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Archive for July, 2007

There are now no fewer than 8 topics I wish to write about here on the blog but cannot address for fear of offending someone. Part of this stems from the fact that it seems that nearly everyone I know now reads my blog. My parents and extended family included. I cannot now say “ass” without fear of retribution over Christmas pie. (No. We don’t really have “Christmas pie.” But I like the word “pie” and am striving to use it regularly.)

And suddenly I think I’ve stumbled over the truth behind the truth about writing. Many of history’s Great Writers have had horrible family lives. Sucks for them, but they get great books out of it, I suppose. After all, what would The Great Santini have been like if it were not for Pat Conroy’s hell-for-leather father? I know people talk about how the pain fuels creativity, etc. But frankly I think it’s just because the people with Bad Families aren’t afraid they’re going to piss someone off.

I didn’t have a Bad Family. And I’m afraid of pissing people off. That’s why one of my best entries has been stagnating in the back of my head. My mother forbade me to mention it “on that Blog!” because she thought I would be making fun of the uncle in question. Yet here I sit, realising that I must-must-must tell about How My Great Childhood Enemy was finally vanquished.

One of my uncles was a travelling preacher who also had a television show. On that television show he played a pirate. Now, many pirates have parrots or peg-legs or patches over their eyes. Those are things you expect from faux buccaneers. Not my uncle. He had a dummy called Seasick. Now, I really do like this uncle, because he’s expansive and flamboyant–qualities I myself have been known to possess. However, I think he woefully misjudged his 4-year old niece when he showed her the dummy corpselike in a box underneath her bed. I promise you that as creepy as a dummy is when it’s chatting away on the ventriloquist’s lap it is a dozen times more horrifying laying in a box. Its lifeless body stares up at you with a malevolent grin; its box a tiny coffin full of form-fitting foam rubber.

I think my Pirate Uncle thought he was giving me a treat by giving me a backstage pass to his act. Sadly, that is not the way it played out. Unaware of my clown phobia and my general creeped-outness from baby dolls, he presented me with the ultimate in terror. A clown doll-baby. Heaven help my heart.

Anyway, 33 years later I was riding down a winding road with my parents and sister, talking about the this and that of life when all of a sudden my mother drops the glorious fact in my lap. My Pirate Uncle actually burned Seasick the Dummy. Not touching-the-hot-stove-burned, but blazing-conflagration-burned.

Huzzah.

No, I don’t have a bad family. But I think my Good Family is how many families happen. My uncle was dealing with me under the best of intentions. He didn’t know I was crazy, and despite his good intentions he left me frightened. But he left me with a good story, and I suppose for a writer that’s better than the best intentions could ever turn out to be.

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When women older than I give birth to their first child.

I’d say something about “light” and “tunnels”, but that would be tacky.

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I guess we’re having this conversation again. As a conservative libertarian who swims in a sea of liberals, I’m used to being thought ‘wrong’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘misguided’. Goes with the territory, I suppose.

On the 4th of July I had a conversation with a 9-year old who seemed to understand the concept of libertarianism and charity better than most of the people I’ve encountered lately. Unlike Mack, young Declan* (not his real name, remember…) got the general idea I was trying to put across. So maybe I haven’t explained myself well enough to be understood out here in the blogosphere. Maybe it’s a conversation that needs to happen face to face. Regardless of the limitations of the medium, I’ll try.

I am not greedy. I do not despise the poor and downtrodden.

Like Thomas Jefferson I believe wholeheartedly in the separation between Church and State. Like Jesus I believe in “rendering unto Caeser what is Caeser’s and unto God what is God’s.”

What this means to me is that I do not believe it is the job of the State or ANY institution, be it a church or faith-based charity to look after the poor and downtrodden. I believe such things are our responsibilities as human beings. Individual human beings.

I have nothing against charities–secular or faith-based–if that’s how a group of individuals decides to make their charity most effective. If you want to give the money you’ve earned to Catholic Charities or the United Way or Mennonite Disaster Relief, that’s your business. But I don’t believe the Government should take your money by force and redistribute it the way they see fit. That’s my opinion on taxes, entitlement programs, and federal funding of faith-based charities.

There’s a common misconception floating out there in the ether to which several liberals seem to be latching on. That’s the concept that conservatism is anti-community and pro-greed. I don’t quite know where these memes generated, but I’ve been seeing them a lot lately. I feel as though I’m not getting the original memoranda upon which they were printed.

And here’s where it gets tricky. Because it is my hard and fast rule that I will not give a resumé of my charitable deeds. Doing so means that the charity aspect of it all stops and the whited sepulchre kicks in. I could go looking for the myriad studies about who gives more to charity–conservatives or liberals–but I’m not playing that game. It’s all judgmental and sanctimonious and advances that hideous “us v. them” mentality.

Conservatism is not about keeping our money for ourselves, but deciding for ourselves the best uses of our money in benefit to the world.

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You know how you can go for a long spell with your head wrapped up in other things and you forget simple pleasures?  And then, all of a sudden a once-loved thing gets up in your face and you’re reminded of just what you loved about that thing and about yourself and about life?

Yeah.

I just heard Van Morrison’s “Days Like This”…and I have to say that I stand by my original belief that Van Morrison is everything that is right about music.

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On my visit to Indiana, my parents treated me to a night of regional community theatre. Now, I love theatre and once hoped to make a living at it. Then I realised I didn’t want that life, so now I just content myself with going to plays and jealously critiquing the performances. There’s nothing quite like an evening of “I could do that SO much better”, coupled with chocolate and softdrinks.

But I’m not here to discuss the play. I’m here to discuss the people behind us–the peanut gallery.

This was a small town theatre in the heart of Indiana, and the contingent from my little family seemed to be the only people that didn’t know absolutely everyone else in the room. I told my mother and sister afterward that I felt as though I’d fallen into a Shirley Jackson story and was afraid we’d all be tied up in a wicker man or something. At several points throughout the evening I felt like we’d walked into a heartland version of Twin Peaks. It’s not that the town and theatre weren’t nice–they were lovely. It’s just somewhat discomfiting to find yourselves in a crowd where everyone else seems to know everything about everybody else who walks in the door.

The row of people behind us were no different, and their main topic of conversation seemed to be the departure of the teenagers behind us for various branches of Indiana University. The boy was going to Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne (IPFW to those in the know) to major in “er, computers” for “I dunno”. His girlfriend was going to IU-Bloomington to major in Theatre, even though she had recently fallen in love with Fashion Design–so much so that she bought a dress form! (The dress form was big news. Me, personally, I’m creeped out by dress-forms. They’re sort of like the Venus De Milo of Ventriloquist dummies.)

We heard all about how they were going to allow their relationship to be open, since they were going to be so far apart. (It’s like a 2.5 hour drive…) But the part that got me right between the eyes was when Ms. Dress Form began to talk about her roommate.

I don’t know who it is. My mom said I’ll probably get stuck with some fat twerp. Which would be bad, because I run every morning.

Now, pardon me, but that whole sentence struck me as about the equivalent of saying “I’ll probably get stuck with some n—-r. Which would be bad because I don’t eat watermelon.” Or “I’ll probably get stuck with some f–, which would be bad because I don’t like Barbra Streisand.” I’m fat, but I’m only occasionally twerpy (I can give you the list of days each month which are forecast for “heavily twerpy”) and I work out almost every day. So Dress-Form clearly has a pile of prejudice that perhaps college will help educate out of her.

The funniest part? The woman she was talking to was fatter than I am.

Maybe what Aunt B says about IU students is more true than I realised…

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I just wrote a five paragraph post that made me sound insane. I was going for “thoughtful and introspective” but came away with “should be institutionalised,” so pardon me if I leave that thought for another day.

It’s been hard for me to write anything good for the past week. (Points to all of you who said to yourselves “past week? Woman, you could NEVER write anything good!”) Between spending a week with my mom and dad and sister, having a major family reunion and of course the whole Potter Drama, I feel washed over by a tide of stimuli. Normally when I write a blog post I can take one thought and turn it over in my hands like a slip of paper from a fortune cookie. It’s a nice, calming meditative exercise.

But after the last week I feel like the slippy fortune-cookie thoughts have been snatched from my brain and replaced by an encyclopaedia. It’s kind of weird. And it also means I can’t hammer out a decent blogpost that doesn’t make me look half-nuts. Witness this one here.

And now I’m off to write another post, because I just remembered the idea I had while falling asleep last night. See–all those writing workshop nutbars are right. It’s a good idea to have a pen and paper by your bedside to capture those errant thoughts and vivid dreams. Unfortunately I’ve never done this because I cannot master the art of writing in the dark.

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This woman is ruining my planned hat-comeback.

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