Monday, July 16, 2012

Who do you know?

Stream of consciousness Sunday.

I grew up in a small town  of about 2000 people in Iowa, not including outlying farm families. I thought I knew all of them and all of them knew who I was. Hell, I even knew everybody's dog. And I thought I knew almost everybody in the town 5 miles away where my grandma lived, and where I lived the first 2 years of my life

I finally figured out that wasn't true because one of my siblings or my mom would say, "Oh, you remember so-and-so." And I'd say "No, I don't remember him." And she'd say, "Oh, yes, you do. He was married to that Smith girl. They lived a couple of blocks west of the square." And sometimes I really didn't know somebody who had lived there all his life.

I could have saved myself a whole lot of paranoia if I'd known not everybody knew me and thus my parents. For the first 14 years of my life, I didn't think I could get away with anything because every single person in that town knew me and would tell my parents if they saw me doing anything wrong. I'm not even sure what I would have done to cause someone to call my parents before I was 14. Probably the worst I did was roll up my skirt after I was out of sight of my house so it would be shorter like everybody else's. But for the most part, all those prying, knowing eyes kept me in line.

Or they made me sneaky. Because when I turned 14, I did all kinds of shit that I didn't get caught doing. I did something every single day that I would have gotten in big trouble for, even if it was only smoking in the back of the laundromat.

One reason I couldn't wait to get out of that town was because I knew everybody there and everybody knew me. I started planning my escape when I was 8 and in third grade. I wanted to go to the city where I could be anonymous if I wanted to be.

Tonight I went to a special yoga class with a group of women who live near downtown, and then we walked to a nearby Italian restaurant for food and wine. I knew several of the women who went, although it was open to a group of over 175 women. After dinner I ran over to the monthly story slam I've written about here before. I was too late to perform, but it was standing room only, and I knew more than half the people in the coffee house.

As I leaned against the counter and one-by-one caught the eyes of friends and acquaintances, smiled and waved, maybe whispered a few words, I realized something: I know way more people in this city than I did in that small town I grew up in. Way more. And the number keeps growing. It's worse better than Facebook.

I don't know everybody, of course, but you'd think in a town of 2000, I would know everybody. And in a metro area of over a million, I'd know far fewer.

Maybe it's because I'm an adult. I don't know. But the thought kind of took me back. I love living in this city, but one of the reasons I fled that small town at age 17 is one of the reasons I want to live here. I love the people I know here ... and even the ones I haven't met yet.

I will admit, on rare occasions even this city feels too small. Just like in a small town, I know people I can't fucking stand really wouldn't choose to know. Or people I've somehow pissed off, who refuse to forgive me. That can be uncomfortable for them.
I don't know why it was such an epiphany. Maybe that small town wasn't so claustrophobic after all. Maybe some pretty cool people with amazing stories lived there and I never met them.

Perspective is a funny thing, isn't it? Have you ever experienced a jolt in judgment that changed years of thinking. Something that changed your life?

In spite of my epiphany, I'm never going back to a small town. But since I realized I know such a shit ton of people here, I expect to feel like eyes are watching me and they're going to tell my mom if I do anything wrong. Like write about vaginas or smoke behind the garage.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Random Shit 7912

Of course as soon as I read about Stream of Consciousness Sunday the blogger who was hosting it stopped. Whatthefuckever. I'm going to do one anyway, mostly because it's summer and I have trouble settling down in the summer. I carry around a big, bad case of spring fever most of the year, but summer is the best worst. Must be something about the heat and sweating and summer nights and necking with boys on gravel roads with the windows down when I was a teenager ... I dunno. If I really wrote a stream of consciousness it would go on forever and I'd probably have to classify this as a porn blog. Here's just a bit.

I finally bought a new smart phone. I already wrote about why I needed to buy a new phone. Now I've got one. It's a Virgin HTC EVO--like anybody gives a shit. Android. Ice cream sandwich. 3-D camera and video. It's like an alien phone compared to my old dumb phone. It does all kinds of fancy shit. Like the keys vibrate whenever I touch them. Tiny little buzzes with each tap of the keys. I hope nobody has noticed I'm texting myself a lot just so I can get little fingertip cookies.

The first day I had my phone something strange and disturbing happened. Nobody texted me for hours. When I had to take off a tightly wound hair tie to answer every text, people sent me texts all the time. When my qwerty was held together with gum and hope, people texted me constantly. As soon as I got a smart new phone ....... dead silence. Hours of dead silence. I finally had to whine on Facebook before a few people took pity and texted me. I wrote long, orgasmic responses with my vibrating keys.

(Speaking of vibrators, go see Hysteria. I loved it as much as I expected to. It's funny and quirky and lots of women get cookies.)

(Also speaking of vibrators, I went to my first sex toy party. I'm not going to tell you what I bought, because I've lost it already. As soon as I took it out of the package I lost it. All I remember is that it didn't come with instructions. I prefer real people anyway.)

One reason I got a smart phone was so I could play Draw Something. I wanted to play it with Alex because he draws really well, but he quit playing before I got my phone because you can't fucking win the game. It's like one of those Facebook games where you set up a restaurant and then you just keep adding tables and potted plants and special recipes, but you never win. Oh well.

I'm playing Draw Something with 8 people so far. I probably spent 2 hours today drawing clues that look like blobs of mashed potatoes or random jumbles of sticks or piles of dog shit -- or they would look like dog shit if I had earned enough coins to buy more than 3 primary colors + black so far. No brown for me.

Somehow people still guess the clues right. I even ordered styluses for me and both kids so we can make better drawings. Back in the days when my dad was still alive, and we didn't have smart phones, we just sat around the kitchen and drank and chain-smoked and argued about politics. My kids and I send drawings of dreidels, bromance, and goslings to each other. Shit changes.

Rollo's memorial service was last weekend. What can I say? It was nice? It was nice. It was tearful and yet there was laughter. The only thing missing was Rollo. There were photos of him throughout his life, including a few from when he was a child. I wish that child could have known how many people would love and cherish him later in his life. If you haven't done it yet, I encourage you to read his memoir, Lost and Found.

Of course people got a chance to stand up and share some memories of Rollo during the service. I could have talked for hours about him, but I narrowed it down to 3 things: how Rollo became friends with my friends on Facebook and they grew to love him. How he was the biggest fan if my music and how much I'll miss looking at him when I play on Sunday mornings. And how he and his wife Sue hated every man I ever dated. Instantly. Unequivocally. Sue had her eyes closed, tears streaming down her face as I spoke, but she laughed and nodded her head when I said that. They didn't think anybody was good enough for me. They were right both times.

I can't leave Rollo's memorial without making a confession. Months ago Rollo asked me to put together a quartet to sing an arrangement of song that's special to Unitarian Universalists, "Spirit of Life." He'd arranged it himself, and he didn't want just anybody to sing it. I .... ummmm .... this is hard to admit .... I didn't do it. I wasn't setting up music like I was when he first started coming to the church and I wasn't asked to play anything during that time ..... and then, I think I forgot. And then he couldn't come to church any more.

We sang his arrangement at his memorial service, but I didn't put it together, and he didn't get to hear it. The whole time I sang I felt such terrible guilt. It was hard enough not to cry, but I kept thinking how I should done what he asked me to. I couldn't even look at Sue as we sang. Somehow I ... we .... got through the song. When there are only 2 sopranos, you can't break down and stop singing. There are always these fucking lessons when someone dies, and yet I expect I will continue to disappoint the people I love.

I miss him.

I read 50 Shades of Grey because I'm going to host a book discussion at my house. I rolled my eyes several times, but I didn't get spanked. Just as well. I hit back. More on that later.

I was talking to Elvira on the phone one afternoon when I heard someone playing "Sunshine of My Life" on a trombone in my next door neighbor's front yard. I opened the windows and listened to this guy play several more songs before he got into a car with 3 other people and drove away.

Later, after my neighbor came home from work, they came back. After dinner he stood out in the yard and played again for a porchful of people. (My next door neighbors are friendly, but they never invite me onto their porch.) Elvira, Coraline, and I went out in my yard and listened. Coraline danced. He wanted me to jam with him, but I don't play jazz and it's not that easy to jam with a trombone.

After he'd played until his lips gave out, he and the people he was with came in so he could play my grand piano. We all shared some music. He told us his name and rattled off a list of big names he'd played with, including Rick James. Later I googled his name and he wasn't lying. He said he'd been in hell (drugs) the past 20 years and had just started playing again. I hope he keeps playing, even if he's not playing with Rick James (bitch).

I never know what will happen in this neighborhood. Could be gunshots. Could be trombones.

I rode about 15 miles on my bike tonight. The temps have hovered around 100 for at least a week, and I haven't been going out as often as I'd like. As I was riding I ran into a bug with my knee, which is better than hitting it with my eye or my open mouth. But, damn, this one stung like a son of a bitch. I didn't want to slow down, but when I was forced to stop at a street crossing, I pulled out a big stinger with a chunk of insect ass still attached. It left a good hole in my leg. Then, because all I could do was pedal and think, I imagined that thing swelling up like a baseball and causing a anaphylactic response out in the middle of nowhere on the bike path ..... Am I the only one who makes up crazy shit like that? I can't even see where it was now.

Do you see what time it is? I have to stop now and go to bed. Feel free to share your stream in the comments section.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Changing History

[Update/07July: My apologies to those of you who came looking for this post and couldn't find it today. Blogger must have suffered a glitch, or maybe I fucked something up. In any case, it disappeared for a period of time, and I'm not sure how long. I hope it's back to stay now.]

I felt a twinge of a dilemma last week when a commenter on my May 21 blog post, "Oh, for one good sex blog," asked that I remove the post. It's a post about sociopaths in general and the late Susan Crane Bakos in particular. An alleged family member (I do believe she's a family member, but I don't know for sure) wrote to me and to at least one other blogger and asked us to delete our posts because she didn't want her family's younger members to find out about Crane Bakos like her 16-year-old daughter already had. You can read her request and my response in the comments section of that post.

I sympathize with her. Even a whiff of a sociopath as one passes by on a city sidewalk is enough to cause hours of nausea and diarrhea in those of us who recognize their particular evil stench. Who wouldn't want to cut the rot out of their family tree -- at least on the interwebs -- if they could?

I had to decline though. Sympathy aside, I can't see any benefit. I've only pulled a post once -- coincidentally it too was about sociopathy -- and it didn't change anything. The history stayed the same, and the story ended the way it was going to end. I might as well have left the post on my blog, because a significant number of readers related to it and thanked me for writing it. Because it rang true for them, it was healing. Taking it down did nothing.

It's important .... I'd go so far as to say it's part of the healing process for those of us who have been afflicted with a sociopath to share our stories. We need to affirm that these people exist, that they share certain traits, and that they really do make life a living hell for nice, normal people. And it doesn't hurt to warn other people so the sociopath can't take advantage of them too.

 Deleting them from our stories won't make them go away though. The only way to make them go away is to stay the hell away from them. Susan Crane Bakos is (allegedly) dead, so  I guess her family won't have to deal with any more of her craziness. Except in their family history.

That's not the only reason I didn't delete the post though. The other reason is that I didn't like the way the argument was made. If I were analyzing it with one of my classes, we'd be looking at it through the lens of Aristotle's appeals -- ethos, pathos, logos -- and that of argument fallacies as well. As I said in my comment on the post, I don't like feeling manipulated, and this was a terribly manipulative request.

First, I don't like the purely emotional appeal of using the children. A 16-year-old is old enough to understand that Aunt Suzie was a bad person. By her own admission, she was a bad person. Few families get to avoid having at least one rotten piece of fruit dangling from the tree.

She's also old enough to understand that somebody else's behavior has nothing to do with how she should feel about herself. Why would she be embarrassed by what a crazy old woman did? She didn't do it herself.

Better to sit her down and give her the truth, no matter how painful it is. And tell her if she gets near anybody who acts like that to run away and never look back. Sociopaths don't change. They just learn to manipulate their victims better over time.

Second, colleges don't google the thousands of applicants they get every year. Even if they did, they don't give a shit about what an applicant's elderly crazy aunt wrote years ago on her website. I can't think of a worse appeal to make to a college English teacher than this one. I can understand that the family cares; colleges don't and won't. It's a slippery slope argument, and an obvious one at that.

I'm bothered as well that some information about these children is hidden. It appears to be an equivocation, one of those almost-lies that people use to manipulate a situation. The implication is that these poor, suffering children are grandchildren, isn't it? But the commenter doesn't really say what their relationship to Bakos Crane is. What is certain is that the adults in the family are sick of her and her antics, and they want her erased from the blogosphere. Fair enough. Equivocating about the children causes fatal damage to the argument.

Finally, I also have a problem with the ethics of this request. I don't trust someone who asks me to change history. I know too well how painful family secrets can be, and how devastating it is to find out your whole family lied, supposedly to protect you. No fucking thanks. Tell the truth and deal with that shit. Lying about who Susan Bakos Crane was is just as dishonest as what she did. The reason doesn't matter.

Look, I appreciate that Shawn put her name out there and offered to discuss her request. I didn't contact her. If she is who she says she is, I pity her for the hell she must have gone through being related to that woman.

Hell, I feel so sorry for her, I'd give her a guest post right here on this blog if she wanted to tell her side of the story. I'm sure she has one. Sociopaths are rabid users of good people. I have no doubt Aunt Suzie will provide hours of painful retelling of stories around the potluck table about the holidays, weddings and funerals she ruined for everybody else.

But I'm still not willing to help anybody change history. I won't whitewash a sociopath, not even by deleting a post. Once was enough. It just gives them power when we're so embarrassed by their behavior -- or so ashamed they fooled or used us -- that we try to erase the truth and act like they are just normal people. Like us.

They aren't normal. We shouldn't pretend like they're normal by only talking about or remembering the times they were able to fake being caring humans.

This time the post stays.