Category Archives: Writing

Fueling the Cult of Resentment

The Racial Politics of Grammar Correction
The Week—December 1, 2013
A minority student group at the University of California, Los Angeles, is accusing a professor of racism for correcting grammar and punctuation in minority students’ assignments. The group, Students of Color, says ‘the grammar lessons are acts of micro-aggression’ that have created ‘a hostile class climate.’ Professor Val Rust said he was just trying to help students, but conceded they ‘don’t feel that is appropriate.’

I’ve been seeing signs of proper spelling and grammar being politically incorrect all over the Internet for a couple of years now. It’s not really surprising considering the war between liberal and conservative fundamentalists. Political fundamentalists will grab at anything, no matter how graceless or unproductive, to preserve their identity. If I showed this article to the very liberal community here, they would have no choice but to agree that correcting minority students’ grammar truly is hostile and aggressive and inappropriate, because they are the enablers who make claims like this possible.

True believers of either party are parodies of themselves. Blind-faith liberalism must be a gene just like religious zealotry–I don’t think followers can help it. I want to be one too, to lift this shame of not belonging, to fit in, to be able to sleep at night because I’m so damn right. I want to be convinced—but it’s as impossible to have a discussion with a devout liberal as it is asking a Jehovah’s Witness to explain their fervor. I’ve tried.

Last week one of my cleaning customers referred me to her neighbors, two feminist ladies. After my customer gave them my name and number, the two women said: She’s not a Christian, is she? No, my customer said, she’s an atheist. But what if my name were Juanita? Those women wouldn’t have dared ask if I was a Christian, they would’ve assumed and accepted it without a bleat.

In the very liberal LGBT community in this town, huddled together in colorful houses, everyone has intricate metal crosses and Our Lady of Guadalupe artwork all over their walls both inside and out. So, uh, the strong Christian faith of Latin America is what, quaint? Artsy? Adorable? Are the artifacts of the religion 90% of Latinos embrace just trendy, whimsical knickknacks? Doesn’t that seem kind of insulting, as if implying that nonwhite Christians are not smart enough to know any better? Why are they not held to the same intolerance shown to white Christians?

The voices of quietly questioning individuals who despise politics are not welcome here. It’s not enough that I support gay marriage (or, more honestly, whatever), and have been an atheist since I was a tween, the liberals here want all of my devotion. It’s assumed I feel exactly like they do about everything–that’s made clear by the political proclamations they make within the first five minutes of meeting me, without knowing anything about me. It’s my nature to ask questions, but if you dare admit you don’t believe the exact same thing they do, they’ll either shun you or yell at you. Both have happened to me here on numerous occasions, to the point where honestly I’d rather hang out with the rednecks. They’re a lot more fun, especially when drinking and eating carbs.

Is this what ‘belonging’ is all about? The word ‘conservative’ is now an obscenity, and everyone is encouraged to blame them loudly for all that is evil—in conversation (which is kind of joke these days), in TV shows, movies, stand-up comedy, social media (where it’s mandatory for all hip people to pass along link after link to news articles where conservatives have committed some imagined atrocity), and even in dictionary examples (that’s where they use the word in a sentence). It’s the worst thing you can be, and it’s saturated every layer of our society. Strangely though, I don’t know many people here who are raging conservatives, but I know an awful lot of angry liberals. Both are unpleasant and scary and convinced of their superiority.

If I prayed, I would pray for a warrior to rise up out of the ruins of America with brilliant ideas on how to get us working again. Not a Democrat, not a Republican, not someone whose master is a political party. An inventive, wise prodigy who wouldn’t make me feel ashamed of proofreading my work. No chance of that happening, so let the hate mail begin.

 

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Adjust the Mask

I love convenience store people and gas station people and the person in line in front of me. I love the meter reader and the mail lady and the man who came to empty the septic tank. What sound relationships I have formed with these strangers! How fresh my mask is, how centered, how taut, in brief banter with a bank teller.

Any longer and sometimes the mask slides down under one ear but I don’t notice. Sometimes in my compartmentalized world I forget that my true confessions do not have clearance. I divulge too much, forgetting that beige is the color of acceptance, and neglecting to seal emotional efflux and stick to the script. When will I learn that people don’t find my negativity as refreshing as I would in them? Once again I have failed to measure my words but let them fly unfettered into self-reproach. One of these days I’m going to ditch this mask. But for now I straighten it and make a note to replace the elastic band.

Thanks to Be Kind Rewrite for the prompt ‘Adjust the Mask’
Inspiration Monday

Cosmic Effluvium

I met Planchette in a pasture where we were both staring at goats—he was hoping for some new kidskin gloves, I just wanted to snap a few photos. He claimed we met by coincidence but I realize now how random encounters are much more certain to occur when one person is stalked. Next thing I know we’re speaking in tongues and he was laying hands on me. Much was made of his expertise in touch therapy, but he was your basic medium. Planchette put the sham in shamanic healing and taught me the true meaning of mentalism.

I experienced a vision of life reincarnated but it turned out I just needed stronger glasses. His approach to our relationship was holistic—he wanted comprehensive possession. I made the mistake of mocking his new-age views so he insisted I submit to past-life regression—now I’m channeling a two-year-old. He promised we’d transmigrate to an oracle of divine relocation but instead I landed in a near-death experience.  His audible frequencies usually put me in a somnambulistic trance and teleported me to a higher unconsciousness, and he was always mad that I didn’t return his telepathic voice mails. Sometimes I’d turn ghostly white and start scrying.

Planchette boasted he was certified with the Countrywide Collusion of Simulated Psychics. We’d often hand out coupons for free dream interpretation via text messaging, then direct them to his website where he sold shamanic healing kits. The kits included tiny drums, rattles, his new CD The Dronings of Our Ancestors, some mild stimulants, and a package of Kleenex, all assembled in a handy carrying case for the paranormal price of $189.95.

It’s true he had a hypnotic effect on me but thank goodness I was fine once the narcotics wore off. I intuited I was in the gateway, maybe even the vestibule, of a psychic disturbance so I sat down to engage in some automatic writing, but what came out bent my pen. Next time I feel the need for an astral projection I think I’ll just stay home.

You’re So Vane, You Probably Think this Storm is About You

Dear Kelvin,
I’m all for whirlwind romance, but cool it with the high pressure, it’ll only result in a squall. All this hot air has prompted a wind advisory. Just because you have a few degrees from Contrail Community College doesn’t make you a supercell.

Dear Glacia,
Oooh, blustery. Thanks a lot for the cold front. Whatever happened to “oh baby you raise my dew point like no one else?” You seemed pretty saturated to me last night but then you always were a little hoary.

Kelvin,
Sorry but my humidity is relative. We’ve been drifting for a while now and the effects are cumulus. Must you drizzle? You’re like a fog that never lifts. It shouldn’t be a surprise my subtropical region is in a depression. What do you want me to do, sit and spin? No wait, I’d need a vertical axis for that.

Glacia,
You should be glad my visibility was poor last night because you were a category 5 disaster. Did you actually pay for that new permafrost? What, in centigrade? And you blew through that row of desserts like a cyclone. Weren’t you embarrassed by the evacuations? Try getting your face out of the trough now and then and you might appear more gradient.

Kelvin,
I predicted that torrent. You overcast me with your wit. It wasn’t my idea to eat at the High Winds Buffet, so chill out. I need to circulate before I vaporize into atmosphereless haze. By the way, how’s the job down at the cloud bank?

Glacia,
Turbulent but thanks for asking. How’s yours slinging funnel cake at the state fair? Good luck starting at absolute zero. Your density precipitates you.

Kelvin,
What in hail are you talking about, you nimbus? You know I don’t speak Celsius.

Glacia, let’s clear up this unstable anticlimate. Wanna meet me at the Isobar?

Kelvin, can I take a rain check?

Aw c’mon Glacia, give me a 50% chance. Afterward we can play twister.

Kelvin, you don’t really deserve inclemency…but if I can ride your thermal and you promise to wear a windsock…

Glacia, to the stratosphere, you little dust devil! I’ll set up the lightning rod…

Unplugged

I’m just a soul whose intentions are good…oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.
(Not written by, but made tearfully famous by Eric Burden in 1965)

Changes. They’re harder when we get older but are often worth the struggle. I just got back from a week in CT, my home state. A family member I hadn’t spoken to in 20 years called because she needed me. I did not hang up on her, I got on a plane. A highly emotional reconciliation and physically demanding visit followed. It was wonderful. I have been telling people all my life I have no family but now that has changed, and a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. She had me ROFL when she said, in all earnestness, “well you know you come from a long line of over-reacters.” Ha ha, like you don’t? I laughed so hard I fell off the couch.

I spent the week ‘unplugged,’ my first since the beginning of the computer age. No email, no google, no Trayvon, no bitter news to keep me in a constant state of agitation. (First thing I read when I got back though was this unholy alliance between Hollywood and Washington. It’s always been there, but this spectacle splashed all over front pages everywhere makes me sick in a whole new way—two professional groups of liars teaming up, a powerful fusing of the sordid with the corrupt. America, running on a currency of lies and coverups is now one big hateful reality show. Incontinent conservatives, please stop! You’re HELPING him!) But my hiatus was freeing, and had begun before I left. Too ashamed to dispense my moody posts, too involved in my own demise to comment on others. I apologize to my friends for neglecting you, but I do not sparkle with wit and humor, I crackle with confrontation and cynicism.  My friend Harry from The Fool Folds his Arms had these wise words:  I sometimes wonder if the Internet was invented to keep people occupied and passive while the powerful continue to chip away at what little they don’t control already. Well put Harry.

When I got home I learned of two shocking deaths here in AZ. The first was an older woman I adored, cancer. It happened fast and I didn’t know and I still can’t believe it.

The second was the untimely death of a young man whom I had struck from my life because of his cruelty toward his animals. I grew to hate him. I will not miss him but I am not glad he is gone. Like wishing for revolution and getting it, then cowering as the new regime inflicts more aggression and brutality than the last, I can’t know what will replace him. His (very nice) family is dumping the house cheap. Is it wrong of me to feel in my heart it’s about to get worse? No, it is merely experience speaking for me—I can’t unknow the past. Does the deletion of a selfish person add balance to the world? Absolutely not. It doesn’t work that way.

Here are a few pictures from around town this week.

I tried to research this bird but could not be sure what it is. Can anyone help? Saw him along the San Pedro River.

We don’t get many bluebirds in my neighborhood so this was a treat. He hung around for a few days and now he’s gone. But the exotic orioles are beginning to arrive, and they too, are just passing through. Time to buy oranges. The swallows are back and rebuilding their porch light nest with great dedication and style.

Funny young pigeon watching me at a customer’s house. I was so flattered how close he let me come to him.

These new solar panels in the historical part of town have got everyone’s panties in a twist. Irate letters to the local papers abound…’the town wouldn’t let me put a carport in because it wasn’t historical!’ and ‘why didn’t you make them put the panels IN BACK OF the inn?’ etc., etc. Now I learn they are selling the power generated from these back to the power company. What do you think?

Look familiar? Although not the exact model as “Christine,” they used several models in the movie and this ’59 Plymouth Savoy was one of them. I love the flag on the antenna. Don’t see many American flags around here.

 

Small Mercies

I’m on a mission, one that keeps me from self-destruction. Each of us in our own spheres of influence have the power to do good. It might not seem like much in the grand scheme, but collectively it matters. Maybe our presence will prevent someone from doing harm. The world is already so warped by meanness the least I can do is stand my ground—if nothing more than to spite the next bully who comes along.

More Verbal Entropy: These portmanteau words are driving me crazy. OK so it’s fun to think of a blend of two words to express a concept. Sometimes you luck out and find two words that roll easily off the tongue or are clever. What’s creepy is how ubiquitous this trend is, kept alive through the vast internet. Here are some we didn’t need: dramality, flexitarian, jealousify, listicle, mirthquake, swacket, undoplasty, welebrity. Worth a giggle if you thought it up yourself, but there is nothing new here, just bland pop culture mistaken for originality. I’ll bet most people who love words make up their own anyway. Here’s one I just thought of…it’s true we live in a mediocracy, but it’s powered by the mediacracy!

Then there’s disemvoweling which evolved from texting, forums, etc. You know it’s a major trend when Madonna puts out an album called MDNA and we all know what it means (though the ‘a’ remains, disemvoweling normally strikes vowels only). There are even apps to help you spell words wrong. I guess we should be happy that texting drivers skip the vowels, but it’s just one more trend contributing to modern-day illiteracy. However, the word disemvoweling itself is an expressive and useful word. Another newish word that fulfills a need is petrichor. The eloquent definition for this glossy word from OUP is “the pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Origin: A blend of petro- ‘relating to rocks’ (the smell is believed to be caused by a liquid mixture of organic compounds that collects in the ground) and ichor.” I can’t wait to use this word word when monsoon starts, because who doesn’t love that magical earthy smell.

Search engine term of the month: Search engine terms are bizarre and sometimes repulsive. When I write about pitbull abuse, I get hits looking for how to abuse a dog so it will fight. It’s a depressing way to learn about depravity. A few months ago I posted some photos of a vintage fridge-sink-stovetop unit from the fifties, and this month’s most revealing search term was “sex with appliencs.” Yeah dude, come on over to Find an Outlet for some spicy appliance porn. I’ll show you how to cut a glory hole in the back of a stove, because nothing screams orgasm like 220 volts.

Politics. Ugh. The bumper sticker below sums up exactly how many of us feel. We long for sane leadership but don’t see anyone who is in touch with real life. Six months ago we were confronted with the world population reaching 7 billion—millions of articles addressed it and suggested strategies. Now the biggest issue raging in Republican politics is contraception? How can this be happening? Is the media pushing this to alienate the candidates? It’s working, they’re turning women away in droves. For god’s sake give free birth control to anyone who wants it in the world—instead of aid, send birth control. Think of it as a low-cost contribution to saving the planet before it reaches the 8 billion projected for 2025 (if we’re still here). Do they think people (especially kids) are going to abstain—are they kidding? Anything but.

Some states force insurance companies pay out enormous sums for fertility treatments, and there are movements to lobby the government to pay if you’re not covered. Taxpayers have funded $240 million through Medicare during the last decade for penis pumps for old men—is that okay?  This is not a time to spotlight personal religious beliefs while solid plans for our country’s (and planet’s) future remain hazy. More and more people say they may not vote at all, and that might include me. I absolutely cannot support Obama, but neither can I vote for someone who is so misogynistic that they would deny abortion in case of rape. If this happens, expect protests that will make the Occupiers look like kittens. I really, really want a generator.

Instead of uniting all us Demoblicans and Republicats, they are dividing us into two nasty camps like never before, leaving millions of Americans disgusted. It’s exactly what won’t work.

Bumper sticker displayed by someone who probably won't vote.

Why. Why can’t people proofread. Would you get your new tat done here? Remember that song by Offspring?
"Now he's getting a tattoo yeah, he's getting ink done
He asks for a 13, but they drew a 31!"

There's a joke here about the pervasive plastic bags stuck to prickly pears and everything else—it's the state flower of Arizona.

The barren Huachucas are a stark contrast to the cottonwoods greening up along the San Pedro River. We hope the recent snow helps new life spring from the fire-ravaged mountains.

An amazing old face of someone who looks like she's been through hard times. I'll bet she's got a thing or two to teach us.

Jada, on left, 6 months ago. Jasmine just told her to go lie down and she's pretending she is. If only it lasted longer than 30 seconds.

And here she is now, about a year old. She's now officially the biggest dog of the pack, and I don't think she's done growing. But she's still a work in progress and will be for a while. She's a great new feature of our security system though.

Last year's seed pods and new growth of the scale-like leaves on my favorite southwest tree, the alligator juniper.

Happy little non-killer bee (the plant was full of them) on a gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) doing what they do best.

It's very warm here and everything is either flowering or about to.

Mwahaha! Some people have ridiculous amounts pillows on their beds or sofas, made goofier by all these huge tags sticking out. It's OK to cut them off, really, no one will arrest you! I applied scissors to this one myself. I had to.

We're now boarding two beautiful rescued horses. I'm not doing it for the (nominal) money, nor because I'm in love with horses, though they sure are growing on me. I'm doing it for the neighborhood. People trying to leave are dumping their houses cheap or renting them. The owners of these horses have their home up for sale nearby, and one of the reasons they want to leave is because they were driving back and forth twice a day to a town 28 miles away to board them. Now they're here, minutes away, and I hope the owners won't move, or at least that they won't give their house away for nothing, which is what you have to do to escape. Some of the new people moving in to my neighborhood are real low-rent. We've had the sheriffs out here a couple times in the past month, prompting us to turn our little house into a fortress. And there was a major drug bust here a month or so ago, complete with cops, border patrol, DEA, sniffer dogs, and hazmat suits.

The Month in My Sepulchral World

It’s not that I don’t have much to say, rather too much. Most Americans know that something is very wrong.  I’m so troubled by all of it, and it manifests in avoidant behavior.  At least I’m self-whiny though, and try not to inflict it on others, so I anesthetize with work, books, and Netflix.

‘Uncivilization’ coming soon to a town near you
I’ve been reading about ‘preppers,’ millions of Americans who are preparing for the worst.  There are over a million hits for advice, a disturbing gauge of our anxiety as a nation. Preppers believe America is headed for a social, environmental, or financial meltdown. They’re buying generators and storing food, similar to survivalists but they don’t live in the wilds of Montana, they live in the cities and suburbs of America. If I could afford it I’d do the same—every day the news warns us of major upheaval.  Here on the border many folks say your best investment is ammo. Can’t say I disagree.

The CruelPhone5
All this news about iPhones manufactured in China under wretched conditions, and they blame it all on the insatiable Americans. I don’t know one person who could afford a $700 phone. If they didn’t hype these phones, wouldn’t people be content with the amazing phones they already have? Apple has a million reasons for making them in China, many of them absurd. In the end it always comes down to the greedy Americans who won’t work for $17 a day and live in dorms with 20 people sleeping in one room. There’s a high rate of suicide among Chinese workers, so the company sprang into action and installed nets along stairways so they can’t jump off the buildings. Thanks Foxconn and Apple, your compassion is heartwarming.

Yummy!
I was going to make a joke about the word pizzle (steer or other animal penis) and offal (entrails of butchered animals) but I discovered that steer pizzles are a popular dog chew, prepared by stretching, twisting and drying the organ. Here are some quotes from sites that sell them:

♦  The rich flavor and crunchy texture keeps dogs chewing for hours!
  The first time I had Coco sniff one her eyes got big and tail wagged and
she’s been nuts for them since!
  Pizzle stick blowout! ValueBull Jumbo 20% off!

I read further and found many recipes for pizzle and other entrails. One recipe said  first, slice the pizzle open along its length and remove the urethra. That might make your stomach lurch but if an animal has given us its life, the least we can do is eat all of it. What I can’t stand is animals like seals being killed to make powdered pizzle, as well as other species nearing extinction because some cultures believe their horns or other body parts will do everything from increasing virility to warding off evil. Chemical tests show the body parts have no medicinal effect—the pizzle I guess just tastes good.

Boyfriend Story (sorry, the drivel made me do it!)
I dated this baker once, Bob “Shortcake” Pizzelle.  Little guy, looked like a breadstick. He was flaky though, and had this constant glazed look. He kept promising to whisk me away but it was always some half-baked scheme—we weren’t exactly rolling in dough. He was crusty about it and we had a big fight. When he called me an old baguette I had to batter him and insert into a preheated oven. He was pretty mad even though I deliberately undercooked him. As I walked out I heard him whimper, ‘don’t leave, I knead you!’ Forget it, you crumb, this little tart is done.

Insight and Faith
My philosophy has always been to carry on no matter what. Two extraordinary  friends have inspired me recently, their convictions more powerful than any new-age notion promising to autotune your life in five easy steps. It doesn’t work that way. One friend, devastated after just losing her job of 15 years writes:
My circumstances may change greatly, but I’m more than mere circumstances, and knowing that will be my saving grace.

My other friend sent this:
I-91, somewhere between Nowhere and Not Much
Infinite stars on a fine night to ride with a thousand wishes
May we still have the faith to make wishes, and the focus and fortune to be led by their light.

Thank you both for inspiring me, and to all who continue to fight the good fight.

I usually hate all pictures of myself, but I like this one. We met some people on the shooting range who invited us home. We sat around their tiny trailer and drank beer and talked for hours. Look—they even gave me a glass. Barely visible is my .327 Taurus revolver on my hip. When I got my CCW I had to go back a couple times because they couldn’t get clear fingerprints. The sheriff’s department explained that the chemicals I use to clean houses has worn away my prints—it happens. We believe that the right to bear arms is about protecting ourselves from both crime AND the government.

Old wood and rubber wheel in their yard. It was attached to some strange metal thing, like part of a train. We can’t date this or determine whether it was a wooden wheel ‘modernized’ with rubber, or if it was built this way. If you know, please tell me. Note the cut-line in the wooden rim, we think this is how they adjusted the wheel.

The trailer we visited—Arizona livin’ on the cheap.