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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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.

❖ ❖ ❖

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.

❖ ❖ ❖

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.

✤ ✤ ✤

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

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

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

✤ ✤ ✤

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

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

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

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

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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.

♦ ♦ ♦

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.

♦ ♦ ♦

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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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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Plus One Deplorable

This is the thing. I’m normal. Kind of. A reason to be happy? Not for me. A theme of my life has been the need to have my needs met and an itch to be loud. I wanted life to mean something, to have an impact on more than my immediate circle of kin and friends. Explains this blog, maybe. The ways I wanted to go about being loud have put my serenity at risk. There was jail. And homelessness, more than once.

So, since leaving my son and his Mom in 2002 to find a way of ending the insanity I’ve returned to a bad hobby. It’s so common as to be laughable. Lolita. It was a play then it was a movie. It’s taboo. Old fart loving on nubile young thing. Not good. And way too common. In Hollywood, and among the rich & stupid, it’s almost de regueur. You get to a certain level, a certain age and you get awarded your own SYHT. I may be the right age. I’m a little low-brow to qualify for that lottery drawing. It doesn’t stop me from some rather deplorable late night fantasies.

Lisa Brooks, a student of mine, SYHT 2 & 3, one of whom was a stripper, a waitress at Richbrau, SYHT actual, who inspired the initials I gave her, Aimee, whose Dad is an elder at a local church, a local web developer and graphic novel writer, and lately, Felina Ramos. The bad hobby? I keep trying to catch me a kitten and failing.

What’s knocking about my heart is Felina Ramos. I should run the other way when Felina meows and leans against my leg. Did I? No. I tried to scoop her up to feed her and she bit me. Serves me right. Four hours from the time I left work until I hit the door at the house with the mind racing at the depravity possible. She wasn’t where I thought she’d be. She was an hour away in a completely different part of our metroplex.

For Felina, I am an absurdity. I’m an older guy who is attracted to her but my impulses run to being Pappa rather than boyfriend/beard. Felina’s experience with men is that they want her cookie and not her. She may say she likes guys for more than just a 3am romp. But too much of life has taught her that it all comes down to that, to bumping uglies in the wee hours of the morning. She can’t look at me, look at any guy, without a little anxiety, a little question, “when will the abuse start?”

All the good people in the fat part of the curve have all the usual tropes about women like her. “She must like it” [Hell no], “You can tell by the way she dresses. She brings it on to herself with the men she goes with. “. [Law of attraction, I get it, but unfair.] The thing is, when you are that far down, that deeply captured by the dark side, you resonate dissonant.

You attract crazy and abusive. Dissonance feels normal. We (yes, “we”) tend to attract to us the things that represent our unconscious signals, good and bad. I am absurd to Felina but that thirty-something musician who wants to be Marilyn Manson 2.0, him? Felina is all about him. He confirms for her what her broken heart believes about men–we are dogs, pigs and goats. Nothing from men is free, “ass, gas or grass . . .Matthew 5:1-12 is insanity for her.

I could easily stand on my heritage as a WASP, on my blue-bloodline and my upbringing. I’m Presbyterian, for God’s sake. I could stick to the party line about how everything has to come to me without any agency of my own. I could say it’s because of Felina that I have done foolish things. In the popular orthodoxy, I’d be right. Also, in the orthodoxy of the day, Felina is a goddess. She, with her downtrodden story, is to be worshiped as confirmation that all men everywhere are the same–dogs, pigs and goats. What say I? Yep.

If anything, in this post, I am writing a confession rather than an accusation. Felina is God’s business, not mine. My business, my dog in the fight, is my 0-8 record at luring a kitten to me. I’m annoyed at my failures. Felina, or someone like her, is catnip to me. Failing, though, is probably the better thing.

Felina is about five years out from being sick and tired of being sick and tired. When the street becomes too much she crashes with some thirty-something guys in a home that is sometimes subdued but on the speed dial of the local cops. Remember the movie Hangover? Yeah. But, like, a suburban house that is like that all the time. That is Felina’s milieu.

The old reliable, my awkwardness and stubborn insistence on some personal tropes with women disrupted the dastardly plan. The other thing is something I had to get used to. I’m not abnormal. The bipolar vibe that was so attractive back then just doesn’t click with me. Felina, as I think about it, was perhaps hoping she’d make it past my front door and then who knows? I bought dinner for her at Chipotle. Buzz kill.

Then last night, which ended up being four hours on local roads driving, parking to send some texts, driving some more, rinse, repeat. Felina had been talked into moving a friend after work and instead of the promised easy couple hours it had spun into an all-nighter. Meanwhile I’m wandering about Metro Richmond hoping to find my stray kitten. Since, Felina has made me a ghost.

My win-loss score with this bad hobby is 0-8. The closest I’ve come is a really odd, awkward, naked afternoon with SYHT actual. Parts of me feel a bit peeved at this. Eight attempts and all I got was some necking with SYHT.

I got the house. I got the car. I filled the house with the stuff I thought would be attractive to her. Stuff that my Mom would like. Stuff that my son’s Mom liked when we were still married. I don’t have the HiFi yet. I did get a TV. FIOS got cancelled when I couldn’t pay the bill last spring. So far, it’s just me in that house.

I’m sort of like that puppy that catches a squirrel and doesn’t know what to do next. Propriety should lead me away from my hobby and a realization that I’m old enough to be a grandfather. I have no business messing about with women young enough to be my daughter. 0-8 so far. Over 950 words about a lot of fantasy and a night on the road going nowhere with a hope that cannot be. I am still a fool for love.

 

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Felina Ramos

Felina Ramos is in her twenties. It’s been hell getting here. I was all set to write a blog post about the speed at which many tag a given narrative as proof of rape culture and in so doing, cheapen the phrase. Check your narratives people. And, yes, I am hinting that my story of a young intern flipping out because a coworker smiled at her will continue in this space. Felina, though.

pigface-flowerFelina’s story killed it. I know she’s an outlier, that most women don’t have such an outsized story to tell. I am one who loves to point out that the stories we publish are the ones that have a larger than life aspect to them. Only a small percent of us are black and bullet ridden. Only a few women have survived as much as Felina. The 99% will never have a story worth a blog post. Felina does.

Felina dresses goth, has a bloody rose tattoo on her left arm. She’s in Richmond trying again to get her grades together to return to Stanford where her full ride scholarship awaits. Her uncanny attraction to pigs is a bit unnerving. She’s not attracted to them. Too many come at her with attitude she reads as, “I could get from flirty to dirty sheets pretty quick with you.”

How About . . . No

I see what the pigs see. I also saw the steel and concrete in her eyes buttressing a deep river of anger that made me decide that I’d regret checking her off on my bucket list. The weather has been good so she’s been living on the street. It’s not as if Felina hasn’t been offered help. It is this. The last time she agreed to take a bed in a shelter she woke up to find the overnight worker fondling her. The place promised to be safe, to be somewhere where she could try again to get healthy, was a place hosting a predator.

Felina spent a night in jail recently after she slapped a well meaning woman at the bus stop who offered, “everything happens for a reason. You have to look for the lesson in this.” The things that Felina has survived defy explanation.  The lesson life has taught her is worse than a night in city jail after bitch-slapping that woman.

Felina, 24, born in Haiti to a Peace Corp father. Dad came to Haiti as an aid volunteer for Hurricane Gordon (1994). Mom was Mormon at the time, in Haiti to soak up the sun, eat, and maybe find out about her family’s connection to the island. Dad’s roots were Moorish and Mom’s were Catalan. Felina grew up in Puerto Rico. A fine beginning that went further south for Felina at around age 12.

The thing that has been so stunning is her inability to escape predators. Monsters under the bed? She’s got men wanting her in the ugliest way. Mom & Dad wanted her to break the family curse and so sent her to boarding school. Their idea was that if they sent her to a good boarding school she’d be safe and set for college and success.

Good Plan . . . Gone to a Nightmare.

Boarding school had a janitor (pig #2) who liked them young. His special pet was Felina, who gave herself to him until she graduated with honors. She got a full ride at Stanford, as far away from Georgia as she could manage. Nightmare over? Not even. It was as if she had some sort of invisible nametag that said, “abuse me.” It wasn’t even limited to men. Women would coo that it’s safer with a girl and then bust out the latex and whips.

Childhood in Carolina, Puerto Rico before boarding school was a little better than what TV loves to show. Her parents did better than most. They both worked, her Dad sold shaved ice (Pure Mountain Water!) to tourists and her Mom as an office manager in a doctor’s office. She had one sister two years younger than her and an older brother she seldom saw. The brother was a soaring vulture who was only home when he wasn’t in jail or had run out of money. But, they had a house and a car, which was more than many of her childhood friends.

Felina’s reason for wanting to go to boarding school was a Bambalan (pig #1) friend of her Dad. This bichote started with her when she was eight. Then she got her first period and he told Papa that she was spoiled and could never marry a Catholic. Es lo que hacen los hombres.

Felina Ramos Knows

Felina knows a couple things. She knows that some men are weak against her and will do nearly anything if she asks them the right way. She knows that no one has ever been able to contain her behavior. She can and has done many taboo things. Lately, though, she knows that between bicho and a good book it is the book that feels better. Some rosehip tea, a fleece robe and something by James Patterson are way better than pene apestosas.

She’s on meds and most days her life trying to hold it together almost makes it to sundown without drama. She’s was living at home in Carolina helping take care of her parents for a couple years. She became the parent in the family for her sister and her gilipollas brother. Then a friend of the family told her she could come to Richmond and study at John Tyler to get her grades up and go back to Stanford. One more gallo del paseo who had her crotch in mind. She still hopes to make it back to Stanford some day.

I was ready to launch, ready to yell at those who cheapen the phrase “rape culture” by spewing it with abandon. It was one of those odd moments I’ve had. I saw what the predators saw. She comes across as an easy fuck. Sometimes, she is. Her heart is walled up behind a deep stone fortress of too many men assuming she’d like it quick and rough. She’s been abused too much, taken for granted too many times, had hands and bicho invade her safety. She is the exception that kills my glittering generality. Her story is too oft told, too old for a young woman.

I’m still there. I live here too. I see that the devil is hard at work eating souls. He’s made an oven for us and we are being baked in depravity until we are nicely golden brown and bubbly. I’m past the age where every woman I see is one I want to fuck. If SYHT reappeared in my life offering a bit of bacchanal it wouldn’t be an obvious yes. I flirted with Felina. But I’ve driven too many miles in a cab, carried to many Felina’s to be captured by her spell so easily. Not Felina specifically, but many like her who got with a guy hoping to use him as a lily pad and discovering he was a drunk, an asshat and worse. Women whom I pick up between 3 and 5am who had something in mind that didn’t happen and now need me to get them home.

What Size Are You?

The thing that bugs me is that the young women burning up the tubes with accusations of rape culture present it as a fact as immutable as the sunset. It is again the assignment of a narrative based on the stories of women like Felina as proof that all men are pigs needing castration and a training bra. And again the stipulation that the victims have no agency. They must just accept their fate as jaiva for bicho. They were born this way.

The genius of Christ was this. His revolution started within. He asked us to examine our own lives and the ways we are broken and in need of repentance. I can’t offer an answer to Felina that explains why life has been shitting down her throat. I can offer her hope that the shit-show can be less shitty. I didn’t start out well at age 19. The ending will be a lot better.

Felina and I are connected through social media. Lately I’ve become a ghost to her. If I were younger and hornier this would be a problem. Now? Meh. Some people are with us for a season and are gone. We get to keep the memories. Felina, when I told her I prophesized that she’d be ok, at first got angry with me and then got quiet, mascara and eye-liner leaking down her cheek.

We owe ourselves and Felina a little introspection and as needed, some effort at behaving better. And yeah, this site is for the pigs, the outliers and malcontents, God made them too. I still hope Felina will find the right support and be able to end the nightmare. And . . . allow me my hope that maybe the pigs will get a shock of recognition and perhaps chill the fuck out.

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Gatito en ventana? Bueno. Gatito en casa? No está bien.

She replies with “:3”. My connection to her is tangential. She’s the ex-girlfriend of an acquaintance who threw an epic Facebook fit when she told him he had to come correct or they were done. Yeah . . . so . . . if you know this blog and the community it speaks of . . . a demand to come correct isn’t going to go over well. That happened.

eva-mendesEste pequeño gatito tiene problemas. Which . . . is a bit of a given if I’m acquainted with her. None of this is new or worth 1500 words of my time. I feel like I need to repeat myself, though. I need to leave gatito lindo alone. I really should. But . . . no, I am going to make a feeble attempt at repeating some of the ways I do things and hope that I don’t get myself in too much trouble.

Ese pequeño gatito perdido lindo es un problema. “No” isn’t a word I do well with. Name a crazy idea and ask me to do it and I’ll go for it. When I was a tweenie, kids in my neighborhood, friends in my youth, pissed into a Jack Daniel’s bottle and dared me to take a sip. It smelled worse than it tasted.

Rinse, repeat. I’m supposed to say no. I’m supposed to learn to look at the kitten in the pet store window and keep walking. I keep talking to the helpful sales clerk about the kitten and pricing litter boxes. I allow a little lie that litter boxes don’t stink that bad if you keep up with them. Yeah, about that . . .

I abhor blog posts that are lists but here we go. God gave me some rules along with the blessings I’ve received:

  • 最好的禮物是秘密給出。Gifts have to be given with no agenda, no hope of return. So, the oft-attempted tactic of feeding the kitten and expecting the kitten to be grateful in some amenable way? Can’t happen.
  • Don’t attempt to fix el gatito so it stops being a shit in ways that piss me off. My life and this blog are home to people who respond to demands to come correct with bad behavior. I was asked to serve them even though they act out.
  • Never, never, never ask lindo gatito if she is saved. She’s probably more worried about my soul than hers.
  • el pequeño gatito who has lain across the railroad tracks hoping some Lone Ranger looking guy will scoop her up? Si ella espera que yo soy el salvador entonces que es un gatito muerto. gatito estúpida.
  • Romans 7:15 “No entiendo lo que me pasa, pues no hago lo que quiero, sino lo que aborrezco.”?

I don’t think the above list is for you, dear reader. We know what the expected choices are. A kid in the laundromat yesterday *had* to ride the coin operated race car and couldn’t get his Dad to give him $0.75. He knows he’s not supposed to find the quarters in his Mom’s purse. He knows he’s not supposed to ride the race car. He knows he’s supposed to sit still on the bench and wait. Does he? You read this blog. What do you think?

I’m trying to talk myself out of something I know I’ll end up doing. El lindo gatito en la ventana necesita para mantenerse en la ventana. Usually what happens is that I lose my damned mind and bring the kitten home after signing a bunch of contracts agreeing to pay for her on credit. Then she sees what a total man cave my house is and how bad a housekeeper I am. (Nota a los muy pequeños gatitos, que sé sobre el mal hedor en el baño). No hugs, no flirts or kisses, no meal and wine, no happy ending, straight to the maridos lista de tareas. El gatito hands me the kitchen gloves, a bucket and sponge and makes it clear I am cleaning the bathroom now. There isn’t even a dreamy morning after. In a millennial second the first, “¿me amas y por qué vives así, papá?” argument starts. Mutual friends message me with concerns about what my intentions are.

When gatito bonito walks across my ankle and rubs her head against it I think about the afterglow on Sunday morning. I forget about the hangover or the SnapChat video where she declared an ultimatum–get my shit straight or forget her. Ah well . . . gatitos gatos se vuelven lo suficientemente pronto. Then gatito bonito is gone and I’m ghosted. My life returns to its prior quietude. Until next time.

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