Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blood Moon

Blood Moon
My son, who is 11, heard there was to be a blood moon and a lunar eclipse this morning.  He asked me to wake him up early so we could watch it.  Normally, we wake up at 6:20 A.M.  The eclipse starts at 5:27 A.M.  For some reason, I snapped wide awake at 3:27 A.M.  Now I'm staring into the internet in a daze.

My eyes are blood moons.  What do we see?

When I look at my son, I see me.  My wife often hears my concerns about how he will experience school and bullies and humiliations and responds with with "he's not you."  Okay, my son is not me, but he's a lot like me.  A lot.  And he won't have all the same experiences, but he'll experience some of them as a consequence of the character we both share: he prefers solitary activities to group, he's not an assertive speaker, he's well-mannered and wants to entertain but isn't especially charismatic, he's smart enough but doesn't have natural talents.  

To her point, at 11, my son is already better-adjusted than I was.  11 was the age at which I shut down and put shields up.  It was 5th grade and I gave a girl a Valentine, and she openly mocked me about it with her friend.  That was the moment.

I had been dumped on my grandmother by parents who didn't especially want to raise me, and she did her best, but that included sending me to school in thick plastic glasses and hand-me downs, white shoes with brown socks.  She'd grown up poor and done with good-enough, and wasn't really in touch with social climbing in the 80s.   I was a little fat kid who was bullied and there was no male in my life to help me handle it -- when I'd report it to my grandmother, she'd blame me: "What did you DO that they picked on you?"  When our yard got rolled with toiler-paper one year, I was blamed, as though it was revenge for something I'd done.

Anyway, prior to the Valentine, I was already beginning to understand my place at the bottom of every pecking order.  But that was the specific event that shut me down.  I shrunk inside myself like a turtle into a shell for years.  I didn't speak to a girl my own age apart from family until 11th grade.  And I was scared all the time of the boys.  I missed a lot of social development.  No one at home or school seemed to notice this was happening.

I was never diagnosed with autism, but like everyone else, I'm SOMEWHERE on the spectrum (I actually think Avoidant Personality Disorder is the closest diagnosis).  My son was diagnosed with autism pretty early, but he's very high-functioning.  In fact, compared to me at the same age, he's -- well, not a social butterfly, but as far as I can tell, and I've probed, and interrogated his teachers, he's friendly and well-liked by his classmates.  I really haven't seen anything that's got me worried, that would indicate that my child's school and social experience is like mine: suffering, endless anxiety, ultimately avoidance and loathing...    

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think part of the reason my son is doing better than I did is the presence of a dad in his life.  Early on, I got primary custody of him and raised him for several years by myself.  His mother didn't want the job and I did.  I was determined that he was not going to grow up without a male to show him approaches to how to live.

Sometimes I go too far -- I lay out a path for him and guide him along it, rather than letting him find his own way -- but I'm getting better about pointing him at a problem and kicking him in the pants to go figure it out himself.  He'll be a teen soon enough and wanting to do his things his way on his time-table, so I'm working on giving him room and encouraging responsible independence.

But for now, even at 11, when he reaches for my hand in a parking lot or walking home from school, I take it.  I think when other parents see that, some of them may wonder if that's "sissy" or something, and I think "you know, I never in my life have looked back and thought 'I wish my dad had held my hand less'.  I don't care what people think."

So when he asks me if we can wake up early and go watch a big red moon together, of course I will.  I'll set my alarm for 5:20 and be wide awake two hours early so there's no chance I'll oversleep.  I wouldn't miss it.

***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website. @JPSterling

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Elect Me King and I Promise to...

My brief opinions on U.S. political matters of the day... am I Liberal?  Conservative?  Or some kind of tranny?

Raise the debt ceiling?  Duh... we have to pay bills we've already piled up.

Balanced budget amendment?  Yes.  Eventually we have to balance the budget again.  Unless we want to continue to prop up a false prosperity while we're actually circling the toilet bowl.

Raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires?  Yes.  You fish where the fish are.

Cut the deficit?  Don't just diet or exercise.  Diet AND exercise.  But don't starve yourself or think you have to lose all the weight overnight.

Means testing for Social Security and Medicare?  Of course.  Millionaires don't need a Social Security check or extra health insurance.  But wait, you say -- they paid in.  Yes, and in return they got to live in a country where they could become millionaires.

Raise the age to receive Social Security?  Yes.  People live longer than they did in the 1930s.

Wage wars without raising taxes to pay for them?  No.

Wage wars at all?  None since WWII.

Military spending?  Bloated and wasteful.  You could feed a lot of poor people with the money it takes to keep an aircraft carrier afloat.  Defense is not the same thing as "World Police".

Military men and women?  People who wanted a job.  My issue is with the policy makers who put these people's lives on the line.

Corporate subsidies?  No.

Farm subsidies?  No, except when food prices threaten to get overheated.

Obama stimulus package to avoid Great Depression 2?  Yes.

Did the stimulus package work?  I think it would have been much, much worse without it.

Bailout of Wall Street?  No.

Awareness that the consequences of not bailing out the banks would have been truly devastating to the US economic house of cards?  Yes.

Wait a minute, now... Yes, stimulate the economy when necessary.  Yes, let businesses that fail, FAIL.

Obama?  Another corporate lackey.

Republicans?  Mostly evil as shit.  They make Obama look like Jesus.

Democrats?  The gang that couldn't shoot straight.  Constantly finding new ways to skitter in embarrassing circles.  But some of their hearts seem to be in the right place.

Relax.  I'm here to fix everything.
Republicans again?  Well-funded sharks, with laser beams on their heads.

Business?  Exists to take your money.

Working people?  Who government should be serving.

Public sector workers?  Not the enemy.

Corporations?  The enemy.

Government?  The only Kryptonite we have against corporate power.  Unfortunately, the corporations own the Kryptonite mining operations.

Obamacare?  A start.

National health care for everyone?  Big YES.  Are we civilized or are we fucking barbarians?

If you disagree with me, it probably means that I'm wrong, you're right, and that my opinion doesn't matter anyway.  But just remember -- I vote.  And my vote cancels out your vote.  Just a little something to suck on.

***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website. @JPSterling

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You're the Soup

As part of my current diet, I gave up caffeine.  But I made a deal with myself.  Once a week, I can drink or eat anything I want.

I think that in the past, part of what's derailed my diets is that I swear to myself that I can never again for the rest of my life eat a sausage biscuit, and then days later when I've found a rationalization for doing exactly yummy that, I feel like a loser.  I made a promise to myself and broke it.  I made a plan and couldn't follow through.  What a willpower-less wimp.  And that's when the diet wheels come off.

So this diet-time around, I've taken a different tack.  I give myself Saturdays off.  If I want to eat pizza and guzzle strawberry milkshakes all day one day a week, I've given myself permission to do exactly that.  It's not necessary to go the rest of my life without ever eating Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream again.  I just have to earn it by eating the way I should the rest of the week.

Success breeds success, though, and -- what, more than three weeks into the diet now? -- when Saturday comes, I don't make as much a pig of myself as I might because my stomach is shrinking and I get full faster.  Yesterday, for example I did have two biscuits for breakfast, but I had a big salad for lunch, and at dinner I wasn't really hungry so I snacked on some Cheerios.

The problem was the Big Gulp Diet Mountain Dew I drank while we were out hitting the garage sales.

As is my way, it's taken me six paragraphs to get to the subject.  Sticklers for precision and brevity won't have even gotten this far, so it seems you're my kind of reader, and I should reward your patience by sharing some sinister secrets or a snippet from a spicy story about seduction and sex.  You know, hide the juicy stuff deep into the blog post, wait to get naked till we've gotten comfortable with each other.  Servants!  Chocolate covered orgasms for all my friends!       

As is my way, it's taken me seven paragraphs to get to the subject.  The Big Gulp Diet Mountain Dew.  Not drinking caffeine six days a week has given me a clear look at what the actual effects are that caffeine has on me.  As it turns out... the eye twitch I had that made me think I had some kind of neurological disorder?  Well, I hadn't noticed it, but it had gone away when I stopped drinking caffeine.  When I drank the Mountain Dew, blam!  After a couple of hours, I started winking uncontrollably.  And there's more.   

All my life, I've had obsessive thoughts.  Don't worry, it's nothing insidious.  You know when you get cut off in traffic and the guy who did it leans out of his car window and calls YOU "asshole"?  And then all day, you think about that exchange, going over in your mind all the things you could have or should have yelled back?  What I think is just like that, except I do that about everything.

On my worst days, it's as if every human exchange I have happens in a courtroom, and internally, I'm perpetually in the process of defending my every action and choice of words.  But I'm also the prosecutor, poking holes in my own reasoning and putting forth the case that I'm a worthless, terrible person who can't do anything right.  And at the same time, I'm my own judge.  And not a stern but comforting and fair television judge -- I'm a small-town, corrupt good ol' boy judge who got paid off on the golf range earlier that day to find myself guilty.  If you have a problem with me, don't worry, I've probably already thought of it and punished myself for it.

But those are the bad days.  On a normal day, I can use that anxious energy to get stuff done.  I have to get my work done or, or -- or what?  Doesn't matter, had a productive day.     

When I was young, I thought I was "analytical".  I got older and wonder if I'm just fucking crazy.  But maybe it's better not to know that.  If I peeked at a diagram of my mind, it would probably look like the jumble of wires behind my desk, and there's no way I'm crawling back there to see what's connected to what unless the printer stops working.  Too much dust, and spiders.      

So the Big Gulp Diet Mountain Dew?  It puts my personal brand of hyper, worried thinking into overdrive.  My normal low-level anxiety is what nature gave me instead of a personality.  Caffeine takes my normally fretting but reasonable Dr.Jeckyll and transforms him right past Hyde into a deranged and rabid shit-flinging flying monkey.

I wouldn't have known this, though, if I hadn't stopped drinking caffeine.  Drinking it after not drinking it for six days makes its amplifying effects abundantly apparent.  As it turns out, drinking caffeine every day for years might not have been the best thing for me, no matter how "focused" and "productive" I felt like it made me, and how "listless" and "unmotivated" I thought I was on days I didn't partake.     

"That's something you'll just have to find out for yourself," she said, pulling her panties down around her ankles and tossing them to the floor.  She stared at Karl's face as his eyes tiptoed up and down her small, athletic body.  "I've wanted this for a long time.  You don't even know."  As Karl stepped toward her, confident and erect,  he didn't notice her slender fingers sliding under the pillow toward the pistol.  "So long..." she said.   

So I told you all of that to tell you this.  It's hard to self-monitor.  It's hard to tell whether the soup has enough salt when you're the soup.  I don't even think people are even half self-aware until around age 30, and even then there's the danger of becoming a self-caricature.

It's easy enough to see what someone else is doing wrong, what he or she should try to do differently.  Easy when you have a perspective that's not from inside that person's skull, seeing through the gauze of his own experiences and prejudices and rationalizations.  It's harder to see in yourself. 

Your posts on Facebook may reveal you to others but not yourself.  For example, if your profile photo shows you grinning and brandishing a can of beer, but you complain that you are unemployed.  Or if in one post you are asking where the party is, and in the next you are griping about your mystery headache and fatigue.  Or if you are someone who drinks coffee all day long, and you fuss about your unexplainable insomnia.  Or if you constantly post about the delicious Moon Pies and devil's food cake burritos and cinnamon toasty banana caramel milkshakes you've been enjoying, then ask for sympathy for your obesity, diabetes, and latest knee surgery.  Or my favorite - if you can afford to smoke cigarettes, but you bitch about not having any money. 

How would your life be different if you viewed yourself in third person, if every night you had to watch a video-tape of you going through your day?  Would pimples we think we cover with make-up actually look like boils?  I won't ever be ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille.

Maybe if someone had told me years ago "Hey, the reason your brain is like a jumpy jumping bean is that all these sodas you've been drinking have a powerful drug in them..."  Well, I would have known that already but I wouldn't have listened, of course.  In my teens, I knew everything already.  In my 20s, I knew everything about everything and everybody else except myself.  In my 30s, I knew everything about everybody else, and myself, except I was wrong.  In my 40s, I know everything except the things I don't know, and the things I know which can change. 

At least I finally figured out to try to hold up a mirror.           
***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website. @JPSterling

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sure. Can I See a Picture ID?

Every so often I'll hear someone, usually an older person, say something along the lines of "I would never use my credit card to buy something on the internet!" The World Wide Web is well-known as a den of thieves, and there are plenty of ways to get your credit card information and your identity stolen online. Granted, you usually have to do something stupid or naive, but admittedly, the only 100% surefire way to not get your bank-card number stolen online is to never buy anything online at all.

My personal typing technique, which I call "The Claw"
Now, I shop online all the time. I make my living buying things from people and selling them to other people and making online transactions. I use Paypal, I use my credit cards, I've never had a problem, and millions of other people have no problems buying billions of things for trillions of dollars every day. Bad things can happen, they're a headache, but you can also lose the millions you've sewn into your mattress if there's a fire. To be alive is to be treading in a river of risk.

What amuses me about folks who won't use their bank cards online is that they often don't hesitate to hand them to complete strangers. If you're that worried about someone stealing your credit card number, why are you so quick to release it to a high-school kid at a Chuck-E-Cheese, and then punctuate the exchange by voluntarily issuing to him a copy of your signature? Is there something about that $7.25 an hour he's making that makes him more trustworthy than

Consider this. You've been standing at the perfume counter for 10 minutes and you're sick of waiting for the counter girl to deal with another customer. You've had a long day and your feet hurt and when the girl gets to you, you're huffy and short and nasty and blame her for your bad experience, even though she's probably earning minimum wage and isn't the person who made the schedule that's left the counter short-handed. You're cruel to the little wench and you don't even know why, but you can see in her eyes that you've hurt her and made her more than a little angry, though she maintains the facade of the professional smile. You smile back the "sucks to be you" acknowledgement that part of the price you're paying for the cologne you've picked out is your opportunity to be bigger than someone else for five minutes.

Rather than apologize, you look at this girl you've just wounded, who you aren't aware is a single-mom working on her nursing degree and surviving on three hours sleep a night and who has dealt with bitches like you all day long and has just about reached her limit, and hand her your credit card. Now she has your credit card number, your secret three-digit security number from the back of the card, and a moment later, your signature. You have just willingly handed your personal information to someone you've been completely shitty to, and who has every reason to want revenge on you. What stops her from writing down the numbers from your card and tracing your signature off of the receipt in the register drawer, then passing them off to her boyfriend Marcus so he can buy a flat-screen TV?

Later, you hand your card to the mysteriously handsome ethnic guy at the convenience store, who has 13 cousins who traffic in goods around the world who speak 7 languages between them and who "know people". You give it to a pimply, frog-throated boy who sells you popcorn at the movies, a guy who has been hacking computers for as long as he's been alive, who could max your card out buying electronics and never be traced but prefers to bundle credit card numbers and auction them on the black market. That night, you willingly hand your card to the friendly grandmother/cashier at the grocery store who you think is named Betty but who is actually Esmerelda Johannsen, a satanic priestess who has a meth lab in her basement and who uses stolen credit card numbers to finance the development of a fluid-transfusion machine which she believes will give her eternal youth.

I'm just saying.

"So that was one burger meal on Visa #59004-3664-2356-41216 with security code 478, Mrs. Shirley Cartwright signed with a big pretty sweeping 'S' and one long line crossing both 't's?  Can I get your zip code with that?"

An online credit-card transaction is just a credit-card transaction. You never really know in whose hands your precious identity rests, whether they're right in front of you or a world away.

***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website. @JPSterling

Friday, July 1, 2011

Deformed Banana

My girlfriend says that if I talk about her in my blogs, she won't have sex with me anymore.  So since the use of her name is banned, for purposes of this blog entry, I'll use the name Banana, and talk about what happened to her instead.

Banana, a fictional person whom I'm making up and who is definitely not the woman I love and who rocks my world, phoned me the a few afternoons ago, frantic and in pain.  She had been a couple of blocks away, riding her ladder, and she called in despair, saying she had broken her wrist.   

As I drove over to the accident scene, I wondered how she could be sure it was broken.  Maybe it was just a sprain.  But when I saw it, I knew Banana was right.  There was no pretending.  Her forearm was shaped like Zorro's "Z".  And she was obviously in excruciating pain.     

We rushed to the Pabst Hospital Emergency Room, where Banana was immediately admitted, though it was 45 minutes or so before she was given anything for pain.  She was white and pale and in agony, unable to do anything but clutch her arm to her chest. 

On the ride to the ER, Banana had insisted that she was going to say that she fell off of a ladder because she didn't want the health insurance people to find yet another reason not to pay -- they pulled "pre-existing condition" on her last time she needed help.  If the health insurance company had some silly idea that she was, for example, riding some kind of mammal on someone else's property, they might decide not to cover her injury or try to sue somebody that didn't deserve to be sued, or who knows what.  Insurance companies are evil.

At the hospital, Banana was asked by at least ten different nurses and doctors how she hurt herself, and she told each of them she fell off a ladder.  One nurse asked if I had beaten her up, and I offered to leave the room so Banana could give an honest answer.  Funny thing is, at least one doctor asked her directly "Did you fall off a horse?"  It might have been that the shirt she was wearing was covered with pictures of horses, or maybe it was the hay in her hair, or possibly the manure on her shoes.

I've heard the word "Deformity", but I didn't realize that it was a medical term used to describe "a major difference in the shape of body part or organ compared to the average shape of that part".  I guess I knew that, but I had this idea that it was something you were born with, not something you could earn with the help of gravity.  Anyway, I didn't appreciate that word being used to call my girlfriend's anything anything.  I thought I might tell the nurse "Your mother knows all about deformity."  And if everyone hadn't been so damned professional and nice, maybe I would have muttered it under my breath.

Here a  picture of a deformity.  I did take pictures of Banana's deformed wrist and arm, but I won't post them because one of the People of the Internet might identify her by her freckles and notify her I wrote this and then I'd never get a Lovin' Spoonful again.

Banana's was worse.

So at the ER, the tech took a lot of x-rays, and eventually a doctor came along and while wiping down Banana's arm quickly set it, in response to which she screamed in pain and called him "Mother!Fucker!" and flailed wildly.  The doctor took in stride.  Probably, he deserved the scolding for being sneaky, and probably he'd been called worse.  To his credit, I suppose, Banana reported that her pain and discomfort eased substantially due to decreased pressure on the nerves.

The docs put a splint on the break, doped Banana up with a last shot o' Morphine and sent us home after a couple of hours.  I took Banana back to the hospital for surgery the next morning, which turned into a long day (but is there any other kind in a hospital?).  She was seen by a tall, dark young fellow of indeterminate ethnicity named Doctor Palmetto-Bugga, who recommended surgery and got it.

Banana will never pass through a metal detector again without having to explain the metal plate in her wrist.  Unfortunately, the doctor did not give her any bionic upgrades like a built-in smart phone, or an assault laser.   

Now we're home, and Banana is resting peacefully on a pillow made of Percocet.  She insists that I'll have to do the dishes for awhile, which I'm happy to do and she could have just asked.  She didn't have to put herself through all of this pain just to get out of doing laundry and stuff.

 It will take several weeks for her to heal, but I know she'll be okay.  Soon enough, she'll be itching to crawl out of bed and go outside and get back on the ladder that threw her.     

***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bloody Blood Pressure

I saw my doctor a few weeks ago and he told me I needed to get my blood pressure down.  When I saw him, it was 142/85 I think, with normal being under 120/80.

On my 40th birthday, June 15th, being at an "upper-level of my lifetime weight range" of 215 pounds, I began a new diet.  I stopped drinking sodas or caffeine, and I (mostly) got my morning exercise routine back on track.  In two weeks, I've dropped about seven pounds.  I know, I know, water weight, and it will come off more slowly as I continue.  Point is, I've been doing all the things that should lower my blood pressure, including watching my sodium and drinking potassium-rich fruit juices.

So I was pretty pissed yesterday when I used the blood-pressure monitor at the pharmacy and it read 142/82.  Let me describe yesterday.  I woke up, did yoga, wrote in my blog, worked for a while, had sex, took a nap, drove to pick up my son, went grocery shopping, and had high blood pressure.  There was a huge, relaxing thunderstorm in the afternoon.  There is no way it could be described as a stressful day.  I felt fine.  I was really shocked that my bp wasn't lower.

I took a reading again this morning at home, and it was 140/84.  I'll take it again right now.  136/77.  Okay, that's a little better, but nowhere near "won't kill you".  But the only thing I can think of that I'm doing that would stress me out and contribute to high blood pressure is my having anxiety over having high blood pressure.

Prevention Magazine says I should drink Hibiscus tea.  Hibiscus tea it is, then.  Anything so I don't keel over and die, or stroke out and leave my loved ones responsible for wiping my ass. 

Singing to myself, "it's Bloody, Blood Pressure" to the tune of "Muddy Mudskipper" from Ren and Stimpy.  I hope this is not a sign from my subconscious that I'm going to have an aneurysm.

***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Don't Write any More Poetry

A Famous Poet
The problem with poetry is that as a commodity, it's something plenty of people want to produce but very few people want to purchase.  There's already a huge supply of poetry out there, in chapbooks, bound leather volumes, and wrinkled, dog-eared spiral notebooks underneath teenage girls' mattresses.  Trillions of pages of it, and so few fanatical readers.

The question you have to ask yourself as an amateur poet is "Have I read all the poetry that's out there yet, and if not, why am I adding to that great towering heap of Unread?"  Now, if you write poems just as therapy to give release to your deepest feelings, by all means do what you do.  No one wants you to commit suicide or reveal your secret crush, so if it helps you to express it and put it under your pillow, no one's judging.  But if you write in order to be read, that is, if you intend to communicate something to someone else, you should probably take stock of what's already been said, and how, before you try to find your voice.

A Famous Poet
I know, I know, that'll take like forever, even just to read the good stuff.  First, you have to memorize all of Shakespeare's sonnets, then dig into Wordsworth and Byron and Shelley and ee cummings and Maya Angelou and Baudelaire and Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson, and you're just getting started on the rock stars.  Then there are thousands of amazing writers who are less anthologized, and you'll need to at least skim over the life's work of each of them, then go back and do some serious research on the ones which were your favorites.  Then you have to subscribe to some contemporary poetry journals and figure out what all the modern voices are saying, and check out the internet, where there are thriving poetry communities, and then decide whether hip-hop counts or if adding electronic beats to your poetry is cheating.  In the meantime, the muse on your back will have to hold the reins because you don't want to start writing and come off as derivative, a constant danger when you're immersing yourself in other people's work.  Finally, after a few decades of research and contemplation, you may be ready to put your first word to the page, if you can still lie to yourself that there's something to be said that hasn't been said, and that you are the talented bastard to say it.

A Famous Poet
In fairness, the same thing applies to novels... how many novels come out annually?  Reviewers can't even review all the books they're sent in a year, much less read all the older ones they wish they had time for, and they're paid to read them.  Maybe we as consumers should tell companies that they should stop publishing new books, and stop making new movies and TV shows, and stop issuing CDs of new music, so we can catch up on what's already been done.  Have you tackled The Iliad lately?  It's held up pretty well.  Let's all commit it to memory, and recite it around campfires, and forget all this newness.  There is already more media in existence than all of us together could read, watch or listen to in all of our combined lifetimes, so we can stop pretending to be cool and modern and on top of things.

Oddly, though, none of these notions applies to blogs.  Except poetry blogs.  If you write a blog, I recommend you put on tunnel-vision goggles and keep plugging away, pounding it out, oblivious to all the other blogs that are out there.  Masturbate in public four or five times a week, as often as you can handle it.  It's what the world wants.  Just keep telling yourself "The people demand that I continue to give them masterpieces". 

***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website.