be Catholic.

Inger was on pace until that coworker smiled at her. In the short span of time it took to reach the guard desk she’d decided to opt out. Gene knew none of this. He just wanted a Lox bagel and cream cheese as he stepped past her into the chain store version of Noah’s Bagels.

Most of us see people like Inger with their sign and cup as a sad part of our landscape. We want there to be an answer to this public challenge to our well-intended practice of checkbook missions. There doesn’t seem to be so we walk by and have a quick, conflicted conversation with God about whether to give a quarter or not. Mostly, we don’t.

Gene stopped, “Hi. Are you hungry?” The implicit social contract in this is that beggar gets money from beggee. It’s way off script to greet the beggar and offer a meal. Gene does very little on script.

What Inger should do is refuse and counter with an ask for money, reinforcing the implied social contract, “yeah, kind of.”

“Come on inside. Order what you want. I got you.”

Inger looked him over. He was a big dude, kind of hill billy looking, with a chrome dome then a salt & pepper ponytail half down his back and an unkempt beard. But his boots were not cheap and his leather jacket was at least designer if not tailored, “why should I trust you?”

“Because you are way out of your comfort zone in a place that arrests people like you just because you look like you do. I give you an hour before the cops show up and encourage you to leave.”

Inger had picked out her idea of grunge fashion while shopping in Richmond’s Fan district. Hello Kitty t-shirt, jeans, Doc Martin’s, Real Tree camo jacket, “Like I care. I been to jail. I just got out of rehab. Whatever. You got a dollar?”

“Come on. Eat. After that? Up to you.”

“Where are you from?” She thought upstate New York, maybe Finger Lakes. There was a bit of biker to him.

“Born in Syracuse. But I travel a fair bit.”

Inger stood up, gathered her things, dumped the cardboard sign and empty plastic cup in the trash, and walked inside Einstein’s. Gene followed.

She ordered an Americano with soy and a chicken cuban. It’d been a couple days since she’d been able to order anything not on the dollar menu. Gene added a Chipotle Turkey wrap to his bagel order so she would have a late lunch, “why are you doing that?”

“Doing what”

“Being generous. Old guy dropping cash on young girl. Makes a girl wonder.”

“First, I am gender fluid. Lately I’ve been celibate. You are attractive but I’m not into sex these days.”

“Weirdo.”

“Yep. Still want the turkey wrap?”

Inger just stared back, “Wait, what? You in a dress?”

They went through the line after placing their orders. Gene paid cash, “Sometimes.”

“Eew. Don’t.” Inger picked up her Chicken Cuban and soy Americano, “so, are you like, a biker?”

“No. Never really kept a job. Didn’t want one. The universe provides for me.”

“So, are you rich?”

“I have enough.”

“What are you?”

” A citizen of the universe and Emperor of the People’s Free Democratic Republic of Berkeley.”

“You are scary.”

“I’m safe, you needn’t fear me.”

“I don’t know. Wears a dress, thinks he’s an emperor of some Berkeley thing, sounds sort of scary. You are a scary hippy?”

“Was a hippie. Not scary. All the real hippies either died or got married, had kids and settled down.”

“What about you?”

“I travel. I never liked being in one place long enough to keep a woman or a job. Both are needed to have kids.”

I interrupt the start of this narrative, sorry, right about when these two are going to talk about something other than trifles and food. As I write I realize this is probably 13,000 words rather than 1300. It’ll have to be serialized, sorry. I never got to the reason I started talking about Gene and Inger. You’ll have to follow the blog to find out.

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Inger

Inger’s first appearance on the blog was last August when I started a kurfuffle for tossing about the word “rape” too casually for some. I didn’t name her then. I described the incident in a post titled, “It Was Rape“. I never named the girl who threw herself at the mercy of the guards a manic shadow of her Ivy League self. It wasn’t necessary then. It is necessary now. Also, most of my readership know that I am first a fiction writer who also writes prose. Thus, Inger is not a real person. I have to say that because my PDFRB minders read a draft and accused me of shaming rape victims and giving undue press to rapists.

Inger, I and my peers need to apologize. We failed to raise you right. We were so concerned about your self-esteem we kept a bubble around you such that you were never allowed to fail. We feared the damage done to you by a dangerous world so you lived in a cocoon where you could do anything you wanted and were never held accountable. Now, grown, your world is a cackling nightmare of anxiety triggering aggression and threats. There are boogeymen everywhere who have hurt you. Men are, on their face, muderous assholes intent on killing you. White men are the worst. White women are agents of the white male devil and thus more evil because of their complicity in the violence and oppression.

We succeeded in protecting you from strife. In Little League you always got a trophy regardless of how well you performed. We beamed with pride when you showed up at your ballet recital in a rainbow tutu, a black leotard and Doc Martins saying you were dancing for the rights of black people and the downtrodden LBGTQ community. We taught you that having a tantrum meant getting a better trophy so you learned to be expert at using anger to get what you wanted. We explained away and excused your troubles in school as the fault of a legion of enemies set against you. It was never your fault.

When you saved our dung in mason jars and used it to finger paint on the walls we proudly took our pictures to the local copy store and had large format images of your art framed. Your use of infant poop was inspired.

We catered to your every whim. Switched brands of locovore soy milk because you told us the son of the family owned business was an evil pig exploiting young girls for profit. We never quite understood what made him so evil but since you were our precious snowflake we complied.

We defended you through to College at Stanford when you spent your first semester occupying the central square as a protest of the presence of white students proving endemic racism on campus. We hired lawyers to help you sue your professors who asked you to write essays that you said caused you duress. We lost but never stopped believing that you were right.

Please come home. We don’t know where you are. We are worried about you. We saw that Periscope video of you yelling, “rape” at work and were frightened. We have attorneys on retainer waiting for you. We support your fight for women’s suffrage in the workplace 100%.

✠ ✠ ✠

In the weeks following Inger’s spectacular exit from her internship at a Silicon Valley social media company she lost it. After being examined by the Trauma Center and having a rape kit collected she was nearly catatonic. A social worker and a psychiatrist examined her and had her transferred to the Psychiatric Ward. In California you can only be held for 72 hours involuntarily before they have to release you or have a plan for you. Inger got herself released.

She had the usual kit of a first world citizen of these United States. Purse containing necessities including ID, credit & debit cards and some cash. A scarf, ripped but usable. New cotton panties courtesy of the county since her VS Pink thong was ruined and a lacy thong in a psych ward is not a plan. Her phone, which had everything she needed to get an Uber back to her apartment. Her life was waiting for her. She just had to go home.

She did not. She was released at 8:00pm on a weeknight. She made her way to Calero Park, befriended a goth boy who had a tent and a spare sleeping bag. She was there for a couple days, begging for spare change and eating out of dumpsters. Her last stop in the first world was a visit to FedEx Office to mail her purse and clothes to her parents in Ashland, Va.

We failed you as parents and for that we are sorry. Please turn on your phone and let us know you are ok, ok?

Felina was a classmate at Stanford the school year before the internship and the cry of “Rape!” They were friendly but not close. Stanford was a fail for Inger and the softest landing after a fall was Swarthmore. Inger’s internship was on plan, in her senior year at Swarthmore and bode well for her. Inger and Felina mostly stayed in touch through Instagram and a shared love of creating memes. Then after the rape shout Inger went dark. Felina thought maybe she’d been ghosted by Inger.

That’s some of Inger’s back story. I said in a recent post that she was back in rehab. Getting clean and sober for Inger isn’t simply suffering through cold turkey and a bunch of Fellowship Meetings. Inger has come in to adulthood sporting PTSD and Schizophrenia. Inger, angry, doesn’t know how to self-soothe or calm down. Inger can’t cope with duress without a meltdown. She becomes a babbling idiot at the utterance of three words, “you are wrong.” She’s got some life skills to learn while getting clean.

What happened to the guy? When Inger went dark and resurfaced in rehab for the first time in Martinsville at Piedmont Community Services the cops tried to talk to her but she refused. The rape kit showed signs of sexual battery but the evidence pointed to someone else, not the coworker who was gang tackled by the guards. The police were willing to follow up on the case but Inger’s way of coping with them was a screaming fit in which she claimed that the police had invaded her brain with worms who were telling her that she was carrying the alien baby of a drunken party-goer after an all nighter in Calero Park. The staff asked the cops to leave and it was a few days before Inger returned to group.

Without clear evidence to support the screams of “Rape” the cops were left flat. This isn’t Law & Order SVU. This is Santa Clara County’s District Attorney’s office with the usual challenges. Every Assistant District Attorney has to weigh the cost of prosecuting a case against the likelihood of a conviction. Inger’s accusations of “Rape” didn’t have enough meat on them to justify spending the county’s money on prosecution so the charges were dropped.

Though, in the overheated, totalist mood of the country and of California, the scent of an accusation stuck to the coworker like skunk piss. His indifference to her accusations caused a social media storm of bad press, rumors and gossip which left his employer accused of being a fellow traveler of a rapist. Despite the absence of legal interest in his alleged sins the coworker found himself without a job and blacklisted.

So . . . Inger. I am sorry that my generation’s best intentions became your worst nightmare. The great sadness is that as shitty as it is, it’s on you now. I wish you all the best in this stint of rehab. Piedmont County is a good place to be.

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Let’s Do the Numbers Again

We are a nation of roughly 324 million people. We are the third most populous country in the world. African Americans are about 13% of the population, or almost 39 million people. One article in the Huffington Post says that at least 136 African American Men were shot by cops this year. We have this down to a script now. Cop shoots Black Man. The drumbeat starts. CNN goes 247365 repeating ceaselessly the headline, which is about 15 seconds long. The usual suspects say the usual things. There is SnapChat video. Riots, protests, and yet again the vigilantes want the cop’s head on a spear and a law demanding that no cop can ever shoot another black man. A black man can shoot a cop, that’s fine. Hell, we need more people shooting cops just so they understand that you can’t shoot black people. Just never the other way.

08shooting5-master315You are more likely to die of a heart attack than you are to be shot by a cop. Cardiovascular disease killed 46,000 black men in 2016. From 2010 to 2011 4,906 black men were murdered by other black men. A measly 0.00035% of African American men are shot by cops based on the Huffington Post story. But, so says the talking heads on the TV, it’s an epidemic and every African American is in danger.

Ways to Die for a Black Man

Death by Cop 1 in 236,000
Death Black Man 1 in 7,950
Death by Heart Attack
1 in 848

It was an epidemic in the 1980’s when the claim was made that you could not drive while black and complete your trip without being pulled over by the cops.

Here we are again taking the narrow specific case and making the claim that it is general. A tiny percent of African American men are shot by cops. The odds that no Black Man will ever be shot by a cop again are very bad for those who insist it cannot ever, ever, ever happen again. Odds are, it will. The script will get pulled out of its filing cabinet and we’ll do the thing again.

I have a friend who is a prominent physician. His daughter has gotten caught up in the hype and so is going to unfriend some of us because she believes we don’t care. Has she read my blog lately? The answer is, “Do it. Delete me from your friends list.” The risk of this daughter impacting my life by unfriending me is even smaller than the risk of another black man being shot by a cop. The daughter, though, has taken to heart the propaganda and by inference, decided that she too is fated to die at the hands of a white cop. It’s just a matter of time.

As I listened to the radio this morning I was reminded that about twenty years ago the talking heads were accusing the cops of profiling, of assuming that a car full of young black men must be up to know good. I can remember driving to pick up a fare near Market & 62nd Street on the Oakland/Berkeley border. It was in the wee hours between bar closing and Saturday morning weed-whacker reveille. Ray Taliaferro was humiliating yet another hapless conservative who had called in to say that we are overstating the case that all cops always arrest every driver who is black.

Then, like now, there was no talk of owning the reasons a cop might stop somebody. No, it was the cops who were unfairly arresting and ticketing black folks. Back then, it was just assumed that a white man could piss on a cop’s shoes and he’d get a laugh and a hearty handshake. A black man would get his dick shot off. Cray cray is old.

As I made my left on to 62nd street to pick up my fare a car flashed by me, music blasting, a passenger half-out of the window laughing and hollering at a woman on the sidewalk. The car accelerated and as I made my turn I heard screeching tires and a couple bangs.

The fare turned out to be an airport run to SFO for a couple headed to New York for the week. That night as I listened to KGO there was a report of an accident on Market Street that triggered a road rage incident in which several people had been shot. One of the victims was in critical condition. The car was being driven by a star football player for a local college. He escaped serious injury but his friend riding shotgun was the one in intensive care. As usual, though there were bullet holes in people, nobody knew nothing.

Don’t go digging through the Internet to find the above story. I wrote it. Don’t forget that truth suffers in service to story in this space. The paragraph is there because several trigger words will set off images of the boys in the car. Ditto the shooting, the road rage and the football players. I haven’t named their ethnicity because I know the phrases I used will build an image in your head of a presumed ethnicity.

Nothing? No back story growing in your mind? Ok, a little more help. On the news that night was a helpful blonde talking head holding a microphone in the face of the football player’s mother. She decried the treatment of her son by the police because they left him there bleeding in the street for a long time. No first aid for the boy. The kicker? The race card. Mom said her boy didn’t get prompt medical attention because he was black and dressed like M.C. Hammer.

The police were asked about this. The Berkeley Fire Department was on-scene within 3 minutes of the first call, which was estimated to be about 20 minutes after the incident occurred. No, kiddies, nobody had smartphones then. Telephones were in houses and had cords. It took a while for the neighbors to call an ambulance. Paramedics got the football player to Alta Bates inside the golden hour. So, he was alive, a good thing.

We can’t help reading a narrative and having images evoked in our imagination by what we read. My craft is joyous because I get to live rent free in your head through the way I tell my stories and write my essays. Our mental picture of the car and its passengers is built out of our own story up to the moment when we read a story. It matters, though, what that picture is and what our own imagination says and how all that influences our behavior. We can change if we change the way we tell the story.

Cops have been accused of high crimes and misdemeanors committed against African Americans since at least the 1980’s. Just on what I’ve found online and posted here it is again a narrative that is resonating for some folks on a deeply emotional level. They feel this to be true so it is. It becomes self-perpetuating. Black folks ‘spose to get shot by cops because, well, they are black folks. It’s what they do. Instead of an examined life and perhaps a different story, the story pushed on black folks is taken on as fate and enough do what they feel they have been told to keep the narrative alive.

I chatted with that doctor’s daughter last night. She’s fully committed to the pop-culture animus toward cops. Her friend list on FB is smaller as a result. It’s sad that she’s heard the drumbeat and started tapping her feet to a rhythm that is a lie. Yes, cops shoot people. Cops shoot black people. Every death is a tragedy. The lie is that cops shoot black people in high enough numbers that the usual tropes are affirmed. I’m surprised the number of deaths of black men by cops isn’t higher. What would the press say if 46,000 black men died at the hands of cops in 2016?

What would Obama say if on his watch more black men died at the hands of cops than died of heart disease? I’ll spare you my usual blather about owning your shit, living an examined life, shedding yourself of the things that keep you from God, loving all, enemies especially. That’s always there to do. This time, before you jump into the street to protest, to punch a cop, to believe the hype, ask yourself, “who wins because I was suckered into believing the propaganda?”

We won’t stop the killing by killing. More riots and violent protest feeds the narrative and makes Charlie Rose get all gushy and happy. There are plenty who have crossed the divide and engaged those they fear. We need more of that instead of more SnapChat video of yet another protest because there is another body.

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It Was Rape

The boy, being of solidly mid-to-upper-mid placement on the Bell curve, thought nothing of smiling at her. It was what anyone of his position would do. Folk speak to each other in his south western, rural town in Virginia. She, being further up the curve and a junior at Swarthmore College, knew exactly what that smile was and so she spoke truth to power, “that was rape. You just raped me. RAPE! RAPE! RAPE! That guy just raped me!” she began screaming in the hallways of a Silicon Valley social media company. She ran toward the guard desk adjacent to the glass breezeway exit, pulling at and ripping her Delta Upsilon tank top, kicking off her Crocs and yanking on her H&M jeans which had the problem of not being easy to pull down. The VS Pink thong did not survive the effort. She tumbled before the guard desk mascara dripping, lipstick smeared, blood leaking from her mouth because she’d bit the inside of her cheek, a manic shadow of her Ivy League self. The guards bought it. One of them whispered into his wrist and soon enough the Calvary arrived.

fb-treesThe boy was sitting at a table quietly sipping a soy-latte perfectly made by the Peet’s barista while designing a print piece for an ad campaign that would feature Carrie Underwood. All the kerfuffle was moving away from him so after a cursory look he returned to his laptop screen and thumbnails of Carrie. He never saw the gridiron of guards form up and double-time to his table. The Periscope video shows a bewildered 20-something trying to stand as four security guards gang tackle him, sending his coffee and usual work-kit flying. He lands on his back and his head smacks against one of the parade line of posts that hold up the ceiling over the breezeway. The video ends in a tumbling blur because the phone’s owner drops it and can be heard to let out a yelp.

That night, the co-ed and her accused were headline news. The coworker had posted the Periscope video on her Facebook page and it had gone viral. The coworkers words before getting into a Tesla Model X were, “It happened so fast. All I saw was the guards tackling the guy. I mean, he must have done something for them to react like that.” The pundits propounded, the analysts theorized, the coterie of young talking heads illuminated by kleig lights reported the latest. There was a statement from the social media company offering sympathy over such a tragic story of traumatic brain injury and rape. The firm’s lawyer and public relations representative would not answer questions from reporters as to whether the boy, his accuser or the phalanx of guards would face consequences pending an investigation into the incident. Someone in the crowd caught an open microphone comment from a company executive, “this thing is stupid“, posted it to Vine and further inflamed popular anger that this thing happened at all.

Most of the reporting scolded the boy for sexually harassing the co-ed, whose attorney steadfastly insisted that his smile was an unwanted sexual advance equivalent to rape. If he hadn’t done that he wouldn’t have been gang tackled and in the hospital on an induced coma while the doctors waited for his brain to be less swollen. CNN dutifully carried a two-minute story on the Black Lives Matter protesters who claimed that the boy was black and had been brutalized by the cops and was another tragic example of how the police don’t care about young black men. There was, briefly, a small kerfuffle over the boy’s mother’s apparent hijab and her Star of David necklace. Progressive news outlets declaimed her attire as Muslim and thus the boy must be Muslim. Someone pointed out that among the boy’s belongings was a Mishnah. It could not be that an olive skinned, kinky-haired boy from Norton, VA was an Orthodox Jew. No, he had to be Black and his life had to Matter.

Conservative news outlets were excoriated for investigating the coed and turning up a troubled past. She was of Puritan heritage, from a family that counted themselves as Daughters of the Revolution. She was on the A-list track from almost the very beginning, being raised in Westfield, NJ, an honors graduate of the high school and widely recognized as a top student at Swarthmore with a bright future in analytics. What the Drudge report and other web sites found was a darker social media presence that hinted at struggles with bipolar disorder and a string of jilted lovers. The general tone of her social media presence was a strong signal of being a victim of the fashionable horror of the moment, be it addiction, abuse, racism, sexism, LBGT shaming, and more. This was, though, painted as a disgusting and slanderous attack on a hapless co-ed who was mercilessly violated by a boy.

I’ll interrupt this at 500 words or so to get to the point of that beginning. I’m still roiled that my two hours on the radio was an orgy of talking points and talking at the microphone. We have to own our shit, acknowledge the ways in which we color our life out of the hurt we’ve experienced and how that in turn, can become a weapon against those we believe are a threat. A simple smile misunderstood can be come and epic opera worthy of the 247365 news cycle. I exagerate? Maybe. We had a claim of a rather lurid rape last year that turned out to be entirely false. Even as the stories began to surface of problems with what the girl said happened she had her defenders who shot back with some familiar tropes about the evils of young men.

It’s a bit beyond to imagine that a girl could misunderstand a polite smile to be sexual harassment and carry it to the extent I have begun to portray. It’s not so much, “check your privilege” as “check your shit” and the ways in which resentment and hurt still drive you to fight or flee when the threat or actual injury isn’t what you perceive it to be. I was in a room with people who worked themselves into lather over perceived threats they nurtured with great care. It wasn’t so much the grievances they had as the shock I held while I watched them tend their garden of pain. There is a point beyond which feeling hurt becomes a choice. These women will not like my words that they are choosing to be victims of egregious acts perpetrated against long dead kin. It is a choice, though.

I’ll catch hell from some for setting up a wild premise like the above with a boy smiling at a girl and the girl freaking out. Rape isn’t a joke and we shouldn’t toss that word around idly. We cheapen the lives of those who are victims by being so quick to identify ourselves as victims of the latest fashionable oppressor. The mistake remains the same. It’s not to say that this isn’t the world and that it isn’t the devil’s playground. It is the world and the devil delights in its pleasures. We ought to remember, though, that God made this world for us to thrive even though the devil uses it as a Romper Room. Where rape is real it needs to be taken seriously. I feel for those who have been hit by some misery of this world. If you are faithful to this blog you know some of the sorrows I have. The mistake is to keep using a wound as a signal to explain why you are chained to misery and can’t let go. I challenge you to let go of your end of the chain trusting God to release the other end. Beautiful surprises await you.

We will not get beyond sexism, racism, or whatever-ism until we make that choice to be free of the hurts we carry around like precious jewels. Things about us have to die so that something new can live in us. We will have to be reborn.

In the meantime, as the urge to lift a protest sign rises within you I have a favor to ask. Go volunteer somewhere. Do something. Doesn’t matter what. There is tons of work, are tons of NGO’s and non-profits that seek volunteers and could use you. Yeah, it’s shitty work and is often more dehumanizing than the cube-rat thing you do to pay the bills. No, it isn’t as emo as being among a couple hundred other social justice warriors singing protest songs and shutting down a major thoroughfare or shouting “RAPE!” in the breezeway’s of a corporate campus. It is what is needed and will do more to change things than a few minutes of notoriety. Worse, it will mess with your head and cause you to question some of your most cherished tropes. I’m counting on that.

I’ll tell more of the co-ed and the boy in an induced coma in subsequent posts.

 

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Ray(rob(ert))a

I offered Ray(rob(ert))a a a chance to write a post colonoscopy essay. He was all excited, promising to make it wonderful, make it great again, that it would be ‘uge. Addicts. His F150 was parked over by Monroe Park last Friday. Then it was gone. His phone shows up as being in Toano, VA. I guess he went to his girlfriend’s farm. So much for getting a blog post out of him.

young mayan womanRay(rob(ert))a arrived on Terran soil in Yucatan, Mexico in 2015 from his home some light years distant. The night he arrived UFO spotters blew up Twitter with sightings. He speaks fluent Mayan and Spanish. His English isn’t very good. It’s nigh incomprehensible once he is drunk. Gender is a little tough because his race of aliens are hermaphrodites. He told me he ovulates and has something you could call a penis. Yes, I’ve seen s/him naked. His people don’t share our stuffiness around nudity. S/he mostly dresses as a human male since that seems to be easier than presenting himself as a woman.

S/he *loves* Earth, especially our women, our liquor and our food. He has a special fondness for Mayan women and Xtabentun. S/he spent Christmas of last year (2015) in Peru and discovered roast Cuy. Ray is also annoying because he is mildly paranoid. He told me one night still drunk that he drinks to cope with his anxiety. I’m always suspicious of a drunk’s words while drinking. This thing he said rings true. He seems like he’s in his mid-thirties in human terms. He tells me that because of the way his race traverses the stars it is effectively a one way trip. There is no way to return along the same timeline to the life he had before he left. I get the feeling he wasn’t a volunteer.

I’m not sure I like the idea of Earth being a prison colony for aliens of Ray(rob)ert))a’s sort. He tells me we don’t really have a choice. Yeesh. Pronouns. There is a fight currently over the proper pronoun for someone’s choice of gender. Ray tells me that although s/he is both and ovulates and can get pregnant, s/he chooses to be called a he in our culture because we are still asshats to women. I’ve seen s/him dress in a skirt and camisole with crocs for shoes. He’s already odd looking as an alien. I’ve also seen him in thrift store jeans and a t-Shirt from the show Moonshiners and Birkenstocks. Not being of this planet he doesn’t share our taboos. Ray tends to dress more feminine among people he knows and more butch among strangers.

Ray is taken. When he first arrived at Coba he met Itzel May who was trouble to her family for a few reasons, among them insisting on being called Gloria after Gloria Steinham. Usual farm girl wanderlust. Itzel seems to be mid-twenties, petite, and fierce. She wanted to go to University in Mexico City and study history. Her family was getting intense about her settling down with a nice local boy who farmed a half-acre. Itzel was gathering pitahaya when she saw Ray(rob(ert))a wandering. Girl meets alien hermaphrodite. Aliens of Ray’s sort don’t exactly marry for love in our complicated, Western way. It’s more of an imprinting thing. It was Ray’s time for that. He’d been sentenced to life here right when he was supposed to have a spouse.

Ok, ok. listen. I have my degree. I know the literary mistake I am making. We are supposed to narrate the story rather than describe it. The way I write involves iterative free-writing paired with re-writes and edits. An early phase of this is describing the story as it flowers in my heart. This is that phase. I know there is a novel in Ray’s initial romance with Itzel. This is a blog. 1500 words is long for a blog. Every word counts. So, to tell the RayItzel tale in something the length of a novel would mean serializing it ala “The Martian”. For now, not going to happen.

Where was I? Oh, RayItzel. Yeah. Itzel was at first annoyed with Ray because after she found him he was like a little kitten. He followed her everywhere. He wouldn’t go away. Then Itzel did what you should never do for a feral cat–she fed him. Game over. Then Itzel discovers he’s been supplied with a deep identity that includes dual Mexican/US citizenship, passports, all the rest. He’s also been supplied with “enough” gold and US currency by the prison authority that sent him here. Ray is her e-ticket out of Yucatan. Her family lays down an ultimatum: stay and marry a nice local boy or be shunned. It was a long 30 minutes initiated by a hot hand shot at her father and ended with shouting as she stormed out the door. Next stop was Ray’s hotel room. She asks Ray if s/he can help her with crossing the border. He goes one further. He is gone for a day and comes back with papers for Gloria May, who owns 10 acres in Kings County, VA. It’s not exactly love. But a deep identity as a landowner in the US went a long way. RayItzel became a thing that night.

Ray’s biggest disappointment with Richmond is the scarcity of Xtabentún. He usually drinks Tequila instead but it isn’t the same. I’ve seen him drink Absinthe. He tells me he can get close to Xtabentun if he mixes Tequila and Absinthe. I’m not a drinker so I’ll take his word for it. Second to his wish for genuine Xtabentun is homesickness for tamales. Itzel makes them but the ingredients here are not the same as back in Yucatan.

Ray isn’t around as much as he used to be. He’s mostly out on Itzel’s farm in Toano where nobody bothers him. I see him in his F150 sometimes on Midlothian. The latest thing is he joined Twitter and said he hates all my friends. Fine by me. He tells me he likes being a farmer. He was a food chemist back on his home planet. Anyway, that’s what I’ve got for Ray(rob(ert))a Bob. I’ve named him Marketing and Social Media Director of the blog. You can follow him on Twitter: @raybertabob. His g-mail address: rayrobertabob@gmail.com.

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Getting My Entitlement On

First Posted 08-Sep-2018

Promises were made. Offers proffered. If I’d sign papers saying I was mentally ill to the point of being disabled, I could get Uncle Sam to pay me a stipend, make groceries for me, pay my rent, and cover all my medical bills. A quick signature and I could have my pot of government issued gold.

hippy-chickThe agents of the Peepluz Free Democratic Republic of Bezerkeley had me alone in a room in a mansion on Berkeley’s Northside, up there at the top of Hearst Street with other student housing and frat houses. I had been offered weed, cocaine, heroin, beer, whatever I wanted. There was a petite girl, of indeterminate age, appearing to be legal, but barely so, braless, in a wife-beater that rebelled against keeping her covered, and a tie-dyed peasant skirt. She was very attentive and said she’d be even more attentive if I did as I was told. All I had to do was sign the papers.

I didn’t sign the papers. I told the caseworker I’d rather work a job than be stuck on welfare in public housing having to prove, twice a year, that I was crazy enough to be disabled. Faster than I could process it, I’d been slapped by the girl, accused of hitting her first, then bum rushed on to the street by faux Hell’s Angels in Castro Street Sadomasochism drag. I knew the psuedo-bikers were fake because they spoke in a countertenor with a distinctly Sunset Blvd. pidgin. Their chaps had designer labels from couture houses in Paris. So, there I was, in a ‘tween fog & rain, at the top of Hearst Street, with a walk to my room at the YMCA.

A University cop stopped me about when I started to cross Euclid against the light. The usual blah, blah, blah, with a warning not to jaywalk and he let me go. It occurred to me that I felt safer with the cop than I did with the doe-eyed, doting hippie chick and her friends. I’d grown up in a family that was agin everything, starting with the government. I was an outlier in my family because I never really believed that God could make a world which was such a vicious playground for minions who took pleasure in torturing humans. I liked saying the world wasn’t black & white, nor iterations of gray, but technicolor, more interesting. I continued down Hearst Street toward Shattuck Ave., talking to myself outloud in the best tradition of Berkeley eccentrics. Nobody cared.

I got back to the Berkeley YMCA, where I was renting a room, and ended the night. Maybe some would be down with the program—with living on disability, in the comfortable, confining arms of Uncle Sam. I chose the less traveled road and that has made all the difference.

A few days later story came out in the Grassroots election rag about a Merritt College student found wandering around Northside muttering something about being gang raped by pledges to Sigma Nu. There were a couple guys with Sigma Nu logo sweatshirts at the same house I was at that night. They were  passed out on a tree-swing in the front yard. The story gave a description of the alleged rapist that almost matched my description. Police were quoted as saying that no charges would be filed because there was not enough evidence. This was before rape kits had become S.O.P. in cases like this.

 I saw the girl a week or so later outside Au Coquelet with a donation box for the Berkeley Free Clinic. She looked awful. Behind the big sunglasses was a black eye. Her upper lip was cut and swollen. There were handprint bruises on her neck. It was like People’s Park had seduced her in and then shoved her out a shunned, shameless hussy. The subtle fashion cues identifying her as a Moonie were gone. She looked like she hadn’t had any sleep.

Life inside pudfarb is ugly. The numerous laws make it hard to follow all of it. Something as small as a paste earing worn on the left side is an infraction worth severe penance. The girl had scabs on her right earlobe where someone had yanked out the earing. I felt sorry for her. I put a dollar in her box. She mumbled, “Thanks,” as I started walking down Milvia towards Allston Street.

I saw her again a couple months later as UC Berkeley students were moving back into housing. I was waiting for the 43 at Telegraph and Dwight. She walked past my as she went into Buffalo Exchange. We exchanged glances. She was dressed in a Sorority t-shirt and designer jeans. She cleaned up nicely. The northbound 43 bus came and I got on my way.

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