Tag 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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Reason and Imagination

Note: I can no longer make the spaces between the paragraphs, so now it just looks like one big squished text… sigh.  Just thought I’d warn you, dear readers.  If anyone is having this same problem and fixes it, will you let me know how?

He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave.
  – Sir William Drummond
Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
  – H. L. Mencken
I like these two quotes next to each other.  
On the one hand, we are reminded of the necessity of thinking.  If we will not or cannot use our human ability to reason then we can never invent anything, we cannot avoid fascism, we cannot solve the daily challenges we face that are overcome with simple logic.
On the other hand, if everything is logical judgment, if every person in our lives must pass through the reasoning machine, then our lives become gray and tiresome.  We need the magic of imagination to get us over those hurdles that cannot be reasoned with.  Why did my loved one die?  Why did my child lie to me?  Why didn’t I get that job?  Sometimes we have to take the leap and forgive, turn off our thinking and just love, even if it is just our own self that needs the loving.
Love can’t be logical; none of us is perfect enough to deserve the adoration that we seek and crave, that drives us mad when we feel ourselves alone in the dark, out of the spotlight of someone’s eyes shining with love for us.  The species would never survive if we did not have enough imagination to see the angelic resemblance on the face of an infant who had just screamed through all our sleeping time, spit sour milk on our best pajamas and caused us to clean up foul excrement.
To love someone unconditionally might be to say: Let us use our reason to resolve a problem one of us has or a conflict between us, and let us use our imagination to build for ourselves that common ground called peace.

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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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Friends

My parents never had any friends.  I know you’re saying, come on, don’t exaggerate, but I’m being perfectly serious.  They still don’t.  It’s the two of them, punto final.  They are not particularly anti-social, they just can’t be bothered.

So, having had no example, I’ve always had to make up the adult friend thing as I went along.  And I’ve moved around… a lot.  So whatever friendships I’ve managed to build up have fallen apart.  With Facebook I am able to salvage some, and with blogging I find I can get super attached, because I don’t feel like I ever have to lose any of the great people I meet over the internet, assuming we all continue to choose to inhabit cyberspace, and assuming the continuing existence of cyberspace.  (Now that we have it, can you imagine our reality without it?)

But in real life.  That’s another story.

I joined a local group of homeschoolers.  I met them at the park a couple of months ago.  Instantly, I was home.  I’d known them forever.  Not a moment of tension or awkwardness.

Great, right?

Leave it to me to put a negative spin on it.

First, they’ve known each other for years and are like a real community.  It would take me years to catch up, even though they do make me feel welcome now.  Wah, woe is me, I wish I’d stayed somewhere so I could be an integral part of some great group… blah blah blah.  Pity pot. 

Second, there is no guarantee we will stay in this area for any length of time, and if we leave they just get added to the Facebook list of blasts from the past.  My husband and I have an agreement that we will go where his career leads us.  My life is about my kids, who I can raise anywhere, my writing, which I can generate anywhere, languages, which I can speak anywhere, cooking and crafts… you get the idea.  I am willing to make this sacrifice to be a part of the wonderful partnership we have.  Most of the time it doesn’t feel like any kind of sacrifice at all, especially if I think of my parents’ social norm.

And I really like these folks.  They make sense to me.  We are on the same page.  I don’t want to lose that… again.

There is a get-together, a winter party, tonight.  I haven’t RSVPed, I am using the lice, the fact that today is my husband’s payday and thus I need to run multiple errands, and my own social inertia to blow it off.  But I’ve been told by one of the moms that I can just show up, and I secretly really want to go.  I’m at the point now where I am entering the “Cheers” phase of belonging to the group, where at least one person will instantly know my name and greet me when I walk in the door.

I think it might be a need we have, as social animals, to be recognized by not just the people in our hut but by the village at large.  Some kind of security, some kind of mental and emotional nourishment.  Don’t know how my parents manage without it, but I guess that’s their prob.

I’m so glad I woke up early this morning so I can sit here in the quiet (such a rare treat!) and get my head together.  I’m so glad you were here to listen.

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49er Fantasy

No, not the football team.  Euw.

The miner kind of 49ers.

I’m from California, and the Gold Rush of 1849 has always been one of my most favorite periods in history.

The other day my daughter and I were watching a documentary of the pioneers and the Gold Rush.  It told the story of a family who went west to seek their fortune.  Usually men went without their wives and children and just hoped to make a bunch of money to bring home, or send for their families later.  But this family took off together.

When they arrived, the lady found that the miners would pay five dollars to have a meal cooked by a woman, which of course was a lot of money back then.  Well, maybe not to a guy who just found a bunch of gold nuggets in a creek and has blown phenomenal amounts of cash on booze and prostitutes.  Five bucks for a “home cooked” meal would be nothing.

But anyway, these miners had gone so long without being fed by their womenfolk, not to mention even seeing a woman up close, that she was greatly appreciated.  So much so that she was able to open a restaurant and make a tidy living off her culinary skills.

Now I know that some people fantasize about being Eddie Van Halen, or Angelina Jolie, or maybe even Bill Gates.  Having fame, fortune and glory is a commonplace desire.  But I haven’t felt as envious of anyone’s life as I felt hearing about this woman feeding all those men, winning their innocent affections and being compensated handsomely.  

I imagine, being her, I would feel like the most beneficent goddess mother, appeasing the boys’ stomachs and comforting their loneliness (she had her husband there, so I’m assuming that she was relatively safe from untoward advances.  Either way, nothing inappropriate figures into this particular fantasy of mine!)  They would adore me, looking up at me with their sad, scruffy, hungry puppy dog faces as I set before them some stew and biscuits still hot from the oven.  It would fill their bellies and warm their hearts and their homesickness wouldn’t sting quite so badly for just those few moments.  After their many months of perilous journeying, miserable gold panning, lousy food and rough male company, just the swishing of my clean skirts as I went to fetch the coffee would be like music to their ears.

Silly, I know.  But if a person’s fantasies reveal their essence, then I am all about food, earning a good living and being an adored mother-figure.  

I can live with that.

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