Friday, March 24, 2017

A Necessary Vent

People are strange when you're a stranger
Faces look ugly when you're alone

~~ “People Are Strange” by The Doors

I need to write or my head is going to explode.

And guess what? It’s not even about politics! There is plenty to write about there, that’s for sure, and you know I will have plenty to say about it. But this is all me. Thank goodness for the steady things in my life, because they are keeping me on an even keel. Like I told Ken tonight, every day that goes by brings me one step closer to becoming a total hermit.

Exhibit A:

A long-time friend has apparently absquatulated (I got to use one of my vocabulary words! Yay!) completely from our friendship and almost completely from social media. This happened once before and I pursued it and tried to find out what was going on. I thought everything was cool and then it happened again. No word whatsoever about taking a break, just a promise to “write soon.” That was over two months ago. I’m not pursuing it again. To quote Merle Dixon, “I ain’t gonna beg!” Be my friend or don’t. But you don’t just get to vamoose without an explanation and expect to still have a place in my heart.

Exhibit B:

I discovered yesterday that another friend defriended me on Facebook, although they stayed friends with Ken and a couple of my friends. I finally got an answer to that tonight...I “put them on mute” months ago. Yeah, that’s right, I did. You know why? Because I couldn’t stand the constant bashing of Obama and Hillary. The same crap that I was hearing from my conservative relatives for the past eight-plus fucking years. I didn’t want to see that in my feed every damn day because I can’t stand that kind of constant negativity, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to be friends anymore. I unfollowed a few people on Facebook last year for the same reason, but I still value them as friends. I don’t doubt that several people unfollowed ME last year so they didn’t have to see my numerous political posts and I even told them to do it! I said that I get that not everyone is into politics as much as I am and that not everyone wants to read what I have to say about it, so I said, “If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to unfollow me. I understand, and I won’t be offended!”

But nope, this person somehow realized that I unfollowed them and instead of ASKING ME ABOUT IT, decided to unfriend me.

I repeat: be my friend or don’t.

At least this brought about a funny moment. When I had lunch with Shane and Matt the other day, I said, “I have to ask you guys something. Have I turned into an asshole?” With a totally straight face, Shane said, “Well, we’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,” and Matt said, “That’s why we called this meeting today. It’s an intervention.” We all cracked up!

Then I told Ken that I guess I’m too opinionated for some people. He said, “What? Why didn’t you tell me this?” I said, “I know, I know...I should have warned you about it before we got married.” So we had a laugh, too.

For the icing on the cake, I give you Exhibit C:

I was talking to my Mom today and she asked me if I could look up an address on the computer. I said sure, if it’s listed. She said, “Okay, it’s in So-and-so, Indiana.” I said, okay. She said, “I want you to look up So-and-so.” It was my ex-husband. MY EX-HUSBAND.

I said, “Aww man, no. Why do you want to contact him??” Jeez, we’ve been divorced for over 25 years. She said she came across some sort of medals or pins that my ex got when he was in the military, and he had given them to my Dad. I said, “I’m not really sure he’ll appreciate being reminded of me.” She said, “Well, sending these to him won’t be reminding him of YOU.” Right. Because having my Mom contact him won’t remind him of me. ::sigh::

But she was adamant about sending these things to him (She said, “I know it’s what your Dad would have wanted.” Well-played, Mom. Well-played.), and I could understand her reasoning, so I looked it up and found the address. She asked, “Is there a phone number there?” I lied and said no. I feel absolutely zero guilt for lying about that. It’s one thing to send those things to him and write him a note. It’s quite another to call him up after over 25 years. “Hey, how ya doing? Remember how my daughter divorced you?” I have to laugh. But really, he has his life and his family and I have mine and I have no desire for them to ever come in contact again. Knowing him, he’d probably ask her if I was still possessed by a demon. (Yes, he really told me once that he thought I was possessed by a demon.)

It’s been a frustrating and rather maddening day. My patience level has flatlined. I do feel a little better after writing it out, though.

And tomorrow is another day. A big weekend coming up, with our Green Day concert in Detroit! We’ll be hitting the road with Shane and Matt and we’ll have a kicky blast! Green Day, take me awaaaaaaay!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fingernails that shine like justice

I want a girl with a mind like a diamond
I want a girl who knows what's best
I want a girl with shoes that cut
And eyes that burn like cigarettes

I want a girl with the right allocations
Who's fast and thorough
And sharp as a tack
She's playing with her jewelry
She's putting up her hair
She's touring the facility
And picking up slack

I want a girl with a short skirt and a lonnnng jacket......

I want a girl who gets up early
I want a girl who stays up late
I want a girl with uninterrupted prosperity
Who uses a machete to cut through red tape
With fingernails that shine like justice
And a voice that is dark like tinted glass

~~ “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake

Like so many women of my age, when I was in grade school and junior high school, I was consumed with Nancy Drew. That was my go-to present for people to get me for birthday or Christmas presents—if there was a new Nancy Drew book out, they knew I would love it! I had the whole set at one point but gave it away. I’m kicking myself for that now.

I don’t know what made me think of it, or if I ran across a passing reference in my daily readings, but I thought I’d check out eBay and see what kind of Nancy Drew books were out there. A couple of people were offering the entire set but I figured upwards of $200 wasn’t really justifiable. (But if Ken sees this, hint hint! It’s the ones that are the vintage matte books, not the Flashlight series.)

I saw a listing for the very first Nancy Drew book, The Secret of the Old Clock. It was a reasonable price and the seller said that it was in good condition, so I decided to order it. It came today and I can’t begin to describe the joy I felt when I opened the box and unwound the bubble wrap and there was that book that I knew so well and that brought back so many memories.

It is in wonderful condition, with the cover that I remember. The copyright is listed as 1959, and if that’s the case, it’s in great condition. I do know that these vintage matte editions were published in the mid-century. My set of books was like this and that was probably from the mid-’60’s to the mid-’70s. (I also had a couple of the original plain blue covers from the ‘30s, and what I wouldn’t give to have those back!) The illustrations on the inside covers. The list of the full catalog of books on the back cover. It was a tidal wave of memories of all the happy hours I spent reading about Nancy, George, Bess, and their adventures.

As I think back on it, Nancy was very much a role model for me. I liked scary movies anyway, so her poking around in mysterious and spooky places was right up my alley. She was smart, persistent, and willing to fight for justice. She didn’t let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something because she was a girl. Even back then, I was drawn to old, abandoned places and remember sneaking into empty houses. (I never broke in or anything! They were missing doors and windows...long abandoned and unoccupied.) I still have that fascination and I may or may not have ventured into a place here and there—still unlocked—but with No Trespassing signs up. I can neither confirm nor deny that. Ahem.

I never got to solve any mysteries like Nancy did, but not for lack of trying. How did she manage to stumble upon so many mysteries? Lucky girl. I would have been happy with one. In my tiny little town, it was more like The Mystery of the Forgotten Locker Combination or The Clue in the Lunchroom Pizza. We were decidedly lacking in shady characters and every effort to flush them out was all for naught.

But Nancy gave me a sense of adventure that I’ve never lost. I know there are a lot of good Young Adult books out there now and I’m sure some of the heroines are on par with Nancy. We see a lot of young warrior women, like Katniss Everdeen, in YA books now. I applaud them all! For me, Nancy Drew was the epitome of coolness. She had a sharp eye for clues and the intellectual capacity to put them all together. The girl in the Cake song makes me think of Nancy. Sharp as a tack, indeed!

**Update** In the time I wrote this, I ordered a lot of 18 vintage Nancy Drew books from eBay. That should scratch my itch.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Nation, if you’ll just come home

When a Nation cries
His tears fall down like missiles from the skies
Justice looked into Independence's eyes
Can you make everything all right?
Can you keep your Nation warm tonight?

~~ “Justice and Independence ‘85” by John Mellencamp

Today the Congressional Budget Office released its report on the AHCA, AKA Trumpcare. (You own it, pal.)

It is even worse than anyone expected, and no one expected it to be a positive report. No, no one expects the CBO estimates to be perfect. Yes, we understand that there are always caveats. But based on what the bill said, this horrible report is not all that surprising. We knew that a number of people would lose their health insurance, we knew that Medicaid would be drastically cut, we knew that it would give a big freakin’ tax cut to the wealthiest amongst us.

What we didn’t know was just how drastic the changes would be, how many people would be harmed, and which people would be harmed the most.

It’s not just bad, it’s Dark Ages bad. It’s serfdom bad. It’s “let them eat cake” bad.

I’m sure you’ve seen the numbers already. 14 million people losing their health insurance in the first year. 24 million in ten years. Older, poor Americans having their premiums go up 750%. 750%! Medicaid cut drastically, by about the same amount as the tax cuts for the wealthy. But hey, the CBO estimates that it will cut the federal deficit by over $300 billion in ten years, so there’s that. Who cares about those old poors? They were going to die soon, anyway. Priorities!

Of course, that cut in the deficit is what creepy Paul Ryan is focusing on. That’s what he’s so proud of and the rest of the CBO’s numbers are way off. Isn’t Paul Ryan supposed to be some kind of devout Catholic? I’m not seeing much altruism in your little bill, Speaker Ryan.

It took me a few hours to calm down before I wrote this because it made me so angry that I felt ill. I’m not sure when I’ve seen such a horrid, hateful, misanthropic piece of legislative bullshit as this bill. In fact, I’m sure I’ve never seen such an unrepentant, unmitigated, loathsome endeavor as this shitshow. I very rarely toss this word around because I feel that it is a relative concept and a little too tied up with biblical references, but this is downright EVIL.

When I was posting about some of this on Facebook this evening, a friend of mine on there who happens to be a founding member of The B-52s weighed in and agreed with me that it was horrible and evil. When a B-52 who is kind, gentle, and even Zen-like says you’re being awful, you are pretty dang awful!

You know what’s really stupid? The people who are going to be hurt the worst are poor rural dwellers. You know...the ones who overwhelmingly voted for the Yam. That’s right, yahoos. That guy who swore he had your back and told you that you are not forgotten? That guy is screwing you over in a big way. One might even say he’s screwing you over “big league.” And all those rich city folk are going to get one big motherfucking tax cut and they’re going to laugh their asses off about it. They’re going to laugh at YOU, Jethro. Because you were so blinded by your hatred of Obama and Hillary and because you bought into everything that ClusterFox told you, you voted for this plutocratic, vulgar, demagogic sexual predator. But hey, at least you’ll still have your guns so you can blow your brains out—or your wife’s—when you can’t afford any more cancer treatments or when you have to sell your farm in order to pay for dialysis or when your Oxycontin addiction becomes so unbearable that you just don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

Goddamn rubes.

All is not lost, though. It’s still just a bill and hasn’t been voted on by Congress yet. It looks like there might be enough sane Republican Senators who oppose the bill (although some oppose it because they think it doesn’t go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act) that they just might save you from yourselves. You’d best hope so because if this passes, you’re going to be in a world of hurt. Quite possibly literally.

Aren’t you glad I calmed down for a few hours before I wrote this?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Coping with a four-year sickness*

Yankee dollar talk
To the dictators of the world
In fact it's giving orders
And they can't afford to miss a word

I'm so bored with the U...S...A...
But what can I do?

~~ “I’m So Bored with the USA” by The Clash
I read a really good article from Vox today about dealing with what they have dubbed “Trump Fatigue Syndrome.” It is well worth a read because I think it has a lot of validity. I know I’m not the only one amongst my like-minded friends and family who have experienced this to some extent. For me, part of it is that I really can barely stand to hear him speak. At times—especially if he is not using a teleprompter, which he seems to have embraced now despite ridiculing President Obama for using one—he sounds like an absolute idiot. I’m not the best public speaker but at least I can manage to put together a cogent argument without sounding like the village idiot. I feel offended and embarrassed by his poor language and oratory skills.

Anyway, I learned pretty quickly that if I wanted to survive this with my psyche intact, I was going to have to limit my intake. I have instinctively done what the article recommends. During the election season, I had CNN on all day, every day. Now I leave the TV off and listen to music. I obsessively read every political news story in the sites that are on my read feeder. I had already limited those sites to ones that were fairly credible so of course I do not read demonstrably false sites. Now I skim through those stories and try to glean the tidbits without falling into that time-sucking rabbit hole. I am trying to get back on track with my book reading, although I still read the occasional political book. That’s okay...I know when I need to read something else. That’s why I’m currently reading a book about some teenagers making a zombie movie.

It’s important to know when to step away and that is a hard lesson to learn. After the 2012 election, I took a fairly long (at least for me) break from politics. My guy had won and I needed to get back on an even keel. I jumped in again for the 2016 race and that one didn’t turn out as well for me (or for our country...or for the world...but I digress) and it hasn’t been easy to regain my equilibrium. I am doing that and sometimes that involves just stepping away for a bit. It doesn’t have to be for a month, or a week, or even a day. Sometimes I just need a few hours to cleanse my palate. Music and books are a big part of that for me.

It is up to each of us to find that outlet for ourselves. One thing I would add to the Vox article is that it is vital to find your Happy Place™. You need something to which you can retreat when you feel overwhelmed. Don’t let him steal your joy. Find it within yourself and nurture it. If it involves quietly reading a book, taking a walk to clear your head, spending fun times with friends and family, curling up with your critters, or rocking your face off at a concert, DO IT. He can’t take that away from you.

I don’t doubt that many of us will see some dark days ahead and experience setbacks, some of them major. We are already seeing quite a bit of pushback, though, aren’t we? The courts issued a major smackdown on that horrid travel ban, he’s not making any friends in the intelligence community, people are starting to dig up the dirt on the Russian connection, and a handful of Republicans are balking at the new health care bill. There are limits to what our President can do and I think he is starting to find that out. I take heart in that.

So don’t despair, Warriors. It’s not going to be an easy four years*, but we have to support each other. Part of that is taking care of ourselves so that we have the strength and fortitude to be there for others when they need us. We stand together!

*Note: Four-year duration to be determined.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Get up, get on the good foot, and Get Out

We don’t go see movies in the theater that often, mainly because we have so much to watch at home. It’s kind of a special treat to go to the theater. We have a couple of movie franchises that we always see in the theater: Star Trek and Bond. I think Tarantino movies are now included in that rarified air.

We had heard enough good things about Jordan Peele’s movie “Get Out” that we decided we wanted to go see it now rather than waiting for it on DVD or streaming. It even won out over the John Wick sequel, which is saying a lot because we loved the first movie!

No regrets on our choice. I am still jazzed over the movie and we’ve been home for over an hour. It is like a drive-in movie, but better. It has all the elements of a drive-in movie—or a B-movie, if you will—but it’s smarter and more subtle. The creepiness is insidious. On the surface, everything seems fairly cool, if a little awkward, but you just know that something deeper is happening.

I’m generally very quiet in the theater, but this was a movie made for a raucous crowd, and there were cheers, jeers, and laughter at various points throughout the movie. I’ll cop to occasionally yelling, “Kill him!” It was a pretty good crowd for an early evening show in the Bend, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this movie is a bona fide low-budget hit.

For a low-budget movie, it absolutely delivers. It is legit scary, it is dark and creepy, but there are moments that are both cringe-worthy and hilarious. It struck me as “The Stepford Wives” but about racism rather than misogyny.

This movie is a blast and well worth a watch, whether you see it in the theater or later. It is not one to miss!

When it started

As I look back on it, I guess it started at the theater that night. Or at least that’s when I first noticed that something was wrong.

We went out for dinner at one of our favorite places, and everything was great. A wonderful conversation with my cousin and his partner about their recent vacation, discussion about a possible cruise together a few years from now, great food, and plenty of drinks.

I suppose we should have known that something was wrong when the back entrance to the theater—one that we use often—was locked. I guess they didn’t have enough people to staff it.

It seemed like a pretty good crowd in the theater, although the seats next to us were empty until just before the show. I noticed that the box seats weren’t full and the floor and the mezzanine looked to be a little more sparse than was the case at most shows.

As the show commenced, we drank our beers, and as usual, I started to doze off part of the way in. Unless it’s something that totally captivates and energizes me, I can’t help it. It was a very low-key show and I drifted off for a moment. I woke up just before the intermission and we headed off to the restroom. I had to stand in line for a while, and even then, I didn’t really notice that anything was amiss.

We got back to our seats in plenty of time for the second half of the show. We settled in—I was wide awake now—and I sipped the wine my husband brought me.

That was when I started noticing it. The coughing. It came from several rows behind us. Then closer to us. Then a few seats down from us. Most of it sounded like a dry, hacking cough, but some of it was a...well, I guess I would say that it was a wet cough. At times, it was so loud that I couldn’t hear the actors onstage. It was constant. I exchanged a glance with my husband and I saw that he was concerned, too. I whispered in his ear, “What is going on? This is awful!”

It continued throughout the rest of the show, and although my initial feeling was annoyance, I ended up worried. I had never heard that kind of thing at a show before.

When the show was over, we got out of there as quickly as possible. We both expressed concern about the incessant coughing, and when I texted my cousin, he said that it bothered him and his partner, too. At that point, I don’t think any of us were feeling any real danger. I know I wasn’t, although I had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

We turned on the TV when we got home, and that’s when the news reports started coming in. London was first, although there was a lot of speculation that it began in the chicken farms in China. No real surprise there. Then the reports started trickling in from the East coast. Jersey and New York. There were incidents at the airport in Atlanta. People dying on planes, even a pilot! Quarantines of planes, sitting on the tarmac for hours. It was in the airports, too. People collapsing at baggage claim, airline agents keeling over behind the counter. It wasn’t too long before all flights in and out of the country were canceled. The president issued a statement that he would “bomb the shit” out of whoever was behind this.

But of course, that was empty rhetoric, and it was too late by that point, anyway. I doubt that anyone was behind it. Viruses happen, right? Anyone with half a brain knew this wasn’t just a possibility...it was an inevitability.

We stayed in contact with family and friends as long as the lines were operational. That lasted maybe two weeks after our night out at the theater. It became obvious pretty quickly that we weren’t going to be able to combat whatever this was. Without the help of the United States, the global health network couldn’t cope. We were able to watch the news during that time and saw the chaos and the mass deaths. We watched the footage of Atlanta when....

Never mind. I don’t want to talk about that. I don’t want to write about it. Hell, I don’t want to think about it.

It’s been a month now and we are still here. Neither of us has any sort of fever, cough, or other symptoms, and I’m certain we would have them by now if we had been exposed. We still have power, although we know that won’t be the case for long. We are working on what we can do about that. We’ll figure something out. I really don’t want to say too much. We hope to get out soon and check on people, but things look pretty dangerous right now. We haven’t seen any cars on our road for days, and we haven’t heard any traffic sounds from the nearby overpass. It’s so quiet now that we hear every little sound, including owls and coyotes. I’m a little afraid to walk out into the yard! Ha!

I think we’ll survive this. And by ‘we,’ I mean the human race. When we lost the news feed, the mortality rate was disturbingly high, but quarantine measures were being put into place. We can only hope that it will be enough to save the majority of people around the world. We just don’t know right now.

It occurs to me that Abraham Lincoln had a very bad night at the theater. I’m worried that our night at the theater might be worse. His assassination was horrible but I’m starting to wonder if we are looking at extinction.

In the meantime, we got some groceries...some peanut butter...should last a couple of days! Ha! I can’t resist the song references, even if I can’t play any music because we’re trying to save energy. I miss it.

I hope everyone is okay. I hope we’ll be okay.

***

Notes:

This is obviously not real. At least I hope it is obvious that it is not real.

Get your damn flu shot! Is it 100% effective? No. But it could provide you some protection against an influenza virus.

There really were people coughing like crazy at the show tonight. It was bad enough that I wanted to write this!

There really is a very serious strain of avian influenza circulating in China right now. It has about a 40% mortality rate. That is some serious stuff, people.

The current Resident is planning on cutting the CDC’s budget by about 12%. This would be disastrous for public health, both here and abroad. Lives will be lost.

That is something to fear.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Beth’s Music Moment: Paradise Found (Big Audio Dynamite-style)

Move my feet
And touch my soul
Bass sound drum beat
Rock and roll

Just play that music
I don't care what key it's in
Where it's come from
Where it's been

Just play that music

~~ “Just Play Music!” by Big Audio Dynamite

I was on a big Clash kick for a while, which resulted in a natural progression to a Big Audio Dynamite kick. If you don’t know, B.A.D. was the post-Clash project of one of The Clash’s founding members, Mick Jones.

As I started looking up songs and lyrics, I fell down the rabbit hole. One link led to another and I stumbled onto an amazing discovery: an unreleased B.A.D. album!

It’s like rock and roll archaeology!

Yep, way back in 1997, B.A.D. recorded an album but due to a dispute with their record company, it was never released in physical format. The band released it on their website for free, but this was twenty years ago, so it was no longer available. Hell, their WEBSITE is defunct.

But like a dog with a bone, I was determined. I was up into the wee hours as I looked for a legitimate source for the album. I finally found it and when I did, I was blown away. I was up until 5 AM listening to it and I think it is some of their coolest work. What a shame it was never released! It looks like there were several mix tracks on the original download and I was unable to find a source for those, so if anyone can hit me up, please do so!

As much as I love discovering new music that trips my trigger, finding undiscovered music by old favorites is a bit sweeter. Just when you think you’ve heard everything that is out there by them, you find new stuff and it’s incredible!

I adore Mick Jones. I think he’s a genuine musical genius and he continues to make music to this day. Any guy who can write a song like “Around the Girl in 80 Ways” (trust me, it’s sweet) is okay by me. “Admit you’re wrong when she is right.” Mick gets it!

Here are a couple of my favorite songs from this unreleased gem. And remember to keep seeking out music, whether it’s old, new, or new to you. It’s not going to come to you...keep searching. There is so much great music out there and if you tell me otherwise, I’ll tell you that you aren’t looking hard enough!

TURN IT UP!