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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Just a Bit Absurd

I’ve mentioned a few times – although I’ve tried not to belabor it – that work has been more than a little stressful and draining. I missed two weeks, I know, and I’m sorry. Two weeks ago, I had worked a lot of hours in a very short time, and I was all but useless Saturday and Sunday. Last week, I was in North Myrtle Beach. I had a post written, and intended to publish it from there, but I forgot. So, I posted it yesterday. This is the post for this weekend.

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The view from the front balcony. All rooms had a beach view. Might not be perfect, but it was a view.

I didn’t have my camera with me all the time, and there were a couple of incidents where I regretted that lack. Who, though, would think of taking the camera with them on the way to the liquor store?

It’s vacation time, and when I’m on vacation, I do enjoy an adult beverage or two. For me, it’s just something to do when I’m having fun. Not necessary, just an option. Without the Friday wine tastings at the grocery store*, it would be months between beverages.

This was a family vacation, so most of my immediate family and associated hangers-on were there. A few couldn’t make it. My younger brother was planning a trip to the liquor store, because it was far cheaper than the bar at the resort (duh), along with his girlfriend and their daughter. My father opted to join as well. It was within walking distance, and it wasn’t ridiculously hot and humid, so a walk sounded just fine. Now, I may or may not have mentioned, but my family is rather large. The immediate family et al came to around 35 people. We had five different suites in three different buildings. Three rooms in my building, on the same floor, one in the building next door, and one in a building across the street. My sister (S2†), her oldest son, his wife and their son, and her other two grandsons were in that one. She had a balcony with an ocean view, and happened to be on it when we crossed the open courtyard between building 2 and building 3. She saw us, we waived; my brother (S6) called her and let her know where we were going, and she decided to join us. Well that’s fine, we can meet her out front.

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View from the other side of the front balcony/walkway.

We get to the elevator in my building and I head up to the room. Since we’re waiting for someone else, I decide to change out of my swimsuit. While I’m gone, the youngest two sisters (S8 & 9) meet up with my father, and decide they’d like to come along as well. They just want to change, first. My father decided to wait for them. Plan to meet out front as before. No problem. Now this is getting to be a large group.

On the street-side of our building, I found my brother, his girlfriend and their daughter – in a stroller – waiting as well; S2 joined us not long after. We were just waiting for my father and the youngest two sisters. While waiting, S2 got a phone call from either S1 or S3; her grandsons were in the lobby of her building, to be picked up. Okay…so now we’re going to have two more children with us.

S2 goes off to pick up her grandsons. We wait. S6 (brother) senses his daughter getting restless, so he goes to walk her around. Now it’s just me and his girlfriend. At this point, I’m thinking this has gotten to be a much bigger event than originally planned. It had gone from just a quick run to the store to a small procession. I mention the absurdity of it all and S5’s GF humors me. She’s finding it a bit absurd herself. Little did I know…

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The beach at dawn, footprints in the wet sand as the tide goes out.

We happen to look toward the garage across the street, and see someone coming. We recognize S2, because we know what she was wearing. Then we notice S3 is leading the pack. Yes, pack. S1 was bringing up the rear, along with her stepdaughter. In between were not just two of S2’s grandsons, but the young (grand?)daughters (I didn’t ask. Meant to, just didn’t) of her current beau, S3’s son and S1’s youngest two, her granddaughter, her stepdaughter, whose name is the same as mine – that doesn’t cause any confusion – and her daughter. They’re coming along; it’s time for them to take a walk anyway. It’s only a few blocks, and they could use the walk to burn off some energy. I start laughing. Procession? This has become a parade! We now have two children in strollers, and 8 more on foot, all under the age of 10 (or maybe 12). Altogether, we end up with 10 adults, 10 children, all heading off to the liquor store. No real incidents with any of them, just a slower pace. When we crossed the street, we briefly ran into two of S1’s older daughters, D1‡ and D3, D1’s fiance and D3’s friend (no other kids her age). For some reason, they didn’t want to join us. Can’t imagine why.

Keeping everything straight? Yeah, me either. Just pretend; that’s what I do.

Our little troop walked through groups of people dining at restaurants along the way. The general reaction was amusement when they realized the size of our little parade. On the way back, we walked down the other side of the street, and through different crowds eating outside. S1’s D3 and friend saw us and joined us again, briefly. She wanted to show us her henna tattoo. It was nice. Got smudged, though. It was a little crowded, you know.

We crossed the street and crossed again, passing a little amusement area, with rides and an arcade. The rides weren’t open yet, but we paused to see how much it would be, since it was in walking distance, and would give the kids something fun to do. It was suddenly rather quiet, and we began looking around, realizing for the first time that my brother, his GF and their daughter, along with all of the walking children, had wandered off. We knew they wouldn’t come to any harm with him, but we were kinda wanting to know where they were. As we passed the arcade, we see is GF poke her head around and wave us on. He’d taken them to the arcade and given them all tokens; they were playing Skeeball when we found them. That was the point when I regretted not having my camera with me.

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Shortly after sunrise. I watched the sun creep up over the buildings. Got a nice series of shots, too.

We stayed a little longer. One of my other siblings got the kids started on a claw machine. The oldest one was rather adept, so she played it for them. There were rubber balls in the machine, and it wouldn’t do but that every kid had one. As I understand it, they went back a couple days later.

Finally, each kid not in a stroller played Skeeball at least once, and each kid, even the ones in the strollers, had a new ball to play with. At last our parade was ready to move on. We marched back, having to rescue a few balls in the process, with one child-induced casualty (she chewed the ball and made a hole – it deflated), and one ball that made it across the street. I got that one. The cars on the road were nice enough to stop for me while I went after it. No one ran into the street, although a few were horsecollared to keep them from doing it. Grab what you can.

That was…an experience.

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*I go for the company; the wine is incidental. Well, the first time it was for the wine. Oh, and the food. The woman who runs the tasting I attend is also a chef, and she tries out recipes to match the wines.

†S2 = sibling 2. I’ve found a numbering system to be more useful. I can number by sisters and brothers, or just number the total. I’m sibling 4 regardless how it’s counted.

‡D1 – descendant 1, her oldest. She has five of them. Four of them came on the trip, three are under 18.

Rough

It had been almost 20 days since I went out with my camera, for fun or profit.

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Dandelions gone to seed, Alms Park, Cincinnati, May 5, 2015

If it were December, or February, that would make sense; the cold and dark get to me every year. It’s May, though, and there have been a lot of beautiful days in that time. I didn’t even go out with my camera on my birthday, and that day was gorgeous! I was up and dressed; got my license renewed, had breakfast out, stopped in a bookstore, hours yet, before I had to be anywhere, and I came home instead, sitting inside, in front of my computer.

That tells me I’m unhappy.

Not just a little unhappy, either, but shading into depressed. I knew that, if I’m honest, but I haven’t had the energy to deal with it.

Even the weekends weren’t a reprieve. By the time Saturday rolled around, I had just enough energy to get out of bed and make breakfast. I only left the house when I absolutely had to. If my license and tags hadn’t expired last week, and I didn’t have friends who’d invited me to the symphony, I daresay I’d have spent my entire birthday in my house, not talking to anyone. Well, not no one, I’d have answered the phone when people called to wish me a happy birthday.

I’ve had days off here and there, but none of them were vacations; they were all sick days. There was a nasty cold, for instance; it started off like a particularly bad allergy attack, and took out my Easter weekend. Most recently, there was a sharp, sudden back (flank) pain with a slight fever that had me concerned about a possible kidney infection. I felt better by the end of the day, but I was still sore. I do have a real one coming up, a family vacation, and I still have to figure out how I’m getting there. Driving myself seems silly. Not to mention uncomfortable. Besides, I’d want to get my car into the shop to fix whatever makes my car squeal when I turn on the A/C or defroster. Without research, I assume it’s some sort of belt that needs replaced.

Of course, then I have to find someone to take me to work or home from the garage, and back to the garage when my car is ready. We have a concierge service through work that will do things like take your car to the garage, but I wouldn’t make anyone drive my car. No driver’s side mirror, so I’ve had to improvise. It broke off when the F350 hit me and caved in the driver’s-side door back in 2007. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I had to drive that from Tulsa to Colorado Springs. That was a bit nerve-wracking.

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Flowers reaching for the sun, Eden Park, Cincinnati, May 24, 2015

Where was I? Oh, right, sad, tired, depressed, affecting whole life, making things harder than they have to be, sapping all my energy and will. Typical for the winter, very atypical after about mid-March, the vernal equinox. Once again, I do have my suspicions for what is fueling this, and I am trying to figure out how to change, but there are entirely too many times when I feel completely alone. No one to really talk to. Not about this. So I continue to go through the motions of life, and try to recognize the bright spots when they come along.

Easier said than done.

Sunday morning, though, I woke up and felt pretty good. The sun had just risen, and I was alert. I left the house a little after 7, camera bag slung over my shoulder, and decided to look for an early morning vista to shoot. I hadn’t felt that drive to take pictures for a very long time. Even three weeks ago, when I last went out, it was forced. Glad I did, of course, but it shouldn’t have started out as a chore. This is what I do to relax, after all, a way for me to shake off the stress of the day. Instead, I drag myself home from work, maybe stop somewhere to get dinner, generally not particularly healthy, or find something at home that I can stick in the oven and remember before it burns, also generally not especially nutritious, stare at the computer, either hanging out on social media or, more commonly, play some solitary game where I don’t have to interact with other human beings, get to bed, and do it all again the next day.

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The Ohio River from the Eden Park Overlook, Cincinnati, May 2015

The “fake it ’til you make it” school of thought is a valid one, truly. You have to be committed to it, though, and have to be able to recognize when it’s time to do something more, when just pretending isn’t cutting it. The last several weeks – months, really – have been a complete blur. I wrote this during the sermon yesterday at church. I was listening, it was about Pentecost and the origins of the church, and it was interesting, but I had to get this out, and since we would be singing once the sermon ended, I needed to do it quickly. Kinda feels like open verse.

Been in a fog, a coma, for several months, now.
Days passing unheeded, unrecognized, slowly, quickly.
Life continues apace while my oblivion persists.
Occasional flickers of life appear –
here, a smile, there, a tear, a touch of joy, mirth, grief and pain,
only to slither away just as the veil begins to lift.
I am not happy right now.
There are many things conspiring to keep me where I lay,
leave me to rot on my own,
life ever so close, and yet, just out of reach.

Bit dark. Dramatic, even. Like I said, verse.

I really did go out with my camera yesterday, though, before church. And it was therapeutic. For a moment, to use my own overblown words, the veil was lifted, and there was peace. Even though the park was trashed – there are grills there, and every weekend, especially when it’s warm, it’s packed – it was peaceful. There was one lone city employee attempting to make a dent in the garbage strewn about the place, poking his pointed stick at things and lifting them to the trash bag in his hands. He must be efficient, though, because that’s the worst I’ve ever seen it look, by a long shot. Usually it looks nice there. The city puts out extra trash cans for people to use, and they still leave garbage all over. Granted, the trash cans are also full, but still. Complete lack of respect.

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The smog dome – significantly less than even ten years ago – makes for some interesting colors. Eden Park, Cincinnati, May 24, 2015

Enough of that rant. Suffice it to say, I need a change, and it needs to be big. I have an idea of what that may be, I just haven’t yet figured out how to make it happen. Well, that’s not completely true, I have laid some groundwork, it just hasn’t paid off yet. I’m back in a holding pattern, with few viable options at hand. The trick is not letting that get to me. Today’s plan – it’s the final day of Taste of Cincinnati. I haven’t been, yet. The family members who would go have already gone, so it’s just me. Not as bad as it sounds, it’s usually just me. I almost prefer it that way.

Nine

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Lazy summer evening in Colorado. Memorial Park, Colorado Springs 2010

Busy, busy, busy! It’s been a busy week. Mostly taken up by work, but it was also a good busy. It was my birthday yesterday, and while I didn’t have something going on every night, I did have things to do. Tuesday it was dinner with the family, Thursday a friend took me out to a restaurant in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Friday was my weekly wine tasting/happy hour, and yesterday, the day itself, was full of exciting things. I started off by renewing my license and car tags. They both expired. Still, I did it nice and early at a location that doesn’t seem to be too ridiculously busy. The person who helped me was working toward becoming the world’s fastest talker, but when she wasn’t being angry at working for the BMV, she was nice enough. There was laughter. Not even mean-spirited.

It did get better than that, I took myself out to breakfast, and then I stopped at a bookstore. I bought some much-needed reading material. Well, maybe “much needed” is a bit strong, since I already had two bags of books that don’t have homes and haven’t been opened, yet. Nah, that’s the right word. I have a few hundred books in my home, not all of them have been unpacked since I moved. I didn’t have the space for them. Then I bought a new shelf and had more space. Still not quite enough, though, I used one of the shelves from a 3-shelf case and moved it to a 5-shelf case. Paperbacks don’t take up as much room as hardcover. I could fit more. Still not enough. I do re-read my books, and I’ve been through I’d say 85% of them at least twice. I do also use the library if it’s a book I’m not sure I’d want. The ones I bought yesterday were either part of a series, or from an author I have a hard time putting down, so that’s how I justify those.

Last night, though, was a beautiful end to my birthday week. Friends from church, in the choir, a couple who keep me in mind for things like this, were going to the final CSO subscription concert, and they had two extra tickets. They invited me and another friend from our choir. The other person plays French Horn, so she’s also a musician. They were playing Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsokov, and the Polovtsian Dances by Borodin. The latter is actually part of an opera, but the music stands well on its own. There was a guest musician due to perform a third piece in the first half, a percussionist, but he had to cancel due to illness. So, we were treated to a late substitution, another Scheherazade by Ravel, with a vocal soloist. It was lovely. Interesting translation in the program. Mostly accurate.*

This same couple brought me along for a tour of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center a few years ago, a time when I didn’t have any extra money to spend. I hadn’t had a job in 4 years at that point, so no, there was no money. It was a church outing, and we had a Jewish scholar – can’t remember if he was a rabbi or just studied – leading us. Our tour picked up a few stragglers, since he had some seriously good information about the scrolls.

Yesterday morning, before heading out to the BMV, I tried to come up with some topic or other to write about. I thought perhaps I’d try something serious. There’s been a lot of discussion about poverty and what appears to be an attack of the poor, at least, from a certain perspective. It made me think.

There are those who like to discount poverty in this country by saying it’s worse in India or Bangladesh or somewhere else considered to be part of the developing world. That’s true. It’s also true that this isn’t a developing country, this one is supposed to be a first-world country. That attitude shows a complete lack of respect for other human beings, telling them it could be worse. Yes, they could be so much poorer economically, spiritually (not speaking religiously), mentally, if they lived in one of those countries. Guess what? This isn’t one of those countries.

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Andre Flanagan near Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine. Stop for a listen and leave some folding money, for he’s earned it. Cincinnati, OH 2014

I could go on about that, about how it’s not just money but environment that makes a difference. When your life is second-hand and almost – almost good clothes, almost decent housing, almost nutritious food, almost good education – there’s more to overcome than just not having money. There’s an attitude to overcome, a behavior. There has to be a willingness to believe there’s a way out, and there has to be a hand somewhere, extended to help. Maybe it’s a tutor who believes, or parents who want more for their children. Maybe it’s a life where you don’t have to worry about your next meal, or where you sleep. Maybe it’s someone who tells you you can’t. Not everyone is motivated by the same thing, not everyone succeeds the same way.

There are those who are convinced this is a Christian nation, that we’re a theocracy. Many of these same people talk about the Constitution like it’s a sacred text written by God. They forget the bit in the First Amendment about the government being prohibited from establishing a state religion.† They also forget Matthew 25:34-40 –

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

There’s a bit about sheep and goats◊ in there too, which provides a great way to shock someone who believes the Bible is the actual word of God, as opposed to an interpretation by man. Especially when you point out defunding programs that aid the poor make them goats and not sheep in this story. In the old testament, there are a number of exhortations for people and the poor as well, some listed here.

Pope Francis summed it up nicely, I think. He was speaking of the economic impact of large families, but it’s applicable in many situations.

“…I can say that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the centre and replaced him with the god of money; an economic system that excludes and creates the throwaway culture in which we live. …” – Pope Francis

That got a bit rambly. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning while writing. I should know better than that. I leave you with this: Be kind; you don’t know what someone else has been through.

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The calm before the storm. Colorado Springs, Colorado 2010

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*It was in French. I may no longer be able to carry on an intelligible conversation, but I can still piece together meaning. Yay, Latin.

†Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.‡

‡Further elaborated on in a 1947 case that went to the Supreme Court, where a statute about student transportation to schools both public and parochial was under fire:

The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and State.” – Justice Hugo Black, 1947

Justice Clarence Thomas has been working to say otherwise.

◊Not a fan of that particular comparison. Sheep tend to blindly follow; goats have to be led.

The One Who Knocks

No, I’m not a desperate chemistry teacher. I’m talking about opportunity. The opportunity I took advantage of at the end of March may well be bearing fruit. Another opportunity – an opportunity to do something that would make me much happier – is coming. And it scares me silly. I’ve never done something so hard. I know I can, that’s not the concern. It’s just that I’m intentionally challenging myself, and I am a bit afraid of success. What if I succeed accidentally? How will I repeat what I did? I could be discovered as a fraud, barely capable of doing what I said I could do, much less of accomplishing even more? No, success is more frightening than failure. I can fail with aplomb. Failure is my bread and butter. I learn from my failures, as everyone should. I learn what not to do, what I should have done, what I could have done, and where to go for answers.

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Where does it go? Won’t know until you walk it. Alms Park, Cincinnati May 2015

Still, I’m tired of thinking “what if.” Moving to Colorado was a spectacular failure. No, really, it was pretty sweet. It didn’t end the way I would have preferred – a triumphant return with great stories and a wealth of experiences, and enough money to hold my own until I could settle into a job that would make my heart sing, but it was worth it. If I had the chance to do it all again, with the exact same result, I would. There was a lot of growth with that move, and I got to meet people who didn’t automatically ask what school I went to. I got to learn my own limitations, and what I could truly accomplish with the tools at hand. Yes, it was a failure, and yes, it was spectacular.

I daresay that helped me to get where I am now, on the precipice of opportunity and change, anxiously awaiting the result, instead of shying away, cowering in terror. If I don’t take the chance I’ll never know what could have been, and I’ll regret. I’d rather not have regrets; not for something I could have avoided. Reservations, sure, but not regrets.

This one seems to be taking quite a bit longer to write. I’ve distracted myself several times over the past few hours. Perhaps what it really is is thinking about the future – my future – and what it means.* Would it have been nice to experience this twenty years ago? To have an idea of what I really like to do? My life would be completely different if I had.  I’d have experience and maybe able to call my own shots, name my own price. Would my life be better? Ah, now there’s the rub. I don’t know. On paper, it looks like it should be, but I don’t know. Maybe I burn out before I’m 40. Maybe I start to half-ass my job, and maybe I get fired. Maybe I can’t get rehired anywhere. Maybe I’m homeless, because I’m too ashamed to ask my family for help. I don’t know. That’s the biggest reason I try to stay away from “if only.” That way lies madness.

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Memorial compass, with a touch of sun in the west. Alms Park, Cincinnati, May 2015

Much continues to go on in the world. People die, some by their own hand or the hands of others, some from disasters both natural and man-made, and for some, it’s just their time. Recently, I learned of a death that hit a little closer to home. A long time ago, near the end of the last century, I was redefining myself. I didn’t realize this was something that was going to happen every few years or so, but that’s neither here nor there. Two years prior, I’d attended a church event for the first time in several years. The Presbyterian (PCUSA) General Assembly was meeting at Riverfront Coliseum (different name now, but that doesn’t matter; it’s always Riverfront Coliseum to me), and because of the structure of the Presbytery, there were sessions open to all. Pretty democratic, Presbyterians. I sat in a room with thousands of others, all sharing a moment of just being, being a part of something so big. I’d realized I missed that. I wanted it back in my life.

For the next two years, there were some pretty significant changes in my life. In that time, I looked for a new church home. I had to get over my initial terror and discomfort, of course, but I managed. I’d found one that I was comfortable with, but the congregation was small. Someone had mentioned a fairly active church in town, in a very nice neighborhood. I was nervous about going, thinking I’d stick out like a sore thumb. One Sunday, I worked up the nerve to go. Within five minutes, I’d felt I’d found it, my new church home. The congregants were kind and welcoming, interested only in seeing my interest. There was no awkwardness, no discomfort. It fit.

Then the choir sang.

If I’d heard them first, I probably would have ignored anything that seemed negative, at least for a while. I have been in a choir off and on for probably 25 of the last 35 years. I wasn’t while I was in Colorado, although in my last months, I did audition for one. My audition wasn’t great, but they did something they usually don’t – asked me to try again at the next audition in January.  By the time January had rolled around, I knew I would have to leave, so I didn’t, but, like going to the General Assembly, I understood that I was missing a piece of me. Hearing this choir was the final decider. This is where I would stay.

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The Ohio River peeks through the greenery, highlighted by the sun. Alms Park, Cincinnati, May 2015

The following January, I managed to make myself go to the first rehearsal of the new year. I was terrified. Here were all these people who knew each other, had known each other for upwards of 30 or even 40 years, and this director who, though not particularly tall, is very imposing. That was one of the best decisions of my life.

There’s a point, I promise.

After some event or other, we had a choir party. There were beverages of an adult nature. I’d brought a bottle of White Zinfandel. I wasn’t much into wine, and hadn’t really tried any. One of the choir members, Tom Mooney, objected. He lectured me, in the nicest way possible†, on the flaws of my wine choice, and directed me to other options. His sharp wit and kindness endeared him to me almost immediately. I looked forward to seeing him every week, and was happy to call him friend. His advice was always sound – and not always about wine – and his charm infallible. When I left for Colorado in 2001, I knew he would be one I would definitely miss.

I was gone for 10 years. In my head, of course, nothing had changed here, but time doesn’t work that way. Quite a bit had changed. For one thing, everyone was older. Minds weren’t as sharp, hands less steady. Changes in the way the services were handled affected everything. Overall for the better,  but the traditional service saw fewer of the younger members. People who were in the choir when I’d left were no longer singing. Including Tom. He’d been fading recently, was in hospice care last week, and Thursday, he was gone.

If I could stomach it, I’d have gladly raised a toast of White Zin in his honor. Except that thanks to Tom, that stuff tastes like Kool-Aid to me, entirely too sweet. So, at Friday’s tasting, I toasted him with a fruity, floral white blend.

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*Hi, how’s it goin’? No reason, I’d just noticed there weren’t any footnotes yet. Felt weird.

†Make no mistake, though, it was a lecture.

Number 112

It’s May. Finally, suddenly, it’s May. I realized this past Thursday or so that for the last several weeks, I’d been spending my time in a fog, and I haven’t figured out quite why. I have a guess or two, but I don’t like either one, since I can’t do much about them. I’ve been slowly cutting things in my personal life, things to do that are either ill-timed for me, or just too draining, so that perhaps I can be less exhausted, and have more energy to do things like go out with my camera. Yesterday, for instance, would have been a perfect day to do just that. I didn’t. I’d thought about going around and shooting the route for the Flying Pig, which just started maybe 10 minutes ago (50 minutes? I can’t remember what time it started). If I can get it together in time, I may do that this morning, since the route lies on my way to church. And if I wanted to go to my grocery store, I couldn’t. Not the way I’d normally go, anyway, since a fair chunk of the route is also in the race. As is one of my alternate routes. Actually, the other one I’d go to, which is only slightly farther, is also blocked off. I suppose there are some benefits to living on the west side.*

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Magnolias in the rain from April. Ault Park, Cincinnati

Apparently a couple of big things happened yesterday while I was avoiding the world.† There was a fight last night between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Apparently, Mayweather won, and pay-per-view went out.

Oh, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a new daughter. Won’t lie, kinda excited about that. I was hoping for a girl. Thank goodness for the generation before, with Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson. Brought up the TV readiness of the royal family. Okay, that wasn’t nice. The Queen was an attractive young woman, one, and two, that’s not what’s important. The Queen is also a very strong woman, and has a great deal of love for the people she rules. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not paying attention. Anyway, her middle name is to be Diana if I’ve heard correctly. I don’t care so much about the name, just so long as part of it *is* Diana.

At least, that’s what I heard on the news just now. I should know better than that – it’s far less distracting for me to listen to music than watch news, and I’ve decided I do want to get some shots of the race before church. It’ll be too late after. I’ll charge up my battery to make sure I don’t miss anything. Nah, I didn’t use my flash last weekend, should be fine, right? Sure.

Friday was a celebration day at work, a play on the name of my employer. It’s an annual thing that usually means a day of not getting much done at all. You work while you can, but there are limits. After all, there was cornhole‡ to be played. Lost. By a lot. Oh, and Pictionary, which we almost won. Good that we didn’t, since my partner wouldn’t have been able to continue anyway. I had things to do, too. That one was a bit closer. I was almost relaxed yesterday. Didn’t know what to do with myself. I have a theory about my high level of fatigue on Saturdays – spent the rest of the week so tense, when I don’t have anything causing tension, I’m lost and don’t know what to do with myself. My body is confused, if you will, so accustomed to the pressure, that when it’s missing, there’s exhaustion. I know it’s not my health – recently had my quarterly checkup, and it’s all pretty much the same as it was three months ago. It’s been so stable that we’re going to every four months instead of every three. Hopefully it stays that way through all of next year, or at least through next June. Choir’s going to Florence, Italy, and I’d like to be there. Have to start saving now, of course.

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View of the Ohio from Eden in the rain last weekend. Eden Park, Cincinnati

Well. I did wash my dishes, and I wrangled the air conditioner into the window yesterday, which is a bit of an ordeal. I even managed to do it without hurting myself, which I always think is a good thing. The long and the short of that is I’d like to have energy on Saturdays to do things I want to do, not just things I have to do. I have to be careful, though, not to isolate myself. Entirely too easy to do, and not helpful. I am still a little sad that I missed yesterday. It looked like it was gorgeous, and we’re in the time of year where those are going to get fewer and farther between. This week will be 80 and above, and I don’t know if you’re aware, but we have a little humidity here in our Ohio River Valley (and Great Miami, and Little Miami, and Mill Creek, and Duck Creek – it’s a bit damp), and it can get unpleasant. I’ve been in Florida in the summer without AC, and I wasn’t impressed.

Now I need to get ready to leave. I have to make breakfast – the places where I’d normally stop if I were in a rush are also along the Flying Pig route. Mile 22 has been marked out in honor of Lauren Hill, fittingly enough. She might have been from Indiana, but it’s still part of the Tri-State, and she’s still ours. I know the story went national, but no way it was anywhere as important as it was here. It still surprises me when I see something so local go national. Devon Still and his little girl, Leah, were a local story that went national as well. The Republic of Cincinnati is a big bigger than I realize, sometimes.

It’s been about an hour; the runners – at least, the ones who intend to win – should be near here soon. I need to go meet them. And find an alternate route to church. And a place to park. That’s in the middle of the route, too. Yay, detours. Maybe next week, I’ll have some photos to share. I still have to eat, though, and bathe, all the things that make it easier to be around me. Plus, we’re going to be crammed in the loft today with some instrumentalists. Doing a Bach piece that will keep us there through the entire service, and it’s going to be warm.

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*The East Side/West Side thing isn’t anywhere near as big a deal as it was up through a fair chunk of my life, but it still comes up. and yes, I also still get lost once I’m west of Vine street. Some East Side mental block, because it’s not that difficult. Except Delhi. Delhi is insane.

†Not quite fair, I was also doing things in the house that needed to be done.

The American Cornhole Association is based just to the east of here, in a suburb of the city. I don’t remember ever seeing this much when I was a kid, and certainly not called cornhole, but apparently it snuck up somewhere while I was in Colorado. Now it’s EVERYWHERE!

Lessons Learned

I wrote a post last night, after I got home. It had about 1,000 words, and covered a wide range of topics in easy-to-swallow chunks. And it was about as coherent as a tired toddler. Yet another reminder why it’s best for me to write in the morning, when the day has not yet begun, than in the evening, when my mind is rehashing the entire day. Even if it means I post Sunday instead of Saturday. All the frustrations and successes jumbled together in an amoebic mass, writing and slithering like a snake ball, waiting to be unraveled by sleep,* it’s difficult to make any sense of them when I intend to, much less when I allow my fingers to just ramble along. Stream-of-consciousness writing, that is, and it’s how I find out what, exactly, I really want to write. Maybe a little backward, but I do start off with a topic in mind. It also makes it tricky to title the posts.

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This Canada Goose doesn’t mind the rain. Eden Park, Cincinnati

So anyway, lesson learned, grateful I didn’t post it, because wow, it’s just not good.

I did have an idea for a topic yesterday, and it was pretty good. I daresay it would have gone viral. Fine, probably not, but I can pretend it would have. I didn’t write it down, though, and I should have. I lose ideas so quickly, sometimes. Perhaps that’s to do with the way my brain works, and is why I learned years ago that if I don’t write it down, it didn’t happen. Still, there’s a grammar rant in there, and a damp afternoon, and the importance of one famous person’s journey over a major disaster.

Saturday morning – Friday night here – there was a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal, about 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu. So far, the death toll is estimated to be close to 2,000. In trying to figure out what date to put, I pulled up a world clock, and got lost in that for a bit. It’s still Saturday in Hawaii,‡ and almost tomorrow on Kiribati, which shows just how arbitrary the time zones really are, since they’re in about the same place in the Pacific. It’s peak climbing season for Everest, and earthquakes can cause avalanches, as this one did. It’ll probably get more coverage than it otherwise might, because a Google executive died in that avalanche. It’s horribly tragic, both because of the loss of life, and because it takes a connection like that before it becomes news. There’s a reason for that, of course. It’s difficult to wrap our minds around something so big. It’s easier if a single face, one recognizable or relatable to the audience, is involved. Individuals from Katrina, the Sumatran tsunami, Japan’s earthquake and Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, they make it more real than just seeing groups of people struggling to survive, dying by the score, losing their livelihood and families in one major disaster.

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An overcast sky seems to make everything greener. Eden Park, Cincinnati

If I’ve calculated the time correctly, it happened during the broadcast of an interview on ABC – Diane Sawyer was interviewing Bruce Jenner† about his gender reassignment surgery. If it had happened in Oregon, the interview would have been interrupted. As it was, unless you were online, you heard nothing. Not if you were watching the interview, anyway. At least, I don’t remember anything. That could just as easily mean I was looking away when there was a crawl across the bottom of the screen, or in the kitchen or bathroom when they mentioned it briefly just before or after a commercial break. It was a good interview, important to watch. At one point, it was mentioned that the hope was maybe it would save a life, and I don’t think that’s too much of a stretch. A person who doesn’t want to understand will not listen, and probably wasn’t even watching in the first place. A person who does, though, someone with a family member or friend going through this, may be able to help that person feel not so alone. Maybe it helped a confused and scared teen decide to talk to someone instead of ending it. Maybe it helped a person decide to stand up against his friends and prevent a beating or murder of a trans person. Without actually speaking to someone, there’s no way to really know.

Again, though, this is an individual, putting a face and a name to something that has been more in the news lately, turning it from “them” to a person, a human being. Is it less important than news about the earthquake and aftershocks in Nepal? Honestly, I don’t know. Personally, I think both are important.◊ Both involve human lives and the loss of them. Saying one is more important than another, that the lives in Nepal that were lost, the people that were left severely injured and homeless, are more important than a teen who has been left homeless by a family that disowned him or her, a person who is attacked because of who they are, even killed, it’s a losing game. Both deserve coverage. Because it’s closer to home, Bruce Jenner received more than the quake in Nepal. It’s why I’m not particularly interested in reading the New York Times or Washington Post. I don’t live there, I rarely have a frame of reference for anything that happens. Is there news of importance to me? Sure. Is it fair? No, of course it isn’t. People are suffering every day, dying every day, from preventable or treatable illnesses, starvation, unsanitary conditions, storms, quakes, volcanoes, floods, or exposure, and it would be very easy to find all of that online somewhere. There’s a limit to how much a person can handle, how much we can process, and how much we can understand before it all becomes noise.

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Capable of begging, anyway. Coral World, St. Thomas, USVI

On a lighter note – a friend shared a video yesterday, of a man with a pet Komodo Dragon. It was weird, and that thing was huge. It was sitting on his lap, probably keeping warm. Still, we know even reptiles are capable of affection, or at least learning how to live with humans. The video itself was fine; I made the mistake of reading the comments on the source page. One person, anxious to show how knowledgeable he (she? I can’t remember) is, talked about the ‘Komodo Dragon,’ and ‘monitor lizard,’ and mentioned ‘Australia’ and ‘Indonesia.’ Once more, people, QUOTES ARE NOT FOR EMPHASIS!!! That’s almost up there with “irregardless,” which is a self-contradictory “word” and should be forever scratched from the mouths of all people. Yes, I fully intended those quotes, and the connotation therein.

In summary – deadly earthquake in Nepal, famous person going public with gender reassignment because the media won’t leave him alone so he’d rather get his own story out before it’s perverted, no writing on a Saturday evening because it’s often incoherent, and abusing quotation marks – single or double – is punishable by death. It’s not? How about using “irregardless” in cold blood? No? Man, that sucks!

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*I won’t say “good night’s sleep,” since that is apparently as elusive as Bigfoot right now.

†Using the name and pronoun he asked to be used for the interview.

‡At the time I wrote that sentence, anyway. Now it’s Sunday in Hawaii and Monday on Kiribati

◊Checking my Twitter feed (I listen to music while writing; it’s easier), I saw that a local man was in that earthquake. I’m sure there’ll be an interview. Oh wait, there already was one with his mother. Again, putting a face on a tragedy makes it more real.