Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Bug in the System

For the past two days I've been hearing a scratching noise behind the bathroom ventilation fan on the ceiling. I figured it was a bird building a nest although I've never heard of birds picking such an odd location. I turned on the fan and it sounded like it was brushing against twigs.

Earlier today I turned on the fan and something was completely blocking it from spinning. Then later when I tried it just started whirring away. But I could never drive the critter away, whatever it ultimately was. That should have been my first clue it probably wasn't a bird -- unless it was trapped as opposed to building a nest. And that is what we decided it was -- a trapped bird. And then I was feeling all kinds of guilt for turning on the fan and hoping I hadn't injured it.

I began removing the plastic cover of the fan and light and realized that was no help at all. It was FILTHY up in there but the fan was a tall cylinder which extended up into the box in the attic rather than a fan with several flat blades.

My next step was to go up into the attic. This required removing a few dozen boxes from the closet before I could access the panel into the attic. (I now have to also go try and fit them back in perfectly. Joy.)

Once I was up there I could hear the critter scratching but it was clearly inside the ventilation box which was connected to a long air duct out to the roof. So, a waste of time.

And that pole you see hanging down is a rake. I decided I needed that to reach over and rake the insulation off the fan box which fortunately was only about 2 feet from the top of the ladder.

The fan box was under there...somewhere.

The only way to get in there was to unscrew the fan and remove it. This was pretty scary as I had no idea if the critter was going to fly out, fall out, or slither out. I got the fan removed but could see nothing. Yet I could still hear scratching. We knew it had to be close by because we'd seen it moving the fan before we removed it.

We closed the bathroom door and waited for something to emerge. After about 15 minutes I went to check and voila! Poor thing!

That is one of the biggest bugs I've ever seen in my life.

It fell to the floor and Sheldon gathered it up in a bag and took it outside.

It seemed a little dazed by the outdoor light.

The head on that thing was rather menacing!

What a hassle! But at least that problem is solved and we can easily clean the fan before installing it. That's been on my to-do list for a long time but I never wanted to tackle that project.

Yuck. That is probably a 20-year dirt accumulation.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Pussy Blog: Vintage Jezebel Edition

I don't suppose I'll ever have another Memorial Day without thinking about my dear Jezebel. I buried her on Memorial Day, 2004 which if I recall was May 30 or 31st of that year. It is so hard for me to believe it has been five years since she strutted through our house, tail in the air, chatting with me, and occasionally sleeping on my bed.

Honey, you are forever missed.

23 Miles

On Monday, May 18 I began a regular walking regimen of between one and three miles per day. I usually do one mile in the morning and an additional one, sometimes two, miles in the afternoon.

I want to see how long it takes me to virtually get out of Texas.

After 23 miles, I'm not even out of Austin yet!

From time to time I'll post a map of my progress. Anybody want to place bets on where along the way I'll need a new pair of shoes?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

700,000 Signatures Needed

I fully expected the California Supreme Court to uphold Proposition 8. And yet I was infuriated at the decision when it was announced. And yet, I can even agree with their rationale.
In a 136-page majority ruling written by Chief Justice Ronald George, the justices said it was not their job to address whether the ban was wise public policy, but only to decide whether it was constitutionally valid, while "setting aside our own personal beliefs and values."
At the same time, I can agree with the New York Times editorial today which states that the California Supreme Court "got it terribly wrong."
In addition to denying basic fairness to gay people, the court’s 6-to-1 ruling sets an unfortunate legal precedent that could allow the existing rights of any targeted minority to be diminished using the Election Day initiative process.


The case turned on a reading of California’s rules for changing its Constitution. Essentially, the majority decided that Proposition 8 is an ordinary constitutional amendment, requiring approval only by a bare majority of voters, rather than a more far-reaching “revision.”

Revisions require a more deliberative two-step process: either a constitutional convention or a two-thirds vote of the State Legislature followed by a referendum.

So, even if we got screwed on a legal technicality, I can't allow myself to go on an anti-California crusade nor can I start bashing the California Supreme Court. The problem lies with the California constitution, outside special interest groups who poured millions of advertising dollars into the effort to pass Prop 8, gullible voters who are essentially brainwashed, and even apathy among registered voters who might be our allies but didn't bother to show up at the polls.

The idea that a minority of registered voters can control a civil rights issue and create a 2nd class tier of citizens while calling it "the will of the majority" simply fills me with rage.

We've just got to pick up the pieces and start again. We can start gathering signatures to repeal it, or hope for a US Supreme Court intervention.
Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, two prominent litigators who opposed each other in the Bush v. Gore election challenge in 2000, are challenging Proposition 8 on those grounds in federal court.

The pair filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of two gay men and two gay women, arguing that the marriage ban violates the U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general, said he hopes the case will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This is a federal question," he said. "This is about the rights of individuals to be treated equally and not be stigmatized."

Meanwhile, gay rights groups are starting work gathering the 700,000 signatures required to place a repeal of Proposition 8 before voters in November 2010.

Frankly, both options scare me. Regardless of the economic climate, the opposition seems to have a bottomless well of cash for their operations. But one would hope this issue has received enough attention now to diminish the impact of those who oppose same-sex marriage.

As for a SCOTUS ruling on the matter, let's just say I believe it would be a 5-4 decision, which ever way it goes.

But let's look for the silver lining. In addition to the 18,000 existing same-sex marriages being allowed to stand, there are still civil unions (better than nothing!) until we can correct this horrible wrong which has been imposed on the state.
The court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George for a 6-to-1 majority, noted that same-sex couples still had a right to civil unions. Such unions, the opinion said, gives those couples the ability to “choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.”

It's going to be long, slow and agonizing. Such is life.

Stand tall and march.

Photo credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor Picked for SCOTUS

Sotomayor is Obama's SCOTUS pick!

Now the fun part begins.

Judge Sotomayor is Mr. Obama’s first selection to the Supreme Court, and her nomination could trigger a struggle with Senate Republicans who have indicated they may oppose the nomination. But Democrats are within reach of the 60 votes necessary to choke off a filibuster, and Republicans concede that they have little hope of blocking confirmation barring unforeseen revelations.

Initial reaction to the selection reflected party divisions and signaled that Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee would be spirited.

Spirited indeed. Let the Republicans have their rants, their meltdowns, whatever. Go ahead and continue to alienate women and Hispanics in one double whammy.

This should be an interesting evening for tequila, "Hardball," and "Countdown" since a California Prop 8 ruling is also forthcoming shortly.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Borrowed from The Dark Wraith.

Just to Clarify, Yet Again.

How can "conservatives" govern effectively when they can't even grasp the basic fundamental fact that "liberals" do not control Congress. Democrats control Congress. Big difference. And many of those Democrats are conservatives.

Get the facts right, people.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Plate Too Full to Embrace Equality?

I am just baffled as to why President Obama can't just come out and say it. Even if he doesn't have time to push for it at the moment. (That's also a bullshit excuse, IMHO.) And it's beginning to get on my nerves.

Frank Rich, in the Sunday New York Times, writes:
Obama has long been, as he says, a fierce advocate for gay equality. The Windy City Times has reported that he initially endorsed legalizing same-sex marriage when running for the Illinois State Senate in 1996. The most common rationale for his current passivity is that his plate is too full. But the president has so far shown an impressive inclination both to multitask and to argue passionately for bedrock American principles when he wants to. Relegating fundamental constitutional rights to the bottom of the pile until some to-be-determined future seems like a shell game.

As Wolfson reminds us in his book “Why Marriage Matters,” Dr. King addressed such dawdling in 1963. “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait,’ ” King wrote. “It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ ”

The gay civil rights movement has fewer obstacles in its path than did Dr. King’s Herculean mission to overthrow the singular legacy of slavery. That makes it all the more shameful that it has fewer courageous allies in Washington than King did. If “American Idol” can sing out for change on Fox in prime time, it ill becomes Obama, of all presidents, to remain mute in the White House.

Clocks are ticking.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Three Years Blogging

Three years ago today I started this saucy, brassy blog. I decided to commemorate the occasion by grabbing an old photo of txrad's non-functioning trumpet and jazz up the three valves a bit.

2,396 Blog Posts

111,027 Visitors

In many ways it's hard to believe it's only been three years. Anyway, moving on to #4.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Joy of Sex Teabagging Konagod

I happened to click on a link to Eschaton today, a blog I haven't visited in well over a year I'm guessing. Aside from a comment thread party, I guess I haven't missed much.

You know, I got somethin'. I haven't said this in awhile, but I truly enjoy all of you who do visit and comment, even if you visit and don't comment (yes, I'm a SiteMeter whore), you are still appreciated.

And I'm glad I've reached a point in my blog history where I don't give a shit if I've got nothing to say. I simply don't post until I do. And it may be shallow and superficial adolescent humor. But it's me and it's what makes me happy for a moment, just to share something with a few folks.

So.... thanks.

Oh my God.... I just went back and there's a new comments!

Tiding me over. Just what I need. I resisted the obvious temptation to comment "First!" or "Frist!"

What I need is a tequila shot.

Mike Masterson: Colossal Asshole Award

Mike Masterson, the opinion editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Northwest edition, i.e. the most heavily Republican district of the state, got me all wound up this morning with this piece in today's paper.

Ahh, the joys of being a white, heterosexual IDIOT.

I really hope the link works -- it could be subscription only which I have by virtue of piggy-backing on my mother's print copy subscription. In any event, you'll get the gist of it...

By the way, just like Prejean, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton and nearly 70 percent of my fellow Americans, I, too, am a Christian, one who believes that institution of marriage is between one man and one woman. The people of other major religions believe likewise.

As with most of that vast majority, I also couldn’t care less what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms. But to destroy the holy and sacred institution of marriage based on the behavioral preferences of one group representing a fraction of our population would be a drastic mistake.

The colossal asshole got it all wrong. This is not about what consenting adults (and make note of his use of "consenting") do in their bedrooms; it's about what rights consenting heterosexual adults have in a relationship recognized by the state which non-heterosexual consenting adults do NOT have. And it matters fuck-all whether we are 7/10ths of 1%, or 6%, or 42%. We are tax-paying, hard-working Americans with ethics and moral values as well. And I'm fucking fed the hell up with "opinion editors" and anyone else trotting out these tired old arguments, and using the most insulting phrases like "behavioral preferences" only adds fuel to my fire.

Mr. Masterson, a "behavioral preference" would be, for instance, one in which a man prefers to pee sitting down to avoid splatter. My own "behavioral preferences" include things like having the toilet paper flap on the top vs. the underside, and always squeezing the toothpaste tube from the bottom. But when it comes to fucking in the privacy of my bedroom my sexual orientation, this is not a preference or a behavioral choice. My route is what is natural for me as a gay man.

But wait, Masterson's reasoning gets even more embarrassing for him.

It would be like cracking an egg that, once broken, would open the marriage door to all forms of sexual behaviors and predilections. Try to visualize pedophiles marrying children, a husband with multiple wives, humans marrying animals. Don’t laugh. Once we fallible human animals choose to erase a moral boundary established by a much higher force than convenient political popularity, where can any meaningful lines ever be drawn in our society?

Trust me, I'm not laughing. Yes, try to visualize pedophiles and sex with animals, you sick twisted fuck. Spread that fear to your readership and continue distorting reality to suit your own theocratic jerk-off fantasy.

Apparently at this point in the scribe, he lost sight of a word he used earlier: consenting.

You see, children are not consenting adults; we already have laws in place to prevent pedophiles from marrying children, and without those we'd already have heterosexual pedophiles marrying children. As it stands now, we have a lot of heterosexual pedophiles simply raping children outside the institution of marriage, as opposed to within it. And this has abso-fucking-lutely NOTHING to do with same-sex marriage. And Masterson has got to know this; if he doesn't he has no business being paid to write opinion pieces for a major statewide newspaper; he should be submitting them as a reader to an editor who actually has some common sense.

But it sure works great as as humor piece scare tactic when you have absolutely nothing else to hang your (ass)hat on.

As if this just simply isn't too over-the-top to fathom, he has to toss in the obligatory visual of humans marrying animals. Again, animals can't consent. And seriously, while we're on the subject of "fractions of our population," how many people would go that route, even if it were legal? (It's a rhetorical question, don't answer it. I have no doubt somebody somewhere, probably one or two of his newpaper's subscribers, would give it a whirl.)

And then Masterson continues with the granddaddy of them all: speak out while you still have the basic right, because Carrie Prejean is living proof that we're about to lose that right.
Even a beauty queen with no ax to grind with anyone is not exempt from personal attacks today for simply giving an honest opinion shared by most Americans. Carrie Prejean and her grandfather are right. It is time for everyone who believes in values and freedom to get off their duffs and be counted-while they still can be.

Mr. Masterson, am I included in your definition of "everyone who believes in values and freedom?" Only to a certain extent? We would like to "get off our duffs and be counted." That's the fucking point of our Gay Agenda. Only people such as yourself just keep shitting all over it with your asinine propaganda and fear-mongering.

If I wasn't such a proponent of free speech, I'd be tempted to tell you to shut the fuck up. But I will not take that low road. You go ahead and make a colossal asshole out of yourself in the statewide press as often as you want. Eventually, you will be on the losing end of this battle. Even in Arkansas.

Eggs are gonna get cracked. And there ain't no demons, pedophiles, or animal fuckers lurking within. Just basic civil rights, and that's some scary shit for many people, apparently.

More on Mike Masterson.

Small Wang Contentment

I despise spam. Really. But once in awhile I'll get one with a subject line that cracks me up. Today was such a day.

Seriously? Why would I want that? That's so... 1950s.

I'm content with a small Wang, but thanks for the huge offer.

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy on Olbermann

We saw Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy a few months ago being interviewed on MSNBC and last night he was invited to appear on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. For me to have nothing but great things to say about a Baptist minister from the Deep South is surreal to say the least.

I don't know who plucked this guy from an obscure pulpit; maybe he did it himself to get a rational message out there.


Last night I was thinking he is the only minister I might actually enjoy hearing speak from a pulpit in a church. And I did not know until this morning that his church is the Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana, a town I pass through when I go visit my mother in Arkansas. In fact, Monroe is only 90 minutes from my mom's house.

I really like this quote from 2003 pertaining to the dangers of mixing religion with politics:
...what we've seen happen is our democracy, I think, is being crippled in its ability to practice healthy debate because of escalating every issue to a kind of transcendent religious moral substantive subject. When you do that you shut down the debate that makes democracy work, honest debate where there is an exchange of ideas and people refine their thinking and together our differences of opinion help us discover a better way.

This man is clearly adept at uncloaking bullshit for everyone to see and smell. I find him mesmerizing to watch, and such a refreshing voice of absolute reason in these frightening times when theocrats are clamoring for the national stage and power.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Left-Wing Douchebags

There's a new Facebook application called "Right-Wing Douchebags" where you select one or more to send to your friends. The list includes such notables as Ann Coulter, Karl Rove, Ben Stein, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Boss Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman (whose name is misspelled with two Ls on the app and various sites throughout the web), Michelle Malkin (who does use two Ls), and of course, the granddaddy douchebag of them all, George W. Bush.

There are others, all certifiable douchebags, but who are the left-wing douchebags? There's gotta be a few, right? I can't think of one off the top of my head, so help me out here. There are some centrist douchebags and the right-wing douchebags would like you to believe they are left-wing douchebags but that's not the case, IMHO. The right-wing douchebags are so far to the right that being centrist looks lefty Socialist to them, and that's more evidence of their own douchebaggery.

And furthermore, if I could name a left-wing douchebag, the criteria which would earn them douchebag status would probably disqualify them as being truly left-wing.

Douchebags seem to have one or two things in common: they like to wear their religion on the sleeves, their car bumpers and anyplace else they can get it in the public eye, and they like to use it to stir shit up. And they like to incite an already unstable segment of the electorate prone to lusting after Confederate flags and assault rifles and going on tirades about how Obama is going to strip the 2nd amendment from the Constitution. They continue to predict the complete and total collapse of western civilization if queers tie the knot, and they swear their kids are being prevented from praying in schools.

Please, Obama isn't even enforcing the existing rule of law in the country concerning torture, much less going after the 2nd amendment with a machete. Obama is being about as cautiously conservative as it gets, which is a far cry from many of the scenarios we heard about during the campaign. But I digress.

OK, name me some left-wing douchebags... 'cause I can't think of one.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Pussy Blog: The Totosaurus

We have a table between our two desks where we keep the printer.

The Tot likes to sleep up there.

What's not to love about this cute face!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday Night Tequila Haiku

Bread dough is rising
Japanese Poetry Slam
Burgers coming up

The National Chromosome Dance

This op-ed column in the NY Times is several days old and if Witchay Woman hadn't emailed it to me I probably would never have seen it. This is outrageous.

A 1999 ruling in San Antonio, in Littleton v. Prange, determined that marriage could be only between people with different chromosomes. The result, of course, was that lesbian couples in that jurisdiction were then allowed to wed as long as one member of the couple had a Y chromosome, which is the case with both transgendered male-to-females and people born with conditions like androgen insensitivity syndrome. This ruling made Texas, paradoxically, one of the first states in which gay marriage was legal.

A lawyer for the transgendered plaintiff in the Littleton case noted the absurdity of the country’s gender laws as they pertain to marriage: “Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Tex., is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Tex., and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”

The USA has a mess to clean up. But I won't hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pull Up a Stool and Sit Down

Through the years I have made countless trips back to Arkansas to visit my mother and none of them have been what I'd call easy trips. While living in Los Angeles, such trips required air travel with a change of planes, usually in Dallas, followed with a car rental and a 2-hour drive from the Little Rock airport. Even then it was probably faster than it is now by car from Austin.

I have flown there from Austin and it still requires a change of planes in either Dallas or Houston and ultimately I figure it saves only about 2 hours over driving. Most importantly, I don't have to deal with airport security bullshit, repacking all my hair care products into approved containers, and hoping I don't have a hangnail en route because I don't have my nail clippers.

Regardless of the travel method, the stress doesn't end upon arrival. As with this most recent trip, I usually drive to Little Rock first because it's faster and easier, and I can spend a night with a friend from high school before heading to my mother's house the next day feeling a bit more refreshed.

The older I get, the more uncomfortable I am being away from my own bed, my own bathroom, and my own routine. I did sleep fairly well at my friend's house, despite having her clock radio alarm go off at midnight, and me hitting the snooze button twice before getting up to turn on a light so I could figure out where the off button was located. Then I was up at 5:30 to quickly shower and dress for my trip.

Along with the usual travel anxiety, I was meeting up that morning with Ellen, another friend from long before high school whom I hadn't see in over 30 years. That was also making me feel somewhat apprehensive. Fortunately, that meeting went great and was one of the highlights on my trip! After chatting for half an hour or so I went on to my mother's house.

My mother hugged me, I put my suitcase in the bedroom and returned to the kitchen and sat down. She immediately went on a tirade about Obama and the bailouts, how unfit he is to be leading this nation, etc. etc. It was bad enough when Bush was president, and although she didn't like a lot of what he was doing, she wasn't real vocal in her opposition to it, and she still thought of him as a fine Christian man, and CUTE! (Yes, I always had to suppress my gag reflex on that one!)

I have a hard time coming to terms with the rationale for such vehement opposition to Obama when he's barely been in office for 100 days. I have issues with several things he had done and said, and I have issues with things he hasn't done. But I'm not stomping up and down, frothing at the mouth while murmuring about socialism.

It is one thing to see clips of right-wing Negrophobes on television ranting about Obama; it is quite another to walk into your mother's house and hear a similar tirade coming from her lips. And it's not like I wasn't aware of her racism and her upbringing! It's still a shock to hear.

After that initial outburst from her and my retort, we eased into more congenial conversation of a non-political nature, thankfully. We had lunch and then I made an unsuccessful attempt at taking a nap.


Around 1999, txrad and I made a quick trip to Vegas to visit a friend we'd worked with in the Los Angeles days. If I recall, it may have been the last time we'd see her before she died. txrad and I hadn't smoked cigarettes in at least seven years, and we'd only recently begun having wine and the occasional margarita after seven years being alcohol-free.

Knowing that our friend we were visiting was a smoker and enjoyed a cocktail or three, and with Vegas being what it is, I had already harbored an unspoken thought of sneaking a cigarette here and there while in Vegas. Then once we were there, I was surprised that txrad brought it up by saying he was going to have a cigarette.

And we did. And we drank. And we gambled. And we held cigs in one hand and cocktails in the other. We had a blast.

It was a couple of days after returning home, and I distinctly remember the moment one evening in the living room, when I said, "I want a cigarette." I suppose the reason why I remember that moment so clearly is because I've not stopped smoking again since that night. It was a habit I should have left on the Strip along with the gambling.

Stress has since become a trigger for a nicotine craving. As I was gearing up for my Arkansas trip, I told myself I was not taking cigarettes along. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, so I was going to make the Friday before my departure as smokeless as possible. My goal was to not have a cigarette that morning until after I had returned from my 9:45 appointment to drop the car off for maintenance. That didn't work.

I awoke at 3:30 that morning having travel anxiety and even being nervous about taking the car to the shop. I went to the kitchen for some water and saw my half-smoked cigarette from the night before. Where's the logic in trying to quit smoking when I leave myself half a cigarette sitting out? So I smoked it.

When I awoke again and got up at 6:00, I had already broken a promise to myself so I had another. Besides, I was stressed. I was also starting to realize I was probably going to break another promise and take some smokes with me to Arkansas. But I was NOT going to smoke at my mom's house; I was sticking with that promise.

After my failed attempt at a nap at mom's house on Sunday afternoon I got up to find her sleeping on the porch with a newspaper in her hand. Even opening the creaky screen door didn't wake her. So I slipped back in the house and out the back door for a quick smoke.

After she arose we decided to go for a drive around town which is customary when I visit. I need to hear about who died in that house, who had a stroke in this one, and which house is now vacant and for sale because the occupant is now in the nursing home. We pass by a dozen or more buildings, virtually all of them vacant and decaying, which bring back a torrent of vivid happy memories from my childhood when the town was actually thriving. My mother then pointed to a restaurant downtown which appeared to be busy, and said, "that's a nigger restaurant."

Since almost no one reading this blog has even been to my hometown, let me put this in perspective for you. The town has very few places to eat that are decent. Most of the options are on the highway, not downtown. There's a Subway sandwich joint out there, probably a crappy little pizza place, and there was a new Mexican restaurant before it burned. There used to be a Chinese restaurant on the highway but I didn't notice if it was still there or not.

Downtown has a drug store where they serve sandwiches on the weekdays, but not on Saturday and I think they are closed on Sundays. There's just nothing downtown! The building which houses the "nigger restaurant" was for many years a locally-owned diner which was named the "Ritz." That closed down a few years ago, another restaurant may have eventually opened there but closed. The fact that somebody went in and opened a restaurant which is not only busy and convenient, but open on Sunday would seem to be a matter of civic pride, not shame and disgust because of the skin pigmentation of the owners.

It was probably at this moment when I began to question just how long my visit here would last. Instead of staying until Wednesday or Thursday, I was now thinking Tuesday at the latest.

Once back at our house from the tour of the decrepit little town, my mother began talking about how she is unable now to get out and work in her flower beds and pull weeds. She mentioned that a friend of hers has a beautiful back yard but paid someone to do it, and then came another bomb: "She had a nigger man do it, and I just don't want a nigger in my house."

Funny. It didn't seem to be an issue in the 1960s when she had a black maid come several times a week to clean her house. But I've always though that was more of a "keeping up with the Joneses" attempt at maintaining our level in our social caste since many of her friends had slaves black housekeeping help employed at ridiculously low rates of pay. (This was before the influx of Mexicans and Central American nannies who have a slightly lighter skin tone.)

All kinds of things were now clicking together in my head and I could almost hear the various pieces of the puzzle snapping in place. She knew I didn't want to hear any Obama-bashing so she was getting her racist frustrations out in other ways. She didn't like the "nigger restaurant" being just 2 blocks from her house, she didn't want a "nigger man" cleaning up her yard, and she sure as hell didn't want a nigger president that socialist in the White House.

I heard this kind of language growing up from people in the town, from friends and their families, and from my own. Between the 70s and the 90s it began to temper somewhat. Obviously it didn't disappear, it just became less public and more private. And somehow, the election of Barack Obama has caused people like my mother to crack wide open, throwing themselves back in time; not to the 1970s, but right back to 1957! They are so adamantly racist they are willing to sacrifice just about anything to stake that white power flag in the ground make their feelings known, be it their homes, their yards, their dying towns, and perhaps even more.

As my mother was preparing dinner, I amused myself by walking around the house snapping photos of various nick-nacks she has acquired over the years and displays in her house.

And as we all know, them black folks sure loves them some watermelon!

Ironically, my mother loves it too and could eat a whole one while standing at the kitchen sink.

In all the years I have made a yearly trek back to Arkansas, I have never been as troubled and perplexed as I was on this trip. It is a lot to absorb and digest. And yet, I cannot allow myself to feel towards my mother the way I feel about the Rush Limbaughs of the world.

Ellen, during our brief visit, said we cannot change them right now. This is all they know, and it is normal to them. My mother is but one of perhaps millions of people who grew up white in hundreds of small towns just like this one across the deep South and elsewhere, raised in a Christian religion which never really liked to asked the simple question, "What would Jesus do," and never had the benefit of an education or a work experience in which they developed friendships with people different from themselves.

I refuse to believe that my mother, deep down in her heart, really is this angry, or this racist. She is a kind and loving woman who does not like change, and wasn't really comfortable when black people were invited by the preacher into her church, despite the fact that the church (which was founded by my father, by the way) is located in what was called "colored town" during more civil times than these. And I can't help but juxtapose this with the "nigger restaurant" located downtown which has drawn her ire.

She carries baggage imposed on her from childhood by a father, also a decent and honest man, but one who didn't even like shaking hands with black people. This has been going on for centuries and will take centuries more to run its course, assuming it ever will.

I made the decision late on Sunday to return to Austin on Monday morning. I was feeling confused and longing to be back in my comfortable environs. Besides, it had rained all month and was continuing to rain so I could not have done the yard work she wanted even if I had stayed another day.

Around 9:15 I went to bed, hoping to arise by 5:30, have a quick breakfast and coffee, and then hit the road.

Thoughts were still being processed in my head as I tried to sleep. I was feeling hurt and disgust. And having not only met Ellen earlier that morning, but also her partner, a beautiful and witty black woman, I kept wondering how my mother would react to that double-whammy.

I had slept for perhaps an hour when I woke up. I checked the clock and it was only 11:15 PM. I tossed and turned and finally fell asleep before being awakened again just after midnight by the loudest freight train I've ever heard. After several minutes of that, just as the train sounds were growing faint as it headed away from town, I was jolted by a clap of thunder followed by more pouring rain.

During the night there was another train incident, then another. And another storm. Around 3:30 AM, I got up and had to sneak out into the backyard for a stress-relieving smoke. I managed to quietly find the key to the deadbolt on the back door (there be Negroes in the neighborhood!), and as soon as I set one foot on the back deck the exterior motion-detection lights came on. Thank God it wasn't accompanied by sirens! I lit up a cigarette and paced across the rain-soaked gravel driveway which crunched loudly beneath my feet like several inches of snow during a hard freeze. I crept quietly back into the house, locking the door and carefully placing the deadbolt key exactly as I had found it, and went back to bed. I finally awoke at 5:45 and got up for breakfast.

Another side-effect of travel for me is constipation. I think it has to due with a variety of factors: a change in routine, change in diet, sitting in a vehicle for 8 or 9 hours, stress, whatever. But I had not had a decent bowel evacuation since I left Austin two days earlier.

I visited with my mother while eating blueberry muffins and sipping two cups of coffee, then I loaded the car with my stuff and hit the road.

About 50 minutes later, just as I had crossed the Louisiana state line, I realized I needed to pee. "Like a horse" as the saying goes. I had just passed a couple of 18-wheelers about 2 miles behind me which is no easy feat on a 2-lane road in a rain storm. I didn't want them to catch up to me and pass me so I pulled over and decided to make this a fast one. As I urinated I began forcing it out faster than is natural in order to speed things up; I could already see the headlights approaching behind me. It was at that moment that I decided to let loose with a fart or two. Big mistake.

I quickly returned to the car and sped away before the 18-wheelers had reached me, and I thought to myself, "I might need to check my shorts when I get to a gas station" even though I really didn't think I had done anything serious. You know, just the likely "skid marks" as the kids used to say in school.

It was about an hour later when I reached Monroe, Louisiana where I would hook up with I-20 to take me west to Texas. I stopped at a service station and went to the restroom to relieve myself of coffee again and remembered I needed to check myself. I popped into a stall and lowered my shorts. Oh my God. Let's look on the bright side: I was no longer constipated! I reached into the black toilet paper dispenser only to realize there was nothing there but an empty roll.

I scooted out of the stall for some paper towels near the sink. Again, nothing. No paper products for hygiene were to be found here! I took off my heavily soiled underwear and used them to clean myself up as best I could and then stuffed the offensive garment into a pocket on my cargo shorts and returned to my car as if everything was completely normal. I put the underwear into a plastic bag in my trunk and proceeded on down the road until I could find an establishment which I hoped would have the proper amount of paper products in the restroom.

I grabbed by duffel bag which contained the previous day's attire and quickly headed into a restroom, avoiding eye contact with anyone lest they read my mind. I got myself cleaned up as best I could and changed into the cargo shorts I had worn while driving up the previous day. I mean, come on; did I need to put on anything clean? Cleaner than what I was wearing would clearly be a huge improvement.

Having dealt with that embarrassing situation, I was ready to hit the road again for Texas, and ultimately, Austin.

I'm not sure when I'll visit my mother again, but I hope it's not another year. I really should do this more often, not less. I need to love this woman who bore me, and enjoy what few remaining years I can with her, despite her flaws, and mine. Maybe I can't change her attitudes, but I can certainly set a positive example.

In the meantime, I can honestly say I wish President Barack Hussein Obama nothing but great success. It probably won't alter racism in any way, but it will nonetheless prove a point. In fact, I could argue it already has.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday Pussy Blog: Stinky Birkenstock Edition

I guess I should be kind and leave one pair of Birkenstocks on the floor in the living room so the Tot can "be with me" while I'm on vacation in Arkansas for the next few days!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Off to Arkansas

I haven't been to see my mother since January, 2008. Having scheduled the entire week off from work from 5/11 - 5/15, I figured Mother's Day would be a good time to make the run to Arkansas.

Saturday morning I will hit the road as early as possible to Little Rock and should be there by mid-afternoon. I'll have dinner with a friend I've known since high school.

Then Sunday morning I'll make the 125 mile drive from my friend's house to my mother's house. I should be there by 10:00 or 11:00 depending on when I leave Little Rock. The drive from Austin to Little Rock is so much easier than making the trek directly to McGehee, the last two hours of which are on mostly two lane roads which are exhausting after already driving for 7+ hours.

Now comes the fun part. When I decide to leave, the good news is that I get to deal with the two hour two-lane road portion early in the morning and put that behind me. The online maps suggest this route back to Austin. It's about 580 miles and all freeway from Monroe, Louisiana to Austin. That should take about 9 1/2 hours.

I'm always tempted to try an alternative. This route is the shortest in distance, about 535 miles, but according to the mapping software requires about 10 hours of driving time. But that road from Longview to I-35 in Round Rock is one long stretch of lonesome. It's very good for personal contemplation though!

One time I took the nearby route off I-20 going through Tyler and what a mistake that was. I wasted about 45 minutes going through Tyler traffic. This route avoids Tyler but I'm not sure if it makes more sense than just staying on the freeways, as fraying on the nerves as they can be.

Another one of the cons with this route is really bad radio for about 5 hours. Guess I should take some CDs, or just shut off the stereo and ... contemplate.

If anyone reading this has taken that route, let me know what you think. Regardless of the route, I'll be hitting the Austin city limits just at the start of our horrendous rush hour, unless I get a REALLY early start on this portion of the trip. A 7 AM departure -- at LEAST -- is mandatory.

After a few days of hearing Fox News at my mother's house, I don't think a 6 AM departure would be hard to achieve.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

RIP Dom DeLuise

This is absolutely one of my favorite scenes from any film by any comic. I can't watch this and not laugh. Thank you, Dom, for years and years of laughing myself to tears.

He was 75 and will be missed.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

It's Official: We Elected a Moderate

Forget all the paranoid right-wing racist emails which still litter the internet regarding President Barack Obama. (I still love saying that after 8 years of the previous asshole. PRESIDENT Barack Obama!)

Forget most of the radical change those of us on the far left hoped for with his election. Barack Obama is simply a moderate. And that's still very refreshing after what we've been through.
Now Mr. Obama is preparing to select his first Supreme Court nominee to replace retiring Justice David H. Souter. In interviews, former colleagues and students say they have a fairly strong sense of the kind of justice he will favor: not a larger-than-life liberal to counter the conservative pyrotechnics of Justice Antonin Scalia, but a careful pragmatist with a limited view of the role of courts.

“His nominee will not create the proverbial shock and awe,” said Charles J. Ogletree, a Harvard professor who has known the president since his days as a student.

Mr. Obama believes the court must never get too far ahead of or behind public sentiment, they say. He may have a mandate for change, and Senate confirmation odds in his favor. But he has almost always disappointed those who expected someone in his position — he was Harvard’s first black law review president and one of the few minority members of the University of Chicago’s law faculty — to side consistently with liberals.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

An Actual Conversation

konagod: When you see a cat shitting behind the TV it probably means the litter box needs to be cleaned.

txrad: You could clean it.

txrad: They sound like U2.

konagod: Is it the Verve?

txrad: No, it's U2.

konagod: So, U2 sounds like U2. How does that relate to cat shit?

I need pot. More later, I'm sure.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Forrest Gump on Toot

Via Ronnie Walker on Facebook, crazy mother fucker.

Have you ever been on a real shrimp boat?

Friday Pussy Blog: Apathy Edition

Sissy barely opened her eyes for the photo session.

The Tot did the same... briefly opened then shut again. He has spent the entire afternoon in that one spot.

Happy, happy Friday! The weekend is here!

Friday Flora

txrad found a patch of these in our yard and they look like an orchid. There are native Texas orchids and we're not sure if this is one of them. We've never noticed these before now. Beautiful.