Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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And on this, the Fourth of July

4 July, 2007, Wednesday

I’m reminded of something that happened a good 30 years ago. I was a kid, 8 or 9 years old, and I was in the living room with my mom as she was reading the paper. In it, there was some sort of contest or invitation to readers to write in (which required significant effort in those days) and describe what America meant to us.

My mom read the announcement aloud and I, sounding just like the young kid I was, immediately started listing the many things about America that I liked and concluded my list by saying something that I’d heard many times: “And we’ve got to fight to be free!”

My mother, although usually a very kind, encouraging woman, said, “We’re already free!” in a sharp tone of voice that made me feel embarrassed to have been caught talking about something I didn’t fully understand.

It’s a memory that’s haunted me ever since. Not in a way that requires me to sit on a therapist’s couch once a week, or anything. It’s just something that kinda drifts through my mind once in a while. As it did this morning on the drive home from work.

And having thought about it again, I now think I was right all along. It’s the “Oh, we’re already free” attitude that has gotten us into the mess we’re in now. We’re already free, so I can just sit back and watch my soaps, play my Wii, drink my beer.

One by one by one by one, by one, our bits of self rule, our little moments of not being bothered by anyone or anything, our ability to just wander where we want, do what we want are slowly being stripped away from us and replaced by one ridiculous rule after another.

I recently bought a new car and left my old one sitting in the driveway a little over a year, letting everything – plates, insurance, gasket seals – lapse. As is my right, as an American, to do.

But I had to leave the plate on the car as it slowly rusted because, well, that’s the law. The car was in my driveway, it was not being driven, and the land it was parked on is owned by me. But the law says all vehicles must have a license plate on them.

Fine. Totally ridiculous. But fine.

A friend told me he needed a car. I offered to sell my old car to him for next to nothing and picked up the phone to start making arrangements to have it towed to a shop to be checked over (my friend is a gay man who does not know anything about car engines because car engines have nothing to do with dance music).

The towing company says the plates have to be current before they will tow it.

Okay. Fine. It’s irritating, but fine, whatever.

I go to the Secretary of State (Michigan’s version of the DMV) and they inform me that they will not give me a new plate or tags until the car has insurance on it.

And now I’m pissed off enough to tell my friend that I’m withdrawing my offer.

The car was not worth very much to begin with. And it certainly wasn’t worth enough to spend a whole lot of energy and money to get rid of it. My friend understood and was able to find a less-troublesome vehicle to buy. And I donated mine to charity (an act for which my government will pat me on the head with a tax break – such a benevolent, kindly master).

And all that just to have it towed less than 1/4 of a mile to the mechanic on the corner.

A mere 20 years ago, it would not have been such a headache to sell a car privately. I shudder to think what it will be like 20 years from now. If we are even still allowed to sell vehicles privately amongst each other, that is.

Happy Fourth, everyone.

And fuck you, Mom.

(…oh for christ’s sake relax, it’s a joke – I adore my mother. Despite the beatings and mental abuse.)

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Now That She’s Dead, We Got Nothin’ But Love

11 February, 2007, Sunday
    “When I found out at work that she died, I actually gasped. I didn’t realize how much I liked her until now.” – ‘Lizzy’, in a  gossip blog comment

Anna Nicole Smith keels over unexpectedly, and we reward her with an outpouring of sympathy and respect. Or maybe we just feel guilty.

Gone are the once ubiquitous, unflattering pictures of fat Anna cartoonishly posing in ill-fitting, clingy dresses, that accompanied so many articles criticising her for her multitude of societal crimes.

Now it’s all soft-focus, professionally-lit glamour shots of flawless beauty that grace the columns and blog posts written in gentle, heart-sick tones of shock and sorrow.  

Women are bereft by the terrible sadness of a lonely, confused woman leaving behind an infant to an uncertain future. And men, demonstrating a gaping hole in Hallmark’s bereavement card repertoire, are offering their own tributes by tenderly declaring that Anna Nicole was still hot enough to fuck. 

There is just nothing like an early death to remind us that, celebrities, no matter how irritating, no matter how seemingly useless a fixture they may be in our lives, are still human beings just like us. And we kinda miss them when they’re gone.

Paris Hilton, I hope you are paying attention.

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The Ethics of Wife Beating

4 January, 2007, Thursday

A Bahrain cleric drags his people into the 16th Century and sets firm limits on the “treating” of one’s wife.  

We westerners have our share of cultural problems, but this video will certainly make all western women grateful for not being at the mercy of absolute galloping insanity.  

To think that it was simple chance that I was not born into such a backward culture is a little scary.  

To celebrate getting a long straw in the birth lottery, I’m gonna go put on a pair of jeans and get in my car to drive myself – unescorted – to the store and purchase something a little decadent.   It’s a cold, rainy January night – but I’m gonna crack my window enough to let the wind blow my uncovered hair into defiant tangles.    

Freedom Snarls, as the Bush administration woulda called ’em a couple of years ago. 

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And Let’s Not Forget The Guy Who’s Last Name Was ‘Butt’ — He Pronounced It “BYOOT”

14 December, 2006, Thursday

Tonight at work, I spoke to a woman on the phone and asked her what her name was.    She pronounced it “Cah-RIN”.     

“And how do you spell that?” I asked, running down a mental checklist of the many spelling variations that I have seen of her name.

She spelled it:  “K-a-r-e-n.”

I trust many native English speakers reading this will, as I did, roll their eyes and think vile things about her for being so ridiculously contrary about something that is commonly understood and accepted by a vast majority.      

Her name is not “Cah-RIN”.  It is Karen.  And, as Karen Carpenter did and the lovely Karen Grassle still does, it is pronounced “CARE-en”.

Is life just not difficult enough for her, I thought, irritated, as I finished up my business on the phone with her, that she must add one more arduous task to it?    I wondered  how often she’d corrected people in the course of her life and bitterly resented her for needlessly adding another tiny little dollop of confusion into our already chaotic world.

Later in the evening, I thought about my friend Janice from elementary school. 

Janice pronounced her name as “Juh-NEESE”.

Every year on the first day of school when the teacher would take attendance by calling out each student’s name, the teacher would get to Janice’s name and call out “JA-nis G.?”, and every year Janice would correct him or her.    And if our regular teacher was out ill for the day, she would correct the substitute teacher during that attendance call.  

But what I remembered last night was my reaction to Janice and her name.  And my reaction was no reaction at all.   She was simply a girl who liked her name pronounced Juh-NEESE and I accepted it fully and completely, without any judgement.

It’s very little wonder that I recall being a much happier individual then as compared to the one I have become. 

The fact that this Karen woman, a stranger that I will likely never speak to again, pronounces her name differently should not matter the slightest to me.     Yet it irritated me enough that once I finished with her phone call, I complained to other people in the room about it and they all groaned about it, too!       Misery has the best tea parties. 

It happens to so many of us.  We get comfy in a rut, stay too long in a job that fulfills only one of our needs, and our unhappiness begins to show.  

It’s been 30 years since I was in elementary school and sometime between then and now, life has worn me down to the point where I can become pissed off about the way a woman pronounces her name.   Fortunately, I’m still young and strong enough to beat the fucker back.   The question is, will I? 

It’s clear to me that I must.  Because people will never, ever stop being irritating, troublesome, pains in the arse.   And if I don’t start addressing my own attitude toward this truth, then the things that bother me will become even tinier.     And that’s a scary thought. 

“Hell is other people.” – Sartre