Cocking A Snook Too!

Independent, Irreverent Unschoolers – or at least one – Take On the Universe

Let’s talk about sex November 26, 2009

Filed under: Criticism of the Stupid,Random Moments of Poignancy — Meredith @ 10:44 am

How’s that for a comeback?

I don’t talk about sex very often, at least not in relationship to my own personal self. To do so seems indiscreet, boastful, and, because of the unpleasant puritanical hangover to which women are still subjected…well, skanky. Women who talk about sex are obviously women who are having, or interested in having, sex, ipso facto: they are sluts. This is an unfortunate mental block to which even I, a practitioner of plain old boring straight monogamy, am subject. Women reach a stage in their lives – usually in the mid-to-late-twenties – where almost all of their friends get married at once, five or so dizzying years flying by in crinoline and taffeta. But there is a phenomenon that precedes it, taking place in the mid-to-late teenage years, in which almost all of a woman’s friends lose their virginities, one after the other, like dominoes.

It is this stage of life in which I presently find myself, with few of my friends still in retention of their “virgin patents,” as Shakespeare put it in Midsummer. In an unscientific poll I conducted, every one of them, myself included, felt an intense, burning, scarlet-letter style stigma after renouncing said patent, sometimes for weeks afterwords. It was a jumpy, unfounded, uncontrollable paranoia, no matter how pleasant the circumstances of renunciation (“I look at people and wonder, do they know what I was doing last night?” is the average unquashable question). It was a feeling of precariousness, that at any moment we would somehow slip up in thought, word, or deed and give ourselves away. A brastrap stained with oily fingerprints would slip out from under a sleeve; a previously unnoticed hicky would appear in an inconvenient place; some sort of balance of chemicals we’d never heard of would change fundamentally and give us clusters of pimples that spelled out “I AM NOW SEXUALLY ACTIVE, HAVE A NICE DAY,” on our foreheads. Maybe in braille.

The upswing of this is that the feeling goes away after awhile, leaving behind it a feeling of heady confidence: I had sex one time, and no one noticed. Maybe I could get away with that on a regular basis. But it’s still a hard thing to talk about, even to other women in hushed tones in empty rooms. Which is one of the many reasons I’m thankful for Dan Savage.

Dan has written his sex advice column, Savage Love, for about as long as I’ve been alive (maybe not quite that long, but close). He is also a funny and heartbreaking writer, and fairly regular contributor to This American Life, which is where I first heard him read an essay and became enthralled. The essay wasn’t about sex, it was about his experiences as a gay dad, excerpted from his book The Commitment (a life-changing read, by the way). It was stunning for many reasons, not least because Dan’s love for his son is blinding; he’s not just a dad, he’s a great one, doing his absolute best every minute of every day to make sure that his little guy grows into a happy, well-adjusted adult. All children should have such parents, gay, straight, transgendered, whatever.

After a taste of what a friend refers to as “the Dan Savage gateway drug,” (his essays on family and culture) I was hungry for more, and discovered that Dan produces a weekly podcast version of Savage Love, in which people call in, record their questions, and, with any luck, have them answered by the master. Sometimes Dan even calls back to ask follow-up questions or berate someone for dysfunctional or destructive behavior.

His on-air manner is frank, funny, and profane. He’s completely unapologetic, and seems determined to slaughter every sacred cow there is so that we can all enjoy post-coital hamburgers together. The wit, humor, and attention to grammar (“I would hope all of my listeners know that the past-tense of “come” is “came,” not “commed,”) drew me in. The parade of problems and advice kept me there.

The result of all this listening of people talking about sex in a positive, happy light, was that I began to feel like it was something that could be talked about. My mind opened up to the worlds of other people’s ‘kinks,’ as Dan says, and began to see that, though I may not share most of them, responsibly sexually active adults all have something in common: a need to connect with another human in the most intimate and pleasurable way on earth. Almost everything between consenting adults is A OK in Dan’s book, and, inch by inch, I became more accepting and less prudish, simply because I’d heard so many different forms of sexual expression discussed in a non-judgmental forum. I have become well-informed and damn near unshockable, and I strive to be that way about everything.

So I am feeling fiercely protective of Dan this evening, having stumbled upon a brief article mentioning him and a frustratingly ignorant comment attached to said article. The article is posted on a well-put together sex-ed site, which, coincidentally, I highly recommend for those of you who are or have teenagers. While I was clicking around the site, just to see what was up – I haven’t visited in a few years – I noticed Dan’s name and, of course, had to read the whole article.

The author had seen Dan speak on a college campus, and seemed on the whole pretty uncomfortable with Dan’s frankness in the same way I was when I first began listening to him talk about people, you know, doing it, right there on my iPod. He writes:

While I think that, over all, Dan Savage gives awesome advice and that it’s great to have someone like him be in the position that he is in, I do sometimes cringe at some of the advice that he gives. And so, because I did end up leaving the room feeling giddy and empowered, I want to get the negative bit out of the way first and end this blog on a positive note. To the question “Is it weird to still be a virgin in your 20s?” Dan answered with yes. He then qualified his response by stating that most people become sexually active at 15 or 16, but from there proceeded to talk about how waiting longer to have sex may make someone more prone to sexual dysfunction.His advice was “Get out there, get drunk, and get it.” He added “You don’t want to get really shitfaced and accidentally rape someone, or get really shitfaced and be accidentally raped, but anyone who says that there can be no consent when alcohol is involved is lying.”

It was this section with which the commenter took issue.

“Accidentally raped?”

As if we could somehow get ourselves raped on purpose?!? Um, okay. “I meant to get mugged last night,” or “No, it’s okay, we got robbed on purpose.”

It’s at times like this when I’m glad I don’t give people my opinion for money, because I think I would be perpetually angry at people who just don’t listen. In context, Dan’s point is clearly that alcohol is not the root of all sin that Susan B. Anthony and MADD would have you believe; in fact, in responsible quantities, it is a social lubricant. In fact, he is specifically telling his audience to drink only in moderation, for the safety of themselves and others, and he is making a very important point about rape: a woman who goes into a situation looking for sex (“a hookup,” as the kids say) can still be raped. She still posesses agency, and can put the brakes on at any time she pleases, she was not “asking for it.” He’s really advocating personal responsibility, here, telling people to stay in control of their fates, not to surrender that agency.

So I am upset at this unfair maligning of Dan, without whom I would never have heard of “grammar fetishists” (“My girlfriend likes me to use bad grammar in bed so she can punish me,” the caller explained. “I am amazed you are not a grammar fetishist,” Calvin said later when I told him about it).

And, really, I’m upset at the maligning of the term “rape” in general – it’s come up this week more than one might think.

My mom sent me this absolutely appalling article, “The Wilding of Sarah Palin,” written by a self-professed “recovering liberal.” The rape undertones are right there in the title, if she’s refering to what I think she is, and the references only get more overt.

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow, as it would doubtless only make us both angry. The gist is that this woman was paranoid about being raped in college, so she became a women’s rights activist within the democratic party. She posits that democrats purposely keep women afraid of rape so that they’ll vote democrat, like a sick stick to the carrot of equal pay and abortion rights. She goes on to insinuate that democrats put out some sort of subliminal messages about conservative men all being rapists. She makes this allegation with no evidence whatsoever, and, if the average conservative sex scandal is any indication, my 14-year-old brother has a lot more to fear from Mark Foley, Larry Craig, and Ted Haggarty than I do.

She goes on to hint that she might have been raped (“probably at a peace rally,” Calvin groaned), and called the perpetrators “minority,” “thug,” “hoodlums,” blaming liberal social programs for the circumstances that led directly to her violation. If I may interrupt: I have a hunch that not stoning rape victims was once considered a “liberal social program.”

She goes on to accuse everyone at Berkley of being a “sleazebag,” (really, everyone) and that because liberals subscribe to the concept of moral relativism, they sanction the stoning of women in the Middle East. Where, the last time I checked, women were being preyed upon by religiously and politically conservative men.

Then it gets really good (or bad, I guess, would be a better word for it):

My other epiphanies: those ponytailed guys were marching for abortion rights not because they cherished women’s reproductive freedom, but to keep women available for free and easy sex.And the eagerness for women to make good money? If women work hard, leftist men don’t have to.
Then along came Sarah, and the attacks became particularly heinous. And I realized something even more chilling about the Left. Leftists not only sacrifice and disrespect women, but it’s far worse: many are perpetuators. The Left’s behavior towards Palin is not politics as usual. By their laser-focus on her body and her sexuality, leftists are defiling her. They are wilding her. And they do this with the full knowledge and complicity of the White House.

That’s right. Suggest that Sarah Palin is not fit to be the president, make a reference to her looking like a trailer-trash-beauty-queen-Barbie, or even question why a supposed symbol for conservative women’s independence and awesomeness required Wasilla rape victims to pay for their own rape kits out of pocket, and you are symbolically raping her.

The extreme Left still consider themselves warriors, righteous soldiers for their Marxist cause. With Palin, they use sexual violence as part of their military arsenal.

WHAT sexual violence? Has anyone raped Sarah Palin? Ever? Has anyone ever gathered a large group of impressionable people and suggested to them that they should try and make it happen, in the way that some conservative preachers are instructing their flocks to ruminate on our current president and the Psalm that says “Let his days be few; and let another take his office, let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow”?

Anyway, the woman goes on to say that all liberals hate Sarah Palin because she represents the sacred mother Mary or some damn thing, and that liberals are “life-despoilers,” as though we all sit around in dark basements plotting the destruction of the world order, with our faces all gross and melty like those Indiana Jones Nazis. Also, liberals have to take time out of this busy schedule to rape conservative women and then personally strangle any resulting offspring. There’s a quota, you know, something like five a month or they won’t let you vote in the primaries anymore.

“Life despoilers.” It would kind of be a sweet name for a rock band.

I had a point, somewhere, like, maybe 1000 words ago? Have you guys seen it?

Oh, yes.

Maybe if we were all a little more like Dan Savage – a little more open, a little more irreverent, a little more positive about a natural, biologally imperative act we’ve engaged in since our own inception – then the word “rape” wouldn’t get thrown around so much. Not only would people not get huffy at its very mention in a sex column, trying to find fault and hurl accusations of “anti-woman” and the like; people would stop suggesting that to question a woman in the public eye is to “symbolically” rape her.

Jon Stewart once said (and I never get tire of quoting it) “You know who was like Hitler? HITLER.”

You know what’s like rape? RAPE.

Let’s not trivialize it, and let’s not make it into a boogyman to the degree where it can’t even be discussed. Maybe we could just talk about rape like a normal societal ill, like poverty or murder, and not like something so loaded that to even mention it is to draw a sharp political line in the sand.

And maybe we could talk about sex like it was eating, or breathing, or dying, or anything else we all do, an unshameful everyday occurrence.

 

Teabagging John Adams: Or, a Brief List of Things About Which I Have Recently Become Enraged April 16, 2009

The greatest satirists of our age

The greatest satirists of our age

I haven’t blogged in a long time.

The Rick Steves thing doesn’t count, I phoned that in. But it’s just been that this last semester there hasn’t been that much to write about. Obama won the election; Sarah Palin was returned to the padded cell that is Alaska; John McCain seems to have rid himself of the Venom Symbiote; Scott McClellan revealed once and for all that Fox News was not only a Bush shill but a Bush mouthpiece, and there was Peace and Harmony Throughout the Land. Mostly. Enough.

There wasn’t much to be enraged about, really. The few rabid conservatives still showing their pasty faces were like amusing court jesters, or Vegas contortionists – a little disturbing, a little macabre, but ultimately hilarious. I mean, have you seen those people on Morning Joe? They’re a freaking laugh riot! There’s that blonde one whose father is an economist, but she doesn’t know anything about anything; and Pat Buchanan comes on sometimes to kill hippies live-on-air, and OMG, that stupid jerky one who pretends he used to be a Congressman? Joe? He’s better than Stephen Colbert.

But my ire has slowly but surely begun to rise. It all began with this Rhodes Scholar, right here:

Michelle Bachmann, fucking insane

Michelle Bachmann, fucking insane

Does anyone else remember that episode of How I Met Your Mother where the subplot was all about not dating girls with “crazy eyes?” That’s what Michelle Bachmann makes me think of. Crazy. Eyes. Like she wants to seduce me in an elevator and then kill my rabbit. Just sayin’.

She’s been on my radar since her fittingly disastrous Hardball appearance, when she basically suggested that we reinstate the McCarthy hearings. Every time I hear her name, it’s because she said something yet more awful. In an era of increasing globalization, ennui, and mediocrity, this woman outdoes herself every single time. A week or two ago she suggested that AmeriCore was going to turn into a “mandatory re-education camp.”

Check out this highlights reel. Nuckin’ futs.

Anyway, not too long ago, Bachmann made the following statement, which, as Dave Barry would say, I swear I am not making up:

“The Founding Fathers fought against taxation without representation.

Today we have taxation with representation.

I wonder what they’d think of that!”

(crowd goes wild)

Much as I hate to burst her crazy little bubble, I gotta say: I think the Founding Fathers would be pretty goddamn psyched about taxation with representation, considering that the right to it was what spurred them to revolution.

I dont even know what this means

I don't even know what this means

But the Republican base, as usual, is much more interested in style than substance.

“Tea Parties” have “spontaneously” “sprung up” “all over the country.”

Translation: “Uninformed protests” have been “organized and publicized by Fox News” “in cities in which they could scrape up a couple hundred, or in some cases, a couple dozen, people.” (more…)

 

Well, That Explains a Lot March 27, 2008

For years, I’ve been telling people that I was – hmm, I believe the phrase I used when I was middle-school-aged was “math retarded.”

My mom told me many times over the years, sometimes rather sharply, not to say that. She didn’t want other people to think of me that way, and she didn’t want me to think of myself that way. Therefore the phrase I used to declare “I’m not very good at math,” evolved continually as I got older, from “I haven’t taken very much math,” to “I don’t have a very strong math background,” to “Math wasn’t really a concentration for me,” to my most recent, “I’m better with words than numbers.”

The thing which all these more recent explanations have in common is that they admit that my math training has not been extensive, but refuse to consider that I would be less than adept at it if I applied myself.

Turns out my original assessment of “math retarded” is probably closer to the truth.

While I was dual enrolled at my wonderful community college, they let me take whatever classes I wanted, so I focused on English and theatre, with some film studies, psychology, sociology, and history thrown in. But I officially became a high school graduate in December (I still can’t get used to saying “I was homeschooled,”) and so in this, my first semester as a full-fledged college student, the administration put its foot down, said, “them’s the rules,” and made me take a math class.

If you were wondering, it was the lowest leveled, easiest, non-college credit math class, which was all that my test scores (112 0ut of 120 English-type skills, ultimately 27 out of 120 math) would bear.

I tried to go into the class with an open mind. I was still on the “gaps in my knowledge, but perfectly competent,” track. I figured that hey, these people would teach me to do math, and then I’d be set. I really tried to think of it as a positive.

I had a lot of trouble in the class, though, because of the way it was set up (minimal to no human interaction, the computer teaches you math and does so poorly, etc., etc.). Despite getting As on all my quizzes, I got a D and an F on my first two tests, the worst grades I have ever received on anything in my whole entire life. When I expressed my despondency to my English Guru, he asked if I tended to make huge piles of paper all over my living space, if I ever found my mind wandering in math class, and when I answered yes on both counts, if I’d ever considered the possibility that I might have a math learning disability. He told me that some people, especially those who are highly gifted in language, writing, and communication (such as I am) have brains which simply do not properly fire neurons when it comes to math.

I found this thought kind of intriguing, but when I mentioned it to my mom, she toed the “perfectly capable, but weak on the fundamentals,” line; and when I mentioned it to Calvin, he responded with, “ADD that only manifests itself in math? I’ve known people who tried to pull that crap. You’re too smart for that.”

So I rallied in my usual little-engine-that-could sort of way, and got help outside of class from my mom, my math major friends (all of whom whipped out their calculators to do the multiplication and division I had to do in my head), anyone willing to give me some time and some patience.

It seems that there was an earlier draft of the story in which the little engine didn’t make it up the hill, but stopped partway and rusted to a standstill.

I got an F on my next test (a high F, though). I didn’t know what had happened, I’d tried so hard.

I sobbed, I went to my math teacher and had a conversation with her and my mother. She was much more empathetic than she was in class, she probably feels as strangled by the system as I do. “Have you considered the possibility,” she asked, “that you may have a math learning disability?”

On the way home, I vomited in the car.

I met with a highly recommended (by both my English Guru and my math teacher) disabilities counselor, who told me that I displayed all the classic signs of having a specific math disorder.

He gave me a referral for testing, and said that if the tests came back the way he thought they would (and he’s been doing this literally as long as I’ve been alive, so he should know) there were equivalent non-math courses I could take – and still get my AA on time and transfer into local university and get a creative writing degree and live happily ever after.

But even if that doesn’t pan out (knock on wood) I feel so much peace knowing what is going on. Knowing why I can’t retain math; why I have to memorize numbers like my SSN or my library card number in long strings to remember them at all; why sometimes when I try to frame number problems in my mind all I can make my brain do is produce a faint humming noise (as opposed to word problems, which spontaneously begin to work themselves out without my even trying).

I thought I’d blog this because it’s another interesting step in my educational journey, and also gels rather nicely with a poem I wrote a few weeks ago, inspired by accidentally leaving my notebook behind in my math class.

On Leaving a Book of Poems in the Math Building

There is nothing quite so terrible

as losing a notebook of poems

in the math building.

I am dizzy, frantic, wondering

what horrors those numbers people

will enact on my scrawled characters.

They might translate them to binary,

or try to convert all of my metaphors to fractions

to see if they are truly equivalent.

They might grade them, disfigure their structure,

mark them in bright judgmental red,

or add the lines together and average out the vowels.

They are short-sighted, hungry beasts, eager for the universe

to give up all its secrets, now, and to show its work besides,

they spend their time trying to count the seeds in the center of a sunflower

rather than capture what a sunflower means.

They know the numbers which make up the Fibonacci Sequence,

but know not the delight in saying “Fibonacci,”

over and over, feeling it in your mouth, caressing it.

They have never tried to make “Fibonacci Sequence” an anagram,

they don’t know how difficult it is when there is no R,

Even if you make “equine bison,” which I did,

you still have an A, E, F, and three Cs left, an untidy remainder.

They might write them as decimals.

 

Bah-Freaking-Humbug December 20, 2007

As I texted Calvin during the dinner I spent the other evening with work people, there’s nothing like Christmas to make you remember exactly how much you hate society.

I guess the Honors Program has spoiled me – while the last semester has been hectic, it’s been spent mostly at school, and I’ve consequently been spending most of my social time with Honors kids, who can, on the whole:

1) Carry on intelligent conversations
2) Make good grades
3) Make passably amusing jokes
4) Understand and relate to me when I talk about an old Nickelodeon show such as “Hey Dude!”; a movie such as “Indiana Jones”; a book such as “Anne of Green Gables”; or a hobby such as crochet.

As I say, I’ve gotten used to this, and while an idiotic or banal conversation will sometimes sneak in (“I don’t think gay people should be allowed to adopt,” or “What the hell is wrong with Britney Spears?”, for example), I’ve greatly enjoyed the quality level of the conversation, and had rather forgotten that people out in the real world are capable of less.

All you need know about my dinner companions is that the evening was tailored to the two fourteen-year-olds present.

I think these people need a Christmas Miracle or something, seriously. As much as I come down on all these crappy Christmas movies, at the end, the protagonists nearly always realize the true meaning of the holiday – after, that is, they see what the world would be like were they never born; watch their whole family die in a tragic accident; fall in love; or learn that Santa Claus is real after all.

I say these people need a Christmas Miracle because I cannot remember the last time I heard such materialistic, self-centered bullshit issue from the mouths of humans.

While fundamentalist christians and I have a well-recorded and checkered history, I can agree with them on one point: their “Jesus is the Reason for The Season” campaign may be utterly obnoxious (not to mention preposterous, considering that many scientists and theologists now peg the date of his birth at or around April 19, 6 B.C., and celebrations of the Winter Solstice were around looooong before then), but I have to applaud them for their attempt to shift the focus of Christmas away from pointless, soulless reception of gifts to which a lot of kids seem to have reduced it.

I’ve decided to jump on a modified Ebeneezer Scrooge Bandwagon, or perhaps a better title would be the Grinch Bandwagon. While Seuss posited that the Grinch just straight-up hated the”whole Christmas season,” I think perhaps the metaphor is deeper. Was the green fellow not merely scornful of a holiday manipulated by greed? Did he not free the Whos of their dependence upon the Gods of Retail by removing their false idols, and gently teach them that Christmas is really about standing in a circle and singing Kumbayah?

I may soon be adorning a dog in antlers and creeping tip-toed into living rooms in the regional area to steal presents.

Much of the conversation at dinner consisted of my boss – who was driving the conversational bus straight to crazytown – asking everyone what was “on their Christmas lists,” what they wanted and had asked for, etc.

One of the girls who had received a touch-screen iPod for her birthday not a month earlier expressed a desire for an iPhone.  Oh, amusing story about her iPod, by the way. She snooped through her mother’s closet several months before her birthday and discovered it. Then she mentioned to her mother that she had done so, and her mother, rather than saying, “Hey, what the hell were you doing in my closet?”, said something along the lines of “Oh, well, ya caught me.”

Ha-ha! Isn’t that charming?

The other explained that her mother had been buying her gifts since August, and that when they walked through stores, all she had to do was comment upon something’s cuteness, and, I quote, the mom “remembers, and gets it for me!”

And in my day we walked eight miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways.

And then it came to me, the cheery, “So, what did you ask for?”

“Well, if I asked for everything I wanted and then got it,” I replied levelly, “it wouldn’t be a surprise, now would it?”

This garnered facial expressions I haven’t seen since I last watched “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” (more…)

 

Head-Cleaning Day October 26, 2007

Filed under: College Stuff,Funnies,Random Drivel,Random Moments of Poignancy — Meredith @ 3:59 pm

Every so often, one just builds up a surplus of ideas about a number of things, and, odds are, none of those things will come together to form an ideally structured, clearly defined post. So I proudly introduce Head-Cleaning Day, a day for airing all my half-formed thoughts (which are coincidentally the only thoughts I seem to have these days, having used up all of my intelligence on Andrew Jackson, Socio-Economics, Greek Philosophers, and the Elements of Non-Verbal Communication).

Do you remember J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan?

“It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it quite interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers.”

Such is head-cleaning day.

Mormons

The Good News: the Mormons love the PenguinDust, if only because my wildly inadequate summation of their religion gives them a chuckle. The bad news: they think I’m a dude.

Jane Austen

I despise Jane Austen with the red-hot burning passion of a thousand fiery suns. She is trite and unoriginal, her prose is unnecessarily flowery, and her plots sound as though she plagiarized them from a dimestore romance novel. No, actually, I’ll take that a step farther – I think Jane Austen’s books were the original dimestore romance novels, and I’m about as impressed with their literary weight as that of The Cobra and the Concubine.

She begins each sentence as though pursuing a prize in obfuscation. Take as example page 1, paragraph 2, of Pride and Predjudice:

However little known the feelings or view of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

Really now.

Maybe this just isn’t my cup of tea, maybe there are unplumbed depths I’m missing, but I like my art accessible. The other night I saw a movie called P.S., a random little sleeper with Topher Grace and Laura Linney. Laura, alone and unhappy, works in Columbia’s art school admission department, which is how she meets Topher, who, in an eerie coincidence, shares a name with, looks, sounds, and behaves exactly like Laura’s dead highschool boyfriend. Spoiler alert: no time travel.

Along with a stupid amount of emotional baggage, Laura has been hanging on to an “abstract” painting that the boyfriend painted for her a million years ago, purportedly of a mother and child. At the emotional peak of the movie, Topher gestures to it wildly and says, “Yeah, and you know what? That isn’t a mother and child! That is a kid who kicked over a bucket of paint on a canvas.”

This is how I feel about Jane Austen. That isn’t real art. That’s the pretense of art.

I anticipate that this position will generate a lot of ill will. I find that Jane Austen is inexplicably beloved by many, almost to a level of cult obsession, not unlike the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which, despite its undeniable status as a masterpiece, I could never slog through.

“Spirit” Day

If you’ve never conceptualized an Afro-Caribbean pop version of the Beatles’ ’“Norwegian Wood” played by a third-rate local band on a makeshift stage in the middle of a disused soccer field, I urge you, do not try – for it is highly unpleasant.

Recently we had was what used to be known as “Student-Faculty” (Stu-Fac) Day at my community college. I’m not entirely sure why it is no longer known as Stu-Fac day, all I know is that I saw posters for “Spirit Day,” and was informed that it is essentially the same thing.

“Spirit Day” was hosted on the intramural fields, and featured the college-level equivalences of the bouncy castle, namely an inflatable free-throw basketball unit and inflatable boxing ring (Which was, like all boxing rings, inexplicably square).

There were also representative tables from all of the college’s various clubs, including the College Democrats and the College Republicans, who mirror normal Democrats and Republicans in the sense that the Democrats are stupid and the Republicans are pathetic.

I ask you, just look at these unretouched photographs of actual, no-lie posters made and spread around campus by the College Republicans.

2005506473_orig.jpeg

 

1974071244_origedit.jpg

I’m sorry, but these are absolutely terrible signs. I mean, Jesus, that second one can’t even fit the word “Republicans” on one line.

But that’s beside the point.

As I stood in the line for cotton candy in the blistering heat listening to the almost inexcusable music, I began to wonder what cotton candy actually is. It looks like the insulation my attic.

Are we Gods or Sacrifices?

So, today, I saw a an anthill with a giant dead palmetto bug on top of it (which, here in Florida, is code for “huge dead gross cockroach”). The ants were scurrying around it, and I thought of all those movies where the heroes wind up in the middle ages, or some primitive village, and the locals see their clothes and hygiene or whatever and regard them as Gods. Was this the Ants’ God? (more…)

 

Of (Puppy) Dogs and Marines May 26, 2007

There’s a little girl who lives next door to me, about 5, and fully capable of walking and talking and waving to me on occasion, which is always mind-blowing because I remember her family moving in prior to her existence.

The family is, I guess, a good one, at least in the traditional American sense. They have a yard with nice grass and a back deck, an easy southern drawl on the rare occasions I hear them speak. They play country music on the radio on the weekend, host some sort of church get-together on Wednesday nights. They possess a comfortable façade of Americana, which I’m sure I could peel back quite easily, revealing a healthy amount of sordidness, but I won’t.

They also have the meanest dog I’ve ever met.

He’s a Boston Terrier, a breed second only to the pug in its tenacious ugliness. He despises me even more than he despises the rest of the world; whenever we’re outside together, he runs to the edge of his yard and threatens me in every way he can. He once chased a garbage man up a brick mailbox.

But today, as I tried to relax in my backyard, swinging languidly in my Hammock of Death–long story–I became aware of the little girl next door.

“That’s MY soccer ball,” I heard her say to someone in an imperious voice that sounded suspiciously like my own. “That’s not YOUR soccer ball!”

I realized she was talking to the dog, and looked up just in time to see her pick him up, pull him to her, and lug him from one end of her yard to the other.

The weirdest thing was that the dog wasn’t angry, snarling, incensed as he is at the very sight of me. He was docile, even a little nonplussed — ho-hum, my girl is picking me up again, what a blessing I don’t have to walk.

And it got me thinking: What may be a hideously mean and ugly attack dog to one person may be somebody else’s puppy. Once this thought entered my head, of course, it rolled around and marinated itself, seemingly at random, with other thoughts from earlier in the week.

Wednesday, I made the mistake of watching the 10 o’clock news, and caught a sad local interest story. You know the one I mean, it runs on local stations everywhere now. A hometown boy who graduated from the same high school as your boss’ son, knows all the good places to eat, like you, not like the college students who aren’t from here and think they know everything even though they never leave downtown. He became a marine, and now he’s dead, mortar shell or something to the heart. And he was only 21 years old, and he left behind a wife and baby.

I’ve never really been anti-war, not that I’m intent on “staying the course” or anything either. I figure that I don’t know anything about fighting a war, or even the middle east, and I try, as a rule, not to wax rhapsodic on topics I can’t discuss with some degree of education. So I’m not going to really have an anti-war moment now.

I’m kind of with A.J. Soprano on this one — he’s been studying the middle east conflict this season. While not assigning blame, he’s wondering: How can you not be depressed? How can you wake up in the morning knowing that all this is going on in the world and keep going day after day?

What the hell is wrong with us (and here I mean ALL of us, the human race at large) that we can justify taking someone else’s life? Is oil a reason? Is the fact that we disagree on what (imaginary) sentient being controls the universe a reason? What kind of bullshit reasons are those? When you get right down to it, is anything an excuse? Is there ever a good enough reason to take a life for a principle, to look at a person in front of you, and forget that maybe he’s someone’s husband? Someone’s child? Someone’s father?

Hell. He could even be somebody’s puppy.

 

For life’s not a paragraph, and death, I think, is no parenthesis May 16, 2007

Filed under: Literary Stuff,Random Moments of Poignancy — Meredith @ 11:58 am

Taken with the title – from an e.e. cummings poem – another literary/music reference will make this post ridiculous. So I’ll roll with that.

It’s a song that’s clung to me since early childhood: Puff the Magic Dragon. My mom used to sing it on long car trips when we were all half aleep. Aside from Rush Limbaugh’s terrible, uncouth, offensive, and yet oddly hilarious parody, one line rings through my mind.

“Dragons live forever, but not so little boys.” In context, Puff, a larger than life, brilliantly beautiful mythological creature loses his best friend to old age. But in my reality, not even 6 months ago, we were all met with the harsh realization that dragons don’t live forever. Sometimes dragons get sick, and you never see them again.

We – and here I refer to my family, friends, and community – were faced with the loss of a brilliantly beautiful dance teacher, mentor, friend and performer who was adored by everyone he came into contact with.

I wrote about it, couldn’t stop writing about it. Even if his life and death had no real relevance over my current activity, it dictated my actions and reactions. I wrote about it for my final paper in a lit class, associating it with the feelings in Theodore Roethke’s Elegy for Jane (my student, thrown by a horse). My point, such as it was, was that the principle was the same: student or teacher, you almost feel guilty mourning someone over whom your claim is tenuous. I’m not ashamed to say that I almost sobbed at the last lines:

If only I could nudge you from this sleep,

My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon,

Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:

I, with no rights in this matter,

Neither father nor lover.

I also wrote a long blog on the subject, but, until now, it hasn’t seen any sort of publication. It was too raw, too scattered, too full of feeling to be anything other than a dark footnote to my writing, to help me express, to work through. I teared up just now, typing Elegy for Jane, the words took me right back, and the sadness I felt wasn’t remotely comparable to the wave that consumed me originally.

But Monday was my teacher’s birthday, the first one he wasn’t here for. It would have been his 31st.

I was thinking about him a lot, both because of his birthday and our annual dance concert that preceded it, and I thought that maybe it was time to let people know how much I, at least, missed him. (more…)