Friday, January 6, 2012

adventures with my grandmother: unfunny edition

When visiting my grandmother, the first thing I can expect to hear when I wake up at 9:30 is, "Oh good, you're finally up, I've been starving for hours now." Then begins the delicate game of deciding where to go for breakfast.

Me: Where would you like to go?
G'ma: Oh I don't care. Where would you like to go? This is a lie. There is one specific place she has in mind for breakfast, and it is now my job to guess that place.
Me: I'm open to anything. How do you feel about Coco's?
G'ma: Coco's is... (downward lilt) fine. You have chosen: poorly.
Me: Is there anywhere else you would like to go?
G'ma: No, Coco's is fine. Five minutes pass. Although, you know, we haven't been to Pam's in a long time. She means Polly's, and God help me, I do the same thing all the time.
Me: Oh, do you want to go to Polly's?
G'ma: That's right, Polly's. Let's do that!

Then we drive to Polly's. On the way, she will criticize how fast I drive. If I point out that I am both going the speed limit and at or slightly slower than the flow of traffic, she will tell me, "Well, you know you're not on the insurance, sweetheart," and then make a tangential comment about the Christmas gift I didn't get right three years ago. If I ask her not to backseat drive, she will tell me that I'm mumbling and to speak up. I know that the correct response to all of this is to stonewall: sometimes I manage not to take the bait, but often I still don't.

Then we arrive at Polly's. She will not get out of the car if someone (possibly men in particular?) is walking ten feet away on the off chance that they happen to be the kind of hooligan who would push an old lady down while walking past. As I am pulling out my keys to lock the car, she will make sure to remind me to lock the car, because you know otherwise I might just forget and then where would we be? As we are walking inside, she will wax eloquent about the bank teller from the day before who would only speak in a whisper and who clearly did not know what she was doing and the grocery clerk who just insists on packing the bags too heavy.

God help our waitress. By the end of the meal she will say:

G'ma: Well, she just wasn't very good at all.
Me: I thought she was fine. She was nice and our food was on time.
G'ma: Yes but she insisted on refilling my coffee and now it is cold! Assuming, naturally, that the waitress poured cold coffee into her cup, rather than it having cooled down over the subsequent ten minutes.
Me: I'm not sure our waiter is responsible for the laws of physics.
G'ma: (sniff), you mean waitress.
Me: Ah, my mistake.

I decide to try and head some of this off at the pass. I've been thinking a lot about my mother recently, and I want to hear more stories about her before I was around while my grandmother can still tell them. So I ask her to tell me something about mom, maybe in her twenties, before she had me but after she had grown up and moved out of the house. It is the period I know the least about.

My grandmother almost immediately launches into a story about my mother in her teens, when she was sneaking cigarettes with her friend and ditching school.

G'ma: You know, she was always such a good storyteller, such a good liar. Whenever she told me these things I just believed her. But she wasn't the leader of this, no. She was more of a follower. It was that friend of hers who got her into trouble.
Me: Sounds like pretty normal teenage acting out.
G'ma: I guess. If only I could have been there more, done something more. I should have stopped it somehow.

This makes me suddenly, unreasonably and furiously angry. She believes that she should have done more, that she wasn't there enough, when it seems clear as day to me that she was there too much. My mother was just trying to exert some distance, some control over a situation in which she had none because my grandmother must always be in control. But as my grandmother keeps talking, I feel like I'm walking backwards in time. Parts of this story I knew, but others were just being filled in, and I feel like the audience to a bad black-and-white movie where we found out that Rosebud was the sled the whole time.

Scene 1:
I am 17 years old, practicing clarinet in the den. I hear an odd sound coming from somewhere else in the house, so I try to find it. It's my grandmother, sobbing uncontrollably while sprawled across my mother's bed: she had been dead for six or eight months by this point. I try to comfort her, but inside I am thinking ungenerously that she looks and sounds like a beached whale. I am pissed that I have to the parent to her, and that aside from choking up at the funeral I have never cried for mom. It feels to me as if my grandmother has taken up all the room for grief and I have to be the calm, reasonable one all the time.

Scene 2:
I am 15 years old, and my mother and grandmother are fighting over dinner again. Meals are forced family time, and it takes me a while to realize how much I dread dinners together. To this day, most of the time when I eat I zone out only to snap back into consciousness after the food is gone: I realize looking back that this is probably where that comes from. I finally snap at both of them and say, "Fine, we all hate each other, can we please just eat quietly?" My mother excuses herself to have a cigarette, in spite of just having gotten her second kidney transplant. Later that evening my grandmother is gardening without gloves and I can see a black widow spider crawling up the trowel towards her hand. I beg her to use gloves; she responds by telling me that she doesn't care if she dies because at least she loves me. I feel so bad that I apologize the rest of the evening.

Scene 3:
I am 9 years old, and my mother and grandmother are fighting again, and my grandmother is throwing my mother out of the house for maybe the 30th or 40th time since they've been living together. This time it seems serious, though, so I pack up a bunch of my toys in a pillow case and tell my mother I'm ready to go with her (she insists she is taking me). My grandmother tells me that I have to leave the toys behind as I will just lose them or my mother will sell them if we are out on our own. My mother says, probably for the hundredth time since she found out about her kidney disease, "you'll be so sorry when I'm dead." I unpack my toys, but I'm crying. Nobody leaves the house that night.

Scene 4:
I am 5 years old, and visiting my grandmother for the summer. My mother and her (meth-addicted) boyfriend Rod are living back in Ohio, and my grandmother is concerned. I have no marks on me, but I am apparently telling "everyone who will listen" about how Rod hits my mother. When I left the previous year I had been well-fed, but now I am very skinny and appear undernourished. I woke up from a nap screaming because I thought that my grandmother had left me all alone in the house. I have a disconcerting habit of wandering to the fridge and eating peanut butter from the jar. Perhaps most concerning, I tell a story about how Rod had me touching his penis in the shower, and how my mother screamed (at least once, possibly often) for me to get a knife so she could defend herself against him. My grandfather is telling my grandmother that she should sue for custody, although he does not seem willing to do so himself.

Scene 5:
It is 6 months earlier, in winter in Ohio. I remember my mother teaching me how to get canned peaches and peanut butter on my own because she and Rod liked to sleep in. I remember an incident where he bent her fingers back at an impossible angle because she wouldn't give him the money from her bank account, and in retrospect he must have been fixing pretty badly. I remember there being a lot of Playgirl magazines around the house, because my mother said she liked them. I remember that my mother loved me, and that it felt like her and me against Rod and maybe between the two of us we could take him. I remember having fantasies of stabbing him while he was hurting my mother.

Scene 6:
I am 4 years old. My mother and Rod are moving to the East Coast, against my grandmother's objections. They insist on driving, and have carved out a small space in the back seat for me between the piles of objects they are moving. Rod will ultimately strand my mother in a gas station and drive the car back to his parent's house, selling most of the possessions to pay off the money he owes them. My mother will forgive him, then beg for money from my grandmother to get both of them a bus ticket to make it all the way to Pennsylvania (where they lived before Ohio). I am already in Pennsylvania with my grandfather, because my grandmother had the foresight to plead with them to send me on a plane instead.

Scene 7:
My mother is 26, four and a half years before I am born. She is telling my grandfather, not for the first time, that when he left the family there was nobody there to protect her from (my grandmother). He is apologizing. He is unaware that she has been bulimic for years, and that it is destroying her kidneys. The doctors will notice something is wrong when I am born, but she won't follow up until I am 9 and it is already so bad that she needs dialysis.

Scene 8:
My mother is 16, sneaking cigarettes with her friend and ditching school, probably talking about what bitches their parents are.

Scene 9:
My mother is 9. My grandmother is a stressed-out single mother with a full-time job who's just finished getting her divorce from her alcoholic husband.

Scene 10:
My grandmother is 9. She has much of the responsibility for raising her younger siblings, of whom there will ultimately be seven, because her mother is busy flirting with the neighborhood men and gossiping with her friends. She is the oldest child in a shotgun wedding, and her own mother has a hard time concealing her contempt (while doting on the male children). She is learning that she is expected to be in control at all times, and that when things go wrong she will often be blamed for it instead of her siblings. She is also learning that her siblings like getting into trouble (probably because there weren't enough parents to go around), and usually will if she isn't there to stop them.

Scene 11:
My great-grandmother is 9. Her father is an alcoholic, and has locked her out of the house again. She has to spend the night sleeping across the street at the neighborhood park. She will get pregnant and marry early to escape...

After two hours of talking about our family, I am not angry any more. I have cried, more than I did in six or seven years after my mother died. My grandmother doesn't seem to notice, although she does say that she's upset at me for making her talk about all of this. We're back home by this point and she says that she wants to rest. But before she does, the last thing it occurs to her to say is this:

G'ma: Thank God you turned out the way you are. Thank God you didn't wind up like your mother. You know, she always used to tell me that I was a bad mother, and I think she was probably right. But I remember that time before I sent you on the plane to Pennsylvania, the night before when you and I were cuddling in bed together and I was so afraid. I remember your little arm hugging my neck and thinking, "I can die now. This can be it for me."... Anyway, we missed The Price is Right. Where do you think you want to go for dinner?

And the thing is, death is coming for her. We might have five or even ten more years at the outset, but the closer it gets, the faster it seems to move. I know that she is too lost in the past to hear what I want to say to her, and I guess that this has to be okay, because I've tried in every way I know. But what I would want to say is this: it's okay. I forgive you, just like I forgave mom a long time ago. I get it; I can help you carry some of the sadness and the hate. I wish you understood that. I love you; not just the fake, socially compelled "I love you," we always say to each other. The real one, the one that understands how bad you had to hurt for me to be who and where I am. And I'm sorry for when I fail. I love you.

And I do. And if she can never quite hear that, then by God the people in my life will, from my friends to my clients and one day my partner and my own children. I love you. I really do.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fun Fact for the Day:

Street fairs bring out people's latent desire to dispense unwanted jackassery.

Earlier today my friend Nathan was doing HIV outreach at Castro Street Fair. After about 30 seconds of pretending to listen to some windbag talk about how Harvey Milk was more important than sexual education in schools, he did the socially appropriate thing and started ignoring him. The man was so incensed by this that he started pelting Nathan with free candy from the booth. Hijinx (and very nearly a police report) ensued. At the time I mostly thought, wow, random semi-assaultive jackassery and I wasn't the target. Things are looking up for me!

Fate is not only cruel, but patient. Later that afternoon,

Darren: Can we talk about how you are a growing boy, and how you need to start going to the gym so that it doesn't all go to (motions to belly area).

Me: ... no, no we can not do that.

Darren: I'm just trying to help!

There have been a few social moments, very few, where I felt like my clinical psychology skills have come in useful, where I felt like I was able to tailor a conversation or express myself just a little bit better than I otherwise would have.

This was not one of those moments. This felt like hitting a very small, cute but also very stupid woodland creature with the obvious mallet.

Me: (strained) Thank you for your generous advice. I will take this under consideration. Gee, you look like you've been working out.

Darren: Oooooh, why thank you! Did I mention I love this boy?

Me: I... feel a stirring desire... to blog about this.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

conversations with my grandfather

I just had an hour-and-a-half conversation with my grandfather about politics. We didn't debate the debt ceiling or tax hikes; we barely touched the tea party phenomenon or Michelle Bachmann or even whatever the latest sex scandal is. We didn't talk about the current market crash or The Fed or S&P. We didn't talk about gay marriage or abortion or the environment.

We did, however, spend over an hour debating whether Obama was a socialist and former Muslim who secretly doesn't really like America and is trying to wage "class warfare" on the rich. After all that time, I'm still not even totally sure what he meant by that.

It hit me in a really visceral way that there is no longer a real national debate about either direction, like continuing the Afghanistan War, or values, like abortion. Instead, we are having a basic disagreement about facts that are not only easy to verify, but so wildly distorted that the very distinction between fact and opinion has become blurred. Suddenly it becomes plausible to say, "Well, I think Obama is a socialist and you don't, so I guess that both our opinions are valid and we can agree to disagree." Actually, both his political record and his personal philosophy are really well-documented, and by either standard he is demonstrably not a socialist. It is a fundamentally untrue narrative built on fundamentally untrue facts.

And yet suddenly we're off to semantics. If you define socialism as any attempt to raise taxes on people who are already paying taxes (I think this is his functional definition), and Obama supports a plan that includes tax increases, doesn't that make him kind of socialist? Sure, for the same reason that we could call him a communist if we define communism as making a left turn while driving. Or we delve into ontology: it is impossible to prove someone doesn't secretly hold socialist beliefs way deep down on the inside, even if they never proclaim or act on them. Or we just delve into conspiracy theories based on yet more demonstrably untrue statements: that he was really born in Kenya, that both his parents were communists, that his father was Muslim (almost-true; he was an atheist from a Muslim background), and that this is all part of a really elaborate plan to bring America to the heel of its rightful Marxist Muslim Overlords.*

God help us if we try to have a conversation about how implicit racism might make it easier to see Obama as an evil other. So much time has been spent building narratives out of untrue facts, and confusing facts with opinions and finally just calling the whole debacle "fact, but you can disagree if you want to (and you're stupid)," that there just isn't any room for real nuance. Instead we get, "I said he was a Kenyan socialist, I didn't mention him being black, why are you mentioning race, you'retheracistI'mdefinitelynotracist!"

More than ever I nurse the fantasy that Obama will conclude that sometimes compromise is not an option, and that you can't reason with people who are so invested in their narrative that they actually, literally refuse to take reason or reality into account. Just like you can't reason with people who are willing to race-bait for political power. I imagine him finally coming out with a speech that tells the Tea Partiers, possibly in politer tones, "Shut the fuck up, the adults are talking now." Instead, we have a president who can only govern by making right turns.

*Alternatively, Marxist Muslim Masters if you prefer the alliteration.

2 lessons learned from watching "The Price is Right"

1. Sometimes you can be so bored that you don't even realize how bored you are until it occurs to you that you are really getting into "The Price is Right."

2. Pasta sauce isn't supposed to cost $5, Laundry detergent isn't supposed to cost $10, and San Francisco has really skewed how expensive I think things should be.

Monday, August 8, 2011

yet more adventures with my grandmother

Me: zzz...zzz...zzz

Gma: Hey...hey. Let's go to dinner.

Me: Snurgle, rugh, ugh. It's 4:20 in the afternoon.

Gma: The restaurants will be crowded if we wait any longer.

Me: On a Thursday?

Gma: Where were you thinking you'd like to go?

Me: I wasn't because I was sleeping.

Gma: I know how you feel. I never get a wink of sleep if I wait too long to have dinner.

Me: Alright, alright, touche.

Then, at dinner:

Gma: So. The you were trying to make your hair look like that?

Me: Yes. How do you like it?

Gma: It's...(downward lilting) cute.

Me: Cute boyish or cute handsome?

Gma: It's...(downward lilting) cute. You know, you're lucky you still have enough hair to style it that way.

Me: Huh.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

a therapy conundrum

Alright, imagine you are a therapist and a guy comes in and tells you that he has depression. Yay depression, there are about a million treatment models that are proven to work for that.

Now imagine that you find out the guy is depressed partly because his girlfriend is physically abusing him. Suddenly you have a much bigger psychosocial issue; hell, the guy probably should have some sort of extreme emotional reaction to that because his situation is extreme. Is it just depression now? Is it self-esteem? Would he be better served by a case manager, or a cop, or a lawyer?

Now imagine that it turns out that the guy ends up going from one abusive relationship to another, always finding women to play out the same pattern. Kind of puts the ball back in a regular private therapist's court. Do you support him so that he feels stronger and more confident, or do you confront him about his pattern in an effort to get him to change? Both address relevant causal links in the chain of him getting hurt, but at slightly different levels. The second (deeper) one takes longer but without addressing it the guy will probably keep replaying the same issues in one form or another. The first one probably will go more quickly and solve a lot of the immediate problem (say, he leaves the current relationship and starts taking better care of himself) but there are still subterranean issues that could just as easily re-emerge. And what if there are even deeper layers nested within that?

These are all questions that I have no better idea how to address since I started my program, which is a little frustrating. Oh, I think I know what my supervisors would say, that it is more important to have a clear sense of the questions that it is to have a good answer for them, and that by making these things conscious it will allow you to address the individual client's concerns better. I remain unsatisfied. I'm at the part of the learning process where I know a crap-load about what I don't know without enough framework to really be useful yet. It's a crappy spot in the learning curve.

Monday, January 11, 2010


I just finished my first 25-hour overnight shift at Conard, which will be a weekly thing.

Pros: About $300 after taxes for working once a week in a job where I will have a ton of time to do homework.

Cons: I am soul-crushingly tired. Something about the resonance of a place where so many people pass through, I guess, but I don't think I will ever be able to get more than a few hours of sleep while working there. But then again, I see this as the logical extension of my career path; I mean, I'm already slowly selling my sanity for money, so my soul isn't that big a leap.

I do worry though that I may begin to over-stretch a little. To be fair, it isn't like I have kids or anything approaching a long-term relationship, so I really ought to have all the time in the world to work a job and go to school. It's just that I'm not exactly famous for my time-management skills, and I would like to see my friends occasionally. Not having a weekend makes that more difficult, because right now Saturday is my only free day.

Which of course means that if I do want to make time, I have to start planning things for over the week, which means most likely falling behind on my work, let alone maybe occasionally making it the gym or doing my own cooking or meditating or any of the other crap that I like to tease myself into thinking I might occasionally do. Plus burn-out is bad.

But I have to look at it this way: this year cannot possibly suck worse than last one did. Last year started off okay and just kept sliding. Not that getting into grad school wasn't amazing, because it was, and not that I don't have a lot of awesome people in my life, because I do. But last year was the poster-child for every bad decision or error in judgment rebounding in painful and nearly immediate karma. It was the year of mostly getting my ass handed to me.

So I declare this the year of "It's gonna be a good fucking year!" And I'm not going to let the fact that I am tired as hell and already overloaded with schoolwork and struggling to maintain a social life and have no idea what the hell I'm doing get in the way of that.

Fuck off, me-karma.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

depressing thought for the day

Take a kid who is institutionalized. Institutions tend to vastly under-stimulate kids, for a number of reasons. Now look at that kid's brain.

Current research indicates that our young brains vastly overproduce the number of both neurons and synapsis, and then trim them back. The thing is that we overproduce according to a genetic program but trim back according to experience, so kids who are chronically (and severely) under-stimulated trim back way too many neurons and connections because according to their environment they don't need them. And as we all know, at least for the sexy higher-functioning regions of the brain, a dead neuron never gets replaced.

So life is horrible and we are all going to die.

And I really shouldn't be complaining about studying because I am incredibly privileged and I know it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

fun fact

It is a Friday night, and I am not out getting drunk with friends as God intended. Instead I am at home studying the mental status exam and the implications of evolutionary psychology for future research. My consolations are few at the moment, but let me share something cool that I learned.

Say you are walking around one day when a flying saucer lands in front of you and a lithe, buxom (if slightly green-skinned) alien emerges to gather samples of earthling sexual energy. How do you know if you are crazy or not?

The answer is simple: touch him/her. Hallucinations derived from mental disorders tend to only be audial or visual, so if you can touch said alien it is probably real. Well, you know.

Hallucinations that are olfactory or tactile tend to derive from more organic disorders or from substance abuse, so if you are on a mess o' mushrooms then all bets are off. Still, it seems like a cool way of being able to distinguish reality from non-reality.

Now you know. And knowing is half the battle!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

shorter interview

Dr. Foo: You are obviously smart, but I don't know if I can trust your judgment because you were fired from your last job.

Me: I understand. Please check my references and you will see that this wasn't as bad as it sounds.

Inner me: I work for a bloody year and a half to build up the trust of my boss, my coworkers and the company itself, only to get fired for a damn technicality because some mid-level bureaucrat had a stick up her butt, and I am still paying for it. Worse, I have no way of explaining this that doesn't make me sound like an arrogant and/or bitter jerk.

Dr. Foo: Oh, I hear Baker has changed their policy so that now you are fired after three mistakes rather than two. (meaning I would still have the job).


End result: I probably have the job anyway, but I go in having to prove myself all over again. Also, I will be the only practicum student there who is in their first year rather than their second, which means I am already handicapped in terms of the number of hours I can work and the type of work I can do. For a relatively successful interview, I am so frustrated I could cry.

Monday, August 10, 2009

insights gained from 10 days of meditation

Forgive me, I am about to wax verbose. If so, it is only because I have been deprived of words for so very long that the ability to speak and write them again is really, really satisfying. So sit back, relax, mix up a non-intoxicating organically farmed beverage of your choice. You might just gain some insight into the nature of reality (and Buddhist monks).

1. Wanna know something interesting about not talking for many days at a time? When it started out, I actually thought I would like the whole "no communication" rule, because it meant I wouldn't have to bother trying to make small talk over the fruit and oatmeal breakfast. Instead, I actually experienced a Haley-esque kind of fracture where different parts of my personality starting interacting. No really, I'm not just saying this for comic effect. There was the cynic, the cheerleader, the numbers guy, the contemplator, the whiner, and the buddha, and they all had different things to say about the experience ("God this sucks, no, you must be a prodigy of effort! There are only eight more days to go anyway, just experience your own breathing. Ah, my back freaking hurts! Pain is impermanent, pain is impermanent...") So lesson number one: words are amazing, and living without them makes you a little crazy.

2. A word about the "numbers guy" voice in my head. He's the one that thinks like this:
At the end of day one, you have completed 1/10th of the course.
At the end of day two, you have completed 1/5th of the course.
Half-way through day three you have completed 1/4 of the course.
Mid morning of day four you have completed 1/3 of the course.
At the end of day five you have completed 1/2 of the course.
At the end of day six you have completed 3/5 of the course.
In the mid-afternoon of day seven you have completed 2/3 of the course.
Half-way through day eight you have completed 3/4 of the course.
At the end of day nine you have completed 9/10 of the course.
At the end of day ten you have completed ohmygodthatwasthelongesttendaysofmylife of the course.

So the moral of the story is don't listen to numbers guy. He's an asshole.

3. The meditation center is located sort of in the hills, nigh mountains east of Fresno. Now every hill essentially amounts to a giant pile of rocks and dirt, usually with a fine layer of vegetation on top. Well, the vegetation on this particular hill was not enough to make one forget that it was still basically a giant pile of rocks and dirt. Apparently there was some cool wildlife and vegetation around that Jon was able to appreciate, but for me, the experience was highly bug-laden. I recall making fun of him a few years back before his forestry trip, telling him that ants seek out nutrient-rich human anuses to feast on. Guess what crawled down the back of my pants the first night we got there? Hence lesson number three: karma is real, and it is a bitch.

4. To be fair, lesson number four is that Jon has a freakish propensity for attracting bees.

5. I have never so directly experienced the nature of my own ability to work. I found that for me, there is concentration and there is willpower, and the two don't necessarily correlate. When both were high it was a great productive period. When concentration was high but willpower was low, I was still able to meditation pretty well, although I was more easily distracted by physical discomfort. When they were both low everything sucked. But the most interesting part was when concentration was low but willpower was high: I would sit for an extended period of time, not really able to meditate but determined to see the session through. The feeling of personal satisfaction and of pure effort made was so intense that I actually got an endorphine rush a few times, but then I would have almost no willpower for a day or so afterwards. That said, I think I have a slight but noticeable increase in both concentration and willpower. So my fifth insight is this: concentration and willpower work like muscles: you can wear them out, but they get stronger over time.

6. You know the kind of guy who says, "trust me, we don't need to use a condom?" Wanna know the only thing in the universe that can lower my already rock-bottom level of trust and respect for that person? The answer is Buddhist monks. If we were meditating for an extended period of time, the monks conducting the course would give us a rest break. Specifically, they would say, "take a break for about five minutes and then return for further instruction." Five minutes my firmly toned ass. It was unlikely that we would return in ten minutes, sometimes even as long as fifteen. Even the monks didn't return on time. Now part of me appreciates that their mommas didn't raise no fools and they knew that people would stretch out the breaks and planned accordingly. But another part can't help but observe that even Buddhist monks will lie to you. Doesn't say much for no-condom guy, does it?

7. One day I am standing outside the dhamma hall, which has many big trees around it, when suddenly this guy grabs one of the branches and starts doing pull-ups. One of the bystanders, not to be outdone, grabbed another branch and did the same thing. When the first guy left, a third guy grabbed a branch and began swing on it back and forth. Meanwhile, the first guy started doing one-legged squats in front of the hall. My seventh insight: excessive meditation drives people crazy, and possibly causes them to regress into monkeys.

8. On day four we actually learned the vipassana technique we were there to learn. Unfortunately, it takes two hours to teach and they only started teaching us after we had already been meditating for two hours. Needless to say, I was pissed. And sore, and tired, and bitter. So part of the way through it became almost impossible for me to follow, although I did in a sort of minimal way. Basically it amounts to a body scan technique where you go through your body bit by bit and really concentrate on feeling some bit of sensation everywhere, no matter how small or obscure. Every moment, we were told, there is some sensation coming from every part of your body, you just need to develop your ability to feel it. Then the point was made that every sensation you feel is something changing, whether that is hot or cold or prickly or tingly or dull, it is some kind of change going on in your body. And this, finally, is the nature of impermanence. Everything is changing all the time. Don't take Buddha's word for it, experience it for yourself.

And you know what? That was a really awesome moment. I really did have a sense of being able to understand, if only briefly the nature of impermanence. Insight number 8: life is impermanence. Even if their way of demonstrating that was through slow arts of torture.

9. Gender segregation is stupid. It was so strict they wouldn't even allow men and women to walk on the same paths; the course was divided into male and female halves. Men and women sat on opposite sides of the meditation hall and entered from different doors. The male instructor only spoke directly to the male students, the female instructor to the female students (and let me tell you, what a couple of sexpots!) Trust me, between the boredom and the back pain I was in no mood to jump the bones of anyone else at the camp.

10. Know what the biggest thing I got out of the trip has been? A profound new appreciation for chairs. You, sitting there reading this! Find the nearest chair. It may be the one you are sitting on, or perhaps there is one in the room near you. Now take this opportunity, right now, to thank that chair. Let it know that it is a valued member of your household and/or community and that its many contributions do not go unnoticed or unappreciated. You may give the chair a hug if you feel so inclined. If you find this excessive, try sitting on the floor for ten hours a day. Oh sure, you can do it, you may even get used to it and feel fine with it, but anything that can support both your back and your feet with relative comfort for hours on end with such a simple, elegant design is truly a god among objects. Here's to you, chair!

11. I can live (happily!) on a minimal vegetarian diet. I was probably consuming about 1500 calories a day while I was there, the vast majority of that before noon. I was never hungry, or dissatisfied. I'm not going to stick to something so minimalist now that I am back, but I will look a lot harder at what I eat and why.

12. Aversion and craving really do appear to be the source of most of my suffering. That has given me a lot to chew on over the last several days.

13. Finally, one night I was walking back from the meditation/dhamma hall and I noticed one of the guest monks walking on the path ahead of me. He had taken off his shirt and was waving it wildly over his head. Overcome by my repressed lust at that point, I immediately tackled him to the ground and began making out with him passionately. The other guest monk (there were two), also unable to hold back any longer, joined from behind as he unleashed his sleeping tumescence. Men everywhere began either running to the women's side of the site or satisfying themselves or one another in wild displays of orgiastic lust. Where was I? Right, so this monk has taken off his shirt and is waving it in the air. And my first thought is, "why is the monk showing us his tits? This is not the Mardi Gras I was promised!" So the final insight is... actually, sorry, I have no idea what I learned from this experience. Maybe the universe is a mysterious, sexy place? Or possibly gender segregation was appropriate after all? We may never know.

Friday, July 17, 2009

because i hate you and want you to suffer with me

Let's see:

Belief that systemic racism only targets white men: check! (1:07, 8:18, 9:53)

(Related) Automatic dismissal of examples of potential prejudice against people of color: check! (7:55)

(And finally the unsurprising and rather logical conclusion of 1 and 2) Belief that the rights of white men need active protection and by implication that the rights of people of color do not because they are not discriminated against: check! (9:28)

Belief that white men are (roughly) the only positive contributors to American history: check! (2:06)

Assumption that a person of color must automatically be unqualified for a position despite an extraordinary list of accomplishments: check! (0:39, 3:28)

(Related) Belief that a person of color must only be under consideration due to affirmative action: check! (0:52, 4:00)

(Also related) Assumption that he himself must have performed better in school despite not having that information: check! (5:53)

Ignoring the fact that there are racial groupings in this country that do not fall into "black" or "white," despite having a conversation about a Latina(!): check! (2:25)

Belief that we should only choose the "finest minds" to serve higher office and that by implication this explains why white men have been predominant throughout American history: check! (3:02, 6:45)

Assumption that our country's long history of racism has little or no impact on our current state of affairs: check! (5:10)


Saturday, July 4, 2009

the white flight of facebook

I am still digesting this, but it was so interesting that I couldn't not post it immediately.

awkward conversation

guy: (makes random joke, follows it up with): Good thing you aren't a Muslim or you probably would have killed me.
me: ...Isn't that a little... insensitive?
guy: Oh, that's me! I just make sure to offend everyone because otherwise that would be racist!
me: (Actually it kind of still is)
guy: Except for Italians, because they would probably kill me.
me: (Maybe you just awkwardly say stupid things when you just don't know what else to say...)
guy: It's okay, though, because I'm Jewish.
me: (He isn't stopping! Must do something!)
me: Have a nice day sir!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

top three gay porns that carry a nerd/latin theme

Number Three: May the Foreskin Be With You

Number Two: Dungeons and Daddies

Number One: Super Barrio Bros. Strike Back!