This story resonates so much with me in so many ways. It speaks to the campaign of hatred people have waged in the name of “freedom.”
I’m not “mixed” not directly anyway, but my skin has always betrayed an “other” quality that kept me on the fringes and gave me a glimpse of the privilege my Caucasian brothers and sisters share.
Because I was interesting and exotic I got glimpses of what people say and how they behave when there aren’t any Niggers around. White friends, and I had a lot of white friends, would reach a level of comfort with me that transcended being a “cool Black kid” and often would speak to me or around me in a way that, ironically, showed that for an instant they didn’t see my “race.”
No, not every experience Shaun and I had lined up in a row, but some of the things I read him recall hearing make me cringe and take me back to a time when my identity was the most important, and confusing aspect of who I was. Unfortunately, in Trump’s America, I feel that way again. About being Black, about being Liberal, about being me. No one should ever feel that way but it is nice to know that I am not alone.
Life sometimes sucks. People die way too early and sometimes you are just way too chicken shit to be there to hold the door on the way out. Days like this make you want to grow a pair and suck it up and face your shit. And mourn…
I have no doubt everything this man says is true.
From Sexuality to Race, power and money and the art of music, some of the most incisive comments I’ve heard about any of these things come as a conversation from an observer.
Born outside the corridors of power Quincy Jones “Q” as he’s been known has an insight into all of the above that takes no in-between-the-lines interpretation to unpack.
This is what online journalism does so well, what Rolling Stone used to do but gave up to chase false rape accusations and hand the alt-right a new narrative.
Read this, it will change the way you see music, sexuality, America and life.
Edited on 8/11 for comma exploitation and a sentence of clarification.
Geekly (and confessional) Stuff Ahead: You Have Been Forewarned!
For the past few years (5 maybe 6?) I’ve attended the local fandom convention.
The first year it was a revelation, the kids and the smattering of adults, formed a community of people gathered primarily because of a love for Anime, Sci Fi, Horror and Video Games and secondarily because we were all misfits. All consigned to a bin that contained every aspect of what we found appealing, a bin that was often, in wider circles was left on the curb, rejected by even the garbage man.
Those first years were strange and beautiful, full of unexpected camaraderie and kid-in-a-candy-store glee. One year an impromptu dance party in front of the sword vendor broke out, and I witnessed one of those rare moments of perfect chaos. As Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” played through a boom box the vendor set up a crowd of cosplayers, mashing together various weird and wonderful takes on genres, gyrated, stumbled and displayed many different levels of dexterity, and no one stood in judgment.
There was an unabashed sense of joy in that, dancing like no one was watching, and that entire weekend was that, joyful. It was the apex of that experience.
In the last few years, some moments came close, seeing George Takei, watching Nana Visitor and Michael Dorn banter on about DS9, listening to Dorn talk about flying with the Blue Angels…but nothing as sublime as an impromptu outbreak of dance. That moment expressed the joy of being surrounded by a bunch of weirdos where I felt I belonged.
In subsequent years the Con has gotten bigger, expanded beyond the confines of the convention center, tried various configurations and scheduling arrangements and failed or succeeded at all. But it just isn’t the same anymore.
Perhaps I’ve just grown out of it, or maybe my life circumstances have changed enough to warrant feeling a bit too old for the proceedings. Maybe it changed, or maybe as many relationships do, we’ve grown apart. Maybe we just need some distance, a break perhaps.
I love the idea of being surrounded by people who may have only one voluntary thing in common, but that thing is so compelling that it ties them together as no involuntary thing can. I love that because we are all geeks of some sort, we find ourselves, regardless of age or any other factor, able to dress like someone or something that doesn’t exist. I love that people who would otherwise be feeling very much alone, get to feel a part of a group of people who often feel the same.
This year lacked something though; it lacked my attention. I was elsewhere for a large part of the Con, I didn’t want to be fully there, and that translated to me not being fully present. I was lost in some internal drama that was largely of my making.
Which leads me to the next thought.
I am not the best communicator in my personal life. I have realized that in many of my closest relationships I retreat into a state of CYA (cover your ass). It stems from a few things that I’ve been born into but it comes from a distinct place of fear. Fear of missing out, fear of making people angry with me, fear of abandonment and fear of being unlovable. All of these swirl and combine with all the bad stuff I’ve let myself become to make for a terrible mix sometimes.
I wait until the last-minute to avoid the confrontation I bring on myself. I have a hard time being honest about being frank with myself and therefore others, and I sometimes confuse the right thing with the best thing to do in any given situation. Sometimes I know what exactly none of that means.
I’m trying to be honest now. Honesty isn’t just telling the truth of the moment but telling the truth period. Not trying to play one off another and not trying to be everyone’s friend, not lying about my foreknowledge of things and then hoping they’ll not work out as shittily as I know they will.
My enjoyment of my life, the Con, my loved ones and myself are at stake. Honestly, I don’t know what else to do but try.
Edited on 8/8 for glaringly obvious typos.
Have we just become a bunch of approval seeking heroin rats? Are we so wrapped up in other people’s lives that we forget to have our own? Why are we so able to share the intimate details of our lives with relative strangers on Social Media yet can barely look each other in the eye on the street.
We are so focused on getting our opinions across and our relationships “approved” that sometimes we forget the reasons we have relationships and beliefs in the first place. I love the people in my life, and I love to share them with my wider circle of friends but not at the expense of my relationships with them. I’d much rather have a relationship than the appearance of one.
Through trial and loads of error, I’ve learned that there are some pretty standard principals for governing yourself, and your image, online. I try my best to adhere to them as closely as life and occasional emotional upheavals, allow. Use what you find useful, discard what you don’t.
Love and Relationships:
If you want to share a happy moment, please do so, you shouldn’t have to worry about who’s watching, but if your “sharing” is covering up a flaw in your relationship, or worse, causing one, promptly stop. I have someone in my life currently whom I adore, no pictures of us exist online together. Not to say that they never will, but for the moment we are not on social media as a couple. This is a mutual choice. It is one that not only protects our relationship, but also our relationships with the rest of the world as individuals. Friends who know us as a couple see the hints, others just see us as people.
Politics, Loss and Assorted Other Opinions:
I’ve contemplated leaving, Facebook, in particular, sometimes, usually when the loud opinions of a few people drown out he animal videos, kitten pictures and real life cries for help from people I care about that need answering.
When someone loses someone they love, or a national event requires a collective sense of empathy that platform is a wonderful way to feel cared for and a bit less lonely, it’s no substitute for real arms and real tears, but it is a comfort.
When we suffer depression or a disease, this format is a perfect place to feel less alone in that, but it isn’t a replacement for a real ear or a real shoulder.
When the needs of a few people to be the center of attention crowd out the compassion (in my feed it’s not usually my friends, but THIER friends who do this), I seriously think of cutting the cord. Life is too short, don’t worry about other people’s happiness unless you intend on sharing it. And if you plan on sharing, do so with an understanding of the potential consequences, try to be gentle. People will be looking from the outside in, exes and friends who disagree with you. Unless you are passive aggressively trying to sever those connections, be understanding of how they feel or make it explicit that there will be something following that might hurt or offend. In other words, try to play as fair as you can.
Reactions to all of the Above:
Life is also too short to worry about people’s petty hatred. Sometimes the most reasonable argument can seem like a torch to a powder keg, or the slightest mention of a new relationship can be (of course) painful, but that is the cost of keeping oneself out on social media.
Don’t let anyone else’s fears and anger get you down and don’t believe that every single smiling face doesn’t have its share of pain.
Ultimately we present the face we want the world to see, in my case I’m living the vast majority of my life offline now. Life isn’t perfect, but it is damn good.
Many years ago I was in a car with my uncle and aunt, my uncle has this way of awkwardly pressing down and letting up on the gas and it was silently annoying everyone in the car. Atypical of Black families in the 80’s, we were on our way north to go skiing. My uncle, a corporate lawyer for an insurance company, made decent money but always lived modestly. His skis were used, as were the poles and all the other accoutrements, not because he was afraid of making an investment in something that he may or may not be sticking with but simply because he was thrifty.
The not so gentle rocking of the accelerator notwithstanding, it was exciting to be going and doing this thing that even some of my more solidly middle class white friends had yet to do. It was a small coup to have an accomplished member of the family, who spoke eloquently about politics and culture be my entre into this very white world.
And then there was my aunt. We had a history of getting along and then not, of sparring over petty things and being able to have many of the same conversations in the same animated and intelligent fashion. Auntie was an enigma in many ways. A hypochondriacally, mercurial woman who in many ways always felt like she needed to play a perpetual game of catch up with the world. She’s both infuriating and gentle, poised and clumsy and sometimes all of the above. She is also dying.
As suddenly as some things seem to come on, this one truly seemed sudden.
Other family members were with her as she went in for her initial surgery, an unrelated thyroid procedure, and said she’d been so happy and full of life afterwards even with the cancer diagnosis. That was short lived.
I visited her last night after my mother called me and said she wasn’t doing well. I found her lying on her side almost motionless and only able to respond by opening her eyes slightly and making short barely distinguishable vocalizations. My son and I sat with her for a few minutes, trying to say what we could, the last few I love you’s and thank you’s she’d likely ever hear from us, and then we left.
Regret is a feeling I’m familiar with. I feel the same regret I did when my grandmother passed away when I was in college. Regret that I hadn’t been more attentive, more THERE, more aware. Regret that I had my head so far up my own ass that I couldn’t see that there isn’t always another holiday or another barbeque or another…. Regret that I didn’t make that swing by that I promised for weeks and weeks….
There is never enough time. And that knowledge can drive us to do things that seem stupid and impulsive but at the same time also lead us to other things, better and more fulfilling ones. Ignoring what is directly in front of you should never be one of those choices. It takes a moment to redirect your route, leave a few minutes early or simply call, not doing so leaves the door open to regret.
The time between our ski trips and now feels like an eternity, and in a way it is, but now, with regret in the middle, the time between last week and today feels like forever as well.
In some cases, Time flies only if you let it go.
Yeah, this one really sucks.
I’m finding myself again in a particular state of consternation over other’s expectations of me. Everyone seems to have an idea as to what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. People who don’t seem to realize that I’ve done and continue to do my level best to fulfill my obligations to them keep demanding more, so much so that this stone is about out of blood.
I’m looking down the road to a potentially major life change that will affect all my relationships going forward. When I mentioned this potential to a certain parental figure I got a disinterested sigh and a couple of self-serving questions about relocation, then there was a call telling me to do something that I’d been doing more of anyway. Yeah, I couldn’t be vaguer.
So in the past two weeks, I’ve received calls, text messages and email imploring me to take up some forgotten task or fulfill some unfinished obligation or to chide me for some life choice that someone else close to me does not agree with. It seems to have spread to my work life as well, as one of my coworkers had the nerve to, without irony (she’s a talker), tell me that leaving early one day “fucks the rest of us.” Unironically because she does about as much talking as she does work, more likely more of the former than the latter, every single shift she’s on. She also has no idea who I am or how much I work. Assuming your small window into a relative stranger’s world shows you the entire picture is a sin punishable by a hearty “fuck you!”
So yeah, this is a bitching post, so let us get right to the bitching, shall we?
I’m wholly sick and fucking tired of everyone asking still more of me than I already give. Whether it be assuming small financial obligations out of the kindness of my heart or giving my attention to someone else instead of them, I’m done with being motivated by the expectations of others. So many people in my life live in their own little bubbles, surrounded by the comforts I’ve provided and have grown entitled because of them. They feel entitled to be rude to me, demand attention of me, and request of me things that I have no capacity to give at the moment, all while ignoring the things I’ve asked of them.
The very worst part of this is that all but one person in my life (two actually, but he’s always been appreciative of me) at the moment does not regularly say thank you for what I do continue to provide unless prompted to do so, unsurprisingly, she is the person who gets the majority of my limited free time and attention. She is also the given or implied reason why the rest of them are so damn unappreciative.
Let me say this, I’ve learned about myself one thing. If you offer me appreciation for what I do, I will return in kind. If you continually complain about what I’m NOT doing, it won’t end well. I’ve lost my tolerance for others putting their needs above mine and now my needs come first, unequivocally. I’m not looking for my ass to be kissed, but when I’ve done any of the things I’ve alluded to above, don’t take that shit for granted. It’s a sure way to get told to go to hell when you need something from me and fail to ask in a way that does not indicate you have a total lack of self-awareness.
At some point in everyone’s life, they realize that a turning of priorities may be in order. They fumble over what that means and sometimes actually come across something that works to better their outlook, enhance who they are and create joy in their lives in the most simple way. It could be a person, a job, a new point of view or any combination but when they do come they change who we are.
Reviewing one’s life you can see catalytic patterns. Times when one event leads, directly or indirectly, to another, and that to yet another still. Yes, there are choices in-between that move those patterns forward in the direction hindsight reveals, but there are often direct lines from a to b that reveal themselves as time goes on.
Hence the title.
When I wake up throughout the day, in the examination mode of memory and contemplation, I see these paths like routes on a map. There are arteries behind me that vanish, paths not taken, roads left behind never to be visited again, ahead there are splits that lead to other splits, that lead to still others. Not quite the infinite paths we like to believe there are, but as infinite as our little brains can handle. Infinite enough to know that even if we chart a course, the wind or a landslide will deviate us at least once. As our past disappears into memory and the present is lived in every moment, we only have so much say, only so many fucks to give.
I’m choosing mine wisely, with intention, giving attention to the things that I choose first and then allowing the rest to intrude when I will it. It’s the only semblance of control we have, and even if it is an illusion, I’ll take it.
For now, here are some general thoughts:
There is more than one way to love, live and leave.
I am not your world unless I say I am. And even if I do, not always, and not forever if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain.
I may love you, but I don’t owe you shit.
I choose what’s important to me, I’m not even slightly sorry If you can’t handle that.
Do not assume that you are at the top of my priority list unless I explicitly say so.
Do not EVER take me for granted.
Finally: Don’t be so fucking vain, this song is only partially about you, whoever you are.
Edited on 5/12 for Typos.
Let me get this out of the way right now, I believe healthcare, the coverage needed to see a doctor on a yearly basis, health maintenance and elder care are rights we should have in the richest, most productive country in the world. Unequivocally, every man, woman, and child who is a citizen of the United States should be covered either privately or under a public option. There is no logical, rational or economic reason we shouldn’t be able to do this. We’ve completely restructured our society and economy around war, which demonstrates a clear threat to us and our livelihoods (or NOT: i.e. every modern war post WW2) we have mobilized against threats both concrete and conceptual and with all our might, forced our country to conform to a new reality, so why can’t we do this to take care of each other?
We cast doubt on the poor and helpless, on people who supposedly drain the resources of the country and take advantage of all the social programs and “freebies” they get handed to them without the reservations or drug testing so prevalent on Wall Street or in Boardrooms. Why is it wrong to give everyone the possibility of a long and better life yet still allow employers and bankers who prey on the very same people the ability to do so with impunity with little or no consequences? When the average high school graduate earns about as much as the average undergrad (yes it’s 2014 data but with rampant income stagnation I highly doubt there is any major movement here) and is saddled with crushing debt its sad that we haven’t made college free as well, but I digress.
We are demonstrating a fratricidal tendency in this country. Instead of being a family, one who takes care of each other keeps each other and tends to each other’s wounds we are poisoning the water of our brother and sisters houses and killing them in the process.
The House’s passing of the revamped, pre-CBO scored so-called American Health Care Act is one of the most disgusting nakedly greedy and soulless pieces of legislation proposed in this decade. It scales back preexisting conditions provisions, creates already fail-proven high-risk pools and removes penalties for not securing coverage with over a dozen more really bad ideas. It does so in the name of “choice” a great buzzword but one that ignores the fact that most of us have none, to begin with. Like the allure of “liberty”, a word so rife with consequential elitism but so unknown in that respect by the average Joe, choice refers to something only really the financial elite possess.
But it is the dream of all of us that we can achieve this freedom. Within the already paralyzing revelation that we really have none, within our increasing levels of control exact 1/10th of 1 percent of our destinies outcome we try so hard to use each other as a measure of that little control we have over our universes. We try, and ultimately fail to become famous, or infamous, we try to be forces for good or notorious, we try to become immortal but in the end, the briefest of times ticks records our deeds.
We believe that our small eternities, our families ticks on the clock, our minuscule appearances upon the universe’s stage actually amount to something grander and we personalize that time to mean “us.” Instead of living like a giant organism and accepting that we all have sympathetic and, dare I say symbiotic, responsibilities. Accepting that our limited choice can be used to serve the greater good or destroy goodwill, makes us vulnerable, and we don’t like that one bit.
So what does all this have to do with snatching health coverage from millions of people, many of which voted for its removal in the first place? Everything.
Our mindset in this country is very different from it is in the rest of the world. We value a strange mix of things that are often at odds with each other, often conflict and sometimes contradict. Our collective identity is at once strong and fragmented, we use patriotism as a blunt object to both unify and divide and we have a national identity that is as much myth as it is fact. We are also very, very young.
Transcending this is a tough task, the reactive tendency to believe what we feel without fact checking what our words actually mean, has put us in a rhetorical bind. We cannot seem to get past the fact that we should be treating each other as family and not warring tribes. We are all Americans. Every man, woman, child, everyone of their decided gender or the genderless, every person who walks as a born or naturalized American citizen is our brother, sister, sibling…
We need to take care of each other, as families often do. We need to look past the Thanksgiving our cousin Guido ruined the family rug with his cigar, or the time Auntie Carol got so drunk she threw up in the newborn’s crib, we have to forgive our nephew Amir for falling in with the wrong crowd and getting caught with a pack of Newports in the school bathroom, we have to stop blaming Xiang for forgetting our birthday, most of all we have to honor not only Crispin and Gary for their commitment to each other and recommit to our family again.
Just because we look and sound a bit different, doesn’t make us any less family.
We should start treating each other that way.
Some books move you, others, you identify with on a level that moves with you. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was THAT book for me.
I honestly do not remember much of the book’s narrative. I remember the basic premise and flashes of many of the pivotal scenes but the specifics are lost on me now. I think it’s time for a re-read.
I read it the first few times when I was vulnerable and young before I became a father (or a man really) and both times I read it I thought myself deeply in love. I knew it was about becoming, something I write about and allude to a lot here, becoming the person you are and how that person relates to the rest of the world. It was about philosophy and kindness and fear, it was about being imperfect in the face of others wanting perfection, and it was about being a father.
It is a book that I encourage every man to read, women too, but especially men. It deals with the pain and confusion of becoming a man and becoming a father in such beautifully illustrated words that even if you are none of those, you can understand what it is like to be any of them.
It was my go-to comfort book for many years. I’d read a chapter or two when I was depressed or despondent. When the girl I liked didn’t like me back and I was so afraid that I’d never have the opportunity to become a father. It kept me warm when I was cold and alone and struggling just to keep my head up. It kept me alive when I was suicidal, awake when I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open and striving for healthy when I was so sick inside I could barely get out of bed.
In a very real way, this book was why I wanted to write in the first place and its more than 100 rejections proved to me that it was a noble venture. And that, with perseverance, luck, and will, almost anything is possible.