Showing posts with label stories of my life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stories of my life. Show all posts

Thursday, March 23, 2017


We had a lunch-n-learn conference out at work explaining all the wonderful advantages of letting a bank nursemaid us through our 401(k) mutual fund investments.

No thank you, Mr. Bank, you charge 1% for the dubious privilege of your pedestrian expertise, consisting of what is the difference between a stock and a bond, and your mutual fund selection is full of funds with expense ratios through the roof, an astronomical 1 - 2%. I will stick with my IRA and the only good mutual fund family, VANGUARD, thank you not at all, except for the free lunch, which was basically junk food, by the way, just like your entire product offering. What, are you trying to give us a heart attack with the food?

Some doofus raised his hand asking what the expense ratios were. The saleslady replied they were what the bank pays the mutual funds, which was a bald-faced lie, because the customer pays the mutual funds out of his principal. Nothing but lies in this meeting. They were telling us 401(k) was the only tax shelter, ignoring IRAs altogether, because they don't make money from that. After the meeting, I considered calling up Johnny to let him know the real scoop. I know my way around investing. But then I remembered back when I first started at the company. One day, when I was green on the job, Johnny sneered at me because I carried a heavy toolbox to fix a little problem that required just a single cable. Well, hey, you know what, expense ratios are Johnny's toolbox. The expense ratio's on him. That's his heavy toolbox he's lugging around, looking like a fool. Me, I'm with Vanguard. Let him pay that 1-2% for the next ten years.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I Didn't Approve of Stephen King

When I was growing up, horror was just becoming a thing. It was wildly popular, and Stephen King dominated the bookstores. He was described as a young rebel, an upstart taking over the bestseller list. My friends read his stuff. I was appalled. It seemed, well, horrible, all this talk of the supernatural and worse, the evil supernatural. But that is where my world went, and in time, I followed, although I was one of the late adopters. I later learned King drank mouthwash to get drunk. He was a chronic alcoholic, ready to down a case to finish a book. Perhaps, indeed, it is how he managed channeling the spirits that wrote his books; but that is speculation on my part. I do think King is a good man, probably a very good man, and a very gifted writer. His presence among the canon can be undisputed; no library would be complete without him. I have read most, though not all, of his books. Besides his tendency to dwell upon the negative, another thing I dislike about him is repetition. His books do seem the same. I think any author, after a time, repeats himself, because being human, he has a finite number of thoughts and ideas. In summary, I wish to clarify that I do approve of Stephen King, now; I didn't, when he first came out, because I'm a biological conservative, that is, conservative in nature, if not politics, or at least modern politics.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Today, just for fun and to resolve some outstanding technical problems, I installed a new solid state drive in my computer and tried installing Windows 10 fresh from a DVD. Windows 10 installed OK, but pitched a fit over the activation, which scratched a sore spot with me. There is a tawdry story involved here, and I might as well 'fess up.

You see, I did not purchase Windows 10 through proper channels. Ever the bargain-hunter, I snagged a product key for Windows 10 Professional off an Ebay seller, who later was banned from Ebay, probably for pushing shady licenses, because all she ever sold was Windows 10 licenses.

Nevertheless, I had paid her $80 for Win10 Pro, and it seemed quasi-legit. I had researched and found it to be a volume licensing for some kind of online academic institution. Microsoft indeed had gotten paid, although not quite as much as they would have preferred, no doubt. No way I was coughing up another $140 for a brand new license. Just no way.

I called Microsoft, and the first Indian I spoke with was a guy with a really smooth, mellow voice. He had me recite my product ID, a 30-digit number. I just loved listening to his voice, it was so clear and smooth. He could easily have been a jazz singer. I didn't really expect that from Indian tech support. In the end, however, he handed me bad news. I had to contact my seller and get the product key, which is different from the product ID. No other way forward, according to him.

I didn't tell him this, but the seller is out of the picture completely. She is gone, kaput, does not answer emails, so forget about that. But I know a thing or two. When I bought Windows 10 originally, the seller did send me a product key, or otherwise I never would have had a licensed Windows 10 in the first place. I printed it out back then and filed it. I found my hardcopy and, armed with that information, called Microsoft again, because Windows for some reason was not accepting that product key anymore.

This time I got an Indian dame, whose name remains Anonymous, because when she connected to my computer, the window indicated it was Piyush. But googling that name suggests that it is a masculine name, not a feminine one. I do not see any male Piyushes in Facebook. I think she was using the previous tech's, or her boyfriend's, log-in details in order to preserve the sanctity of her true identity. In truth, it is not a good idea for young female voices to be attached to actual names that can be researched and tracked down to a location. I would have done the same thing in her position and indeed I do it. The fact of the matter is, although one desires to be appreciated and admired on the Internet before an audience of one's peers, one is well-advised to treat one's identity the same as one's chastity. Many people do not seem to understand that. But Piyush, as I call her, understood.

She fixed everything for me. Windows 10 Pro was activated on my new solid state drive, and she was quick about it and rather nice, too. As for me, I was sunshine and butter on popcorn. I had all my ducks in a row. She did not have to do any extra work or waste any time explaining anything to me. I was always two steps ahead of her. I am not surprised things worked out so well for me in the end. If it is at all possible to get a positive result out of technical support, I can do it, because I am technical support, and I like people and get along quite well with them, whatever their age or gender or any other factor that other people seem to think is important. I am neutral and results-focused and results-oriented, but I also like to have fun and joke around, within the parameters of propriety. I had quite a bit of banter with Piyush.

Here is the strange thing that set me blogging with a title of the false name she used.

She liked me. I was the nicest person she spoke to all day or will speak to all week. I walked around in her mind a bit. There were echoes of unpleasant exchanges with abusive callers upset at Microsoft, and I hated that. People don't always understand how difficult computers can be. They don't know how much patience and work is required to get them to function at all. Most people in support have been abused by the ignorant, the impatient, the negligent and the frankly stupid. I am honored and grateful to the Goddess that I am not like that.

After we disconnected, I walked around the house, exuberant that I had fixed the problem and feeling a lingering pleasure from the strangely potent connection with this Piyush lady from India. Five minutes later, there was a phone call. The caller ID indicated a long distance number, but I just knew it was her.

I picked up, and there she was. She had dialed me by mistake, intending to reach her next customer. But really, are there mistakes? Is it so difficult to dial the correct number in a call center? Her subconscious preferred to talk to me again rather than play the fool's lottery on the next caller. I would have loved to talk with her for hours and learn all about her interesting life in India, but that is not such a good idea. I redirected her back to her work with firm pleasantries. I mark her existence only in this blog. Perhaps in another Universe, another reality, who knows? She was a lovely lady. She deserves to be loved. I have said it. The world must do it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


I thought this morning that I'm a Cassandra. It is my doom to see things and tell others what I see, but never to be believed. My Father disregarded all I told him to his detriment. I tried to protect him, but of course he would not listen to me. I do not have the additional power of persuasion. I've grown well-accustomed to not being listened to, but sometimes, I tell people things anyway, out of affection, loyalty, a sense of duty or perhaps just an old habit that was never quite completely broken. Sometimes it amuses me as inexorable Fate proves me right, but people never like to admit they were wrong. Cassandras are resented universally. Silence is best, in general.

The quest after Truth is like the serpentine dance of the dragon. When you think you have her, she has eluded you altogether. Nothing is easy. If someone thinks that the world is easy, they have missed about ninety-nine per cent of the equation.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Nose Buried in His Phone

I vaguely remember an attractive young man, a friend of a friend, who introduced himself to me and several other people, then sat down at a table with us. After a few words, he buried his nose in his phone, surfing the web or whatever it was he was doing, and that was the end of him. I had been preparing polite questions in my mind, but discarded them and decided instead to forget his name, and to this day I don't remember it. That's okay, because he had no relevance. His phone indeed is more interesting than he is, as his behavior implied. He had fought traffic to meet us, but then blown any chance of making a positive impression. I do remember that he was an actor, and I found it amusing that here was a presumably social person, whose career depends upon interaction with others, and his nose is buried in his phone, and he has nothing remotely interesting to say. I learned later that his career went bust, he lost his job and had to move back in with his parents. I guess there isn't a big market for actors that stand on the stage silently fiddling with their phones.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I am the Minority Opinion

Mine is always the minority opinion... until it isn't. I'm amused with the world. Oftentimes I've lamented I was the only one to think so-and-so, such as: gays are equal to straights and not worse (!disputed by everyone I knew!); or, marijuana is better than alcohol and should be legal (!disputed by every adult I knew!); or, religion is dangerous and harmful whenever it is dogmatic (disputed by most, though my father agreed). These, my opinions, stirred controversy. Sometimes, I felt alienated to be a member of what seemed, to me many years ago, only a tiny minority.

The succession of years and momentous events in the world proved me wrong, not in what I believed, but in believing that I was the only one. Indeed my ideas have gained mind-shares, and not through advertising or money or power, but because they are right and because their truth can be experienced by everyone. The merit of my opinions has been vindicated. How lucky that so much change should happen in my lifetime for me to witness it. I have been touched upon the forehead, I have been blessed. My wonder is great, because there was a time I wished to leave this world. I am glad that I opted to remain and would recommend a similar course to anyone.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Earnest Student

The best that can be said about me is that I am an earnest student, willing and eager to learn almost anything, and I prize teachers, anyone who knows something I do not and is willing to share their knowledge freely. I value knowledge. But I have no use for those who hoard their secrets and gloat over their protected nuggets of knowledge.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Just Say No to Suicide

Certainly, young people strike me as silly sometimes. The suicide of young, healthy people seems ridiculous, a ridiculous waste of potential, and I abhor reading about news stories in which a young person has taken their own life, because their motive often seems petty.

What do I know? Was I there? Did I want to die at fifteen? Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I did, and it became a favorite fantasy of mine. If you want to know what I was fantasizing about as a teenage boy, it was Death, He was my suitor, and He was Romantic, Charming, and tempting. I saw into the other side and wanted to be there with the others, because They, the dead, seemed just as good, if not better, than the living. But that was then, and this is now.

I think that life is an opportunity, and we are fortunate to have it, and to waste it seems pointless and rather stupid. Why not see what develops? Patience. Wait and see. To end it all precludes all possibility for anything good unfolding. A young person has a long life ahead and has only experienced a tiny fraction of it so far. Why be hasty and judge the rest as worthless? Wait and see. Things do get better.

Grown-ups sometimes just aren't willing to make any effort towards understanding, because they are set in their ways. Grown-ups are not lazy or stupid, by any means, or rather most of them are not. They tend to be hard-working and clever, but they are fixed in their habits of thinking, and somewhere along the way they may have lost a flexibility of mind, an agility that allows one to walk inside the mind of another.

For instance, being gay or transgender should not be a big deal. So what? There have been and there are millions of gay and transgender kids. Nor is smoking marijuana. These are small things that cause people to freak out, because they haven't enough drama in their life and a secret part of them craves the manufacturing of drama, like on TV.

Once one moves past the brouhaha, one finds that, yes, gay people exist and have good lives, and marijuana does not warp the brain for life after all. As a matter of fact, marijuana is benign, compared to alcohol, for alcohol opens a gateway for the forces of evil to enter our world. Mohammed understood this, at least, but then, it was made obvious to him.

Society labors under a number of delusions that cause much grief. I am glad that back in the day, my instinct to survive was stronger than the desire to end all suffering, because now that I am free, I am all right. Young people go crazy due to the conflict of older people trying to control them and shape them into something that they are not. The simple fact is that children have their own DNA and cannot become perfect clones of parents. They are different not only due to genetic differences but due to the different environment, the modern culture in which they live.

If I were to speak to a young person considering suicide, I would tell them that suicide is wrong for a healthy young person. Being gay is OK, there is nothing wrong with that. Being gay, transgender, or different is not a valid reason to either consider suicide or any form of self-harm, whether it be slicing, drug abuse or risky sexual behavior. Those bad choices are the influence of the voices of darkness, dark forces that enter our world and seek to harm, to destroy. One must be strong and resist these negative impulses. In order to be good, one must be strong. Otherwise, evil wins. Do not give in to the forces of darkness. Do not let them win. If one is a good person, and one enjoys good health, then it is a wicked thing to end life. Think instead on the fate of those left behind, who will be deprived of the positive influences of one's presence. Think instead on the tremendous burdens of grief and regret left upon loved ones. It is a wrong act, a grievous Sin, and must not be permitted.

Young people are too hasty in their judgments, to apt to paint the world in black and white, too impatient with the slow crawl of progress and enlightenment. Understanding takes time. It does not happen overnight. Sometimes years or decades are required. I say wait and see. I say let love enter your heart. Resist the siren call of hatred and bitterness. Resist the voice of despair. Understand that we are limited. Human beings are feeble of mind. Yes, we are fallible in many things. Much of what we perceive may be delusion. Most of the world labors under delusions. Few people ever see the world as it is even for a single moment in time. We see as through a glass darkly. So how can we be so sure of ourselves as to make the rash assumption that life is not worth living, even before we have given it half a chance? A suicide at fourteen is not half a chance, when the average human lives to be seventy or eighty. I say wait and see. I did and I am glad I did.

Be aware there is light in the darkness. Even in the utter dark, the void, there is light that the dark cannot overcome, burning with the intensity of creation. Seek it out, draw from its energy to increase your own, and that will be your salvation.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


I used to become attached, to love in the old-fashioned romantic sense, which is an immature manner of relating to beautiful and superior beings. It is instinctive, for obvious reasons, but it is primitive, and one must progress past that infantile stage.

The perfect being does not attach in such a way to others. He may admire, respect and even love others. To become completely and utterly attached and thus bound to the material world, to the chain of karma and the cycle of life, that is a vice. He should not become attached. So it is that I do love the beings I encounter, even as I love myself. But they may come or they may go, and I may come or I may go, in life or in death, and all is well, just because. All is well, always and forever, because the cosmos is ordered thus, and it is not even necessary to understand why.

When I was very young, people broke my heart by forgetting, ignoring or otherwise excluding me from their society. How many tears I shed, how much my heart trembled, and life seemed unbearable! Now I smile like the crocodile, because that is no longer possible. Lucky me. I have known and been loved and desired and admired by beautiful and bright superior beings, captains at the very forefront of the Host. So I am thinking, "As good as you are, you are not even in the same league as so-and-so." I have already lived, and now is merely the bonus round, where I might pick up this or that without moving my overall score that much. Humans I understand fundamentally to the core. I have seen it all and known it all before, and nothing is mysterious or strange, and everything is very familiar to me.

Of my sensitivity, it was a disguised gift, and I thought it a curse in my younger days until I learned the shaman's way. Sensitivity is a rare, powerful and useful tool. I have learned to filter my sensitivity and not be overly affected by the things that I perceive. Of course, that is necessary for survival.

Even people's bad manners and petty cruelties and negligence offer insight into the workings of their minds and assist one in the reconstruction of the all-encompassing reality. With such insight, I can construct a more accurate reality based not only upon my own limited perceptions but upon the perceptions of others, so that I perceive more and am not left in ignorance. With such resources, drawing upon what others reveal to me, I can accept what is so and discard illusion.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

I'm a Socialite

I'm a late bloomer as far as socializing goes. I was withdrawn as a kid, more confident as a young man, but now that I'm in old fart territory, I feel comfortable chatting with anyone. I'm simply not afraid of anyone or anything, and I'm not intent on selling anyone anything, either. There is the sense of, "Been there, done that, survived it all."


Death places a halo on the head of the dead, because they are blameless. To blame them is as pointless as blaming a rock, tree, or river--they are inanimate. Only the living may be blamed for the problems of today. With the dead, in most cases one thinks, they did the best they could with the resources at hand. Indeed in some cases, it is fantastic they could do what they did do, while laboring under such tremendous handicaps. It is important to forgive and forget whenever possible. To brood upon the past makes us vulnerable to the powers of darkness that are so eager to gain a foothold into our world. Some of those on the global scene that brood over the past are those Republicans who want to do no trade with Cuba, even though our dispute with them is fifty years old, and Cuba is no worse than China, objectively--in fact, China is far more a threat to us. North Korea and Iran brood over the past. Putin broods over the past. Those who idealize the Southern Confederacy, they too brood over the past too much. Live in the present.

Although forgiveness isn't necessary, by any means, I do forgive my dead father all his real or perceived faults without exception. He was more than good enough. He was wonderful, judged in the context of his burden, and that is the only way we should judge other people. It is easy for strong people with sound minds to be proud and powerful when put to the test. They do not have to make as much effort. They do not suffer as much. To be mentally ill is a tremendous burden. Just imagining it is frightening. Living it is worse. I read the list of side effects for his medicine the other day and that helped me understand a great deal.

The reason I have never taken acid or any powerful drug is that I fear the loss of control, the giving of the self over to the Random, to evil spirits, psychosis, or self-hypnosis, or whatever takes its place. This is also the reason that other people abstain from powerful drugs--and also heavy drinking or heavy pot smoking, because even the milder substances, when taken in great excess, can impair our sense of self-control. We do fear the loss of control and are wise to do so.

My father had many good qualities, and most importantly, he intended to do good. Conscience was  powerful in him as it is in me, and this, I think, is the seed of goodness, for without conscience, what guide have we? There is no invisible guardian standing ready to cast black magic upon us, should we do ill to others, although I think there should be. We refrain from evil not so much out of fear of the law or of societal disapproval or for our own insignificant lives, but rather out of fear of committing Sin, which alienates a human being from communion with the consciousness that pervades all things, the Force, as Obi Wan-Kenobi and Yoda described it in "Return of the Jedi." Perhaps that is indeed what God is, rather than a single being. And, perhaps we are not single beings either, and individuality is an illusion, but we are all avatars of the One, and all of us are interconnected, whether we know it or not. Those that are evil delude themselves in thinking they are separate. They are wholly sold on the illusion of individuality. After the brief span of a man's days, the illusion is dispelled. What remains of an evil-doer's savage individuality is a rotting corpse, food for worms. Those that are good perceive, maybe dimly, but they perceive an invisible network connecting all living beings. They exist not only for the benefit of self, but for the benefit of others as well, because the self is transitory, and others will inherit the earth.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why I Don't Go to the Movies

Today I saw $25 AMC Regal Cinema gift cards going for $20. It made me wonder whether I would even be interested if they were going for $10. I am certainly not interested at $20.

Long ago, cinema owners went out of their way to make the movie-going experience horrible. Lousy, unhealthy, overpriced food and drinks that I would not feed an animal, commercials!--just like watching TV at home, long lines and exorbitant ticket prices persuaded me only a fool would buy a ticket to see a movie. That is why I have not been out to see a movie for years. I still don't think cinema owners know what time of day it is. In order for cinema owners to draw crowds back in, they would have to make the experience nice, and they have no clue how to do that. I am looking forward to the day when the cinemas close down for good and stay closed and all that space gets used for something interesting like a theater.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Closet

The closeting of so many gay and lesbian people back in the day meant that there was nobody around to talk to when I was growing up gay. Therefore, like many before me, I grew up believing I was the only one in the whole wide world, despite there being hundreds of millions of us, as we now know for a fact. Back in those days, the occasional gays outed in the media seemed remote and alien, unfathomable, unreal even, impossible to imagine. Meanwhile, the environment at school, where anybody who was gay kept quiet about it, meant no boyfriends and no real friends, no one that could understand me or what made me tick. There were some people I suspected probably were gay, but they were just as confused and uncertain as I was, if not more so.

The one best friend I had in middle school betrayed me in high school, becoming an enemy after he calculated it would serve his interests better. Due to his paranoid, unhappy mother, he belonged to a small church that was crazy and right-wing, and he wanted to please his mother, so he believed it was wrong to smile and good to frown, and all he did served that end. I never recall his mother smiling in all the days I knew her, so she had picked her church well. Now I smile to think that he lives on Queen St.

I used to want to write an autobiography because I thought that the people from my past and myself were important, but over the years, I decided that the opposite was true. I am not important, first of all. There is little from the past I want to remember, and many of the people from my past, that is to say friends and associates in school, were not particularly pleasant, to put it mildly. I am a loyal friend, one who tends to remember and repay good deeds, like a social accountant, and so in my writing, I used to feel obliged to express this loyal, sentimental fondness for old friends, even ones that betrayed me, due to random kindnesses I remembered, and I have a long memory, but like an infatuated lover, I had glossed over their faults, forgiven their sins, only remembering later in bits and pieces that puzzled me at first until I grasped the meaning. They are best left to oblivion. I even have trouble recalling some of their names. Drink deep of Lethe.

What is important is now. Now is the only thing relevant. Now I am out. There is no big deal about being gay. That is an old thing, an established thing, and is no longer important, no more than other physical or intellectual traits. Now I have a husband. Now I have a happy and stable life and hope for the future. Now I have ordered my life in a reasonable facsimile of the way I think things ought to be. Now is fuel for writing, for creativity energized by positive good, rather than drawing upon the powers of darkness.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Silk Slippers

To walk in silk slippers suits me. I only wish to get where I am going without attracting unwelcome attention. I keep my life simple, because my work is extremely complicated. If life were complicated also, then how could I be expected to focus upon complicated tasks and complete them in a satisfactory manner and on time?

Monday, May 5, 2014

I Carried a Pocket Knife

A no-brainer news article points out that victims of bullies are more likely to carry weapons to school. Duh. When a person finds that their safety and well-being are at risk, that person will do whatever it takes to protect themselves. The principal is one of self-preservation.

Long ago, when I suffered from bullying, and the P.E. teacher made clear he would do nothing about it--other than punish me for complaining--I started carrying a pocket knife to school. But the little knife was not enough. I fantasized about carrying my gun and using it against the bully and the P.E. teacher. They deserved punishment for their actions, but on the other hand, I deserved only the best in life, and so I spared them. The same principal of self-preservation that led me to carry a pocket knife led me not to use it.

The desire for vengeance must be balanced with the potential cost. Sometimes, however, people are driven to such extremes that they no longer care about the cost. I fear some of the young killers of today lack the intellectual assets to calculate the costs. They are throwing away the best part of their lives and in some cases killing innocents, which is ugly and senseless and without any sense of honor at all. To harm innocents is to become a bully, to be just like the ones you hate.

The young killer's awareness about the world and about society is so impaired that he cannot predict the outcome of his deeds. I found it helpful to role-play with cold clarity and precision. This is the way to avoid grave errors that cannot be remedied. Role-play. The human animal has developed fantastic powers of imagination, because it is useful to predict the outcomes of actions. One can imagine the different futures arising from different strategies.

Many times, I imagined killing my enemy, the brutal and arrogant bully, using a variety of means. I imagined killing the cruel and heartless P.E. teacher. I imagined killing them both on the same day. I calculated the probabilities of success and the possibilities that something unexpected might happen. I imagined what would happen in the next minute, the next hour, the next day, and the years to come. I did not like what I saw. I also did not like the idea of violence. Vengeance is one thing, but violence is another. Violence is disturbing to me whether I am being hurt or hurting. It goes against everything ingrained in my personality and upbringing. The idea of committing a real crime and receiving the disapproval of others seemed worse to me than the idea of enduring further abuse.
Our society is pacifist. The only accepted outlet for violence is war, and wars happen overseas, far away. Most people are like me. We are taught to abstain from violence. There are consequences for people who engage in illegal acts of violence. There is no legal concept that permits premeditated vengeance.

In Viking society, the outcome would have been different. Vikings did not leave much in the hands of karma. Vikings were about vengeance. Vikings were about blood. There is something satisfying about that, something genuine, something that appeals to our animal nature. That does not make it right, but it does explain why the History Channel's "Vikings" is such an entertaining show. It seems to me the show is all about vengeance.

I do think it is important to eliminate bullying in schools, because violence is like a virus. Violence has a way of spreading, and not everyone calls upon their power of imagination to abstain from vengeance. Nor is everyone scrupulous in limiting collateral damage.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Safe Place

Safe places are a pleasant refuge for the mind, remembered locations or people that have a calming influence. On those occasional nights when I have trouble sleeping, sometimes I remember lunch at a dead friend's house. She and I had been friends a long time, but were not intimate friends, although we could discuss many topics, because she was well-educated and a real lady of the world. She was a Republican, and I have noticed that I do tend to get along really well with some Republicans, which leads me to conclude that politics are not very important in regard to friendships, not nearly as important as personality, style and taste. People of compatible personalities get along well whatever their politics.

We could hang out together at lunch time and just be. Sometimes we went for a walk, and other times we would just eat and then read the paper. I never watched television, although she kept it on all the time, I think because it filled her otherwise quiet house with the noise of other humans. Sometimes I discussed things with her, such as how my studies progressed, my job prospects, medicine and science, and occasionally politics. She was anti-war, for gay rights and for legalization of marijuana. I think she was Republican mainly for tribal reasons or possibly through inertia, because she had been Republican for so long and did not feel like going to the trouble of changing. The Republican party has changed a lot since back in the day. She expressed disapproval of the young upstarts, but identified with the old guard of the party.

She let her boundaries be known, and it was easy for me to respect those boundaries. Is it flirting to set one's dinner plate on the adjoining side of a table next to a friend, instead of setting one's dinner plate ten feet away at the opposite end of a table? A rare time she scolded me was when I did so. She said she did not want me to sit so close. I thought it was a good distance for talking, but I am used to smaller dinner tables, where everybody gathers around. I did like her, and the feeling was strong, even related to love, but I don't think it necessarily translates into anything of a physical nature. Maybe she saw things I did not see. At any rate, once I demonstrated strict observance of such boundaries as she chose to impose, the obstacle was removed. There was no tension of a sexual nature, the kind that poisons relationships between people. I admired her style and her way of looking at things, and I think my good manners is what she liked most about me.

I watched and listened carefully, because she would sometimes indicate things in a subtle manner, very indirect, and I had to be on my toes to know her feelings and predict her thoughts, but I became better with practice. I liked the challenge of that, and her refinement and sophistication endeared me to her. I could talk to her about things. Nothing that was a problem to other people was a problem to her. She interpreted the world on her own terms.
She was just always nice, welcoming, friendly, thoughtful, and in a word, safe. I had many lunches at her house, just her and me together, and it was very pleasant. She enjoyed my company as well. I wish I had stayed in contact after school ended, but the idea that she would want to stay in contact seemed presumptuous.  She did not give sufficient encouragement to maintain and nourish the friendship. She probably had similar concerns.

Death has only made her safer, because the memories are impervious to change. So it is to her that my thoughts turn some nights. She was concealing, even then, I believe, the illness that just two years later took her life. I was then studying biology in college. A great irony is that I discussed cancer with her, expressing my amazement at how it uses the cells of the body against the body. I remember she had a poker face, as she often did, devoid of strong expression, but that she searched my eyes. She knew, and she was correct that I would have summoned help, had I known. I would not have let the secret lie untold, but would have contacted her family, because everyone thinks that it is the right thing to do, and I am no exception. Perhaps she had other plans. Perhaps she had an opinion that she knew was unpopular. I do wish I had been intuitive enough to perceive what was then concealed. I would have liked to discuss her decision with her.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Speak Softly

For me, anger is an artifact of youth. I was a spirit of fire. As well as being enthusiastic and zealous in love and friendship, I was quick to wrath and slow to cool. In fire, I saw kinship. I am not sure, but I think this was because I encountered so many other spirits of fire in school, in my neighborhood and in my own family. Of course my thirsty young mind drank deeply of their knowledge, ideas and opinions, absorbing their poisons like a plant growing in polluted water, and so I practiced what I learned.

One of the lessons I've learned with advanced age and from the influence of my good friends is to speak softly. Anger still occurs to me as a potential method of handling grievances and disputes, but I feel it is counter-productive, not necessarily to those I'm angry at, but to myself. My heart hates anger and loves to love. I like to love and hate to hate. I don't like getting angry and don't feel that there is much in the world worth getting angry about. Perhaps it is worth getting angry about something that threatens the well-being of a loved one, but such occasions are few. Most disputes I like to handle with a soft touch nowadays. I think of this as getting in touch with the deeper self, the true self, my full potential.

I find that understanding and empathy, which I am lucky to be endowed with, score points with people and gain me more in friends and allies than would anger. I have powers of negotiation that continue to astonish me in their achieved results. Speaking softly with kindness and understanding in one's eyes can influence others and can even change hearts and minds. Anger, by comparison, is a crude instrument, useful only for a limited set of circumstances.

Now the men I knew back in the day scorned empathy and understanding and thought such things were feminine and weak. They thought anger was being a man and could not divorce the idea of manliness from violence, vengeance and wrath. A man must avenge every slight to protect his honor. What a weak notion this honor is, then, if it is so fragile. I think now that those men were weak, because they were not willing to try alternative, effective strategies at getting what they want. They were close-minded, petty, and stupid like animals. Anger got them trouble, that is what anger got them. Some slights are not slights, others can be ignored, and still others can be handled with subtlety, in an indirect fashion.

So now I am no more a spirit of fire but one of air, and I aim to be as light as air.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Justice: Hire More Geeks

+1 to the American justice system for being pretty fair, although biased toward the rich like everything else.

-1 to the American justice system for being slow as molasses and inefficient.

I drove a hundred miles and spent six hours in court today just to get a chance to present documentation that proved that I was innocent of a misdemeanor charge, as indeed I was. By twiddling my thumbs for six hours, I saved about $130. Was it worth my time? Yes, based upon my current income. Could I have improved the efficiency of the courtroom? Yes, by thinking about their problem of chronic inefficiency for a single day, I could have made changes that would have increased their processing speed 500 - 1000% at little or no cost. I saw a lot of court employees, about ten as a matter of fact, standing around doing little or nothing but looking bored and counting the minutes to quitting time. Those cannot be happy employees, because time slows down when one has nothing to do. Employees generally prefer to be doing something productive with their time, or at least that is my general impression. They could have been busy gathering information from people. Simple communication with defendants would reduce waiting time dramatically and allow the court employees to go home earlier. I do not know why I had to appear in court to begin with. I could have faxed or emailed my documentation to court employees and saved myself a trip, if they had offered that option. But the court system has remained about fifty years behind the times for no reason other than mere incompetence on the part of the people running the system. This has to be the fault of the Republicans, who are always cutting budgets and never willing to invest a penny in government. Since poor people are the main ones to wind up in the court system, the Republicans let the court system rot from neglect, because they hate the poor.

The judge played a video with a speech by another judge that said there would be no negotiation of fines, which means no mercy for the poor, many of whom paid fines of over $400 for such offences as "improperly equipped vehicle," whatever that means.

About two hours after I took my seat, a guy dressed in an expensive suit walked into court. He looked like either a lawyer or a politician. I sat on the front row and watched him carefully. He breezed past the clerks and court officers and talked with the solicitor without waiting his turn. It was obvious he was connected. The judge heard him next and began speaking in a very soft tone, but I heard enough. "I'm sorry to meet you under these circumstances," the judge said, before shaking hands with the defendant. He pled guilty to the same offence I waited six hours to prove myself innocent of. Instead of paying $130 like everybody else, he paid half that amount. Then he said bye-bye to the judge and walked out. No wait or worry for Mr. Expensive Suit. Everybody else, that is, those who have to work for a living, had to sacrifice the mandatory 6 to 9 hours of time, whether guilty or innocent, and pay the full fine if guilty.

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Stopped Breathing

I had a dream last night that I had stopped breathing. I actually did, too, which woke me up.

In my dream, I was six years old again and walking to the bus stop in winter. Standing there were the bullies, a boy four years older than me and a girl five years older than me. Both were twice my size. They were never satisfied unless I was crying or otherwise distressed and made it their mission in life to ensure these things from Monday to Friday.

I remember them now, but I doubt they remember me at all. I can recall both their first and last names, their physical appearance, and the address of their homes. That's something that bullies don't tend to think about, the possibility that their victims grow up and remember. Bullies don't tend to do much thinking.

It was unfortunate, growing up with such people for neighbors and schoolmates, people whose only concern in life was whether they were big and strong enough to lord it over someone smaller. Part of the misfortune was the opportunity cost. If their spaces had been occupied by people that were interesting and friendly, I might have made a good friend. As it was, they were completely worthless, offering nothing except abuse. They were a waste of space.

As I grew bigger, these people stopped being bullies, because they did not have the size advantage anymore. Bullies are cowards, after all.

The girl changed. I met her once and she was unusually polite. I asked her why she was acting so different now, and she said she had matured. She may have even apologized for past behavior, but I don't remember. She played the repentant monster, but she was still a monster. I could tell. There are smiles of happiness, and then there are smiles that serve as a mask to conceal what is beneath. She had shown her true self to me long ago, and I remembered.

The boy was always the silent type and remained so. The only thing he was interested in was his skateboard. I never saw much difference between him and the skateboard. Anytime he was asked a question, there was a delay as he calculated the minimum number of syllables needed to provide an answer. Usually a grunt or a shrug or obscenity was the pinnacle of his expression. He had seemed scary when I was little, but part of the scariness was his size and reptilian personality.

These are the monsters that lurk in the mind and every once in a while come out at night.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Manual Labor, Family

As a young man, I worked a variety of jobs. The ones I had the most problem with and lasted the least amount of time were the physical ones that required lifting or standing for five or more hours at a time. Maybe my lack of stamina was caused by Mitral Valve Prolapse. I don't really know for sure, but I report to work early, want to work, and want to get things done in the right way. Good intentions don't account for much, however.

Life has thrown me many tests that called upon my weakest traits. I was a short-order cook for a fast food restaurant, a bag boy (they call them customer service associates now, I believe), ditch digger, delivery truck packer, and apartment maintenance technician. None of these jobs I did well in. I didn't crash and burn. I got along reasonably well with everybody, but was only mediocre in performance. I didn't seem to have enough get-up-and-go. I took to eating candy at work for extra energy, but that only went so far.

Delivery truck packing was the worst. I got up at 2:30 AM in the morning, reported to the delivery facility by 3:30 AM, and packed trucks from then to, I believe, 8:30 AM. My back was killing me all the time. One day, I called in and told the boss I quit. He seemed quite angry, but I didn't see any other options with the back pain I was experiencing. Curiously, he said that in order to pick up my last paycheck, I had to report to his office and answer a questionnaire. He said this was a corporate requirement. He explained it as a safeguard to ensure I was not going to claim discrimination or hostile working conditions. I had claimed nothing of the sort. I think the real purpose was to educate him on how to weed out applicants like me sooner. He asked me why I was quitting, whether I felt I was discriminated against, what the problem was, and so on and so forth. I think it's fairly obvious I'm thin and don't have a lot of meat on my bones, and that's about the only criteria he needed to consider during the application process. Anyone with a clear pair of eyes could see loading a truck with heavy packages was not my particular strength. Perhaps he should have adjusted his bifocals instead of playing twenty questions with my paycheck.

As a college student, I worked as a ditch digger for my uncle. He paid me $10 an hour, which was a pretty good wage for unskilled labor back in the day and, sadly, still is, twenty years later. Wages have not changed much in twenty years, although prices have. My uncle was a great guy, a smart executive. I liked him very much and wanted to please him. I did a lot of digging with a shovel and moving earth with a wheelbarrow. I also clipped hedges. But again with the back pain. After a couple weeks, I quit that job, too. My uncle said that he thought I should get some sort of job using my mind, not my body, and of course, he was right.

The last interaction I ever had with my uncle was with that job, but I think part of that is that my uncle and father never got along. The job was a highly unusual interaction with my extended family. I think my uncle perceived I had some sort of potential and for that reason extended an invitation to work. Or maybe he just really needed someone to dig those holes. His son wasn't doing it. His son drove thirty miles to pick me up to do it, and then he would drive off and I wouldn't see him again. As for my uncle, he suffered from back pain himself and didn't do any digging, either. He told me he thought I could do it because I was younger. Being younger helps, for sure, but it's not everything.

My extended family was never the "stay-in-touch" kind. Not only do we not have reunions, but it has been a good twenty years since I've seen any cousins, uncles or aunts, and I expect to go to the grave with the status quo. No sort of bond was formed early in life, so that's that. Geographical distance and my being gay are additional factors that cement the separation. Family can be pretty difficult for a gay kid. If he is very effeminate, then possibly he can bond with female cousins, but my female cousins were teenaged and only interested in hanging out with their friends and with boys their age. Anyway, I'm not very effeminate and am not the type of gay that can establish instant rapport with women. I don't think I ever had a conversation with a female cousin that lasted more than two minutes. Because I was a boy, I was expected to play with the one male cousin that was my age, but he wanted to play rough and mean and do things with guns. He got in trouble often. He wasn't interested in any of the things I was interested in, such as board games or books. The other cousins felt they were too old to associate with me, probably because they were doing illegal drugs and hanging around loose women and didn't want me to rat them out. Eventually, we lost touch altogether, and I think they were the main ones that opted for that outcome.

When I got married, it never occurred to me to suppose that any one of them would be the slightest bit interested in my life, so none received wedding invitations. This seems to be quite common in modern society, although my readings have indicated to me that the past was different, that families were closer and that they tended to help one another. But I suppose a lot depends upon the family and the people that make it up. Life's a roll of the dice. The only people who attended my wedding was the married straight couple that drove us up to the free state and a gay friend of that couple. No one related to either of us nor any of our close friends attended our wedding.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions