Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kein Mensch ist illegal

I had this to say about undocumented immigration while working in East LA in 2006. Not fully-formed, but still about right.
We can't keep turning a blind eye when we need people to do our dirty work, then sending them away when our economic needs are met and we start getting nervous about overcrowding or, god forbid, living in a city with more brown people than white people. It's not right (and this isn't the first time). It's not that they "do the jobs Americans won't do." It's that they do them in horrible conditions and for horrible pay that Americans, as first-world people, won't tolerate (and good for us). THAT is the first thing that needs to stop, and that's going to be hard, because corporate greed and exploitation is pretty much a cultural norm in this country at this point, with the treatment of migrants and immigrants being only the starkest example, not the only example.

Yet, you can't get upset at someone who's lived in dire poverty their whole lives thinking $7 an hour is huge money, and breaking their backs in violation of all labor laws (not just immigration laws) to earn it. Can you imagine that peddling oranges on the side of the freeway gives you more money than you've ever seen in your life, enough to save some to wire to Mexico so your kids back there can eat a little better? That's nuts. If you want to bitch about people coming here illegally to make a better life for themselves or their families, go read or hear about what daily life is actually like in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala. Then tell me you wouldn't be in someone's trunk headed for the border as soon as the opportunity presented itself. 

Yes, the whole situation sucks. It sucks for our infrastructure, our health care, our schools, and probably a few areas I haven't thought about. But we let it happen. Now let's fix it - and fix it in a more humane way than we created it, por favor.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Better living through absurdity

I've been a longtime fan of the odd rural Canadian hip-hop/alternative-or-whatever act Buck 65. How did I put it last time this came up? Oh yeah: "You know those CDs you love that you are careful to only listen to while ALONE in the car because it doesn't seem worth explaining why you like it?" Dude likes to rap from the point of view of, like, centaurs and shoe-shiners. Good times.

This guy's about my age and his midlife crisis was his wife moving out suddenly and leaving a note that said "don't forget to feed the cat." He went into such a deep depression he had to make to-do lists that said things like "shower." (Been there.) His new album is called "Neverlove" and it's about as cheerful as you'd expect.

The story goes that he got so tired of being miserable all the time he decided to write the silliest song possible and do it on tour to cheer himself up. He'd apologize to the crowd first. In the end, enough of the fans also found it amusing that he recorded it. Then, to further make himself laugh to keep from crying, he made the most ridonkeykong video he could think of. I have no idea if this story is true or if Buck 65's divorce was a convenient excuse for him to make a terrible EDM song, but I want it to be true. I was not in the best headspace either the first time I saw this and it DID give me the first good laugh of the week. I still giggle every single time.

I want to get messed up and get laid and cake on my birthday! Well, who doesn't?

Monday, October 27, 2014

like Bourdain and his oysters, sort of

When I was 21 years old I left my time zone for the first time. I thought that was the important part. It was also my first big (a week!) vacation with my then-boyfriend-now-husband. I didn't at the time know how important it was to be travel-compatible with someone if you're going to be together a long time, but then, when you're 21 you're not counting on being together with someone a long time. It was my first big road trip. It was when Rick picked out that damn cat.

What we thought at the time was a mundane/obligatory stop to see Rick's aunt and uncle outside DC turned out pretty interesting. Rick hadn't seen his aunt in a decade and we thought that would be weird and it wasn't really. We went to a museum and back in the car Rick's uncle turned to us and said we were welcome to come with them to a party that night that a friend of theirs, a Japanese chef, was giving. "Or, I don't know, maybe that would be boring for you. You wouldn't know anyone," he backpedaled. "If you'd rather, we can hang out at our place and order pizza."

Rick and I exchanged one of the earlier no-words-needed couple-telepathy looks of our relationship and quickly said we'd rather party with their chef friend. If Uncle Don had been looking for an excuse to not bring the kids, or an excuse to get out of it himself, we did not give him one.

When we got there said Japanese chef friend (I don't know whether he was a chef of Japanese food or Japanese descent or likely both) greeted us with enthusiasm. "Welcome! Want a beer?" It was summer in Maryland and it was hot. I asked for water because I was dying. "WATER?!" I assured him I would pound it and be on to beer ASAP. That pleased him. 

(What beer was it, my friends of now might ask? I don't know. Nothing good. It didn't matter. It was 1996. I was drinking Harpoon Hefeweizen and Boston Beerworks Blueberry back then. Who cares.)

We made small talk as best we could with these much older yet much cooler people. Rick's aunt was/is a food writer so lord knows how out of our league we were. We gave attention to the impossibly cute Dalmatians wandering around (I mean really). 

At mealtime, the Japanese chef spread newspaper over every surface and dumped massive numbers of crabs onto them. 

Rick and I exchanged another wordless look.

This is how we liked to travel. We were going to do more of this type of thing if possible. Yes. We are going to say yes to things that sound possibly awkward but also possibly awesome. This works. 

Thank you, DC chef guy, whoever you were. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hating someone's guts

(CYA: there's beer drama in my corner of the Internet today. This is NOT about that. This is about me publishing my drafts folder some more because writing is important.) 

Long ago, a younger me accepted the wisdom of a younger Henry Rollins: hating someone is giving them too much of yourself.

Hating Someone's Guts (part 1) by Henry Rollins on Grooveshark

As I'm staring down the barrel of 40, it's been a long time since I hated anyone. There's people I dislike, but it's often mixed -- at times heavily -- with feeling sorry for them. If you're so unpleasant even my grouchy ass thinks you're unpleasant, that sucks, and I'm glad I'm not you.

I can be quick to anger and equally quick to feel sheepish about it. Everyone who's worked with me or lived with me knows, I can be yelling at you at 5pm, apologizing at 5:05, and joking around at 5:10. Hanging on to anger and grudges helps nothing. That's where baggage comes from and I've got enough baggage already. I think it's also why I'm well-liked at work (and home, I hope!) despite my quirks.

I know everyone's got their own fight and people in pain often lash out. If I didn't know these things, I couldn't have continued working with teenagers whose whole goal in life some days seemed to be talking about me to my face in the most humiliating way possible. Kids savvy enough to survive in South Central are savvy enough to quickly intuit the things you like the least about yourself and call them out, repeatedly and with colorful language. I didn't enjoy that but they were children and I knew they had dads in jail and moms on the corner and etc etc etc.

What's difficult is forgiveness when a grown-ass adult has treated you like garbage and hurt people you care about. It's hard to understand the people who still choose to have such a grown-ass adult in their lives. But I guess I can't get too mad about people who haven't yet figured out a shitty person is shitty when it took me a while myself.

But, forgiveness. Not giving someone too much of yourself. Feeling sorry for people lashing out because they're probably hurting too. Finding it sad, not infuriating, that some people have had such a taxing life that they no longer care about anyone but themselves. Being the better person. I'm trying, man. I'm trying. But Henry Rollins admitted a minute later that he hates Edie Brickell and built the rest of his spoken-word bit around joking about it. Nobody's perfect. I'm gonna keep trying. Maybe everyone has an Edie Brickell, so to speak. But no one person you don't love, let alone like, should be important -- at all. I'm working on it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I got the green light, got a little fight, gonna turn this thing around

(emptying the drafts folder, this is from Tuesday or something)

I'm writing this from my new computer. It's a $250 Chromebook that I've taken to calling "my Internet typewriter." There is no social media on this computer. (C'mon, blogging doesn't count...) This doesn't ensure that I'm going to get any writing done, because even now I'm like "I should write someth- ...ooh, there's that page of 13 Brass Band Cover Songs that I didn't finish listening to!" Maybe having the Internet on this typewriter wasn't so smart.

Money can't buy happiness, but I'm pretty happy to be typing something and having the words, not the Mac pinwheel of death, appear on the screen. I bought my old computer in 2007. That's a lot of water under the bridge.

It feels good to have $250 to spare, and to have a tool that does the job it's supposed to, which I guess at this moment is "play the brass band version of Bohemian Rhapsody while Jen types into her online diary." I mean, yuck. I'm the worst.

I got the computer on Friday and on Sunday I told a friend "yeah, now all I need to do is get a bike" and she said she had a bike she's been meaning to give away.

Let that sink in for a minute. I'm going to start telling people "yeah, all I need is a million dollars and a brewery lab job for my husband" and see if that shit keeps working.

This year's been gnarly. The friend of mine who both moved out of the country and became a dad this year keeps saying *I've* had a lot on my plate lately, so that can't be good. But now I have a computer that works and someone like GAVE me a fucking bike. It's the little things. I think I'm ready to tell the rest of 2014 who's boss.