How "The Force Awakens" Has Awakened My Crippling Anxiety

If you’re not at least a little leery of the upcoming Star Wars film once again corrupting your enjoyment of the mythical galaxy far far away, you’re either too young or not a devoted enough fan to have been truly devastated by the hot pile of loose shit that was Attack of the Clones. That’s fine: in fact, you’re lucky.

Myself, I’ve been up nights thinking. More specifically, working myself into a puddled web of complex anxieties all stemming from hypothetical situations I’ve imagined, none of which have yet come to pass. (There’s your warning label about the rest of this post. Abort mission? Y/N). And I’ve decided to decide (yep) that it doesn’t matter if the new film is awful.

 In fact, I’ve been able to convince myself that I kind of want it to be awful, the same way you tell yourself you don’t WANT to be asked on a date by that person you like who may or may not like you back.

I mean: the Star Wars fandom more than any other has defined my life. I’m not evil enough to want it to be bad more than I want it to be good. I 98% want it to be good. But I’m also able to admit there is a tiny 2% part of me that wants it to be bad. And yes, if you know me, you know this desire is mainly rooted in my own psychological issues surrounding disappointment and rejection. But—there is another. Reason, that is.

Here’s why: because I don’t want to listen to a bunch of morons say “OMG I THINK ITS BETTAR THAN TEH ORIGINALZ!”

Even if you’re five years old. Even if you’ve never seen the originals (which fuck you get off my website).  I don’t give a shit. I don’t want to listen to that shit. It’s like comparing your birthday party to Beyoncé’s and saying hers was better. Well yeah, hers probably had like a champagne fountain and fire breathing and a light up dance floor and a budget of a trillion dollars. Hers is better than yours by today’s standards. But you made yours in the basement. Yours was a passion project. Yours was a droid made out of a spray painted trash can; hers is that BB-8 thing.  It’s apples and oranges and people are going to start comparing them and just. No.

I watched the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time when I was seven or eight, and my life goals changed immediately. Before that I’d planned to become a dolphin trainer and dig up mummies in Egypt on the side: now, all I wanted was to be a Jedi. Today I am a Han Solo fan and would prefer the life of a smuggler to an ascetic, but as a kid, Luke resonated with me the most as a hero, especially in A New Hope. As a young girl growing up in the flat, homogeneous American Midwest, I understood his hunger for the Tattooine horizon, to see what lay across it, to race on his speeder until he crossed it into something greater. And he was chosen, or maybe rather destined, to find it, to do this thing, because the Force was with him. Maybe, I told myself, the Force could be with me too.

Of course, I knew I wasn’t a Jedi. I didn’t know yet about anything like midi-chlorians (because they’re stupid) or what code made someone a Jedi (thanks KOTOR), but I knew damn well I couldn’t Force Push anything. Believe me, I tried. As an adult, I see echoes, though, of our longings for, our belief in, something like the Force, in every self-help book and every Bible/Quran/Torah. THOUGHTS BECOME THINGS we tell each other. MANIFEST YOUR OWN SUCCESS. PRAY AND YOU WILL BE HEARD. The ideological gap between these tenets and the notion of the Force is small. (I mean, there’s a reason you can tell the US Military your religion is Jedi.) The Force even allegedly has a will of its own. The Force helps those who help themselves. The Force contains good and evil and neutrality and all those things are within its plan. All these feels, all this inspiration and delight and belief in myself and my own worth, came from a movie which is legend in Hollywood for its sparse beginnings. Those feels live strong within me and the rest of Star Wars’ fans, and they’re the reason Disney dropped a bundle to pick up their new cash cow, which they hooked up to a milking machine (aka TARGET STORES) immediately.  

I’m preemptively resentful of the new Star Wars film. It’s like the stepchild sibling your parents spoil after you move out of the house. You don’t want that sibling to be better. You want it to fucking fail because it’s had everything handed to it. Even when that stepchild does something awesome and cures cancer, in your head you’re still like goddamn you.

MARK HAMILL GOT IN SHAPE FOR THE NEW STAR WARS AND I SIMULTANEOUSLY WANT AND DON’T WANT IT TO DESERVE IT.

Seriously though great job Mark!

Seriously though great job Mark!



I don’t want it to deserve it because I’m afraid of the shadow it will cast on those humble origins. I’m afraid it will achieve success without respecting where it comes from. I’m afraid it’s nothing but a glammed-up, carefully-manicured blockbuster devoid of any true grit or emotion, capitalizing on the success of its harder-working prequels to rake in the bucks while delivering something mediocre. Why am I afraid of this? Because of fucking past experience, Jar Jar. AND because I’ve SEEN Disney sequels and I’m STILL MAD about The Little Mermaid 2. Assholes.

Is this fear unfounded? Maybe, and I can admit that. I mean, there have been set pics of some Snuffaluffagus-level puppets. The trailers gave me the goosebumps. MARK HAMILL GOT IN SHAPE. All signs point to this being the time Dad DOES show up to your birthday party with a fucking pony. But the thing is; people got paid a lot of money to make that trailer give me the goosebumps. You think Mark Hamill lost that weight for a passion project? Think again; he lost it for cash.

Whether or not The Force Awakens is mediocre, let's be fair, it’s already managed to be better than Attack of the Clones and it hasn’t even come out yet. But. I fear my inner rancor waking up to rage when people are blown away by big-budget CG perfection lacking in any real depth or narrative quality (oh what it’s already awake for a reason I made up in my own head ok yes thANK YOU FOR THE NOTICE).

Now I know what you’re thinking. These things are not mutually exclusive. The Force Awakens can be great and IMPROVE our perception of the originals. It can be a big budget blockbuster moneymaking behemoth and still be an amazing movie. And based exclusively on Han’s presence and one epic line in the trailer, this is what I hope. This is what we all hope.

But if it’s not the case….the sly evil little demon inside me will get its snack. I’ll cry on my way home (I’ll probably cry on my way home regardless) and I’ll watch The Empire Strikes Back yet again and either way you know what?

The Force will still be with us. Keep calm (AHAHAHAHA YEAH) and live long and prosper or some shit like that. I DON'T EVEN CARE.

Life, Hasbro Style

I am one of the only people I know who enjoys the board game “Life” by Hasbro. Any time I suggest playing it to a group of people, it’s almost as bad as suggesting Monopoly, which everyone likes for the first thirty minutes and then remembers why they hate it. No one wants to put the Life board together or deal with the tiny little shitty plastic pink and blue people, all the cardboard life tiles, one of which is invariably soggy despite the fact that the game has been in the box for eight years untouched.

All this drama—and the unwillingness of my compatriots to play the game—was resolved for me when Hasbro released an app of the game for the iPad. My boyfriend downloaded it because he knows how much I love the game, and sometimes he even plays with me. But recently, I was playing the game alone, against three AI bots, and I was struck by a sudden and intense bout of judgmentalism. If youknow me well, you know this is not uncommon. I will judge the shit out of things at a moment’s notice.

Anyway, there I was. I started playing merrily enough, chose the purple car and the college track, of course, hoping to pull the doctor, the one sure way to be set to likely win the game. The great thing about being the doctor in Life is that you have no cap on the number of raises you can get. Your income just keeps increasing and increasing. Perhaps this is realistic; I don’t know, I’m not a doctor in real life, but I was lucky enough to pull the doctor card in the game. I won by a wide margin, especially after I hit the lottery AND found buried treasure.

Still, all that lay ahead of me, unknown, while I was still in college. Some of the AI bots charged ahead of me, with their inferior careers. The judgment mode began when one of the bots drew the “computer engineer” career, which netted it a paltry $50k a year. That’s not very realistic, I thought. Today’s “computer engineers” are likely making more than the 100K starting salary on my doctor’s card. But, no matter, I thought. That’s the way the game has always been.

But then came the time to get married, and I felt my unease increase. I had no choice. I had to get married, and I had to get married to an opposite gender little plastic person. When you play the game in real life, with the board and stuff, clearly one can circumvent this requirement. But in the app, you have to do it. 

And then there’s the super heteronormative image that accompanies the event on the board; a scrawny ass ginger dude and his heavily made up, somehow seventies-evocative bride, staring at him in adoration despite the fact that it looks like someone could break him over their knee. We all know she’s going to be dreaming of the Argentinian base jumper she had a one-night stand with in college for the next fifty years.

As I went through the game, I felt more and more targeted by it. “Life” was trying to force me into a mold I didn’t want to fit. Plus, there seemed to be no black people or minorities in Life if you only paid attention to the visual indicators along the board’s path. Along the way there are those same portraits style images like the one when you get married, and as far as I noticed, they were all white people.  Sure, at the beginning I had the opportunity to pick between eight or twelve little faces, all carefully benign and smiling, all mixed races, some looking vaguely Asian without being caricatures, some maybe Asian, maybe Mexican. But where were the pictures of the black and Asian infants when I was FORCED to have children just by landing on some shitty square? 

And then there’s the pictures of those perfect white infants themselves. The girl baby is a drooling weirdo with a bubble coming out of her mouth, supposed to be adorable and nothing more. But the boy baby, see, he’s already smart enough to stack blocks. He’s a MAN, a WHITE MAN, and he can stack those fucking blocks with his eyes closed. And then there was this: do I want to take the family path, or the path of LIFE? I can choose between a baby and a fucking redneck massive SUV with some floodlights on the top? How about just a picture of a happy (NON WHITE) couple without a baby? With like a dog or something? 

There are spaces along the game board that represent Life events, and man, do those need some updating too. Really? Buying a flat screen television in today’s day and age isn’t a life changing event, it’s a fucking Black Friday sale. And as for the “Donate to African orphans” square—well intended, but also a misfire. How about just “donate to oprhans?” or better yet, “adopt an orphan”? Where’s the “protest the fiscal dominance of the 1%” Life tile? The “go to rehab and get your shit straight” Life tile?

Here’s the thing; I know the game was invented in 1860, got a facelift in 1960 and hasn’t been redesigned since. But Hasbro, I’m telling you, the time has come. Today’s life is so much more liberated than your game represents. I understand reducing the complexities and nuances of human existence to a series of squares on a game board is difficult, but could you at least be a little more inclusive in the design of your app, if not in the game as a whole?

And I must say, I feel sorry for my fake opponent Bernard. Dude must be a Catholic.


connection obtained: indianapolis

I was sitting in the Memorial Park downtown, among that small grove of gingko trees near the Depew Memorial Fountain. A small yellow spider kept tenaciously crawling up my knee no matter how many times I blew him down. His legs were freckled with black spots. I was writing about the limits our society places on us; the limits of debt, of consuming, of obligation; how we perceive them as the most important elements of our life. I wrote, “I crave for humanity to return to the state of nature, now, at this stage, with all we’ve learned and accomplished at our fingertips. What would we build for ourselves if we were free to start again?”

My parking meter was almost up. I stood to go to my car and you were sitting on a curb nearby in blue athletic shorts with a white stripe and a blue short-sleeved button up which was open to the bottom of your sternum. You wore chains, totems, protective amulets thick around your neck, stark against the dark ashyness of the skin of your chest. Your front four teeth were yellowed, sunken in with rot. I started to walk past you. You said “Can I ask you a question?”

I said, “Sure.” I thought I already knew your question. I was happy I left my wallet in the car.

You said, “Come closer, sit down.”

I came to you and I sat. You said, “What do you think is at the core of all this? Beyond our elements, our archives.” You talked for a full minute. Sometimes you were talking to me, sometimes you weren’t.  I wondered if you were on drugs. You told me you saw snow on the grass. You asked me if an iceburg passed behind us. You told me about the movements of the planets. You asked me if I believed in spaceships. I said yes.

“We want to find another realm to escape this one,” you said. “But think about the oceans made of water. When you go into them, you are in another element.”

I observed that fish must feel that way when they are caught. They’ve come into a place they didn’t know existed, completely alien to their own awareness. You nodded. We were silent for a moment. You asked if you could hold my notebook. I gave it to you. You held it for a second and gave it back.

“I was just thinking about what it would be like to throw off all these rules,” I said. “I suppose humans have to organize themselves into groups to make everyone happy.” You smirked. You said that kind of happiness is an illusion. You said happiness lies in sacrifice. I said sacrifice is the one thing we've gotten bad at. "Yes," you said. "There's always an excuse. But the more you give away the more you find."

You asked me again what holds it all together. I said, “That’s the mystery.” You said, “The mystery is in the darkness and the light. It’s in the ebb and the flow.”

“But we can never know it,” I said. “So we accept that there’s this unanswerable question about our reality--and then what? We have to dwell in that void.”

You asked me how I felt about it. I said I felt okay with it.

A bus passed a few hundred yards away, plastered top to bottom with an ad for a restaurant. You pointed at it. You said, “The freedom we have, it goes deeper than that. You shed everything you have and it’s still there.”

“And they can’t take it away,” I said. 

“No,” you said. “There’s too much of it. There’s too much in us for them to ever take. They can't take the truth.”

“They’re us, anyway,” I said. “If they take from us, they’re taking from themselves.”

We sat in silence for a few moments. I said I had to go. You asked me my name, then threw up your hands. “Don’t tell me, just give me a hug,” you said. I did. We hugged for a long time. You whispered over me--maybe they were prayers, or spells, or just murmurs of thought. You kissed the place where my neck meets my shoulder. I kissed yours back. When we separated you said, “It’s always good to meet family, even if we don’t meet again.” I said that I hoped we would.

Road blockages for a pending festival forced me to circle a city block to head toward home in my car. When I passed the park again, you were gone.

Brother, I think maybe you were only there to find me.

 

missed connection: indianapolis

me:

tiny chick. denim capris, nose ring, short hair. purple earbud headphones. you probably see twenty of me a day here in broad ripple, but i only saw one of

you:

scrawny guy in a navy blue tee. late 40s. filthy socks and nike benassi sandals held together by a prayer. your breath smells like cheap mash alcohol. you were yelling at two younger guys on benches when i strolled up. you followed me.

 

you told me i was the first white girl who could hear you through my earbuds. you told me you’re living on the street. you told me you hurt so bad. i believed you, and you could tell. we shook hands at the place where the monon meets broad ripple ave, the south side. you asked me to buy you mcdonalds. i said no, i wasn't going that way,  but i offered to pick you up something from CVS. you hesitated, then agreed. i suggested a candy bar but you said your teeth. you can’t eat sweets. barbecue chips, you say. close enough, i think. all that corn syrup. but i agreed. i said i'd be back.

 

i bought the bag at the pharmacy. the image on the cellophane is two white people driving into the sunset in a convertible. a woman’s face in profile. i think that i’ll tell you, look, two white people going on vacation got turned into the chips inside. i think that i’ll tell you there weren’t any ethnics on the bags, unless you count that the lays bag is already yellow. i think that i’ll tell you someday this will be you and me.

 

back at the crossroads where we met initially you were nowhere to be found. the two guys you had been yelling at were there starting fires in the air with a travel can of hairspray and a lighter. one was saying he used to start them in his room. the other thought it was a bad idea. i didn’t leave the chips with them. they seemed like enemies of yours. 

 

reply to this and tell me what I dropped on the monon, what you watched me pick up from a distance. you were cautious, hopeful, like something might be left behind for you.


 

WIN EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN. 

WIN EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN. 

May Day

Maia’s month

infuses Indiana’s

corrupt earth with

 

rebirth

rebecoming

nothing

 

bees are blossoming

into museum exhibits

the asphalt

crackles with asthmatic 

treeroots    ants    prismatic

oilspills 

 

birds settle   adapt

claim the cupped palms

of retail e’s and h’s

for cigarette butt nests

fight for mcdonalds offal

and a fresh breeze

 

their chirps sharp

pips     what do they say

to each other these     canaries

prisoned in the mineshaft

of the murkening atmosphere

 

May Day

MayDay

Mayday









 

One More Weird Dream. (At Least No Zombies.)

Last night I had one of my most epically strange dreams ever, I think, which for me is saying something. In this dream, my best friends Laura and Phil and I decided to get an apartment together in Cincinnati. (It bears mentioning that we just stopped living together in real life about a week ago.) The dream was happening on or around moving day. The apartment was similar in structure and layout to an apartment the three of us once shared in Chicago. (What can I say, we’ve lived together a bit.) Anyway, that means there was a long narrow kitchen attached to a more bulbous protrusion of a living room, only in this case, there was a small hallway down which were two bedrooms and the bathroom. In this hallway, for some reason, was also a kitchen table, in the doorway of one of the bedrooms.

I came into the home and this table was covered with balloons and gifts which had come for me in the mail. Two of these gifts were small delicately-wrapped sandwiches in boxes which my father sent. Handwriting I recognized as hers covered the outsides of the boxes. I remember a note on the edge of the lid: “Check and see if the rye bread has molded.” It had not molded, but I didn’t eat the sandwiches. One was intended for my boyfriend anyway, and he was nowhere to be seen.  Another of the gifts was a bouquet of heavily iced cinnamon rolls which we learned upon further examination was actually for my friends’ dog, Grendel. He ate those.

I went over to the sink and saw it was full of very clear water and contained about four fish, one red Betta and a few smaller fish.

“Oh,” I said. “Are these the fish that were in my fish bowl?

“Yes,” said Laura. “I found them in the basement. I think that’s a good place to keep them, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them and I was getting worried.”

“I’ll take care of it,” I said. I picked up the fish bowl, which was identical to the one I had in college when I kept a Betta. I needed to wash it out, and the only way to do so (of course) was in the sink where the fish were. I looked into the water and saw a tiny blue-shelled turtle, a small cricket-like shrimp, and some other fish, both larger and smaller than the originals, had appeared. I turned on the water and started to wash the bowl. I drained the sink almost completely and refilled it several times. When I refilled it the last time, two of the larger fish had grown to fill almost ⅓ of the sink on their own. One was a blue fish with spines on it and a puckery, awkward face. The other one was a muscled barracuda-like fish, a mean murky green. The green fish started rearing up out of the water and attacking the blue fish.  I smacked the green fish hard on the tail as punishment. The fish turned and looked at me measuringly, then went back to its attack on the sink, now lunging at random fish under the surface of the water, which had become soapy. I smacked it a few more times but it wouldn't stop. Finally I said “Cut it out or I’ll get rid of you.” The fish did not believe me. Next time it reared up out of the water to attack, I grabbed it by the throat. I carried it to the back door and threw it outside onto the Monon trail. (Yes--we are still supposed to be in Cincinnati, but the Monon is in Indianapolis. Dreams, amirite?)

With that settled, I returned to the sink to find the water was clear, but now full of both objects and fish, though less fish. A lot of the stuff seemed to be like those tiny plastic dishes and utensils that come from a kitchen set. I dug through them to find my turtle and a few fish and put them inside the bowl. (Don’t ask me how that turtle could survive in a fish bowl, I don’t know.)

But all of a sudden, I was looking at a massive aquarium with people in it. PEOPLE. One was a boy I recognized from a dream EARLIER last night. I don’t know this boy, but in the other dream his name was Cooper and we made friends because he wanted to be a writer. Now, he was in this aquarium. There were a few other people in there too.

“What do you think it looks like out here to them?” I asked my friend Kylie, who had  appeared next to me. Inside the aquarium the people were staring out at us dazedly, their faces bisected by the different angled panels of thick glass that made up the tank.

“I can’t imagine,” she said. “But this is boring. Let’s find something else to do.”

I pulled out my phone and looked up events in the city. Turns out, there was a costume party somewhere for free. We all put on costumes (roaring 20’s) and piled into a car. I was directing, but when we got to the location, it was definitely not a party. I had brought us to the wrong place, some kind of big office tower out of the 80s. We went in anyway just to be sure. The interiors were magnificent, built out into smaller spaces with bright accent walls everywhere--lime green, cool summer-sky blue, a poppy pink. Some of the light fixtures were moving, like a chandelier on a string rising up and down and the paper folds it was made of blossoming and contracting with the movement. The furnishings were plastic but molded to have lots of details,  curving legs, textures and ridges and swooping backs. Some furniture was black and some was white. The rugs were deep piles of fur. A staircase cut through it all like something out of Escher: the walls were also built to intrude, not fall back. I might draw some of it later and put pictures on here, because this isn't really doing it justice.

All my friends dispersed into the space. I approached a man who clearly worked there and asked about the party. “No, the show’s been cancelled,” he said. “But there are supposed to be some people dressing up like dolphins soon.” (Seriously. He said this.)

I wandered away to find my friends and came across Kylie and Laura in a room with a high ceiling and very little light. What light there was, was focused around a replica of an Old West saloon that had been constructed in the room, like a set for a movie. The two were digging through a pile of skins that was folded across a hitching post.

“Hey Amber,” Kylie said. “I just thought of something to write down.” She then told me something to write down, and I wrote it down, but I can’t remember now what it was. It was an insight, I remember at least that, and a good one to boot. (Goddamn.) I wrote it down in a notebook which my old roommate and friend Kelly actually gave me, one which contains blank pages and pages from other books. My idea when she gave it to me was to fill the blank pages with a narrative which would connect the stories from the disparate books and make you able to read it cover to cover, something I haven't done yet. I told Kylie this in the dream. "Won't writing in there now ruin the project?" she asked. I said no.

I went downstairs and found Natalie and Justin, two friends from Chicago who are moving to Indy soon. “I think I took us to the wrong place,” I said.

“Well, let’s figure out what went wrong,” Justin said. I pulled out my phone again and looked online. There were pictures from the party posted online, and in them, myself and Laura were standing with a stranger dressed like a convicted flapper.

“Look,” I said to Laura. “They’re pictures of us from the future.”

“Yeah,” she said. “I like our costumes.”

I put in the address of the party on my GPS and went outside. Even though we all drove together, and I was the one with the GPS, now, we were in separate cars and I had to follow by myself in my Beetle. I immediately lost track of the group and just drove, hoping to come across someone else’s car that I recognized. I followed a silver car for a while. As I drove, the roads kept getting steeper and steeper, until finally, I was literally driving straight upwards. I was terrified and only going ten or fifteen miles an hour. All the cars behind me were honking. This can’t go on much longer, I thought as I approached what seemed like an impossible plane of verticality. Indeed, I rounded a corner onto a flat hilltop, but it was short lived. I kept climbing uphill in the car, white-knuckling the wheel, until I came to another vertical road made of cobblestones. I made it part of the way up before stopping, my foot hard on the brake to hold myself in place. Ahead of me, the road appeared to make a Mobius spiral, turning over itself and then disappearing, or perhaps heading downward. As scary as the climb had been, I knew the descent would be even worse, but what goes up must come down. Behind me, all these cars were still laying on the horns. Just do it, I told myself. It’ll be over soon enough. So, I pressed the gas and proceeded. The rocks of the road twisted beneath me. My car lost contact with the ground. I felt deep fear, but also a numb acceptance that this was my reality and I had to live with it.

Then, I woke up. SIKE, my brain chortled. That wasn’t reality at all. Reality was (and remains to now) Friday morning (oh joy!) and my darling Larry fresh from the shower (he's gone now.)

I could have a field day analyzing this right now--my anxieties about writing, about anger, what elements come from real life and why. I could, but I won't, not here anyway.

Suffice to say: I love my friends-- they enlighten me, support me, and give me a place to call home. The halls of my imagination stun me with their beauty. Aggression can be conquered with a firm hand, but you have to be willing to throw what’s causing it out the back door. Write down your insights when they come, or you’ll forget them. Hit the gas even when you’re afraid to.

And share your cinnamon rolls with the dog.

In Which I am Thought to be Homeless

Last Saturday night, I got mistaken for a homeless person. Here’s how it happened. I was waiting in the atrium of my friends’ apartment building in Cincinnati for another friend, Emily, to pick me up. If you’re familiar with Cincinnati, the apartment is in Clifton; if you’re not, that means it’s near University of Cincinnati, an area which has undergone extensive redevelopment into the kind of neighborhood every 19-year old with a bank account full of student loan money lusts for. The glass-fronted atrium where I waited was within walking distance of at least a dozen restaurants, bars, a salon, a gym--you get the idea.

Anyway, I was relatively toasted, so I had flopped down on the floor to sit and wait for my ride. Emily had been bartending at an art show since 6pm. She works at Tacocracy, a hip place in the Northside neighborhood serving artisan tacos, art, and poetry. (They have a Twin Peaks related drink on their bar menu, so I was in love from the start. Who drank Laura Palmer? Clearly, I did.)

Photo Credit: Phil Cottrell

Photo Credit: Phil Cottrell

Since I was staying with Emily for the weekend, I tagged along at the beginning of her shift and drank Old Crow bourbon and soda alone while reading a book, Leaving the Pink House, at the bar. About two hours later, some other friends rolled in. There was more bourbon, no soda. There was beer. There were jokes and quesadillas and general goodness that comes from a group of people coming together in love.

(Side occurrence: I wanted to compliment one of the poets who read at the art show, a tall black girl with a majestic profile. But there were two tall black girls, both good looking in jean jackets. I got them confused, a mistake I immediately realized while shaking the smooth, strong hand of the wrong girl. However, introducing myself to her led to some dancing between us, a connection of goodwill. She seemed pleased to meet a stranger and frolic.  Does confusing two black people make me a racist, even if both were happy to meet me ( I later found the right girl) and my intentions were good? I’m not sure. )

I had come back to the apartment of my friends to relax away from the crowd, and caught a quick nap. Now I sat in the atrium, my mind whirling, and listened to a savage fight between a man and a woman going on somewhere above me. It was constant, both of them shouting over the other. I was just far away enough that I couldn't make out the words of their argument, only the tone of it. The woman’s voice was the melody, her anger rushing out of her in a flood of alto shouts. The man was the bass line, his rumbling rage occasionally bursting into a harsh tenor of tense protest. As I listened, the woman’s voice dropped into her belly, her defiance rising out of her in a flood. “No, no,” she said, loud enough that I could make it out. The man retorted with his own string of “no’s,” his mocking, sarcastic, as though her denial meant nothing in the face of his authority. I wondered what the hell they were so angry about at 2:30 in the morning. Were they drunk? I prayed wholeheartedly that there were no children in the apartment, flashed back to my own childhood, the way I would cup my siblings in my arms when that music started to be composed.

There was no pause in the fight, ever. I’m not even sure they were breathing.  I imagined the relief which would come for them after this outburst, like the slow ease of pain after popping a huge whitehead. Whatever tension was within them might subside. Maybe one would sleep on the couch, but tomorrow, there could be reconciliation, or the decision that this was the last time, the last agonizing release of frustration the other couldn't answer. I wanted to go knock on the door, interrupt, remind them of….what? What would I say to mend them?

As I was occupied with these thoughts, two men materialized outside. They stood on either side of the door, one looking in at me, one with his back turned. The one gazing in was clearly homeless, a lanky black man with teeth like dried out kernels on a cob of corn, yellow and brittle.

“Can you spare anything to help the homeless?” he called to me through the glass which separated me from the sidewalk. I shook my head wordlessly.

“Can you let me in?” he asked. I shook my head again. The other man by the door told him he needed to go across the street, that he couldn't wait there.

“What about her?” the homeless man said. He pointed at me. I felt like an animal in a zoo.

“I’m gonna take care of her,” the other man said ominously. All the hairs on my arms stood up at once. He wore baggy gray pants and a jacket of the same tone. His back was still to me as he watched the man cross the street. Then, he turned abruptly and without looking at me began trying to open the door to the apartment building, which needed a fob to unlock. Fear crippled my bones. My phone had less than 1% battery left. I wouldn't be able to call for help if he got in. What did he want with me? Rape kidnapping murder, my mind spit out. I tried to get a look at him. He was a young black man, attractive, wearing a knit hat in the same grey as the rest of his clothing. He didn't speak to me or ask me to let him in, just kept rattling the door in its frame. I decided not look at him directly, just kept my eyes focused on the blank wall before me, let the bourbon do the driving. It’s always been my defense mechanism to withdraw, conserve energy, retreat my consciousness deeper into the well of my mind, where I cannot be touched, cannot be harmed. Upstairs, the screaming went on. I shifted my hands underneath my body, prepared to unleash the upward kick I learned in Hapkido in college. If this guy came at me, I determined, I was going to try to catch him in the groin or the gut. If push came to shove, I had a pen in my pocket. I could stab him in the throat.

Perhaps sensing my readiness to defend myself, the man stopped trying to get in and resumed his position facing the street. Another man in similar attire materialized next to him and looked at me. This guy was white, tall, lanky. I didn't meet his eyes.

“She’s homeless,” the new guy said, his voice full of some kind of pitying pleading to his partner. In those two words was a weight of social sorrow, a sense of helpless responsibility, of kindness at conflict with THE RULES. I wonder, would this same pity have been extended to the skinny black man they had just hustled across the street? Or was the pity motivated by my youth, my gender, my looks, the grave determination with which I steadfastly ignored them? If I had really been homeless, the atrium with its warm carpet and secure entry would have been a haven, a place to rest without threat.

“I know,” the first man said, “but she doesn't belong in there.”

Before I could rise and get their attention to correct their assumption, the two stalked away down the street, perhaps to confer, to call for permission to show mercy, to prepare to be cruel. I decided to risk killing my phone to call Emily, who told me she was two minutes away. As I hung up the phone, I looked up to see the young black man staring at me through the glass. For the first time, I registered the Securitas label on his jacket, the gleam of his badge.

“Hey,” he said to me sharply through the glass. I rose and opened the door, allowing in the balmy evening air.

“Hey,” I said.

“I’m gonna have to ask you to step outside,” he said.

“Yeah, no problem,” I said. “I’m just waiting for a friend, I didn't realize it was an issue for me to be in there.”

“It’s an issue with people like that man I just asked to cross the street,” he said.

“I get it,” I said. “He asked me to let him in and I said no.”

His tall corn-fed partner appeared beside him. They both stared at me like an artifact, something marvelous and mysterious from another era.

“I’ll just wait here,” I said. “My friend should be here any minute.”

“Cool,” the guard said. He and his partner turned to walk away into the night. They were about 50 feet away when I heard them start to laugh.

“What just happened?” the black guard exclaimed. The two continued to laugh, not amused giggles but long releases of air from deep in their bellies, the relief of misjudgment, the knowledge that they had not, in the end, deprived me of a safe place to lay my head, sentenced me to a night on the sidewalk. As Emily’s headlights crested over the hill to bring me home, I marveled at the depth of their true humanity--and the power of their employer to ultimately subdue it.

I've been away, but I haven't been idle!

we are as fish behind glass. an infinite radiance pressed against this bubbled moment of reality like a child gaping through an aquarium porthole. see and hear and taste and smell and touch this moment of extension. it is not happening to you;it is happening within you. within all of us at the same time. we are all expressions of the same divine chord. each of our distinct awarenesses comes from the same place. there is no one and one and one. there is only one, and the one us. the one is above the physical. beyond it. it exists with the same inexplicable necessity of your beating heart and pulsing, querulous brain. this cramp, that tickle, the hum in your throat. they are as removed from you as the objects which surround you. your cough is no more a part of you than the clock ticking on the wall.  you, true you, are an infinite wave of energy, vibrating in perfect pitch with the rest of reality. the “i” you think you are, you are not. you are more than and less than this “i” simultaneously. you are above selfishness, above desire, and above anger. these things are temporary expressions of disappointment or avarice, emotions which stem from the illusion of your separateness. you can only be angry or disappointed if you view yourself in opposition to others, in competition with others, or indebted to others.

 

picture reality as a plastic tube full of water. if you squeeze one end of the tube, the other will stretch and fill, while the one you squeeze empties. release the end you hold and balance will return. then, squeeze the other end. then end which was full is empty. everything flows from one to the other. no molecule stays in one place. so it is with life. there is no less or more. there is only ebb and flow, absence and return. there is no permanence to the states of being we take so seriously. the permanence lies in the infinite radiance  from which we stem; the depths our souls well up from; the perfect pitch of our hearts. we are so attached to what we see through our portholes, we forget to consider where we’re looking out from. the things we see and feel are distractions so absolute we forget even as infants that we are being distracted. the shadows of this moment in the current of time seem to be all we have to chew on. don’t you feel your connection to the infinite? silence the voices which tell you to focus on the transience of your body and instead pay heed to the silent eyes of the mind. to what are they teaching the color of the grass? and for what?

 

yes: only the perfect but happenchance workings of evolution

yes: the workings of chemicals

yes: mitosis, synapses, neuroses, memories, habits and heresies

 

but also: the hum of the universe, trembling like the string of a harp.

 

and you: you are it: and you hum too.

115 Penn

Today I got to go on a tour of a building on Pennsylvania St here in Indianapolis which is being renovated into apartments, some retail space, and a hotel. More coverage to come in the Real Estate People newsletter, but I couldn't resist adding some filters to the images and slapping them up here too.

eventually this "annex" to the original building will be part of the new Hilton.

eventually this "annex" to the original building will be part of the new Hilton.

senator donnelly was the official first tenant at the building when he moved his offices here a few months ago.

senator donnelly was the official first tenant at the building when he moved his offices here a few months ago.

after touring the ground levels, i got to ride up to the 14th floor in this! i was admittedly terrified, but i did it anyway. who knows when i'll get another chance?

after touring the ground levels, i got to ride up to the 14th floor in this! i was admittedly terrified, but i did it anyway. who knows when i'll get another chance?

the 14th-floor hallway was full of handprints on the drywall!

the 14th-floor hallway was full of handprints on the drywall!

and this view was totally worth the ride!

and this view was totally worth the ride!

though the trip down was good too :)

though the trip down was good too :)

Street Art

All these were taken in the alley between Carrolton and Guilford off Broad Ripple Ave.


He's been waiting for Halloween since last year!

He's been waiting for Halloween since last year!

frank2
Mellow cool kids? Do I know these people?

Mellow cool kids? Do I know these people?

This guy was too cute to leave out.

This guy was too cute to leave out.

This one gave me chills just a little.

This one gave me chills just a little.

Love the way the bricks look like teeth.

Love the way the bricks look like teeth.

Whoever and wherever you are, I hope you didn't/don't.

Whoever and wherever you are, I hope you didn't/don't.


On Purposeful Estrangement

It’s challenging to accept any relationship as toxic, whether you’re the toxic person or the person being poisoned. I’m not a toxic person, but I can imagine the denial and manipulation (perhaps intentional, perhaps subconscious) that might preoccupy such a person’s mind, clouding their vision of themselves just like it distorts their view of the people around them.  I am, however, equipped to speak to the position of the other party, what one might refer to as the enabler, the one who allows the relationship to continue. I’m equipped to speak to it now, for the last time, because I’m relinquishing that position, and ending the toxic relationship that has defined my life, literally since before I was born--my relationship with my mother.

Don’t we always think we can fix it? That this fight or this heart to heart will be the one that makes the other person realize how much they’re hurting us and be sorry for it? Then, when they don’t realize, or don’t change, enough time has passed that our anger has dimmed, and we remind ourselves that this person loves us the best way they can. We decide that warped love, however painful, is enough to content ourselves with. Maybe all love is like this. And really, some of it was our fault, so it’s not like the other person is entirely wrong…

I’ve made that decision every day for as long as I can remember. I talked myself out of indignation, licked my own wounds clean, and walked on. Meanwhile, my mom hit my sister in the head with her new toys on Christmas, hard enough to draw blood (ONLY A LITTLE, jeez, she was fine, what’s the big deal?) She got jealous when my dad spent time with my brother and tore Dad down, just to make sure he wasn’t becoming a favorite. She tried to start an affair with the father of my first serious boyfriend, and somehow that became my fault, because if only she hadn’t had children she could have had a life. I was a vampire, a leech, a bitch. At the same time, I was also a living doll, a projection of herself she could dress up and parade around and get credit for. She told me I would never amount to anything, and then soaked up the praise for my successes. I, in turn, achieved them alone, in some part in the hope that she would see my many good qualities and stop the violence and verbal abuse. And sometimes she would, for an evening, or a full day, or even a weekend. But never for good.

If mom is reading this (I hope she is) she is angry right now. She is telling herself that nothing I just wrote is true, that I’m a liar and I’m ungrateful to boot. Her favorite word, ungrateful. That’s what we are, my siblings and I, every time we try to have a conversation about her toxicity. Ungrateful for the sacrifices she made. We’re supposed to sit back and take it the same way she did, let the badness eat us from within until the only way to find release is to continue the cycle--to manipulate our loved ones, bind them to us with guilt, and put onto them the names we really call ourselves deep down.

No, thanks. I’m opting out, which means removing the stimulus to stop the reaction. In short, it means not talking to her anymore. I’m giving it all back--the guilt, the anxiety about how I’m perceived, the need to earn approval, and most of all, the self-loathing. I’m keeping the good stuff--my sense of humor, generosity, my taste in music, my fashion sense and my love of a clean room. Thank you for those things, Mom, and really in the end thank you for the bad stuff too. Without having to endure it, I wouldn’t be who I am. But those burdens aren’t mine to carry. They really aren’t yours either, just like they weren’t Grandma’s, or her mother’s. I hope with all my heart you will get the help you need to set them down once and for all, without the crutch of alcohol, which really just makes you more unbearable, even to yourself. You will need to seek out professional help (I have) and you will need to be brave. I know you are strong enough.

If and when we meet again, it will be on my terms. I know you only like your own terms, but really, I promise, mine are better for both of us. Get help. I’ll be here waiting on the other side.

To all you readers who aren’t my mom (which, hey, is all but one of you!) sorry for that brief little tangent, but I hope if you are in the same or a similar situation it spoke to you. Getting out of these relationships that wound us is only the first step--a big one, yes, but only one. From here, we rebuild ourselves by listening to the internal voice who told us all along something was wrong. What other insights do you have, higher self?

I’ll conclude with a poem called “Love After Love” by Nobel laureate Derek Walcott.

 

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other's welcome,

 

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

 

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

 

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.



 

That Time I Watched a Kid Try To Drown His Brother

Over the weekend I just spent in Grayton Beach, Florida, I watched a young boy (about seven) try to drown his brother in the surf around 8 am. We went to the beach early that morning, as did this kid and his family. I noticed them when we walked down the stairs to the beach at Grayton Beach State Park. The dad had a fishing pole, outlined against the sun. We had seen swift silver little fish the day before in the shallow where we waded. His family was around him, a posse of four kids, a woman who gave the air of being his wife, and another woman of similar, slightly older age--an aunt, maybe, or young grandmother. At any rate, I didn’t pay any further attention to them until I settled down on our towel after a walk. This was about five minutes before the boy tried to drown the toddler.

When I say he tried to drown him, I don’t mean they were playing. It was an act of singular violent intention so discrete that it drew my attention to the pair. That and the struggled splashing of the toddler as his brother pinned him underwater. The older boy was bent at the knees, his arm immersed in water almost to the elbow. He was focused.

Is he--?  My mind ignited with realization in the second before the mother began yelling.

“GET HIM OUT OF THE WATER RIGHT NOW!” The boy looked up, and withdrew his brother from the water, turning to face his mother in the same smooth motion. He held the screaming child by the back of its shirt like a sack of onions and stared. The woman ran over to him and took the baby, who was immediately swept several feet away in her arms and surrounded by both the other adult woman and an older sister of between fourteen and sixteen. I watched the baby shake himself, regain his balance. I looked to the boy, who was stomping around the beach flexing his arms, emitting groans of rage and aggression, his face contorted into a toadlike grimace. After a few moments of stomping, he became perfectly still and stared out over the ocean to the horizon for several minutes. During that time, he wasn’t punished in any way by his parents. After a few minutes, the toddler was running toward him again, eager for interaction with his big brother, who he did not understand had just tried to murder him.

I was immediately possessed by a mental image of myself standing up, grabbing the kid by the hair, and administering whatever justice came to mind when I looked into his face (maybe verbal, maybe more direct). The only thing that held me back was the distant vision of two friends far down the shore, who would be pulled into whatever drama would ensue from my little outburst. I stayed on the towel, but couldn’t look away. A few moments later later the boy’s sister, around the same age, approached him. He called her names for tramp and slut for several minutes in a conversational tone. Interestingly, he referred to himself as a “grandpa,” putting his hands on his scrawny hips and puffing out his gut.When their mother said it was time to leave, the little girl, rotund in her pinky-purple tankini, resumed her brother’s meditative post on the horizon. I wonder what both the children were thinking, but of course, I have no way of postulating.

Later when I discussed this incident with my companions on the beach, my friend Erin made the point that the boy’s behavior might have been “expected,” meaning punishing it had been tried and had failed. Perhaps some other kind of behind-the-scenes rewiring was going on, some other attempt to make him into the kind of person who knew it was wrong to try to drown someone, and that doing so would have consequences. How do we teach this to the child who can’t retain the difference between right and wrong in their memory? What about the one who doesn’t feel guilt or love? What about when that individual has the brain and wiles of an adult? Today’s “expected behaviors” could be tomorrow’s mall shootings. To what extent are we expected to be flexible with our children and the children around us when it comes to bad behavior, or worse, dangerous mental illnesses? In the latter cases, is it fair to ask the family to bear the burden alone when the threat posed is larger?  I suppose that would depend on your answer to the question “where does mental illness come from?” If you believe it’s the product of upbringing, you might believe the parents alone should be in charge of taking on the burden of whatever waste of space they managed to raise. If you’re like me, you might believe that such things are more complicated, and think the state and community should have some measure of responsibility--beyond imprisonment and corporal punishment after the crime has occurred.

I’m not a parent, and I know nothing about children,  so it’s entirely possible what I saw was normal. Maybe there’s some kind of age window in pre puberty where you’re allowed to do things like this. I certainly did my share of horrible things to my brother and sister which might have led an observer to think I was the next Charles Manson. Once my mom got a call from my teacher because I drew a picture of Cody, my brother, getting eaten by a t-rex on the scratch paper she had provided for a state standardized test. It was a very detailed drawing--I had finished the test way ahead of time, and I had a stunningly vivid mental image of my nemesis being consumed. It’s true that I’m basing my amateur diagnosis of this kid on literally ten minutes worth of observation. I could be totally wrong--but I don’t think I’m wrong to be unsettled by (and curious about) the very real questions this incident raised for me. I don’t have any answers yet, but I’m mulling it over, Chime in with what it conjures up for you!

    

 

Art Museum Afterthoughts

Today I had an unexpected day off, so I decided to get out of the house and head over to Indy’s art museum, which is both free and excellent. Normally I’m the kind of dweeb who would take advantage of being alone to meticulously read all the placards and spend hours wandering. But today, somehow, I wasn’t feeling it all the way. They’re having an exhibit of coffee and tea pots right now, which I went to first and which made me unexpectedly depressed. I was looking at these pots, hundreds of years old, with no signs of use. I suppose that’s what makes them “museum quality,” but I also wondered, what’s the point? Maybe what I was looking for was something less pristine, less sterile, more human.

In the end it’s the question of what we want to preserve, and what we think will help us see culture through an updated or different lens. I wanted to ask more questions after looking at those things--who used them, and when--but they were so perfect it was hard to attribute a story or deeper meaning to them. They were just pretty things in glass cases. Like the coffee pot zoo.  The last living Paul Revere-forged pitcher. Those pots don’t want to be in cages, they want to be out there on the front lines brewing tea.

There are some favorite paintings there which I got to visit, which improved my mood slightly, and they had updated some pieces in the modern furniture installation, which I always love to linger in. But I left with a general feeling of dissatisfaction and went to wander in the gardens, which was better. I haven’t spent much time on the grounds and discovered some outdoor sculptures and installations that spoke more to my mood. Then, I wandered past two little girls singing the opening bars of “Let it Go” over and over and found my way onto what looked like a real trail but ended up being a glorified game trail. It was nice to be alone and solitary in the woods. Maybe that was what I really needed?

Or maybe I just need to stop listening to 1984 while I’m driving. Depending on where I pause, it is often unsettling. 

I still took plenty of pictures, which you can find below.

vase--lizard fighting octopus

vase--lizard fighting octopus

vase detail

vase detail

this dog has been this good for around 2000 years. 

this dog has been this good for around 2000 years. 

"wind" miyashita zenji 2006

"wind" miyashita zenji 2006

mid 19th century from Mali

mid 19th century from Mali

this installment is huge, called "a flock of signs"

this installment is huge, called "a flock of signs"

indigneous tribes. 

indigneous tribes. 

shit growing on a decomposing branch

shit growing on a decomposing branch

corroded oil drum near the end of the "trail" i found. 

corroded oil drum near the end of the "trail" i found. 



Why I'm (Ironically) Praying For A Satanist Presidential Candidate

I saw in the news this morning that the Satanist Temple, inspired by the recent religious-liberty Hobby Lobby ruling, is formulating a case against the Right-to-Know laws that abortion-seeking women labor under in no less than 35 US States. For those not aware of these legislations, right-to-know laws essentially mandate that before a woman can obtain an abortion, she has to sit through an interview with a doctor. However, this doctor is not just there to describe to her what will happen to her body or any realistic health risks associated with abortion . They are also there to guilt trip her into not having one.

Think that's not true? Check out the State of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals website, which talks less about actually informing women about their decision options, and more about badgering them into baby-making with pregnancy support resources and adoption agencies. 

The Satanist Temple are claiming that forcing their female members who want abortions to sit through these interviews is against their beliefs as a church. They believe not only that what happens to a body is the business of the owner of that body alone, but that the misleading information presented during these interviews (like the alleged claim that abortions increase your risk of breast cancer) is also against their religion, which mandates that they believe the truth of science and proven fact.

This interested me enough to visit their website, where I became firmly convinced that the ideals of this organization are what America needs. Read their Seven Tenets below: 

  • One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.

  • The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.

  • One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.

  • The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.

  • Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.

  • People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.

  • Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

How did this benign belief system come to be called Satanism? Is it because of the emphasis on personal will, or the grounding in hard facts? Actually, it's both, and also partially timing as well. According to their website, one of their seminal texts was published in the early 20th century, and the metaphor was a little too advanced for the stuffed shirts of the time.  

"Ultimately a meditation on the corruption of power, Anatole France’s Revolt of the Angels (1914) utilizes the theological metaphor of Satan as a force favoring free inquiry, the War in Heaven a metaphysical battle against universal tyranny."

And another illuminating quote: 

"To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions. The Satanist should actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things. Our beliefs must be malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world — never the reverse."

It's not that they love Satan, like fire-breathing, fiddle-playing, throne-sitting devil of Deuteronomy Satan. They appreciate and promote everything Satan represented to the old school Church (and still arguably represents)--personal liberty, treating animals as equals (haha that's a bestiality joke kinda, sorry couldn't resist), and justice over money.  Tell that to the Sunday tithe basket--I gave my money to the homeless guy up the street.

If someone ran for President with these beliefs I would vote for them. I would hope that they could actually preserve and act on them once in office. I might even sacrifice a chicken or something to make it happen....if that, like, would work. 

Also, they had this hilarious "Chick Tract" inspired cartoon on their website, courtesy of an artist named Doug Mesner. Enjoy. 


A Monday Mid-Afternoon Ode to Caffeine

O caffeine! you crystalline xanthine alkaloid,

how would I smile without your dihydro trimethyl 

purine pureness pumping through

my shriveled arteries, my murky

Monday brain?

 

Some call you bitter, but bitterness is what you banish

 with four swiftly fired shots

of espresso, a volley of coffee and cream. 

Guarana, kola, yerba, yaupon, Pepsi and Hershey's, 

even Excedrin relies on you to live. 

 

I pity the poor creatures who must wake

without you, spiders and dogs and

Christian Scientists.

They don't trust the tweaking,

can't bear the buzz. I will drink you

for them, sacrifice

my bladder and liver, 

 welcome in return

the fierce five hour burn

you bring to my belly.  

 

I'm sorry for all those times I betrayed you 

with B-12, taurine, and ginseng, but really,

it was your fault.You weren't antagonizing

my adenosine receptors fast enough. I beg you,

bully my neurons into brightness, banish my blinking, sweep 

Saturday's garbage, Sunday's sleepy cobwebs

 onto the dingy weekday sidewalk. 

Get physical--but spare me

the post-300mg anxiety.

If you're offering

hallucinations,

let's save those for Friday.

 

 

 





Here's How the State of Indiana Treats Trans Employees--Like Garbage.

As some readers may know, my father has been out as transgender for about 2 years now. Before her transition, Dad worked for the State of Indiana Department of Corrections. She started this job the same year my brother was born, 1992, and worked for DOC for over 20 years, working her way up the ranks from a guard until she was a Major, the highest ranking officer in uniform. She worked nights, weekends, even gave extra time as the captain of the riot team.

A few months before coming out, she quit this job. According to her, it was because the new governor (our own Mike Pence) wanted the prisons to be ruled with an iron fist, by instilling fear of higher ranking officers in state employees. My dad is a gentle person (deep down) and wasn’t comfortable with changing leadership styles after 20 years of an open door policy. I’m sure the desire to live her true life was also a part; her treatment by the DOC after her transition only serves to illustrate what a shit show it would have been if she had come out while an employee.

What treatment, you might ask? Well, see, Dad doesn’t have a college degree, and she’s a transgender in a state which won’t even let homosexuals with traditional gender identities get married. Suffice to say, finding a full time job was difficult, even with a decade or more of management experience. So, Dad decides to submit some applications back to the Indiana corrections system and see if she can get hired back on as a guard. No responsibilities of leadership, but the opportunity to return to a familiar work environment where she knew she could excel at her job.

Applications went out by the dozens. Finally, Dad got a call from the facility in Rockville, Indiana, to set up an interview for the following week. Or so she thought, until DOC called 2 days before to cancel the interview. Not because the position had been filled, but because she is trans.

Now wait, Amber, you might be thinking. That’s kind of a serious accusation, do you have any proof to back that up?

Why yes, I do.

 See, when DOC called to cancel the interview, Dad asked why they were doing so, and they said they would have to call back. But then they never did, despite repeated contact attempts from Dad. So Dad got mad and called an old colleague of hers who happens to be the current state personnel director. She told this person that if she didn’t receive a call back in 24 hours she would be getting a lawyer.

Of course, that got her a call back, and a trip to IHOP in Anderson, Indiana. That was the meeting place the personnel director chose to meet—somewhere casual, where their bigotry could be revealed over coffee. Dad recorded the entire conversation which transpired between herself and this state employee. 

During this meeting it was literally admitted to her that the reason Indiana didn’t want to hire her was because she was trans. Oh, she was a model employee when she was a man. According to the state personnel director, “we thought you walked on water.” But not anymore, just because of a change in name and appearance. Suddenly Dad was an untouchable.

But, the personnel director assured her they would find her a place, even though she was the first trans employee in the state. Then Dad didn’t hear anything for a few weeks, until she was offered a part-time minimum-wage job at the BMV. After 20 years of full time, loyal service, Dad wasn’t willing to settle for that.

So she called the ACLU and filed a lawsuit. Not surprisingly, in less than a week she was offered a job as a guard at DOC, with the stipulation that she drop the lawsuit. Before agreeing to do so, Dad got a verbal promise from the State of Indiana that she would be allowed to wear a skirt and makeup to work and be treated as a woman under the employee policy.

Allow me to tell you, perhaps unsurprisingly—that has not been the case.

They have certainly been quick to limit Dad’s responsibilities and opportunities. Like all women employed by DOC, she’s not allowed to search male offenders—which is fine. But it’s also been made indirectly clear to her that there will be no opportunities for promotion or job advancement (also fine—but discriminatory as fuck). And since she’s been working there for the last few months,  she’s not been allowed to order a uniform skirt, or even provide her own.

See, according to the State of Indiana, people are only allowed to wear uniform skirts for religious purposes, like Mennonites, I assume. Apparently no one has ever chosen to take advantage of this policy, and the State of Indiana doesn’t want to let my Dad be the first, especially not for gender reasons.

(Dad, I ask, why don’t you just become a Mennonite? But she’s not willing to LIE. See? See what a good employee you have, DOC?)

Never mind the fact that she’s filed at least 5 incident reports about self-injuries due to being forced to wear pants while tucking. Never mind that the State is in clear violation of Federal EEOC. They don’t give two shits. They just want to punish anyone who isn’t straight, and they aren't even trying to hide it anymore, as Governor Pence's recent ridiculous instruction to disregard the Federal Supreme Court's ruling in favor of gay marriage indicates.

 Prudent, my ass. I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the governor, and therefore the entire Hoosier State government, is disgustingly anti-LGBT. My dad is just one more person being caught in the storm of their hatred. She’s submitted an official appeal to State HR, which at the first level of bureaucracy was declined. Their reasoning?

She didn’t get fired—so she should shut the fuck up and deal. And let them break the promises they made to avoid getting sued. 

Good thing she still knows how to get in touch with some lawyers. 

Considerations on Iraq and Kant's Categorical Imperative.

One philosophical doctrine I learned during my undergraduate study which has stuck with me is Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Distilled to it’s most essential point, the CI holds that no human (or other rational agent) should take an action which they do not wish to be made universally acceptable to all other agents. It’s basically the Golden Rule written for grownups.

    The main issue most people have (myself included) with following the Categorical Imperative is that it requires one to place duty above desire. This requires that agents respect whatever it is that makes an action a duty--for example, in order to obey the law against stealing that prevents you from shoplifting, you must respect the agencies and authorities that put that law in place. You might choose not to. However, Kant argues that as rational beings, there is an internal law which we must answer to--the law of moral duty. To quote Robert Johnson’s entry in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    “The force of moral requirements as reasons is that we cannot ignore them no matter how circumstances might conspire against any other consideration. Since they retain their reason-giving force under any circumstance, they have universal validity. So, whatever else may be said of moral requirements, their content is universal.”

    So with this point in mind, I pose myself and you the reader an important question of our times: what is the American duty toward the people of Iraq? How should we act, and are we comfortable with that action becoming universally acceptable?

I think it’s safe to say that we certainly wouldn’t want any of our actions up until now to become universal law. I would argue that the invasion of Iraq was itself a violation of the CI. According to the 2005 “Downing Street Memo” published in The Sunday Times, "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Let me restate that to be sure it’s clear to you--the intelligence and facts were being fixed. To support the policy of invading Iraq. Let’s hope the people of China, France, or Korea don’t choose to fix up some facts and start bombing Washington because they don’t like our government leader. Or our government. Or our actions. Or the amount of money we owe them.

    But, at any rate, the lack of justification for the invasion of Iraq and the nine years of death which followed is something of old news. Let’s let bygones be bygones, right? We’ve all agreed it was a mistake, let’s just bring the troops home.

    Except now, in case you haven’t heard, Iraq is right back to square one. Insurgents are storming Baghdad and all those civilians--the ones to whom we made promises of democracy, peace, and freedom--are probably feeling pretty bitter. I can’t even imagine the emotions of veterans who served there, who come home to see their work undone. So now we weigh our options. Do we leave Iraq to its own devices, so sorry, thanks for trying men and women of our armed forces? Or do we continue to support--whichever side we think is less likely to turn out to be insane? Is it really our job to play military mediator between two sects of Islam who have been snapping at each other since Muhammad died in 632? To change and reshape a nation who never asked for our help?

    I don’t think it was our job, but it has become our job. We picked it up, shouldered it ourselves--well, maybe more accurately it was picked up for us, by people who themselves did not hold with the Categorical Imperative. But now we must try to do so, in the most measured way possible. We cannot leave the civilians of Iraq to suffer civil war after we destroyed their government. However, we also cannot stop that war, without somehow completely dismantling a massive network of insurgents and changing the nature of Islam itself. It’s an impossible thing, literally. So we must find a middle road, which meets our vested duty without continuing to play Atlas to the troubles of the Middle East.

"Survival of the Fittest?" We should leave them to their own devices? Perhaps that will be the end result. But I sure hope we're right about who is most fit in the end.

    Many people are bitching about the cost of continued involvement--and it’s true, it’s been expensive to poke our nose in, and it will remain so. Nobel-laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and public finance expert Linda Blimes deduced that, when you take into account long-term care for vets, interest on debt, and replacement of military hardware, the US has been spending around $720 million PER DAY of this conflict.

    Take a moment. Let that number sink in. $720 million per day, and for nothing?

    Our country has sold future generations to this war, and we’re just supposed to call it a wash?

    If the humanitarian, moral side of this discussion doesn’t appeal to you, maybe the financial one will. Let’s see some return on our investment. Let’s try to make something good out of this fiasco, which started from greed and ambition, near as I can tell. Continued air support to the fledgling Iraqi democracy will support their efforts to create stability without requiring us to put more troops on the ground.

    “Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity.” I know, it doesn’t make sense. It might never work. But nonviolence is our last option at this point. The stakes have been set for us. We have to meet them, or risk setting a standard for international conduct and conflict which we will certainly not want enacted back onto us when our hegemony has declined.

 

photo friday: twilight walk

took these with my iphone last night while I was walking around my neighborhood. filters all over the place. #noshame. 

mushrooms in our backyard

mushrooms in our backyard

wild strawberry

wild strawberry

clover. 

clover. 

accidental foot. 

accidental foot. 

weird dirt hole full of water and mosquitoes. 

weird dirt hole full of water and mosquitoes. 

arch of roots

arch of roots