November 2004


Today I ran my NaNo through the AutoSummarize function of Microsoft
Word.  Here’s the 20-line version, which I find highly amusing:

The Moon. 
SentrySoft is the big provider of network security up here.     
Fucking great.
Fucking great.
Fucking great.
My microwave launched a network attack against my refrigerator.     
“SentrySoft. 
They make all software firewalls for all devices in Diana City.”
My refrigerator has a firewall? 
SentrySoft was a major firewall provider back on Earth.     
“SentrySoft, how can we protect your network today?”
“SentrySoft firewalls don’t engage in that behavior, sir. 
Right?   
Fucking great.
“Mind if I ask for your number?”     
“Charles!”     
Oxygen.
Fucking fuck’s fuck.
Fucking great.
Yeah, right.

(more…)

Bruce:  It’s What’s For Dinner
[[image:brucetable.jpg:Bruce Atop a Placemat:center:0]]

(That fine, fine example of late-night, flashless photography is Bruce hogging a placemat at our kitchen table.) (more…)

Tonight I passed the 16,000 word mark – 16,375 to be exact. 

If you hate me for linking to it, it’s all Joey’s fault.  (Thank you for the encouragement, Joey!)

Earlier this week I was sorely disappointed with my word count thus
far, but a little work tonight has me back in the clip of things. 
Woot!

Katastrophes recently subjected herself to my NaNo from last year.  It is available for your perusal in similar formats, should you wish to feel her pain. (more…)

So, I’ve recently seen the following URL bandied about:  http://www.fuckthesouth.com.

The basic premise is little different from Adam Felber’s
tounge-in-cheek concession speech:  that the reasons so many
conservative yahoos in “red” states complain about the government
(taxation, federal handouts and such offenses in the sight of God as
divorce) are actually far more commonly exploited by the red states
than the “blue” states, and that basically red staters can go fuck
themselves.  The bottom line here is, blue states pay the most
taxes which in turn provide the handouts mostly enjoyed by red states
while they simultaneously engage in vastly more divorce but point the
finger (or at least a finger, generally their middle one) at blue
states for “threats to the sanctity of marriage.”

After reading fuckthesouth.com, I can’t say I disagree with the
non-geographical content of the site.  The facts are quite
plain:  the people who vote for Bible-thumping, marriage-loving,
tax-cutting freakazoids are the same people cashing the welfare checks
they abhor.  It’s a sad dichotomy, but one I think can be
easily-enough explained.  In places where the economy is so
depressed as to have strangled any real hope for escape or improvement,
and has been for a generation or three, there’s very little left to
motivate people other than pie-in-the-sky religion and the fuel of
arrogant moral superiority.  A sense that one is still “better”
than the damn Yankees no matter how bad off one gets is essential to
some of these people:  people who still lock their doors when they
drive through an African-American neighborhood, still tut when they see
a mixed-race couple, still assume that supression of the truth of the
human existence – that relationships are tricky and frequently
unworkable things, that gay people are people too, that it shames no
one to accept the offer of a helping hand – is a fine substitute for a
little self-examination and a lot of shifting perspectives.

To say that life moves more slowly down here and that our cultural
wheels take longer to turn is to baldly participate in the incumbent
culture of denial.  Our culture shifts just as rapidly as anyone’s
– the same music sits on our record store shelves and the same videos
play on our MTV and the same desk-drivers appear on our news channels
and our local newscasters wear the same television hair.  Our
local newspapers are all owned by the newspapers of larger places
somewhere further north.  Our malls all have Cinnabons and our
Wal-Marts are just as evil. 
What is frequently unrealized is that our powers of self-delusion are so very, very strong, and that what our culture does contain is an almost fanatical adherence to appearance
over substance.  Our communities are very, very good at
constructing alternate versions of reality in which the differences we
behold every day simply don’t count, a false world in which those among
us who are openly and proudly and brazenly different from the idealized
norm are somehow rare outliers rather than an honest representation of
the broad spectrum that is life.  Southern life, if lived as it is
expected to be, is nothing if not a balancing act.  As we grow up,
we yearn to explore the world beyond our meager boundaries but maintain
the facade that we are hometown boys and girls who wish nothing more
than to take over the family farm or work in the factory down the
road.  If we ever return, we speak openly of how good it is to be
back where things are the way they ought to be, but all of our
stories are of how beautiful it was somewhere else, when we were
younger and had more freedom.  We tend to dying relatives and when
they pass we pretend our eyes are dry because we’re strong, not because we’re frankly glad to see some of them go.

I cannot count the number of people I know who are my age (30) and who
grew up in the South and who fought tooth and nail to get out of their
towns because they knew, no matter how they wanted a different life,
that their hometown would simply never allow anything other than what
had come before.  But why was that?  Not because anyone
literally sat them down and said, Your life here will be as ours or not at all – no, they felt that way because they feared
that their town would not allow them anything new or different, a
little freer or a little more permissive.  I am where I am,
geographically, out of that very same fear.  I am one of those
people who ran away from a little town I had convinced myself would
never let me have the life I wanted to live.   The incumbent
culture is that appearances must be maintained at all costs.  If
one cannot appear to conform, one is best off going somewhere else.  In the meantime, as long as one appears
to conform, one can do anything they want.  I know of gays and
lesbians who ended up in marriages but got plenty of action on the
side.  I know of relatives who maintained mixed-race relationships
but were never seen in the same crowd – every date was a trip to the
beach or a cruise or a flight to New York.  My own mother’s stated
preference is for the lifestyle of our small, Southern town but her
fondest memories are of living on her own, up north, working in an
office and being independent for the first time in her life.  I
cannot count the number of relatives who, when asked where they went to
church, mumbled something about a new church in another town because,
in all honesty, their atheism was perfectly fine as long as they never talked about it.

To say that we are so very different down here is a lie.  To say that we won’t admit
to that difference, however – that’s where the truth is found. 
Everyone accepts that we have synagogues and shrines and neopagan
covens and mullahs and witches and rabbis and Buddhists as long as
everyone only talks about our quaint country churches. 
Everyone accepts that of any random nine North Carolinians (or
Alabamans, for that matter), four of them voted for Kerry – as long as
we only talk about the five who voted for Bush.

No, our culture is just as diverse and just as fractious and just as
malleable as anywhere else in the country.  Bush’s margins down
here were far, far slimmer than in states such as Wyoming or Indiana,
but few people down here will admit that.  The culture of
misrepresentation is so strong as to let people convince themselves
that they’re the only ones who feel differently, who think differently,
who love or want or need differently.

So everyone stays quiet, and everyone tows the local line about
whatever it is they want, and they either find their desires in another
place at a later time or they ferret them out in the darker, more local
corners and pray that secrets are kept.

We change down here – we change just as much as anywhere else.  But we only do it behind closed doors.

Is all of that to say there’s no real pressure to maintain a slower
pace of change down here?  No, I’m not a complete idiot. 
This is the same place where Eric Rudolph was able to stay on the lam
with obvious help despite a $1,000,000 reward.  This is the same
place where countless crosses were (and are) burned, where the KKK
still checks out newcomers, where outsiders are regarded with suspicion
even while their wallets are open.  This is the birthplace of the
phrase, “We don’t take kindly to your type around here,” and I’m not so
attached to my rose-colored glasses as to believe for a second that
such facts are a myth.  But for every hooded racist and every
gay-bashing redneck, there’s a drunk in a church choir who hates his
life and a gay couple hiding their relationship from friends, family
and spouses.  For every overt expression of the right wing,
there’s an oft-hid manifestation of something else, something
no one talks about, something everyone just pretends isn’t there for
fear it makes them or their neighborhood or their community look bad to
everyone else. 

We are not all Bush-worshipping theocrats down here.  We are not
all conservative.  But plenty of us are scared or stifled just
enough to go along with keeping up appearances.  Don’t hate all
those down here who vote for Bush and listen to Rush and hate the
federalis for coming down here and taking our money away – a surprising
number (no majority, but I’d bet a significant minority) of them are
trying to say anything they can think of, anything they think will
sound good to their neighbors, rather than admit they’re on food
stamps, that their careers have ended five or ten or twenty years
early, that they have no hope, that they’re drunks, that they’re tired
of pretending they like what they have and can find no good reason for
what’s happened to them.  It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it
might start to explain it.  They’re deeply unhappy, and the only
time they’re allowed to yell and shout is when their neighbors do the
same for a candidate or a party or an idea.  Sometimes, just going
with the crowd is the only way they can feel empowered again, think
they’re a part of something, think they’re making a difference.

Most of all that demonstrates that the South, for good or ill, isn’t so much unlike any other place at all.

Reducing a criticism of such a complex set of conditions – a desire to
conform mixed with a desperate desire for a different, better way of
life – to nothing more than a rant and a flip of the bird is just
insulting.  I get anger – trust me, I understand anger –
but no one’s going to build any bridges that way.  I’ve seen it
suggested elsewhere that the author may well be a Southern liberal, and
I find that especially believable.  After all, our own code of
what’s acceptable doesn’t include a Southerner yelling at his neighbors
like that.  But it would fit perfectly fine within our image of
ourselves for some Northerner to say just those words.

Conformity’s a fun game for everyone to play. (more…)

With the fond recollection out of the way, now let me tell you the story of how I learned what an incredible wuss I am.

I hate flying. 

I really, really hate flying.

So we get on the plane on the flight back, Friday night, and I think,
hey, it’s only going to be 4 hours.  It’ll be okay.  I can handle 4
hours.  I handled it on the way here, I can handle it on the way back. 

Once we’re on the plane, we find that problems have already started. 
There’s a family of six adults and two infants who have decided to
eschew such abstracts and tools of oppression as seat assignments and just sit together.  Their chicanery, combined with row 11 being broken – none of the seats were usable at all – mean that the flight attendants are having to rearrange people and
argue with this family about where they can sit and why it’s important
they sit there.  One lady gets so up-in-their-grill about the seating
thing – one of the people who had consciously decided to say fuck the
seating assignments – that the attendants are threatening to kick her
off the plane.  Babies start crying around this time and The Boyf is
like, “So, uh…when does that drinks service start, anyway?”  I
realize abruptly that one of the flyers in this group of seat
annexation afficionados is a skinhead with Tourette’s Syndrome, and I
think oh yeah, this is going to be an entertaining flight.  I am going
to have plenty to distract me from my fear of flying.

(I should note two things:  The Boyf
is not at all certain the guy was a skinhead, but let’s be honest – the
story is better if he is.  His head was definitely shaved, anyway. 
Second, he was extremely cooperative and cheerful with the
attendants, and was by far in the best shape to fly of anyone in his
group.  He didn’t fight with them, he didn’t kick up a fuss, and he
smiled at everything they asked him to do then complied with due
haste.  He was obviously a nice guy, talking and laughing and making
the best of the flight.  Still, just imagine him trying to play
Blackjack at a table in Vegas:  Hit me!  Hit me, motherfucker!  I know, I’m going to hell, I know.)

Next up on the roster of Accidental In-Flight Entertainment is the
blond woman who was, seriously, about seventy feet tall.  I mean, she’s
huge.  And she’s wearing these platform clogs that add another four
inches, easily.  And she’s hurt herself in some serious way at some
point in her trip, because her husband was wheeling her around in a
chair with her right leg held out in front of her through the airport
in Vegas.  Her voice is all gravel and she seems like she might have
had an informal muscle relaxer at a bar on the way to the airport, and
I think yes, she will also be entertaining.  At one point I catch a
glimpse of her ankle, which was a deeply unnatural shade of red, and I
immediately feel sorry for her – but she’s still funny.  Honest to the
gods, she sounds like Dr. Girlfriend from the Venture Brothers.  She’s
singing baritone in a boys’ choir come Sunday morning, I guarantee.

Once we’re all finally in our seats, the flight takes off – and I start
to whimper.  I really, really hate flying, and I find takeoffs to be
tremendously bothersome.  Even typing this, I can feel that bob and
weave in my stomach, the sensation of falling and the tremendous
light-headedness.  I immediately wrap one hand around The Boyf‘s
knee and my other around his elbow.  If I plummet through the floor of
the plane to certain death, let’s just say Bruce is going to have to
fend for himself, because I am taking The Boyf with me.  So
here I am, gasping and moaning and clutching the nearest gobbets of
flesh I can get my claws into, and drinks service starts.  The
attendant, a perky asian woman who smiles like her face is about to
split in two, brings me my requested Jack Daniels and a Diet Pepsi.  I
dump all the liquor and a very little Diet Pepsi into the cup of ice
and start chugging.  By the time I’m done adding Diet Pepsi to the cup
after successive swigs, things are starting to look up.  The crying
children aren’t, the skinhead hasn’t picked a fight and people are
starting to nod off to sleep.  I’m still clutching The Boyf like he’s
designed for use as a flotation device, but I think I’m doing okay.

“Would you like some extra peanuts?” the perky attendant asks with her
death-grimace.  “I hear they go great with the cocktails!”  Then we get
more peanuts.  By the time we’ve been peanuted a third time, I say to
The Boyf, “Why are we getting all this extra attention?”

Two hours later, halfway through the flight, Flight Attendent Perky comes on the intercom:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I feel like we just have to be honest with you…” she says, and I think OH MY GODS WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE before
she goes on to finish her apparently stark confession with, “All three
of the lavatories on the plane are currently unusable,” at which point
I think OH MY GODS I HAVE TO PEE AND WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.

The time of my collectedness is at an end.

From that point forward, I can’t sleep.  All I can do is moan at every
bump of turbulence – and there is plenty of turbulence.  I clutch The
Boyf, Mr. Saturday is
patting me on the arm and telling me it will be okay, and I am nearly
in tears as we come in at RDU for what is easily the wobbliest landing
since Kitty Hawk.  On the way down to land I chug two cups of coffee
because I need to be awake to drive home and let’s simply take it as
read that two cups of airline coffee don’t do jack to help my nerves.

Fuck flying, I think to myself.  Then I end up saying that, over
and over, as we stand at the gate.  I am exhausted and scared and every
nerve I have left is standing on end.  I flee the airport, basically
running down the concourse to get to the escalator and out the doors to
the precious air of home, where it is now 6:30am.

As I stand outside, chaining cigarettes off one another, the blond
Amazon with the bad ankle staggers outside with her husband.  He leaves
her on a bench to go get their car from Park & Ride, and she lights
up one of her own.  Head cocked, she eyes me for a moment and then
leans forward conspiratorially from ten feet away.

“You don’t like to fly,” she rasps.  I fully expect her face to fall
off and see the Crypt Keeper cackling at me, but that’s spurt of
disturbing imagination isn’t her fault – I’m just tremendously on edge
by this point.  A cocktail of caffeine, nicotine and adreneline has
worked me into near-hysteria. 

“I certainly don’t,” I manage to mumble, and she nods at me and leans back on her bench.

“That’s okay,” she booms.  “My husband doesn’t like to bungee jump.”  I
ponder briefly the sudden course change, and she adds, “He won’t let
anybody watch that videotape.”  Learning she has a sense of
adventure and a desire to videotape her husband in his worst moments
actually warms me up to the lady and I start to giggle a bit madly. 
“Yep,” she says in the voice of a thousand chain-smoking Jack
Nicholsons, “He’s all AYIIIIIIIIIIIIIII on the way down but I’m like, woohoo!” 
Her attempt to falsetto the “woohoo!” comes out in exactly the same
octave as the rest of her speech, and when she laughs, it’s like
sandpaper fighting a granite slab.  We laugh for a minute and I’m
wiping my eyes and starting to calm down when she notices a baby bird
fluttering around outside the terminal.

“I think that bird is hurt,” she says.  Long moments pass and she goes
on.  “I’m gonna catch that bird.  I’m gonna take it home and save its
life.”  She drops one hand towards the ground, rubbing her fingertips
together in the same way I do to catch Bruce’s attention, and she
bellows, “Here birdy, birdy birdy.”  Unsuccessful, she looks back at
me.  “Watch.  I’m gonna catch that bird.” 

Having now seen the lady’s ankle and her state of wakefulness, I’m
thinking she’s going to be lucky to catch a breeze when it suddenly
hits me:  this lady was not my in-flight entertainment.  Rather, I was hers
And I got so many damn peanuts because of all the motley crew that made
up our flight – the fighting family, the drunk lady with the bad ankle,
the woman bent double and praying aloud the entire flight – I was the one that stewardess thought would flip his wig if he didn’t get a little extra hand-holding.

And that attendant was right.

So, after another cigarette and a few moments of being unexpectedly but
thoroughly humbled, I bid the ankle woman a good morning and a safe
drive and I went back inside to find everyone at baggage claim.

“Everything okay?” Mr. Pink Eyes asked me, and I just nodded and smiled.

“Everything is better now.” (more…)

And we’re only a little poorer for it.

Vegas is a blast.  Let me just say that right now.  Vegas is
also every bit as sleazy and skeezy as you’ve ever heard or imagined.

Our first night there we had one of my favorite experiences: 
taking over a Blackjack table and playing with a fantastically friendly
and funny dealer.  This was awesome.  Angel managed to beat
the casino by a significant margin and Corwin was racking up dollars
every time he touched a slot machine or video poker, and so we just sat
around and drank and smoked and played 21 with this dude named Walter
dealing for us.  He told us all about his old roommate who
couldn’t pay rent but was a tattoo artist, thus paid him by doing a
huge tattoo on Walter’s back as he sat drinking beer and watching
Jeopardy every night, “Neighbors thought I was strange, sitting there
in the living room with blood running down my back.”  The Las
Vegas Club was cranking the Ramones while we played, and it was a damn
good time.

Gambling wasn’t as kind to us as we’d fantasized, with its occasional
tiny ups and tiny downs.  I didn’t make a profit but I also didn’t
gamble away hearth and home, so all was well.  Whenever anyone
brought up politics, someone would say, “That didn’t happen, it isn’t
real,” and then we’d start drinking again.

A definite highlight of the trip was going to see Purple Reign, the
Prince tribute band, at the Boardwalk casino.  Oh.  My. 
Gods.  Dude looked so like Prince it hurt.  Some
junkie was trying really hard to get in Prince’s pants and we were
rooted in the front row, grooving along to “Pussy Control.”  It
was awesome.

I think the best thing we saw, though, might have been from the hotel
room itself.  There we were, on the 33rd floor, and at night
when we opened the curtains we’d look out over the lights of Las
Vegas; in the morning, we’d wake to snow-covered peaks in the
distance.  Magnificent.

Our exurban excursion was to Boulder City and beyond, where we walked
along the Hoover Dam.  I think I should mention that by “walked” I
mean “clung to the wall” in my case, because the Hoover Dam is the best
combination of effects:  eerily beautiful and tremendously
terrifying.  And everywhere were items of memorabilia that read
“My Dam T-Shirt” or “My Dam Coffee Mug” or “My Dam Tote Bag,” and that
was also awesome.

We ran around, we giggled, we saw really painfully obvious hookers and
we saw a short dude stand in front of a $1/fortune mechanical swami and
scream, “I WANT TO BE BIG!”  You can’t pay for entertainment like
that.  It was amazing.  Surrounded by friends and the nonstop
laugh-riot that is the human race, I was excited and a little
overwhelmed.  I loved it.

But I am so very, very glad to be home again.  Gods yes.  Home is truly at its best when you return to it. (more…)

The Boyf and Mr. Saturday and I are off to Vegas – no, seriously – to meet up with Bascha and Katastrophes and Mr. Pink Eyes.  We won’t be back until Saturday, and I don’t plan to update from Vegas.  I mean, duh.

In the meantime, here’s the plan:  go to Vegas, get crazy rich, move to Europe.

You think we’re kidding? (more…)

I’m shocked – it turned out exactly opposite of how I thought it would.

On the other hand, it’s not the end of the world.  As apostropher said,
the threadbare silver lining is that Bush will have to stick around to
deal with his fuck-ups, such as Iraq and the deficit, etc.  There are
only so many hot-button issues they get on ballots as ballot
initiatives to get the Pentecostals out there en masse, and there’s
only so many Pentecostals they can get out there to try to counteract
what a tremendous clusterfuck of a presidency this guy has been.  Two
years from now, I’m predicting, the country will be in such dire
financial and diplomatic straits that their only hope will be to try to
amp up the nationalism/fundie vibe and hope there are, in fact, more
Bibles being thumped than even they realized.  The mid-terms on this
one will be ugly, and in the meantime I hope all those moderate
Republican “security moms” enjoy being lumped in with the theocrats,
because that’s what just happened:  we just became a theocracy. 

My only real long-term concern is the courts.  That’s something that
will be painful for decades to come.  But in the meantime, I think Bush
& Rove have put their egos ahead of the good of their party.  They
used churches and gay marriage ballot initiatives to crank out the
inbred mouth-breathers and in so doing have put their party in a fine
position for a backlash down the road.

As Mr. Saturday said this morning, “Damn, I guess I’ll have to keep volunteering.”

At least we didn’t end up with Ballantine.  Thank the gods we didn’t end up with Ballantine.  It’s a small victory, but I’ll take one where I can today.

(more…)

The only part I’m really pleased with is the last two or three pages of the first chapter, but right now I’m sitting just past the 9,000 word
mark.  I know that sounds absurd, but I started writing at about
12:45am this morning, slept a while, then hit Cup a Joe at Timberlyne
to start back in, came home, and then cranked it back up on the back
deck.

And it’s on. (more…)

How likely do you think you’d be to find a Democrat holding this sign?

Zell Miller doesn’t count.

Neither does my mother.

That’s what I thought. (more…)

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