Nutcracker Ushers

I have to get something off my chest. I met some nutcracker ushers the last time I was in the valley. One particular Baptist Church likes it when I usher while they are here. I’m the token backsliding gringo who is a reason to pray for protection. Ushering for them is a double bonus. They get to signal their hospitality to odd people while trying again to convince me that a blue suit is a better look for me.

That’s one piece. The next bit is that I’m not a nutcracker usher.  These Baptists are a Sunday best sort of church. Their ushers stand at their assigned door like nutcrackers. You approach their door, they open it to let you in, maybe hand you a bulletin and then let it close. Lord almighty if you speak to them. Never do that.

Nutcracker Usher

Though, funny thing. If a friend approaches their door, whole other thing. It’s smiles and chatty and they spend a minute catching up. I’m a damned Yankee. I walk toward a manned door and it’s like I am a leper. They open the door arms stick straight, keeping their distance from me.

  • My first sin is that I had my hands in my pockets just after greeting someone. Really? That’s the thing that makes me a bad usher? Let’s not stop with my hands. Most of the time I am in sandals, beach shorts, and a tank top. I have a closet full of Hawaiian pattern shirts. I am the epitome of boomer gringo on holiday.
  • B) Some more. I tend to have over the ear Bluetooth headphones around my neck. You can hear Jimmy Buffet leaking out of them.
  • I also kept picking up church bulletins from the careful piles for each nutcracker. Instead of sticking to the rules and only handing out from an assigned pile I took them from whichever pile was nearest. For that I am apostate. I am a bad usher needing to be scolded.
  • Still not done. I made the entire foyer of the church my turf. I greeted whoever entered, through whichever door. The nutcracker ushers stood mouths agape. This is not how it is done.

You Are Doing It Wrong

You are right. It is now how it is done. Ushers with some boogie and charm don’t fit the stiff blue suits that guard the doors to the chapel. I mean, I look like I am dancing while I flit from person to person greeting them and ensuring they are welcomed.

Let’s repeat something. Jesus is absurd. Christ chased the money changers with a whip. He broke bread with prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath. He said that the meek and poor in spirit are blessed. That bastard Nazarene carpenter told a wealthy man it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for that man to enter heaven.

Keep that in mind as I say that this country is in an imperialist/legalist mood. The answer to most problems is more and stricter law. Lately, London’s mayor has decided that the answer to a rise in murder by knife is to ban knives. He forgot about acid.

Baptism’s dark side is similarly stiff and authoritarian. Many Baptists cannot hear the loving voice of Christ over the shouting they internalize–they are not good enough, every exhale is a backslide, every inhale another ingestion of worldly decadence. The answer is to insist that people must know Jesus because that would solve it.

Nutcracker Ushers in the Valley

Those nutcracker ushers are not in the Valley to show us the Mercy of Mother Mary. They are here to save us from the depravity they see all around them. They see us and there is too much of the world in us. Yep. We just toast them and tell the band to crank it up.

Jesus came to fulfill the law. The whole miracle is wrapped up in how he fulfilled the law. Hillel’s summary of the Torah, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah.” Christ flipped the script, Mat 7:12So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” All this bickering over things like whether it is proper for an usher to have his hands in his pockets is a trifle needing charity. Yet there are Baptists who can spend hours arguing over this and whether intinction is proper.

Meldenius, “Necessariis unitas, quae necessaria libertatis et caritatis cetera.” I get annoyed at those who would judge my fielty to Christ by my manner of dress, the placement of my hands, and the music leaking out of my headphones. It’s not very far from that to judging someone by bloodline or skin color. I have a hard time believing my stated sin of having my hands in my pockets is a necessary concern requiring unity. But . . . I’m Presbyterian and we decided to punt when challenged on whether fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman is a requirement for our clergy, so there you go.

Let’s Eat Hummus and Revolution

We are a Middle Eastern religion born out of a rebellion against the church and Rome. Our truest nature is that of malcontents. We are odd. Once we stop being outliers we dim the lamp of the Holy Spirit. Ours is a traditional way of life with rules that are essential and thus, require unity. I wonder, though, if the man who praised a woman for pouring nard on him and turned water into wine would obsess over the position of the hands on an usher.

As to fundementalism, I like what Shane Claiborne said. Since we are dissident Jews our fundamentals ought to be Arab and Israeli. I am amused at the thought of a rabbi giving a homily in a ‘merican church. It would be an uncomfortable few hours for the nutcracker ushers.

Here are some of my essentials: I find myself hungering for service to everyone regardless of their rung on Jacob’s Ladder. I am alive because of God’s Amazing Grace. It is out of gratitude for His grace that I keep saying we should lead with grace. Jesus said a lot in the short time he was here. Some of my favorites are the Beatitudes, Acts Chapter 2 and Romans 12.

I repeated the Meldenius quote above. Asked to boil my essentials down to a paragraph I would say we are to love our enemies and neighbors as ourselves, treat others as we wish to be treated, diligently seek to perform small acts of kindness with great love, pray, worship, tithe, and read scripture.

The Good Fight

If there is anything that is characteristic of us it is this: we never stopped arguing about what we believe.  It is why I love Meldenius’ words. We all have to pick our essentials that are not up for debate. After that the rest is fungible.

I know the nutcracker usher who chided me for having my hands in my pockets. His faith is fluid. He fights that first step, admitting we have a problem we are powerless against. Like many, when sober he is brilliant. His inner child became an overachiever because that way his parents would be safer. There is safety in law for him. If there were a law and we would comply it would be so much better.

So he comes to the valley to tilt at our absurdities. We need to come correct so he can be ok. If we knew Jesus and all that. I suppose Fr. Thomas doesn’t know Jesus. The nutcracker usher has been to confession. He found it troubling and attractive.

I’ve crossed paths with him at the cathedral. He’s been at the club when I walk through to my flat upstairs. I think I get where the thing about my hands comes from. It’s easier to fight for kings and law to solve our problems. Christ is tough. His way is absurd. Rather than lift a sword he died and lived. Bickering over hands buried in pockets is a lot safer.

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You Can’t Repent

You Can’t Repent. You are Irredeemable. Oprah, Queen of Kleenex has declared this. She has sent forth her Amazonian Army to castrate you. You need to get used to being a monster in the eyes of the Queen.  Being castrati won’t be enough. There is another who made a Way. Read on and find out.

Psalm 1:1-4—“1 Blessed is the man[a]
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
   and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

Matthew 5:6—“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

I lost count the number of Sundays my ass stuck to the lacquer paint of a pew as another pastor droned on about the Beatitudes. This Sunday was one more. The pastor’s frame of reference was that these two passages were about us, about each of us and the ways that we should individually hunger for a deeper discipleship hewing closer to the law. Noble idea. And worthy. And for me . . . a bit annoying.

Israel, when Christ was alive, had the law.  They had/have commentary on the law as given by God. Ask a practicing Jew about how to honor the Sabbath. Though, block out some time for this because it will take a while. All of it focused on trying to get a thick-necked people to behave better. None of it much good for its intended purpose.

Get Out There

There is an introspective aspect to hungering for righteousness. We should deepen our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus of Nazareth. Then we ought to maintain our vigilance in living out that understanding. It doesn’t stop there, however. Jesus wasn’t commissioning a bunch of temple living hermits. He commissioned a bunch of troublemakers like himself who were to make all nations disciples of the Way. So, where activism, social justice work and the lot are within the practices of the Way, we ought to be doing that as well.

Jesus asked us to serve prisoners, the sick, the poor, the persecuted, among others. Go back and read the Sermon on the Mount again. It has both an inward, personal growth aspect and an SJW aspect. It’s not enough to grow personally. We have to get out there, afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

A Kleenex Empire

Lately, after a rousing acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey’s name was bandied about as a possible candidate for President. Oprah is the goddess of Kleenex, of the teary, emotional moment. The Kleenex Goddess made her wealth on leering at the miseries of others. She cannot afford to have a baddy repent. Though, people seem to be an infinite fount of bad behavior. She is in no danger of running out of baddies to excoriate on national TV.

You Can't RepentMy name is Alan Webb and I am a wife-beater. It’s been sixteen years since I last hit my ex-wife. I still worry that it is half-time for me and the next relationship will be just as destructive as my first marriage. For all my therapy, classes and introspection the jury is still out on whether my next girlfriend and I can navigate through a relationship that is safe and healthy for both of us.

You Can’t Repent

I have people in my life who will not let me repent. I am a monster. Nothing I say or do can change that. I learned a long time ago that there is no gain in fighting to a victory with someone who believes my nature as a monster is immutable.  It’s better to let them believe I am a monster and go about living an honorable life.

Two things of note regarding repentance. One, in our ADHD 247365 shitstorm propaganda cycles, repentance takes too long. The data stream we get is tuned to keep us amped on OMG. because while amped our reason is swamped by our reptilian brain. Our reptilian brain wants to stay alive and fuck. High minded ideas like repentance just don’t get on our reptilian radar. It makes us putty in the hands of those who lead us.

Stay Asleep

So, for the dear leaders, us holding resentment is part of the stew that keeps us compliant. To be woke is a thing for some. Let me suggest one way to be woke, to be aware of the ways that you are being led by a bull-ring made up of propaganda delivered through social media and more traditional news sources like print, broadcast and cable TV. That ring feeds you emo stories meant to keep your reptile brain afraid that it might die, might not be able to eat or worst of all, be unable to fuck.

One more thing. I saw this in my 1100 hours at the table at Boaz and Ruth. The guys that fell back into ripping and running were also guys who could not answer this question, “what do you want to do?” They were really good at their chaplain speeches. They were very clear that they did not want to do what got them arrested and a spot at the table at Boaz and Ruth. What did they want? That . . . that question was tough.

I don’t want to be a monster anymore” is an easy answer. Kind of. First, you are not allowed to stop being a monster. If you ever collected the ire of someone who believed you behaved in a monstrous way then you are a monster and like me, you cannot remove that moniker. At best you can gain a grudging trust that you haven’t been monstrous today.

Do What?

Second, you won’t last on the street unless you find your purpose. It’s not always some grand thing. Sometimes it’s as simple as line cooking or sewer pipe trenching. Mike Rowe made 169 episodes of dirty, skilled labor jobs. Those can be a purpose as noble as anything white collar that you think your parents would approve of. It can be something absurd like writing almost a half-million words ranting about what’s wrong with everybody. The key secret to life as a monster is finding that purpose. And . . . do us all a favor and pick something other than predatory behavior. Thanks, bunches.

Last, repentance takes time. Obvi, no? You would think so. But the town criers that fill our social media feed don’t want us calm enough to reflect on the time it takes to give life to a promise to repent. We are more malleable if we stay amped on the latest OMG to drop. It’s better for our dear leaders if we keep eating the bitterness they feed us.

Now, let’s talk about Purpose. This is one of the big hairy questions we all stumble into. I’ll let you in on a secret about me. I have no fucking clue. I made it through nearly six decades of life just following my nose. There are minor purposes, reptilian ones. But a big, elegant, life-giving purpose? Nah. Hold my covfefe. I mean, yeah, contribute to making the world more peas and fewer big-eyed, starving TV kids? Sure. Write too many words on a blog that no one reads. Did that, doing that. Bring a son into this world with a Taiwanese Mafia Princess? Check. Just . . . I never answered the question, “what do you want to do”?

No Answer is an Answer

I still don’t have an answer. I’m a bit like the other guys at that table at Boaz and Ruth. I know I don’t want to do monstrous things and collect prison time. I know I want to live a life that keeps me as safe as possible so the chances of doing monstrous things are minimized. But . . . as to what I want . . . I don’t know.

The small purposes I found, keeping my house and my car, seeking small acts of kindness done with great love, and embracing a stable life, these have been enough. One of the absurdities of God is those Egyptian monks who sought to isolate themselves as completely as possible and left behind words that became world famous. Something cliche and something true, that we are not to worry about what God does with our pittance of a life. We are to simply live. My pedestrian life driven by reptilian desires that sometimes rise to slight elegance in the small acts of kindness I have done will have to be enough.

Purpose, when you are young or misfortune has stolen your position and now your rock must be pushed up the hill one more time, is useful. It helps clarify which choices fit and which don’t. You begin to hear the siren call of the Queen of Kleenex as the dangerous clanging gong that it is. Truth is, we are finite. The day does come when we become legend only alive in the stories of those we leave behind. Choices get made that set a direction. So, being intentional about purpose is useful.

The World is Absurd

Lovely, no? I didn’t do that. I did whatever I damned pleased. My life never had a carefully crafted purpose beyond making sure I had a roof over my head and food to eat. I’m not MGTOW by choice. It just sort of worked out that way.

You Can't RepentPut me with those who find this shitshow I was born into to be absurd. Life has no grand purpose. We are pissing, shitting fucking beasts with a remarkable talent for hurting each other. Altruism, when it happens, is great. I’ll grant you that most of the Bell curve is unremarkable and never does anything story worthy. But . . . I am nearer to the monster end of the curve than I am to the untested saint end.

Except . . . this crazy, criminal, ghetto-boy carpenter born to a whore a couple thousand years ago started a revolution that continues to this day. He said we ought to hunger for righteousness. The world is absurd and God sent us an absurd leader of a new kingdom after all else failed. A criminal is crucified by the Romans at the request of his church leadership and three days later is alive? That’s cray-cray right there.

Oprah as president is a leadership rooted in bitter unforgiveness. Remember this? Some who worry that if we truly knew them we’d shun them. To which we in the church reply, if you really knew us you would stop worrying. Jesus offers us a cause to pursue and a purpose for our lives absent from the Kleenex Empire. We meet every Sunday, usually, around 10 am or so. I hope you will join us.

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Good Night Sweet December

Of Lost December Regrets

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.

Good Night Sweet December TitheI 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.

Good Night Sweet December Naughty ListThat 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.

Copacetic

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.

Goals

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
    • Lift weights
    • Lower body and core strength. Because you can’t make me do crunches and I should.
    • Swimming
  • Complete at least baby step 1 of Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps.
  • 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.

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Hair Ache

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“.

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

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

How’s That Hair Ache?

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

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

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

Things Work Out

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

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

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

Promises Are Free

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

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

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

Tipping Points

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

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

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

Talk Walking Out a Hair Ache

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

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

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

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It Worked

Nobody Wins When the Violence Starts

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

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

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

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

It Does Work

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

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

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

Flowers in Gun Barrels

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

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

Git!

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

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

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

It Worked Twice

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

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

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

Just So You Know

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

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

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

Trapped?

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

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

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

Bark First, Agree Later

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

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

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

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

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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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A Fist Full of Fiscal Fears


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

A Fist Full of Nothing

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

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

Promises, Promises

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

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

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

 

The Fist Full of Fiscal Fears

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

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

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

Mo Money Mo Better?

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

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

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

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

The Challenge

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

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

Jesus Doesn’t Deserve This

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

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

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

I.O. Him

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

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

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

Money Bull Sh*t

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

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Felina Novella

#felinaramos. Felina Ramos is my own personal, IRL soap opera. She is my guilty pleasure. I unfollow her on Facebook and then lurk. Everything about she and I is trouble. Yet I still vacillate  between following her, ignoring her, lurking her and going back to following her.

Yeah, what now? Right. She puts a message out on her wall that after she has had some sleep she wants a ride to a fast food place. Her offer is to buy from the dollar menu and also pay for a meal for her driver. I said I could do better than that. All normal and not blog post worthy. This is Felina, though. I get there and unlike previous excursions she comes out the door shaking. There is a tempest alive in her house between her cousin, her auntie, and her. Cops have been called. Contraband hidden. 3 latina women in full battle mode doing their level best to tempt the other into a fight. Entertaining for me and sad to see.

The cousin is learning a hard lesson. Once you escalate to fists there isn’t much else you can escalate to and have the same effect. The next level up is bloodshed and either a combination of jail and hospital or the morgue. The cousin’s attempts at psychological warfare are falling flat. She’s already used the nuclear option so another nuclear option is greeted with, “meh.”

I spent a few minutes with Felina on the front lawn teaching her some basics of sword fighting that enable a warrior to be cold in the middle of a fight. Hollywood has orgasms telling pornographic depictions of war as passionate. Actors get to display great emotion, to *ACTING* on camera. It’s all bullshit. A good soldier is no more excited by battle than he is by his morning shit, shower and shave. This is achieved through training and some simple techniques. I showed Felina some of those techniques so she could sooth herself and be effective.

A little more about the technique. You have seen Bruce Lee and others go through dramatic motions and vocalizations to focus their energy. That’s for camera. The real technique isn’t obvious to those uninitiated. It also doesn’t stand out because a swordsman should live this way so that there is no shift between battle mode and life mode. It is the way he is. He is never not practicing bushido.

Back to Felina. After the cops came, after the cousin lost the momentum, we went to the bodega to make groceries. Felina is a hot mess. She is also a good catholic girl who can’t escape her confession of faith nor her anger at the church. Felina, when she begins to be attracted to a guy or a girl, has expectations of the prospective partner. One of them is that when she complains of being hungry said partner should offer to feed her. Whelp . . . the current bae is a very fashy boy. He is tall & skinny, olive toned, of non-obvious lineage, with sharp green eyes and fiercely blond, nappy hair. He favors androgenous fashion, mixing thick cowboy belts with leggings, ripped jeans and wildfang sweaters. He is also a rather fine snowflake, expert at the approved fashy signals.

So, we’ve all been there. You go to the kitchen, hung over, dreaming of a favorite cure, and upon a search of the cupboards, find that the cunt cousin has scarfed down what you had hoped to eat. Through the fog of the hangover you remember that you ended last night having to get the bae to pay for your Uber home because this week’s check got smoked on a bar tab. There was a fight with the bae because he was not being very copacetic and you were drunk. So, the refuge of a millennial, social media, becomes a place to shout out your annoyance and desperation. What’s the reply of all those fashy friends to your plight? “Wow, that sucks. Wish I could help but . . .” Bae isn’t returning your texts or replying to voice mail. A quick trod around the tubes turns up a thread on gab.ai where the bae is flirting with some yup bitch. Asshole.

Yeah, so . . . all that virtue signalling about the plight of the downtrodden and when one of ours is ass-out the sincerity is smoke on the water. This isn’t just a thing with the fashy protest crowd. My brethren, confessed Christians, do this. Actuality is scary. It threatens our bubble and we react by trying to push it away. Guys like my Uncle Gary and people like Felina, who are an affront to a few orthodoxies, at first generate an itch to shun.

My Jesus was a badass. He was a carpenter who ate with thieves. He did scandalous things that insulted the establishment of his day. I don’t hear him saying to me, “Wow, Felina is a handful, stay away from that mess.” No, he says to me, “learn to love her as I would love her. Serve her as I would serve her.” Ruh roh. That’s not inside my comfort zone. Watching three women go at it is not my idea of a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Listening to Felina hope that her cousin is arrested isn’t the sort of Gauloise fueled conversation I imagine I could have with a girl like Felina. Yet, here I am, leaning on the fender of my Impala, waiting for the storm to subside.

She had me on her front lawn and bae on the phone. Fashy boy was begging off. He had to work overnight at Denny’s and didn’t have any clean uniforms. The circle of friends she engaged with on social media evaporated as she posted about the fire fight under way between cousin and auntie. Everybody was broke, out of town, had to work, car trouble . . .

I did my small act of kindness with some love. I dunno about great love. Felina is on my list of folk who are a challenge to love. She is this big storm of hot mess that seems untamable. At the bodega she lit up buying Haitian items. I had a whole different list in my head when I offered to make groceries. No matter. Part of my task is to do these acts of kindness agenda free. It was illuminating to see what she bought.

On the way back she was negotiating a night away from the house. Bae wasn’t pleased. He didn’t get that a standard piece of advice is to stay away for a bit until things calm down. She was just going to drop the groceries and get a ride to the friend’s house. Cousin’s parting shot was a post on social media that Felina was trading nekkid favors for what I spent at the bodega. As if. But, in the hour since we left the cops had calmed things down and the auntie had started some red rice and stewed chicken. So, from my passenger window she said her goodbyes and went back inside.

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Hello 2017

I don’t have 1500 odd words on a single topic. I have a storm cloud of random thoughts buzzing around like knats on meth. So, this post will be a little (a lot) scattered. Your normally crazy-making, pugnacious blog posts will resume soon enough.

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We have been told for a century that we have no agency, we can’t do it ourselves, we must keep taking what pittance Pimp Daddy US deigns to grant us and praise him for his benevolence. We don’t need to burn down D.C. or anything that dramatic. Just move our commerce into the black market. Yes, some of us will get arrested for failing to pay taxes and such. That’s the cost of doing business in an authoritarian, socialist republic. Pimp Daddy US has never been able to completely shut down the extant black market so I don’t see him able to do so anytime soon. Self-reliance, the thing of 2017.

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These are the current cabinet departments under the Executive Branch: State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health & Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Education, Energy, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. 15 huge bureaucracies that have an enlightened self-interest in continued existence. In addition, there is the White House Chief of Staff, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trade Representative, the Ambassador to the United Nations, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. 7 more bureaucracies that are treated like Cabinet level offices in the Executive Branch which also want to continue to get funding.

Congress has its own administrative organization feeding from the trough of Pimp Daddy US. You have to also add in the lobbyists, who are a hidden fifth element of the federal government. Much of the sausage making of governing this empire happens inside the offices of law firms lobbying on behalf of their clients. They provide the staff needed to write the laws, provide congress with the digests of the legislation written, advocate for the laws desired by their clients and provide cover for congressmen and senators who want to claim that the junket to the Turks and Caicos was a working one. We won’t be able to do much with the licentious relations happening on K-Street. Free speech, etc. There are things we can do, though.

We are a multi-trillion dollar economy. We are one of the wealthiest and largest empires in history. It takes a government of a certain size to run this massive empire we have made. That said, we have built an unwieldy and ineffective bureaucracy in the Executive Branch that has become a tail eating serpent. It no longer exists to serve the President or us. It exists to serve itself and to grow. We will not fix our present malaise unless we cut this cancer on the republic down to size. So, if I were king (no danger of that), I’d do several things. First, day one,shut the government down for a hundred days. Essential services like Defense and Homeland Security would stay in operation. Everything else, though, would be shuttered. All Executive orders would be suspended pending review. Next, these cabinet offices would be kept: State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General, Commerce, Transportation, Homeland Security, White House Chief of Staff, Office of Management and Budget. The others would be shut down over two years. The work they do would be turned over to private, non-profit entities with supporting law and/or regulation through the Attorney General to ensure they behave themselves. These entities would not receive federal funding.

Dumpf campaigned on “Drain the Swamp”. The first president to take a serious whack at the bloated fourth branch of the government will get crucified by the press and those with a vested interest in sustaining it. The opposition will unleash all the political dirty tricks they have. It will be a fight for power unlike anything we have seen since the Civil War. If that president survives the fight and manages to eliminate the Cabinet departments I’d like to see gone it will have the effect of taking money out of Congress’ hands and out of the kitty of any following President, maybe. Anything done on an Executive Order can be reversed by succeeding Presidents. Part of the victory will be to tie the hands of any successors so that putting back the eliminated Cabinet Departments will be too politically expensive. Swamp drained. Power in Washington reduced. Both good things.

I am not so naive as to believe that shrinking the Executive Branch will make the government less corrupt. Wealth and power are like water. They find their own level. In the absence of power vacated by the Executive Branch something will step up to fill the void. We’ve had our century of feeding on Pimp Daddy US’s benevolence. Government is already corrupt. I’d like to try allowing that corruption to go somewhere else. Gone out of the White House maybe we can find a better battlefield on which to fight it to the death.

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I am reading James O. Hannay’s, “The Wisdom of the Desert”. Holy Crap! We are a bunch of glutinous wussies. I keep talking about living on less, devoting a whole blog post (Money) to it recently. I haven’t changed my habits. I still fuss over finding an afternoon at Starbucks on one cup of coffee to be too expensive. Will I follow through in 2017? The new year is 2 days old. We have 363 more days to see if I do.

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Ray RobertaBob’s rules to live by:

  1. Lidera con compasión y misericordia. Solamente después de que su encuentro con alguien desafíe su opción para comenzar con la compasión usted encuentra maneras de limitar creativamente su misericordia hacia ellos. Incluso entonces, considere a los monjes y su voluntad de sufrir más allá de lo que la mayoría de la gente consideraría sana.
  2. El perdón te hace libre.
  3. Constantemente pregunte si sus elecciones actuales le acercan a su deidad o interfieren con su relación con su deidad. Todo lo que te aleje de una relación sana con tu deidad debe dejar tu vida.
  4. Un poco de miseria es bueno para el alma. Algunos de lo que quieres sólo pueden venir a través de la lucha.
  5. El rey no es tu papá de azúcar ni tu amigo. Deja de esperar que él te cuide.
  6. La sabiduría comienza con parientes y amigos. Amad a vuestros parientes, amigos y enemigos por igual.
  7. La forma en que usted califica para ser servido es servir a otra persona.

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That’s pretty much it. I joined my local YMCA as 2016 neared an end. I’ve done 3 workouts so far. I’ve been on diabetes meds long enough to be addicted and overly tolerant of their effects. Bringing my disease under control will mean more addictive/damaging/powerful meds or a much more impactful change in habits. If you want to pray for something, pray that I’ll get it in gear and eat better/exercise more. I’ve said enough about my money dysfunction. It’s not a matter of more knowledge or more words. New Year’s Resolutions are slow-news-day filler. I am a writer. Talking about doing something isn’t the hard thing. It’s the follow through. Stay tuned. This story will play itself out over the next few years. Keep reading the blog to find out how it ends.

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Mincome

Salmos 84:3, “Señor Todopoderoso, rey mío y Dios mío,
    aun el gorrión halla casa cerca de tus altares;
también la golondrina hace allí su nido,
    para poner sus polluelos.

Sweet! I can live on the dole and pretend I am a writer who makes enough to support his addiction to useless work! Stellar. I love my fellow red-diaper babies. Especially the anarchist ones. We’ll tear down the government and make one of our own. The community will own everything. Everybody will be guaranteed a base salary regardless of whether they work or not. We’ll make education free. We’ll make health care free. We’ll eliminate income taxes. We’ll legalize all drugs, opioids, marijuana, all of it. Let’s make sex workers a protected class. LGBTQ Forever! We can set up houses all across the land where you can get your freak on and be stoned! Awesome!

Never heard of this? Think this is a pipe dream of a hippie wanna be millennial? News Flash, we did this. We hated it. What happens when you guarantee income to us, the dysfunctional end of the Bell Curve? Good things? No. We become more fucked up than we were before you made it possible us to expand our man-caves in our parent’s basements and buy better pajamas. If you haven’t noticed, dysfunctional people do dysfunctional shit. Giving us a monthly check just means we can do more dysfunctional shit. It’s awesome.

Mincome is a solution looking for a problem. It is an overly simple framing of the problem as lack of income. It ignores much about us, about people, especially my us, the dysfunctional at the scary end of the Bell curve. The potential for unintended consequences is stunning.

But, we have some who pitch ideas like mincome as the reasonable thing to do. These folk desperately cling to their pumpkin spice latte’s and Nordstrom credit cards (badly over their credit limit) and other social signals to prove that they are the good folk. Mincome is another way to signal that they care. And, after all, it is the strength of the caring signal that is the important thing.

One of Felina’s friends is like this. Felina met her at Stanford. She’s picture perfect NoCal grunge with a bit of goth added. Felina liked her because the girl had the best weed she’d ever smoked. Oh, oh, OH! you are horrified that a hot mess like Felina gets high? Just . . . go away. I’m not going to get dragged into a 1500 word rant that boils down to Nancy Reagan, “Just Say No.” I’m busy with another axe I want to grind. Y e e e s I am a Dad and I inhaled and now I don’t and as-far-as-I-am-concerned addiction is a deadly short game. B u u u t . . . this isn’t an anti-addiction rant.

Where was I? Oh. Felina’s friend, Inger (pronounced anger). No, I am not going to describe Inger’s age, hair, her figure, all that. There is enough free porn on the Intertubes that you can rub your sausage or clam without my help. Is she hot? Are you stupid? Inger is all about protests and grunge guys who claim they are musicians because they can crush Dragonforce’s, “Through the Fire and the Flames” in Guitar Hero. Inger is also, lately, off the radar doing another stint of rehab. Don’t get your hopes up. She drifts about various soup kitchens somewhat volunteering but mostly eating and live tweeting.

Inger is all about mincome. She totally cares about poverty and world peas. She’s punched a Planned Parenthood protester in the face more than once. After graduating from the county’s Anger Management class, twice. She also, before rehab, was depressed because she wasn’t able to get this year’s Nordstrom BP Cotton Anorak. Inger wants mincome for herself. And free mental health care, especially free mental health care. Legal weed, maybe also. Actually . . . legal weed first. Until rehab happened.

One of the many things that mincome ignores is something we Reformed Tradition Christians have heard all our lives, men are made for work. We don’t need more money or a guaranteed minimum income that means we don’t have to work. We need a cause to pursue, we need work. Not so we have access to necessary resources. It goes deeper than that. Idle men, especially idle young men, are fertile ground for trouble. Mincome takes away a key component of our reason for existence–our work.

Women are different. Women are made to help men love God more dearly. They are also the bulk of the work of birthing and raising the next generation. That secondary purpose, kids, is preoccupying for women. Women should and do work, but their two responsibilities mean that they are not first made for work in the same way that men are. I’ll grant you that for a woman, mincome can feel like a solid plan. Inger agrees.

These childish platitudes keep being pushed by left-wing media. Poor people? Give them money with no strings attached. Done. Hungry? Feed the hungry. Homeless? House the homeless. If we do enough of this we’ll accomplish an end to poverty, hunger, and homelessness. New Deal? New Frontier anybody? How about the Great Society? The War on Poverty? How is that working out? An unacknowledged elephant in your safe space is that simplistic solutions like this surface disastrous unintended consequences.

2 Tesalonicenses 3: “Porque incluso cuando estábamos con ustedes, les ordenamos: «El que no quiera trabajar, que tampoco coma.»”

Todo 2 Thessalonians 3 vale la pena leer. One of those unintended consequences is a non-verbal insult to men. Through mincome you are telling us that we can’t provide enough to our kin, that we are not enough. This is demeaning. So much so that our answer is to take your mincome and use it to run black market businesses where we can feel pride of ownership and the satisfaction of being providers to our kin.

We have dumped trillions in foreign aid into third world countries. These trillions have spawned countless acts of evil and corruption. Our trillions we intend for the poor and suffering enrich government bureaucrats and corrupt NGO’s. Yet we continue to be told that we are not doing enough, that we have to dump more cash into the life of that big eyed kid on TV because he or she is still miserable. And that the problem is that we are not trying hard enough. These Utopian fantasies of an end to misery will work if we just apply ourselves with enough due diligence. Did you fill your UNICEF box this Halloween? It’s not our fault that after 73 years these endeavors have entrapped those we sought to help. You really want Grandma to live on cat food? What’s your answer to a single mom with a dickface baby daddy? Grow a garden? Raise chickens? Seriously?

Yah, yah. All this government funded mercy does some good. Cities that have done, “Housing First” have had some success with it. You can listen to the Freakanomics story here: Most of the time when a story of this sort is aired it is presented as the most original, best idea ever. No one has ever thought of this. Why not just pay a guaranteed income to everybody? Poverty solved. I mean, what reasonable person would oppose that? Grandma could afford wet cat food.

But . . . whatever. Do it. Pay a guaranteed minimum annual salary of at least $40,000.00 with benefits. Give women free child care, free maternity leave, and 320 hours a year of paid time off. Ignore Cuba, the USSR, China, North Korea, Venezuela and others where such nonsense is the rule. Ignore the half-century of experience we have in this country with presidential initiatives like Roosevelt’s New Deal and Grandma Billary’s proffered Fair Deal. Us deplorables will happily use your benevolence as we have for most of a century. We’ll cash your checks and take that cash to the black market where we can get all our gluttonous heart desires. We’ll occupy ourselves with grey and black market businesses to give ourselves the work we can’t get because we accepted mincome. Thank you and please, may I have another?

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