Since I have hiatused from the facebooks, I don’t have an avenue for spraying the nibblets of my perspective onto the internet. In a way this is good, as I don’t spread myself thin with a bunch of impulsive yawps. On the other hand, I miss the ability to dash off a quick thought in writing here or there. Since I reserve this blog for longer, more fully-fleshed pieces, I’ll put out my little blurbs in aggregate.
1. Fear of a Black President
Q. What’s the difference between Adam Lanza and Barack Obama?
A. Adam Lanza didn’t win a Nobel Peace Prize!
Now that’s an edgy joke! But seriously, I recently finished Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars – or as it could alternately be called, The Big Book of American War Crimes: From 9/11 to Now. Though I may have been disappointed with Obama before, and upset about the drone strikes, reading Scahill’s book changed my feelings to complete disgust. It’s no secret that the Global War on Terror is a quixotic nightmare of death, politics and money, but to read in strenuous detail about how Obama embraced and escalated the creepiest, most cold-blooded elements of Cheney and Bush’s “GWOT” is difficult to swallow. Learning the hideous details of the al Majala airstrike, the Gardez night raid, the curious case of Raymond Davis, the murder of Abdulrahman al Awlaki (the only recognizable piece of him the family could find was the back of his head) and other deadly large-scale policy bunglings in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan made me sick with rage at times. I don’t know how Scahill managed to write such an anthology of injustice, folly and suffering without his very soul shriveling up and cowering in existential panic.
So now I feel like I’ve been had. I voted for Obama in 2008, with high hopes. I would rescind that vote if I could. Obama is a total murderous creep, smiling for cameras and singing Al Green as JSOC raids, air strikes and drones strikes – many of which he signs off on personally – kill whole families daily in regions that are powerless to stop them. Lupe Fiasco was right.
Obama’s not the only one to blame, obviously – but he is the commander-in-chief. He has yet to make any moves to curb the Military Industrial Complex, which has become a cross between an entitlement and a government stimulus plan – for death merchants. All I want for Christmas is a viable anti-war candidate. Kucinich-Paul 2016.
2. Proximity v. Privacy
I flew from Providence to Detroit (in two flights) on Christmas Day. On the first flight, I sat next to a woman who told me she hadn’t flown in 40 years. “The last time I flew, my mother could smoke on the plane.” she said before takeoff. I can’t imagine how strange the new TSA apparatus must look from that perspective, even after its long mellowing out from the lofty panic of the post-9/11 paranoid crackdown.
We were three in the row, and the three-row across the aisle had only one passenger – in the window seat. Early in the flight, the bearded man next to me began ordering his possessions assiduously – I thought he was preparing to use the bathroom – then smartly hopped over to the open aisle seat. This made me ruminate about a social nicety/not nicety that has puzzled be for a long time. That is – the long battle of space v. rudeness in transportation.
I rode the El and buses in Chicago quite often, and often had a same dilemma. Usually one doesn’t sit next to a stranger if there are open rows of seats available. It’s just a part of American culture to offer that space and privacy, at least in the places I’ve been. However, if one is led by crowding to sit with a stranger, and if no conversation takes place, and other seats come open, is it more rude to continue to impinge on their bubble, or to scoot away?
Maybe this is an easy question, but I’ve always seen an intrinsic rudeness in the act of ejecting. It is as if to say simply “You seem perfectly nice, but I’d rather be farther away from you.” As Don Cheadle said immortally in the film Crash – “Something something something, we’re lonely, so we crash into each other. Now give this movie an Oscar.” Still, given my feelings about Mosh Pits, I see a sort of positivity to the acceptance of proximity, and yes, I’ve felt a little rejected when the person next to me ejects. There should be exceptions for general weirdness, unpleasant smells, cell-phone obsession, crudeness of manner, unwanted conversation or, heaven forbid, touching or sexual harassment, but if two reasonable people should have to sit next to each other and give up a little personal space temporarily, what harm of it?
This seems like the kind of thing David Foster Wallace or Larry David would wrestle with. Have they? Either way, I stayed next to the 40-year woman. She was very pleasant and the flight was less than an hour long. I don’t regret my decision.
Last year I finished second in my fantasy football league. This year I won. Despite my improbable march to victory, I found myself caring less this year than ever before. I still like to vaguely follow pro sports, and watch playoff and other big games, but just don’t love it like I used to. I get bored watching football, and feel angry when commentators don’t acknowledge just how horrible big violent hits are, especially when they are showed over and over again in slow motion (they always go quiet, and never say the word “concussion” without saying “protocol”). I’ve grown weary of the vaguely political, hegemony-enforcing, highly catty gossip mill that is sports journalism. I’ll probably end up watching the Super Bowl and playing along for years to come. I wonder, am I growing out of sports as an intellectual, or am I losing interest because I’m getting old and out of shape – and because the incredible feats of these young supermen remind me of my waxing age and waning potency?
4. Dancing Fool Follow Up #1
I got a girl’s phone number at the dance bar Saturday night. The young lady – we’ll call her Mariposa – and I had what I would judge a good dancing rapport, busting silly moves and making funny faces at each other until we were both covered in sweat. She seemed reasonably into me, sticking with me as her companions tried to stab me to death with eye-daggers. She became visibly crestfallen when her friends (and sister, I later found out) tried to leave. During one of these panics (there were numerous false alarms) I asked Mariposa for her number and she punched it into my phone. Upon texting that number later to try and make a date, I found out that it was a different girl’s number – a “sonja in maine” who thankfully, was cool about getting a fairly bizarre text from me.
Was this deception by accident or design? Mariposa actually went to high school with one (maybe two) of my new friends in PVD – they recognized each other and made nice at the bar. I don’t think I pushed too hard or did anything creepy – I hope. I just want the truth!
The week before I had suffered a crushing defeat at that same bar, gaining the demure but very tangible attentions (my friend Mustafa saw and commented on it at the time) of a few attractive young women, but squandering those opportunities by being shy and weird and not saying anything (it could have been ANYTHING) to them. I was pretty disconsolate back at the apartment that night, loudly beating myself up for hours.
And that’s why Mariposa seemed like a step in the right direction. I was still a little shy, but at least blurted out some inane statements while we were dancing, creating a level of engagement that would have at least partially prevented the previous week’s meltdown. But alas, “level of engagement” or no, I’m back to the drawing board.
5. I’m Yelling Timber
I think I’m pretty good about not being homophobic.
One night after a silly night at Hanley’s (Providence’s danciest downtown bro-bar), Mustafa and Souleymane, my Providence friends, sought to sally forth at 2 am to their nursing pal’s house and keep the night going. As I was deciding whether to go along, Mustafa yelled “We’ll just spend an hour there”. Multicolored alarms went off in my head and I decided to turn in, heading to my customary repose on the pull-out couch in Mustafa’s apartment.
I did not sleep well that night. I heard the boys come home, in the wee hours, perhaps four or five. “Why didn’t we get shit-faced tonight?” Protested Souleymane, as bedding arrangements were made.
Some time later, as I lay in insomniac half-sleep, I heard one of the tracked parlor doors that bicamerate the living room slide open. I felt and peripherally saw someone looming over me. I turned to see Souleymane, who fixed me with a strange and purposeful look, softly singing Pitbull’s “Timber” under his breath. “I’m yelling timberrr.” He sing-songed, as he stepped out of his jeans and crawled into bed with me, taking his portion of his covers. It was a singularly bizarre moment. He was soon asleep, and I lay awake, sort of wondering what the hell was going on. This was the second time I had spent time with Souleymane, the first being Friendsgiving. The Providence fam are a little more open, generous and uninhibited in their friendships than I am used to. I thought this might be part of some tradition, some rich heritage of pranks and f-you’s to traditional uptight ideas about impersonality and social strictures.
I got up the next morning and out of bed. I fooled with the computer for a while – probably working on this blog – as Souleymane slept. When he awoke, he was confused. “How did I get here?” He asked, bewildered. He apparently did not remember clambering into my bedspace. I updated him and we pieced together incident with the rest of the apartment-mates as they arose, all in good humor. The whole thing was a big hoot.
Like I said, I’m glad I’m not homophobic. I might have been belligerent, frightened or otherwise uncool, had some anti-gay defense mechanism kicked in. Not that I’m saying there was any actual advance. I don’t know if Souleymane or I will ever know what his motivations were in that 5 am haze. Now, it’s just water under the bridge – a funny bonding moment that can be used in jokes with Souleymane for years to come.