Today I had to deliver my daughter, the Princess, to her high school in the rain. It is hard enough make the circuitous trip to the west in order to go south and then east again through all the construction and roadwork going on with stupid people who are somehow allowed to drive a car and carry a gun in Texas even though they don’t know what a turn signal is for or that a speed limit sign shows the maximum rather than the minimum speed you should go at every red stoplight and corner without there being rain to obscure vision and make the mangled pavement slick. You have to be able to concentrate and perform like a virtuoso while driving to make it there alive. I would simply not be able to do it without the car radio.
Driving the family car in Texas
The radio keeps me calm and gives my brain the power it needs to overcome obstacles. The jump across the river with the man-eating fish in it alone requires an energized brain and a cool head. I listen to oldies on the radio with KLUV in the mornings. It is how my children have come to love Don Henley and the Eagles as much as I do.
For the last seven years of my teaching career, I had to learn the hard way that music is critical to driving well, and driving well is the only way to stay alive on the mean streets of Dallas. I had a morning commute of 40 minutes, 30 miles, and 45 stoplights one way to my teaching job in Garland. I drove it starting at six in the morning to avoid traffic. But after school, I often had to labor for three hours through rush hour traffic on the way back home. I learned to switch the station to 101.1, the classical music station. Listening to Mozart and Beethoven not only makes you smarter, it makes you calmer. Calm enough not to get out of your car at the stop light and beat the guy in the car ahead of you with the detached bumper of your car that he knocked off while cutting in front of you because he was in the wrong lane to make the turn he needed to make and didn’t realize until 15 minutes into the wait for the red light to change enough times that our cars actually had a chance to make it through the intersection. Yes, that is a run-on sentence about road rage. And road rage is real. But in real life I didn’t beat him to death because of Mendelssohn playing on the car radio. It only played out that way in my head while the radio soothed my brain and prevented my hair from catching fire.
I owe my life and sanity to the car radio many times over. And I am resigned to the notion that I will probably need it many times more before the curtain closes the last time.
Truthfully… for a fiction writer, a humorist, a former school teacher of junior-high-aged kids, telling the truth is hard. But in this post I intend to try it, and I will see if I can stand the castor-oil flavor of it on my tongue.
- The simple truth is, I rarely tell the unvarnished truth. And I firmly believe I am not alone in this.
- Yesterday I battled pirates. (While this is not literally true, it is metaphorically true.) They were the scurvy scum o’ the Bank-o’-Merricka Pirates who are suing me for over ten thousand dollars despite my efforts of the last two years to settle 40 thousand dollars worth of credit card debt.
- I hired a lawyer, but in spite of what he told me, I expect to lose the lawsuit and be wiped out financially. I also believe Donald Trump will win as President.
- I am a pessimist. And it helps me through life. I am always prepared for the worst, and I can only be surprised by happy and pleasant surprises.
- My son in the Marines has developed an interest in survivalist gear and chaos-contingency plans. We are now apparently preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse.
- I like to draw nudes. I have drawn them from real-life models who were paid for their participation. But no bad things happened. It was all done with professional integrity even though I am an amateur artist. Chaperones were a part of every session.
- In high school I identified as a Republican like my father. In college I became a Democrat (Thanks, Richard Nixon) and voted for Jimmy Carter. I argued with my father for eight years of Ronald Reagan and four years of George H.W. Bush.
- My father has now voted for Barack Obama twice and will vote for Hillary this fall if he is still able. We spent most of our conversations this summer exchanging “Can you believe its?” about Donald Trump.
- I have been collecting pictures of sunrises for three years now. I stole the idea from my childhood friend who now lives in Florida and takes beautiful ocean sunrise pictures over the Atlantic. But I do it because I know I don’t have many more sunrises to go. I have six incurable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and COPD. I could go “BOOM! …dead” at any given moment. I believe in savoring it while I have it.
- I was sexually assaulted when I was ten years old. I can only tell you this particular truth because the man who assaulted me and inflicted physical and emotional pain on me is now dead. It is liberating to be able to say that. But I regret forty years’ worth of treating it is a terrible secret that I could never tell anyone.
- Telling that last truth made me cry. Now you know why telling the truth is not easy.
- I really do love and admire all things having to do with Disney. And when I was young, I really did want to find a picture of Annette naked. There was no internet back then. That quest helped me learn to draw the human form. I know how bad that sounds… but, hey, I was a normal boy in many ways. And I don’t draw her naked any more.
- Finally, I have to say… in all honesty… I don’t know for sure that everything I have told you today is absolutely true. Truth is a perception, even an opinion. And I may be wrong about the facts as I know them. The human mind works in mysterious ways. I sometimes think I may simply be bedbug crazy.
- (P.S.) Bedbugs are insects with very limited intelligence. They cannot, in fact, be crazy or insane. Their little brains are not complicated enough for that. But it is a metaphor, and metaphors can be more truthful than literal statements.
Filed under commentary, Disney, drawing, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, healing, humor, mental health, nudes, Paffooney, pen and ink paffoonies, pessimism, strange and wonderful ideas about life
As an almost sixty-year-old heterosexual man with a wife and three kids, I am really not in a very good position to pontificate on the North Carolina transgender bathroom controversy. I play with dolls and stuffed animals (though in my defense, it is more of a collector and wannabe toy-maker style of thing). A couple of my children may actually decide to consider themselves bisexuals (though in their defense, almost all teenagers go through this sexual-identity angst and it is fluid, not carved in stone). The religion I professed for most of last twenty years says that we should hate gender problems and treat them as a wicked lifestyle choice, not a genetically determined spot on the flexible continuum between male and female.
But I have known transgender people as a school teacher who was always approachable and who students often trusted with their deepest, darkest secrets. And teachers, by the very definition of the profession, care about students. The insensitivity of this stupid controversy breaks my old teacher-heart.
The truth is, transgender people in this country inhabit a bear pit full of angry bears that wish to rend them with claw-like condemnations and bullying treatment all because their preachers and opinion leaders tell them that they should be angry about this. But whose business is it really? And all the transgender people I have ever known, all two of them, were incredibly damaged people. Suicide is the most likely result of the depression and self-loathing that most transgender teens experience. I pray that such a thing doesn’t happen to children whom I have taught and tried to love for who they are. But it happens.
(I need to warn you… the next part is not funny at all… nor is it intended to be.)
My example story does not have any names attached. I will not tell you what happened in the end because transgender people are entitled to privacy. But I am using a concrete example because I want to share with you things I know to be true. The boy I am telling you about was really born a girl. He was a boy on his birth certificate because an accident caused by hormonal imbalances during gestation gave him a penis on the outside even though he had internal girl parts, including ovaries. He was not a hermaphrodite, though he was closer to being that than he was to being normal. His culture forced him to be raised as a boy, even though his thoughts and actions revealed him to be a girl. The people around him had decided he was gay by the time he was old enough to be in my classes. He was bullied, insulted, and abused in very Catholic and homophobic community. Things got even worse as he began to develop breasts. It was no wonder he acted out in school. The image burned into my memory was the day he threw a fit in the school hallway and had to be restrained so he would not continue to smash his forehead against the doorpost. He was screaming and crying and ended up having to be hospitalized on a protracted suicide watch. I never found out what set off the meltdown, but I can imagine based on the things I saw people do and say to him. I believe he eventually had a sex-change operation in his twenties. I pray that was a true rumor and not just wishful thinking on the part of some of his former friends. That would’ve solved much of his problem, if only it had been an option before so much damage was done. It might’ve been better if he had been allowed to dress and act like a girl from early childhood on… like the other one I know about but can’t say any more about. They deserve to keep whatever dignity and respect they still have. We don’t have the right to take it from them.
This has been a very difficult thing to write about. I hope, if you read this far, that I haven’t made you cry as much I as I did myself. But crying is good, because it means there is caring in a place where more caring and understanding are desperately needed. There are places to gain more knowledge about this issue, and I hope that you can see that more knowledge is what is most critical to resolving it. Let me offer a link from a right-hearted clergyman to help you know a little bit more.
A Baptist Pastor Tells You What He’s Learned About Transgender People.
Filed under angry rant, compassion, Depression, education, empathy, insight, medical issues, mental health, politics, red States, teaching
Sometimes the Greek god Pan attacks with darts of fear and suffering. Sometimes what has happened in the past comes back to bite us in the rear for no other reason than the bulldog of horrible past experiences does not know how to let go once his jaw is clamped tight to the seat of your pants.
Mental illness is not taken seriously enough in American society. We tend to think that every man, woman, and child ought to always be in control of themselves and never subject to bouts of craziness for which they can not be held responsible. I joke a lot about being crazy. I am not normal in any sense of the word. But my own real mental challenges are no worse than depression caused by diabetes. I get blue a lot. But that is nothing compared to what blew up in my face today. Have you ever seen somebody who is catatonic? Curled up in a ball and unable sit up and stop shaking? And what are you supposed to say to that poor sufferer? What can you do to help? Especially when they are no longer able to communicate with you, hear what you say, or even look at you. It is frightening.
And I can’t even tell more than this. The way we view this kind of problem in our society is a problem in itself. Depression and irrational fear can destroy the entire day for everyone involved. And the persons involved are shamed by what has happened. The solutions to this kind of problem always involve talking about it and discussion. But our society does not want to talk about these things. We are all afraid of slipping into the horror of the Oregon shooter, even though that is not even remotely connected to the problem and the things that happened today. The stigma is crippling. People don’t tend to face this kind of problem until it happens to them or to somebody they love.
The word panic is derived from the Greek god Pan. In mythology, Pan was a god of the forest and wild things, especially herd animals. He was generally a jovial and fun-loving sort, but if you happened on him while he was sleeping, he would awake with a sudden shout, and that shout caused forest animals to stampede. Thus the Greek word “panikon” meaning sudden fear became the word panic. Apparently I stumbled on Pan today and suffered the consequences. I am feeling trampled at present. Don’t worry, though. I have survived. And things that don;t kill us make us stronger. That is what convinced me that I am really Superman, and have only forgotten that fact because of some unfortunate kryptonite exposure.