Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A little perspective is needed.

When yesterday's hurricane struck into the mid-Atlantic states and into New Jersey/New York, I found myself being annoyed at the constant declaration of this destroyer of mankind reeking havoc upon us all.  At the end of the day, I realized that a little perspective was needed, both for myself and for all these idiot northerners who have no idea what they are talking about.

First and foremost, the north was struck with a Category 1 hurricane.  I personally have been through enough of these storms from my 6 years of living in Florida.  I understand the difference and the destruction that the different types cause.  While I do have sympathy for the people living there without power and water and now about to deal with snow, please do me a favor.  Stop crying about the wrath of God bearing down on you with high winds and limited storm surge.  While NYC is the "center of the world," it was not as bad as it could have been.  I understand the city got flooded.  That happens in category 1s.  It's a constant wind with repeated bands of rain at different intervals.  Last I checked, I saw people constantly on the news out in the streets during the storm.  If you are outside during a category 1, then it ain't that bad.

Secondly, stop calling it a storm of the century, as a hurricane.  It wasn't.  It isn't.  It never will be.  During hurricanes that are storms of the century, your house, lives, and towns are wiped out the face of the planet.  I don't see anything completely leveled and destroyed in NYC.  Granted the Jersey Shore is washed out, but lets tone down the anxiety of a sense of destruction.  The last storm of the century was about 7 years ago.  It was called and is still called Katrina.  That was a massive force of nature that showed the earth could care less for mankind.  Sandy was like a limpwristed slap in the face.

 This is Hurricane Charley.  A Category 3 that hit Port Charlotte, Fl.

 As, is this photo.  If you watch the news, then compare what you see to this for a little perspective.  I'm not saying it's not bad, but lets not talk about the "utter mayhem" of Sandy.

If you want t true perspective on a "Storm of the Century."  This is all you need to ever see.  Stay calm and stop crying.  You will be lucky if you never ever get to see anything close to this.

Last night, I had to listen to people explain to me, in my face, that I didn't understand what was happening.  It took me the hardest bit of restraint to not curse them out and explain that they needed to shut the fuck up.  It took me think back to something my cousin wrote on her blog about suicide.  A couple years back, my cousin's husband committed suicide in front of her.  She has come a long way in how she deals with it.  She wrote about how people would unconsciously make comments about "this being the death of me" or "I could just shot myself."  It offends because people who make comments like that have never had to deal with anything of the sort in their lives.  But you also learn perspective on what is dire and what means the world to you.  For me, when it comes to hurricanes, I understand what a 1 and a 5 are and the difference.  Yes, I would take a category 1 lightly because I've been through them.  Hell, I went through 5 hurricanes in 1 year.  I went through a storm so large, it covered the entire state of Florida.  The weatherman had to guess where Tampa was on his map because he couldn't see anything.  Then, I dealt with Katrina. 

This is where I had to learn perspective last night.  Those guys will never understand what I nor my family dealt with.  They'll never have to experience the worst week of a son's life.  Nor will they ever understand a fractured government response or the struggle of years of recovering sanity in the rebuild.  I realized that it was a waste of my breath to explain to others last night, but not today.  My father, stepmother and sisters all live in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area.  My aunt and uncle and cousins and their families live in New Orleans.  When Katrina hit, it took over a week before I was able to hear that my father, who stayed, was alive.  Northerners have no power, but they still have phones.  My dad had neither.  I worked two jobs at the time, 80 hours a week.  I would leave one job and go to the other daily with no news at all.  I checked in with whomever I could but still no news.  At my job, people could see my stress but they couldn't understand.  That is was a "storm of the century" does.  It leaves you with nothing.  It takes your house forever.  It takes you prized possessions and childhood/family heirlooms away forever.  It takes away your family forever.  Luckily, my father was able to make contact with our family and I was able to receive the news that the family was all safe and accounted for.  The same went for my family in NoLa.

While this storm has caused damage that is replaceable for many, there are some that have lost everything.  My sympathy does go out to them.  I understand what the loss means.  This storm has also taught me a lesson in perspective.  I will never understand what a blizzard is like because I won't live north of the Mason-Dixon.  If I saw about a foot of snow, I would be lost.  Northerners understand that a foot of snow to me is like a category 1 hurricane to them.  Or vice versa.  I also learned a bit that my frustration and anger is not helping.  I can try to explain that it is not that bad, but then I don't know if maybe they aren't in touch with someone they care about and don't know what is going on.  I've learned a bit of my lesson, but I hope that many people out there now understand why Floridians take hurricanes a different way. 

We understand nature differently.  We understand it the same way that mid-westerners do.  You live with what nature throws at you.  You get together and rebuild.  You don't act like you're better than it all.  You respect it, but live your life.  You don't treat it like the end of the world, unless a part of your world is ended.  Maybe now I understand myself a little better, but for the love of god please stop calling it the storm of the century.  Stop referring to it has a cataclysmic event.  Get a grip and get some perspective.  Make sure your family is safe and don't be wasteful with what you have.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Death by a constant papercut to the brain.

Now that fall is in bloom and things are finding their way back to a sense of order, I guess it's time for me to do the exact same.  With the return of Walking Dead, Modern Family, and Parenthood, I'm happy to have a sense of stability to my autumn.  While I embrace the weekly anticipation of these shows, I find that I have lost my way a bit in the things that I am supposed to be doing.  The biggest of these is to continue to participate in my cousin Amy's book challenge.  Or as I like to call it, "Death by a Constant Paper Cut to the Brain."

During the month of September we were supposed to read "Middlemarch" by George Elliott.  I think I am on page 30 right now.  Luckily I have already read the books for October and November, "Portrait of Dorian Grey" and "Brave New World."  Both of these books are wonderful in their own rights, but I will discuss them on a later day.  I will tell you that I did enjoy the August book and plenty others over that time period.

"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers is a wonderful piece set in a time in which none of us can ever relate to.  It is the story of a deaf mute who lives in a tiny town in the early 30s.  The novel reflects not his journey, but the journey of four distinct individuals from different places through their interactions with him.  At times, I found that I felt a sorrow, not for the mute, but for the others.  Trying to struggle to gain their identity and dealing with the constant changes of self.  It was a wonderfully written piece and I would suggest it to anyone who wants to see a different side of Americana.  There is no drawn out destitution.  Nor is there a glorification of being poor.  It is the story of being from a small town and dealing with life.  I thought it was great and would never have ever read it if it had not been suggested.

"Thunderstruck" is a novel by Erik Larson.  I read "Issac's Storm" a long time ago and thought it was great.  It had the wonderful mix of both history and fiction.  It makes you feel like you are there, even though you are reading a history book.  "Thunderstruck" is the story of a brutal murder in England and the creation of the wireless telegraph by Marconi.  I felt myself feeling more sorry for the "murderers," there is a dispute these days over DNA, than I did for a genius who had trust issues.  I liked it very much, but not as much as "Issac's Storm."  It is nicely written and gives you a real life murder-mystery without some of the literary fluff.

Of course, I read another Agatha Christie mystery novel.  I almost got this one, but still didn't solve it before the end.  I swear I will solve one before the end one day.

I just recently finished a wonderful history book about the blues, Robert Johnson, and the Delta music scene.  "Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues," by Elijah Wald is a must read for anyone who professes themselves a music lover, music historian, or blues fan.  I was happy to read something that I was little informed of.  This book goes through the obvious Delta backwoods history of juke joints and smoke-filled bars to the origins of the blues.  Mr. Wald does an excellent job of disassembling the myth of the blues being a "sad" music.  To summarize in my own words: "You can't go to a concert and listen to the blues for 2 plus hours.  No one wants to hear sad songs about the hard times of life for that long."  That's what I thought the blues was and now know it to not be that.  The first half of the book is about different musicians and how they got to where they were.  A short history of the field hollerers and how they affected the Muddy Waters of the day.  A summary of the Chicago, St. Louis, and Dallas "blues" scenes and the effect that the Delta put into them.  The second half of the book reflects back on Robert Johnson's only known recordings.  It is a track by track review and I can't wait to be able to listen to the music more with a better knowledge and heart about it all.  If you love music, if you want to know what a true American music sound is, then this is the book for you to read.  Wonderfully written, real life recollections from the artist themselves, and myth-debunking included.  What more can you ask for from a historical work.

Finally, I think my favorite book I've read over the last two plus months is call "The Poisoner's Handbook."  It is a book about the history of the creation of the toxicology department in the New York City Coroner's department.  Each chapter is titled with a different poison and each chapter follows a progression of the crimes that had to be solved.  Some are famous murders, some are company deaths.  I enjoy reading crime novels that I try to solve before the end.  This book is more like a where the hell did CSI come from meets Agatha Christie history lesson.  Each chapter provides you the details and you get to see how much two men changed the way the world deals with murder.  It is an amazing work and I highly suggest it.  Plus, if you are having issues at work, you can set it down at your desk and many people will stop bothering you.

While the next month or so is going to be spent reading just two books, "Middlemarch" and then "War and Peace," I would suggest the last two to anyone who needs a change of pace in literature.  If you haven't read "Brave New World," then you definitely need to read that too.  While I think my cousin is secretly a literary masochist who likes to induce paper cuts to the brain, I'm happy to take this journey.  It helps to broaden your horizons and standards to learn something new.  If in the end I hate these books, at least I know what to put into the cake I send her.

Friday, October 19, 2012

This past month I have been working with a local charity called Mustache's 4 Kids.  We have gentlemen here in Charlotte grow mustaches throughout the month of October and raise donations for a lovely organization called Pat's Place.  I haven't done a lot of work of this kind in my life and for the first time in a long time, I feel a sense of fulfillment and joy.  While doing this work though, I have found an insight into myself that I never truly accepted and now and learning to do.

A long time ago, I used to chat with a dear friend about life and issues and dramas and unresolved problems and such.  My friend and I became closer because we had past issues in common.  I used to joke with her about us being "damaged goods."  I meant it as a joke at first and then realized that it was something negative and stopped saying it for a while.  She helped me through some personal shit and lead me to a great place where the ceiling is an off-white color.  I spent many days looking at that ceiling.  If you don't know what that means, it means I went and sat on a therapist couch and got some help.  While I never really got to a lot of my own personal issues resolved, I was able to get to the root of many others.  The work I'm doing with M4K has helped me to understand more of myself and being honest about who I am.

Yes, I spent a childhood that was decent.  I got many of the privileges of chance and opportunity that many kids don't get.  I had the honor of traveling overseas and touring parts of the nation and world that many never get to know about.  At the same time, I had a childhood of trauma and self-doubt.  My stepfather was and still is a world class asshole.  He caused many of the seeds of issues within me to be planted.  He taught me a lot, but he also ruined my life for many years after.  I have since been able to stop hating him.  It took a long, long time to get to that point.  I've never gotten to the point where I can say "I forgive you," because I don't think about him much, if ever, at all.  Plus, I've learned to own what is mine about me.  My parents were divorced right after I was born, or at least that's what I think.  My sister was born a year and 9 months after I was born.  I don't know the whens and whats, but I've been able to do the math and lived with it.  The one thing that I've never seen is a picture of me and my mother and father together in my infancy.  There are many things from my past that I could care less to remember, but this is one thing I wish for more than anything else.  I have pics of me and my parents from different parts of life but nothing from day 1.  I have pictures of my as an infant with my mom and pictures of me with my dad, but none together.  My whole life has been the personification of split.  I have learned many things from traveling and cultural mixing to know how to act, behave, survive in unknown circumstances.  I think this is what makes me truly me.  The wonderment that my close friends and relatives love.  To be the one full of stories about everything and anything.  I have learned to be a chameleon to both myself and my surroundings.  Sometimes I don't know who the liar is anymore, me or them.

Most people who don't know me probably would never understand that I deal with a lot of self doubt.  They wouldn't know that I am happy in a melancholy place because those places never produce any drama or justification.  Justification.  I can't stand it.  Why?  Why?  Why? - Why not.  I don't like the fact that people need to have to know.  My stepfather always wanted to know why.  I never knew the reasons because I was too young to understand the subconscious mind I have.  As an adult, I don't like justifying because I believe people to be nosy and gossipy.  I don't justify because why should you need to know.  This is the embodiment of the hardest thing I have to learn to do, let down my guard and let people in.  It's really hard.  It truly is, but I find I do it in the strangest ways.

Ever since working for the charity, I find myself explaining about Pat's Place and the wonderful things they do for kids.  I wish I knew a place like this in my childhood or 10 years before I saw a doctor.  I find myself helping to justify why people need help and I end up telling them about myself.  Recently I met some random girl.  We were talking about something that I don't recall and then we ended up chatting about personal drama.  She is about 10 years younger than me and going through hell from her childhood.  As I listened, I made sure that each time I spoke it was still about her and her issues and providing some insight that can help her.  Usually I don't tell people about me, but the work for M4K is helping me become vocal about help.  I told her things that will stay where they are, between us, but I told her that she would be okay.  That it's okay to need help.  It's okay to reflect.  It's okay to hate.  It's okay to cry.  It's okay to be happy and walk away from somebody.  It's okay.  That's what I've learned to do.  I've learned to be happy in my own accord.

This year a lot of different things have happened.  I lost my grandmother.  Though I was never really close, there is a since of a lost unification of the family with her passing to me.  I finally dealt with my teaching issues and understand that I will more than likely never get to do the one thing I'm truly passionate about.  I've accepted the last bit of responsibility for my actions from 10 years ago and am now free.  I work for an amazing group that benefits people who don't have the voice to speak out, nor do they have the mass social backing that many kids groups receive.  I finally got a tattoo.  While that might seem trivial to many, to me it is a sign of family, of a starting point, of history, of where I belong, and where I want to see it continue.  It's also been a year of finally living my life for me.

In the end you have to draw the line and just walk.  Whether it's away from something or not, I've learned to finally do my life.  I'm finally living my life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Cost of Milk

Tonight is the second national presidential debate, and while I am normally not super political, there is something that bothers me greatly about these debates. (Outside of the fact that there is no Parenthood tonight).
It simply seems to reason that the vast majority of people in this country do not vote for the simple reason that they are simple.  Not just in mind, but in life.  The first part is an insult, while the second is not.  What I mean by this is that we all have been effected by the national economy going down the drain.  While many have had the opportunity to rebound and recover the lives they once lived, there is a vast majority that are still trying to find a sense of stability.  This means that we all are learning to live a life of simplicity.  Finding the value in things that before we took for granted or realizing that the things of value actually had none.  This is how you live a life of simplicity.
Tonight's debate is of the town hall forum style.  I wish for the life of me that I could be there to ask one question.  There is no greater question to ask someone who expresses how much they relate to you than one question.  Every politician wants you to know that they feel for you.  That they understand what is going on in your life.  That they relate and want to help you.  This is what they will express tonight and in all actuality, forever, until we start asking the right questions.  It all starts with one simple question: "Do you know how much a gallon of milk costs?"
This question is more hard hitting than the price of a gallon of gas.  We can all live without gas to a degree.  Rising gas prices cause a change in the dynamic of the urban population in causing us to all be more "local" in are activities and shopping.  It causes the smaller towns to become more isolated and dependent upon each other than venturing to the "big city" for whatever the fuck it is they want.  While societies change, the importance of milk does not.  If you have children, you want to raise a healthy child.  The virtues of drinking milk help in bone development, etc, etc, etc.  I'm not going to go into why milk is important or about the alternative types of milk you can have.  What I am going to say is that NO politician can answer this question.
Not Obama.  Not Romney.
The price of milk is the greatest corollary to how people live.  We all must grocery shop.  We all must find a way to feed ourselves.  We all must find a way to live a healthy, happy lifestyle.  If you don't eat right, you can't live right.  If you don't take care of your body, then you become fat, lethargic, and a waste of something productive.  If you can't take care of yourself, how do you expect to take care of anybody else.  The price of milk and groceries lets you know where your finances truly lie.  The price of milk tells you what you can and cannot have for the next pay period.  It tells you what you must live without and what you may never have again.  This pricing index is something that no politician can relate to.  You ask me how I know, well here is how.
The president gets a yearly salary of $200,000 paid for by the people from taxes.  Do you think that Mr. or Mrs. Obama goes to the local Giant grocery story or the corner bodega to get a gallon of milk when they run out?  I don't need to answer that for you, you should already know.  This leads to the idea of how can they understand the sacrificing that people have to give up in a down trodden economy.  How can they relate to you?  You, who are struggling like I am.  Living week to week and trying to save your money and you sanity but not finding the middle road of comfort without feeling you are making a massive sacrifice to one.
Mr. Romney we all know has plenty of money.  Let alone the fact that he too is a government paid employee.  Do you think that he goes to the local grocer to get milk?  Is Mrs. Romney going to the store?  No, odds are they too have someone who does it for them.  How can someone who wants to create a change for the 47% understand life, when they don't have to do anything themselves?  How can you relate when you travel on private terms?
The price of milk is not the real question, but it is the catalyst to how we create the change that is needed.  If you think that voting for the president is the answer, then you also thought voting for your senior class president was more important than voting for the school board.  You thought that promises of more pizza, less homework, and shorter days was the truth and going to happen.  You truly thought that.  That is why you think the president is the position that matters the most.  I am going to tell you that you are wrong.  You are wrong!!!
The most important thing you can ever vote on is your local election.  If you don't like the schools, change your school board not change the president.  If you don't like the roads, find out who is responsible and vote a change for that.  The president doesn't care about you.  Understand that and let it sink in.  The president doesn't care about YOU.  He cares about US, as in the United States not us, the collective we.  The president is trying to make 300 million people happy and 150 million of them won't like him, whomever he is.  Your mayor cares more about you than the president, but then again he/she too is probably just pandering you to get into office.  Elect you city council first.  Someone to represent your neighborhood and district.  That person cares more about where you live than anything else.
In the end, both of the idiots think that they know who YOU are.  They relate to you because they've been unemployed, on welfare, had no health coverage, never known what a retirement plan was, constantly worried about their children's safety at school, wondered where the next paycheck was coming from, fretted about their hours being cut at work, etc.  They know what it's like to question which groceries they can get this week and what the kids won't be able to eat.  They understand completely what shitty Christmas presents are like and seeing the look of disappointment on their children's faces.   They too wonder what the rest of the world looks like or even what the rest of the country looks like without having to watch TV, because vacations aren't something you can take very year.  They have lived a life of hardship.  They know too well that one day their children will come to them and hug them and say "Thank you for everything.  I'm sorry I was such a brat, but I know what you did for me."  This is why they are asking for your vote, because they know what life is like for the vast majority of us.  The only thing I don't think they will ever know is one thing:
"How much does a gallon of milk cost?"