Run! Felina Run!

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

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

Family Drama

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

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

Bae Issues and Akim

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

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

On a Warm Summer Night

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

Sometimes You Need More Than Locks

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

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

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

 A Level Down

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

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

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

Forgiveness Includes Justice

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Never Forget

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

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

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

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

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New Orleans Robert E Lee statue never forget

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

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

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

Auschwitz never forget

Never Forget

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

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

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

In Praise of the Lowly

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

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

Immortal Story

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

Never Forget

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

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Akio

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

Akio Winston

Survive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Failure to Thrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monkey Hungry

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

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

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

The Tao 道教 of Akio

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

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

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

The True Road 真道

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Is There a God?

1 Corintios 2:14 “El que no tiene el Espíritu no acepta lo que procede del Espíritu de Dios, pues para él es locura. No puede entenderlo, porque hay que discernirlo espiritualmente.”

Right. An omniscient, omnipotent diety gives a shit about me. That’s not crazy. Nope. This diety won’t interfere with my choice to act out and will keep me from harm even though I am causing harm to myself and maybe others. He (?He? not s/he, s/him, or whatever?) What kind of patricarchical, obtuse, obscene, oppressive, phallic bullshit is this that God has to be a cis-guy? How do we know that this is all an illusion. That I am alone in my world, there are no others, what I percieve is wind, water, smoke, mirrors or all of that? Why would solipsism be false?

We have science. For 800 years the record has been corrected. Truth identified and documented. The farce of the bible exposed. Nietzsche is deep, “God is Dead.” Can we just get on with it and dispense with all this religious folly?

To which I have questions. What of women? Women are emotional, irrational, demanding, frustrating and desirous beyond reason. Some wicked demon made it such that a pleasure equal to eating demands that we deal with women. How sick is that?  Women are trouble. Yet, they are inescapable. More of the shitshow we arrived in. Woo. More questions. Are there exceptions to the law of causality? How does the quantum description of reality give rise to the reality we perceive?

I’m a bard, a bad one at that. I succeeded in my effort to avoid science as much as possible in college. My drunk alien RayRoberta Bob as god is almost plausable to me were it not a lifetime of indoctrination in the Reformed Tradition of the Presbyterian Church. So, I am going to add to my list of literary offenses and fail to answer the questions I posed.

My failure is not without purpose. First, I can’t begin to answer the physics questions I pose. I’m a stupid English major from a California State University in a time frame when degrees were being granted to proud C- students like myself. I graduated, but barely. Second, my world is absurd and mysterious. I’ve given up debating with God over whether the seven creation epochs were 7 Gregorian Calendar days of 24 hours each. The Bible and much more fails when made to survive an examination through Western scientific methods. I surrendered and in that surrender found my life to be better. God made the world in six phases and rested on the seventh. Good enough for me.

I mentioned Inger in a previous post. Inger, along with her self-serving approval of mincome, is annoyed with truth. The world consistently disobeys here desire for a modern, angular exegesis of reality. Absurdity and mystery piss her off. It should make sense. Everything should make sense. That it doesn’t is an affront to her stainless steel and concrete aesthetic.

Inger has not yet given up her fight with the universe. She means to win this one or die trying. So, all the kings men who have tried to put her back together in a less intense and more curved shape have failed. OCD much? Yeah.

I quit fighting my past. I am the dutiful first born son of a Presbyterian mother and Methodist father who became Presbyterian when he began dating my Mom. The older I get the more comfortable my same spot in the pews has become. Presbyterian Orthodoxy is an inescapable part of who I am.

So, my direct answer to the question of the existence of God is a reflexive, “yes.” No, it isn’t well-reasoned any more than my annual itches for an impossibly perfect Christmas that rattle about thanks to my Mom’s life-long fight with her sister for approval from their Mom. My belief in the existence of God is an act of faith, irrational and at odds with the world Inger wishes for. There are very few truly straight lines in my world.

Nothing I say can convince you of the existence of God. Either you agree he exists or you don’t. I’ve also lost my taste for winning the argument on this. I am quite happy in my little shack on a less traveled road in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. My call is to serve regardless of the object of my service’s beliefs regarding God. Sometimes, when you are hungry, a hot meal is the best altar call possible.

Wikipedia has an article on the question here. Allow me to offer a chain of reasoning that is weak but for me, worthy. First, does love exist? If it does and God is love, then since love exists God must also exist. Further. Love is a verb and by inference we witness the existence of God in his actions demonstrating his love for us.

Love is a weak voice shouted down by all the dissonant noise alive in the lives of us who found comfort on the shores of the River Styx. Crazy is our normal. Altruism, true altruism, triggers suspicion for us. There has to be something behind it, some gain or motive, some desire that drives the act of kindness. We find it hard to believe that self-less acts of kindness are possible. That there could be a deity who would want us to experience altruism seems impossible.

Hebreos 4:1-2, “Cuidémonos, por tanto, no sea que, aunque la promesa de entrar en su reposo sigue vigente, alguno de ustedes parezca quedarse atrás.Porque a nosotros, lo mismo que a ellos, se nos ha anunciado la buena noticia; pero el mensaje que escucharon no les sirvió de nada, porque no se unieron en la fe a los que habían prestado atención a ese mensaje.”

Yet, we live insane lives so Inger’s desire for a rational world hits our ears as a dissonant minor chord. The God I know fights being contained in a bakelite trimmed stainless steel and concrete temple. Left alone Chernobyl is overrun by moss and plants that ruin its modern architecture. His world is at least fractal in its complexity. He made a world in which Quantum theory helps make the calculus work. Why not an insane, absurd God for this shitshow?

I believe God exists for completely selfish reasons. I grew up in a house infested with mental illness. I was tormented by anxiety from a very early age. Anger became my binky. I could have what I wanted because I was able to cajole my parents into indulging me. This lasted until 1979 or so and my initial years with my paternal grandmother. I returned to Earl Palmer and the First Presbyterian of Berkeley seeking answers. I wanted something of home, even as fucked up as home was. Earl is brilliant and patient with yungins. It was after many Sundays listening to him preach that my heart was softened and I was ready to let God in. I believe God exists because that belief keeps me sane.

Later in life, as I came to understand that my life was going to collapse again and I’d have to rebuild for the fourth time, I needed a family. I found that in St. Giles, in the Men’s Fellowship. Without them I’d either be dead or in prison. Along the way I’ve experienced miracles of grace and mercy that knit well with my Protestant upbringing.

I believe God exists for irrational reasons. I attribute some of my experiences to him against reasoned deduction. It is a knowledge I have always had and found comfort in. Mine is not the place to win the argument. Mine is to serve you anyway, to share and walk with you as we count down our sunrises until we are rowed to the far shore of the River Styx.

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We Elected the Wrong Guy

It’s an itch we keep wanting to scratch. Dig Caesar out of his tomb and venerate his bones. It doesn’t matter whether you choose one of the two proffered candidates. Both of them are either greater or lesser minions of Rome.

This was our choice: a woman who is deeply connected to the establishment and operates an NGO which launders money or a billionaire pitching himself as an outsider because he’s never been a politician. We elected the billionaire. I voted for Dumpf. Why would I vote for the evilist of evil, evil, evil people, a rich capitalist pig whose ill gotten wealth comes from going bankrupt on other people’s money? I am supposed to understand that Dumpf is devil incarnate. Billary is a lovable fuzzball grandmother who just wants to make sure everyone gets their fair share. What’s crazy about that?

Dumpf won. There have been a string of narratives pitched regarding our new fearless leader since the election. The first was that he was a fascist bastard who was going to inter all the illegal aliens, make our gardeners and pool boys even poorer, steal food from the mouths of Appalachian babies and make Grandma survive on powdered milk and USDA bologna. Dumpf hates brown people so all brown people are even more deeply fucked than they were before the election. Brown people can help out by self-interring at the old camps from WWII. He is a real estate barron so obviously he hates the environment and we’ll all be dead from toxic waste before his term is up. Another one was that the Russians, those evil bastards, stole the election from Grandma Clinton. They hacked the voting system, they stole e-mails from her server and spread craptastic stories about influence peddling, an overly cozy relationship with Wall Street, and was secretly sex-trafficking in children sought by pedophile Oil Sheikhs.

This election taught me a couple things. First, we are nuts when it comes to choosing our leaders. We want childish, impossible things in our leaders. He has to be a man of the peeeeepul comfortable in a dive bar drinking light beer, plain spoken, wiser than Solomon, pious as St. Paul, mighty as Caesar Augustus, generous with free Cadillac’s and cell phones. He should be deeply steeped in the secular orthodoxies of the puritan left but not so wonky or stiff that he will enforce said ethics for everyone, just the enemies of the state. We want our leader to provide for us like a good pimp Daddy but not interfere when we decide to behave in transgressive ways. We want s/him to protect us from those who would perpetrate aggression, micro and otherwise, from those who behave in triggering ways while comforting us when our behavior has undesired consequences.

Second, we got played. It was a masterful checkmate. We could have voted for RayRoberta Bob. The establishment had a plan to co-opt s/him and stay firmly in control. It did not matter who we voted for. They had us at P-Q4. The massive civil service bureaucracy housed in the Executive Branch was going to ensure continuity of power regardless of whether Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Cruz, Dumpf, Sanders, Billary or my favorite drunk alien, RayRoberta Bob won. Us who voted for Dumpf did so because we hoped it would communicate to congress and the bureaucracy that we were tired of the last century of rinse repeat.

I’ve been shut up. My usual narratives that align to some degree with the orthodoxy of conservative talk radio have been shook up. It’s a depressing thought, that hope & change by way of Washington D.C. is a non-starter. I hate the idea that we are not so different from Russia. You can elect anyone you want to be Prime Minister of Russia. He or she will still be a dictatorial bitch unsympathetic to your anxieties about the fate of Monarch Butterflies and Appalachian children. Dumpf turns out to be a kinder, gentler grandpa who wants to fiddle with the edges of our government but otherwise leave it be. Checkmate.

There is such a love-fest afoot with the press and the Obummers. It’s the sort of adoration I associate with socialist dictators in places like Asia or South & Central America. The fear and loathing seems to be a reaction to Grandma Billary’s failure to continue the dynasty attempted by the Obummers. The populist grandma telling us that she is the reasonable one who will fight for the little guy, protect the snowflakes from their own bad behavior and make those evil capitalist pigs pay their damned fair share.

It feels to me like a freed slave who stands in the middle of the road across from his former home on the plantation and realizes freedom is disruptive. He wasn’t free a moment ago before he was handed his papers. A moment ago his life was clear. He knew his fate, knew how he’d get his needs met. It was a familiar devil. Now, papers in hand, nothing is assured. He has to fend for himself. He has no income, nothing to assure his reason for existence or a purpose to pursue. Rick Warren’s book was 140 years in the future.

For some, this was exciting. It was a victory. For others it was disaster. Say what you want about the oppression contained in tenant farming in the south. Not everyone alive in the 19th century antebellum south was happy to be free. Ditto the Obummers. We have folk who are getting attention because what they wanted was a coronation of Obummer and if they couldn’t have that, an election victory that continued the Clinton Dynasty.

We have had authoritarian and socialist government since at least 1913. My ancestors were subjects of the British Empire. They were not all fervent supporters of throwing over King George. The argument over liberty vs. safety is as old as our republic. We started out hating any hint of imperialism. Our distaste for kings has diminished in the centuries since . The trend has been toward increasingly large, ineffective and authoritarian government for at least a century. Caesar is going to rise out of his tomb and be restored to the new empire soon enough. It seems to be what we want.

I voted to prevent what I didn’t want. The Supreme Court is short one justice. The choice of replacement was going to go to either Grandma Billary or Dumpf. Dumpf won. Obamacare is a growing nightmare being exploited to increase the intrusion of government into our lives. The snowflakes are winning the propaganda war and so the expectation is that we will comply. We want energy independence but it can’t come at the price of harming the butterflies or Native Americans. All perfectly reasonable and fair.

Jesus was not reasonable or fair. His message threatened the status quo within the Middle East and Jewish people. Authority came from God directly to the disciples of Christ. We didn’t need intercessors or interpreters of the Torah to facilitate our relationship to God. Caesar was cut out of the picture. The Levites were superfluous. Our rights, our laws, came directly from God the Father through his son, Jesus of Nazareth. These are troublesome words for the establishment of Christ’s day. Troublesome enough that he was crucified.

Empires fall. All of them. Ours is an empire made of a revolution 227 years old. We are fabulously successful. There is no empire in history with greater wealth and military might than ours.

Empires fall and tomorrow happens. Empires fall and there are survivors. Those that remain have to do the needful because their count of sunrises has not run out.

So . . . what? Anarchy? Anarchy is a foolish lie. Anarchy as currently promulgated means the anarchist can dictate the rules on his or her whims while being insulated from the consequences. It is how we self-governed before we had to deal with other kids and out of the purview of our parents. Though we are losing our distaste for imperialism it isn’t gone. Some of us hunger for god and express our appetite through electing authoritarian figures like Grandma Billary and Dumpf. Socialism? Hitler was a socialist before he took a hard turn into genocidal dictatorship, remember? Still, the reflexive answer remains, “certainly not! We don’t want a god-king, king or anything like that. We are a democracy!

Might I suggest something? When our desires for a leader are crazy/absurd an absurd leader becomes the reasonable choice. Who do I think an absurd leader is? Dumpf, perhaps. We shall see. Grandma lost, so that’s not going anywhere. What about that guy, the Nazarene Carpenter of two thousand years ago, who was martyred by the Romans? What about him? I mean, he’s been dead for a while so there is no danger of him getting caught diddling kids or accepting bribes from Wall Street Bankers. He and his followers are pretty crazy, so perhaps hungering after a resurrected dead guy as a leader isn’t any less crazy than having a hard on for Grandma.

Hope and change cannot be found in the temples worshiping our secular gods of democracy. Hope and change is where it has been for a couple thousand years. The Nazarene carpenter’s disciples still follow him. They named themselves Christians. You know them. They are your neighbors. Rather than pray to the false god kings of Washington D.C. go visit one of those churches in your town. Don’t pray. Not yet. Talk to the people at the church. Share your story. Volunteer a bit–something small that can be completed in an hour or two. This is a long game that won’t pay off right away. It does pay off. The anecdotal proofs of how it pays off are numerous and reach back millennia. Ask one of those Cheezus Freak people you see at that church.

King Jesus is an absurd and wonderful monarch. The beauty of naming Jesus as king is that he is dead. It ends up at not having a king or queen, a good thing. Ditto saying that the resurrected kingdom and temple lives in our hearts. I’m counting down my remaining 12,000 sunrises. Hopefully this house of cards we have will stand. Merry Christmas!

 

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Weapons Hot

Guns bother me. I don’t like it that there is a tool sold which is designed to kill. I get hunting. Venison is good eating. Our cops, military and security professionals are paid to face impossible choices and at times, take life. There are also people with a strong enough signal that they collect haters who go further than nasty words. They need guns. Everybody else? I wouldn’t ban guns. If you want one you should be able to buy one. But . . . my God asked me to love neighbor and enemy alike. So, the stinking turd of a question is, why own something made to facilitate killing?

You know this one: revenge is a dish best served cold. A variant: weapons purchases are best done coldly. If you have any dissonance, darkness, evil, or trouble in your heart, fix that. Fix it before you invest the time and money needed to buy a weapon. Definitely, if the reason for the weapon purchase is aggression against someone who has transgressed against you, don’t buy the weapon. As you stand at the counter choosing a weapon to purchase, you need to be clear and cold.

Weapons are tools for a deadly purpose. People are disturbingly talented at finding ways to hurt each other. Take away guns and we come up with something else to use with deadly intent. We should have the ability to buy and own a weapon. We also need to own the responsibility that comes with owning a tool made to kill.

Too, if you are still a boy in a mans body and want an impressive looking gun that signals your badassery, you are an idiot. We are a first world country. We are also a nation that is incredibly good at selling things. There is plenty you can spend your money on to signal what a stud muffin you are. It doesn’t have to be a gun. I won’t try to judge whether you need a .50 caliber pistol. If you want one, buy one. Just. . . I hope you aren’t buying it out of a need to make your mark among the guys. And if you do buy a .50 caliber pistol, put in the time and money at the range so you can actually hit what you are aiming at.

A little back story. My buddy, who moved to California just as I was finishing college, has decided that his safety is improved by owning a small armory. He’s already bought the dollar store version of the Mossberg 500 shotgun. Also on his shopping list is a .22 caliber long gun and a semi-automatic pistol. I think he’s an idiot for at least two reasons. First, in most self defense situations the distances are well within the range of a pistol. A shotgun could be a liability. Second, he’s doing this hot, out of fear.

I asked him about this post. His reason for starting with shotguns and low caliber long guns was ease of use. At close range a shotgun doesn’t need a skilled marksman to be effective. This is a comfort to him. And a .22 long gun has very little recoil and tends to be fairly accurate, again, relying on the weapon to compensate for poor marksmanship. Rather shitty reasons to own long guns. I hope he puts in the range time to keep up his skill with the weapons he owns.

A katana in the hands of a beginner is a reason to worry. The student and his weapon are a little too uncontrolled to be safe. It is why I was never allowed to practice with steel. Steel was for black belts after many years of repetitive practice with wood. Even then the black belts demonstrated with steel solo. I feel similarly about any gun in the hands of a poorly trained marksman. The marksman makes the gun more dangerous because of the low training effort and consequent poor skill.

It makes more sense to me that you would pick a weapon with the most utility given your needs. For me that is likely to be a semi-automatic pistol. Then, having made the choice you start with training and then maintain your skills through continued practice and training. Ownership should come at the end of an initial session of training. Everything you need to know about weapons can be learned at the range with a semi-automatic pistol. Master your primary weapon. After that, if you want other weapons and can buy them cold, have at it.

There are plenty who buy weapons, live long and go home to Jesus never firing a weapon in anger. For those that own weapons and enjoy them safely, good on you. I have no truck with your hobby. Y’all are not blog-post worthy. Us, the noisy and dissident, we are what generates content and posts like this one. It is us that need to check our narratives to explain why we want to own a weapon.

Self-defense. This one is tough for me. I’ve been a cab driver for almost 20 years. I’ve driven over 500,000 miles without endangering my passengers or being robbed. In all those miles I’ve never had a gun with me. The same behaviors which have gotten me to this point are what will continue to keep me safe. But . . . I am successful in a narrow circumstance where I’ve become skilled at staying safe. The world and the risks in it are way bigger than me. It happens that for some a weapon is needed for self-defense.

Just . . . after 5 years of training in Aiki Jujitsu and all those miles I can’t accept that your only option is a weapon. You have to be creative and smart when presented with a threat that could be shoot/don’t shoot. I’ve been through intense situations where a gun would have been an antagonizing addition. I got through them without a weapon. It can be done.

A small confession: I’ve been gun shopping. I looked at pistols at the counter at Cabella’s. The kid talking to me was in love with an off-brand .38 special revolver. I asked him about semi-automatic pistols and he showed me these made-in-north-korea knockoffs that were branded something like glok or smiss & wexxon. It was a short conversation.

Colonial Shooting Academy here in Henrico, VA was a more impressive experience. The guy talking to me was my age or so and really seemed to know his stuff. Felina was with me. I couldn’t get her to come over to my house for Halloween. I mentioned that I was going to window shop at Colonial Shooting and she was all about it. She had eyes for the Smith & Wesson 500. I thought she was stupid for liking it. The Shooting Academy guy showed me a couple Glocks. Nice weapons. The Glock 19 fit in my hand and felt good as I manipulated the slide and checked the magazine for rounds. His reason for recommending 9mm pistols was the price of ammo. Range ammo was really cheap and more deadly ammo was still inexpensive. He also said that ammunition makers have been working to improve 9mm ammo over other common sizes like .38 ACP.

Then Felina asked if we could put in some range time. I wasn’t ready for that. Felina can be a bit much. I rented a Glock 19 and she rented an AR-15 after I refused to buy range ammo ($4.00 for one round) for the 500. Whoa. Very tight groupings with the AR-15. She was scary good with the Glock.

I know a little about guns. I don’t know enough. I shot .22 rifles at summer camp as a Boy Scout. I had a British buddy in college who wanted to rent all the Hollywood guns–.44 magnum, 9mm Beretta, etc. We spent a couple hours murdering paper targets with guns he could not get at home. I shot a .22 Ruger competition pistol that was pretty easy to handle. Bigger than .38 caliber and I was a danger to myself and other people on the range. Plus, handling guns is an emotional thing for me. I quit shooting part way through the hour. My head was banging with the knowledge that these weapons were made to kill people.

That knowledge still bothers me. Both the Cabela’s visit and tonights visit to Colonial Shooting Academy were emotional experiences. Felina wasn’t helping. The sales guy at Colonial Shooting was a big help with her and with explaining things. Not sure knowing Felina is a fan-girl of big guns was reassuring. The sales guy had me at the Glock 19.

I wrote this last night while watching the final episode of Survivor: Millenials vs. Gen X. I tossed and turned last night. There was a quote I stumbled across online commenting about the Glock 19 from a Latina woman. She spoke of having a love/fear relationship with men. A gun was power for her. Power she wanted to use against men who scared her. Unpacking that is probably more than 1500 words. Still, I wouldn’t want laws in place that were intended to prevent her from owing a gun and feeling safer.

Women, I hear some of you. The world is not safe for you. Felina Ramos has been in Biloxi for the last few months. Another guy, another misadventure with a man. The guy is photogenic and fabulously fem. When they rode with me the other night the body language was story worthy. She was cold to him, stiffly giving him affection while he was annoyingly yappy. After we dropped off Buddy, Felina filled me in. Buddy was starting to creep her out. They were over the initial hot & horny and starting to know each other on the dark days. He’d turned possessive and demanding of her attention. When they were out he’d get all happy when she made the drink orders and chose what to eat. Felina has dealt with that before.

That wasn’t it. A few nights ago in Biloxi a guy asked them for a dollar. They mumbled a refusal and he started following them, calling them names, insisting that they give him money. Buddy was as useful as a Vietnamese dong. He kept whimpering that they should just give him money. Felina had to confront the homeless guy. Buddy was ever appreciative and thankful.

Felina’s big issue is trust. She trusts no one. From jump, she assumes she is going to get hurt. It takes a lot for her to relax and feel safe. Felina has never done the responsible thing and gone to safety classes or legally gotten a permit to carry. Her range time happens off the radar. The point for me is that Felina isn’t so enamored of Buddy after having to save his ass.

I get it that some women come to decide that they way they are going to make their world safer is by owning a gun. I wanted to deviate from my theme a bit to acknowledge that weapons ownership can mean different things for women. Along with women needing agency, needing a voice in policy and law, they need safety. It’s #2 on Maslow’s hierarchy, pretty important. We shouldn’t get in the middle of the choice to own a weapon for women that choose to do so.

I can be at peace with owning a gun and its responsibilities for reasons similar to why I liked owning a katana. It is an accomplishment to practice marksmanship and become skilled. I started this with, gun purchases are best done cold. I’d rather join those who own and master what a weapon can do than live with fear and conflicted feelings about a tool made to kill. Maybe it’s not a more reasonable justification than my buddy’s who is afraid of a nebulous threat from left-wing zombies. He responded with Luke 22:36, “He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one“. Jesus said this on the night before his crucifixion along with telling Peter that he would betray him. I’m a poor bible scholar. Read all of Luke 22 to get a fuller understanding of my friend’s quote.

I’ll leave you with this: the highest form of swordsmanship is living so you don’t need a sword. You can’t achieve that jerking a protest sign up and down in a picket line shouting, “no more guns, no more wars!” Nor is your safety assured locked in a university study room designated a safe space with demanding rules declaring what is and isn’t safe behavior. My readers would take great delight in literally shitting on your term paper for women’s studies before setting off a string of lady fingers in the room. We are like that. Learn to fight and win. Master your weapon so you live free of the need for a weapon.

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Knowing You


The last question in the Explore God series was, “Can I know God personally?” There is no reasoned answer to this question. That said, nearly 500 years of Calvinist tradition says, yes, yes you can. With something like this, though, tradition and reason are not enough. You either feel it as a yes or you don’t.

First, our pastor Sarah Marsh, said this in her sermon. Next, my first reflex was to say, no you can’t know God personally. The God I know is a jealous god. He is uncompromising in his demand for surrender and devotion. If you want to know Jesus a lot of the life you have now is going to die. Remember, this is a god who launched a new kingdom by being martyred.

Another reason you can’t know God personally is modern science. Jesus is booga-booga-booga weird. We tell people that they have to die to live, to give to get, serve to be served, be a servant to lead. Being Christianity is living in a topsy-turvy world where Carol’s Wonderland is not strange. A lot of the Bible is starkly bonkers. Knowing God is the realm of the heart. If you try to bring empirical reasoning to understanding God your head will hurt. God isn’t reasonable. He is reliable. To know God you have to surrender some of that itch for utopia we get from my Puritan ancestors and some of that surety that through science we can understand how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

Next, I was raised in the church. I’ve been saved longer than I’ve not been. I’m not perfect, far from it. Dig far enough back in this blog and you’ll find plenty that I have had to apologize for. I spent some of my youth accusing my Dad and the church of various high crimes and misdemeanors. For a time I knew God as a stern taskmaster who disapproved of me and my behavior. It hasn’t been that long since I surrendered deeply to God.

img_jesusWhich, sort of makes me the worst one to write about this. I already believe. I know God, know Jesus. It took me a while to come around to this. I was/am a fan of apologia, of criticism of the church. Damned hypocrites, look at them.

You are going to hear all the standard answers from ordained graduates of seminary. They studied hard and I applaud them for their hard work and consequent knowledge. Their answers are worthy. Mine is not. Mine is the answer of a cantankerous man who wasn’t always this devoted to God. Mine is a lifelong relationship that has swelled and faded. God never stopped knowing me nor loving me. It is I that have shunned him at times then come home like a repentant prodigal son.

When, for the first time in my twenties I quieted down and started to listen, God had some stuff for me to do. First, shut up. No, really, be quiet. Next, all my bluster about how no one is doing anything for that little kid I saw on TV growing up, the one staring up at the camera with big eyes, God said this, “You do it.” Me? Help? When I am a wretch? When I am the one entitled to being protected from my own hot mess, coddled and spoon fed. Yep, I am to do it. I and all the other hot messes that came to Jesus.

The creator of the Universe talks to me, to this hot mess. I hear voices, hear His voice. Crazy, right? Yep. I’ve heard him since the age of 14 when he appeared to me in a vision I had while praying at summer camp. Though, his voice isn’t the lovable, round Pappa I want him to be. He’s a carpenter. He’s short, brown-skinned, curly haired and a bit thick by modern standards. His language is rough. He knows me so when I try to game him it doesn’t take him long to checkmate me. He’s the one that was in my head cussing me out when I complained yet again that I was out of gas, out of money, out of cell-phone minutes, without even change for the parking meter. He was the one laughing at me when lately I tried to catch a kitten and failed in entertaining ways.

I can’t make you agree that you can know God personally. I can only tell you that I have come to count him as an intimate friend. Know this, I tried other ways of living. I tried to keep God out of my head. All those years of Sunday School, my baptism, catechism class and the many books I’ve read and still, there is no place like my usual spot on the left side of the sanctuary, toward the front, singing hymns badly and listening to Keith and Sarah and others talk about Jesus.

The third thing God asked of me is to work for change within the church. This means I had to sign up for the full program. I am responsible for my own worship, prayer, tithe, study and service. I have to show up. Beyond that, I have to participate. Beyond that I have to contribute. Beyond that I have to serve, to serve without hope of return or desired outcome. Out of these five responsibilities I have built my relationship to God, to Jesus, to know Him. And out of *that* I can become a voice for change within the church.

Husbands know this. Many times the sexiest thing a man can do for his wife is dishes. Families are hot beds of chaos and strife. The kids are taxing, the workload withering, the ways it fails constant and numerous. Into that a guy tries to hug her and ask for a little affection. One more demand of her, one more too much. But, he’s entitled, right? It’s all over the Bible, that guys come first, get served, helped by their wives. Uhm, actually . . . no. Knowing God is a kind of death to all that came before, all that binds us to the worries of the world. Dishes are the least of it. And . . . if you remember, it is Adam that is cleaved to Eve and her family, not the other way around.

God is in some ways, a jealous husband and we are his bride. He demands that we give and give and give and it just doesn’t seem to be fair. He is demanding, his people are hotbeds of chaos and strife. Church people are taxing, the commitment withering, the ways that sin intrudes are constant and numerous. Into that arrives you, full of anguish and hope that this Jesus thing could work out for you, with your one more demand too much. Yet these Jesus people seem to be crazy in love with an absurd God. Either they are nuts (we are) or there is something to this God who does a reset by dying.

The central narrative, metaphor for life in Reformed faith is the cross. It is in death and resurrection that we find our knowledge of God and a life as a disciple of Christ. Our greatest heroes are those who made deep sacrifices, even unto death. So, I almost don’t want you to know God. You have to be ready for this. You have to risk your life to gain it. The prayer itself is trivial. Altar calls are ecstatic experiences for some. I worry about the commitment, the days after, the work of being in a relationship with God. All five of my responsibilities involve sacrifice of some sort. Are you ready for this? Are you ready to die on the cross to be reborn stripped naked and having to start over?

I’m really good at words. I’ve been in enough therapy, sat through enough Sunday School classes, that I can confess like the best. It’s all a front, though. My slings and arrows flown against the church accusing it of hypocrisy said a lot about my own life. God took me all the way to the street and to jail. He met me in my truck, out of gas, out of money, out of cell phone minutes, homeless, a convicted wife beater, in a phone call with a cocaine addict who wanted a ride to the grocery story. Boom.

If you are ready, cool. There are plenty who will welcome you and become your family in Christ as you live this new life. It doesn’t have to be me. Most Sundays you can find me in my usual spot, singing praise songs badly at St. Giles church. If you do choose me, beauty. We can walk together as we live out our promise to be a disciple of Christ.

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