31 December 2015

My Grandfather's Wife

I’ve tried to write this a hundred times, but had a hard time finding the right words. I was very close to my grandmother. She was so loved. She is so missed.

My grandfather sat in a chair near her bed, resting his head on their joined hands. After some time, he stood, smoothed the hair from her forehead and kissed it gently. He stood there for a while, simply looking at her. I could tell he didn’t want to leave her and I felt a bit guilty for witnessing such a private moment. When he finally did leave the hospital room, he came out holding her single shoe as if it were a child. It is a picture of grief I will never forget.

What does someone say in that moment, when they are saying goodbye to the person they’ve shared their life with? I love you. Thank you for loving me, for our sons, for everything. I’m not ready to lose you. I’m sorry.

My own thoughts reflected the selfish side of grief. I’m not ready either. I still need you. Are you proud of me? And later, standing in a department store, trying to pick out shoes through a haze of tears, I can’t do this Grandma. You aren’t here to tell me whether these are appropriate for a funeral or not.

Sitting at the funeral home and watching people come to pay their respects; I thought about how much of our lives belong to other people. Carolyn was a cherished, long-awaited only child. For a time, she belonged only to her parents. Later she was a student, a friend, an employee, a neighbor and a million other things. For many years, as a mother, she belonged to her four sons. As a grandmother, she belonged to us. As a great-grandmother, she first belonged to Trinity, the baby girl she never had. I was happy to share, and am so grateful for the bond she built with my daughter.

A lot of people can claim pieces of the years she spent on Earth. But as I watched my grandfather, bent over her recently closed casket with his head in his hands I realized that most of her had belonged to him.

I was humbled and a bit ashamed that I’d not considered her life before it included me, aside from the vague understanding that she’d had one. I imagined my grandparents when they were young, bringing home their first baby, buying their first home, building the family and life we all claim as our own now. I’d never before thought of them as being the same people that they’d been when they started their life together. I only truly understood the enormity of my grandfather’s loss then, when I realized that for everything she was to others, she’d spent the largest portion of her life, 58 of her 76 years, being his wife.

It was a strange moment of understanding. Not unlike the first time a child realizes that teachers are real people and have lives outside of school. When I looked at my grandmother in her casket, I saw the woman I’d always seen. I imagine that my grandfather saw much more. I’d imagine he saw his high school sweetheart, the girl he married, the mother of his children, the woman who made a home and life with him. I’d guess that when my grandfather looked at my grandmother
in her casket, he saw his whole world.

31 December 2014

Douche-Bagging America

There's been so much talk about the pussification of America. Personally, I have the feeling we're creating douchebags. 

You see, there I was walking down Bourbon Street in NOLA, and there's some poor bastard staked out in the middle of the street, beyond where they block it off. Obviously, I asked the guy if he was okay where he was, or if he needed help to get to the sidewalk. He said he'd rather be on the sidewalk. I attempted to help him stand up. 

While I was holding this guy's hand and trying to help him stand, some fucking kid walked by and pretended to kick him in the head. Having already had more than a few shots of tequila, I informed the kid that he was a fucking douchebag. To which, the kid replied, "I was just joking. I'm really a nice guy." He then asked the street guy if he could help. 

I felt like if I didn't, at this point, inform the kid that he was a ridiculous fucking piece of shit, probably no one in his life ever would, so I did. I also may or may not have threatened bodily harm. 

And what does this have to do with douche-bagging America? Fucking everything.

 We keep telling our kids that they're so special, and making sure they feel like they're worth something that we forget to teach them that they aren't the only worthwhile people in the world.

We forget to tell them that they're lucky to be here instead of "there," wherever there might be. I don't care if the dude in the middle of the Bourbon Street gets hammered and camps there every night. He's still a person. At some point, he was someone's son; maybe he was someone's brother, father, uncle or husband. I don't know what brought him to the place he's at now and I don't care.  

I can teach my children a lot of things, but I can't imagine anything more important than teaching them compassion, empathy and responsibility.

And also mostly just not being fucking douche-bags. 

17 December 2014

So I Guess My Neighbor is a Murderer...

"I heard what Joe* did, Mom," says my nine year old daughter. I knew this was coming, had been avoiding it for a few days, even though I knew I couldn't keep it from her forever.

Joe is Neighbor Girl's big brother. I think he was around eleven years old when we moved in next door to them. Neighbor Girl has pretty much been a staple at our home since, more about her here.

Joe murdered a man last week.

It was one of those now familiar moments in parenting where I simply didn't know what to say. I asked her what she heard.

"Well, he's going to jail, because I guess he shot someone?" She says the neighbor lady told her about it. I'm not sure which of the neighbor ladies would discuss murder with a third grader.

The thing is... Joe was the kid that came over to collect Neighbor Girl when it was time for dinner. Joe was the kid that took his baby sister and my daughter fishing. He took them on walks and bike rides around the block when they were too little to go by themselves.

Other than that, I don't really know all that much about Joe, really. I know he got into trouble a few times, I know he was in jail or juvie or something for a while. I don't know why, because I'm mostly anti-social and don't speak to my neighbors.

The whole situation just bothers me immensely for several reasons:

First of all? We all know my position on using lethal force to protect yourself, your family and your home, right? Shoot that fucker. I, personally, do not extend that position to stuff. If you really, really want to steal my car, or something out of my car? Have at it. Homeowner's will cover it.

If you carry a gun, God bless ya, everyone should. However, if you carry a gun and don't have a certain mindset, things can get really bad, really fast.

The article is here if you'd like the details, but here's my take on the whole thing:

I've met several eighteen year old males, nearly all of whom could kick my ass. Like quick, without actually having to try very hard.

Had the victim not been carrying a gun, would he have been so confident physically confronting three men by himself?

I know it seems as if I'm blaming the victim and I don't mean to. I just think a "Hey kids, get the fuck out of my car" would have worked.  One could argue that he was trying to do the right thing and hold the guys at gunpoint until the cops showed up. If you're going to do shit like that? TRAIN WITH YOUR WEAPON. Which doesn't mean firing 50 rounds at the range once a month.

And then, there's Joe. I can't stop thinking about all of the really, really, fucking dumb shit I did at eighteen. Please don't think I'm excusing his behavior, he deserves everything he gets. The thing is though, at eighteen everything is pretty much black and white. I can imagine he was thinking something along the lines of: Fuck. I'm going to go back to jail. Shit, my parents are going to be so pissed...

Obviously, this line of thinking and his youth do not justify killing a man, but I'm willing to bet he didn't think that far ahead. I'm guessing all he was thinking about was getting out of there before the cops showed up. Teenagers and a whole bunch of grown ass adults don't always understand the ultimate consequences of their actions beyond the now.

I guess my main point here is something along the lines of: What an absolute waste of so many lives. Four kids don't have a dad anymore. And the rest of his family lost a husband, a brother and an uncle.

Deservedly, Joe's life is over. But it isn't just his life. Neighbor Girl has lost a big brother, and big brothers are pretty damn important to little girls. I know, I have one. And of course, his parents have lost a son. And for what? An IPod? A car stereo? A fucking cup holder full of change?

And then, selfishly, I'm trying to figure out whether I should tell my daughter that sometimes the people we know and care about turn out to be really evil people, or simply that sometimes good people do really bad shit.

*Name changed because I do what I want. And also because my kid was trying to read over my shoulder.

05 October 2014

Being a Writer, Er, Being Bat-Shit Crazy

"See, I can write well, but I'm not a writer. The difference is, you are compelled to write, and I have to be compelled to write." - Kensey Alsman, sometime, somewhere, probably at a bar. 

I have this incredibly talented daughter, who at the age of two, would sit for hours and color and cut and paste and make stuff. She did not choose, at that age, to be an artist, she just is and always has been. Being a writer is mostly the same thing.

I don't think that anyone chooses to be a writer. We are, in general, some pretty goddamned disturbed people. Consider Hemingway, Poe, Hunter Thompson, and countless others, all mostly fucked in the head. 

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."-George Orwell

Another writer, E.L. Doctorow, compared writing to "a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia," which is almost true. Writing is almost like hearing voices, except they're speaking very softly in a language I don't speak. 

I spend days, weeks sometimes, existing on an hour or two of sleep a night staring at a blank Microsoft Word page-arguably because I am also batshit crazy- but also because something in me is working on making its way out. Words, phrases, images, ideas and sometimes just the impressions of ideas highjack my brain and they won't shut the fuck up until I figure out how to get them out. Sometimes, oftentimes really, they're shit when they do come out, but at least they're out and that restless feeling ebbs for a week or two.

And then, if a writer is really unlucky, someone tells them that they're good at it. Now, the almost-voices are not only demanding to be interpreted, they expect to be interpreted well. 

It's not that I have anything truly profound to share with the world. Everyone has a story, or stories. The difference, I guess, is that mine keep trying to come to life in my head.

I suppose the entire point of this post is just to say, if there were such things as muses? They'd be fucking assholes. 

03 September 2014

Ferguson, Cows, Racism and Pickles

The chief of police in Ferguson says that there isn't a black and white divide in the city. Apparently, the guy is an absolute moron. There's a black and white divide everywhere. Hell, there's an everything divide everywhere. Whether there should be or not is a moot point. It isn't going to change. Most of us are inherently racially biased, which is not to say that we're all lynch-mob, ignorant fucks.

Babies, who are by nature, selfish little pricks learn racial bias by the age of nine months. I'm no doctor or anything, but I'd assume baby thinks something like this:
         Oooh. That face looks like the face attached to the booby milk. I'm going to look closer and see for sure before I manipulate it by being all cute and shit so it'll continue to feed my helpless self. 
Baby studies face intently. Then another face comes into view, a face that is a different race than the booby-milk face.
What the....doesn't matter, not the booby-milk.
And so, by the age of 9 months, baby learns that faces who belong to the same race as the booby-milk are good things. And since babies see everything as an extension of self, they would recognize this group of people as us. And other races as... meh.

It's not that we all grow up to dislike people of other races, it's more like we just don't see them. Which is why black people all look the same to white people, We've conditioned ourselves, as infants, not to record the information as important. Because, once again, babies are assholes. See, here's a study.

I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that as much as we want to pretend otherwise, race will never be a non-issue. Most of us agree that racial oppression is a bad thing and that we all, as humans, are entitled to certain basic human rights, but most of us reserve our outrage for violations of such rights for our own races. 

In Ferguson, MO a grossly disproportionate amount of white police officers are policing a population where the majority of the residents are black. I can't imagine how this wouldn't lead to an "us vs. them" mentality among residents and officers. Not because black people commit more crimes, but because there are more black people than there are white people. It's something like the full-moon effect. People aren't crazier during a full moon, we just think so because we remember when the full moon is. Our brains seek patterns and sometimes make them up. 

Then we have to consider society's reaction to certain events. Clive What'shisname for example... He broke the law. The government was going to come take his cows. In response to the federal law enforcement presence,  a shit ton of armed militia people showed up. The feds were all like, well hell, guess we lost this one. Let's go home.

In Ferguson on the other hand, a young kid, an unarmed one, broke the law...At some point, we think. I don't even know. Regardless, the local government took his life. Whether it was a good shooting or not isn't for me to say.. And when people gathered in protest of his death? The local government sent this:
Yes, people began looting. I've seen the whole, this is how you mourn a dead kid, by destroying your community's businesses?

Shut up. You're stupid.

This is how they make sure they are heard and seen. We see this one incident as a wake up call, while they see it as a last straw because they live with shit like this every single day.

And while we are on that... what do think would have happened if the government had sent a similar force out to the cow guy's ranch? And on the other hand, why the hell didn't they? There was a guy in a fucking sniper position for God's sake. Ferguson is throwing rocks at cops. And furthermore, where the fuck are the hundreds of armed militia guys and their hatred of big government in Ferguson?

In my humble, non-expert opinion, this is not the time to talk about racial equality, we've been over, under, around and through that issue for so long we don't even know what it means anymore. It's time to acknowledge the fact that we will never "unsee" race. So instead of trying to force an unnatural oversight of race, how about acknowledging the fact that we will always be equal and also separate to some extent and tell Ferguson to hire some black cops for fuck's sake.

On an unrelated note, Mark brought me homemade pickles today, so I'm going to go eat them now. They are, no joke, the best damn pickles I've ever had.

09 June 2014

Rape Culture? What The Hell Does That Even Mean?

From what I gather, somebody is pissed off about something Miss Nevada said about women learning self defense to avoid or prevent rape. Somehow, I can't image where the fuck the logic comes from, but somehow, there are a bunch of pissed of feminists claiming that in somefuckingway that statement is embracing the "rape culture."

I was unaware of such a culture.

These in-no-way-in-touch-with-reality feminists say something about not teaching women self defense to prevent rape, but only teaching men not to rape. Which is fucking weird. Does anyone teach men to rape? I was under the impression it was a pretty frowned on practice. 

And while we're on that subject... when did the definition of rape change so much? Rape is a horrible, violent crime and I am in no way lessening the severity of it. A friend and I had a conversation about this subject. He said that in some class or another, he was told "nothing is sexier than consent..." Is that what they mean about teaching men not to rape? 

Feminists are fucking weird.

The friend also mentioned something about informed consent, "How do they expect me to know if a girl is too drunk to know she's consenting?" Valid point, but furthermore, why does he have to worry about informed consent when I don't? I can go pick a drunk dude up and bang him anytime, and if he is too drunk to remember giving consent, or remember me at all, is that also "rape?" 

I'm not saying that it's okay. Most of us have seen the douche in the bar that picks up the drunk chick. Her friends may or may not try to talk her out of it, but drunk or not, she makes the choice to go home with the douche. Yes, that makes the guy an asshole, but not a rapist for fuck's sake.

Obviously, I am not talking about the dickheads that roofie people in bars. They should all be shot. 

Also, why, if a woman can be too drunk to give informed consent, isn't being "too drunk" a legal defense? 

People are fucking weird.

30 April 2014

Babies Shooting... Everything

I got an email the other day from a guy writing an article about firearms. He asked a question about kids and guns, which prompted a rant I'm not sure he was looking for. 
How do we stop kids from thinking that guns are toys? How do we prevent little kids from shooting their parents, siblings, dogs, themselves and whatever else happens to be in front of the muzzle?

Well, in my non-expert opinion (which, thank God I have, because the experts appear to be overwhelmingly ill informed) we can approach this several ways: 
We can use fear to teach children to never, ever touch anything that looks like a gun. 
"Guns are bad. Guns are dangerous. Don't ever touch them."
Which pretty much ensures that these children will be the first to pick up and play with a firearm he knows nothing about. We teach them that drugs are bad, too. Thank God that's never inspired any curiosity...

Or we can approach it the same way we do fire safety in school. "This is a gun. If you find a gun, do not pick it up. Call an adult immediately." Sort of like that whole, "never play with matches" thing. Because, certainly none of us ever played with matches the very same day that the school had the presentation.

Or, we can maybe try a little common sense. 
I have three children.
I also have a Glock.
My older children have been shooting. My oldest knows how to clear a slide and even take down a Glock. She's 12. 

What does that mean exactly? It means that my oldest children's curiosity about firearms has been mostly satisfied. It means that I am somewhat confident that they are informed enough to never point a firearm in an unsafe direction. It means that instead of being afraid of guns, they have developed a healthy respect for the destructive nature of firearms.

It does not mean that I leave them unattended, with firearms laying around on tables and floors. It does not mean that they are aware of where the gun is kept when it isn't on me. As much as I trust my children, I know the appeal of showing off.

And so the answer to how do we stop babies from accidentally shooting shit? Common fucking sense. 

Don't leave your guns in your kids' toy boxes. Or on the floor. Or on the kitchen table. If you can't manage this? Don't have kids. 
If you're worried about kids finding guns at other people's house? Teach them.
Don't keep your gun in a shoebox in your closet. Who the fuck does that anyway? If you want to hide a gun in your home, at least put it somewhere inaccessible to your children. 

Most importantly, even if you've taught your children to respect the power of a firearm, do not underestimate the pull of showing off. Teaching your kids about guns doesn't make them tiny adults that know about guns. It makes them kids that know stuff some of their friends don't.  

Again, this is only my opinion, but the number of accidental child shootings in my house?