Category Archives: society

Phelps got it wrong

He had a chance to change public perception.

I don’t actually blame him.  The anti-pot crowd is entrenched so deeply in their delusions about the evil marijuana plant that you’d have to essentially sacrifice your reputation, your future, everything, unless you kowtow to their judgment.

Instead of apologizing, as reported in the general media, like this article from CNN, he might have said, “I smoked pot.  It shouldn’t be illegal.  You people have it completely backwards; instead of the pot-smoking reflecting on my gold medals, the gold medals reflect on my pot-smoking.  You all say that pot smokers are shiftless losers, that it destroys your entire life, that it is the gateway to all that is damnable on this earth.  BUT I WON EIGHT GOLD MEDALS.  Idiots.”

Like I said, I can’t blame him.  He’s young, handsome, has his whole life to win more medals and get more sponsors and rake in the loot.  Why should he put himself on the chopping block just to try to end a moronic witch hunt.

It’s just disappointing, that’s all.  If he’d been drinking a beer, which according to statistics as well as common sense wreaks FAR more social havoc and destroys  many more lives than marijuana, no one would have blinked.

But partaking of the devil’s own herb?  Tsk tsk.  Bad times.

Don’t worry, buddy, they’ll forgive you.  You’re America’s darling, and hey, even Clinton admitted to smoking pot.  Just didn’t have a picture published of himself sucking the chamber dry, that’s all.  

And maybe in its own pathetic way, your little faux-pas might bring the US closer to a saner drug policy, eventually.  The advocates of legalization might be able to point back at you from the distant future, show the judge and jury how the medals around your neck were chiming merrily against the bong as you leaned over to take a big hit.

You could have been their hero, your framed portrait hung next to Marley in every dorm room, but this’ll have to do.

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Progress?

True to my promise, I have been trying to think of concrete ways that I can participate in this move forward that we as a country are attempting.

One big area that I used to participate in a lot but have lately slacked on severely is taking better care of the environment. I tend to blame my slide away from greenness on where I’m living now, and after my recent attempt to investigate local green possibilities, it does not appear that I will get away from this excuse any time soon.

Cycling – out of the question where we currently live. I’d be run over within a week.

Composting & Gardening – we want to move out of our current house as soon as humanly possible, so there is no point starting anything outside. Plus, there isn’t any room anyway, unless I started digging up the front lawn, which is going to seriously piss off the landlord.

Buying bulk – I used to do this a lot on the West Coast (Santa Cruz and Eugene). Yesterday I went to a local health food store and found pre-packaged bulk items, which kind of defeats the purpose of using re-usable bags to go fetch your bulk grains, flours, etc., which would thus cut down on packaging. It was a small store, so I politely inquired of the three employees standing around chatting in the empty store if they knew of any place locally that had bins where customers could bag their own foodstuffs. They looked at me as though I were insane. So that ain’t gonna happen.

On the brighter side, here are some green things that might work even though I am living in an extremely pale green community:

Cloth grocery bags – I already have three from my previous incarnation as someone who cared about the environment. I’m going to check at Goodwill for old curtains or some other kind of sturdy cloth which I can cut up and make into some more bags.

Produce bags – in the past I’ve made some little mesh bags to carry produce home in (although a lot of things like cucumbers I don’t even put in a bag anyway) so that I won’t have to use any more plastic bags. I will invest in some twine and get on that project.

Homemade foods – I should dedicate more time to making things homemade, such as bread, so that it will reduce the amount of wrappers and containers that must be thrown out. Although, since I can’t find bulk flour, I’m going to have to throw out the paper flour bags anyway… if we had a garden, I could have a burn barrel and use the ashes to cultivate the compost pile…

If, if, if if if ifififififififififi

Hey, it turned into Fifi. Fifi the if-angel, the one that takes all your goofy fleeting fantasies, turns them into chocolate chip cookies and drops them in your lap when you least expect it.

A girl can dream.

Dream green.

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“Baby Food”

I recently found, in the Jan. 19, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, an article entitled, “Baby Food” written by Jill Lepore. I got to this quote and it just about made me cry:

“When the babe, soon after it is born into this cold world, is applied to its mother’s bosom; its sense of perceiving warmth is first agreeably affected; next its sense of smell is delighted with the odour of her milk; then its taste is gratified by the flavour of it; afterwards the appetites of hunger and of thirst afford pleasure by the possession of their objects, and by the subsequent digestion of the aliment; and, lastly, the sense of touch is delighted by the softness and smoothness of the milky fountain, the source of such variety and happiness.”

No offense, I swear I’m not a genderist, but I can’t believe it was written by a man; in 1794, Erasmus Darwin (Charles’ grandpappy) included this passage in his “Zoonomia; or The Laws of Organic Life.” I feel like it so beautifully expresses the whole, multi-layered experience. I realize it is written from the perspective of the child, and I wasn’t ever breastfed, and most of us wouldn’t remember it if we were, but it reflects so well the feeling of total satisfaction and well-being that pervades every aspect of existence when a child nurses.

I really don’t understand bottle feeding.

And the gist of the article is how many women now decide to bottle feed their breast milk. Yes, I know: work, partying, vacation sans enfants. But I’ve had to use a pump (my first baby was premature) and lemme tell ya, it ain’t fun. It is the worst of both worlds.

Whereas, in my opinion, breastfeeding, you know, out of the breast, is the best and easiest.

Anyway, if you have the slightest interest in breastfeeding or children, check out the whole article.

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If the events were to be scrambled…

Just hypothetically, because I like the weather out here on a limb…

Say that one heard about the two events yesterday (farewell speech and aviation disaster) and then the extremely cold temperatures made one’s brain short-circuit for a minute and one got a bit muddled in the head…

One might walk away with the befuddled impression that W.’s presidency was a plane crash that we had somehow miraculously survived.

If only he’d had that heroic pilot on his staff…

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Worth the Wait?

I’ve noticed that, in the South, cashiers will chat their hearts out to each customer. Regardless of how many people are in line, the person being rung up is the most important human in the world.

On the West Coast this sort of behavior would get you shot.

But when you stop and think of it, isn’t almost worth the wait to be treated like a neighbor?

I was in this situation today.  With each item the cashier would say some little joke to my 6 year old, who would giggle shyly.  Occasionally I would glance back at the line of four people behind us, watching for things that might be hurled at our heads.  All I saw were polite smiles or spacey faces staring off.  

Reminds me of our trip to Ireland.  I was going through customs in the London airport.  I had a nine month old baby and a four year old with me.  I had a luggage cart piled with three army-sized duffle bags and a suitcase.  I was about the 30th person in a line of about 50 people who had just gotten off the plane and were trying to get through that particular gate.  I had stood there only about two minutes when the customs officer at the front waved me up.  I smiled sheepishly and said, “Oh, I’m okay.”  I glanced nervously around me, hoping no one was cocking back to through a punch.  After all, I hadn’t accepted his unjust offer!

The people were looking at me like I was crazy.  “Go on!” someone said.  “You’ve got children!” someone else reminded me.  I slowly made my way up front.  The guy at the head of the line smiled at me without a shred of hatred as I was let through before him.

It was my first taste of the civilized world.

After five months of that, it was back to life in the Pacific Northwest.  Back to people turning their heads away from someone in need.  Where fairness is based on the mechanized rule of first come first served.  Where the cashiers will hardly ever speak to you, either because it is a culture of “time is money” or because they assume you aren’t cool enough or because the people in line behind you will kill her, or at the very least scream for the manager.

If you’ve never lived on the West Coast, you might think I was exaggerating.  Trust me.  One time in Santa Cruz, California, home of The Enlightened, I was at the bus station at about midnight, coming home from work, and there was a teenage girl sitting on a bench, looking uncomfortable as she actively ignored this drunk old street guy who was standing in front of her, talking to her at high volume.  I watched this for about a minute and then I went over and sat next to her and stared at the guy, repeating, “We’re not interested.  You can leave now,” until he wandered off.  Then I turned to her and rolled my eyes, as if to say, “Weirdos, huh?”  She looked at me and said sternly, “I was fine.  You didn’t have to come over.”

You’re freakin’ welcome.

I think I’ll wait a while longer, here in the South.

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Another intimate tidbit…

There was a 15 year span in my adult life during which I did not shave my legs.  Ever.

I had spent the previous seven or so years of my life shaving my adolescent legs, because “we have to.”  I hated every wasted minute, every painful red rash bump, every time the stupid guy who sat in front of me in history class would reach back and caress my shin and say either, “Ooo, smooth, who are you trying to seduce?” or “Oh, stubble, time to shave!”  In the way the a lot of teenage girls do not question cultural assumptions or the asinine way that people communicate them, I would inevitably feel alternately whorish or ugly.  And I continued to scrape the sharp metal against my skin.

Until I moved to Oregon in my early twenties.

Now, I know, there is electrolysis, hair removing cream, waxing, and a myriad of other methods.  BUT WHY?  Why do we continue to adhere to the purely vain idea that women must spend time, money and energy regressing to a prepubescent body by removing the natural covering of half their bodies?

Well I wasn’t going to do it anymore.

For those of you who have not had the singular experience of living in an area inhabited by a significant population of freaks, you will not understand the ease with which this decision is made.  You can walk down the street in shorts, leg hair flapping in the breeze (and to impress  you further, my skin is quite pale and my body hair, minus the grey on my head, is quite dark), and no one will bat an eye.  When you are surrounded by folks with their entire faces tattooed, by young people, white and black, with their hair in long scroungy dreads, by piercings and earhole-widening plugs and green spiked hair, the most likely reaction to a woman whose sole foray out of the norm is her hairy legs will be, “Geez, why are you such a square?!”

Thus, 15 blissful years.  

Granted, it took me a while to overcome my cultural training and stop being repulsed by the sight of my own bare legs.  It helped that I saw others similar to me.  I always wanted to high five these women, thank them for being a weirdo like me, but I thought it might progress the cause further if I just acted cool, as though saying “What’s the big deal?” might make it so for the rest of the world.  

I also had, about five years into this experiment, what might be considered a healing dream of sorts: I was sitting in a circle of men, all of us in shorts, our legs casually stretched out toward the middle of the circle so that when you looked down you couldn’t tell us apart.  It fit so satisfyingly into my gender ideal, which is that each person be seen for who they are as an individual and not be immediately put into a box based on the type of genitals they (presumably) possessed.

It was a habit that would be called into question when I met the man who is now my husband.

He is far too kind and understanding to have demanded or even suggested that I shave.  But I knew.  I could tell by those subtle clues that one must use with those selflessly thoughtful people to find out what they really think.  So I began to shave occasionally, usually just up to my knees.  Heck, I supposed that in doing so I was meeting him halfway.  Seemed fair.

And now?  Well, dear readers, I am currently living in the South.  The days of freakdom have (temporarily?) come to a close and I suspect that a stroll down the avenue with gorilla limbs would not be well received.

But I still hate it.  My poor gams are stinging as we speak.  I wonder if they might be willing to walk all the way back to the Land of the Weird and reclaim their right to be shaggy.

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Altered States

Sometimes I feel the need to make sense of our society’s drug policy.  For a brief moment in the ’60s (or so I’ve heard, having not made my entrance into this world until 1970) there was a subculture of people experimenting with altered states of consciousness, often induced chemically.  But besides that, we have all kinds of factions fighting against each other, none of them going anywhere except to hell in a handbasket: the “cool” drug counterculture, the illegal drug making/selling economy, the drug war economy, the poor souls fighting addiction, the puritan idealism that inevitably adopts a hypocritical position of condemning some chemicals utterly while accepting others without question, the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry, the tobacco industry, the alcohol industry, etc.

Okay, well, the legalized industries are doing fine.  But we often excuse their products as harmless, though in the last few decades we have been leaning the other way with alcohol and tobacco.

But we still allow people, including children, to walk around souped up on caffeine and sugar and few of us recognize these effects as altered states.  (I don’t know about you, but the most positive and productive I am all day is the hour or so when I’m flying on my morning caffeine fix.) We are only  just beginning to see them as powerful.  And our inevitable response seems to be to condemn them.

Are we capable of a more intelligent handling of the issue?

No matter where we stand on whatever drug issue, legal or otherwise, we all seem to be operating under the same common assumption: altered states are secretly fun, to some degree dangerous and always carry at least a small stigma of shamefulness.   Even with coffee, aren’t we addicts all at least a little sheepish when admitting our fixation?  Sobriety is held as the ultimate righteous state.

But might altered consciousness be something humans need?  Is it ever beneficial?  We might admire a Native American peyote ceremony for the soul searching and mystical insight it provides, but none of us is allowed to do it.  How would someone’s reputation change in your eyes if you found out they’d done acid?  

We allow, “I was just experimenting in college” and “I didn’t inhale.”  We’ve gotten to where we allow people to be reformed users, like George W., for example.

But for someone to be a respected member of mainstream society who proves their worth on a daily basis and is also a known pot smoker?  Nope.

We all have understandable fears based on anecdotal evidence of some type of chemical destroying someone we know and/or love.  We may even decide to buck the present trend and be against alcohol consumption.  But cars and motorcycles maim and kill lots of people, and isn’t that an altered state for a lot of people?  The power, speed, independence, road rage, status symbol possession… Most of the time we drive in a fairly sober, utilitarian manner, but who among us doesn’t ever floor it or take that corner just a little faster than necessary?  We definitely are not in our natural state, feet on the ground, head surrounded by sky.  Our heavy metal boxes put us in a certain frame of mind.

But we would never dream of outlawing them.

Our tv watching puts us in an altered state, a passive, drooling spectatorship.  How are the hours wasted and life energy atrophied away any different in front of the tube than passed out with painkillers?

Okay.  Granted they are different.  I’m just being dramatic in an attempt to make the point that we try to avoid sobriety in many different ways, some of them demonized as too dangerous and others labeled as simply “entertainment” or “transportation” or “java” some other moniker that makes them untouchable.

What would happen if we said, yes, we need to escape.  Yes, grownups are going to be allowed to choose their method of altering with no legislating and then they will be held responsible for any consequences of their choices.  The pluses and minuses of every method could be discussed freely.  We could openly admit that lots of things we do everyday, even something so innocuous as having a drama queen fit, are forays out of our “right minds.”  We could talk without shame about what we are looking for outside of our sobriety, about what we find there.

Or should we just continue to behave as though stone cold sobriety were the only way to be, ever.  That there is no time or place for getting out of your head or your day to day perspective, unless perhaps you choose Zen meditation, prayer, yogic breathing.  Newsflash — these things are seen as a little bit crazy, too.  Innocuously so, but nevertheless.

I hope this article did not induce any sort of altering in the reader’s awareness of reality as they’ve always assumed it to be — any effects of change in point of view, feelings of lightheadedness or hallucinations were purely unintentional.  Unless you go for that sort of thing.  In which case, you’re welcome. 

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