Friday, November 22, 2013

I don't heart New York

I’m still not sleeping well. Haven’t all week here in NYC. The past two nights I took a sleep aid that I got at Duane Reade. That’s basically Walgreens in New York City.

Someone had recommend ZzzQuil, but I ended up getting a generic pill: diphenhydramine. (Same active ingredient. Last night it didn’t seem to help much at all. I think the night before it may’ve helped get me to sleep, but I didn’t stay asleep. I was awake off and on all night. Every night’s been the same. Yesterday I stayed in and tried to nap during the morning and afternoon. But it wasn’t very satisfying sleep—just the same as nights here, awake off and on, both my body and my mind were tossing and turning and not being able to settle down.

I’m ready to be back in my apartment in North Carolina. I'd forgotten about 5-floor walk-ups and subway staircases and inclines and hills. New York City is rough on my feet and shins. But it’s also rough on my…brain? soul? self? Whatever. I’d also forgotten that I just do not much like it here. 


Much like anywhere else, it’s okay when I’m actually in rehearsal, but the rest of the time it’s pretty miserable. I think the general problem I have of feeling desperately alone is compounded here by being surrounded by so very many people—people I don’t know, people I’ll never really connect to.

There are people here that I do know, but I’m not very close to any of them. It’s just the same story I’ve been telling for years now. This is my life now, and I don’t want it. But it’s been this way for so long, I’ve gone down a path that’s lead me here. (And, to extend this path metaphor) I feel like it’s sort of a one-way dead end combined with a cul-de-sac, with no side roads leading out. 

This is not good. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

“crazy subway person”


Earlier tonight, just as the subway pulled up to my stop, there was a crazy person yelling. He seemed crazy, or perhaps he was just legitimately upset about some injustice done to him. Either way, his behavior seemed “crazy”. He just sort of started screaming about how “They weren’t gonna do this anymore,” or “They better stop,” or something like that. And he moved to the end of the subway car and was hitting on the door that leads to the next car, then trying to open it but also just trying to (what seemed like) make as much noise with the door as possible. Still yelling about whatever it was. 

I’m fairly certain he had been on the car already, at least since the previous stop. He did have the look of a homeless person. And I can’t be sure it was him, but there was the smell of unwashed human flesh filling the car in the few minutes before his strange behavior. 

It was quite sudden and violent, more than the average “crazy subway person” who might talk a bit loud and say strange things. And at this stop that whole end of the subway car, where I’d been sitting and where the door was which he’d been banging on, sort of emptied out. It was like he started this sudden violent fit, and people just wanted to get away. There’s no way to prove this, but I would be willing to bet money that some of those people had not intended to get off at that stop. Quite a few of them just seemed to stop after getting of the subway car and turned back to watch what he was doing, instead of actually heading for the exit. 

It’s the first weird subway behavior I’ve witnessed this week in New York City. I think yesterday there was some guy who entered my car and announced that he was selling something—newspapers, I think. Or maybe he was just asking for handouts. I’m not sure. And then he moved on to the next car. I haven’t seen anyone performing in a subway car, though I’ve seen a few musicians playing in the subway, and heard a few more. A few nights ago, there was an interesting guy playing a ukulele and singing at the southeast corner of Central park. I had my camera and I wanted to take his picture, but he shook his “no”. 

When I used to live here (like 4 or 5 years ago) my subway favorite was a mariachi band. I’m not sure if it was always the same guys. But they played pretty well and seemed to be having fun. Maybe it’s just the style of the music. Haven’t seen them this week, though.

problem solved


I’d noticed lately a problem with the quality of the pictures I uploaded on my 2 photo blogs (My Photog Blog & My Naked Blog). It was as if the pictures had been re-edited. In some the contrast, brightness, etc had been altered. In others there was an almost pixelated look. Still others were grainy, much less clear.

I had thought maybe it was an issue with my new camera. Maybe the higher resolution was causing issues. But I think now I think perhaps it’s just that it became more noticeable with pictures from the new camera.

I clicked blogspot’s feedback button, wrote about the issue, and submitted it. Then a message came onscreen that said something like “We can’t respond to all the feedback we get, but we’ll try to use your feedback to improve everyone’s blogspot experience.”

So, this morning I googled the problem and found several people had blogged about it and how to fix it.

It turns out the problem is that Google+ has a default setting that automatically “improves” or “enhances” the pictures you upload. So I had to go in to Google+ and change those settings.

It’s just annoying that there would be that type of automatic setting. If I post a picture, it seems like I’d be okay with the quality without your “enhancing” it. In the case of my recent picture uploads, you made them look worse. That’s crazy.

Anyway, I went back to most of my posts from the past few weeks, deleted the pictures that were there, and re-uploaded my originals. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

dreaming of the beautiful cashier


I haven’t slept very well the past few nights. I usually don’t sleep well when I’m someplace new. I’m staying with a friend in Harlem this week while I’m in NYC for a cabaret. There are lots of different sounds here, much more and louder than what I’m used to in my apartment in North Carolina.

I think slept pretty well the first few hours last night. I had a couple of dreams. I don’t recall any details of the first one at all, though I have this vague sense that it was something to do with dating or sex or something like that. I woke up briefly after dream #1, but went back to sleep.

In the second dream I was unwillingly looking after someone’s child—a little boy about 8(?) years old. I didn’t really know him nor his parents. The reason I was looking after him was in the dream, but I can’t remember it now. I do remember that he was a total brat.

I took him to some store, but left him out in the car. I was going to run in for just a few minutes to get a bottle of Jameson whiskey. The store was something like a drug store, or maybe even a smallish department store. It was not a liquor store. And it was definitely not the real-life grocery store where I normally shop. But the beautiful cashier I see at that grocery store was working there. She was stocking shelves or something right next to where the alcohol was. Or maybe where it ought to have been; they may not have had any alcohol. Anyway, she asked if she could help me; I told her I was looking for Jameson, and she said they didn’t have any.

I left the store in a bit of a huff and a bit of a hurry. This beautiful cashier from the grocery store where I normally shop had apparently been trying to talk to me as I was leaving. But I hadn’t heard her. She followed me outside. It was as if instead of me seeing her from time to time and sort of wanting to talk to her or ask her out but never doing it, she had been seeing me from time to time and wanting to talk to me or ask me out but never did it, until right then. But I was in a hurry and couldn’t really stop to chat. I had to get the bratty child back to wherever he (or we-?) were supposed to be.

So, I was going to give her my card and she could call me or text or email. But for some reason I didn’t have my business cards with me, I had some other weird card that wasn’t mine and looked really cheap, printed on regular paper. I dropped those “cards”, and they scattered on the ground. I tried to pick them up, but the beautiful cashier’s boss came out to yell at her for leaving the store when she was supposed to be working. Then the boss was yelling at me for distracting her worker and for “throwing” my business cards on the grounds, and then she started mocking me for having cheap, ugly business cards. And then she realized that I was there with this bratty kid and thought it was horrible that I left the kid out in the car. The whole time the beautiful cashier was sympathetic toward my plight and even apologetic about the yelling boss, though she did seem bothered by the kid I left in the parked car.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .


Well, that’s the dream. It just sort of stopped there. As many dreams, it had no real conclusion. I think I may’ve woken up, which ended the dream. I’ve never dreamed about the beautiful cashier from the grocery store where I normally shop, or not that I recall. I’ve mentioned her in a few facebook statuses.

Sometime not long after that dream I woke up. Then I slept fitfully off and on the rest of the night…well, morning. It was around 2am when dream #2 ended. 

I can’t help thinking how awesome it would be if the beautiful cashier expressed some clear interest in talking to me. As it is, I don’t think I’ll ever really pursue her. The concept of her I have in my mind is this unrealistic beautiful “thing”. And while I’m not actively imaging her personality more than the general sort of friendliness she (sometimes) displays as a cashier, I have little doubt that if I got to know her, I’d probably find who she really is to not fit with “the beautiful cashier” somehow. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

“My train ride to New York” or “Yeah, we killed some guy"

Yesterday (Sunday, Nov 17th) around 9:20am an Amtrak train struck and killed a man just outside of Mebane, NC.

I was on this train. “The Carolinian” from Charlotte to New York City. I got on at Greensboro.

I think I’d been on the train for less than an hour when this accident happened. I was in the back, I believe it was the last car, so we didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t see any police cars, or anything that was going on at the front of the car.

At some point, after we’d been there for a little while, there was an announcement that we had hit “something”, and they didn’t know what. And later a crew members came back and told us the same thing.

Well, that was a lie. Somebody obviously knew what was going on, and they weren’t telling us. They did tell us that some kind of Amtrak manager or official had to come out to the train and give the okay for us to leave. Also we saw a couple of cops. I’m sure there were a lot more than what we saw.
We eventually found out we’d hit a person, maybe around 6 or 7pm. A passenger was talking on the phone with someone who’d found out online from a news article.

Something much like this:

(from The Times News, Burlington, NC)

So, last night I had assumed that this was Amtrak policy—when the train accidently kills someone, don’t tell the passengers; it might upset them. But it’s not. I just spent 35 minutes on the phone (mostly waiting) to ask about that policy. The policy is that when there is any sort of delay, the crew is supposed to inform the passengers about what is going on with the train. The customer relations woman I spoke with agreed that they should have told us. I think we, the passengers, would’ve been more understanding about the delay if we’d known why. There were apparently police and a coroner and train officials who all had to give us the okay to continue. 

By the way, for my trouble, I’ll be getting a $100.00 voucher for train travel. I didn’t call them to complain; I was looking for information, assuming they’d verify my assumption about a “don’t scare the passengers with stories of death trains” policy. I had intended to suggest, if that was their policy, that they reconsider it. But since it wasn’t, the customer relations woman brought up the idea of filing a complaint, and of opening a case for me and getting me that voucher. I don’t even know if I’ll take another train trip in the next year that the voucher is valid, but it’s there if I do want to use it.

One interesting thing that I heard the customer relations woman say, as she was looking up information about the accident, was “the trespasser”. In whatever she was reading from (I assume) her Amtrak computer screen referred to the man who was killed as a “trespasser”. In the various news articles I found this morning he was referred to as a “man” or “person” or “pedestrian”. I just find it interesting. It’s apparently illegal to walk on train tracks or even to cross train tracks except at street train crossings.

Well, we were delayed on site for about 3 hours there, but during much of the afternoon there were more delays as we’d sit on the tracks for 15 or 20 or 30 minutes, as well as long stretches of track that we’d take very slow.

The woman sitting next to me on all but the last 45 minutes or so of the trip was very angry by the end of the day. Early during the day, she was nice enough, very chatty.  I liked having someone to talk to, as I don’t generally have much actual contact with other human beings—certainly not in person. But as the day dragged on, she became much less pleasant. There were many, many times I just wished she’d shut up. I did have several reprieves when she talked on the phone to various relatives.

Here are my (texted in) facebook statuses about here from various times during the day:
- On the train next to a chatty older woman who thinks the drugs are responsible for all of society’s problems.
- Chatty train-neighbor also talks very loud on the phone.
- The chatty older woman next to me is much less pleasant now. For several hours she’s been bitterly blaming “him”, the driver, for all the delays.
- I will say this: hearing the chatty older woman complaining so much makes me not want to complain about this kind of thing. Maybe this is a learning experience.
She was convinced that the driver was going too slow and that something was wrong with the train. She thought maybe the driver was scared to go too fast ‘cause we’d already hit something. Later, after we heard from another passenger that the train had killed a person, my chatty neighbor often came back to the topic of crossing train tracks and saying that a person doesn’t run toward a train when it’s coming, they run away. It seems pretty clear to me that in her mind, the person we hit was drunk or high or crazy.

I stayed very calm about the whole delay. I tried to calm her down by suggesting alternates to her theories about the driver and train. I do wonder if I hadn’t been sitting next to someone who was vocally upset about it if I wouldn’t have been more upset. Then again, I do tend to (try to) let things go that aren’t all that important, or that I can’t do anything about. Of course I get upset about things, but what’s the point in getting upset about something like this?

Maybe there was something wrong with the train. We changed engines in Washington. But, for all I know, that may be normal for that stop. We got to Washington D.C. around 10pm, which was a little more than 5 hours behind schedule. And we sat there while they changed the crews and engine. But after Washington, we mostly moved along at what seemed a normal pace.

My guess (and I didn’t ask about this while I was on the phone with Amtrak this morning) is that we were so far behind schedule that there was no way to even remotely “make-up” that time, and they were just sort of routing us around all the other trains—quite a few passed us, off and on all afternoon, during one of our many non-station stops throughout the day.

Much later, around 8pm, as a sort of compensation for our time, they gave us a choice of chicken sandwich or cheeseburger from McDonald’s. I got a cheeseburger. It was a sad little cheeseburger.



I didn’t eat it. Well, I tried one bite of it a little later, and it was horrid.

The chatty neighbor got off the train in Trenton, New Jersey—2 stops before the end of the line. The tain (and I) arrived in New York - Penn Station around 2am, which was a bit more than 5 hours behind schedule. So, at least we didn’t lose any more time after Washington. That’s a plus. After 17+ hours on the train, I was exhausted. I then had to take the subway to my friend’s apartment, where I’m staying.

At some point on the subway, I suddenly felt a little less tired, like I’d gotten my second wind. I’d been up since 7am. I’d dozed very briefly and unsatisfactorily on the train a little in the last few hours. Maybe my body thought it just wasn’t gonna get to do any real sleeping. So when I got my friend’s place it was around 3am. (Thanks, again Corey Loftus, and sorry it was so late.) I didn’t sleep especially well—new place plus frustrations of the day running around in my head. 

Anyway, I’m in New York. Whee. I have a rehearsal this evening. Whee. Despite actually being here, it still doesn’t feel “real”. I don’t mean, “Ohmigod, I can’t believe I’m actually here.” I mean, It doesn’t feel like this is actually life, and I don’t feel like I’m actually me. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

anti-Salvation Army posts


This is in response to this picture, which a few of my facebook friends shared:



There’s also this article and others very much like it:


These things are going around the internets again. They seem to crop up around this time most years lately, in the ridiculously long gearing up for the ridiculously long “holiday season”.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
   
Okay, as far as I can tell…the claim that the Salvation Army would close soup kitchens rather than offer same sex benefits comes from a unsourced 2004 article in the New York Post (which is basically a tabloid owned by one of Rupert Murdoch’s companies) attributing this unconfirmed position to an unnamed “official”. No soup kitchens were actually closed.

The “gays need to be put to death” stuff is not totally accurate either. One guy in Australia did say some of those things in discussing Bible doctrine. But in those types of “The Salvation Army is anti-gay” articles, that interview is usually edited to make it seem more inflammatory. The Salvation Army does not have an actively anti-gay position; it’s more of a passively anti-gay position.

Now, there are anecdotes out there, which may be true, of people being discriminated against by the Salvation Army. I saw one where a guy and boyfriend were told they’d have to stop seeing each other before the Salvation Army would help them. It’s very possible that someone at a Salvation Army office told them that. But that’s not an official national or international position.

Their actual doctrinal position is more like:
The Salvation Army does not consider same-sex orientation blameworthy in itself. Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching. Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life.
You can no longer find this position statement on their website.

In researching this response, I found articles calling the Salvation Army a cult, which I totally disagree with, articles and attributing some suspicious things to them, which I doubt. 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

The main thing that most of these anti- Salvation Army articles and such are missing is this: the Salvation Army is a mainstream, Protestant church (“low church” like the Baptists and Methodists, not “high church” like the Anglicans and Lutherans), with all the same sort of organizational structures, all the same sort of activities, and all the same sort of doctrinal beliefs. It is a moderately conservative religious organization which has a huge focus on its social programs helping the poor, etc. That is a result of the conditions under which it was founded.

William Booth had been a Methodist minister in England, but he left that church because he felt called to do more work with the poor. So he went into the East End of London to help and minister to the poor and outcast types. This was in the late 1800s—roughly the same time and area in which Jack the Ripper did his thing, and in which the Elephant Man lived and died. William booth went there because that’s where the poor people were. And there he started the organization that became the Salvation Army. It’s essentially a church that aims for and attracts lower-class to lower-middle class members.

Most people see the obvious stuff that the Salvation Army does, and they seem to think it’s a charity. It is, in the same sense that many other churches are charities. Many churches have programs actively involved in feeding people, helping to clothe and house poor people, disaster relief, missions to third-world countries. With the Salvation Army, those programs are a much bigger emphases. And yes, as the Salvation Army is a church, the whole point of these social programs is to “God’s work” and ultimately attempt to “win souls for Christ”. 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

I realize that those of you who know me would think it very odd that I would be defending a church.

I’m not.

I definitely have my issues with the Salvation Army. It was my “church home” as a kid and teen. My parents were Salvation Army officers, i.e., ministers—they went to seminary, are ordained, the whole thing. There are things about being a preacher’s kid that probably messed me up a bit, and things about being specifically a Salvation Army officers’ kid that messed me up as well. (See my previous blog: “against the rules”) 

BUT…

It pisses me off when people use misleading or exaggerated or just plain incorrect statements to strengthen their argument, or to get people all riled up about something. FOX news isn’t the only one who does it. Also, I hate looking for information about a topic and seeing articles from 20 different websites that say almost the exact same thing, with few or no sources.

People of the world, stop assuming that something is true, just because you can find it online.

Anyway…if you’re staunchly pro-gay and only want to support organizations that will celebrate gay marriage, etc., with you, then don’t donate to the Salvation Army, nor to most any other church. I say find out something about any organization to which you’re donating money. For all you know they could be channeling your money to the alien conspiracy theorists or Republicans or something worse, like…the arts. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

on posing and posers


I have a dichotomous feeling about asking people to pose for me.

On the one hand, I am the first person who would encourage you to try something new, or to go ahead and do something even though it might feel strange or even though you might feel uncomfortable. If it’s something you want to do, or something you’re interested in or curious about, or whatever, go for it, even if it makes you nervous. As long as it’s not something dangerous (actually, slightly dangerous might be okay, like bungee jumping) or harmful, and especially if it’s something that might be fun or help you grow as a person, why not do it. Don’t let nervousness, or mild to moderate discomfort make you stop.

But, on the other hand, I don’t want to be the person who keeps bothering you about doing something that you just do not want to do. If something is really uncomfortable, maybe you shouldn’t do it. If it brings up all sorts of horrible memories or feelings, then maybe you’re not ready to do this hypothetical activity, and you should work on yourself a bit and deal with those issues.

I was thinking yesterday about contacting an acquaintance with whom I’d talked in the past about modeling for me. She has done a little modeling, and earlier this year we had sort of tentatively decided to shoot some pictures. But it never happened. And yesterday I considered asking her again if she was still interested.

I didn’t, though. I’m tired of asking people I know if they’re interested in modeling for me (or doing anything with me, really), and getting either one of those non-committal, “maybe when I’m less busy”, “I’m never really comfortable in pictures” sort of answers, or no response at all.

It’s okay to just say, “no.” Or, “I’m afraid you’re gonna ask me to get naked, and I’m even more afraid of that.” Or even, “I think you’re creepy, leave me alone.” I would prefer that. It’s unambiguously clear, and if I really know what you mean, then I’m not going to bother you with it again.

I’m not all that great at picking up on people’s subtle actual meanings. I used to believe people most of the time, only to be disappointed and hurt when I eventually understood that they didn’t mean what they’d said. Of course, sometimes some people do mean what they say. I’m just not always sure how to tell the difference, especially when it’s in a facebook message (etc). So, unfortunately, I often just assume that people are lying. Maybe not “lying” exactly, but not being honest and open and direct and clear. (One of my shortcomings as a writer is that I don’t generally deal much with subtext.)

Anyway… With all that having been said (written), let me mention again that I have a new camera that I need to learn how to use in the next couple of days. So hey world, come model for me. You don’t have to be naked. And, just to be clear, while I am often naked here at home, I won’t be naked while taking your picture, whether you are or not.

(By the way, I’m very suspicious of the “not comfortable” response. The people who’ve told me that all have many wonderful pictures of themselves on the facebook.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

hiding from the facebook


There is a handful of people whom I have found so very interesting…or appealing… Actually, I guess “attractive” is the most accurate word here. I find them so very attractive, and I really wish I could get to know them. It’s not just that they’re simply “pretty”, though that’s part of it. They are women, these people I’m referring to right now. It’s not that I want to date them, though I might consider it if I really got to know them. I just, for whatever reason, find them attractive… “appealing” works too. 

And I have, from time to time, tried to get to know these women—attempted chats on facebook or in real life, invitations to meet sometime for lunch or dinner—but with no success. They just don’t reciprocate the level of conversation I’m attempting, or they outright turn down my invitation. 

When I see the people post anything on facebook, it’s just…disheartening. It’s like an intensified version of what I feel with most people—that I vaguely know them, but we’re not really friends, not close, not in any significant way. And with these people, it’s even worse. So, I’ve hidden them from my facebook timeline. (Of course, there are people I’ve hidden for other reasons—for example all they ever post is conservative political stuff or religious stuff or football stuff.) I don’t want to unfriend them—though I’m not truly friends with them—but I can’t stand seeing their posts pop up randomly when I’m on facebook. It’s just too shocking and heart-breaking. 

It’s probably just as well that I don’t get to know them. I figure (based on my life experience) there’s a pretty good chance that if I did spend much time with any of these women, I’d either find them ridiculously un-interesting, un-appealing, and un-attractive, OR I’d lose myself in some unrealistic fantasy relationship with someone who’s not available. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

stuff I bought today


I’m going to New York City next week, to do a show I’ve co-written. While I’m there, I don’t really have plans except a few rehearsals and the 2 performances. So I’m thinking I’ll just wander around a bit and take lots of pictures.

In preparation for this trip, I went out and bought a few things today:


Paper and printing ink.


This actually has nothing to do with the NYC trip. I was just out of these and figured I’d get them while I was out buying stuff.


Shoes.


I noticed a week ago while climbing around Noccalula Falls that my shoes weren’t quite up to the task. I sort of slipped a few times. I didn’t fall, but there were moments that made me a bit nervous. I hadn’t intended to buy two pair of shoes, but there was a “buy one pair, get a second pair half-price” sale. So, I went ahead and got 2.


MY FIRST DSLR CAMERA! Whoo!


I’ve been feeling for a while now, that I wanted a camera that made me look more like a photographer. Such a focus on image definitely goes against my usual feeling that substance is much more important than image. It’s an odd dichotomy, because as a photographer, I’m capturing and editing images. I suppose I’m trying to make images that are pleasing or interesting or whatever, but that are still “real”…whatever that means. The image in a photograph isn’t reality, especially once you start playing around with contrast and color.

Hm. This may deserve much more thought than I’m willing to put into it at just this moment. Instead of thinking, right now I want to put this camera together and start learning how to use it. I want to at least sort of know what I’m doing with this thing in NYC. 

So, along those lines…MODEL FOR ME!!! This week. Come on…headshots, or out in a park or downtown, or (if you’re so inclined) nudes. I just want something to photograph other than myself and maybe things around my neighborhood. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

High School Reunion & makeup


I dreamed last night that I attended a high school reunion. I don’t what a high school reunion is like, as I’ve never been to one. I missed my 10-year reunion because I was working at a theatre in Wisconsin that summer. And I missed my 20th because I was working at a theatre in New Hampshire that summer. Next year, it’ll be 25 years since I graduated high school, but I don’t know that there will be a reunion.

Anyway, I dreamed about a reunion. I was there early, helping to set up the space. There were other people there setting up, but I seemed to be working alone. And then all the high school folk showed up. I hung out a bit with some of the people I hung out with during high school.

But I felt that I didn’t entirely fit in with them, which was also probably true back when I was in high school. I think my group of friends were probably all better friends with each other than with me. That’s certainly how I feel about my friends now.

Reunions aren’t something I think of much, but…

A week ago I was at my parents’ house, where I found some old pictures—some from when I was in high school. Just a couple of them were pictures that included people from my high school. Anyway, I scanned those and put them on my computer. Also, while there, I got to thinking about the past and my lack of connections.

And last night I went to see Our Town (the play by Thornton Wilder). It sort of deals with time passing and things changing and not changing. Also with relationships, family connections.
So, I don’t know that those things led to this dream. It wasn’t a really deep meaningful dream. Just another in a series of thoughts and ponderings by me on the theme of loneliness and my dissatisfaction with my life.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Toward the end of the dream, a teacher showed up at the reunion. But it wasn’t a teacher from my high school. It was someone who worked at a university where I worked several years ago. I never worked with this person, and don’t know her well. But there she was at my high school reunion. She was wearing way more makeup than I’ve ever seen her wear, and aware and worried about the makeup. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the rest of the dream. It was almost a separate little bit that was just tacked on to the end.

I’m not a fan of excessive makeup. I wrote a paper about it my freshman year in college. This is not a new development in my thinking. I sort of feel that wearing makeup every day is crazy. Dangerous, even. Okay, sure, if you’re onstage or on camera, that’s a little different, because of the lighting and such. But just for average everyday people, it’s just not necessary and not good. I mean, if you feel the need to “fix your face” before you go out into the world, that’s got to be harmful for your self-image.

Just be who you are. Look the way you look. Yes, exercise and eat healthy and all that. Take care of yourself. But don’t let other people and your “culture” tell you that you don’t look good enough without painting four face. You look good enough. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

against the rules


When I was a kid, my family moved around a bit. Not like every year we’d move, but from the time I was born until I graduated high school I think we lived in 5 different cities. I’ve often thought that was the reason why I still tend to move around a bit and don’t have any roots anywhere I’ve been.

Well, turns out that it’s even more true than I’d remembered. The reason that we moved was my parents’ job. The worked for the Salvation Army.

Many people don’t know that the Salvation Army is a church. It is its own separate church—a fairly standard Protestant Christian denomination—and not a part of some other church. They just have a strong emphasis on actually helping people in need, and they use military terminology (the idea being the church is at war against sin and Satan). So, Salvation Army officers (Lieutenants, Captains, Majors, Colonels…there’s one General at a time: “General” = “Pope”) are, in fact, ordained ministers.

My parents were officers, so from time to time we’d be re-assigned to some different city, and off we’d go.

Well, I spent the past several days at my parents’ house, and for some reason we ended up talking about moving when I was a kid. My mom brought up something that seemed vaguely familiar, like maybe my parents had mentioned it once when I was a kid. It’s that when the Salvation Army sent them to a new assignment, it was against the rules for them to maintain contact with the people from the previous assignment. In other words, we were not allowed to maintain friendships. Of course, we might see some of those people at summer church camp or other regional church gatherings, but officially, my parents weren’t supposed to actively keep in touch.

Apparently that rule is no longer in effect. I think the reason for it having been a rule was that the Salvation Army wanted to discourage officers from being involved at the local level in a city where they were no longer assigned; and the local members wouldn’t feel they could go complain or gossip about “the new guy” to the former boss. I’m sure it was a well-intentioned rule, but, at least for me, it had the effect of separating me from people in a very real way. I don’t know how actively my parents discouraged us kids from contacting old friends, but I definitely picked up on and obeyed “the rules”.

So I never learned how to be part of a community long-term. When my family was re-assigned, we left the place, but we left the people too. The thing is, I still do that. I move around a lot. In the past ten years, I’ve probably lived more than 20 different places. And when I leave someplace, often my brain just sort of let’s things go. So even though I’ve sometimes returned to the same city, during the time I’ve been gone, I often have not maintained much contact with people there. So I end up with a lot of acquaintances, but not many actual friends. 

Knowing that there was a rule restricting my parents from maintain friendships and that rule filtered down to me, emphasizing my own tendency toward isolation, is a little bit of an “Ah-ha!” moment. It makes a certain amount of sense. But it also makes me angry. Yet another way that growing up in church with preacher-parents helped to mess me up. 

Institutions and their damn rules. Ug. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ninety-nine percent


Last week I drove from North Carolina to Alabama, and I drove back today. I listened to a few CDs, but I also heard a fair amount of radio—almost as much searching for channels, hearing a snippet of something I didn’t want to listen to, then continuing the search.

There are certain accents and certain vocal cadences on the radio that, when I hear them, my brain immediately says, “NOOOOO.” Often they’re preachers—lots of them on the radio in the South. They’re easy to recognize, even when they’re not quoting the Bible or saying “Gahd” or “Ja-eezzuss!” Another is morning talk guys, or “crews”. I just find that whole type of “topical humor” bland and tiresome. And there’s the good ol’ boy (usually) on a country station talking about politics. Ug. No way.

Well, today, I found I had the same sort of reaction to “99%”.

It could be a legitimate statistic, and in such a case, it’s fine. But what I’m talking about is the use of “99%” (or even worse, “99.9%”) as a euphemism for “I don’t have any real data on this, but I FEEL LIKE it’s obviously this much.”

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s an example. Imagine a not-quite-but-similar-to Rush Limbaugh voice: “Sure lots of people are going online to get their Obamacare, but 99.9% of ‘em can’t sign up because the website’s broke!”

I’m not sure if that’s the best example. I heard “99%” used earlier today. I can’t recall the exact context; it was a comparison, like “___ was more than 99% of ____ for all the ____.” The accent didn’t help either. It was a version of good ol’ boy. 

Anyway… I find that usage really annoying, unless it really is a statistic someone has measured. So…stop it, radio hosts. If you wanna talk about the news, that’s fine and absolutely reasonable. But the problem is, 99.9% of you don’t know what you’re talking about; you just make up numbers to reinforce your point. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

poem


An uncomfortably negative poem I wrote today:


Small Southern City Pastimes

Mall-walking, people-watching
just to break the boredom of the day.
Wearing hair and make-up
unchanged since high-school hey-days,
these provincial passersby
overheard to say
their tepid thoughts out loud
in their lazy, local accents, proud
of their talking-point ideology on display.

Meanwhile…
Over-sized sugar addicts
Ponder the desert tray
With over-priced, flavored coffees—
a double-shot of flavoring today
for parent and child, their waddling
inherited, in a way.
If not for them, how could I feel
superior? Yes, that’s my deal:
thinking my loathing of them will somehow
          help to make self-loathing go away.

4 November 2013
Gadsden, AL