Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This little piggy went in the slow cooker...

Early this morning after I finished writing yesterday's post, I dumped a big pork loin into my slow cooker, mixed up a tangy vinegar sauce, and set it on low to cook for a very long time. By the time I got up, the whole house smelled like pork heaven -- which is not a euphoric place for pigs, but rather a place for those of us who like to eat pigs. Or hogs as we call them in Iowa.

I have a lot to say about pigs and what nasty, vicious creatures they are, and about how we should eat them before they eat us because they taste like bacon and we don't, but I won't go into that. I will just say that much yumminess comes from pigs and here is an educational chart that shows you where to cut.

I don't know why the butt is in the front. It's just one more reason to eat pigs.

When I got home from school this afternoon, I could smell the pig cooking before I reached the front porch. I turned off the cooker and let the roast sit a while. When I couldn't wait any longer, I started eating it right out of the crock pot pulled it and filled a plate. It was worth the wait.

You want the recipe, don't you? Here it is. Ingredients are approximations because I tend to just dump some stuff into a big measuring cup. Add more of stuff you like and less of stuff you don't.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

In a two-cup measuring cup mix the following ingredients:
  • 1 cup cider vinegar (or use another kind if that's what you have)
  • 1/2 cup  Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar (more if you like it sweeter)
  • 1 tsp dry yellow mustard
  • a few dashes of smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • any other spices you like, but that's all I put in mine
Dump a pork loin in the crock pot, fat side up. You want the fat to cook down through the meat. Dump the sauce over it. Cook it on low for 10-12 hours or until it's falling apart. Resist the urge to lift the lid until it's cooked at least 8 hours. Use two forks to pull the pork into shreds. Dump some of the sauce over it if you like. Or mix in some prepared BBQ sauce. Or both. Eat it.

It tastes a lot better than it looks.


Monday, February 27, 2012

You're positive you want to know if your butt looks big in those jeans?

I'm a little jumbly in my head tonight. I was sucker punched a couple of times in the past week, and I'm waiting for the third blow. There's always a third, right? And I've been obsessing over contemplating issues of loyalty and the consequences of doing the right thing, when to stay and when to go, when to forgive and when to accept that trust isn't an option. Clarity is elusive though, so I'm going to tell a story about doing the right thing -- with regrets.*

Everybody is familiar with the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Emperor's New Clothes," right? (If not, go read it. I'll wait.) My story is a modern day version of that one.

Years ago my church allowed a woman who ran a gleaning organization to use our kitchen once a week to cook food and take it downtown to feed anyone who cared to come and eat. I'm not going to name the organization because I think they often do good work, and this story doesn't represent the norm. The woman who ran the local group -- I'll call her Sally -- would go around to grocery stores, bakeries, and restaurants and take whatever leftover or outdated food they would give her. Then a group of mostly kids in their late teens or early 20's would cook a meal and go serve it on the lawn of the main library. (It was a terrible pain in the ass for the library, but that's not part of the story.) It seemed like a worthy cause, and only cost us the use of our kitchen--at least in the beginning.

As time went on, Sally asked for more and more space in our kitchen. Soon she had filled the refrigerator, so she asked for donations and received two more that were stored in church members' garages. She also stored more and more stuff in our pantry and even branched out into our shed where the mower was stored. After a few months, the church had no space in either the refrigerator or the pantry, and big bags of hard, inedible bread often sat at the foot of the back stairs drawing ants.

We were also getting complaints from the neighbors about Sally's big old panel van, which was packed to the roof with stuff, being parked in front of the church all the time. It smelled rotten and looked worse, and our building sat in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. The office administrator reported that Sally, who had her own key, had started sleeping in the church at night as well. All so she could cook one meal a week and serve it downtown.



I knew all of it, but I wasn't on the board and I wasn't on the kitchen committee, so it really wasn't my business. To be honest, I was deeply involved in the church -- my church -- and I'd heard rumbles, but the minister always said he would talk to her. I found it annoying that we didn't have space in the refrigerator for storing food when we had potlucks or other functions, but it wasn't politically advisable to complain about someone who was doing such good work. Feeding the hungry and all. Sally's mission trumped all other concerns, even though only one kid from the teen group cooked regularly with them. Nobody else in the congregation did.

And then one night all that changed. We'd had a potluck and my good friend GG and I were the last ones left cleaning up. We finished but the kitchen still smelled like ass. So we started to investigate. We found bags and drawers full of rotting produce in the fridge. It was so bad we couldn't tell what the food had been. It had liquified and grown mold until it was indescribable. We filled several big black garbage bags with the crap -- gagging as we did -- and scrubbed out the fridge. It was getting late, well after midnight, but we're both a little OCD about things like cleaning kitchens. And the kitchen still smelled like ass.


So we ventured into the walk-in pantry and turned on the light. The shelves were stacked to the max with all kinds of canned and boxed food. We checked the expiration dates and most of them were months out of date, but OK, they might still be good. In addition, boxes were stacked floor to ceiling in most of the floor space.

We decided to pull some down and see what was inside. We reached up over our heads together to lift the top box off one of the stacks, and as we pulled it down cockroaches started running down our arms and dropping to the floor. We dropped the box, screamed and started stomping. Let the horror movie begin. After the roaches had run out of that box, we opened it and found it full of empty, dirty food containers  -- yogurt, mayonnaise, whatthefuckever. We pulled down other boxes and they were all full of garbage. And roaches.

We started hauling them out.  We set them by the trash cans. And then we cleaned the pantry the best we could.

On Sunday when we came back, most of the boxes had been brought back into the pantry, and we were called on the carpet to explain why we had thrown out Sally's stuff. We explained, and we hauled that shit back out. And we unlocked the shed and looked in there. It was full to the top with boxes of old, unusable clothing. Her van? Also full of trash. It was a nightmare.

As I said, this happened years ago, long before Hoarders was on TV, but I'd heard of people with that mental illness. And Sally definitely had it. She had once been a professional, educated and obviously intelligent. But she spent all of her time now gathering unwanted food and finding places for her garbage. I believe she was homeless, but she was resourceful and she'd found a way to make her hoarding into a charity. She was obviously mentally ill and needed help. Or it seemed obvious to me.

Except that it wasn't obvious to everybody. The person in authority, our minister, was instead angry at GG and me for trying to interfere with Sally's good work. He attached such stigma to mental illness that he couldn't accept that she was sick. To him, it was a terrible insult to say, "This woman is mentally ill and we need to stop supporting her illness. It's making us sick too." He became quite angry, and because of his  true compassion for her, he couldn't see how sick she was. And the same with other people who believed in what she was doing and hadn't seen the awful mess GG and I had cleaned up. Because the mess wasn't there any more. Just the story.

I suppose we could have just let go of it .... I mean we could have just let things go and let somebody else deal with it eventually. We could have just continued to clean the kitchen and throw out the trash and spray Raid around. But neither of us are programmed that way.

So we pushed it. We went to the board and insisted on taking our kitchen back. And eventually, as the neighbors' complaints to the police escalated and the trash continued to come into the building, they had to vote to tell her to leave.

I don't have to tell you who the bad guys were in this situation, do I? Yep. I lost friends over it. Good friends, in fact. The minister was mad at me, and he let other people know how cruel I'd been, how lacking of compassion. He thought I was horrible for saying she was mentally ill. People who didn't know the whole story, or who liked the idea of other people feeding homeless people downtown from our kitchen, were mad.

And yet some people were relieved because, although they didn't want to confront the issue themselves, didn't want to get into a conflict with the minister, didn't want to stop Sally's "good work," they also wanted to use our kitchen again. They didn't want Sally sleeping in the church and filling every space she could infiltrate with trash. So they whispered their thanks.

Oh, and Sally didn't get help. At least not from us. I'm not sure what happened to her, but she didn't get help for her mental illness from us.

It's a thankless job being the kid who calls out that the emperor** is wearing no clothes. And like all fairy tales, we don't get to know what happens later .... the rest of the story ... until it's too late. 

Well, I know. The child's parents told him to shut the fuck up. And he probably insisted, and a few people continued to see that the emperor's dick was hanging out. But most of them didn't really believe what they didn't want to see. And once the procession was over, most of them thought nothing had really been wrong. Surely the emperor wouldn't go out without clothes on. And the emperor, well he certainly couldn't believe he'd been so stupid as to parade around in his naked glory. Nobody wants to believe he could be that stupid. I wouldn't be surprised if the child were spanked and sent to bed without his supper.

And that's when the child has to wonder if it was really worth telling the truth. Or if maybe he would have been better off pretending the emperor wasn't strutting down the street, balls to the wind, ass hanging out, naked as the day he was born. Maybe it would have been better not to have pointed out that Sally was sick and needed help, but not the kind we were giving her.

I've been in that position so many times I don't even want to count. Go ahead. Ask me if your ass looks large in those pants. Some of us just have to tell the truth, and then worse, do something about it. I can't even count how many times I've wished I wasn't that person ..... and then the next time a situation comes around, there I am, shouting from the crowd, "Oh my god! The emperor is buck naked and walking down the street! Am I the only one who can see his weenie? Anybody? ..... Anybody? ...."

Have you ever felt regret for doing what you knew in your heart was the right thing, especially after the consequences started coming in?

It's hard to tell sometimes whether telling the truth and then pushing for change is worth the personal consequences. In my experience, the suffering can last much longer than I ever would have imagined as other people close their eyes and remember the emperor wearing fine robes as he paraded down the street. I've always felt sorry for that child who saw the emperor's nudity. How much better if he could have just seen a scrap of clothing clinging to the man's loins so he could have kept his mouth shut and enjoyed the fucking parade.


* Elvira has been watching Hoarders because it makes her want to clean. She keeps telling me about these crazy people who save all kinds of things like dead cats and their own shit and I really wish she wouldn't.
** Just to be clear, the emperor isn't our minister in this story. He was doing the best he could too, and with great compassion toward Sally. The emperor just represents the situation.
 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

That....that...dude looks like a lady...

I'm sure at least 85% of the bloggers in the blogosphere will write about the Academy Awards tonight, so why should I be any different?

Red carpet couture is always big news, but I've got nothing to say about the sparkling dresses. Once Jennifer Lopez left the stage in her masking tape and tulle dress that showed both her nipples and her butt crack, every other dress was unremarkable.

Did anybody else hope for a wardrobe malfunction?
 
I expected The Artist to sweep in several categories, including best actor and best show. I reviewed it a few weeks back, so I don't need to say more about it.

But what I do not understand is how Glenn Close got totally fucking shafted by the Academy tonight for her many-layered, heartbreaking portrayal of an Irish woman who spends her life pretending to be a man in Albert Nobbs.  She topped Kathy Bates for most courageous performance by an over-the-hill actress in a movie (remember At Play in the Fields of the Lord?). And, yes, I said that tongue in cheek. Of course I did, for fuck's sake. The over the hill part though, not the courageous part.

We can all agree Meryl Streep is an icon unto herself -- talented, egotistically self-effacing. Right? She's Hollywood royalty, and she's worked her ass off to get where she is. But c'mon.  She's always herself. In Albert Nobbs, Close became someone unrecognizable. Look at this:


I have no doubt Streep gave her usual stellar performance in The Iron Lady, but it's a movie I don't even care to see--probably because I've already seen Streep play an iron lady a dozen times. But I couldn't wait for Albert Nobbs to come to our little art theatre downtown, and I wasn't disappointed. Close will never top that performance. She's come so far since she boiled that bunny.

I am disappointed that she was given the nod, but not the award for taking a risk few actresses of her stature and age would take. I haven't seen The Help, because I just finished the book, but I suspect I will feel even more strongly that Streep stole the award from other actresses who brought more to their roles than just their reputations.

That's just my opinion though. Anybody else see both of those movies and disagree with me? 
 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Restless

I'm restless tonight. I'm struggling to write something on this page. Instead I want something or someone to capture my attention and engage all of my senses so completely I forget about myself. The Buddha folks call that being in the moment, but I'm not looking for peaceful.

It's not new, this restlessness. In fact, it's been my constant companion for as long as I can remember. As a child, I lived in a perpetual state of miserable boredom, waiting for something, anything-- back then I still believed there had to be something -- to happen. I taught myself to read when I was 4. Reading books helped, but there were never enough of them. And then I wasn't allowed to read very much in school so it got worse.

I was eight when I first started planning my escape from the small town in Iowa where I grew up. I started collecting things I might need on the road: little packets of salt, matches, raisins, pencils and paper, pennies, books. I stored them in a big concrete drainage pipe that had been abandoned near the elementary school. But I never got further than collecting things until I was 17 and I really did leave. But this isn't about my journey out. It's about the feeling of restlessness that rarely goes away.



I'm an E on the Meyers Briggs. If their scale is 10 points, I'm turned up to 11, so I need lots of people stimulation. But it's not just extroversion I'm talking about. I've lived with people most of my life. It's not about being with people. It's about feeling constantly understimulated in general. Not bored, exactly. Just running through most of my life in first gear, maybe up to second on a good night. I hardly ever get to rev my engines and take my foot off the gas. I'm always holding back because there's nowhere to go.

Most of the time, I ignore it. It's there, but it's been there all my life. Sometimes though, it rubs at me, like an itchy wool sweater in the summer. Sometimes people notice. Even if I'm acting just like I always act, sometimes a friend will say that I seem edgy or dark or even angry. Some friends say I just need to get laid. Well, yeah. Who doesn't need to get laid? Even if I did though, I'd just want more. I don't expect to ever find anybody who could keep up, and not just like that. Social media helps, but it's passive. Riding my bike fast for miles along the river helps, especially when it's really hot out, but I can't ride far enough or fast enough, even when I ride alone. Playing music has even provided relief at times, as does dancing for hours. But it's fleeting.

The Buddhists would say that's the problem. I always want more. It's true. I can look back on this blog and see the thread running through. I couldn't even go to a fetish party and not want more -- and I'm not even sure what I want more of. I don't have a fetish.

I want to clarify that I don't necessarily mean I'm dissatisfied with my life or that I don't have fun. I'm blessed with amazing kids, remarkable friends and a city that offers many activities. I have fun. I'm not complaining about what I do have.

I'm not sure I've explained this very well. I wrote a poem several years ago, when I was living an entirely different life. Some of these things I've done since. Some seem silly now. But the feeling behind the poem, the ache for .... I can only call it more intensity .... has always been lurking. Maybe it's something I was born with, like mitochondria or chromosomes or red hair. Probably, if I'm to be honest, I would miss it if it were gone. Maybe it's simply my passion.

Am I the only one? Do you ever feel this way? Do you always feel this way too?

I'm not going to solve this problem tonight or ever, so here's the poem. I should probably write a new one, but it would be even longer ....


Spring Fever

Spring is here.
I want to do something wild,
something to quench the swollen heat,
balm the longing that threatens to escape and
create new universes
or destroy old ones.

I want to dye my hair dark, copper red
like it was when I was a toddler
and spike it with Elmer’s glue.
I want a flat stomach
so I can wear low-rise jeans
and a snug tank top and
clunky platform shoes
like we did in the 70s.

I want to put on a low-cut black tee
and a mini skirt short to my crotch,
red cowboy boots and long silver earrings
and go to a biker bar.
Drink tequila with old, pony-tailed graybeards
in Harley shirts and leather chaps.
Lick the salt from the bend of my thumb, throw back the shot,
suck the lemon hard.
Play pool and bend over as far as I can across the table.
I want the biker chicks to hate me.

I want to drive through the night
listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd and
ZZ Top on the radio, turned up loud enough to blow the speakers.
Stop for coffee at an all-night truck stop.
Sit at the counter next to Eddie from Chicago
look at pictures of his kids.

I want to slow dance with a woman
and feel her breasts against mine
our bodies so much alike we forget
where we start and when to stop.

I want to skinny-dip in a stranger’s pool at 3:00 am
while he sleeps in his house, unaware.
Draw on white walls with crayons.
Ride a black horse bareback.
Streak a crowded mall.
Try on everything in Victoria’s Secret
even the water bras.
Paint my suburban house periwinkle, lime and hot hot pink.
Yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater.
Sing karaoke in a country and western bar
and …what the hell…fuck a cowboy in the parking lot
in his pickup truck.

I want to write a letter
to an old high school boyfriend,
tell him what a prick he was—
Choose any of them,
they were all pricks.
I’ll write a form letter.

I want to play euchre all night long,
eat eggs and bacon as the sun comes up
then fall asleep together like a pile of puppies.

I want to fuck around with another woman’s husband--
not a friend’s husband—
someone I don’t know.
Then I’ll spank him.
Hard.
Tell him to never
never
never
do that again.
Send him home to his poor wife.
And then maybe I’ll fuck her.

I want to build a bonfire
and dance around it
dressed only in blue paint
with red ochre on my nipples
and the bottoms of my feet.

I want to get a tattoo of a dragonfly
on the softest part of my inner thigh
so I can feel the bristly brush of wings
like a secret under my gypsy skirt.

I want to shoot paintball guns
at the neighbors’ barking dogs.
stain their white coats the color of fear
so I can take an afternoon nap
in perfect quiet
before the lawn mowers start growling.

I want to run and run and run
       And run and run
             And run.

What I don’t want to do
is take a long bath in flickering candlelight
in pink-scented bubbles.
I would write “SAVE ME”
in the steam on the mirror
and leave through the window.

I don’t want to sip herbal tea—
not chamomile, or orange blossom or even Red Zinger.
I want hot, black coffee
bitter with the sweat of South American labor.

I won’t eat milk chocolate
and watch Dr. Phil fix
all the fucked up suburban lives
in 10 minutes plus applause.
How’s that working for you, Phil?

I don’t want to scrapbook my photos
Or practice my yoga
Or run on the treadmill
Or spin on stationary bikes to techno dance music.
I don’t even want to zumba.

I don’t want to hang my sheets
on the line in the warm spring sunlight
and slip between their fresh virginal smell tonight.

I don’t want to sleep at night.
At night I want to be kissed hard
by a stranger with whiskey and Marlboros on his breath—
the red box, not the lights.
Or a woman who grows her own herbs,
carries the scent of sage and lavender in her hair.

Spring is here.
Spring is here.
Damn it, spring is here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A trip to the commissary


I've written before about how I sometimes miss my old life. Today was one of those days when I stepped back in and felt that strong surge of pride and nostalgia .....

I ran to the commissary after a day of conferencing with students--the ones who showed up. I'd forgotten to take a lunch so by the time my groceries were bagged and I was headed out the door with my bagger, I would have eaten a rabid raccoon was pretty hungry. At the commissary the bagger doesn't put my groceries in the cart and hand them over to me. He bags them, puts them on his cart, and takes them out to my van* where he unloads them for me. Then he closes my hatch and I tip him $5. That's the way it works. Some of the baggers are young airmen augmenting their measly pay; others are retirees or Asian wives.

Today my bagger (a tall young man with a short military haircut who was asking the cashier to set him up with her girlfriends) and I stepped out the door into a bitter winter wind that was traveling about 40 mph right through our coats and throwing tiny icy snowballs into our eyes. Just as we got to the curb, the sound of trumpets going toodley doo came through the loud speakers that are scattered around every Air Force base.

In spite of the wind and the sharp icy snow, we both immediately stopped. He dropped into parade rest and we waited. Ahead of us in the parking lot other people raised their heads to listen and stopped where they were. Cars rolled to a stop, and a woman waiting in her SUV for her bagger to load her groceries cracked her window a few inches. Then, except for the wind, nothing moved.



The warning toodles ended and we listened to silence for a few seconds before the brass section of the Air Force band hit the first notes of "The Star Spangled Banner," and the young man at my side came to attention. I listened as I always do with tears in my eyes, this time knowing the boy man who stood so tall and straight at my side will probably be sent to a warmer, sandier climate sometime soon. The trumpets hit their high note and I felt a tear fall.

It's a trigger, that song. Every day at 5:00 the entire Air Force base stops and pays tribute through the loud speakers, and time stops for just a few minutes. I can't count how many times I stepped outside my door in base housing so I could hear it and join in the ritual. Or how many times I've stood in the base movie theater where the song is played before every movie. It doesn't happen often now, but today I was lucky. I was there to stand and listen.

After the song ended, the bagger and I continued on through the wind and pellets to my van. I opened the hatch and realized I'd forgotten to drop off a bunch of stuff I intended for Goodwill. Damn it.

"I'm sorry I've got so much junk in my trunk," I said. "Just stick it in there anywhere."
......
......
......
......
......


I could see him in my peripheral vision, but I couldn't look at him. He stood there with one of my bags of groceries in his hands. Again, time stopped as neither of us moved. OK, I think his head was lowering very slowly as he tried not to react, tried not to look at me, considered what would happen if he just took off running.

"Oh, shit. I can't believe I said that. I meant to say .... I mean I've got this junk ... this stuff ..... it needs to go to Good Will and I forgot it was in the back of my ..... I'm not going to save this am I?" I finally glanced over at him and he finally stopped struggling to hold back his laughter.

"No, ma'am, you are not," he said. And then he loaded my bags in the back of my van. I handed him a $5 bill and he slammed my lid and told me to have a good day. I probably should have given him $10 just for the unfortunate image I left him with. 



* I've been getting shit lately about the 11-year-old Honda Odyssey I drive. It doesn't fit me any more, I guess. My only excuse for not driving a appropriately muscley car is that the van is paid for. And I'm too lazy to go out car shopping and buy a new one.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

New fears to conquer

I'm feeling jazzed tonight about a new path that seems to be opening up in front of me. A new path that's both exciting and scary and a challenge to be kicked down and stomped like many others. This afternoon one of the other storytellers from the story slam a couple of weeks ago -- an extremely talented standup comedian -- asked me if I would record one of my stories for a project he's producing for our local public radio station. I don't really know much more than that, but I said yes.

And tonight at the quarterly pecha kucha, I asked my friend D, after his hilarious presentation on how to be friends with a black man, to introduce me to the woman who produces them. We're Facebook friends but I'd never met her face to face so I wanted to at least shake her hand.

She asked me if I'd present next summer. Just like that. And because she said I could talk about vaginas, I said yes. When I told D I was on the list, he said, "I knew you would be when I introduced you."

As much time as I spend in front of groups and on stage, it would be logical to think he knew I'd say yes because I'm a big old diva. Which I certainly appear to be -- to the uninformed. What D knows is that the reason I said yes is because I'm terrified to do it. That's why I have to do it. That's why I have to kick it down and stomp on it before it  gets a chance to swallow me.


Gulp.

I've been told it's not obvious that I've been working through a performance phobia most of my adult life. I know how it started, but that's another story. The words "stage fright" don't seem strong enough to describe the terror I've felt at just the suggestion of doing certain things -- mostly musical -- in front of people. I can have a mind-numbing, stomach-churning, heart-thumping panic attack just thinking about performing. Just thinking about it. Or I used to. It doesn't happen so often now because I've kicked the shit out of it so many times. But it has been a journey. Here are a couple of my high points.

  • When Elvira was a baby, I decided to join our small church choir. The alto section welcomed me as the only alto who could read music. I loved the rehearsals. But then the time came when we would have to stand up on the risers and sing in front of the congregation. I was terrified. I fully expected to give up choir so I wouldn't have to stand in the second row and sing a song in the alto section ..... but I couldn't give in. So I asked LtColEx, who never mocked my phobia once, to stand up on the empty riser with me in the empty sanctuary so I could practice just standing there with nobody looking at me. I had Elvira in the sling and I just stood there until I could breath ... until I could look at the empty chairs. The next Sunday after .... well, the symptoms aren't pleasant so who needs to share? TMI .... I got up with the choir and sang. I wanted to run off the riser and out the door the entire time. But I didn't. And the next time was easier. And the time after that. Eventually I didn't think about it so much. But I've never sung a solo in the choir. Some things are phobia and some are good sense.
  • Several years later I was in a production of The Vagina Monologues. VM is the least scary kind of theatre because the performers almost always use a script and go barefoot, and so did we. But for some reason, the director asked me to introduce the play and perform my monologue first. I had to write my introduction and then talk about shaving my pussy in front of 200 people. Later, I had to perform the "right there" orgasm. I was terrified I would do something embarrassing, like throw up, on stage. So I tucked a plastic baggie in the waistband of my vagina-red pants. And then the entire time I was introducing the play and talking about my poor shaved pussy, I worried that the plastic bag had dropped through my pant leg and fallen to the floor where everybody could see. It didn't. I got through it. And later that night I licked the giant vagina ice sculpture that melted and flooded the church basement in the night. But that's another story.
I have dozens of stories about getting up and performing just so I can kick my phobia in the ass. Every time I'm asked, I do it. I'll bring my guitar and play and sing with anybody, anywhere. I play the piano and recorders and even instruments I don't play, like the mandolin and the ukulele. I get up and lead services, read my own poetry, give sermons, lead drum circles, dance ecstatically, perform in community theater ..... Hell, I get up in front of 18-year-old college students several times a week and act like a teacher. I rarely get phobic about performing any more, I've curb-stomped it so many times. Rarely, but it's there, waiting for me to let down my guard. A dark, draining shadow that can turn something fun into an ordeal to just get through.

One thing I still hate to do is sing by myself though. Even in my own living room swapping songs with a friend, I don't like it. So my big challenge recently has been singing karaoke. This is a tough one because I'm so uncomfortable singing alone --let me sing the harmony and I'm happiest -- and I don't have a guitar or piano between me and my voice. It's naked up there and loud -- even when nobody is listening. Even when I know some people are .... a little more challenged than I am. It's fertile ground for my worst fears: that I'll sound like a tone-deaf Japanese tourist and my friends won't tell me. But I do it week after week after week just because I can't let my phobia win.



And now the storytelling. I'll admit, it scares me a little. So far, not into phobia range, but I feel it lurking. I got up and did the story slam mostly because I didn't want to. I wasn't prepared. And then I had to do it because it might have been fear that held me back. Sometimes it's hard to tell. So I took the mic at the very last minute and it wasn't too bad. Hell, I won. But I'm a writer, not a stand-up storyteller. So this is new for me.

And I will do it, because it terrifies me, makes me want to run, makes me want to crawl into my bed and hide. And also because the desire to drop-kick that phobia has in large part made me into the person I am today -- at least the person people see on the outside. It took writing about it tonight to make me realize that awful fucking phobia might have been one of the best things that could have happened to me.

Hmmmmm. I'm going to have to think about that some more. I've hated my phobia for so long I've never considered how it's molded me in positive ways. What the fuck, phobia? I still think you're my enemy.

What about you? What terrifies you? How has your fear molded your life?

Thanks, Amy.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Buttcracker

I will confess, it's week 8 of a 10-week quarter and my ass is dragging. All I have tonight is this Russian video, titled "The Buttcracker" (for those who don't read Russian). I don't know about you, but I don't care how clean my ass crack is, I don't use it to prepare my food. But I did laugh at the balls it took for an advertising team to come up with this. Suck it, Don Draper.*



*Please note I didn't talk about vaginas today. It's not easy, but I'm working my program.My sponsor says I might be able to mention vaginas next week if I stay clean until then.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I'm serious. Stay out of my vagina, Virginia.

Trans-vaginal ultrasound dildo

I'm probably going to sound angry in this post. It's hard for me to stay calm when so many people are trying to get inside my poor little vagina. I know I wrote about the vagina hoards yesterday. I promise this is my last political post for a while. I just have to say one more thing about those assholes who want to make choices about my body* or any woman's body.

If you haven't heard about the bill in Virginia to require women who go to a doctor seeking an abortion to undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasound first, where the hell have you been? This is shit even Margaret Atwood didn't imagine. I don't understand why we would want to return to the years of wire hangers and knitting needles. I don't understand why a clump of cells is more important to some people than an entire human being. But I'm not writing about abortion. That's a personal choice.

I'm writing about a law that will institutionalize rape so a bunch of religious zealots can circumvent the US Supreme Court -- a bunch of fucking politicians making a law that requires a woman who is having a legal medical procedure to undergo another unnecessary and costly (yes, she would have to pay for it) medical procedure that will possibly manipulate her into not having the abortion. What I'm talking about is politicians creeping into my vagina again.

If you don't think it's rape to require a woman to have that wand (photo above) stuck into her vagina for no good reason, other than because those men don't think she should own the choice of whether to keep a cluster of cells in her body, then I don't know what it is. Putting a dildo-shaped object in a woman's vagina against her will and against the medical advice of her doctor is rape. It just is. It doesn't matter who does it.

It's possible I have some personal feelings about this. The Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving in 2010, my daughter Elvira called to see if I was home, and asked if she and her boyfriend Rock Dad could come over. I was and I said sure. As soon as they walked in the door, she handed me an ultrasound with something that looked the size of a bean on a grainy background. It could have been anything. Eight months later it grew into Coraline. But at that point, it wasn't Coraline. It was a cluster of cells the size of a bean.

The discussion about the pregnancy isn't important to this topic. They had already decided to continue the pregnancy and eventually keep the potential baby. This was their decision. I was the first one they told because I was the one they were least afraid to tell. I didn't bring up options or ask them which they had considered. They didn't ask for my opinion. I was just as irrelevant as any asshole politician who wants to tell women what to do with their vaginas  and their ovaries and their uteruses. And I'm fine with that. Even my daughter's vagina belongs to her, and to her alone. I would have supported any decision she made.

But eventually I did have to ask why she'd had an ultrasound because I was concerned. I had ultrasounds because I had difficult pregnancies and the doctor wanted to make sure the baby was safe. Surely she didn't need one just to see the bean.

They said they'd gone to a free clinic, not the base hospital like I assumed, and she was required to have the ultrasound before they would give her the results of her "free" pregnancy test. She was fine with getting the ultrasound because they'd already decided what they wanted to do. They were excited about seeing their little bean. They were told they could get a car seat, free clothes, all kinds of prenatal support ..... but only if they had the ultrasound and took certain classes. Certain religious classes. Not so free after all, huh? Nothing about the name of the clinic indicated the clinic had a religious agenda. They found out after they got there.

Of course, Elvira gave her permission and underwent the ultrasound willingly. I admit it was her choice. And probably there was no danger associated. But it was a medical procedure she didn't need. I don't give a shit if it was free (to her). She didn't need it. It was purely a manipulative tactic to discourage her from choosing a legal abortion. If she'd gone to the base hospital, she would have gotten the results of the pregnancy test and not had an ultrasound until much later in her pregnancy--as she eventually did. The procedure she had was purely for religious purposes, not medical.

Why should I care? It's hard to explain why the Molesters for Jesus made me so angry. Mostly it's the manipulation, the hidden agenda. Holding out "free" stuff so they could spread their propaganda. That shit wasn't free. It was all tied up in their religious beliefs, which they carefully concealed from my 19-year-old daughter until they'd offered her what they hoped was enough free stuff to manipulate her.

See, I don't think Jesus would approve of those tactics. I don't think Jesus ever said, "You have to become a Jew believe like I do or I won't give you any of this bread, any of this fish." In fact, Jesus was a pretty liberal young rabbi so he might even have said God would love my daughter even if she did have an abortion. He seems like he might have been that kind of guy. He might have been the kind of guy who would say any medical procedure should be private and privileged and kept between a woman and her doctor. Seems like something he might believe. Keep the money-lenders out of the church and the fucking politicians out of the vaginas.

Make no mistake, neither the law in Virginia nor the "free" trans-vaginal ultrasound Elvira had are about medical necessity. They are about controlling religious freedom. They are about sticking a wand in a woman's vagina so she won't exercise her legal right to an abortion. Elvira may have made a choice to undergo her procedure, but what the Virgina legislature is proposing is rape. Rape for Jesus.

All the people who need medical attention in this country and can't afford it, and those assholes in Virginia want to make a law to require sticking a wand in a woman's vagina ... it's incomprehensible. The only bright spot is Senator Janet Howell, who tacked on an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before they can get a prescription for Viagra. I guess if women are going to be raped with the wand, men are going to have to take a doctor's finger in the ass.** 

What do you think? Should the state be able to require a woman to pay for her own rape before she can undergo a legal medical procedure? Are you ready to put religion over a right the Supreme Court says is guaranteed by the Constitution? I'd love to hear any logical, persuasive argument.

* Yes, I know this is happening in Virginia, and I'm not going to be getting an abortion any time soon, so it's not going to affect my body. It's the fucking principle of the thing. It's the scary slippery slope that has become a reality in this country.

** Her amendment failed: 19-21. It wasn't the right solution anyway. Rape isn't a solution to any problem.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

8 Miles Wide



The first time I saw this video I was sitting in a pub with some other Scrooge! cast members after a show. One of the young women whose crotch is shown here, ran over and stuck one ear bud in my ear and the other in the ear of a friend, handed us her phone and said, "Here. Watch and listen." We did. Twice.

Of course we laughed like fools and everybody else at the table stared at us and wondered how they too could have such a good time. We told them they could only have this much fun if their vaginas were 8 miles wide. Hee. Funny song, right?

Given the political climate of this country, I'm not so sure. I totally relate to these lyrics, which I've posted below. I am a vigantic Amazon, and I am too big for some people*.  And maybe some people aren't enough for me. It doesn't hurt to think of it this way. The water's fine but not everybody knows how to swim.

But even if my vagina is 8 miles wide, that doesn't mean just anybody can barge in there. My vagina is by invitation only, and although I have invited a Republican in before, I won't allow the entire political party to take up residence in there. It's not a clown car. In fact, after hearing how eager some political types are to get inside my vagina and crawl right up to my uterus, my vagina slammed shut and posted a guard outside.

Granted, my vagina is getting a bit long in the tooth for the fucking meddlers who want to control my reproductive rights down to the cellular level. But I have a daughter and a granddaughter with 8-mile-wide vaginas too, and I don't want any fucking politicians or religious "leaders" in their vaginas either. Seriously, look at this group? Do they look like they know anything about vaginas ... or cookies for that matter? I don't think so.  They don't look like they understand the vagina at all.


The Penis Panel

My vagina is 8 miles wide, but it's still my vagina. It's that simple. It's mine and so is every organ attached to it. With all the problems we face in this country, why is my vagina so important to those strangers sitting at that table up there? Can't they find some hungry people to feed? Some homeless people to shelter? Why do they want to be all up in my vagina? And yours? And yours.....and yours. Do you want them there?

* No, I don't mean my vagina is too big. I'm into the metaphor here.

8 Miles Wide

All of my life I've never fit
But I won't complain and I won't quit
I am enormous, get used to it
Everyone tells me I'm too much
Maybe it's just you're not enough for me
Can't you see
I'm the kind of the woman I'm supposed to be

[chorus]
My vagina is 8 miles wide
Absolutely everyone can come inside
If you're ever frightened just run and hide
My vagina is 8 miles wide

Tell me what is womanly to you
Strong but not too much of a brute
It's cool if she's powerful
But way better if she's cute
For all of us girls who don't fit in
I say go Amazonian
You can be a kick-ass bruiser and be feminine

[chorus]

Now I am not loose and I'm not a whore
This is a metaphor for
My super vigantastically mystical feminine goddess core
And I hate it when women make that noise
That we don't need daddies, men or boys
Even the hard-core dykes like cock-shaped sex toys

[bridge]
My vagina, it's universal
Like a penis, but reversible
Come on in, the water's fine
It's not my vagina
It's our vagina

[harmony chorus]
[just the boys]
[everyone]

Wide
Wide
Vigantic
Vigantic
Vigantic
A Big Big Love
Vigantic
Vigantic
Vigantic
A big big love

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Yummy butterflies!

 
Coraline is growing up so fast. She's eating solid food now. Her favorite food--after booby, of course--is butterfly.  Mmmmmm. Butterfly. When's the last time you ate a butterfly?

(Who came up with that name? Butterfly? They fly, but what does butter have to do with it?)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fox News

For once I'm going to make it short. I crewed for a Brother Sun concert tonight, and then brought one of the musicians home with me*. They're an amazing trio of singer/songwriters who have all made a living from their music for years before they joined together. Their harmonies are so tight you can't slip a hair between them. The concert was great, but as always, striking the stage and packing up the gear takes almost as long as the music lasted. And it's all worth it.

My muse Dolores had such a good time she fell asleep on the couch and has nothing to whisper in my ear. So I'm going to cop out and share a video from a house concert somewhere else of one of the songs the group sang tonight. If you like it, you should check out some of their other videos and buy their CD.






* Really? You had to go there? I bring home a talented, intelligent, red-headed music man and immediately you thought about cookies, didn't you? Sorry to turn down the oven, but he's happily married and just needed a place to camp for the night. We ate pulled pork and talked about teaching. But you should still buy their CD.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Would the pervert in the class please raise his hand?


Today a colleague posted an article about a 56-year-old college student in Michigan who has been severely reprimanded by Oakland University officials. Joseph Corlett claims all he did was write in his class journal that his teacher was "tall, blonde, stacked, smart, articulate." Those five adjectives earned him a three-semester suspension. In addition he's not allowed on the campus and he has to go to a therapist. Spanked and sent to the corner for 5 words. Or at least that's what he would have us believe.

Neither the teacher nor the university have commented, and they won't as long as Corlett is threatening a law suit. I've been in a position like that, where I couldn't talk about a messy situation because I was in a position of responsibility, but others could tell any lies they wanted--and I couldn't defend myself. It's amazing how blatant the lies can get when one party can't tell the truth. So maybe I'm projecting, but even hearing just Corlett's side of the story, it sounds pretty fucking fishy. In fact I throw up the



A few points. 

1. One of the benefits of my age is that I don't really worry about my students, who are mostly 18-20 years old, crushing on me. I would, in fact, be amazed if a student has ever thought of me "that way."* I'm neither a MILF nor a TILF. My students write weekly letters to me though, and they tell me all kinds of personal stuff. If one of them wrote about my boobs in a letter he knew I was going to read and especially if that student were older than I am (and this asshole is even older than I am, so I feel comfortable assuming he's older than the professor), I would feel uncomfortable standing in front of the class and teaching after I'd read that entry. Yes, even I, a teacher who has talked about masturbation in class, would feel like wearing a zipped parka to class after I read that. It's fucking creepy. My nipples are inverted just thinking about it.

I'll bet even my male colleagues would choose to teach from behind the desk if a female student wrote to one of them about his large package or wondered about the size of his dick in her journal. None of us want to think our students are sitting there staring at our boobs and filling up their wank banks.

2. Even writing about it in a journal she's going to read makes him a fucking perv. But it's also, at the very least, disingenuous for him to claim that this is the only sexually explicit thing he wrote. He admits he asked her many times if there were any restrictions on the sexual content of the journals. What student has to ask that question? My students ask if they can swear in their narrative arguments. Or if they can use contractions. Or how long the paper has to be, but they don't ask if they can talk about my boobs--lovely as my boobs are. Then again, so far none of them have been creepy perverts.

3. I wouldn't be surprised if this student had made inappropriate comments before--and many of them. And either because he lacks empathy or because he's a fucking sociopath who just likes to get negative attention, he kept doing it even though other people were obviously uncomfortable. I can imagine the teacher has been uneasy about the "sexual undertones" in his writing, and that other students were as well and complained to her about him. Anybody want to guess those undertones showed up in his spoken words too?

Fiction-writing classes attract all kinds of writers, including "that guy." That guy who wants women to read his poorly written BDSM porn and make comments on it. That guy who likes to pretend he's an "honest" writer, one who doesn't need to observe normal social boundaries because he's an artist. He's that old guy who buys a camera and tries to talk young women into posing nude for him. When I read this article, what I saw was "that fucking creeper guy." I've taken classes with him.

 4. Universities bend over backwards for students. In fact, many teachers are concerned about the "student as customer" attitude some universities have assumed. No university official wants to slap a student up the side of the head like this guy was. This wasn't a failing grade and you don't get to take the class again. This was we won't even take your fucking tuition money and here's a restraining order and you must get medical attention. This was a mushroom cloud. He could have plagiarized Jesus and the university wouldn't have spanked him this hard.

There's no way we're getting all of the story from this fucking attention whore guy. I'd be willing to bet a dozen cookies the facts are even worse than I can imagine. We won't know until it goes to court or until other students come forward and start telling stories. My money is on the latter.

5. This guy's lawyer sounds like an even bigger idiot than he is. In the article he's cited as saying this student's right to free speech has been breached. What a dumbass. This guy does not have a right to write or say anything he wants in a college class and expect the Constitution to protect his perverted ass. The lawyer goes on to say this guy has a constitutional right to a college education. What the fuck? Really? Because in that case about 75% of the residents of this city need to sue ..... somebody because they don't have college degrees. Nobody has a constitutional right to attend a university. If I hadn't already decided the student might be a fucking pervert, I would know he's an asshole just by his association with his ambulance-chasing lawyer.

The story so far has old fucking creeper guy written all over it -- and he's the only one telling the story. But I'll reserve judgement until when and if the teacher and the university have a chance to tell their side. I spend a lot of time in front of a classroom. I know there's more going on here than some poor, innocent college student writing in his little journal that his teacher is stacked. This guy masturbated in public and the university smacked him on the wee wee and sent him to the corner to think about it.

Then again. I could be wrong.

What do you think: pervert or wronged student?


 * I will admit there was one charming fellow who looked a lot like Tom Cruise in Risky Business and knew it. When I reprimanded him for coming to class late, he offered to let me spank him. I told him I'd rather he'd put his butt in the chair before I was ready to start the class. If I'm going to spank someone, it certainly won't be a student.