Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Notice

I am trying to rest up this week in anticipation of flying home for Thanksgiving. Starting Saturday and lasting through Thanksgiving Day, I will probably not be posting.

My parents are getting older and I find myself halfway through my thirties. They are a link to my past, and still relatively young, young enough to not be crippled with illness and physical limitations. My twenties were a navel-gazing time of selfishness, but your priorities change with time. The balance of power seems much more equal now, possibly because I live twelve hours drive away from them.

There will be more to come, but I've suffered with four hospitalizations in five months and my body is suffering from exhaustion. My progress is measured in weeks, rather than days. The brain takes a long time to recover from trauma.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Quote of the Week

I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.-Alice Paul

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday Video

I'm not like them
But I can pretend

The sun is gone
But I have a light

The day is done
And I'm having fun

I think I'm dumb
Maybe just happy

I think I'm just happy
I think I'm just happy
I think I'm just happy

My heart is broke
But I have some glue

Help me inhale
And mend it with you

We'll float around
And hang out on clouds
Then we'll come down
And have a hangover

Have a hangover
Have a hangover
Have a hangover

Skin the sun
Fall asleep
Wish away
Soul is cheap

Lesson learned
Wish me luck
Soothe the burn
Wake me up

I'm not like them
But I can pretend

The sun is gone
But I have a light

The day is done
And I'm having fun
I think I'm dumb
Maybe just happy

I think I'm just happy
I think I'm just happy
I think I'm just happy
I think I'm dumb

Friday, November 13, 2015

When A Man Takes Paternity Leave

I should begin by saying that I rent space on the opposite end of the pharmacy counter. With multiple ailments and disabilities, I have no choice but to take my medications in a compliant fashion. But I say this only as a means of introduction to a much more interesting topic.

When a man takes paternity leave, outside of professional sports and testosterone circles, we Americans applaud. We're becoming civilized like the rest of the world, we say. But the rest of American society must change, too. Our attitudes and expectations must be reformed. The system would buckle under the pressure if all men participated. Below is what I mean.

The way it has always been is not designed for men to take off the way women have since time immemorial. I've suffered because my hard working and entirely competent pharmacist has taken paternity leave. For over a month, everyone has been short-changed. The men, mostly, who have filled in for him are temp workers, many of whom take little pride in their work and are dubiously competent. They wait for their next assignment elsewhere, wishing that they could be assigned somewhere permanent.

Let's not forget that a pharmacist with his or her own store makes a very generous salary, sometimes over $100,000. The temps are not so fortunate. They are paid per diem for their wages. I am not totally dismissive of their plight. A more smartly managed workplace would have designated temp workers who would know where their next assignment was coming from well ahead of schedule.

Every day I go to the pharmacy, I see a different face wearing a white coat. I can't imagine what it must be like to pick up on someone else's system and weave it in with one's own in a single day or maybe a string of days. There's something nomadic about this way of life and when there are gaps, highly inefficient, not streamlined ways have to suffice in the minds of those who plan such things.

It doesn't have to be this way. It begins by smarter action and not resting on the haunches of the past. If paternity leave remains a rarity, we collectively lose out. I admire my pharmacist for taking an option available to him, giving him a chance to bond with his newborn child and to assist his wife. We are still beholden to the notion that raising young children is women's work and that a father's place towards parenting is distant and somewhat detached.

Old habits are what we are fighting. I think the change, if we agree to make it, will come slowly and incrementally. The roles of masculinity and societal patterns are being challenged by the mere notion of paternity leave. This is what makes some men bemoan that "real" men are no longer to be found in sufficient quantities or to feel that maleness is under attack from emasculating forces. But what we are really becoming is more compassionate, even if the latest news report would have you believe otherwise.

Friday, November 06, 2015

What's Wrong and Why It Happened

I have been hospitalized three times in the past five months. My progress in healing is going to be measured in months, not weeks or days. For whatever reason, bipolar disorder struck, along with a massive period of agitation. The causes are unknown, but I was dealing with a lawsuit and a massive amount of stress that went along with it.

I can't really talk about it yet. This is an act of self-preservation along with my decision to stop blogging for a little while. My health is of paramount importance right now. I hope my manuscript for a forthcoming short story was received before I collapsed under the strain. I hope this is not something more serious.

A Notice

I have a severe physical issue and will be posting only occasionally for the next several weeks. I hope this does not disappoint. Doing the minimum is a challenge right now, and I'm fearful this is not something worse. I am worried about the outcome of testing and doctor's opinions.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Iranian Quandary

Current events have been an enigma to me since forever. Keeping track of them is like trying to grab handfuls of flies. It’s a waste of time. The devils fly through the gaps of your fingers, rendering your action moot.

But that’s until current events become current for you, too. One of my doctors is Iranian, Persian really, but has been called back for a month for home. These are not Pro-American times in Iran, and the unrest I read about makes me wonder if she is on some imperative family errand. I wonder if her papers will be denied to her somehow, preventing her return. My worries go beyond finding another doctor.

Until now, as I have gathered, the crackdown has been mostly on the media. The regime doesn’t want publication of what it is doing by any means. My doctor is part of the group who left because of the Revolution in 1979, making this trip seem mysterious, to say the least. She is also my age, which at 35 is possible, but makes me know I am growing into an older adult. Most Persians loyal to the Shah went to California, but some of them migrated to this greater Washington, DC, area. And yet she is working on her English.

I could speculate about this topic and be no further along. She said she had no choice in the matter, which is a curious reason to cite. It speaks of intrigue but may not really say much in the long term. I’ve never had a doctor need to flee the coop with such urgency and at the last minute. Last minute decisions are rarely made with positive consequences, or even expecting them.

Maybe one of her relatives has gotten wrapped up in this mess. I’m not sure I’d feel safe as an American in Tehran right now. Death to America is once again the chat of the hour. Has it ever stopped, really? I find it hard to not want death and destruction for them, if they hate us so much. As I’ve written before, it tries my pacifism. I don’t want to surrender to what I see often as bullies.

They’ve taken away someone who provides an essential service to me. I’m not sure she will be allowed to return. I don’t think she is the source of the problem, but it is someone or something dear to her. I can pick up that much from the way she apologized for this arrangement, completely off-balance, wobbling, teetering slightly. It’s somewhat unprofessional, but forgivable.

We’re trying to keep nuclear material out of the hands of a dictatorial power. How we do it is a matter of debate. But in the meantime the people suffer as the dictators profit from the hatred they fan. And how do we break that resolve? It makes the Soviets seem meek and mild by contrast, and as someone who values my own religious freedom, it’s a temptation to say that this religion is neither free, nor religious. It’s an ideology of terror justified by blood sacrifice.

These are our current events, should we choose to accept them. This is what makes people run home out of haste. And how we deal with it is everyone’s issue.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

When Material Proves Elusive

The short story I've been posting snippets on here is done. I've been submitting it to literary journals and a few winnable contests here and there. My political opinions are minimal at this point. There's not much I can say that hasn't been said better by someone else. That's when I know it's time to step aside.

I've been having a resurgence of energy, recovering fully. Instead of pacing the floor, I perform stretching activities that calm down my restless legs. My partner assists me with these and I'm grateful for her assistance. Aside from that, writing is really a chore right now. And it probably will be for a while longer. But be patient with me.

See me as a cancer patient needing rest. My body has been through a ton the past five months and it is just now putting it back together. But I still have health problems and visit a doctor at 3:30 pm today to address one of them.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Early Quote of the Week

"I live!"-The mad Roman Emperor Caligula as he was being killed.

Monday, November 02, 2015

The End or the Beginning?

Minority groups or disenfranchised groups have learned with pain that the American government, or any government so conceived, lies when it is expedient to do so. The cable television fixture Turner Classic Movies recently aired the classic 1981 documentary The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter. It was part of a series of women directors. Women who contributed to the war effort were eventually lavishly compensated for their work, but were then expected to step aside when their jobs were given to returning servicemen.

The means by which this process was done were unfair and exploitative. The filmmakers were active in righting the wrongs that never graced history books. History has been a record of men's exploits, eliminating women's contributions. Since then, it has become fashionable to bash the government for all of its failures while not taking into account its successes. But to discount the vast failures is a travesty. Women were lied to, openly. We've all been lied to, since then, in other areas, women especially.

A kind of weary wisdom says that all politicians lie. The truth bears this out. The Democrats protecting Hillary Clinton are lying to some degree or another about something, and let's admit that now even if it discounts the party line now developing around her. Fox News is lying to bring its own spin out into the open. Liberals lie, conservatives lie, and that's pretty much how it's always been. But have no fear, Democrats, this is Hillary Clinton's year, in my estimation. The GOP field is too muddled, too unsettled for long term success, almost fractured enough to rival 1976, the last brokered convention.

For all the talk about the coronation of Hillary, it is born out of the facts. But this time, I think the American people will be a bit more realistic about what government can accomplish. Hillary Clinton knows the system intimately and while she might run a bit like a monarch for anyone's comfort, something might get done this time. It will be a long time before I vote (twice!) for a charismatic outsider with a minimum of practical Washington experience.

We really want the 1990's back. The nostalgia is for music and economic prowess is equal. It amuses me to see college students with Nirvana t-shirts who were infants when Kurt Cobain was already dead and buried. Can Hillary take total credit for her husband's success? She's certainly tried, but in some respects those were were more innocent times. You could wait for your arriving party at an airport and you didn't have to take your shoes off in the process. We weren't inundated with school shootings, but, immediately prior to that, the government always had the Soviets to point to as the source of all terrible things.

Now things are so unsettled. Music is abysmal and irrelevant. And we are beginning to ask some serious questions to ourselves about the golden age of American capitalism, and whether it has gone away for good is a relevant topic. We live in a global age now, whether we can see its results clearly or with some effort. I predict we will see it with clear evidence with every passing year. We live in a more multicultural country, and it is increasingly hard to close our eyes and not see it.

We've just come through Halloween, a time where we scare ourselves, a miraculous concept to me. But it's fear we cannot control that frightens me. Do you know what scares me? War. Open conflict. The always unstable Middle East, that makes me want to forsake the pacifism I own and carpet bomb the whole stinking area. A set of problems never ending. But then I turn into a heartless ranter, and the world has enough Archie Bunkers and conspiracy theorists.

What follows next? No one knows. Is this the great American resurgence or a lasting cultural slump? Regardless of President, we are likely to have a divided Congress because we are a divided country tied between the way we want things to be and the way things are. The sooner we own the future, the better we will be. Political science and trends are no help here.

Iceberg Lettuce, Part Two

“One more tomorrow, yes?” His English was heavily accented, almost Russian. And we all smiled the smiled of the stoned and the preoccupied. It was almost like speed, but it wasn’t quite that way either. No grinding of teeth. A nice mellow, highly tested chemical that dissolves rapidly and had no need to measure weight or blood pressure, or even pulse rate. You’d swear at the end you’d had a religious experience and maybe you had. Everyone’s kid bragged about it over the school lunch table the next day.

And amid thermos and lunch boxes, the talk was the same the next day. One more day of the mystical pill. Whatever will they think of next? We didn’t much talk about what they wanted from us. It gave us a break from the hunger and the Russians and the Iranians and the fifty minutes if we wanted gasoline. You could skim it off the line if you got desperate and some of us did, but the behavior was discouraged.  The poorest among us had no such reservation. Ever tried to use mineral spirits to get petrol out of a grey flannel shirt?

And then the military brass started walking all slow-like around 2 pm. We weren’t supposed to be on the premises at school, but we knew that. We were adults and few of us had work. And all the time, they kept walking lazily with a plastic bag full of those same little blue pills. Round two, said some widow, and so we prepared for round two.  It was our last go-round with the U.S. Army and nobody was afraid to look a gift horse in the mouth, two days where we weren’t worried about being poached across the river to the next grist mill by some foreigner.

They started knocking on doors like before; pouring pills into cupped hands into small circular paper containing containers of water.  Plastic cups from all over creation. Free. We drank them down with haste, ready to begin, to learn the meaning of life, even ordinary people who never had no book learnin’ like James Franklin Jamison, the town mentally challenged individual, who you used to call the village idiot.

He was rubbing out answers and blue boxes with his elbows, which soon grew blue. I wonder what his answers said. Could they be what we were looking for all along? As it turs out, there was nowhere to go before the Minnesota border and here were in northern Michigan. Not close to nothin’ as the neighbors would say.
The bullhorns let us know they were leaving soon and for us to dose or forget about it. So I opened up the gate to the bridge and off they sped. As for me, I walked back to the campsite to see what everyone was doing. They kept drawing boxes and talking frantically to each other. I wish I knew that universe they inhabited.

That same man who looked cowed kept collecting everyone’s piece of paper, assuming, of course, that they weren’t quite done with it yet. He’d stayed behind for some reason. The army guys weren’t done there yet.

Jane Mansun wasn’t ready yet. She’d decided on a two-color effect and after first applying blue ballpoint pen was adding shading with a school pencil, a number two. She sucked on the end of it like a student at a multiple choice test.

Now just remember, ma’am, there are no right or wrong answers.

She ignored him and briefly stopped sucking on the graphite only to add a brief, wild mark across the page only she was capable of understanding.

There, she said. I’m done now.

You sure? he said. Yep, she said, and folded her arms. Folding her arms underneath her was always a sign she was done with whatever task at hand, but it made her look like a petulant eight-year-old.

She shot me a dirty look. Even the lesbos get to participate. Even those dykes. No one could confuse my short hair or professional sports team jersey.  I’ve been out of work, too. Even my partner is unemployed, my wife, really, which just enrages the natives even more. I don’t care anymore. I’m so used to being despised that I’m reminded of that corrupt Latin American dictator in the Woody Allen film who has been poisoned so many times he has developed an immunity.

$500 buys a lot of groceries. Our home is full of none of them with three weeks to go before new food stamps. I have a half-sister working on marriage number three with two preteen kids from marriage number one, desperate to escape like the rest of us. They make google eyes at every rescuer with a car and gas no matter how old he might be. I doubt their mother would care. It would be one less mouth to feed, nobody to clothe anymore. It’s news story waiting to happen, one more Amber Alert to interrupt everyone’s telecast or cellphone conversation.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Quote of the Week

"Like most people who have had one baby, I am an expert on anything and will tell you, unsolicited, how to raise your child"-Tina Fey