I Ain’t Gonna Lie…

It feels good.

It feels damned good.

C1EB3D0B-4C1C-4DE8-8058-CFB7B40B1B34Look, for whatever reason, ever since the day after everything shut down, I’ve been jonesing for a burger and a beer sitting out on the deck of my local dive.  Yeah, I know, beer isn’t exactly hard to come by, and I can cook my own burger.  It might make sense to do it that way — hell, it’ll probably even taste better to do it that way — but that doesn’t even come close to scratching this particular itch.

Crap, do I really have to remind you about the fact that I only really write when I’m sitting out at coffee places and taprooms/bars?  I’m not talking about tossing out a few hundred words here and there of marginal quality and little relevance.  No, I’m talking about a few thousand words of meaning and effort.  I’m talking about writing, dammit.

So, here I sit, reading stories before I start writing — stories off of even pro-Trump, ultra-conservative sites, mind you, to go with the neutral and liberal ones I also read — about 3,000+ deaths a day expected by June.  About the growing possibility of a “second wave” of coronavirus.  About the fact that those woods we’re walking through?  Yeah, they ain’t really any thinner yet.

Do I feel guilty?  Do I feel like I should be sitting, still, inside and isolated while I contemplate what to cook for dinner?

Err…

No.  No, I don’t

Look, I fully realize that eating a greasy, fatty burger and fries sitting on a public deck is killing me.  In more ways than one it is killing me.  But…well…it’s worth it, for the high.  Yeah, yeah…I just compared my afternoon to a drug.  Because, well, it is…at least to me.

001F8B7C-C3E1-4F34-9EC2-698204B2768ALook, I’ve spent my time with various potions, powders and pills.  I (probably) spend too much time with beer and coffee.  But my real drug of choice?  Yeah, today is it.  Grease and fat and beer sitting — socially distant, of course — in the sunshine while I write and contemplate the world.

So, this afternoon, I mainlined an oversized dose…and the high is everything I dreamed it would be.  I know there’s going to be consequences, but those are for tomorrow.  For now?  For right now, I’m gonna shove another french fry down my gullet, have another drink of beer, and revel in my personal version of escape.

Sweeping Out The Corners

I spent the last day and half of my newfound freedom — err, “furlough” — doing what it is freelance writers do: I worked up a finished article to send to a few pubs I’ve worked with in the past, and a couple of proposals to send to…well…anyone who might bite.

At least I wasn’t doing lists!

1237636_f520Lists are the freelance writer’s version of, well, selling your blood plasma — all you have, in the end, is a few new scars, a few loose coins left over, and a nasty hangover…

So, with all that in mind, what to throw into a blog post?

Well, crap.

Given that I’m sitting outside (after a day and a half in front of the computer), enjoying the sun with a gin & tonic in one hand and my iPad in the other, I’m struggling to put my thoughts, as scattered and pointless as they are, together into anything resembling a cohesive whole.  So…well…maybe I’ll do a list!

Ahem.

Do as I say, not as I do…right?  Okay, so it’s not really a “list” so much as my writer-version of sweeping out all the crap and dust and cobwebs cluttering up the corners of my mind…

  1. Lets have an adult conversation, for once, for the love of all that’s holy: too often, those in positions of influence and power simply refuse to believe that anyone else — anyone beneath them, in their view — are capable of abstract thought, rational decision-making, reasoned consideration, or any of the other adult behaviors we expect from each other every single freaking day.  The government won’t give straight information (both sides, mind you) because they don’t trust you and me to be all grown up and mature.  Similarly, neither will businesses treat their staff or customers as thinking, functioning adults.  No, instead, much like the government, everything is platitudes and generalizations and enough happy-talk to make a bitter, battered cynic like me throw up a little in my mouth every time I hear the same bullshit repeated over and over, ad infinitum (or ad nauseam, take your pick).
  2. Easter is when it all changed, by the way: everyone likes to say the eruption of coronavirus and COVID-19 were the “big change”, but that’s not quite true.  Oh, sure, that was a black swan event that set chaos into motion, but folks were mostly — aside from the conspiracy-theory, “it’s-just-a-flu”, “let’s-build-some-herd-immunity” jack-asses — willing to listen to advice and rules to isolate and and shut down in order to defeat the invisible enemy.  Then, seemingly suddenly, things changed.  But what changed, really?  Yeah, people were sick of self-quarantining, and of seeing the same walls and same family members every minute of every day.  Yeah, people were also starting to run out of cash and run-up ludicrous credit card bills — a problem that is gonna go off like a freakin’ H-bomb, mind you, in a month or two — but that wasn’t what really drove the change and “opening” we’re starting to see.  No, as far as I can tell — with a writer’s eye, as well as a historian’s — it comes/came down to one single, searing image: police breaking up Easter Sunday services.  You can say what you will about the United States, but it doesn’t matter what political or social “side” you’re on for the thought and concept of the government “cracking down” on folks gathering to worship to become strong enough to start a revolution.  It doesn’t matter if it is priest or pastor or rabbi or imam, or whatever teacher you choose to follow, we as a people have an atavistic hatred and fear of the government criminalizing worship.  I’m not sure if most folks can even step back far enough to think and consider and see that, but I very much believe that is true: one video, even one simple photo, of a religious leader led away in handcuffs for holding a worship service is about the most powerfully devastating thing you can imagine to someone in the US.
  3. Wait, coronavirus voted Democrat?!?: rather than have me type them all out, please insert here 15 or 20 of the worst curses, phrases and swear-words you know.  Okay, thanks for that, I feel better(ish) now.  As I’ve said before, I tagged-out of the political match a few years ago.  I’m not on one team or the other, I think they both do far more harm than good.  How hard is it, then, for me to watch the current politicization of this virus?  Err, please insert more curses here, and make them worse this time.  There are legit arguments to be made for both the “shut it all down” case, and for the “cure can’t be worse than the disease” one.  That’s fine, that’s part of — going back to point number one, up above — being an adult.  But when did politics ever involve adults, for fuck’s sake?!  The rest of the world has, for the most part, their shit in order…but here at home…  Oh, here at home…  Jesus H Fuc…err, insert some more curse words, please, and don’t repeat yourself this time!  The fact that the US has reached the point where quarantine/isolation equals “democrat”, while re-opening equals “republican” is the most criminally, pointlessly useless bit of political tribalism that I can fucking well imagine.  Get over it, people.  Microscopic life forms do not give one single shit about what useless sack of nothingness you voted for in the last election.  Just as much, a Depression and poverty also do not give a single shit about who you voted for.  How about, oh I don’t know, we think about the entire country for a fucking change?!?!
  4. Ahem.  Nothing to see here, I’m just using this space to drink some more…and to try and stop cussing.  Move along.
  5. 729318B1-DF21-420C-898E-4CF312DBE7E5“Show me what’s inside your head”: okay, so not really a topic, it’s actually a line from a song.  But, holy crap, is there a line more powerful or pointed for a writer?  Think about it for a minute.  Don’t worry about the song, or the artist.  Don’t worry about what you do for a living.  Don’t worry about the medium or the aesthetic or any of the other bullshit words and phrases we artists like to attach to things.  Just think about the words…and the concept.  To me, that line is not advice or observation or suggestion, that line is commandment.  Every single word I write, in one way or another, is a way to show others what’s inside my head — and, no, it ain’t always pretty.  It is, in fact, quite often fucked up, bitter, and confused.  It has also been known to be drunk, frivolous, silly, and no-holds-barred, squirrel-fucking nuts…welcome to my head!

There is one thing I want to add, and it is not really a part of the list above is.  It’s an explanation about a specific point in my last post.  To (try to) make a point in that post, I conflated Alabama and Saudi Arabia.  Now, I’m a writer…that means words and images and concepts have meanings.  More, it means I am responsible and accountable for the words and images and meanings I write.

I want to be very, very clear: I was in no way condemning the vast, vast majority of Christians or Muslims.  Quite frankly, humanity and our world/society are much better for the thoughts and influence that both have had on our world.  What I condemn, unequivocally and virulently, are the fundamentalist sects of both religions — of all religions — who move beyond personal morality and spirituality to try and impose their own beliefs on others.

I place, to be honest, the Wahabbists of Saudi Arabia in the same basket as the fundamentalist evangelicals of the US.  Both are equally intolerant, and both are equally evil.

As I’ve said more than once on this blog, your morality is your business…and mine is mine.  I respect folks for their faith — especially when it drives them to give and to help others — but as soon as your chosen faith becomes my unchosen commandment, a very dangerous line has been crossed…

Nerding Out FTW

Well, crap.  I did it to myself.  Again.

Those French shows I mentioned a while back?  You know, the ones I was watching just to practice the language?

Yeah, I started to get into them.

*sigh*

So now I’m binge-watching the crap out of them…binge-watching them to the point where I’m ignoring American shows and movies.  Hell, I’ve become engaged in them enough that the other day, when I was going out with a couple of friends, I tried to get everyone moving by walking towards the door and calling out, “On y va!”

The others, of course, just stared blankly at me.  I actually had to think for a second to come up with the appropriate English phrase!

And…well…yeah…I’m into the cartoons just as much, if not more.  Yeah the movies are great, and the cop dramas are…well…they’re very French, but the cartoons…

Some of those Gallic otaku can write.

maxresdefaultA big thank you, by the way, to Thomas Astruc for being a hell of a creator.  I know how hard it is to work within the well-defined lines of the “superhero cartoon”, but Astruc’s Miraculous does a very good job — maybe even a fantastic one.  To watch that show grow in development, complexity and emotion from the silly pointlessness of Season One to the depth and meaning of the “Chat Blanc” episode near the end of Season Three is…well…it’s that awkward mix of inspiring and endearing.

I started to care for the characters, I found.  I didn’t realize I had come to care — or, at least, I didn’t realize just how much — until the end of that third season.  But, by then, those characters had become just like beloved characters in other shows, movies and books: they were old friends who I wanted to see succeed.*

*Side note — if you can’t see others’ characters that way, you probably should be writing.  If characters cannot become real to you — whether they are yours, or those of other writers — then I’m not sure fiction writing is what you’re meant to do…

VSSuper_Nerd_PEOkay, look…I’m a nerd.  I get it.  I freely admit it.  Hell, I’m not just a quasi-nerd, or a little mini-nerd…I’m a full-strength, wear-a-Jabba-the-Hut-costume, learn-Elvish, go-to-Ren-Faires, full-time nerd!

I’m also sentimental as hell.

I owned those parts of who I am a long time ago, so I very obviously don’t see anything wrong with them.  If they make you uncomfortable or embarrassed…well…that’s your problem, ain’t it?

But back to the characters…

o_62hkWpLook, Marinette is great, and I think she makes one hell of a role model for young girls wanting a hero of their own, but…

But…

C’mon, y’all know me by now!  Of-freaking-course there was a but!

But, Adrien…

0ddbf326947a38e9ab303ef4a0260b1f7e2aef0b_hqIt’s not the Chat Noir persona that gets me, it’s the fragile, broken thing behind the hero.  It’s the fragile, broken thing behind the alter-ego, too, by the way.  It’s the hero who could sit there and sing (in a Christmas special) about the fact that he has no one…

Of course, I also think one of the most powerful moments in the entire show was when the supervillain — Adrien’s father, for the uninitiated — saw his (supposedly helpless) son falling to his death and screamed in pain and terror for all to hear.

Yeah, they nailed that one.

Look, the show — and it’s writing — has flaws.  It is, after all, a cartoon written for middle- and high-schoolers.  A cartoon meant to be translated into dozens of different xI4QAqNlanguages, countries and cultures, mind you…

In spite of that, I have to raise a glass to Astruc for what he and his crew have been able to pull off.  Characters and plots with real meaning?  friendships with complexity and tension and problems?  Shit, gay relationships in a cartoon shown in Saudi Arabama?**

**No, that wasn’t a typo — I can’t think of two places on this planet with more in common than Saudi Arabia and Alabama.  Both believe in repressing and vilifying anyone who doesn’t toe their insane theocratic line in all its details…

Look, most of you will read this post and offer up a shrug.  “What the hell is he talking about?” you’ll wonder.  Then you’ll go on about your day without another thought.  Some of you will think, even, “Well, he’s just as nuts as I thought.”  Others will mutter curses about silliness and pointlessness and wasting time.

But some of you…

Some of you will understand that maybe you can learn from cartoons…even a French one!

9c4d81892cbd08843b7f2e1303ae9e64.jpg

 

Hey, Look, I Can Do Optimism! I’m A Big Boy Now!

So, my father may very well be the most optimistic human I’ve ever encountered.  The man makes Little Orphan Annie look like freakin’ Mussolini, for Pete’s sake!

He also gets on me from time to time to remember that life ain’t actually all that bad…

Okay, Dad, I figured I would give that a shot today…

Actually, I already did.  I had a conversation earlier with a friend about COVID and politics and economics and all that other bullshi…erm, stuff.  Now, usually, a conversation like that would be enough to elicit from me more than a handful of four-letter words.

Crap, normally it would be easier to count the non-swearwords I used rather than have to break out the scientific notation to keep track of the rest…*

*”Hmm…let’s see…the phrase ‘fuckin’ ass-wagons’ is currently at four point two times ten to the nineteenth occurrences…”

The funny thing about that conversation is that I found that silver lining.  Err…well…at least I found my particular silver lining.

With the park closed…

With all the cars gone…

With all the people gone…

Holy crap is it a whole new place!  Now, I’m not technically allowed to go inside Yellowstone anymore than is anyone else, but…well…I know a few (hundred) backcountry trails that no one is gonna monitor, no matter how firm the closure.  See, Mom & Dad, the last 3 years haven’t been wasted after all: there’s something to be said for knowing the Park better than most of the Rangers!

Even just at the edges — which is all I can get to right now, until things open up — Yellowstone is a different place right now.  It is, in fact, a better place.  A much better place.

We tend to forget just how much of an impact we humans have on everything around us, even when we’re just trying to “appreciate” it.  But now?  Now, when no one can (technically) go anywhere?

Not only is the pollution visibly better…

Not only are the plants and trees thriving in ways they haven’t in several decades…

Not only is the park recovering as a whole from overuse and abuse, but the wildlife — my particular “drug” of choice, mind you — are rediscovering just what it means to be truly wild…

A mother grizzly and her cubs without a crowd of gawkers and photographers shadowing their every move?

A bison herd without random, drunk knuckleheads trying to “ride the big ponies”?

A wolf pack without the truly thoughtless trying to “pet” the “cute l’il puppies”?

The wildlife are running riot right now.  I saw more tracks and sign of various animals on my last hike than I have in a long time.  Okay, so I happen to know where to go and how to look, but it’s still a piece of wonder and joy to find them so easily…

Wolves and bears, yes…but also foxes and coyotes…more elk, deer and bison than you can shake a thousand sticks at…an otter family (the cutest, “funnest” things in this entire universe, mind you)…even a couple of freaking badgers!  All within ten miles of the park boundary…

Outside the boundary, of course.

Of course!

I would never, ever cross over without permission.  I would never, ever slip behind a ridgeline and cruise up a stream to a wolf hunting ground I know.  Nope, not me — I’m a good boy!

But back to that optimism thing…

GGIA-SilverLiningsThat is the optimistic side of COVID for me.  That is the silver lining to this particular thundercloud.  By getting away from our cars and our outings and our vacations, we have finally given the planet a chance to do some healing.

I would love to be optimistic enough to think we were smart enough to add two to two and come up with the same answer a few more times, but I know us as a species far too well.  The only reason we gave the planet this respite was because a virus held a gun to our heads.  That gun, sadly, still won’t be anything near enough to deal with climate change, pollution, overuse or any of the other evils we have visited on our poor world…

And, of course, there’s only one possible song for a post about optimism!