please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Cows, Coming Home

The deer is running down the middle of Grand Ave., and I'm wondering whether or not I might be dreaming this. The Man From Sparkle City is babbling at me, and busily trying to invite himself (his favorite phrase is, "Need an extra?") to a kickball game that he has not been invited to. I stop him and say, "Turn around. Look at that."
"Turn around."
Now that I have confirmation from another party that I am not hallucinating, I walk outside and try to determine where the deer has gone, now that it has left this very busy street. The man from the furniture store next door is on the phone to the cops: renegade deer. Deer are common enough up in the hills and such, but down here in the scenic, historic Eastside Liquor Ditch, they aren't seen at all, ever. To have made it this far, the deer either has traversed at least two hundred thickly populated city blocks or has crossed downtown, and then used one of our many bridges.
Dude was hauling ass, too, as you can imagine. This is part of a disturbing pattern I think I see emerging: nature is going nuts. I was harassed for several blocks by a crow the other morning. He started following me and mocking me with that eldritch laughter, then swooping lower over my head than any bird ever has. I turned the corner, and he did it again; perch on a power line above my head, caw at me several times, swoop over me, fly to the next power line, resume. I turn as many as four corners to escape him, but he has air power, and it doesn't really matter to him which street I'm on. My skin is crawling.
I make it over to the Troika, and am greeted by il Bruce and The Moon Maiden. They notice that I am ashen, and ask what's up. I tell them, and say, "Crows are harbingers of death, aren't they?"
They rush to assure me that, yes, yes they certainly are. "Thanks guys," I say.
What's happening in this country is terrible, I think, though I am often of that opinion. I felt this way long before the deeply disturbing (and accelerating) events of the last five years. When everything started heading into the shitter, circa 2001 or so, I and several others I know started to notice that the genuinely schizophrenic ones seemed to be acting even crazier, walking into traffic more often and such. It's like there's a transmitter in their heads that is saying, 'It's okay; everyone else has lost it, too.'
Now the animals are doing it. I wonder how long before it's the plants and inanimate objects. I consciously decided last summer that I was going to take off a year and take on only limited responsibility. I was just too damn tired and too damn sad, and I decided to really work on other people for a while, and perhaps, by proxy, myself. Naturally, when you have a bit more time on your hands, you have more time to screw everything up, and there's been some odd cascade failure lately, leaving me to feel more like an extended road trip, and being a stranger.
Bitchslap had a good one yesterday. We were talking about the stagnant little puddle our group of friends has become, and he said, "I think maybe everyone needs that sort of 'meeting the wizard' moment."
I looked at him.
"You know: and you finally get some courage, and you finally get some direction..."
Oh yes, The Wizard of Oz: America's true creation myth. In which the rural populations migrate to a mystical, shining city to receive their final reward, after traversing many obstacles (and hopefully not being coopted into the Lollypop Guild). Most adults I've met have that whole 'Surrender Dorothy' skywriting scene as the first example of being terrified by popular entertainment in their lives. Judy Garland's next movie, 'Meet Me In St. Louis', is even more in the line of classical mythology: the good old days, the Golden Age. Everything was better back in olden times.
One of my least favorite phrases is 'olden times', by the way, and I often ask people to tell me what it is they're talking about when they use it. They never have an answer. Kind of like when they say, "The Native Americans believe..."
I wonder now where that deer went. I wonder even more, as I am told that all things come in threes, what the next disturbing thing involving an animal that I witness will be. The cattle crowding my front door, having finally come home at last?


Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Great Divide

I've been reading too much about the evangelical right wing, of late. As always, they are talking about "spiritual warfare" and other things that really should make the rest of us very nervous. This sort of rhetoric is hardly new in religious circles (hell, it fuelled both the Crusades and the "Winning of the West"), but this time, they're not even talking about the heathen-who-have-different-skin; they're talking about us.
Those of us who live in the big city, in particular. That's something that I've prophesized in my own writings, and hope as always that their inherent stupidity will be their undoing, but they are very well funded, and any worthwhile overview of history will not necessarily rule out the idea that stupidity will somehow sink a movement. Oftentide, the stupid-but-attractive idea wins, sometimes just by sticking around long enough, and even more so because most people just ain't that bright.
The idea of The Rapture is an interesting one. When you consider that we live on a planet that could cease to support the lives of our species by a temperature change of as little as four degrees (and we're already up one!), the idea of The End is not an entirely irrational one. Mind you, it won't really come down to a battle between Good and Evil (though that sort of thing is profitable, in the short term); it will come down to the lot of us finally asphyxiating and drowning in a hell that we have, ourselves, made. If any of the people in the evangelical movement in North America were decent human beings, they'd stop driving SUVs, but they aren't, and besides, this isn't really the world that matters, they are told. The world that matters, unfortunately, doesn't, in the least, exist, and these people who I'm certain are pained every December when Santa really doesn't arrive...Will merely be dead for starters, and worse yet, will have done everything in their power to make life miserable for their fellow citizens in the meanwhile.
And there is the question, yet again: why is it okay for them to tell me that I am wicked and evil for not believing the things that they believe (that are patent lies of the worst sort, and takes an astounding leap of not-think to believe in), but it is somehow bad manners for me to say that these people are insane, and dangerous? And stupid, for that matter, and yes...Evil, ultimately.
I mean, it's one thing to wax all hysterical about child molesters and neo-Nazis, but who really honestly means me and the people I love harm, and have the funding to get it done? Christers.
Of all things, the reasons that they hate people like me and the people I love happens to be our easy-goingness. We are moral relativists, which is to say that we don't view human interactions as being governed by any hard and fast rules (aside from the obvious ones: I'm not gonna insult ya'), especially ones crafted by a bunch of starving fools out in the desert during the Bronze Age. We understand that people can be all sorts of things, and that you simply must learn to deal, except when their behavior steps too far over the line, in which case you either step in, or let natural consequences take their own sweet toll.
That's where we get back to hate of the big city, by the way. In the big city, whether we like it or not, we have to deal with each other, and that probably is why we are as liberal as we are. We don't really have the luxury of fooling ourselves. We could act like life is like we have seen it portrayed in television of the 1950's, but realize that only a fool does, and that fool deserves some schoolin'.
This is all something that I wish had never happened to the human race at all, by the way. Even the most beautiful of religious texts (The Upanishads, to my mind) stinks of blood and greed, and the childish need of certain social classes to control the other ones. Mind you, I'm not one of those people who puts a lot of faith in the inherent goodness of the human race, either. If they hadn't come up with this 'god' bullshit, they no doubt would have come up with something worse.
That's the thing though; religion is supposed to be the outlet for all of our higher instincts. Gringa Alta Segunda spent her childhood helping build houses for poor people because her daddy's a Methodist preacher, for example. Even though I know that The Tulsa Kid would disagree with me on this one, I have seen plenty of examples where people who could give a shit otherwise do the right thing, merely because their archaic god-fear, channelled through churchy peer pressure, compells them to do so. This newer version of 'Murcan evangelism says no to all of that. The building of shelters and the staffing of soup kitchens is all for naught: if gawd liked those people, they'd be home by now, and rich. Again, religion was supposed to be the thing that finally convinced people to behave in some manner contrary to the barbaric manner in which we have always approached each other. It hasn't happened yet, really.
So maybe it's time that we all stopped treating religion like it's a sacred thing, and more like a disease. The way they view homosexuality, you know. It just happens to be a disease that easily Most of the human race has, so...Well, let's start with that not-exactly-Christianity practiced here in the States, with a campaign of ridicule at first, perhaps leading to boycotts, and ultimately to laws lessening their access to public funds, causing them to influence public policy, though one of the older constitutional statutes deals with that issue in a rather clear manner.
(I am no longer in the mood to pontificate. As always, I would like to tell you a little story.)
When I was sixteen, I moved to the Big City. It was a magical place, and already filled with things of wonder, which I had glimpsed on earlier occasions. There were people of all manner here, and more on the way. More than I had even thought possible, and we all had to get along, up to a certain point. It was agreed that certain parts of town belonged to certain people, at least in those days before we decided that, as usual, the white people own everything.
But I stray from my point. In those days, downtown was anybody's turf. It was, as it should be, where everybody goes to mix, then retreats to their various corners, like boxers. Look; when I moved here, I was a small town punk. Then, I realized that the punks here weren't necessarily rebelling against anything (at least along the lines of what I was rebelling against), and I quickly fell in with those who attended Portland's then-thriving underaged dance club-going scene. They, at least, had fun; Fun along the lines which I considered fun to fall. Your average evening for me in those days consisted of my getting incredibly stoned with my friends, going downtown, usually then getting drunk, dancing, getting more stoned and meeting people, finally falling asleep in someone's car, then being awakened in time for the afterparty, which could be occurring anywhere.
The difference was that the crowd on any evening might include anything from white supremacists to hard core gang members, and to a certain extent, we all needed to give each other a relatively wide berth, even though we were not going to not be ourselves...Alright. This came to a head one evening when a friend of mine from my hometown, who I had always known was queer but wouldn't admit it whilst there encountered another friend of mine...Idaho/SoCal transplant, possible closet-case but who cares...Dance club bigot.
My hometown friend is annoying as the day is long, and I know it. This does not, however, prevent me from viewing him as my vaguely retarded younger brother who needs taking care of. My other friend, however, ain't feelin' it.
"Aw c'monnn," he keeps whining, "jus' lemme beat 'im uuuup!" My pal, along with really honestly whining, which I will not abide, is also really honestly asking to beat up my friend because he is Gay first, and Obnoxious second. I am trying and trying to say it the right way: "Naw man, jus' let it go. Not a thing..." And remind him that this is above all else a thing that he will feel less exercised about in the morning. He just won't let it go, and after saying every nice, polite, diplomatic, complimentary, assuaging thing I could possibly say to this jackass, I finally just said it, as I was forced to do so:
"Alright. If you wanna do it, go ahead. But you gotta go through me first."
That ended it. After further whining about how I was spoiling his fun by being too serious about all this, it nonetheless was over. I had made it clear that no matter how cute you think you're being with your hate, I'll be right there making sure it doesn't get nasty. I'll even stick up for my pain in the ass friend who isn't really much of a friend and is just annoying enough that he probably really does deserve to have his ever-lovin' ass beat for it, just because some schmuck thinks he's better. And that schmuck is always my enemy.
As I was walking back into the club to do some more dancing to awful (let's face it) music, a group of taller, perhaps older gentlemen from elsewhere were chatting in the parking lot. As I walked by, they started being catty in that way that, you know, those people will be. Perhaps they were talking about my acne, perhaps they were very badly inviting me to swallow their semen, when one of them looked right at me and said, "Put. Some. So-di-um in your di-et."
It was a nasty comment, if obscure, and it made me feel good. You sir, are an asshole, I thought. But you sir, are the reason why I bother with this living around here with Ape Born Wrong at all, and if'n ever any of these apes come around your water hole looking for trouble, I'll be the one there reminding them that I know how to use tools too.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Instead of writing another remembrance of things past, I decided to have a little fun, and show you this text deconstruction from a couple years ago. It is written by one Dan Neils, and was published as an opinion piece in The Oregonian.
The subject at hand is a minor scandal of a couple years ago: a woman whose last name was 'Toogood' was caught on surveillance camera in a mall parking lot, beating her child. A brief debate followed about whether or not abusing one's child in a public place is one's inherent right, and whether or not Ms. Toogood's being a part of that American/Irish clan of what-amounts-to-Gypsies, The Travellers, was in any way relevant. Mr. Neils' thoughtful comments bore the headline, "A Healthy Dose of Discipline". My text deconstruction's title is, "No, this really isn't from 'The Onion'."
He opens by stating his name, and pointing out that he occasionally spanks his kids. He then asks for understanding, and starts to offer justification:
"I do not spank them to punish them but to consistently teach them discipline while they are young and moldable."
(It takes a decent man to assess a being's...Moldability. He's a decent guy, since he doesn't actually beat his kids. But-read on.)
"I love them enough to help them learn to respect authority. I want to help them learn to control their emotions and to consider the feelings of others when they cause others pain. I want them to feel the painful consequence of harmful actions and attitudes."
(Is it me, or is there something a little pro wrestling about 'wanting them to feel the pain'? The nice guy facade, loosely constructed, starts slipping.)
"I wish I could say that I have never lost patience and that I have never grabbed my child out of anger instead of love. I have been known many times to cross the line. You know what I mean."
(These ominous lines say it all. Buried none too deeply here is an abuser, and one dumb enough to try to defend it in public. Yeah Dan, we know what you mean.)
"Have you ever been in an airplane with a screaming child beside you? Hour after hour the child wails, moans, kicks your seat and ignores the cringing parent. You start to simmer, then slowly you lose sanity."
(You might not want to so casually throw around phrases like 'lose sanity', Dan.)
"I feel at times like making my child shut up. Sometimes in the store, I will grab him a little harder than I should, or raise my voice, or pinch his neck to tell him to 'shape up'."
(Now he's starting to admit it. 'Pinch his neck'? And, who doesn't want to make your child shut up? I've personally found that abused kids tend to be loud as hell. Whereas kids raised with consistent boundaries not backed up with violence tend to be pretty well behaved. The unspoken premise here is that, if it weren't for pesky societal norms, we'd all beat our kids.)
"Sometimes when he melts down in the restaurant, I will quietly take him to the car screaming"
(Not to be nitpicky, but what's a car screaming?)
"...and make good on the quietly offered promise of a spanking. As we approach the car, repentance awakens, but discipline is still required."
(That's a full-blown sadist talking. Check the love of authoritarian language.)
"If you see me in the back seat appropriately spanking the boy, and he is crying for mercy, please don't whip out the cell phone and call the police."
('Appropriately spanking' rolls off the tongue nicely, doesn't it? Dan, just putting the word 'appropriate' in front of something doesn't make it so. And you might have edited out that 'crying for mercy', too. It makes you sound like a child abuser or something.)
"If I seem to be causing hurt with indiscretion, please discreetly call the police to investigate the matter. Please don't call the news station."
('Indiscretion', indeed. I'm not sure that's the right word for what you meant, but it is appropos. You're no longer pleading for the media not to oversensationalize things, you're begging that we don't tell on you.)
"Understand that I am working on some good future citizens-one who has learned already, and the other still in training."
(His kids are 5 and 3 and a half, respectively. Nice to hear you beat the three year old. Can we talk about how you train your pets?)
"Although Toogood was clearly guilty of crossing the line and her actions were indefensible, she deserves the respect and opportunity to discreetly explain her actions and to receive a fair judgment from the system. She shouldn't have to hire a lawyer and have a news release. We treated her worse than a terrorist."
(This paragraph is great. After that sweaty fantasy he just led us through, the bully remembers why he was inspired to write this piece. Let's see: Okay, Toogood's actions were 'indefensible'. So let's let her...Defend herself? In some scenario that apparently doesn't require a lawyer? Again, the only reason for the media frenzy was that she was caught on videotape not just spanking her kid, but beating them. This isn't even the whole "what I do in the privacy of my own home" thing anymore. You feel sorry for her Dan, admit it. But you also claim to not be as bad as her, even though it kind of sounds like you are. Then you invoke the specter of terrorism, ya' half-wit. Yes: we force terrorists to have press conferences and write op-ed pieces about them.)
"Why do we shamelessly reveal our intolerance by parading her in the media, convicting her in the court of public opinion and breaking up her family? Can the damage be undone?"
(Here's where I gotta thank the media. Even people with no need for spin control know the language of spin. Just enough touchy-feely cliches thrown in, and you'd never know that we were talking about a woman beating her children in public.)
"Toogood deserved to be punished-but not abused. Her child was not physically harmed."
(The tape seems to suggest that the child was physically harmed. That's why we're here listening to you whining about the breakup of families. Families tend to be sacred to abusers, I've noticed. Like people who believe that much in the family unit as an ideal already have opened the door to irrationality, and even though it sounds stupid to the rest of us, they'll brutalize members of their own family to 'preserve' the family. They truly think that it's love.
They also think that beating family members who disagree with their vision of what's right is the same as preserving the family unit. These are basically childish personalities we're talking about here, and they think that the needs of other people aren't as important as theirs. Ultimately, it's that most childish of attitudes; I know what's right, and you don't.
Sure, the media is often a distorting presence in our culture. But crying in public about how hard the media presence has made it to beat your kids isn't a valid objection.
At the risk of sounding really sanctimonious, why is it that I've never felt so much as an inkling of need to beat my own kid, or anyone else's? It's fucking unimaginable to me, because they only know that you're beating them, when you're beating them. They 'learn' nothing. Besides, if you're a good parent, you set boundaries without beating them. Is it any wonder that the most obnoxious kids I've seen tend to be the abused ones? This is the only attention they get, and furthermore their parents are acting childishly, so where in the hell will they ever learn to act like adults?
This eye-for-an-eye bullshit philosophy being espoused here makes me want to "accidentally" break this man's arm, after grabbing him a little too hard in public, when he is whining and throwing a tantrum, like he is here.
Then pinch his neck.)


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Naked in Public

It was The Eyebrow Kid's birthday recently, so I took him up to a self-styled 'inner city hot spring' (i.e. buncha jacuzzis) in the neighborhood for a bit of a soak. As we sat there naked and steaming, I stopped to consider that I had newer, angrier bruises all up and down my right leg; a consequence of all the moving I'm assisting people with of late, as well as the intense physical nature of two of my jobs. I had spent the better part of last week limping, and noticed now that I had a really big bruise on top of my right foot. This no doubt came from my predeliction for putting big heavy things down on that foot, as opposed to on my toes or someone else's fingers.
Nowadays, as fate and pettiness has elevated me to status of lighting director on the show, and I have an army of interns beneath me, maybe I can heal. In any case, as I sat there examining myself (and furtively examining other people), I thought-why don't I spend as much time in public naked as I used to?
Along with never really being all that ashamed of my body (and why should I be, eh, ladies?), in the year we call 1994, I discovered that stripping was not the only way to make money naked. A friend of mine and I were sitting around one evening, and determined that the best way to stave off boredom was to create a drink: the Saint Lawrence. He had been posing for a Tacoma artist who was doing a series on saints. St. Lawrence was grilled to death by the church for giving the wealth of the church away to the local po' folk. He currently is a saint. In any case, we determined that we needed something made by monks (Frangelico), something smoky tasting (Bushmill's), and something to even out the intensity of the other two ingredients (Bailey's if you're feeling sassy, heavy cream or soy milk if not). Perfect. Then I asked to see the pictures.
As I looked at these images of my friend in a charcoaled bedsheet, I noted to myself that posterity might wonder who he was: he was sort of immortal. This pleased me, and I asked him how one gets into that line of work.
Before long, I was posing for classes at the college where I also worked in the admissions office. I quickly developed a repetoire of poses both quick and not. Poses that offered something interesting to draw, no matter where one was in the room. Doing yoga naked, I learned the secrets of using negative space and turning myself into a credible jumble of shapes and forms. I'd walk around afterward, offering critique from the viewpoint of the bowl of fruit. "Well, you rendered my ass pretty well..." One day I came up upon my girlfriend's studio partner. He had drawn me from the waist up, photographically correct. I looked like a piece of statuary. Where my head should have been, though, there was this leering, grinning demon head, topped by a shock of blonde hair. I wondered about this, but did not ask him.
I was interviewed by a professor at Pacific University a few years later, and she asked a lot of the typical questions I'd been answering about my line of work for a long time. She wanted to know how my friends viewed it (pretty uniformly, the women were fine with it, and several of them already had done it themselves. The men, uniformly, were asking, 'how can you?' Some family jewels thing? I don't know). Was there a sexual aspect, she wanted to know? Well, I said, you're generally cold, and it's such a supremely asexual scenario, except; do I think about who I'm pointing my cock at and who I'm pointing my asshole at? Certainly. Do I think about who I 'accidentally' make eye contact with, as they draw me? Sure.
And there was this one time in Tacoma, where I nearly did something really unprofessional. Sex, as I say, was far from my mind on these occasions, but I was in the midst of a forty-five minute pose, and my mind had begun to wander. Then I realized that it was about to wander too far down roads I must not let it go. Quickly, before any actual tumescing began, I focused my mind elsewhere: "Cold floor! Cold, scuffed, char-coaly, brown, unsexy floor!" Nothing bad happened, but imagine if it had: "He's moving! Tell him to stop moving!"
Once, on a hot summer night, I was laying on my back with one leg crossed up in front of me. From this aspect, I could closely observe a mosquito land on my shin and leisurely insert its stinger into my skin, take what it needed, squirt a little anticoagulant into me, and fly away, unmolested for once.
As the years went by, I found that the real problem was art students (though I did some work for private studios and companies as well). The freshmen, in particular, had this giggling and tittering problem that was just not cute. One day, the tittering just would not quit, and the instructor smilingly, kindly, made me stand up and took them through it. "You need to be able to draw this (eyes), and this..." All the way down to my genetalia, where he said,
"And this. It's as important as learning to draw a nose." Titter titter.
Art instructors aren't so hot, either. One of them actually said to his class, one day as I sat waiting, that "The aesthete is to the artist what the ornithologist is to the bird." As if these wealthy little children really needed to be told yet again how special they are, and how much better and enlightened. "Here's your next pose, birdies," I said, but I'm not sure that they heard. I've always had a hard time with art congratulating itself with being art: of course at its best, it moves souls, changes lives, but so does a decent cocktail, an artfully prepared meal. Or the right stick of beef fucking jerky when you're starving. Tom Robbins once said, "In the house of life, art is the only board that doesn't creak."
"Easy to say if you're an artist," My mentor figure at the time said, with characteristic disgust.
So eventually I drifted out of it. I was developing rapidly into the 400 pound shut in that I currently am, and was sick of pretense. I devoted myself instead to learning to be a consummate professional/divine arm of justice, and have gotten along pretty well since. There are times, though, when I look back on those days when I was paid to show my fine young ass to all the pretty little Easily Led types out there (when I wasn't processing fish and dispatching taxis), and think...I shall endow a university, I believe.