Monthly Archives: October 2016

Vote, Dammit?

It is so ironic, given the topic of this post, that WordPress just suggested that I add a prompt to tell you guys to go vote.  LOL!

I’ve been studiously avoiding not posting any commentary anywhere on this particular election because it’s been a trip to the freak show.  As I’ve said before, it’s like watching an evil succubus in a bad pantsuit snarl at an orange marshmallow in a wig.  You all know how I feel about voting, political parties, and the like, so there’s no need to belabor the point.  Now, however, we have a truly epic scandal featuring Donald Trump making some pretty horrible remarks about Nancy O’Dell and how he views hitting on women.

I have been accused once or twice (or more) of not being a good feminist which, given the current brand of feminism, doesn’t phase me at all.  I don’t believe that “rape culture” is really a thing, and I don’t think that women should have to have pay equal to men.  I just don’t.  That’s not how real life works.  I am not personally offended by Donald Trump’s remarks.  I do not, however, think he is fit to lead.

Before we go too far down the political thing, I know an unfortunate number of people who have been raped.  I’m not talking about “husband wanted to, I didn’t,” either.  In one case, I’m talking about a friend who got drugged by one of her friends in high school when she was 16.  In another, I’m talking about a friend who was assaulted when she was 8.  I was good friends with two guys in college, one of whom was raped repeatedly by his neighbor growing up and the other who was molested by his older brother for years.  The sad fucking unfortunate truth, in my experience, is that it happens to kids who don’t understand what’s going on and don’t tell their parents.  To my knowledge, none of those parents knew what had happened to their kids.  My friends never told.

I do remember one night very clearly.  We were all at a house party, and my friend Josh was with us.  Josh was six four, a rugby player, and hot as fucking fire.  You’d think, being a rugby player, that he would have been a total douchebag, but he was hands-down one of the nicest, most decent guys I have ever known in my life.  We were walking into the house, and some idiot grabbed my friend’s ass – just blatantly grabbed on.

Josh, who already had a broken nose from the day’s rugby game, grabbed this guy by the shoulder and said, “Hey!  You don’t grab girls by the ass – you treat’em like a lady!  You need to apologize.”

The guy turned, and you could tell he was expecting someone about his size, but when he realized he was smirking into Josh’s pecs, he looked up, looked scared, and apologized to my friend.  He also gave Josh a very wide berth the rest of the night.  For the record, if Josh hadn’t grabbed the guy by the shoulder, my friend probably would have slapped the shit out of him.

So yes, there are douchebags out there.  I’m not saying rape doesn’t happen.  My personal opinion is that it’s a much bigger problem with children on up to the mid-teens.  Just my opinion.

But I think Donald’s remarks are gross and pretty telling of his true character.  i don’t think he’ll be a good president.  I do think that anyone who tells you to vote for Hillary on the basis that she’s a woman and would never is fucking deluded.

First of all, Hillary has long turned a blind eye to all the shit that Bill got up to.  I thought it was common knowledge that he used to use state patrolmen to procure him coke and hookers while he was the governor of Arkansas, but maybe not.  Hillary helped cover up so much of his wrongdoing.  To say that Trump is worse is laughable to me.  Look up the videos of Hillary laughing about killing tons of people or taking out Gaddafi.  There are rumors he was raped with a bayonet when al-Qaeda caught him.  Think about that.  Raped with a fucking bayonet.  Ask what happened to Ambassador Stephens.  Per the story I read, he was sodomized, genitals cut off, mutilated in other ways, and left still alive in a ditch.

And Hillary laughed.

Let me be crystal clear about this: Trump and Hillary are bad people.  Bad.  I personally think Hillary is worse just because of the sheer scale of what she has done in her long, sordid political career.  Talk about bring up the bodies…!  I don’t think Trump is any good either, though.  Of course I don’t want to see a president who behaves like that around women.  Do I think that he would be the first?  Hell no.  There are so many politicians buying hookers, snorting coke, and getting into shady shit that they probably think that’s their job.  He’ll fit in great on Capitol Hill.

The point I’m making is that, with this election most particularly, people need to just fucking stop voting.  How can any conscionable person vote for these two freaks?  I mean that seriously.  I know tons of people who are voting for Hillary and who are perfectly happy to act like she isn’t a war-mongering bitch, but I’m no such pretender.  Can everyone please just stay home so that we have a total vote of no confidence?  Please?!?

If you have to vote, vote for Johnson or Stein.  Preferably Johnson.  I don’t really even care whether or not he’s a “real” libertarian.

That’s the thing about the Libertarian Party that people don’t seem to understand.  “They’re a mess.”  “They can’t get it together.”  Nope, and they never will.  Such is not the nature of libertarianism.  Liberty is anarchy.  I have never met two intellectual libertarians who agreed on everything.  Ever.  I see them spit and spat and posture and preen and make excellent points in intellectual arguments that have to be witnessed to be believed.  Because honestly, and I’m not just saying this to stroke my own ego, the libertarians I know are also the smartest people I know.  They are almost all mathematical minds who tend to divorce reason and emotion.  They focus on outcomes, not on feelings, and they never agree on everything.  The Bro-Co and I find solace in one another, but we do not agree on everything intellectually.

You might say that this is true of the Republicrats too, but libertarians put a lot more emphasis on the philosophical side because, well, they just do.  And they get mad about it.  They will refuse to vote for someone who isn’t “pure” enough or who is too socially conservative or whatever.  They get bogged down in details.  That’s just the way it is.  Libertarians will never unite and take over.  I think, in a way, they’d be sad if they did.  There is a certain joy in contrarianism amongst literally every libertarian I’ve ever met.  It would take away their fun if they actually won something.  They revel in holding up a mirror to the cognitive dissonance and challenging beliefs that are held to be fact.  Because dammit, it’s fun.

So my two cents on Trump?  Duh.  Are you people fucking surprised?  The sky is blue, water is wet, and Trump’s a douchebag.  Grass is green, politicians are crooked, and so is Hillary Clinton.  Move it along, folks.  Nothing to see here.

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Brangelina

I know this may come as a shock to you all, but I’m not a hopeless romantic.  I know, I know, it’s hard to believe.  I’m so effusive with emotions and not at all embittered by failed relationships and an expensive divorce.  I do occasionally have the capacity to surprise myself though, and I do like to think that once in a while – a great, great while – love prevails.

I have this friend from Korea who shall remain nameless just because God knows who still reads this thing that might know her.  She got together with this guy not that long before the ex and I left, so it’s been a solid 3+ years ago this month.  They are both older, never married, no kids, etc.  I knew her very well but didn’t know him at all.  He was new at the time and embarking on an adventure to a foreign land before old age got the better of him.

They were ridiculous.  They went everywhere together, cooked for each other, took amazing trips to exotic lands… It was the sort of thing to make someone like me pretty jealous, honestly.  But I was always happy for her.  She dated one of my friends while we were all there at the same time, and… Well, you know the story.  He left, she was brokenhearted, blah blah blah.  Same old Korea story.

Well, it looked like this story was going to end the same way.  Apparently this guy had tired of Korea and decided that it was time to move along, too.  I suspect he wanted her to go with him, but she had a contract to finish, and well, things just didn’t work.  They took one last great trip together and parted ways in Sri Lanka, I think.

I assume she was heartbroken.  I remember how it was when my friend left.  She called me crying one night, wondering if he’d come back.  He didn’t.

Folks, I don’t get thrilled very often, but when I woke up and saw that this other guy had actually boarded a plane and gone back to her because he missed her too much to leave her, it made a few drops of blood pump through my black old heart.  I think a piece of my soul might have found its way home.  (They break off and fly away at various points, usually due to something generally beyond my control.)  There is a picture of them together at Incheon, and his face is covered in her lipstick.

I mean, come on!  That is a fairytale “ending” right there!  That is the kind of thing you see in the movies.  That is the movie moment we all wait a lifetime to have.  That is some Brangelina shit right there.  Well.  You know.  Before the whole Brangelina thing exploded, but fuck that, it’s Hollyweird, they’re all freaks.  … Okay, I admit it, I was rooting for them.  I was disappointed when People confirmed the divorce filing.

Anyway.  Sometimes it’s nice to a bit of faith restored, even if it’s only for a day or heck, even an hour.  I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll be jaded again, but right now, I’m kind of touched and happy that somewhere, for someone I know, love prevailed.  I’m used to seeing cranky married couples who have grown apart or who are too tired to care much about their mate because they have jobs and kids and a car payment that is equivalent to their mortgage.  When I see two people who are still willing to go the extra mile for each other, well, that’s fucking rad, honestly.  If only we were all so lucky, to find someone who inspired us to act thusly.

So today, for like, an hour, I believe in happy endings.  I thought I would share that story because apparently they aren’t always just urban legends as I originally suspected.  Sometimes people do actually care enough to show up, virtually unannounced, at an airport and sweep you off of your feet.  That is awesome, man.  That’s what life should be about.

Betty and the Mule

I have a friend at work, Betty.  Betty is a few years younger than my folks would be, but she’s getting close to retirement age.  I probably met Betty about two weeks into my tenure at my current job.  She popped up at my cube, and she said something like, “I’ve been meaning to meet you.  I had a good feeling about you as soon as you got here.”

Betty is one of those people who has her people.  She either likes you or she doesn’t, and she’s not terrifically good at hiding it when she doesn’t.  I honestly have no real idea what it is that she sees in me other than I’m kind of weird, but there must be something.  I consider Betty to be my guru, my wise woman, and the official crone in my life, and I mean that in the best possible way.  Betty is one of those people who just knows things, and she looks at the world a bit differently than most.  I enjoy her company a lot, and if nothing else, she gets me.  She doesn’t always agree with me, but she gets where I’m coming from, at that’s saying a lot, since most people look at me like I have two heads half the time.

Betty was a bit under the weather the other day, and it seemed like it was getting her down.  Betty doesn’t get down all that often, but when she does, it shows.  She went home early that day and didn’t come in the next, which is highly unusual for her.  She’s fond of giving cards for holidays and birthdays and sometimes just for no reason at all.  She always sends all of our “official” field adjusters birthday cards.  I don’t think the company reimburses her, either.  She just does it because she enjoys doing it.  Anyway, circling it back around, I decided to pick up a card and leave it on her desk for her.  I’m not a card-giver, but I thought she could use a bit of pick-me-up.

The Halloween cards are all out, and y’all know I loves the Halloween.  I found a goofy one with an old woman sitting on a mule wearing a wig and clown shoes, and that just seemed like a Betty card to me.  She’d put a wig on a mule.  No shame, either.  I’d put a wig on a pig, and I’ve said so frequently.  Let’s be real: animals in wigs are funny.  So I bought the card on my lunch break with my salad and left it on her desk.

She was back the next day, spirits significantly improved, and she thanked me for the card.  We had a good laugh over the mule in a wig, and she proceeded to tell me a story about her childhood.  Betty grew up in the sandy bottoms between Dosh and Naples, where my granddad used to take me driving on Saturday evenings and where I now do the same with my littles.  The homestead is gone now, as is the starch plant, but stories about the river bottoms linger longer than you would expect, given the propensity of the rising and falling water to wash things away.  Something about living life from one flood season to the next: things have more staying power than you’d ordinarily figure.

Betty grew up poor.  I mean, there’s poor today, and then there’s poor like back in the 50s and 60s down by the river.  When Betty was born, her family lived in a three-room house with no indoor plumbing.  They had a water pump outside where they drew water for cooking and bathing, and the outhouse was some distance away from the home.  The property was covered in black locust trees that her father had planted.  She was the youngest of a herd of children.  Her parents snuck off to a shack that they had far away from the house, down the property somewhere, when they wanted “alone time.”  It was a different time.

But that mule on the card made Betty think of Barney.  Barney was their white mule that they kept around for various odd jobs.  I found it rather entertaining that they had a mule, for whatever reason.  I guess if you knew Betty, well, trying to picture her with a mule around is rather comical in and of itself.  But they had a white mule with a gray muzzle, and his name was Barney.

Barney and Betty’s father had a somewhat tenuous relationship.  He liked Barney for the help he provided around the farm, but Barney was stubborn, as mules tend to be, and sometimes he’d give the mule what-for when Barney decided he’d had enough of whatever was going on.

Barney had a pen, and he frequently escaped from said pen.  He could jump the fence pretty handily, which isn’t what I would have thought from a mule, but apparently they aren’t half-bad jumpers.  Betty’s dad got so mad about the mule repeatedly escaping that he set up an electric fence.  He strung a corn cob onto the electric wire before turning the power on so that Barney would get a taste of the electricity when he did turn the power on.

Well, that did not deter Barney.  Betty’s dad also tied a log around Barney’s neck, just in case the fence wasn’t a big enough deterrent.  (He was admittedly not a nice man, and like I said, it was a different time.)  Well, Barney jumped the electric fence with the log tied to his neck.  And of course, it was Betty’s job to chase the mule down and get him back into the pen.

“Oh, Margaret, I chased that mule…!  I can’t imagine what it must have looked like, me twelve or thirteen years old, running through a field after this mule with a log around his neck!

“Well, I’ll tell ya… We were right down there by National Starch, when it was still in business, and the shift change happened while I was out there running after that damned mule.  And you know, I told this story to a friend of mine years later, and she started laughing and said, ‘Oh my God!  Was that you?  I used to work at National Starch, and I saw you!  I remember telling my husband that story, and he didn’t believe me!  Laughed because I thought I saw a white mule running around with a log around its neck!”

But no.  True story.  It took hours to catch the mule and get him back in the pen.

“I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with that stupid mule.”  She laughed and went on.  “You know, we used to have a songbook at school.  Isn’t that ridiculous, that we only had one songbook?  Well, every day, someone would get to take it home, and I was so proud on the day I got to bring that book home…!  I took it out to the pasture, and by God, I sang to that mule!  Maybe that’s why he wanted out so bad!  Can you imagine?  Singing to the mule!”

We both had a good laugh over it, the thought of a young Betty serenading the mule.

She never did tell me what finally became of Barney the mule.  I suppose there was probably nothing to tell.  Like everyone and everything in all old tales, eventually their part in the story is finished, and they pass on into history, unnoticed but for a story that almost seems like ghost, hazy and disappearing into legend.  His bones have probably long since sunk deep into the sandy bottom ground, bone meal for the row crops that flank the roads there now.  Or maybe they washed away during high water.

Barney is gone, and the times have changed, but there’s always been something witchy and weird about the river bottoms to me.  Betty talked about her sisters taking the old steel belted radio to the barn and plugging it in at night, and they’d listen to music and twirl to the beat, making circular patterns like sigils in the sand.  I can almost see it – moonlight shining down on those sticky, thick summer nights, dancing on the river water and through the irrigation ditches still full from the spring floods, and the whole Illinois River valley naked to the eyes on high.  There are a couple of spots up on the bluffs where you can look down and see what feels like the whole valley and the whole world, and it seems like everything is open and known, and it seems as though nothing could ever be hidden, even though the river itself remains quietly behind the trees.

The best place to see it and feel it, to really let it seep in, is on the side of the road at Hodges Cemetery.  I don’t want to be buried, but I have long thought that if I had to be put into the ground, I’d want to be interred there at Hodges, where it felt like you could see the whole world, and you could watch the water rise and fall and the seasons change and the leaves fall.  It’s a witchy, weird place, and I never pass by there and over the crest of the bluff without thinking that there is some strange magic down there in the bottoms.

Maybe I liked the story of the mule so well because it reminded me of my grandfather and the stories he would tell.  He used to talk of going down to the river with his friends, skating on the frozen water and carrying large walking sticks attached to a rope, which went around their waists.  If the ice broke, the walking sticks would help the other guys pull them out.  And it did happen to his friend once that the ice broke beneath his skates.

And I remember driving down through Naples, maybe going to the old Abbott House when it was a restaurant or maybe just passing through, but there is an old house that sits cattywampus on a corner.  It has an upstairs porch that runs the length of the house, and it just seems an odd place.

“That used to be the house of ill repute, Margaret.”

The red house.  I always wondered how he knew.  I suppose it may just have been that everyone knew, as everyone still knows everything worth knowing around here.  Or maybe he and the guys made their stop there when they went down to skate.  Hell, maybe his grandpa took him there when they were over in Dosh on a duck hunt.  I never asked.  I wish now that I had been a bit more insolent.

But the ladies leaning over the balcony are long gone, and so is Barney the mule.  The corn and beans are coming out of the ground again, another growing season reaching its inevitable conclusion.  The bottoms are torn apart now to make way for the pipeline.  It’ll go the same way that everything else does.  They’ll sink it into the ground, and it will be forgotten, save for the occasional story, talking about how so and so worked on it or how grandpa lost yield off of that field that year because it was torn up or how the ground never drained off quite the same way again.  The people who put it there will move on with their lives.

For as long as I’m here though, I’ll go on my occasional drive down to the river bottoms, and I’ll think now of that mule running around on sandy ground, a log around his neck, my friend a chubby, awkward girl chasing after him while laughing strangers look on.  And I’ll laugh, too.  I mean, come on.  It ain’t every day that you see a fat kid chasing after a white mule in a soggy field.  That’s comedy right there.  That’s life on the river.