05 April 2017

Dental Surgery Anyone? Sick of Trump? Sound like a Plan? Not Under Your Roof? Keeping the Dead Closeted? Depressed and Happy?

An obligatory Rihanna photo.

I have a week off coming up. I’ll be kicking it old school saving pennies for the big trip to Europe in the Summer. People will ask what I’m going to do with my week off. I’ll say what I often say: “I’ll be performing unnecessary dental surgery on the elderly.” It never gets a laugh nor so much as a chuckle but I think it's clever and so trot it out on a regular basis.  I stick to my guns. Actually I don’t have a gun so I suppose I stick to my gums. That’s not right, peanut butter sticks to my gums. The peanut butter usually is accompanied by jelly or jam and I’d be in a jam if I ever did perform surgery on anyone, elderly or not. What’s the cut off age for being elderly? Or is it just a state of mind? I wonder if elderly is what we used to call old? When I was kid some people were old but I don’t recall anyone being elderly. Now the people that were old when I was a kid are called dead. Or deceased. No one dies anymore, they just pass away. Sometimes old people are lost. “We lost Uncle Fred last year.” Did you give up the search? Maybe if you can’t find him he’s in hiding. Doesn’t want to associate with people who refer to dead relatives as having been “lost” when they are in fact dead. Even passed away is too much for some people, who say that someone “passed.” What? Gas? A few blocks down from my house when I was growing up was what we called an old folk's home. Today it would be referred to as an elder care facility. I prefer the old way, or is it the elderly way?

Yesterday I overheard a conversation among fellow teachers in which one complained about the news being all about Trump and how Trump thus became the dominant topic of conversation in her current events class. Do you think during the Civil War Americans complained about all the news being about Lincoln and battles and slaves? Do you think during the Great Depression Americans complained about the news just being about the economic crisis and the dispossessed? Do you think during Watergate Americans complained that all the news was about Nixon and the conspiracy and the cover up? I can answer that last one: nope. Oh I’m sure some people were fed up and uninterested but most of us where riveted. What’s going on in the US today makes Watergate look like a human interest story. We’re talking treason, folks. Foreign powers directly influencing a US presidential election and US leaders (including the head honcho) and US policy. This is an enormous story the likes of which this country hasn’t seen since that Civil War earlier mentioned. Hyperbole? Not a bit. Tired of Trump, are you? Well I suppose in a sense we all our but we’ve got to maintain our focus. It’s critical not to look away and pretend it’s not there.This is not a pop song or a TV show or a celebrity we're tiring of. Because of Trump administration policies poor people will suffer, LGBT people will suffer, refugees will suffer, immigrants will suffer, our privacy will suffer, human rights around the world will suffer, the climate will suffer, women will suffer and students will suffer. Meanwhile a hostile foreign government has already influenced our government and likely will continue to. Vigilance is a must.

I know I’ve said this before and I’ll likely say it again, particularly when senility sets in (which could be any day now) but it bears repeating. When you present a plan to someone, such as, let’s meet outside the cafe at 7:00, they should never, ever, under any circumstances respond by saying: “sounds like a plan.” Of course it does you moron, it is a fucking plan. What would be weird is if your plan sounded like a sonnet, or a riddle, or soliloquy, or hymn, or a battle cry, or a yodel, or the ravings of a lunatic. "Sounds like a plan” indeed. When someone asks you a question do you respond with “sounds like a question”? Or if given directions do you in turn retort, “sounds like directions”? Or if issued a warning do you say “sounds like a warning”? No, no and no.

When I was in my very early twenties I lived with a young woman named Becky. The relationship lasted just under a year. It rankles me still that she’s the one who left me because this was a woman with the intellectual curiosity of a fiddler crab. But that’s — as is so much of what I write — beside the point. There was in those days huge 4th of July gatherings on the beach in Mendocino drawing all the local Finns and many of us from the Bay Area. My family was distant relatives of some Finnish families who lived in the very tiny berg of Comptche which was a half an hour inland from Mendocino. There was a tremendous amount of food and an even greater amount of booze at these soirees. The attendees represented all generations. I went every year in my early twenties and was not the only person who enjoyed the proverbial one night stand there. It was a wild scene of debauchery and I loved it. Anyway the year I was with Becky we went together. We were staying in one the big house in Comptche which boasted many extra bedrooms. On the beach in the middle of the revelry a middle aged gent of my acquaintance approached Becky and I ostensibly for a bit of friendly banter. But he had a point to make and that was that Becky and I couldn’t sleep together “under my roof.” Being in his cups he repeated the “under my roof” line several times. I wondered, what the hell is it with this guy's roof? The man’s got a sensitive roof. Would it be okay if we slept together on his roof? Another person later gave us the same business about his roof and what we couldn’t do under it. Geez fellas, nobody’s asking to do anything under your precious roof. Both old coots (they were actually younger then than I am today) also added that whatever we did on our own was our business. This was a relief. I was glad they appended that to their remarks lest I think they try to interfere in our personal lives.

I’ve been increasingly miffed about something. Two months ago I attended a memorial service for my good friend Kevin. His siblings and cousins all spoke about him and recounted his jobs, travels, talents, special interests and hobbies. They covered it all (almost) from editor of the high school yearbook to regular volunteer at AA. But they said not one word about his work with LBGT organizations. Kevin had been active in Lavender Seniors for years and had been for decades an outspoken advocate of gay rights. Hell they never even mentioned he was gay. Alcoholic, sure, but gay, no. One might suppose that this had something to do with the fact that a sizable part of the family are mormons and many were in attendance. Fuck ‘em. What the hell were they going to do if Kevin’s sexuality was mentioned? Walk out? Stand up and announce that he should burn in hell? Kevin told me more than once that some kinfolks had tried to persuade him to join the mormon church and that he always replied that he’d consider it if they ever allowed gay priests. (Actually I’m pretty sure that even then he wouldn’t have considered it.) It’s 2017 and people who are out of the closet should not be shoved back in in death. Especially not for the sake of a few bigots.

I close with a few words about my current state — not that anyone asked. I am currently experiencing my second consecutive day without depression. The depression laid siege 12 months ago and in that time I’ve never had more than two weeks free of it. Once I had ten days and another time a week. I’ve had a few two and three day stretches here and there. The last two weeks had been pretty bad as I had an allergic reaction to an increase in lamictal as we increased my dosage. The reaction came in the form of a rash that extended from head to toe and itched like crazy. Today is the first day that it has improved (yes I’ve been to the doctor and yes I’m off the lamictal). Here’s the thing, I am a very happy person. I always have been. Somehow in a way that I can’t explain I’m even happy when I’m spending most of my waking hours depressed. I’m happy even though I’ve contemplated suicide and even though I live in fear of panic attacks. I know that doesn’t sound like it makes sense but damned if it's not true. Perhaps it is my physical health, my wife, my daughters, my friends, relatives, work and all the art and beauty that surround me. I even get into the depths of despair and some part of me remains — in an overall sense — happy. The rash has made it extra hard to be happy but…I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe it’s not so much happiness as optimism. Maybe it’s gratitude. Maybe it’s love. Maybe it’s hope. Whatever it is, I’m happy about it.

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