Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ignorance and Hate in the Tar Heel State

Okay, what's up with this whole bathroom thing?

Back on March 16, the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB 2, banning employers and businesses from discriminating against employees or customers based on their race, color, country of origin, religion, age or “biological sex.”

Which is good... ish. Problem is, by saying what can't be done, Carolina's new law is actually implying what can be done. Omitted from the bill's language is any prohibition on discriminatory practices against those who identify with a different sex than the one designated to them at birth.

Before we go too much further, help me understand why—what were the true motivations behind such a strange rule? Why did a state's congress spend so much time and energy crafting this legislation? Here's all I could come up with, as explained by Davy Doug Duggar, Carolina kissin' cousin to the celebrated Duggar clan of Arkansas:

a) Fear—"Y'all just watch. Y'all gonna see those goddamn abonimabations settin' up shop in every laydees room from here to Stoney Creek. 'Specially that one down the hall from the food court at Raleigh Mall. Y'all never mind how I know that, I just do, a'ight?"

b) Power—"Case y'all forgot, we're the waht gahs. We in charge. Y'all can take yer baby killers, Mexicans and freaks and dump 'em on off in San Francisco or Seattle or one o' them other shit holes in California."

c) The convenience of dealing in absolutes—"Ever since Adam and Eve was cast out of the Olive Garden, men have held sole possession of the penis. Except that Jamie Lee Curtis, and ah do love her work."

Feel free to add your own theory, because this whole thing freaking flummoxes me. And in terms of item c), while life is mostly grey, there are plenty of black and white issues I can get behind. Here's three off the tip of my tongue:

1) There will never be a perfect ratio of chips to salsa. Ever.

2) The coat closet can never be left partially open. Since moving in, I've closed it 6,022 times. Yes, I figured it out.

3) Cats are weird.

I mean, sure, at my current proportions I'm imposing enough to be Leo's prison daddy, but if I ever shrank to the size of a troll doll, first he'd torture me by slowly gnawing off my arms with his toothless gums, then finally halt my misery by clamping down on my little Adam's Applet.

Fickle beasts, they are.

Given more time to consider the concept, I'm sure most of us would be able to conjure up a few more examples of good and bad, of black and white, of right and wrong. But gender isn't one of them. What right have we to label someone as wrong or bad after what has surely been years of struggle and shamed secrecy in pursuit of his or her true identity?

I'll answer that one, too—we don't have that right. If you're uncomfortable with your kid using a public restroom, go in with them or find a single-occupancy "family" facility. And speaking of family, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, of the 69,000 child abductions that occurred in 1999, about 82 percent of them were perpetrated by family members, and 11 percent by friends of the family (or other adults that the child knew well). So, North Carolina, if you really want to keep your children safe, maybe y'all should look a little closer to home. 

This is simply another in a long line of smoke screens churned up by repressed conservative men to keep the usual suspects in line. Anyone who disputes that our lives contain shades of grey apparently hasn't figured out how to utilize the grey matter God gave them.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Yin's Fine, But That Needle's a Little Close to My Yang.

How open are you to trying to new things? Ever bought a pair of red Chuck Taylors, then actually worn them? Ever had your ear pierced in Canada then didn't get rid of it when you got back to the States?

Hey, me neither!

On a scale of one to ten, how game are you, with a one being, "Hey, Honey, can you hand me a new bottle of Pert over the curtain? You know I can't wash my bottom with a dirty head," to a ten being "Hell yes I'll eat that monkey!"?

While most of us fall somewhere mid-range, I've always skewed toward the "there's only one way to get to Tukwila" end of the scale. Sure, I've always talked a big game, but inevitably I've skedaddled to the comfort of my black and white cocoon of absolutism.

But when it comes to my asthma, experimentation has always bucked my conservatism. Since my first attack in '65, I've experimented with any number of inhaler cocktails, yet stuck to my tried and true friend, Albuterol, much like Donald Trump's well-documented dependence on Cialis and finger extensions. I'm a freaking OG vaper, which is why my adult life has witnessed a winding chain of steroid-based treatments, but without the benefit of large deltoids and small testes.

Prior to this winter, my only foray into eastern sensibilities had been a brief smidge of ponytailed dabbling back in the '90s, devouring Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in an impressive year-and-a-half. In summary, its message was that when we're able to shake free our dualistic mindsets (good/bad, right/wrong, subject/object), and simply experience every moment as it occurs, our egos dissolve and we become one with everything. No separation will then exist between the energy that powers all living things, a force within which God resides.

So yeah, while the whole Zen deal is amazing and enlightening and all that shit, not once in all those pages does anyone mention God shoving needles in my cheeks. And I'm not talking about the more insulated cheeks located south of the Bible Belt; if my eyes are midtown Manhattan, the needles are setting up shop in Little Italy.

Regardless, by December of last year, things had gotten to the point where, whether at work, home, the bus or the Target check-out line, I'd become a wheezing, coughing, throat-clearing phlegmbot, tirelessly annoying folks of all shapes and sizes, It was time to act or be assaulted by loved ones and strangers with equal impunity.

In January, I began weekly acupuncture treatments, and since, I've managed to vaguely grasp the theoretical reason why the Army Corps of Engineers felt it necessary to construct a weekly needle runway from collar bone down to lower abdomen, stopping just short of the more sensitive Silk Road to the Temple.

The gist of the theory is that when our bodies are balanced, energy flows freely from within and without. This energy is known as qi (pronounced "chee"), or life force. Qi consists of opposing forces, the yin (moist and cooling, emanating from the earth) and the yang (warm and invigorating, flowing downward from the sun and sky).

With my flow of qi impeded, an overabundance of "wind" or yin, becomes trapped in the lung, causing wheezing and shortness of breath. To combat this, needles are inserted along the lung meridian, one of nine energy pathways present in our bodies, to re-kindle the egalitarian relationship between yin and yang. In other words, the lung meridian is prodded with enough little lawn darts to force the twins back to the negotiating table.

Finally, following these months of treatments, yin and yang appear to have stopped fighting in the back seat over the last Red Vine, and Father Qi hasn't had to pull over and spank, as he calls them, "those goddamn twins."

Is all of this working? Has my asthma gone the way of the IBM Selectric? Not yet, but it's improved substantially. Unfortunately, I'm unable to fully attribute this change to acupuncture alone, since during this same period, I've eliminated dairy, lost some weight and implemented a regimen of 18 herbal supplements per day. But hey, what matters is results, right?

Actually, l changed my mind. The acupuncture is fully responsible. Let's order a pizza.

Friday, April 1, 2016

These Two.

I was going to type this up last night but I started throwing up. How's that for a hook?

Before I move on, a quick word about the process of vomiting—and it is just that—a process. Very few of us spontaneously hurl, as usually we're provided warning signs anywhere from minutes to hours prior to the ultimate act of yelling yogurt. I'm here to tell you though, somebody paid for express delivery on this one. I went from enjoying a beer on a beautiful Thursday evening, preparing a nice black bean soup (with bacon, where you leave the grease in the soup and it's freaking delicious) to bedazzling the bedpan in less than two hours.

Sorry, I tend to trend graphically in this forum and I do want you to read on, so I'll stop there. It's just interesting how, when the human body encounters a breach of security, it goes through a sort of NORAD Defcon level progression. And not to worry, feeling much better today.

I was planning on featuring my two daughters in this post, since during April the older kid turns 21 and the younger, 16. It's a big milestone and they've been subjects, sometimes willing but usually not, of numerous posts over the past seven years, Accordingly, I've decided my gift to them is Seinfeldian in nature—the gift of nothing—no interviews or greatest hits. You're welcome, darling angels.

Alas, most of the cute stories, the mispronunciations and heart-tweaking sentiments, the naive perceptions of life on Earth, have slowly evaporated with each passing season. And like many of my friends also experiencing this, I've tried to embrace the evolving nature of parenthood, from hands-on to hands-off in fairly short order.

April fools! Here are the top five quips from each daughter since this blog started back in 2009:

Older daughter (I'll call her Hermione):

3) December 5, 2011 (age 16)

Hermione: "Hey, Dad, I can see your butt crack,"

Me (I'll call myself Ryan, either Reynolds or Gosling): "Okay, do you want me to put down this hammer and this really small nail and this huge string of lights that's teetering on collapse and get down from this stool and pull up my pants? Huh? Is that what you want?" No answer. "Just look the other way or something." I pounded. I taped. I failed. I pounded some more. I swore some more. I pounded. Finally, success.

Hermione: "Dad, guess what? We filmed you on my phone."

Ryan: "You filmed me? Are you serious?"

Hermione: "Yeah."

Ryan: "You filmed the whole butt crack conversation, too?"

Hermione: "Yeah."

2) January 12, 2011 (Age 15)

Ryan: "It looks really short."

Hermione:"Dad, don't worry. I'm wearing spandex underneath, so even if it gets hiked up, no one can see anything."

Ryan:"You only need to touch your nose to hike that thing up."

Hermione: "Dad, just wait until you see me with it on. You'll feel much better."

Ryan didn't.

1) March 30, 2010 (Age 14)

Ryan: "If you could change anything about your first ten years, what would you change?"

Hermione: "When I was four, I wouldn't have peed on the floor of my room and wiped it up with your towel and put it back, thereby forcing you to dry yourself with my urine.

Ryan: "I wish you could change that too."

And now for the younger child (let's call her Chrysanthemum)

3) February 29, 2012 (age 11)

Chrysanthemum: "I let Autumn borrow my deodorant in gym today. I know I probably shouldn't do that, but I sort of feel sorry for her because she smells like..."

Hermione, interrupting: "Seriously, you guys, I was looking at my stomach in the mirror this morning and my two-pack is looking so good..."

Chrysanthemum, interrupting: "You just interrupted me."

Hermione: "Sorry. But really, check this out (exposing her bare stomach). Is this not a highly-defined two-pack?"

Chrysanthemum: "I don't care about your stomach. Can I finish talking please? Thank you...I forgot what I was talking about. Anyway, Ashley and Jonah are dating now, so there making it Facebook official tonight and then they're...

Hermione, interrupting: "Ewww! There's something in my Au Jus!"

Chrysanthemum: "You just interrupted me again! And it's a piece of bread. Stuff gets in your Aus Jus all the time! Look at mine. It's got stuff in it, too. Now listen to what I'm saying!"

Older Daughter: "I think I need a bang trim."

2) August 21, 2009 (age 9)

Chrysanthemum: "You know what I want for dessert?"

Ryan: "What?"

Chrysanthemum: "Gilletto."

Ryan: "You mean gelato?"

Chrysanthemum: "No Dad, I mean gilletto. Come on. You've had it a lot."

1) July 13, 2009 (age 9)

Chrysanthemum: "Dad, tell mom to change her clothes. She listens to you."

Ryan: "What are you talking about?"

Chrysanthemum: "Dad, Mom has a doctor's appointment, and the doctors and nurses are going to be really embarrassed to see her in her brown sweater with huge buttons. She looks super ugly."

Ryan: "People in our family are allowed to dress any way they want, including you."

Chrysanthemum: "But I always wear really pretty things."

Ryan: "Just leave your mom alone."

Chrysanthemum: "Just tell her to change her sweater, then. She can leave her pants on."

Ryan "I have to get back to work. Just let it go."

Chrysanthemum: "Okay, but you have a really unattractive wife going out in public."

Happy birthdays, my beautiful girls.