Freedom From Choice (is what you want)

7 Sep

For every person out there who wants to wax complainy about how there’s “too many” candidates in the Democratic presidential race,  thinks the debates have been an overcrowded shit show, or overall deems it just plain silly that so many people are running,  I give you this:

DukakiRemember those days?  When voters were so completely disengaged & apathetic, THIS is the best we could come up with?   I remember trying to work up the enthusiasm to advocate for him, and didn’t get very far.  The only positive quality I could come up with was “he speaks several languages.”

Hence I am over the moon about the possibility of actual, you know, options to consider for 2020.  I don’t know yet who I’ll be voting for, but I am relishing the current circus, not only because it indicates democracy may have taken a much-needed Vivarin in preparation for the big test, but also cuz there is now so much room for humor.  Everyone on the slate – fodder for The Disgruntler.  So let’s get on with it.

Biden

Dictionary. Def. Look it up.

Biden. What up, JB!  A nice-enough seeming guy, been around the block a few times, probably do an OK job as Prez, but I don’t think we can afford to set the bar as low as “OK” anymore (cough cough Dukakis cough), can we?  What with imminent environmental and economic disasters looming, electing a person who is essentially the very dictionary definition of Status Quo isn’t going to cut it.  Plus, the dude casually sidled into the race, fashionably late, with the attitude he was already a shoo-in, and then looked bewildered when people started asking him tough questions.  “Look – I’ve been answering tough questions since before most of you were born.  If you want to ask me questions like this, well then I’m going to have to keep giving half-cocked answers then launch into an unrelated, awkwardly-delivered diatribe about stuff I did once.  I can do this all day, guys, really, so keep it coming.  Next?!” 

Elizabeth Warren ♥. She is the professor I always really admired, but knew I would disappoint ♠. Her platform is so extensive, well thought-out and articulated, it makes me feel ashamed.   Every time I read another of the amazing plans she’s developed to fix This Mess We’re In,  I am uncomfortably reminded of my inability to live up to my own potential, and all the times I BSed my way through things that I really should not have. So I’m guessing she’ll probably end up with my vote.

obama grey

poor bastard

BERNIE.  Sorry dude, I was behind you 100% last time, and it’s a bummer that the progressive wave that started swelling thanks to your strong showing in 2016 may very well leave you behind in the backwash.  But you are OLD!  Which is a very valid concern, methinks:  the U.S. Presidency is officially the Worst Job in the World, and turned relative spring chickens Clinton and Obama into grey-haired, stressed-out lookin’ dudes by the end of their tenures.  What’s to become of an already white-haired fellow in a pressure cooker like that?

yangbotAndrew Yang.  The Yangster!  Silicon Valley ‘Drew!  Maybe a tad too Libertarian for my taste (they’re so salty! you know, like nuts), but I dig this guy on some levels.  He is funny, personable, smart, and most importantly, discussing very real concerns about the future that no-one else seems to be thinking about.  And he regularly talks smack about Amazon, which is nice. Anyway, apparently we are on the precipice of a predominantly roboticized economy, and the Yangster wants to make sure we’re all taken care of when that happens.  So that’s cool, thanks for looking out for us, Drew, BUT – what about the part where we FIGHT OFF the impending robotifying of everything? The assumption he’s operating on here is that we’re all just going to roll over and let that shit happen with zero pushback, and that doesn’t sit right with me. Oh well, as long as I’ll have my $1K/month UBI rolling in, I won’t have all that much to complain about, I guess …..

Mayor Pete!  OMG YOU ARE SO ADORABLE.  You’re definitely saying a lot of the right things, and doing so SO eloquently, you sometimes give me chills a little.  But then maybe I’m just catching a cold.  Gimme a call in another 8 or 10 years when you can grow a full beard and we’ll talk.

beto-orourke-wearing-metallica-shirt

hottie with sub-par skillz?    highly possible

Beto, my punk rock brutha!  I would love for it to work out between us, really I would, but I’m not sure.  I’ve had relationships like this before – when you finally manage to drift into the Hot Guy’s orbit, get to know him better, and then wake up one day to realize he’s not quite as Hot as you thought.  It’s not just the amateur-level cunnilingus and farting in bed I’m talking about here, but how readily the thin veneer of Cool cracks open occasionally to expose the floundering wannabe inside.  Maybe he & Mayor Pete can strategize together for a few years and get back to us.  Next?!

Kamala (sorry, no, it’s pronounced “Kamala”) – I want to be able to say I have her back, oh so badly I do, because I thoroughly enjoy how truly terrifying she can be, and would be proud to have CA represent in the WH.  But I am never entirely sure WTF Senator Harris is talking about half the time, and you just gotta know she’s got loads of skeletons in that big-ass closet.  All the candidates do, I suppose, but politics in SF is a brutal bloodsport, and that’s where she cut her teeth, so, to quote Joey Ramone, I don’t wanna go down to the basement on that one.  Or I don’t think I do.  We’ll see.

And the rest of you candidates?  Julián, Cory, Tom, Marianne, et al?  Egads, I can’t take you all on!  This field is overcrowded, dammit!  And Marianne is really far too easy of a target anyway.

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La Playa Perdida

31 Aug

“Check out her tits!”

Such was the beginning of the end of my family’s multi-year sojourns to Burning Man.  We’d enjoyed a good four- or five-year run, towing our elementary school-aged son out to the Playa for a week’s worth of wholesome, dusty family fun and creative inspiration in the desert.    All of those years had been, up til the point I overheard the above prophetic utterance, blissfully douchebag-free.

Ye Olde Adage that Nothing Lasts Forever had, in that moment, suddenly proven itself true. The “thing” that did not last, in this case, sadly, was what had been my favorite aspect of Burning Man: no Regular People.  The straight world held no quarter here; it was the land of Freaks Only, and participating in it was liberating.  Any of my fellow Weirdos out there can attest to what a burden it is to have to live among the rest of you, half-assedly feigning interest in your football games and Kardashian dramas and Black Fridays and latest apps and exclamations of “check out her tits!” It had been so thoroughly refreshing to be free of all that on the Playa, to meet nothing but smiles from other outcasts, maybe have someone hand you a giant pickle, make up your fortune on the spot, or sing you a song.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My little man with The Man, circa 2002

But now the people and consumer culture we’d come out to the desert to escape were here. Booo.

Each year we had dutifully packed everything in and meticulously out, brought our own food, shelter, water, artmaking materials, and homemade gifts to hand out to strangers, all in the spirit of Burning Man’s professed celebration of Radical Self-Reliance.  It was a lot of work, but worth it for the pure joy of a dusty week of freedom. Thus, that blaring clarion call of “Check out her tits!” wasn’t just the sexist banality of some blockhead.  It was the encapsulation of all that is wrong with the straight world, and it was utterly crushing to discover said world had found its way out to the Playa. Not at all surprising, really – much of the best art and ideas ultimately get co-opted and absorbed into the mainstream – but a bummer nonetheless.

Fast forward another 15 years, and Burning Man is now so famously highfalutin, it attracts visits from celebs like the actual Kardashians.  Google and Facebook execs stake out entire air-conditioned compounds, and – actually, I don’t really care what other emetic nonsense is going on there nowadays.  I just know that paying an extra couple grand on top of your admission ticket to join a theme camp where caviar is delivered to you by drone and all your other needs are provided for on demand doesn’t sound much like Radical Self-Reliance to me.  Nor does that sound like anywhere I want to be.

But don’t listen to this curmudgeon! If you’ve always wanted to go and haven’t yet – do it.  The art will absolutely blow your mind, and you’ll have the immense satisfaction that comes with crossing something off your bucket list. Most likely you are not a Freak (since we are in the minority), thus better adjusted than I when it comes to comingling with non-Freaks, so will have a perfectly lovely time.

And don’t forget to check out some tits!

Being 2nd Class Feels Like #2

11 Nov

Mere days before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, a young male colleague overheard another female co-worker and I make passing comments about “always having to be ready” for some asshole to step out of the shadows (or even in the light of day!) and rape and/or otherwise mess with us.  Not because we’re shit-starters, but because we’re, y’know, women.

Wide-eyed and amazed, my young male work friend admitted “Wow, I never thought about that. What a drag!”  I gave him a pass on that ignorance, given that he has only fairly recently entered the realm of adulthood and is, in fact, a genuinely nice guy.  However with the international shit storm now transpiring around sexual harassment in all its forms & milieus, I imagine (hope) my previously ignorant friend is experiencing a Big Education right about now.  Because, well, I sort of am too.

I was a 70s California Kid raised in a Single Mom household energized by the new promise of Women’s Liberation.  For much of my young life, I was under the misguided impression that all the Bad Stuff had been fixed for us gals, and we were now free to do as we pleased.  Sure, maybe we didn’t make as much money as men yet, but surely that was right around the corner, ya?  Oh, most certainly.

Other than having my virginity taken from me in high school via what the kids today call “date rape” (at the time I just thought of it as “going further than I really wanted to go”), I am fantastically fortunate in that the degree of sexual harassment & violence I’ve suffered throughout my life has been relatively low-level.  It is the garden variety kind that any American woman or girl can most likely attest to: annoying cat calls and uninvited conversations, the need to cross the street to avoid potential Male Hazards, never going certain places alone, and the occasional discomfort of an inappropriate comment made by a teacher, co-worker, and sometimes even a “friend.”  While I can’t say I’ve taken all this “in stride,” as the realistic pragmatist that I am, I’ve just acknowledged all this as a Very Unfortunate Given.

And that is why I’m experiencing my own Big Education right now.  The first harsh slap came on November 8, 2016. Like many people, I was weepy, bitter and nauseous for days afterwards.  I felt utterly belittled and humiliated by a country that so enthusiastically reinforced what I already knew:  I am a Second Class Citizen.2nd Class

As the current, progressively Nastier Year** unfolded, the secret misogyny that has simmered below the surface of polite American society for, apparently, decades, is now boiling over all over the place.  Need birth control?  Oh no, we won’t allow women controlling their own bodies or destinies.  Want to speak your truth?  Be prepared for a vicious onslaught of trolls!  Don’t like your creepy Uber driver?  Too bad, you called him so he is now free to express his need to rape & kill you with total impunity.

And now, the Weinstein story and ensuing clusterfuck of sexual harassment revelations amongst a myriad of professions.  While I am not the least bit surprised by any of it, the apparent magnitude of the issue is shockingly beyond what I had imagined. Because I have spent my entire work life entrenched in mid-sized arts nonprofits – a business sector predominantly run by women and not generally motivated by the pursuit of power – I’m guessing that is why I seem to be one of the rare few women who has suffered absolutely no on-the-job harassment.  Sure, a Board member once asked me to go “fetch him a sandwich” (I refused), and I’ve had to literally wrestle a fake priest to the ground to retrieve a stolen checkbook from his grip as he called me “a worthless gutter punk and insult to womanhood,” but I consider those particular episodes personal victories.

I’m still not sure what to do with all these new realizations.  I feel suddenly vulnerable, lucky, sympathetic and enraged all at once. But I guess that’s womanhood for you – us females are just so emotional, you know.  Yet we endure, and as many people have been made aware as of late, we persist.

** BTW:  This year hasn’t been 100% horrible:  I DID get married to the love of my life.  And he isn’t a misogynistic asshole – there are, thankfully, still a few of those left.

Now For Something Completely Different

1 Jan

I was born a Skeptic.  I literally came out of the womb that way; my mother can confirm this.  I never believed in Santa Claus, spent a lot of time irritating adults with uncomfortably penetrating questions, and have a total lack of ability to just take things at face value.  It’s physiological, I swear; my brain just naturally gravitates in that direction, without any assistance from Conscious Me.  i.e., I’m not TRYING to be a pain in your ass, I just AM a pain in your ass.

Yet also I am, inherently, an Optimist.  Many who know me may question that statement, but it’s true.  For whatever reason, I have a hokey underlying faith that Good usually prevails, and that humans and Humanity will ultimately work out our vast array of problems.  (Granted, “ultimately” may be centuries in the future, but that’s OK – it’s a process.)  I try to send out as much positivity as I can, usually in the form of Gratitude-to-the-Universe type vibes, with the hopes that keeping cosmic Good Juju afloat will do someone some good, somewhere.  So while I may constantly question the Universe, I guess it’s just because I want it to be the best it can be.

(Egads, sounds like the twisted logic of an abusive spouse -“Melania, I only criticize you because I know you can be better!” – Er, well, that’s totally not me. Or at least I don’t think so …. )

ANYWAY it is with that same dichotomously skewed eye of optimistic skepticism, or skeptical optimism perhaps (depending on the day), that I have approached social media since I first signed on (resigned?) to that particular party some years ago.  After all, I say Yes! to freedom of expression and Yes! to alternative, emerging forms of communication and Yes! to Why The Fuck Not? and figured I should at least try it before I knocked it.  The Skeptic said fuck-that-noise, but the Optimist said there’s-gotta-be-something-worthwhile-there, and the Optimist emerged victorious.

For most of the ride, I’ve managed to keep social media at an arm’s distance.  While the Theatre Major/attention whore in me would love to constantly post post post, a vague sense of decorum, as well the general understanding that the world does not, in fact, revolve around me, has fortunately reined in that impulse. My interest at first was, like most folks’ I’d imagine, primarily recreational – staying updated on various friends & family’s doings, taking one of those stupid fucking quizzes (why?), and maybe getting in a little News Lite.  I remember that the passing of Lux Interior (RIP 1946-2009) was the first crushing celebrity death I learned about on Facebook (sad face).

It’s only the past two or three years of touring the wonderful world of Facebooklandia (I am a relative Luddite; FB is the only social media waters into which I care to dip a toe) that my Skeptic has really kicked in.  Not surprisingly, in the most recent of said years, that skepticism was in full-blown overdrive.  Yet almost never in the midst of that ever-increasing media hysteria did I point out to friends that the “news” source they’re citing isn’t all that vetted, or that fixating on the various hollow shenanigans of Our Evil Overlord-Elect To-Be was just a distraction from likely much greater horrors, OR – full disclosure – did I myself manage to remain completely free of the pull to join the downspiraling frey, chonies temporarily bunched into thick wads over something OEOE To-Be said or did. I too am guilty of allowing myself to be flushed down that particular toilet.  Even the Skeptic gets pulled in. Blame the Optimist, I say.

So as I face a new year with much trepidation, I still don’t know which of those two attributes will serve me best in the New World Order.  Excessive optimism is perhaps partly to blame for the “disaster” (to echo some of OEOE’s favorite hyperbole) of November 8th, but to move forward into this new horizon without at least a shred of that optimism will be unbearable.  Skepticism is useful, but applying it indiscriminately doesn’t win one all the friends and collaborators needed to make the future a more rockin’ place.

Deep sigh.  The answer is out there somewhere.  Or, quite possibly, it’s not.  I may be only skeptically optimistic, but that’ll have to do for now.

.xylo

On My Mound

24 Oct

What IS it about The Baseball?  Or perhaps, more specifically, The Giants?  When once I was a non-believer, interested only in enjoying the architectural beauty of Our Stadium, eating garlic fries and gazing wistfully out across the Bay – invariably missing the sporadic, unpredictable bursts of action down on the field – today, mysteriously, I am one of the converts.  In Bruce we Trust.

“What happened to you?” my family members keep asking, suspicious not only of my newfound enthusiasm, but the mere fact that I would have the slightest interest in any sports whatsoever.  My lifetime Punk Rock Aversion to Sports was once perhaps greater than that of my ilk, aggravated as it was by sour memories of my father, simultaneously watching football on TV while listening to baseball, his transistor radio held inches from his head as he ate dry handfuls of Grape Nuts. I would spend that precious father-daughter bonding time bouncing around the living room, jumping from sofa to floor to tabletop with a furious, desperate “Dad look at me Dad look at me!” energy, but to no avail.  But I’m not bitter:  if it wasn’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have ended up in gymnastics, and later, as the notoriously attention-demanding adult that I am today.

Zen. Fucking. Perfection.

Zen. Fucking. Perfection.

I am not going to bother to try and describe the layers of beautiful Zen perfection that is The Baseball. So many others have already done this time and again, considerably more adeptly than I would no doubt, so I won’t join the fray.  But it IS there – the layers of beautiful Zen perfection that is – and I am awed by it.  Also at my age there is now the added bonus of unabashedly discussing the fuckability/lack thereof of each player with my fellow Giants fan/cougar housemate, and comparing how much nicer baseball bodies are to football bodies (ew!).  And the addict in me deeply appreciates the rabbit-hole quality of knowing that this game, this inning, or perhaps the next one, or surely the one after that, will really be IT, you know?

We just have to keep watching.  Vamos Gigantes!

The Pariah Chronicles (yes, again), Vol. III

26 Sep

Lately here at Pariah Central, we’ve been contemplating the ever-growing possibility that the Wounder (yours truly) and the

This Guy.

This Guy.

Wounded (baby-daddy) shall perhaps never speak again.  He and I have settled into a comfortable habit of terse texting, characterized by a predictable pattern of lengthy logistical questions reciprocated by one-word answers.  What would we do if we were suddenly transported to an earlier, pre-texting era, I wonder?  Hopefully I would be fortunate enough to have a manservant at my disposal to deliver beautiful, handwritten notes on the highest grade parchment.

And oh! At one time we were so close to actually exchanging words!  Several months ago we both attended our son’s high school graduation, driving there together in the very same car and sitting on either side of the same corner of the dinner table at Boulevard (fancy restaurant name-dropping totally unintentional, btw).  That was followed a few weeks later by an email exchange that involved full sentences, as well as some thoughtful responses, so I felt encouraged that perhaps Resolution may soon be around the corner.

That's the ticket.

That’s the ticket.

But since then, something has gone amiss.  Either some sort of decision has been made – to which I am not privy, of course – or perhaps a tinge of mental illness has started to settle in.  Based on intimate knowledge of the Wounded’s proclivities, my suspicion is that it could very well be the latter, unfortunately. Not meaning to be cruel or glib (me?), in all actuality, it is not outside of the realm of possibility that he has created an entirely new reality for himself, one based on a memory of spending the past 18 years at sea, exploring new lands, whaling, carving scrimshaw and collecting specimens for his vast collection of rare gemstones.  The progeny that now lives with him is the result of a chance, passionate encounter with a mysterious Nordic maiden who disappeared into the night as ethereally as she entered it, returning many years later only to deposit their teenage son at his doorstep and slip away without a word.  Yes, the silence and solitude would appeal to him.

Though I suppose I don’t blame him.  I conjured up a bit of an emotional shit show thank you very much, so getting as far away from that as he could was probably a pretty good idea.  And as we all know, fantasy is considerably more appealing and satisfying than reality … unless you’re talking about the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Or World of Warcraft.  Or basically anything in that same vein with pointless quests and clanging swords and ridiculous beasts and whatnot. Horribly tiresome, that.

So. Much. Safer. In. Here.

So. Much. Safer. In. Here.

Of course, Option#1- that of making some unknown personal decision that has sealed off his already difficult-to-access self from me permanently – is an equally plausible potential reason for the silent treatment. Unfortunately, that option leaves me to dwell in the world of Conjecture, Hearsay and Rumor, and I’ve never been a fan of that neighborhood, so I best be getting on the 14 Mission back to the Excelsior straightaway.  Fuck, my Clipper Card’s empty again. I guess I can walk.

So what will this future of sustained non-verbal communication be like?  (And by non-verbal I in no way mean the fun, pleasurable sorts of non-verbal communication with which most adults are familiar.)  When I try to envision it, for some reason I keep thinking of that scene in Walk the Line when Joaquin Phoenix/Johnny Cash is pouting and moping about Reese Witherspoon/June Carter, and he’s all fucked up on booze & pills and gets his tractor stuck in the mud down at the bottom of the hill. Reese/June’s mom tells her daughter to go talk to him, to which Reese/June replies “oh Momma, he needs to figure that out himself, I’m not gonna go down there with him!” and Momma says “You already ARE down there with him, girl!”

Yeah, it’s like that.  Only without the storybook ending part.

The Pariah Chronicles, Vol. II

9 Jul

In which The Disgruntler continues to whine about her current state of affairs; see previous post for backstory.

Revelation of the day: Being a pariah means that you 1) wait around a lot, and 2) generally have to keep your mouth shut, or at least try to.  Funny story, though: it just so happens that those are the two things I’m worst at.   Both of them are standard expected etiquette of a pariah, because as the vilified one, you are never to take the lead in communications with your Injured Party, insert your opinion into any conversation, or otherwise draw undue attention to yourself (like say, by blogging).   You have to be a reactor, not an actor, and always Know Your Place. good-dog

What’s unclear is how long this state of docile humility is supposed to last.  I know of other former pariahs who have paid their penance, then moved on to the much-coveted state of Resolution in a matter of months, weeks even.  But most likely, in those cases, their Injured Parties aren’t as emotionally constipated or prone to a glacial pace of decision-making as mine.  Also my particular Fuck-Up(s) – the ones that earned me pariah status – are fairly stellar, and I imagine the severity of the Fuck-Up has a direct correlation to the ultimate duration of one’s pariahdom.  Surely there must be a handbook for this somewhere; I’ll check the interwebs.

In other news, the upside to Waiting Things Out is nights out with girlfriends for cocktails, live music-enjoying, and general carousing.  Which is, of course, not something to be flaunted before the Injured Party (like say, by blogging), but it does help mitigate the Wait.  Not so great for the Keeping One’s Mouth Shut part however, though in my case, so far so good; I adhere firmly to the edict Don’t Drink & Text, You Fucktard.  Words to live by.

Stay tuned for more informative missives from Pariah Central, where I’ll continue to report out from the front lines. Er, well, to the degree that I can anyway, given the imposed restrictions of #2, above.  Actually #1 is also giving me a little trouble here too, since there’s only so much to report until I see some signs of life from my Injured Party. But there’s ways to jump-start that …. like say, by blogging.