Thursday, February 2, 2017

The time the guy screamed at your grandmother

Last night, I met up with a group of 40 other NJ Congressional District 4 constituents, and we delivered a petition with 800+ signatures to Congressman Chris Smith's office in Freehold, requesting that he host a town hall meeting soon -- it turns out, he has not held one since 1992. The fact that Smith has been MIA, and unresponsive to his constituents is motivation for circulating the petition.

The petition comes on the heels of this: JCP&L has a plan to run high voltage power lines through Monmouth County and more than 1,000 people showed up at the last public meeting in protest; so many people showed up that there were not enough seats; so many people who would be directly impacted by these power lines did not get to speak during the public portion that a judge ruled there must be another public session. These people are Chris Smith's constituents, and still, he has not checked back in. For 25 years.

Personally, I've found that it's local politics that matter most: the local stuff is far more likely to impact your day-to-day life, so your involvement can have the most effect. But, if you haven't been keeping up with the news, a lot of national issues are happening too, and the fact that Chris Smith hasn't really checked back in, is deeply troubling. I mention this because Smith is Catholic and pro-life, and I suspect a good deal of his actions in Washington have nothing to do with what that majority thinks back at home. Even so, he could claim there are plenty of pro-birth folks in the district, and he's acting at their behest, but even then, it's complicated.

Smith is, at the time of this writing, the only NJ politician to not take a clear stand against President Trump's Executive Order to ban refugees from the predominantly muslim countries (in which the president does not own businesses), which, again, is Smith's prerogative, and clearly, plenty of people in the district do support the president. But on the other hand, Smith introduced popular, bipartisan legislation (H.R. 390) to accept properly vetted Syrian and Iraqi refugees, JUST A FEW WEEKS AGO, and the proposal had cleared the first legislative hurdle and was on track to be passed into law. I suspect that this legislation was near and dear to him because of Smith's devout Catholicism, and the Church's position on refugees ("I was a stranger, and you welcomed me"). So there's some confusion over what's going on with Chris Smith. A town hall meeting is definitely in order; Congress usually takes a recess at the end of February just for this purpose. Let's see if Smith comes back to Central Jersey to speak with The People.

————

We delivered the petition to the Smith staffer, who was, as one member of my group said, “passively antagonistic,” possibly because this was the second night that a larger-than-usual group with signs and concerns and a desire to hear from Smith were in her office. We then went outside to hold a vigil for/rally about the Affordable Care Act, which was interesting. A few people told their stories. Turns out, we had 2 physicians in the group with us, and it was heartening to hear their professional opinions on how the ACA has improved the health of so many people.

The group was made up largely of senior citizen women. I would say most of them were at least 65-75. There were a handful of us who were younger. I'm 48, and my guess the other non-senior women were 35-45ish. There were 5 men there with us. If you were driving by, you would see, first and foremost, a group of little old ladies.

I mention this for 2 reasons:

1. Three very angry white dudes drove by -- separately -- and screamed at us from their cars. One of them screamed, "GO TO IRAN, YOU ASSHOLES" which was scary at first, but the old ladies started laughing. They held up their “Where’s Chris Smith?” signs and yelled back at him, “WE CAN’T, THERE’S A TRAVEL BAN!” The old ladies are fearless! I would say the median age of the group was 68. Three separate angry white dudes saw fit to scream at your grandmother last night.

2. The grandmas are too old for this shit. They were freezing. But they were laughing and asking each other about the grandkids, and they all had signs, and a few of them had homemade pink hats which possibly drew the attention of the angry white guys in the cars. Some of the ladies had cookies and munchkins, and they all marched and chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, Chris Smith has got to go..." up and down the sidewalk in front of Smith's office, and held vigil there for about an hour.

It hit me: these grandmas are a gift. They've done this before, and they are -- now older, slower, frailer, perhaps -- not intimidated by the angry white dudes screaming at them. They aren’t afraid to get arrested, if necessary, though last night that seemed far fetched, but they know more than I do. They WERE me. And you. Except, back then, they had fewer rights, and fewer opportunities. They fought for what we have now (which still isn’t enough, but we can talk about that some other time). And they're doing it again. For us. I'm going to keep coming out. I owe it to them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lady Balls


Jason and I had a little disagreement this weekend and that has me bummed out. It will be fine, but I wish relationships were easier.

So, I’ve been preoccupied. Which makes me feel guilty because I have a kid, and he’s my real focus. I thought maybe Matthew and I could do something fun this weekend, but he had a “note taking” assignment in class last week, which he did not complete. Or really even start. I was pissed, honestly, that the teacher sent home the classwork to complete over the weekend. Matthew is still at an age where he needs hands-on management to get his homework done, and it’s not like I have a wife to cook and clean for me while we do homework, and this note taking assignment was, oddly, quite elaborate. For the record, I realize there are no easy answers here: the teacher has other kids in the class who are likely doing their work, and she can’t stop everything to keep my punk on task. So I was irked at him for not doing his work, too.

Matthew had to pick an animal, and jot down some notes based on the habitat and life cycle and traits of his animal. Jotting is a new concept to third grader, so there were FOUR DAMN PAGES of questions to help guide the note taking process. He chose the anglerfish. He could have picked a cat or a brown bear or even a gila monster. But no. 




Oh, hai!



Matthew also had some math homework this weekend, which I straight-up resent because he’s not supposed to have homework on the weekends, and coupled with the dishes and the disagreement with Jason, and the anglerfish project, I was in a pretty bad mood. I am one of those jerks who thinks much homework in early education has dubious, if any, benefits, anyway: my boy would be far better off running around, exploring the world. But the weather was crappy this weekend, so homework it was. While he was doing the math, I googled the anglerfish so I could help Matthew through his 4-page note-taking assignment. I learned that despite earning the name for its interesting fishing rod-style lure on its head, the most notable fact about this creature is its bizarre means of reproduction. The freakishly smaller male bites the female, and begins to melt into her, permanently. His face and bones and internal organs and fins and scales break down and he becomes one with his lady friend — all except his testes. He doesn’t need to work or sleep or eat or hunt; his only mission in life is to produce sperm. 

Hm. Perhaps we humans have an overly convoluted approach to relations? I’m pretty sure if you asked most human men if they’d be ok with this arrangement, they might not mind. And, admittedly, try as I might, the idea of having genitalia attached to me to use as I see fit just doesn’t seem like a horrible idea at the moment. Unless of course, my boyfriend melted into me in a lousy spot. But we could plan, right? Then, we would need clothing and accessories for our balls. Of course we would. And we’d have gonad powder and cups to keep them from bouncing around too much while we jumped on our trampoline, and maybe even we’d even have lady ball jewelry too, like the ballquivalent of the Vajazzler, The Balljazzler.

But back to the note-taking: zoologists spent years sorting out the mating habits of anglerfish, because at first, they were only able to catch females. “This one is particularly lumpy,” perhaps one marine zoologist said to the other, “Here. Feel those lumps.” I wonder how long it took them to realize they were touching her balls?

Matthew wrapped up his math homework, and we sat down to write out notes about the physical characteristics of the deep see anglerfish. He wrote about its habitat and diet. The guide then prompted us to write some notes on the life cycle and mating habits of the animal, and Matthew smirked. “Did you know the male anglerfish is a parasite on the female, mom?” I encouraged him to tell me more. “His body gets absorbed into the female’s until there’s nothing left but his nuts. She is a lady with nuts.” Matthew giggled. I did, too. I suggested “testicles,” but wasn’t sure if that was the right term for a fish’s man-parts, especially when they were part of a lady fish. Matthew said “Lady nuts,” and I challenged him to write it down.

“Write what down?” Matthew asked.

“That the male bites the female and melts away until nothing is left but his testes,” I suggested.

“MOM! I AM IN THIRD GRADE!!”

“Oh yeah. But the guide does ask about the mating habits. And, well, the most intriguing detail about the angler fish this is detail.”

“I know, but I CAN’T!”

“Why,” I said, “did you pick this animal?”

“I DON’T KNOW!” he wailed in mock desperation.

He settled on “the male is absorbed into the female’s body when mating.” 

I’m assuming if there is a note-taking project, there will be a report coming soon. I wonder if he can choose a new topic, or if he’ll have to stick with this one?

In case you’re curious about the Angler Fish and would like to learn more, check out zefrank1’s “True Facts about the Angler Fish.” 

I hate video links but zefrank1 is great!

Powder those balls, ladies!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A visit from the past, and an election

I knew I wanted to write when I grew up. My plan was to write under a pseudonym — a man’s name because it seemed to me women were not taken seriously, and I wanted to be taken seriously. It was a straightforward idea to an 8-year-old, and, proud of my logic, I mentioned this to my mother, who nodded in agreement.

A couple of years later, Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as his vice presidential running mate. My family was conservative, so we were supporting Ronald Reagan anyway, but it struck me odd that many people had a problem with a woman politician. I was of babysitting age at that time, and my services had been procured through my parents, and I found the experiences unfulfilling. I didn’t particularly enjoy tending creatures with scant bowel and bladder control and huge mood swings. I vowed to never have children. Sealing the deal for me was my mother, who was, among other things, unhappy with her lot. I did not want to be like that when I grew up.

Like most children of the 1970s and 80s, my days were filled with vast expanses of parental neglect. My sisters and I had free run of the neighborhood and the woods behind our house. We’d wander in when our friends were called in to their homes for dinner. My mom was often asleep on the couch. We were fed and clothed and she loved us fiercely, unconditionally, even though she struggled with normal motherly duties, and happiness. She was an aspiring artist, who didn’t have time to paint when we were young. She rediscovered her skill and passion as the years went on, but our relationship grew more difficult. She was self-absorbed to the point of narcissism, traits that intensified with the years. I’m certain, in retrospect, she was clinically depressed and possibly bipolar. But those conditions didn’t really exist at the time, and treatment options were few. My mother was so smart, and had dreams of her own, but like most women of the day, landed a job which only required her warm body.

I loved my mom, and she did her best to encourage me, as well as my sisters. We could do anything, she’d tell us when we were little. We didn’t have to wind up like her. Our society was changing. But as I got older, I began to resent her; the feeling in me intensified over the years, corresponding with her increasingly challenging personality traits, and unavoidable mother-daughter dynamics. I resented the time she spent on the couch. Her defensiveness and hyper-sensitivity and mixed messages. I know now that she was not well, but it didn’t make it any easier at the time.

So, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, with children of my own, or without, but I would figure it out. In the meantime, I wrote. Mostly just the details of what happened during my days. I filled notebook after notebook; largely weight-obsessed, boy-crazy drivel. I wrote in my notebooks until I was in my mid-30s, when I stopped, slowly, and at least at first, not on purpose. It was the dawn of social media, and tended a blog.

Then, my mother died — unexpectedly — and she left behind several journals. I started to read one, but it was awful. It was awful partially because she and I were not speaking at the end of her life; I never expected our frosty relations to endure indefinitely. We would, I knew, work it out eventually, like we always did. This time, though, we were just terribly, terribly unlucky. It was awful because I was already coming to the conclusion that the stuff you write for yourself is not your best material, and almost never acceptable for any other human to read. I packed my journals into a box and shoved them in the attic. My intent was to burn them eventually. But not immediately, since I was 8 months pregnant with my second child, and it was an excruciatingly hot July, and my ankles were the size of municipal storm drains. 

My path to motherhood was not typical. I did intend to keep that promise to myself to not have children, and was successfully childfree for many years. But I got pregnant at 37, by accident/surprise, and while it took several months to come to terms with impending motherhood, I did embrace that child with my whole heart. Sometimes the path you don’t choose for yourself is wonderful; I occasionally appreciate the opportunity to challenge my own beliefs and notions about life. Catherine left us, though, in similar fashion to her start: surprisingly, without warning. She was born on January 31, 2007, beautiful and flawless, but she never took a breath.

Writing — under my own name — was excellent therapy for me. Mostly, I blogged, and writing for an audience made me work harder than I ever did when I wrote in my own journals. It forced me to think beyond myself. I had to put on my best face.

Now, I’m divorced, and in recent years, I squirreled my money away to buy a small cape cod where I live with my son, Matthew. Glen, my ex, brought over a large quantity of my stuff about 2 months ago, which he stored for me in the years I saved for the house. Among the boxes were my stash of unburned journals. My son is now 8. My ankles are the only part of my body I don’t hate. They look pretty good.

I wrote a book of childhood stories for my niece, Megan, many years ago, and I thought I should do the same for my Matthew, who also enjoys the wild tales from the 1970s and 80s. I dreaded the task of rereading my journals, but figured it was the best way to refresh my memory for some new fodder.

It was a tough read. Weight-obsessed and boy crazy doesn’t do justice to how caught up I was in both sentiments.

———

The United States was amid a presidential election cycle while I was rereading my journals; I scanned the interesting pages prior to burning the books. I was not excited about the politicians, not happy about our choices. I’m a registered Democrat but identify more accurately as a progressive. I’m not a joiner. I don’t like The Party. And I’ve got nothing left for career politicians. 

I had glued the Gettysburg Address into one of my journals — so it was fresh in my mind — and had marveled how after more than 150 years, the words were still such a potent, heartfelt, intelligent tribute to our country, and its people. I thought about the message, and the caliber of the words themselves, with deep admiration and gratitude. I imagined folks 150 years in the future, looking back at Trump’s message, and quality of his words. How could anyone support him? But then I had to make my kid dinner, focused on his homework, and bathed. I had a sink full of dishes and a couple of cat boxes in need of cleaning, so I stopped thinking about politics. No wonder women have not had a fair shake outside of the home!

I’m sure there are bonafide right-wing conspiracy theorists, but I also believe that most viewpoints, even extreme ones, have an element of truth. I accept the arguments against Hillary Clinton, but in a kind of "agree to disagree" way. I also accept that most politicians have blood on their hands, have made errors in judgment, and, above all, are self-serving. ALL OF THEM. I don’t expect anyone to be perfect, and I know that living a life in the public eye must be really challenging. Still, I wasn’t sold on Hillary Clinton. Mostly, I felt ready for a reboot, and before the primaries, Bernie Sanders appealed to me, though I hardly “felt the Bern.” I could see how Donald Trump might appeal to the right for the same reasons. I guess. My party loyalist friends on both sides of the aisle railed against those without experience, but I hate that position: how do you gain experience without a chance? I believe in America: we do have some rules of play for elections, but ours is a government of the people, for the people, by the people. Experience not required. 

After the primaries, I took the next couple of months to warm up to my options. I could never vote for Trump, with his garish, mean-spirited, reality TV show ways, and his horrendous comments about the handicapped, women, minorities, veterans, immigrants, babies, and his penis. As if he’s never paid for an abortion. I mulled over his potential legacy. His words, with their lack of statesmanship, dignity, and humanity, shall not perish from the earth, if he got elected. I didn’t want that on my shoulders. I’m sure many of Trump’s words were theater, and I’ve certainly been guilty of a mean comment or two in my life, but my influence is limited. I considered the third party candidates; I’ve voted for third party candidates in the past. But, right or wrong, we have a two-party system, and voting for someone outside that structure didn’t make sense. Not this time. To me, anyway.

That brought me back to Hillary Clinton. I respect her tenacity. I do. But I think she’s a self-serving career politician, first and foremost. Hardworking, perhaps, and less likely to foster a culture that makes life difficult for certain segments of our population, but unfazed by environmental concerns and corporate greed. And, perhaps most importantly to me, she is one of the most polarizing candidates in recent history. I am all for rooting for your team, but I hate the idea of pissing off the other team. It’s not sportsmanlike. It’s not helpful. It keeps people angry with each other and not interested in working out their issues. I know we can do a better job of working together. Putting her on the ticket — no matter how well she gets shit done — was a bad fucking strategy for victory. I considered voting only on the down ballot contests

But then Donald Trump’s pussy-grabbing tape was released. I had just read in my own journal, in my 14-year-old scrawl, about walking up to the variety store to buy the new Air Supply album, and while I waited to cross the street, a guy in a truck pulled up, leaned out, and told me how pretty I was. Several drivers had honked or catcalled prior to the encounter with the bold truck driver. I mentioned it to my mom, and she told me it’s just the way it was. At least I was pretty, she said. 

I was confused. I was a 14-year-old kid who wanted to buy a record. I guess being pretty was ok. 

Another entry: when I was 15, a boy I had a crush on extended his arm and honked my breast. On a church youth group bus. Getting accustomed to new breasts, at least for some girls, like me, takes awhile, so the attention, on top of the transgression, was mortifying. 

I read multiple entries about scary encounters I was having with a neighborhood boy, when I was 16. He had pinned me down on the ground on two occasions, and dry humped me viciously while slobbering all over my face. I was terrified and afraid to go outside. He started tossing pebbles at my window in the middle of the night; I was ashamed, felt I had brought it on, but fear of escalating violation overpowered my shame, so I mustered the courage to tell my father. He got out of his recliner calmly, went into the dark yard, and talked to the boy, who claimed to be outside my bedroom window looking for his pet dog. “He won’t be back,” was all my father said. And he was right.

I read a page about my sister’s 14-year-old friend who asked me if it was normal for boys to reach out and grab her breast. I told her no, even though it had just happened to me.

I made references to the sexual assault of my 16-year-old friend, who had gone on a date with a boy, who got her drunk, and raped her. She told her parents but nothing came of it. I took her to the police, and we spoke with an officer who was not unkind, exactly, but too much time had gone by and she couldn’t press charges: it would be her word against his. And well, why would anyone believe her? The officer sat there, silently, for an uncomfortable few minutes. We left, feeling judged.

I put a sticky note on every page of my journals where there was a reference to some kind of unsolicited attention, or nonconsensual advance from a boy or man. There were a lot of yellow tabs sticking out of my books. I was furious.

People often say stupid, horrible, impulsive things, caught up in the moment. Sometimes people say things they’ve never done. Sometimes they’ve done things they regretted in the future. Sometimes the regret doesn’t come until much later, if at all. What I'm getting at is that we can all be mouthy; we have all made mistakes. I extend that courtesy to politicians as well, especially if they’re able to get shit done -- getting shit done is important to me. But the timing of the pussy-grabbing comment could not have been more profound, as I reflected back through my life; my biggest regret about the weight-obsessed, boy-crazy bullshit was that I normalized all of it. It was the world we lived in. I was a woman. I understood the message: I needed a man to be complete. I needed to look good for that man. I needed to accept that some men would be inappropriate. Welcome to the world, girl.

In early November, I was still reeling from the pages and decades of my desperation for a relationship, which I assumed would bring me, finally, that happily ever after, even if it meant playing accessory in a man’s life. I was disgusted from reading the journal entries where I inevitably gave every single rude man a pass because, well, that’s just the world we live in and what was expected of me. Sickened by this, I thought about that little girl who knew, thanks to her mother’s despair, that writing as a woman would be so much harder than writing as a man. 

I took my son into the voting booth with me on Tuesday, still not 100% sure of what I was going to do. Once behind the curtain, it was clear: I hit the button for Hillary Clinton without pause. She is human and imperfect. Like Trump. Like all of us. But like me, she’s a woman. And perhaps, she had to deal with the boob grabbing (or worse). Maybe she had been accustomed to going second or third, her whole fucking life. Maybe she knew what it was like to put everyone else’s needs ahead of her own dreams. Maybe she customarily apologized for her opinions or couched them in a way to not offend the thin-skinned men around her. I know she worked so much harder for what men take for granted. 

I pressed “cast vote,” took my son’s hand, and exited the booth. Unexpectedly, I was struck with — I don’t know exactly how to describe it — a warm whoosh, I suppose. And, without warning or understanding, I started sobbing. Right there in the vestibule of the school. I was flooded with thoughts of my mother. Good Lord, I may not have known it while she was alive, but Maggie did her best.

I sat in the car for a few minutes trying to control my running mascara. I decided to wipe it off.

My mom was unpredictable. She generally voted for the republicans, and she may have even voted for Trump. But I’m not sure; she did her own thing and Trump may have offended her sensibilities. She was too easily offended, of course, which was annoying, but I’ve also come to appreciate that she was often right to hold people to higher standards. If there’s a way for her to know, she might be appalled that she was my inspiration to vote for Hillary. But maybe she wouldn’t be upset. We can never know.

It’s taken me years to acknowledge the enormity my mother’s words, and her sacrifice, borne of her own absence of hope. Maggie struggled to empower her daughters with the meager tools she had, while fighting with her own personal demons. Her intentions are good. So good. She wanted us to go out into the world and be something more than apologetic warm bodies for someone else.

It has been so, so hard.

Unlike many liberals, I have not lost my shit. This is not the apocalypse. But, I am sorely disappointed by this election; I’m mad at the pollsters and the media for being so out of touch. I’m pissed at elected officials of both flavors for not trying harder to compromise when they had the chance. I’m pissed at the snotty liberals who have alienated many Americans. I’m mad at Donald Trump and some (just some, ok?) of his supporters who ARE repulsive, discriminatory sociopaths. I’m disappointed in Hillary Clinton, too, for being too polarizing, for having too much baggage. But I have grown to admire her, knowing how much harder she’s had it, working in a man’s world. With some post-election sleep and some spirited conversation with friends, I am even (naively?) hopeful that The Donald won’t (or can’t) be as bad as his detractors say he will be. 

Voting for a woman, even if she was the wrong woman, destined to lose, was ultimately a tribute to my mother. Some day (SOON!), I hope, we can be more than what we are now, like Maggie had said. 

I know now there is no happily ever after; I know that not everyone can agree. I know we Americans like (or are at least accustomed to) the swing of the pendulum. It’s scary, but it’s ok. I think. My optimism comes from knowing that the next generation of girls will grow into strong, capable women who will never have to consider writing under a man’s name in order to make it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I'm totally reasonable

I’d like to write more, and I’d love it to be snarky and lighthearted, but sometimes there’s a helicopter right over your house, and your kid wonders why it’s so close, and the next morning, you find out a lovely 22-year-old girl was killed by a drug buyer, who was chased by the cops into Hamilton, just 2 blocks from your house. The helicopter was there, perhaps to provide additional light, or to take the poor girl to the hospital, or to search for the guy who caused the accident, who ran (and was caught). I don’t know, but it’s all terrible.

Today, there are candles and flowers at the crash site, and the telephone pole that took the impact of the accident is gone, save for a jagged section of the top, where the wires are connected. A new pole is in place, and I assume the wires will be transferred over at some point soon. 

I mention this story because the guy who caused the accident is white, and he and his companions were visiting Trenton from the suburbs to buy drugs (according to news accounts). It is so hard to look at the pretty girl’s face, and not hate those guys, but I know that most of us have done something very, very stupid in our lives, and the only difference is that we didn’t cause a fatal accident. I am mentioning the man’s skin color because I, too, am white, and because I have, over the years, known other suburban white people who occasionally dabble in drugs, if just casually, a few times a year. 

This entry is for you.

You likely have an opinion about Black/Blue/All Lives Matter, and I’m sure your opinion has merit, based on your experiences, sympathies, insights, etc. I’m hoping that you are one of the white people who would like to see the tension clear up, regardless of where you stand. If so, here’s how to help: stop dabbling in drugs. You may think your occasional drug use is harmless, but it has direct ties to the big national argument. If you sympathize with Black Lives Matter, your drug use is part of the problem in that it keeps dealers employed, and at risk for life-wasting prison sentences, and death. If you stand with the police, your drug use is part of the problem because the forces the cops to engage in dangerous activities, which puts their lives, as well as others, in jeopardy.

I hate sounding like an uptight, pompous ass, but not enough to shut up right now. I realize, too, that getting a few white people to stop doing drugs is a long shot, and the impact on the bigger picture may be small, anyway. But it’s not like the ugly, nebulous, complicated debate taking place, largely on Facebook, is changing any minds at all. I’m asking for one specific thing — don’t buy drugs this weekend. Totally reasonable. So just listen up, ok?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bewilderment

There is so much information available, for every undertaking imaginable. I am a curious person and read a lot, yet I find myself again and again in situations I could have never anticipated; but — and this is a small consolation — I’m pretty sure no one else could have foreseen my circumstances, either. So, I’m putting this out there, in case, you, like me, have a technologically savvy monster boy, a devious dog, and a cat who doesn’t give a fuck about ANYTHING. Maybe you, like me, simply left the room for a damn minute to get your morning coffee, because it’s not even 7 a.m. yet. The books and websites on parenting and pet ownership never mentioned this, but it could happen to you, too. 

Maybe?

Warning: NSFW.





_____

I have been a very bad blogger, and really had intended to change that. I started 2 other posts in the last month, and they, too, were about Steve, and I told myself that I wouldn't write about him again, at least for awhile. But then this happened. I may change the name of this page to The Blog of Steve, and that way I don't have to justify my lack of thematic variety in my posts.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Saturday of Poo

I'm still exhausted from Easter, as well as some of the ill-fated projects I took on in the days after the holiday. I had hoped to scrape the peeling paint off my front railings and prime and paint them, but it was a huge undertaking just to trim the hedges that were growing through the rails. I used an electric hedge trimmer, which is like a mini chainsaw, to do the job, and that was daunting and exciting. I went in afterward with a pair of bypass pruners to clean up some of my messier cuts. So that took awhile, yet, naively, I still thought I could scrape the paint quickly, and then prime and paint the next day.

But I kept cutting my fingers on the steel wool, and I was making almost no progress for my injuries. I choked back my tears, lamented my lack of upper body strength and patience, and decided to contact a handyman to help with some of my projects. So, hopefully soon I'll see some progress. And less blood.

In the meantime, I ordered a pre-planned garden from an online outfit, and did not expect my plants to arrive quickly, since we're not far into spring. But everything I ordered is winter hardy for this zone, and my box of goodies arrived on Thursday. As much as I love plants and flowers, and the fact that I will have a yard to make my own for the first time in years, I was still feeling the sting of my post-Easter project failures. I wasn't thrilled to accept the box of plants: I knew I'd have to get planting soon to keep everything alive.

My plan was to go to bed early on Friday night, so I could get up at a reasonable hour and work in my yard today. But instead I watched most of series 8 of Peep Show, a British sitcom. I'm not sure why the British use "series" for what we call "season" here in the US, or how they get away with 8 (or fewer!) episodes per series. But no matter - it's definitely a quality over quantity thing with most British shows anyway. This one has notes of Canada's "Trailer Park Boys," and the British "Office." I love it. And am irritated that Netflix did away with the last season (the ninth) and I had to keep my Hulu subscription for another month to finish viewing all of the episodes, which I will likely binge watch tomorrow.

Anyway, Peep Show SPOILER ALERT, so to speak: the main characters seem to talk frequently about bowel movements, and as I headed to bed last night — well after 1 a.m. — I pondered another minor linguistic difference between British and American English. The guys in Peep Show usually use the verb "to make" when referring to poop, and Americans generally use the verb "to take" for the same action. For instance, Mark accused another guy of "making a poo" in the swimming pool. Here, he would have likely said "taking a poo," or more likely, "taking a shit," or just "shitting." I think the British choice of words, in this instance, is more accurate, though I later discussed this with Jason, and he said that one is taking his poo to the toilet, so that's perhaps why we use that verb here. Maybe?

My poop-verb ponderings were full of foreshadowing, though. Steve had THE MOST UNPLEASANT GAS I have ever endured. To my shame, I considered toughing it out, but it was so noxious that Platooski — who is a total mush — left in disgust. And, I got a leg cramp anyway, so I walked off the tension, and made Steve stay outside until he worked out his issues. It took him much longer than usual to make his poo, and it involved bizarre hopping — as if he was riding a small, mechanical bull. He ran around the yard in ecstasy when he was finished. I've learned that notable Steve poops require a visual inspection because little dogs are disgusting bastards, but he was clean, thankfully. I had a tall glass of water — maybe dehydration caused the leg cramp? — and we headed back to bed. It was nearly 2 a.m.

But a bladder full of a tall glass of water is an excellent alarm clock, so I was up by 7 this morning. However, the weather was poor, and I wasn't so excited to get digging to want to go out in the rain. I watched the first two episodes of Series 9 of Peep Show, and drank some coffee. I consulted the paperwork that came with my plants, and then looked online at the schematic of the garden these plants would allegedly make. The diagram shows a 5'x6' garden bed. That's a big hole, especially when the laborer is old and fat. But I was sick of failure, so I vowed to get my garden dug. It's not like it has to be too deep, after all. I was thankful for the lack of heat and the overcast skies. Digging conditions could have been much worse.

When I finished shoveling, I got going on dinner prep — Jason generally comes for dinner on Saturdays. After we discussed English pooping verbs, he got ready for work, and we happened to look out the window to see my elderly, foreign neighbor, who requires a walker, standing behind Jason's car, in my driveway, looking at my front yard hole, in utter disapproval. I always suspect the foreigners are disapproving, but maybe their resting faces are just different than American resting faces? Or maybe they really are contemptuous and judgmental? It's ok, because I know even with our problems, the US is way better than whatever urine-river riddled and/or authoritarian communistic craphole the newcomers come from, anyway. The children of the foreigners will learn proper American facial expressions, and everything will work out.

A quick backstory: not that I enjoy documenting my growing list of repair failures, but this one is important to this post. I attempted a minor sidewalk repair last week — not a total failure, but pretty damn close — and some bozo rode a bike through it. And then Matthew stuck his hands AND feet in the wet concrete, and, in desperation, I patted the patch out. The result: it looks like a 4-year-old's shitty, handmade ashtray from a 1970's school art class. Doing my part for property values, Hamilton!

So, Jason started laughing because he was sure the old guy — who walks up and down the street with his walker several times a day — was concerned that he would trip on my handmade sidewalk ashtray, and then fall into his 5' x 6' grave in my front lawn.

We waited for the old guy to move along, and I headed back out with my plants and tools, to work on the grave. I let Steve out back before saying goodbye to Jason. I got a couple plants in the ground and decided to put my hair up to keep it out of my eyes, so I checked on Steve on my way in. He was riding his invisible mechanical bull again, in an attempt (I think?) to shake the shit off/out of his ass. I sighed deeply, and went to the bathroom to take care of my hair, and let Steve ride this one out without intervention, at least for now.

I got my plants into the ground, but they will need a decade or two before they fill the recommended 5'x6' spot I made for them. I saved a lot of seeds from last summer, so I'll fill the rest of the grave with annuals, and will likely replace them with perennials in the fall, so it's fine. It started to get dark, and there's still a bit of overturned earth, but I'm hoping my neighbor feels better about my lawn.

Meanwhile, back to Steve: the long evolutionary history between humans and dogs is so interesting, and I am often amazed at how that interspecies bond can give us insight into the other's dysfunction and idiocy, without ever exchanging a sound. I knew, without words, by the look on Steve's face, that his recent poo making process was a failure — there's been so much of that this week! I could also tell by his body language that he was trying to use mind control on me, to convince me that everything was fine with his ass. He halfheartedly wagged his tail, but his facial expression turned more distressed when the weight of his own feces tugged his little tail downward, a sensation he found off-putting. Still, he persevered; my ever-hopeful little canine Padawan tried to will the door open using The Force before I could discover the shitcake on his bum. Despite his best efforts, the door did not open for him.

The door did not open because the smell betrayed his situation. It was the same stench from last night. I recently changed his food, but this was BAD. I made him stay outside while I ran inside to find a shitty asshair worthy pair of scissors; he knew I was on to him, so he hid behind the recycling bucket, sitting on the disaster stuck under his tail.

He resisted my attempts to lift his bottom, so I could cut the nastiness out of his asshairs, but he eventually saw the wisdom in taking care of this business promptly. I really hate cutting shit off of him, by the way. I got most of it off, when I discovered an Easter candy wrapper stuck in his anus. There is so much about Steve that makes me rethink the relationship between humans and dogs — how, perhaps, we're not enhancing the other species, after all — because I know this particular predicament is not unique to Steve.

With some effort, I removed the offending article and washed my dog's bottom, and allowed him back in the house. I'm hoping tonight and tomorrow are less disgusting.

Monday, March 28, 2016

BonerTube

I may never host a holiday again.

When faced with the choice of moving an extra table back down to the basement and then doing the dishes, which were overflowing out of the sink, I chose to sit with my son on the couch, who was playing a collaborative game on Xbox 360 — which involved a pile of annoying squeakers (prepubescent children yelling at each other). He's still pretty snuggly, even if his choice in entertainment is slightly torturous to me.

Throughout the day, Matthew called me urgently into the living room because he was watching YouTube videos created by hackers/geniuses/liars who said it was possible to turn the lowly Xbox 360 into the way cooler xBox One. By — get this — pressing some buttons on the controller. And maybe a magic spell. I'm not sure, except it was utter bullshit, and it made me mad at the internet for giving false hope to my young son.

But when I collapsed on the couch next to him after our visitors departed, he sweetly stopped playing his game, and curled up next to me, and decided to watch a YouTube video on my phone instead.

Now, some quick backstory here. An old friend gave us an old Xbox 360; I'm not sure I ever would/could have bought one for Matthew otherwise. And there was immediate regret — no need for me to outline that here as my complaints are standard fare. But the benefits were evident, too. Matthew is an only child, and the game console allows him to connect, in real time, with his cousins and friends, and they can play games together and many of these games feature teamwork, rather than competition, so there's a lot of negotiation, which I think is important. The typing has improved his spelling and reading, if not his handwriting. The gaming has also increased his curiosity about computers and technological gadgetry, which can only help him as he gets older.

He is fiercely devoted to his Xbox 360, even boldly issuing an edict that the newer Xbox One was lame and stupid. At least he felt that way until a couple of weeks ago, when he unexpectedly shifted gears, and has been talking non-stop about getting a One ever since, which is why he pressed all of the buttons on his 360's controller, which only logged him out.

But his thirst for the Xbox One was unquenchable, even curled up in his mother's arm, so he watched a year-old video by a pimply-faced game aficionado who meticulously and earnestly raved about his then-brand new Xbox One. Nothing, as a parent, caused me concern, as the young man outlined all of the game system's attributes. All was acceptable in his 5 minute video, until the very end, when he bestowed "5 out of 5 boners" on the Xbox One.

Did I just hear that kid say "boner"? I asked myself, stunned. On one hand, I'm not terribly surprised: YouTube is filled with the foul-mouthed, which is fine, except when my kid is watching. I've learned a lot over the last couple of years, to quickly be able to identify vulgar bloggers. Usually they're post-pubescent boys who laugh way too heartily, and have stupid hair. And in the interest of full disclosure, I am not militant about videos with foul language: I'll let a naughty word or two fly. But those videos are rare: either the host is clean-mouthed, or the host is a complete animal. There is very little in between. Boner Boy is one of those in-betweeners, apparently.

I debated what to do. Do I make a stink of it, and make Matthew turn off the YouTube? Or at least do I tell him to find a different idiot to watch? Or maybe should I sit still, and just let the moment pass?

Before I could decide, Matthew said, "What's a boner?" I struggled for a few seconds, and took a deep breath, and just told him what it was. He's going to find out sooner or later, anyway.

I had decided years ago that I was going to do my best to not be weird about sex and body parts when Matthew had questions, but WOW, it's confidence shattering. My effort was probably only 2 out of 5 boners, maybe a 3. Who knows? But my efforts at cleaning the kitchen definitely would have been a 1 out of 5 boners, I'm sure.