Music Is Life

It’s been a while, I know, over six months. I ran out of topics I was willing to write on, getting increasingly angry at the political atmosphere, and at the horrors the news brings to me every day. I’d stopped watching the news for a while. My job is going well, now that I finally get to do it, and the car still makes me smile. The sport button is a dangerous little button. I’ve used it a few times, released my inner Mario Andretti. Probably not good on a neighborhood street with a 25 mpg speed limit…

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So what brings me here? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that we’ve lost a lot of celebrities already this year. The ones in their 80s and 90s are sad, but not completely unexpected. Same with the ones we knew weren’t well. This year was made all the more difficult for me because I had three funerals by the end of February. The oldest was 50. The first was someone who lived across the street from me, younger than I, and the second graduated high school with me. All three were breast cancer, or something related to it. I couldn’t really focus on David Bowie or Alan Rickman, both of which were great losses in my opinion; it was already too much at that point.

Don’t get me wrong, I cried over both of those, and obsessively sought Bowie videos for a couple days, but I wasn’t really there. Just coming out of a depressive episode, a winter that wasn’t winter (it showed up in April), things not going quite the way I’d like in my life, the politics all over social media, it was overwhelming. I had to shut down for a little bit just to regroup.

There were good things, too. There was a wedding of two classmates which evolved into an impromptu reunion, time spent with family and friends, a new hobby (yoga), a better sense of self. Just last week, I was in New York City. I’d never gone before. As hard as I’ve worked on it, I still have quite a bit of anxiety when it comes to unfamiliar places. I was staying with a classmate I hadn’t spoken to face-t0-face since, well, we graduated *mumblemumble* years ago, which made it worse. I was nervous. What if we didn’t get along? Sure, we talked on FB, but that’s different from spending actual time in the physical presence of someone. And if that were true, then the trip would be even worse. I’d be in a city I didn’t understand or know with no idea what I was doing or where I was going. I wouldn’t see anything at that rate.

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The Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges as seen from One World Observatory

Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and I look forward to going back to hang with her dogs and her husband. He’s funny. And understands why flying cars are such a horrible idea. I even got to meet up with a couple other people, one I haven’t seen since his graduation, and one I’ve only ever met online. Plus, I learned just how I can pack enough clothes to wear AND my camera. It takes up a lot of space, and requires vacuum bags and Tetris skills. As an added bonus, my friend had a Canon and some great lenses I was able to borrow. Pretty much only used the wide angle, but for this city, that was the right lens for the job.

I felt alive for the first time in months. Like there was a reason to push forward, to doing what I love, to try new things. Maybe I’ll fail, maybe I’ll watch a couple rats wander around in a subway one late night (that was a bit surreal), but I won’t stop, shrivel up and die long before my body quits. Sort of a reminder to do what I can while I can. I think that’s when I realized this wasn’t just a high point, I was actually coming out of that episode.

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Central Park, a professional setup, possibly for a proposal or anniversary.

Then Thursday happened. April 21st, a little before 1:30, a co-worker peeked around the cube wall and asked if I was alright. I’d just come back from grabbing something to eat in the cafeteria, and was sitting down to eat. Next she told me what the big news of the moment was – Prince had died.

The bottom dropped out of my world. At some of my lowest moments, my most vulnerable, he was there. He was there with my joys and successes, too. He celebrated with me, he mourned, he consoled, and he empathized. He was, as one of my friends put it, the soundtrack of our lives. Losing him is losing a piece of myself. It’s like losing a family member, an experience I have, unfortunately, had many times. As bad as losing my mother‡? No, but it hurts. A lot. It was also the birthday of the person in the first funeral I attended this year, making the day that much more difficult.

In all the most impactful† moments of my life, there is music. Sunday mornings, mom making pancakes in the kitchen, me dancing with my father in the living room. Christmas, driving to and from college, cleaning house, it all has a soundtrack. My lows and my highs have music; it’s playing in my head when I wake up, and off in the distance when I sleep. When I’m in a good mood, I sing. When I’m in a bad mood, I sing. It’s always there. So to lose something, someone, who was such a large part of that soundtrack, it’s devastating.

I don’t know what next week looks like. I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. I only know that last night was bad, and today was better.

It’s difficult to find any of his music online. He was about as thorough as Disney when it came to protecting his copyright. Still, there are some videos out there, where you can see his mastery, his genius. No, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but damn, he’s good.

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‡I did get to see him perform live, during his Purple Rain tour. Some friends couldn’t go because their mothers wouldn’t let them. Mine went with me. She wanted to see him, too.

†Yes, I know, business-speak. I’ve been in the corporate world for a while, now. Sometimes it just sneaks out.

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The Furnace is On!

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Meet Claudio, my Fiat. Tolja it was cute! Fun to drive, too.

Defcon one, people, the furnace is on. I repeat: THE FURNACE IS ON! Apparently it’s October or some such nonsense. I wasn’t ready for that. I never am. Sure, it means I get to wear my winter clothes (have about 2 weeks’ worth, if I layer – I need to go shopping), and be all bundled up under multiple blankets, but I still prefer spring and summer over fall and winter. For one thing, my joints hurt less in the spring and summer.

There are, of course, some differences. I’ll be starting a job that I think I’ll like, for the first time in I don’t even know how long. For the first time in 8 Octobers,* I have a car that does not have a leaky roof, OR duct tape holding it together.

The accident that caved in my driver’s side door was in November 2007, just after Thanksgiving, two months after I’d been laid off. I was visiting my aunt in Tulsa, planning to head back to Colorado Springs the next day. That got delayed while I tried to figure out how I was going to make a 700-mile trip without a driver’s side mirror. You don’t realize how much you use something until you can’t.

Reliable as it was, it was getting to the point where I had to do something. At the least, it needed a tune up; the engine was starting to run a little rough. The trim on the driver’s side was long gone – the accident ripped it off and created a gaping hole in the door. In order to be street-legal, I had to patch that up, cover the exposed sharp metal, because this isn’t Mad Max time just yet. So, when I got home, I taped up the side, covering the metal and the hole. It lasted a few months before I had to change it. A little longer at first because I had a carport, then when I had to park it outside, it deteriorated a little more quickly, but not much. It didn’t even last two weeks when I got back to Ohio. Fortunately I still had a pretty-good sized roll; I was able to replace it as needed.

It also needed a new top; the one on it had been there since it was new in 1999. Convertible tops may last longer than they used to, but they weren’t meant to last 17 years (the top itself was dated March 1998). There weren’t any holes in the top itself, but the back window, which was plastic, had some cracks, and after one particularly cold winter and unintentionally vigorous scraping, the ancient, brittle plastic crumbled and left a gaping hole in the rear window. I used packing tape for that for a couple months, because regular clear duct tape was only translucent, not transparent, then I heard about Gorilla tape’s clear stuff. I didn’t have to change that once. The accident caused slight frame damage, so the driver’s side door always leaked in the rain. I added duct tape to the door seal to close that up a bit. It helped. Oh, and the side windows didn’t fit properly anymore. Had to tape those to reduce the wind noise and resistance. And the sunroof frame itself was falling apart. The two hinges that attached it to the car had disintegrated, leaving the back of the sunroof unfettered by chains, or in this case, screws. Taped that.

Tell ya what, I am more than ready to swear allegiance to Gorilla tape. It survived a particularly nasty winter intact. I didn’t have to change it once.

Friday before last, I was reaching into the trunk of my car – I have a trunk, now! – to get a grocery bag, and pulled something in  my shoulder. No idea what, but it made a noise like I’d never before heard, popping like something was snapping apart. I didn’t give it too much thought that evening, because it was only a little sore, and that shoulder was sprained multiple times for the last 20-odd years, so it’s pretty much always aching.† Saturday morning, though, oh, I felt it. It got bad. I was almost hyperventilating from the pain. I’m stubborn and wasn’t feeling up to going to the doctor (urgent car or ER), in part because they don’t listen and would probably put me on the cardiac ward because sudden shoulder pain is a symptom for women, and give me a saline IV for the kidney function. In large part, if I’m honest.

I took my last Vicodin (from when I got my tooth pulled in 2014) and went back to sleep once it finally kicked in. Thought maybe giving it a rest for a few hours would help. It didn’t. So I managed to get myself to Walgreens. Ever drive a stick with one hand? Nope, me either. By the time I got to Walgreens, I wished could, though. Didn’t want to bother anyone. They have lives, shouldn’t have to interrupt them for me. No one wants that. Desperate, I picked up a bottle of Aleve (which I’m not supposed to have) and Tiger Balm, and headed home. Popped two of those and spent the rest of the evening in bed, watching television, arm in a sling I made, using my tablet because it hurt too much to type. Hell, that hurt too, but not nearly as badly. If it didn’t feel any better Sunday, I was going to have to see a professional; I think I managed to convince myself of that much. Sunday morning was much improved, so long as I didn’t push it. I did sing in church that morning, which was the end of my exertions for the day. Well, not completely, there was the Bengals/Ravens game that afternoon, which was absolutely insane in the 2nd half. Who dey? Not the Ravens, not for a while, now.

Yes, this was a distraction. The Pope came to the US and met with Kim Davis. The Vatican is saying it’s not an endorsement of her position, she’s saying “See? Even the Pope agree with me!” There was yet another shooting, this time targeting Christians, and there is yet another barrage of “we need more guns/guns kill people” posts on my newsfeed. Well, there’s a little difference; the people who often cry “more guns” the loudest are now upset that it’s about the shooting and not about the target. Trump is being his usual classy self, and Ben Carson, a physician, is saying things that would make me want to see a different doctor. Planned Parenthood’s funding is in jeopardy because of an agenda that actually has nothing to do with PP, but is all about appealing to a base that refuses to listen to anyone else. Abortion is legal. PP also provides birth control and education, which have proven far more effective at preventing abortion than has prayer, abstinence and making it illegal.

The gulf continues to grow, the sides more and more convinced they are right, and far less likely to listen to the other, and the people in the middle are being pressured to choose. John Boehner is stepping down because he can no longer be a part of this. I wouldn’t be surprised if in arch-conservative circles he’s now being painted as a liberal traitor. It’s all become rather either/or out there, and I’m tired. So tired. Liberals OR conservatives aren’t tearing this country apart; it’s liberals AND conservatives, both the people who make the decisions and those who keep voting to put them there. I’m about at the point of apathy myself, somewhere I don’t want to be. This is why I don’t spend much time on Facebook anymore, and why I haven’t written many posts all summer. I just can’t.

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*Eight Octobers made me smile. You know what October means, right? Where the name comes from? Used to be the eighth month of the year, before the Caesers (Julius and Augustus, specifically) went all Narcissus and had to have their own months.

†Yay, genetics and poorly made and poorly fitted bras!

Needful

The last few weeks have been eventful. The news has become increasingly difficult watch, as has my Facebook newsfeed. The divisions seem to be growing wider, egged on by those who wish to divide, who want to see a populace that can’t get together long enough to see what is really affecting them. The right wants to defund Planned Parenthood, ignoring the fact that there are thousands of women for whom that is their primary source of healthcare, focusing only on one part of what they do and citing a made-up video, even though that has since been proven false.

The candidates for the presidency are already campaigning, more than a year before the election, and the GOP forerunner is a man who can’t be bought or reasoned with. Trump has no issue with the fringe element that supports him, comfortable with their paranoid beliefs about the current administration. They don’t cite policies, only thrown bigoted rhetoric. Most recently,  there was the GOP debate, with ten candidates. I didn’t watch, I was angry and frustrated enough. I did see the soundbites the next morning. One has the candidate Carly Fiorini discussing the Planned Parenthood video treating it as fact, full of righteous ire.

Later, at a town hall meeting, Trump was fielding questions from the “oppressed few” who’ve most benefited from the status quo – that group of people who’ve always been able to live their lives without fear of reprisal for being the wrong color, the wrong religion, even the wrong gender – including one from a man who still believes the president is an African-born Muslim socialist bent on world domination. His belief was rock solid, and Donald Trump, who continued to live the Birther life long after others had given up, didn’t bother to correct him. He remains unrepentant.

How long the GOP will let this continue, I don’t know, but they are catering to the fringe, the group they think they have control of, those whose every decision is based on fear. That’s why Trump is leading in the polls, because he’s saying what they believe. There is no black supremacy movement hidden in the president’s agenda, no funding of Muslim terrorist groups who want to kill citizens in their homes and take away their guns, there is certainly no effort to disenfranchise the majority, who think they’re the minority. Irrational and unfounded, these beliefs are dangerous in many ways. Not just the obvious excuse to commit violence against groups they find objectionable, but the more subtle encouragement of those who are looking for someone to blame for the way their lives are going, the bringing forth the inherent racism in our society and making it acceptable to persecute. These are the people who a couple generations ago would have – and still do, in some cases – supported segregation. Their fear, the ones who can’t cite policy, who are only focused on the lies that were perpetrated eight years ago, is based on the fact the man in the White House is stepping out of line, that he shouldn’t be in that office, not because he’s incompetent, but because he’s not white. It’s more obvious with some than with others.

Again, for those who can cite actual facts, this isn’t necessarily true. It’s also not solely the province of the Right, although they’re far more vocal about it.

There is no war on Christianity. Kim Davis was not jailed for her religion, she was jailed for not obeying the law.

There does appear to be a war on Muslims, however, since an awful lot of those people are convinced the Muslim faith is about blood and violence and genocide, and use any excuse to punish someone who is Muslim.

There’s not going to be any government involvement with who churches will and will not allow to marry. There wasn’t for Loving v. Virginia, and there won’t be now.

There is no war on the police. There is a fight to make changes in the policies, so the good cops – who I continue believe are in the majority – can be in charge, instead of the ones who encourage a mindset that hasn’t really changed in 50 years. Where whistleblowers can come forth instead of keeping their silence in fear.

Focusing on abortion leaves so many things untouched, ignored by the public, policies that impact them are decided out of the public eye because they’re so focused on something that has nothing to do with the running of the country, and everything to do with keeping women in their place.

The war we need to fight is the war on bigotry, on exclusion, on marginalization. This is not an effort to reduce what others have, but to open the door for others to achieve the same things. Just because people look different from you, believe differently, behave differently, that does NOT give you the right to treat them differently.

These are all fear-based beliefs, predicated on the mindset that individuals who are not like them represent an entire group. Media shows the most terrible, most eye-catching news in order to get ratings. They embellished the truth, skew it to fit their viewers’ own prejudices, acknowledged or not, even just make things up. Protected by the First Amendment, they are under no obligation to tell just the facts. There was a bill that required that, which I’ve mentioned before, but it was repealed, and efforts continue to make sure such a bill can never be passed again. How can you trust media in a country where they can lie if they want to?

What there should be, what is making these stories so important, is a war on bigotry, exclusion, on marginalization. It’s a losing battle, as long as people are distracted by insignificant causes and encouraged to discriminate.

I’ve had some really positive things in my life recently. I’m starting a new job in my company, one far better suited to my personality than what I’m doing now, with the support of my manager, something I never really had before, I’ve replaced my car after fourteen-and-a-half years – used Fiat convertible, totes adorbs – I remain fairly stable health-wise, so once I figure out how I’m paying for it, I can go to Italy with my choir next summer. Pre-transplant, this is probably my last chance to leave the continent. Stable, yes, but declining. Slowly, very slowly, but declining just the same. I don’t dwell on that. No point, really, as it likely won’t have much other impact on my life for a very long time. Not as it is now. I’ll be looking for a new place to live before too much longer.

Part of me is waiting for the bad news, most of me is excited. In general, life is on an upswing for me, something I’ve been working toward for some time.

I didn’t want to lose that joy. Winter is coming, and with that comes colder weather and less light, both of which strongly impact my mood. The news is so negative, and social media allowing the divisions to become even wider, I can’t. Not right now.

That’s where I’ve been. Angry, tired, frustrated, even resigned. Someone is going to win, and it will be the side with the most money, like it always is.

Off-Kilter

It’s been an interesting few months. I think. I mean, I don’t really remember. My days have gone by quickly, too quickly to count. That usually happens when you’re having fun. I haven’t been having fun. As I mentioned last week, I’ve missed things. Reality and I have parted ways, it would seem, and I’m trying to get it back. I had an idea for this week, something light and humorous, but I didn’t write it down; if I don’t write it down, it didn’t happen. I did, however, do something I haven’t done in entirely too long – went out with my camera. I just got back, actually, and am in the process of downloading to see what I got. I tried out my new monopod. I find that after a while, my hands aren’t as steady as they used to be. Not sure what that is, if it’s age or indirectly related to the PKD or what, but pictures that I could take a year ago, or even in the first half-hour of a shoot, I can’t. Not without some stabilizing tool.

Oh, don’t worry, I won’t recount the exciting details of the download, or provide a timeline of the editing, and selection. Instead, I’ll just show.

It took quite a bit longer than I expected. I got distracted. The monopod, by the way, did help in some instances.

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Smale Park fountain, near Carol Ann’s Carousel, Cincinnati, OH
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Smale Riverfront Park near Carol Ann’s Carousel. Cincinnati, OH
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Smale Riverfront Park, Cincinnati, OH
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Great American Tower and Ballpark, Cincinnati, OH
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Smale Riverfront Park and the Roebling Suspension Bridge, Cincinnati, OH
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Downtown Cincinnati from Mt Echo Park.

There were frustrations. My knee has been acting up – it’s gone out on me twice in the past couple weeks so far – and my camera sensor needs to be cleaned, but I managed to make myself leave the house and enjoy myself. Not long, it was getting hot and I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, but long enough.

Maybe next time.

Awry Away

It’s okay if you want to skip this one; it’s turned into a bit more of a journal entry than anything else. Neither a hint for help or a ploy for pity. Your patience, however, is appreciated.

I’ve added some photos if you’d rather scan a bit. – LM


 

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“Big Mac” bridge across the Ohio

Last weekend didn’t quite go as I had planned. There were so many things I was going to get done, including writing, that just didn’t happen. A bit of fatigue and overwhelming stress didn’t help any. I’m hoping for some good news next week. I’m hoping to get back to myself. I still haven’t been out with my camera much at all. I do go to the wine tasting, which is my non-work socializing for the week, but my memory is shot. For instance, I missed a memorial that I wanted to attend last night. I noted it, but not anywhere that I remembered. That’s been my head, lost. Too many things on my mind, not enough things that I want to think about.

I’m not even sure what I’m going to write about. The ideas in my head – and there were many – have disappeared almost completely, leaving me with tantalizing wisps, hints of greatness buried by an overwrought mind. I considered taking a break for a month, get things straight, but I was concerned that it would turn into six months, and that’s not something I wanted. I don’t fit anywhere, I don’t have anything I thought I would by now, I don’t have much in the way of close friends* to just be with. I don’t have any support at home; I just have me, and I suck at being supportive. In many ways, I’m becoming less comfortable in my own skin, instead of more, which is the direction I should be going, have been going for the past couple of decades. I don’t know the last time I did something I really wanted to do, something that usually brings me joy, or at least peace, without having to think about the consequences. I did go out for fun a couple weekends ago, with one of my dearest friends, and the whole time I thought of the physical toll it was taking, and how I wish I’d thought to bring a camera of some sort. Basically, I wasn’t as present as I would like to have been. It did spur me into working out a bit more aggressively, though, so that aforementioned physical toll wasn’t as great, so there’s that. It’s harder for me to see the beauty in the world right now, and that bothers me. I’m in limbo. That’s the long and the short of it. I’m lost, and I don’t know where I am or where I’m going. I think…I think something has finally broken, or at the very least, is teetering on the edge. Something always has to give, and I’m afraid it’s me. This is where my mind is, this is what makes me unfit for human consumption.

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Walking under the Purple People Bridge. Cincinnati, OH
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Pigs DO fly in Cincinnati, OH
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A little peace, a little hope. Cincinnati, OH

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*Let me make this clear – I have friends, people whose company I truly enjoy, with whom I could spend all day, and have. That’s not what I mean. I mean someone I can talk to when my world sucks, who knows when to be silent and when to be snarky, when to give advice and when to let me rant. Someone who understands me.† Those have always been hard for me to find, even when they’re right under my nose (which intellectually, I know I have), and the best is over 1,000 miles away. And if she has any sense, she’ll head to the Pacific Northwest, which would make her even farther away, but a damn sight happier.

†My own trust issues come into play here. I’ve been burnt far to many times. It would be easier for me to learn to ride a unicycle with a passenger than to allow someone see me. “Me” has been shot down and shut down so many times by people I thought I could trust, I don’t let her out much.

Finally, Suddenly August

It’s storming right now, lightning flashing, thunder rumbling, and I’m enjoying a healthy breakfast of gummy bears†. Been a few days since we’ve had one. It was bound to happen; we’ve had a series of warm*, sunny days, and at some point a cool front was going to blow through, which inevitably means storms. Nothing serious, just enough to keep me from going back to sleep. If it were a little later in the morning (wasn’t quite 5:30), and if I lived in a different part of town, I might have grabbed my camera and searched for a place to try and capture it. Not really sure where I’d go, to be honest, it’s not something I ever tried to capture here.

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Serpentine Wall at the end of June. River’s gone down a bit since then.

I took a long weekend. Too many things in my head, in my world, to deal with right now, I needed a mental health day. So I took two. Friday I slept in until 7:30 (Ooh!), and didn’t leave until time for the wine tasting. I couldn’t miss that. Really poor turnout, not sure what happened there. There were four people left at twenty to six; it was weird. Still, I stayed. What else did I have to do? Stomach hurt, not sure what that was about, hips have been bothering me, because I’m too fat for them (it’s more than that, but that’s not helping), and I was exhausted because I’d been exhausted for the past three weeks, but I wanted to go deal with people for a bit. It happens.

Saturday I met a friend for lunch at one of the many restaurants in OTR, one of my favorites, and hung out for a bit on the Serpentine Wall. We even rented a surrey, with the fringe on top‡. I did not have my camera with me. I also didn’t on Sunday, when I was at my niece’s bridal shower. It was hot. Really hot. Not complaining, the alternative is cold. I’ll deal with the walking-out-the-door-and-wondering-why-you-bothered-to-shower feeling over freezing. Today should be exciting; I’ll either do laundry (have to go to the laundromat), or re-watch Mr. Robot. It’s a good show, intelligent. It would never last on network television since it requires actual thought. I could also see about binging on Supernatural. I guess it depends on whether it clears up, and if I feel like having a day where I don’t move. Been over an hour since I got up, and it’s still storming.

In my personal world, there’s some activity for my future that I’m trying to resolve. Employment thing, been trying to get an answer and haven’t, yet. There’s also the aforementioned weight, and trying to find something I can do for exercise. I can’t do exactly what I did last time I needed to drop some serious pounds because of the kidneys. Function means I can’t do the first part of the diet, size means I’m limited in exercises. Yoga, for instance, is out of the question. All the bending would make me nauseous very quickly. Walking for a couple miles does that, too, for the same reason (disturbing the “twins”). Have to find something; this isn’t working for me.

I’m stalling. I wanted to write something about all that’s gone down this week, with the Sam Dubose case in particular. Judging from out-of-town friends’ posts on the day of the decision, the media had us on the edge of our seats, ready to explode. They completely ignored the fact that all the protests up to that point were peaceful. UC closed for the afternoon on that day, and some businesses in the area as well, even going so far as boarding up their windows. To be fair, once the video was released, if they’d come back with any other verdict, it might have gotten ugly. The prosecutor, Joe Deters, who’s not known for his racial sensitivity, felt there was no other option. Without the body cam footage, Tensing would have gotten away with what was cold-blooded murder. Especially since there were witnesses, other officers who came on the scene later, ready to believe their peer’s story, easy to do with no competing story, since the other witness was dead. They were not charged with anything. Not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, they supported Tensing’s story. On the other hand, the human memory is very plastic. Memories can be replaced, if reinforced enough. Doesn’t matter what you saw, it’s what you believe you saw. So I don’t know.

I am not happy. Let’s get that out of the way right now, I am not happy. Indicted for murder, a police officer with a positive history has lost his livelihood because of behavior that did not fit with previous experiences. It does show the difference in the way people are treated based on skin color, something a lot of people are still unwilling to acknowledge. Our own president has faced a ridiculous amount of disrespect from people unwilling to admit that very thing. I don’t mean the ones who just don’t like his policy, and couldn’t care less about the color of his skin, but the ones who pick some irrational, baseless reason to not like him, like where he was born (Hawaii – doesn’t matter, his mother was a US citizen), or claims about his religion (Constitution doesn’t require presidents to be Christian – he is, but that’s irrelevant), or other things that have nothing to do with policy or governing. So, while I am grateful justice was done, that something went the way it should, I am not happy. One man is dead, two families are destroyed.

We have other issues as well. We have children getting shot for no obvious reason. A little girl, 4 years old, outside with her family at a block party, was shot in the head in a drive-by shooting. This has become too common. Some would believe the best thing is to incarcerate everyone. That does nothing but give them more skills when they’re released for parole or due to overcrowding. Redirection, in many cases, would do wonders for this. Yes, there are some who need to be incarcerated, who are completely unrepentant, and nothing anyone says or does will change it. Others have been misled. There are gangs. The disenfranchised are looking for somewhere to belong, something that gives them control over their own lives – or the semblance of it, anyway. Not everyone is willing to roll over and take it, not everyone has the strength to stand up and change it. There has to be an alternative. As more people with money move out of the city limits, the income drops. That’s why the revitalization of OTR is so important, to bring some money back in town. It needs to be done correctly, though, with a mix of economic levels, not just rich and poor.

See, this is why I was putting this off. There are too many things in my head, too many disjointed thoughts to speak coherently on this subject.

I know there are people who refuse to see the forest for the trees, who will not believe they are part of the problem. The fact of the matter is, we live here; we’re all part of the problem. Until we’re willing to acknowledge that – a majority, at least – then nothing will change. Not for the better, anyway.

Party in the Park_0027a1
It’s in there, just have to make the effort to see it.

I’m gonna go get some actual food, now. The bears weren’t cutting it.
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†Haribo Gold Bears, the good ones. Not as good as the ones from Germany, which I can find at Jungle Jim’s, but still the best. I don’t go to Jungle Jim’s all that often – it’s entirely too easy to walk out with $100 worth of food that you aren’t sure what to do with.

*And by “warm” I mean hot with humidity that you could scoop in a cup and drink, air so thick you could cut it with a knife, feels like inhaling hot cotton. Are there places in the US that feel worse than that on a regular basis? Probably. No, not Florida; been there, wasn’t impressed.

‡It was a little short on horsepower – it was a bicycle surrey, so we provided the horsepower. Want to find out just how out of shape you are? Rent one of those and ride up a small hill. Surprisingly, I was not sore the next morning. I may have found something I can do for exercise.

Fracturing

I haven’t spent much time on social media lately. I don’t have the energy. See, my newsfeed is falling apart, becoming factions more and more specific to a particular mindset. No one is listening anymore. The media certainly doesn’t help. They get viewership by creating conflict of some sort. CNN recently upset an entire nation, mentioning the POTUS’s trip to his father’s homeland as a trip into a terrorism hotbed. Why did they do that? Because it’s what they think people want to hear, because it’s scary, because people are far more likely to tune in if the news is bad. Once again, I remind you, Ted Turner tried a good news program, and no one watched. Oh, everyone thought it was a good idea, but no one watched. No, instead people want to see trauma and tragedy, violence and sex, and feel better about their own lives or own decisions, on why they arm themselves to the teeth, and think everyone else (just like them, of course, can’t have the wrong people getting armed – just don’t take away MY guns*) should do the same. All teachers, all medical professionals, anyone who has to deal with the scary people in those places where they themselves don’t live, they should be strapped at all times, in the event someone who is on the news all the time as a dangerous criminal (i.e. everyone else) comes along and starts shooting. Sure, that makes perfect sense. Just shoot ’em all and let God sort ’em out. Of course, there’s always the belief that this country was founded on Christian values, and that any special laws that exist should support that, especially since they are taking over, whenever they is a group that is considered The Enemy (homosexuals, Muslims, atheists, progressive Christians, the Pope, et cetera).

Oh, the other side isn’t immune to this stupidity, make no mistake about that. It’s just right now, the groups who support this brand of inequality are in charge. It changes, of course, although I don’t recall a time in history where it was quite this extreme in the other direction. Yes, there are those who would disagree, who point to laws that level the playing field for the disenfranchised, to social support nets and the odd person who makes a lot of money on them. Many of them appear to be the ones who now believe the Pope is a tool of the Left. That equal rights doesn’t mean everyone has the right to be who they are in public, because it’s icky. That it’s okay to refuse service to someone that you don’t want in your establishment, for religious reasons.

Fear, ignorance, and hate. That’s what those things are. I’m tired of seeing it on my newsfeed. I don’t unfriend those people, though, because I want to know what the fringes – either side – are thinking. I don’t rely on Fox news any more than I do The Huffington Post; neither have the best track record for unbiased reporting. I want to see what they’re saying how they’re pandering to the fears of their viewership/readership, because I want to know what stupidity will be spewing out of the mouths of those who wish to be told what to think.

So, I’ve spent less time on Facebook than I have in the past. And it’s getting worse. Why? Because others who are tired of it are also taking a vacation from it. So that leaves those who wish to be heard, who are “right” while everyone else is wrong, although they certainly don’t mean to divide, as long as everyone agrees, we’ll get along, free speech and all, you know.

I don’t have the energy to deal with it. I have enough on my plate. I make appearances, but I don’t spend anything like a significant amount of time there anymore. People who I thought were rational (on either side) are becoming less so. There are still those who are capable of thought, who express their opinions with supported facts, rather than twisting them to their liking, but they’re leaving, too.

It’s easy to find an opinion that supports your own, easy to find someone who will be happy to use facts to show just how right they are, perhaps leaving out little tidbits that might prove otherwise. I’m sure there will be those who’ve decided I’m picking on one side more than another, and there’s some truth to that. I’m not perfect, I have my own biases. Not my stance, necessarily, but my willingness to listen to other sides, other points-of-view. Mind you, I already make an effort to do that. My opinion on certain issues has changed, too, because of it. It’s also become strengthened in other areas.

Remember when you were a kid and your parents yelled at you for something? Did it change your behavior? Why? Because you knew it was wrong, or because you were afraid of making your parents angry again? Now, remember a time when someone calmly explained to you what behavior they don’t like, and for what reasons, and you changed? Why? Because they appealed to your sense of fairness and trusted you to be able to think for yourself. Did it work every time? No, of course not. But it was a decision based on information, not fear, not ignorance, and not hate.

Listen to each other, okay? Don’t confuse waiting for your turn to talk with listening. Deciding exactly what’s wrong with the other person’s point of view is not listening; you’ve already made up your mind. Just listen. Doesn’t mean you have to change your mind.

Think before you speak or type. Maybe we can stop this fracturing before it’s too late.

2015-07-22 Party in the Park_0075a2
Reflections along the Ohio River

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*These overreaching gun laws that the current POTUS is supposed to have passed, that disarm everyone…where are they? Since 2008, how many people have had their arms taken away, hmm?

Family Reunion

Summer finally showed up. It’s been raining for days and days, not really getting up to 80 degrees throughout the month of June and half of July. Monday and Tuesday even included some pretty nasty storms that knocked out power. I lost power myself on Tuesday, although only for a few hours. Some people hadn’t had power since the night before. Friday, the thunder was loud enough that it felt like a small earthquake. Houses shook all over the city. That was a weird one. Earlier that day, however, it was oppressively hot and humid (gotta have the combination). So was yesterday. When we had our family reunion at the park. Miserable and fun at the same time. I took pictures, of course, but it’s family, and they haven’t seen them yet, so sorry, nothing here.

2015-07-04 Family Fourth_0062b01
Timing is everything.

The 4th was a Saturday this year. That means I didn’t get a day off that week. Sure, I have a floating holiday to do with as I please, giving me 3 weeks vacation this year (whoo hoo – ya’ll over there in Europe are jealous, aren’t you?). Fifteen days of my very own, three of which I bought, well, four, actually, if you count my ArtsWave membership, plus holidays. Which are about impossible to get off unless you ask early. And often. The 4th was at my father’s house, watching the displays of others who’d driven to Tennessee or further to get the good stuff. Much cheaper than getting our own. We had our own, of course, but still…

For vacation, well, I did get to take more than a week off for the family vacation to Myrtle Beach, so that was nice. Didn’t get to spend as much time with the whole family as when we were in Daytona, which made me a little sad, but still, it was Myrtle Beach and not here. Work was, predictably, a nightmare when I returned. We were already overloaded; my co-workers did what they could, of course, but there’s only so much a body can do with their own work, much less someone else’s. Been in recovery mode ever since.

So much has happened in the world, although I’ve not been a part of it lately. The ESPY awards were on, with an apparent focus on cancer. Lauren Hill’s parents accepted her award for best moment of the year, that November evening when she went out on the court for the first time as a Mt. St. Joseph basketball player. Not the last time. She made sure of that. I was so proud of her parents. I bet she would have been, too. And Devon Still…oh man, if you weren’t at least sniffling a little, trying not to cry, you’re not human. The audience was a wreck. With Lauren Hill, it was a little different. The audience was still very moved, but she was an adult. There’s something about a sick child that hits every caregiving gene we have. Just about no one wants to see a child suffering. There are some sick bastards out there who do, sadly, but they aren’t the majority, not by a long shot.

And of course there’s Caitlyn Jenner, with the Arthur Ashe award for courage. I’m still a bit torn on that one. On the one hand, coming out like that, becoming her true self, that took tremendous courage. I can’t even imagine the amount of strength of character it took. Her family supports her, too, and I know that helps. Actually, you know what? I think I’ve just decided where I stand on this. Not that it matters one way or the other; I’m not on the committee who decides who gets what award, but I suppose I’m just telling myself.

As Army Behavioral Specialist, Joey Vicente says, what if her speech saved a life? I should listen to my own arguments. Not sure if it’s something I believed from a previous life, or what. Probably something to do with my own past biases. No one’s perfect, after all, wouldn’t be human. Caitlyn Jenner is a hero. Period. and whomever ESPN chooses to honor with which awards, well, that’s their prerogative. The fact that it was so well advertised for a solid month points to a bit of courage on the part of ESPN and their majority shareholder, Disney. Can’t help but think Walt’s spinning in his grave or freezer or whatever.* He wasn’t a fan of those light in the loafers, as they may have said back then. The concept that gender and sexuality are not the same thing was probably beyond him. Neither here nor there. Disney is now firmly in the human rights support camp.

The Confederate battle flag came down. The SC statehouse flew that on public grounds for a long time. That flag may represent heritage to some, but to many others, it represents segregation, separation, slavery, white supremacy, Jim Crow, inequality, lack of justice, and only being counted as 3/5 of a person. An awful lot of people use it to represent exactly that. Far as I’m concerned, this recent protest says it all. I’m not saying that Confederate memorials should be torn down, rather that as a symbol of division, one of the worst in our nation’s short history, it doesn’t belong on the state capitol grounds. Keep the memorials. Keep the state flags that were inspired by, in part at least, that flag. That’s part of our history. Choose carefully, with thought and reflection, how best to display it. The speed with which southern politicians, republicans in particular, acted to comply tells me an awful lot of them were looking for a way to separate themselves from that flag, to get it off the grounds. There wasn’t much fight in them. Not for that.

It’s been a long summer, and it’s only half over. Back-to-school sales are beginning, though, and the days are growing shorter. This summer will end, and all the controversies will be buried by other controversies, real and manufactured, in time. Right now, though, I’ll just keep away from the news. I have enough stress in my life.

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*Yes, I know good old Walt isn’t actually frozen.

Loving

Saturday, June 26, 1993: My wedding day. Probably the only one I’ll ever have. If the right man comes along, maybe, but I’m not holding my breath. He was a good guy, truly, kind, a bit laid back, not one to party, not so good with money but no one’s perfect; just not the right one for me. It didn’t last, but it was legal. Before 1967, in several states, it wouldn’t have been. Nor would my parents’ marriage. Thanks to Richard and Mildred Loving, and a bunch of other people who helped, we could marry, and it would be recognized in all 50 states.

Friday, June 26, 2015, 10:00 am EDT: The Supreme Court of the United States is wrapping up their 2014-2015 term, with just a few days left. There are some high-profile cases on the docket that require a decision before the term ends, one they’ve already decided. On this Friday, when they share their decisions, they begin with Obergfell v. Hodges. Less than ten minutes in, it’s clear what the decision will be.

Pretty sure you know where I stand on this one.

It DOES NOT mean that places of worship will suddenly have to accept same-sex couples, that they will have to allow weddings in their buildings officiated by their leaders, any more than they are required to perform marriages between persons of different faiths or different races.

It DOES mean those places of worship that do accept same-sex couples, that want to officiate over such a wedding, are free to do so.  It means the state, and the states (not the same thing) must recognize those marriages as legal, in the same way as marriages between persons of different faiths, different races, different genders are recognized.

It DOES NOT mean people will be allowed to marry their children or dogs. That’s just idiotic.

It DOES mean two consenting adults, regardless of gender, will be allowed to enter into a legal contract of marriage, and partake of all the legal benefits therein.

It DOES NOT mean marriage as an institution is under attack.

It DOES mean the institution of marriage is considered important enough that two adults who’ve dedicated their lives to one another would like it to recognized.

If your relationship is threatened by same-sex marriage, then, to put it bluntly, at least one of you is gay.

The comparison between Loving v Virginia and Obergfell v Hodges is not random, nor is it inappropriate. I remind you, Mildred Loving had a statement prepared for the 40th anniversary of the Loving v Virginia decision:

When my late husband*, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married. …

“When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is? …

“I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s widow, felt pretty similarly. Her husband may have disagreed, but we’ll never know for sure. People do grow, and opinions can change.

It’s about time.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered. – Justice Anthony Kennedy, SCOTUS

Alli Yola Engagement 120d

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*In case the other link is broken.

A Moment of Grace

The last week has been difficult for a lot of people, for me on both a personal and professional level. Professionally, I expected; I was off for a week and a half, and while my team members did what they could, they had their own files to deal with. Long days, short nights. I left work at 6:30 on Thursday evening, and back by 6:45 the next morning. I left yesterday around 5:30 – I clocked out before that, just had a brief conversation before I left. It was a rough day for most of us; we were just a bit burnt out. My other team members, with several files, have been working ridiculous hours for weeks. I had, too, but like I said, I had a week and a half off. Helps. There’s a lot to do, and this time of year that’s typical in my line of work, but that doesn’t make it easier.

That’s not the only reason I effectively isolated myself yesterday. Other than live-tweeting during last night’s Orphan Black season finale, I pretty much avoided social networking. And the news.

Wednesday, June 17, nine members of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, SC, were murdered. A place that is supposed to be a sanctuary, a place of peace, was forever changed. The assailant* joined church members during a prayer meeting, and opened fire. Dating from 1816, almost 50 years before the end of the Civil War, Emanuel AME church got its start when Morris Brown and thousands of other black people left the Methodist Episcopal church due to their discriminatory policies. A few years later, Denmark Vessey – who you should be hearing about as part of American history, and not only in February† – another founder, was executed for fomenting a slave rebellion in 1822. Charleston outlawed all-black churches in 1834; it had been illegal to teach slaves to write since 1740, and schools where slaves, freemen and mulattoes could learn to read or write were outlawed in 1819. If you keep them separate and ignorant, it’s easier to keep them in line. The church still met, and remained underground until 1865, when they could once again meet openly.

Churches have historically been involved in some degree in political change. It was one place where people of a similar mind would gather on a regular basis; easiest way to get a message out. That remains the case even now. How politically involved churches should be is a discussion for another time. The fact remains that Charleston made an effort to keep a people down by passing laws making it even harder for them to congregate without white supervision. Pretty common tactic for a group in power to use to keep that power; it’s certainly not unique to the US.

The assailant was aware, at least peripherally, of this history; he reacted from a place of fear. In his mind, the way to keep things the way he wanted was to eliminate the “enemy.” He was born 100 years too late, perhaps; his reaction wouldn’t have been quite so shocking. Not in a place that had laws increasingly restricting the activities of non-whites. For a non-dictatorship, we do have a pretty good history with suppression and oppression. Again, a topic for another time.

Friday morning, while I was at work, I heard a report of streets being closed. One that was mentioned I assumed was closed due to some construction work that had been going on for a while, now. It wasn’t until later that afternoon, when a friend mentioned it, that I knew why. Officer Sonny Kim responded to a call about a man with a gun behaving erratically. The man in the street shot Officer Kim in the chest, multiple times. Officer Kim was rushed to one of the best hospitals in the country, and yet he lost his life. He was wearing body armor. The shooter* continued to fire, aiming at a parole officer who’d come to help, and another officer, Tom Sandmann, who was able to take him down. The shooter’s family was angry, screaming about police shooting civilians. Perhaps we can understand their initial reaction, but the fact of the matter is the assailant attacked. This was not a case of police brutality. I’ve stayed away from social media because of this. I have friends who span the political spectrum, excluding the most extreme, in either direction. Some will use this to push draconian gun control; others will use this as a response to the recent reports of police overreaction in cases where black civilians are involved.

There are people who were afraid there would be rioting because the cops killed another black man. That reaction of fear and ignorance and intolerance  is part of the problem. There are people who want to riot because the cops killed another black man. That reaction of blind anger and fear and ignorance is also part of the problem. Instead of coming together and removing the fear, eliminating the ignorance, these people move ever closer to the edge, further widening the divide that scares them so.

Social media and the ready availability of articles on the internet don’t help, any more than does the 24-hour news cycle. All three of those things have many positives and many negatives. The double-edged sword is the information on all of the above platforms. For the 24-hour news cycle, if there are no viewers, then there’s no news. It’s a ratings game. More people watch when the news is shocking, or supports their greatest fears. A search on the internet will allow just about anyone to find at least one other kindred spirit, no matter how unpopular a particular view may be. It provides many different articles and blogs from news organizations and people who use only research that supports their views, regardless of the accuracy or reliability of the source. Social media has proven to be an effective way to disseminate all of this information, for good or ill.

For now, this continues to divide us. Those who attempt to do the research get ignored; those who can find the most extreme, most shocking, and most plausible for the intended audience get shared. It’s easier to believe the worst of someone who isn’t you, than to make the effort to discover the truth. We’re all guilty. I make an effort not to do that, but I have my own biases. If there’s something really major, I prefer to go to BBC and Al Jazeera for the news report, just because I believe they’re less likely to be going for readers as aggressively as pretty much any US news source. NPR is usually more objective, although some believe it’s a leftist propaganda factory.

Instead of focusing on the death of an officer in the line of duty, on Officer Kim’s wife and sons who are now without him, on the other Cincinnati Police Department employees who’ve lost a brother, instead of considering the assailant’s family, who have their own questions and losses to deal with, this will be politicized. Nothing will change, beyond some overreaction somewhere that may or may not become law, depending on how much fear legislators wish to encourage.

The truly sad thing is the overreaction response isn’t new, by any stretch; it just happens more quickly.

2015-06-06 Myrtle Beach Dawn_0145a
Dawn, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Wanted to end with a little peace; I needed it.

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*No, I’m not going to mention him by name. Does it make a difference? It does to me.

†Blacks did not become a part of American history only in February. The idea of Black History Month was to remind people of that very thing. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be needed; black history, women’s history, hispanic history, these would be part of the curriculum throughout the year, not just in their special months. In a perfect world, history books would be written to depict all history, not the history those in charge of approving the texts want to be shared.