Thursday, December 31, 2015

Feelin' Alright

Feelin' Alright (Click to Hear)

Seems I've got to have a change of scene
'Cause every night I have the strangest dreams
Imprisoned by the way it could have been
Left here on my own or so it seems

I've got to leave before I start to scream
But someone's locked the door and took the key

You feelin' alright? I'm not feelin' too good myself
Well, you feelin' alright? I'm not feelin' too good myself

Well, say, you sure took me for one big ride
And even now I sit and wonder why
That when I think of you I start to cry
I just can't waste my time, I must keep dry

Gotta stop believin' in all your lies
'Cause there's too much to do before I die
Don't get too lost in all I say
Though at the time I really felt that way

But that was then, now it's today;
I can't get off so I'm here to stay

Till someone comes along and takes my place
With a different name and, yes, a different face

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Update

I'm slowly easing back into regular posting. I'll be silent once again starting Wednesday, in observance of Christmas and New Year's. Like so many of us long-suffering writers, I've had to balance the work I do for free with the work I do for pay. Anyone who has blogged as long as I have (ten years, really?) has no shortage of free work, which I have done to further my publication name, even as I receive no financial compensation for my time and effort.

That said, I'm about to start a job where I will blog for pay. Unlike this forum, I don't choose the topics and the company I work for has primary rights to my content. It won't be featured here. Writers need good editors and editors need good writers, but the two are often mutually exclusive. I'm not blunt enough to poke holes through someone's baby but others most assuredly are.

Writing is a discipline that attracts many dilettantes and those who feel that it is somehow easy. In fact, writing is an intense challenge, and it requires hours of effort and lots of time devoted to revision. Like figure skating, it seems effortless when performed live, but this disguises the diligent work ethic that separates the average from the exceptional.

The internet has been my salvation and simultaneously the bane of my existence. It has forced me into narrower and narrower interest groups and the isolating esoteria of those spaces. I'm not feeling particularly religious or spiritual at the moment, nor do I feel it my current place to be Jimmy Carter to the liberal unwashed masses. I am nominally the man who gets it among feminists who are my contemporaries. Once I believed I was a voice in the wilderness, now I see how similar I am to others and how we have jumped aboard the same bandwagon and talking points simultaneously.

I continue to push myself off of my haunches as long as I have strength in my body. Young enough to be restless and unsatisfied, I'm growing into middle age slowly and steadily. I've been living in DC eight years now and am contemplating a lifetime in the nation's capital. Already I've seen great changes and I expect to see more. Every time I return home to Alabama I count the buildings that have changed owners and the vast new construction projects underway. Someone is making money, but it's not me or anyone that I know.

Christmas meant more to me when I was a child and I suppose that's true for most of us. If I had children of my own, I might be able to get a contact high from their enthusiasm. I paradoxically want my entire family around me at holidays. Since when did I become a believer in nostalgia and cease being the gritty realist? I'll make sure it won't happen again. I am on one coast, sister number one is on the other, and sister number two will never leave the South.

We're a pretty normal family that way. The teenage chip on my shoulder has departed. Fish and visitors still stink in three days, but can be forgiven under the circumstances. And even with the petty bickering that consumed whole years of my life, I wouldn't have it otherwise. I wish the best to you and your family, or the family you have adopted for your very own. The holidays can be a dose of depression to those without or with the huge silent tension that becomes open conflict.

May you get what you want, but be able to separate the genuinely helpful from the momentarily distracting. Merry Christmas. We're going to need it. 2016 is an election year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Late Saturday Video

10.15 on a Saturday night
And the tap drips
Under the strip light

And I'm sitting
In the kitchen sink
And the tap drips
Drip, drip, drip

Waiting for the
Telephone to ring
And I'm wondering
Where she's been

And I'm crying
For yesterday
And the tap drips
Drip, drip, drip

Quote of the Week

A comment upon the lone wolf shooters that have terrorized our country.

"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? [turns around to look behind him] Well, then who the hell else are you talking- You talking to me? Well, I'm the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you're talking to? Oh yeah? Huh? 'kay. [whips out his gun again] Huh?"- Travis Bickell from Taxi Driver.

Metro, the Culture of Dysfunction, and the Women Who Suffer

When I first entered feminist spaces, I encountered a huge supply of outrage and indignation regarding street harassment and other cases of men behaving badly. My immediate reaction was a compelling need to prove that I wasn’t that way. No one was debating that, but my male privilege was showing. I’m a large man who has rarely been propositioned inappropriately by complete strangers. It took me a while to realize that these stinging accusations had nothing really to do with me and everything to do with me.

Women, I have learned, can either shrug off these kinds of transgressions or get very angry. This situation reduced a friend of mine to tears, at which point she was strongly encouraged to formally report the crime. A security guard, aware of the situation, boarded the bus immediately following the verbal harassment. I should add that the driver had an outstanding warrant for rape, in addition. The man had been reported before, but I take it that many women would rather forget than prosecute or press charges. The security guard wanted to make sure this didn’t happen again.

It’s another black eye for Metro, whose shortcomings are profiled in the latest edition of Washingtonian magazine. The once revered public transportation system here in the nation’s capital has fallen on rough times in the past decade and a half. Filling openings for drivers has been difficult, meaning that problem employees are retained when they ought to be fired. This is not, as I said, an isolated incident. Women are subjected to such conduct on a regular basis, and that they soldier past it without growing bitter or angry is a testament to their own inner strength.

To quote from the aforementioned article, which focuses mostly on Metro’s command center,

It’s a self-reinforcing problem. Metro hasn’t been able to improve the ROCC [Rail-Operations Control Center] culture because it’s so beholden to the current personnel—yet the current personnel are a big part of the staff shortage. Despite a concerted effort to recruit and train new hires, Metro added just three controllers between 2011 and 2015, the FTA says.

As is often the case, a persistently dysfunctional culture shows itself plainly in ways that Metro tries to downplay. To return to the story of my friend, a security guard, aware of the driver’s indiscretions, almost forced her to press charges. It would be easy to assume that this reflects only a flawed system in one major US city, but it also shines light upon the plight of women. As is evidenced by the Bill Cosby allegations, women can be coerced to stay silent for years, well past the statute of limitations. And even within however many years the statue protects them, it takes a persistent number and severity of offense before successful prosecution can be all but ensured.

Meanwhile, management focused on making sure employees wore their uniforms correctly and used Metro-issued microwaves to cook food instead of their own. “Things are falling apart and you’re worried about a microwave oven,” Johnson says. “I mean, it was just dumb.” Accountability for day-to-day repairs had all but vanished:
“Consciously or subconsciously, everyone at Metro knows they’ve got a job for life,” he says, “unless they sit there and smoke crack in the middle of the platform.”

Critiques like these have been used to speak out boldly against unions. Metro’s employees have the right to bargain collectively, but it shouldn’t shield them from accountability, either. Color me disgusted at the whole sordid affair. My friend burst into tears at the brazenness of an indecent request that I will not justify by spelling out directly in this forum. It will take more than civic outrage and one story to change the lay of the land.

These days, I’ve come to terms with the kind of vulnerability women face, but I don’t want my sympathy to be confused or decried as insincere. When informed of the latest offense, I’ve recognized how jaded I’ve become, somewhere between the indignation of an activist and the fatalism of an old soul. This story is about the gaps in between these polar extremes and the problem that remains. It is everyone’s problem.

Monday, December 14, 2015


People say we got it made
Don't they know we're so afraid

We're afraid to be alone
Everybody's got to have a home

Just a boy and a little girl
Trying to change the whole wide world

The world is just a little town
Everybody trying to put us down
I - i - i - i - i - isolation
I don't expect you to understand
After you've caused so much pain
But then again you're not to blame
You're just a human
A victim of the insane

We're afraid of everyone
Afraid of the sun

The sun will never disappear
But the world may not have many years

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Quote of the Week

Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith.-Muhammad

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Saturday Video

Let's have bizarre celebrations
Let's forget who forget what forget where
We'll have bizarre celebrations
I play the Satyr in Cyprus, you're the bride being stripped bare, bare

Let's pretend we don't exist
Let's pretend we're in Antarctica

Let's have bizarre celebrations
Let's forget when forget what forget how
We'll have bizarre celebrations
We'll play Tristan and Izolde but make sure I see white sail, sails

Let's pretend we don't exist
Let's pretend we're in Antarctica

Maybe I'll never die, I'll just keep growing younger with you
And you'll grow younger too
Now it seems too lovely to be true
But I know the best things always do

Let's pretend we don't exist
Let's pretend we're in Antarctica

Loopholes Exploited in Health Care Coverage

It was only $5.37, but it was the principle of the thing.

A cluster of recent hospitalizations and Emergency Room visits has resulted in my being sent four separate bills for a variety of services rendered. A routine EKG was performed each time, a test that is relatively cheap by American health care standards. I know from my bill that it costs $15 for five minutes of monitoring the heart. I have found, much to my annoyance, that it takes another five minutes to painfully pick electrodes off of my body hair. Such is life.

I'm federally disabled and rely upon Medicare as my primary coverage. Medicare is sound insurance, but as some may know, it doesn't cover everything, every expense. I use Washington, DC's Medicaid program to cover the remainder of my expenses. Usually this arrangement is not problematic, but I find increasingly that hospital administrators are discovering ways around it. For example, some enterprising soul decided to outsource EKG payments to Michigan, where Medicaid cannot be charged because it is out-of-state.

It must make sense on paper, but it's not fair to those of us who subsist uncomfortably on monthly disability payments. They are designed to thrust one into the workforce, not for long term dependence. In my case, the latter has to suffice. I have never been able to hold a job for long and the shame has been terrible. Our system doesn't treat every case individually and perhaps doing so is impossible, but I nevertheless encourage reformers to take into account my story. It is not the only one.

No act designed for Affordable Care doesn't fray at the seams with enough time. As healthcare costs continue to soar, I fear that other hospital centers will use this precedent to wiggle through the loopholes. From the perspective of those who accept Medicaid, they always claim that the paperwork is extreme, the bureaucracy excessive, and the payments slow to arrive. This may be true, but what we may need is to cut through the clutter.

Medicare for all is not a bad aim. It is accepted almost everywhere, except in the field of mental health and psychiatry, but that is another story for another post. And rest assured I am thankful for the sacrifices and toil of the American taxpayer. They keep my head afloat, not totally dependent upon others for every penny. Medicaid, of course, is a different story. Red State governors continue to refuse Federal dollars to expand their programs. I'm glad, once again, that I live in a blue bubble.

As I peer from my bedroom window each morning, I see the cops pulling over speeders down a busy stretch of roadway. You'd think people would learn eventually. Every ticket paid goes towards my care and keeps my dental bills minimal. I'm not ungrateful, though I'd much rather be one of the faceless, nameless men in a business suit and professional clothes headed to work downtown. And I'm not alone, trapped in a body and a brain that has betrayed me. I'm educated, yes, but poor.

Government cannot be reset to a time before the New Deal, before the Great Society. We may never be a nation that embraces democratic socialism. But we can and should embrace looking out for those of us who are less fortunate. I don't wallow in my limitations. Instead, I ask for a leg up and usually don't complain. I don't believe that the world owes me anything, but I do believe that I have a right to add my voice into the discourse. Doing so is uniquely American, wouldn't you agree?