Friday, December 16, 2011

There's Magic in the Air This Evening, Magic in the Air

The world is at her best, you know, when people love and care,
The promise of excitment is one the night will keep,
After all, there's only one more sleep 'til Christmas.  

- Kermit the Frog as Bob Crachit, A Muppet Christmas Carol

What better time of year to discuss magic than now?  Originally, I thought this fit best with Halloween, what with everyone thinking in terms of witches, spells, flying on broomsticks...

However, that's Hollywood magic; it's total bullshit, and no sane person believes in it anyway. 

Real Magic can only be explained to people who witness it.

Ironically, considering my last post, Santa Claus is this world's best proof of Real Magic.

So join me on this ride of Rhetoric Whiplash...

The sign says "Magic for Muggles, 101".  Please leave at the door:

Any and all preconceptions re: talking cats, noses twitching to cute little bell music, ruby slippers and anything you learned from the Harrys (Houdini, Potter and Dresden). I promise you that at no point will we be dealing with a woman with raven hair, ruby lips, and sparks that fly from her fingertips.

Most importantly, leave behind the belief that there is anything, anything at all, supernatural about magic, as defined by Pagans. Speaking of definitions:

magic (magick) - the ability to bring about needed change by methods not yet measurable or accepted by science. The Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, by Scott Cunningham

The important word here is "yet". Pagans practice magic with the absolute belief that, given time, science could catch up - could eventually prove (to its own satisfaction) why any and all magical practices are effective.

Actually, this is not very unlike our understanding of prayer - we can't scientifically explain why it works, but how many of us have seen the effects of it? I know I have...

In my high school junior year religion class, I learned what was to become my very favorite definition for the word "religion".  Loosely repeated (it has been about 20 years):

religion - the way a person explains the mysteries of the universe to him or herself.

I mean, really, isn't that AWESOME? 

There are more things in our reality than can be explained by the current scientific community.  If there weren't, there would be no point in trying to find cures for cancer, AIDS, MS, etc., etc..  The exploration of space, or trying anything new at all would be a complete waste of time.  Essentially, without the recognition of natural mysteries, there would be no need to pursue  knowledge, to conduct experiments. 

For most deity based religions, the unexplained goes under the heading of God, and how He works in mysterious ways.  They call the occurrences of these mysteries "miracles".

For Scientific Empiricists, the unexplained is eventually explainable - science just hasn't gotten there yet.  To the best of my knowledge, they don't have a word that specifically labels that body of information.

For Pagans, the unexplained is called "magic" (or magick).  For me, I call this Real Magic.

Anyway, though our entertainment industry (from fireside stories and books to TV shows and movies) has worked very hard to give us fantastical images of the bibbity bobbitys, learning about magic is a lot less like attending Hogwarts, and a lot more like attending Home Ec.

For example:

500 years ago, if you had a terrible headache, you would go to the local witch (aka "wicce" aka "wise one" aka "the gal (or guy) at the end of the village who understands herbal medicine") for help.  While the water heated in her cauldron, she'd go out into her garden and snip a few herbs.  She'd then come back in, bruise the leaves a bit, pour the hot water over them, pray over them, and hand you the potion to drink.  And drink it you would.   A little while later, your headache is gone!  WOW!  MAGIC!!

And 500 years ago, that WOULD be magic.  Because no one knew why it worked, they only knew that it worked.  That gap between efficacy and the understanding of it is what made (makes) magic.  That's it.  For real.

Today, we know that the herb yarrow (found in any self respecting witch's garden) is a natural form of acetecylic acid. 

500 years ago?  A spell and a potion.  Today?  A cup of hot tea with asprin in it.

I remember explaining this years ago to a friend of mine.  She replied with "But that's not magic!  That's not supernatural!  That's just science!"

She was only partially wrong.  It is magic.  To be supernatural, something has to exist outside of the natural world.  Frankly, an oxymoron.  So no, asprin curing headaches is not supernatural.  It is scientific. 

Actually, I have to give her the "not magic" one too...

The act of ingesting asprin to rid oneself of physical pain, while "magic" back in the day, no longer meets the criteria that puts it under the heading labeled "magic", specifically because science can now explain why.

Which is quite frankly the fundamental difference between Scientists, Christians and Pagans on this matter:

Scientists have a deep rooted need to believe only in things they can taste, touch, see, hear, smell and measure.

Christians believe that proof is just lovely, and there's plenty out there to research and learn, but that some things will never be explained - and they are perfectly content to trust the unprovable to God and the miracles He performs.

Like Christians, Pagans don't have a need for scientific proof, as long as what they're doing harms none and works.  However, like Scientific Empiricists, Pagans believe that the proof is attainable, that though it may be mysterious to us, God (however one defines that word) operates within Nature.  I mean, what's this obsession with the idea that God can't impress us while still working within natural parameters?

The only other real difference?  That vast body of knowledge that human kind has not yet explained?  Scientific Empiricists don't label it specifically, while Christians and Pagans do.   

Magic isn't as scary as it is a culturally maligned term for a logical principle.

But how is this connected to Santa Claus?

Our family hit a milestone this year - a few weeks ago, Crikey asked me if Santa Claus is real.

To which I told him the truth - that while we don't let a bearded stranger break into our house once a year, I absolutely believed in Santa Claus.  To that, he responded with:

Blink.  Blink.  (loosely translated: "I'm waiting for how the heck you're going to reconcile those statements"). 

To which I said (loosely translated as well - since I imagine very few of the people reading this are also 10 years old):

Look.  People, on the whole, are okay.  However, there is a significant part of the human race that  just sucks.  Those miserable bastards simply aren't happy unless they're fighting over something, anything.  Take politics, religion, sports.  The world is full of "us" and "them". 

When it comes to the winter holidays, practically everyone takes a break from this.  People make an effort at this time of year to be cheerful.

Sometimes it's a "fake it 'til you make it" cheerful - but we try.  More importantly, this is the time of year, more than any other, when people try to make others happy.  The most popular (and famous) way is to give gifts - but there are lots of other ways.  People make donations, they bake their families' favorite treats, they go out of their way to say "Merry Christmas" - even to people they don't know.  It's almost like, at this time of the year, no matter how dark it is outside, or how little money we have, there is a tacit consent to concentrate on finding light in the darkness.  Which, is really what Yule and Christmas are all about - the idea that when things look their worst (the literal darkness that comes with the shortest day of the year for Pagans, a world in metaphoric darkness for Christians) that's when it's MOST important to remember that the light will come (Yule being the birth of the Sun, which shines Light on the World and Christmas being the birth of the Son, who is the Light of the World).  Everyone is celebrating the same concept- even if we call it by different names.

Which brings us to Santa Claus.

I know it seems like a big lie - and that getting the "truth" about a guy who supposedly went on an annual worldwide B&E spree with some flying livestock feels like a let down.

But you need to wrap your mind around this. 

The part of Santa that is a lie - is the Santa of Hollywood magic.  He's the Santa of Harry Potter special effects.  That kind of magic doesn't exist. 

But.  There IS such a thing as Real Magic.  Not only is it real, understanding and believing in it is one of the most important things a human being needs to be successful in this big, bad world.

And it's hard as hell to explain Real Magic to little kids - so we put it in terms that are easy to understand.

Sure, he's a symbol for the gift giving practice - but he's more than that.  When you believe in Santa Claus, you believe in magic.  That feeling you get when you climb into bed on Christmas Eve?  The anticipation, the excitement?  Sure, part of it is looking forward to the loot under the tree - but some of that thrill is the chance to believe.  It is fun and special and crucial to the human soul to feel that wonderful, amazing, unexplainable things can happen.  That gift - the thrill of Real Magic - is something that is a joy to give.

The one thing that can and does cross every human culture?  Love for our children - and the desire to make them happy.

Santa Claus is Real Magic, and believing in him is, too.  So we in the grown up world tell all of you in the kid world to believe in him.  We eat the cookies that got set out.  We make tracks in the snow so you can see the "evidence" of the reindeer.  We do this, so you can have wonder and amazement.

But doing cool things for your own children isn't all that special.  Frankly, it's a basic part of the parenting gig.

So let's not look at what parents do for their kids.

How about elementary school teachers?  Or the friends of the parents?  Do any of these people take kids aside and say there's no Santa?  No they do not.

But we're still talking about people with a personal interest.

Look at what grown ups around the world do for kids they don't know and will never meet.

News programs - every other day of the year, these shows give us nothing but death and darkness.  Violence, war, natural disasters...

On Christmas Eve, everyone from NORAD to the local news broadcasts report "sightings" of Santa Claus.

They don't make money off of this. 

On Christmas Eve, even people who don't believe in Santa Claus (or any of the trimmings of the Christmas holiday) either stay quiet or play along with the Santa Claus Agreement.

Why do people do this?  What's the logic? 

There is none. 

Remember, Real Magic (including Santa Magic) isn't about Hollywood special effects.  It's much more powerful.

It's about experiencing something amazing, something wonderful, that science can't explain (yet).  It's about how that experience opens the mind to a sense of wonder.  It's this wonder that gives us the ability to change that which seems impossible into reality.

So from one Christmas song to another:

Peace on Earth, can it be?
Years from now, perhaps we'll see...
I pray my dream, will come true,
For my child, and your child too...
Peace on Earth -
Can it be?

- David Bowie and Bing Crosby

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Paganism: Myths, Images and Reality

About a year ago, I was asked to write a post about myths commonly held about Paganism. The logic: to clear up the misinformation about this religion that has, over the centuries, caused an enormous amount of confusion, pain, suffering and fear.

Why me? I was raised in a devoutly Christian home, currently live in a comfortably "out of the broom closet" Pagan community, and, obviously, blog.

While it is (clearly) in my nature to procrastinate, what I didn't realize until very recently is that my resistance to this project was fueled, uncharacteristically, by a fear of how the information would be received. Seriously, just bringing up the word "Pagan" sends almost all non-Pagans into a fear induced panic attack.

Ironically, it's that very reaction that makes going down this road even more important. Besides, once I realized that my hesitation was wimpy, rather than pragmatic, well, let's just say that I have never placed a high value on pansy-ass attitudes.

Also, the drama of watching my Pagan and non-Pagan friends circle each other in fear-laced hostility is getting to me. As Kermit would say, "ALL DONE".

So here I go.

First, reading this is important, EXCRUCIATINGLY important, for my Christian readers. If for no other reason (though I will give a few more), a big part of Christianity centers on helping other people become Christian. As any good lawyer will tell you, persuasion comes easiest when the person attempting the convincing has a genuine understanding of the other's initial beliefs.

(Besides, it is very unpleasant to live in fear - and it's been my experience that many non-Pagans are afraid of beliefs that don't exist. Isn't it better to have the actual facts?)

Second point: unlike Christians (and Scientific Empiricists), this community has no, absolutely NO interest in converting people to Paganism. Out of respect for that, allow me to point out (probably repeatedly), that this post (and any that follow in this vein) is NOT INTENDED TO INSPIRE CONVERSION. It is my expectation that absolutely zero of my non-Pagan readers will emerge from these posts a freshly born Pagan. Non-Pagans will, I'm sure, still disagree with many Pagan beliefs. I just think they owe it to themselves (and to those taught by their example) to understand the actual principles of this faith rather than unknowingly play into the smear campaign that has (mud) colored the last 1500 or so years of its history.

So, let's straighten out some of the most poisonous and (sadly) famous myths about Paganism, so when folks encounter it (either socially, like I did, or as a missionary for one's own faith), they will have the knowledge and understanding they need to have those conversations without fear, and without sounding ridiculous.

Ridiculous? Read on.

When I was in my 20 % Catholic-Catholic high school (that Bible hanging on the Belt ain't a Catholic one), it infuriated me to hear my Church criticized for positions it didn't hold, to have my personal faith attacked for concepts that had no resemblance at all to what I (to say nothing of the Roman Catholic Church) believed. When I faced the numerous objections non-Catholics had about Catholicism, all it inspired in me was a firm sense of derision. If people couldn't bother to get their facts straight, what possible good could their conclusions be?

See the problem? Instead of making any headway regarding converting me to their side, I spent all of my time appalled at their obsession with a fantasy about a "faith" that had no resemblance to mine, or my Church.

For Pagans, this goes one step further - to absolute silliness.

There are so many hot button issues for non-Pagans when talking about Paganism. Honestly, I was quite torn about which myth I should attack first. That they don't believe in God? That practicing magic is the work of the dev-

Um, yeah, I think I know where to start, now.

MYTH - Pagans Worship Satan

Uhhh....they not only don't worship the devil...they can't.

I have a great deal of admiration for a Devout Christian. Not the loud mouth, judgemental bastards on TV, in special interests groups, or at the local office water cooler spewing "if you don't think like me" venom. I'm talking about people who model their lives after the teachings of the Gospels. Who genuinely believe that kindness is the true way to God. They may believe that the kindness in question has to be within the parameters of accepting Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Savior; they may honestly believe that anyone who doesn't will not go to Heaven. I may disagree with such hard lines, but I can respect and have great affection for any belief system that is truly trying to make the world a kinder, gentler place.

For most Christians, accepting Jesus is only part of the package - one also has to reject utterly the devil, and all of his works. Okay, fair enough. Bad guy is bad. Check. Only...

Are there people who worship the devil? In my first draft of this post, the next lines were "Yup. They're called Satanists. Or Devil Worshippers. But not Pagans." I have to amend that - as I just read that even Satanists don't believe in Satan, per se. Check out this crazy shit:

"Even Church of Satan founder, Anton LaVey, publicly stated in a 1986 interview in the Washington Post Magazine that he neither believed in, nor worshipped Satan, and that he regarded the Devil as nothing more than "a symbol of man's carnal nature - his lust, greed, vengeance, but most of all, his ego."" Gerina Dunwich, A Witch's Halloween

 Now, I realize that that was a bit of a tangent - but hey, learn something new every day - and I did NOT know that...

So, I stand corrected. Eh hem.

Are there people who worship the devil? Well, maybe. I'm not sure what they're called (or what they call themselves), but I CAN say that they ain't Pagans, because...

Pagans are incapable of worshipping the devil, because they do not believe he exists.

Now, to be precise, they acknowledge that there is evil in the world - just not a specific boogeyman whose purpose is to tempt humanity into wrongdoing. Essentially, the Pagan position on evil is much like Hobbes (of "Calvin and" fame) when Calvin asked him whether or not he believed in the the devil. Hobbes' response was (paraphrased here) "I don't think mankind needs the help". Pagans believe that the evil deeds done by humans are human based. People have free will. They can choose to do good things, or to do bad, but ultimately, Pagans don't recognize "the devil made me do it" card.

Oh, I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from here - "denying his existence is just another way of doing the devil's work!!" and "yuh-huh - my (insert appropriate religious leader) said they do!!!"

Keep in mind, I'm not trying to convince anyone that the devil isn't real - only that Pagans neither believe in, nor worship, him.

While Satanism is anti-Christian in nature, Paganism, neo-Paganism and Wicca are rooted in a belief system that is pre-Christian in nature. Although many religions have a "good cop/bad cop" deity system - Paganism is not one of them. Period.

Back to ridiculous. How can warning Pagans about the dangers and wiles of the devil seem ludicrous?

I love the story of Santa Claus. I LOVE that, worldwide, we all run with the tacit agreement to perpetuate this myth, facilitating a sense of wonder and excitement for our children. However, it is a myth.

Is it realistic to believe that this guy who lives at the North Pole (is he considered a North Polian?), has eight (in bad weather, nine) reindeer that can not only fly, but are badass enough that they can lug a sleigh big enough to store the Christmas loot contents of every Christian child on the planet, PLUS a really big man AND do it quickly enough to whip that sucker around the globe within a 24 hour span (with occasional stops for milk and cookies)...?

When it takes a jumbo jet 22 hours to travel from LAX to Australia...ummm...?

Real? Unbloody likely. But we keep it going. The Santa story brings an immeasurable amount of joy to millions. A happy myth, but a myth nonetheless.

Now consider this:

For Pagans, the Christian belief in the Devil and in a place called Hell is as bizarre as would be an entire faith based on the absolute reality of Santa Claus. As a Christian friend of mine pointed out, "it would be as if the whole group of faith believers says No, bitches. Santa is real. Fuck you, he is. And if you don't believe in him, you're going to get coal in your stockings. DO YOU WANT COAL IN YOUR STOCKINGS?!?!?"

As in, to Pagans, the devil is as real as Santa Claus. There are pictures of him displayed, statues (dolls) of him made, stories of him told...but that doesn't make Santa, or the devil, real. Not to Pagans. To Pagans, he is a fictitious character. As in MADE UP.

Now, if you want to have a debate over the existence of the devil - THAT is an argument worth having. Otherwise, it's probably a good idea to save the devil worshipping conversation for those who see him as something more than a creepy folk story character (to whom an inexplicable number of people give credibility).

And there lies Myth #1 - Hopefully, I've bludgeoned it thoroughly enough. Have I? Can we all acknowledge that, of all folks who believe in the existence of the devil, Pagans are not counted among them?

I hope so... because this myth crushing train has miles to go before it sleeps...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The True Meaning of Christmas [in July]

Every year, my family does Christmas in July.  It used to be the joke that I love Christmas so much, I do it twice a year.  Also, it's much easier to get people to come to your Christmas party when you're not competing for the very few available nights in December.  But those aren't the reasons we celebrate it.

It's been a long time since I've done a formal invitation for this party - as far as I'm concerned, the joy of a party is in the relaxing, joking, playing and talking with friends.  This year, I decided to use Facebook - I wanted to come up with something clever for the invitation (some years I manage to "redo" a carol or The Night Before Christmas). However, my brain wouldn't cooperate - so instead, I decided to share a Christmas Story. Not the one with Ralphie - nor, curiously enough, the one about the Nativity, nor the Yule. This story is about the origins of Christmas in July - at least the Touchton/Bartlett interpretation of it.

It is that special time of year, when, bored with cookouts and long days of "Mom, I don't know what to do", I honor my mother. She, too, grew weary of the usual summer pastimes (though, as summer weather is about 8 months a year in Georgia, she has far more room to complain than I do). This is her story.

The year was 1992.  My CD player had broken.  My mom, ever the planner, is the type to do Christmas shopping well in advance.  She found the boombox that I wanted - and on an absolutely fantastic sale.  She bought it, with the intention of giving it to me that December.

Mom has a lot of talents.  Many skills.  In the voice of Det. Greenely, "She's wicked smaaahhht."  What she lacks, however, is anything that resembles patience when it comes to gift giving.  It was July.  She knew she wasn't going to last until December - but she didn't have anything for the rest of us (I'm the oldest of 4).

What if she got a little something for everyone?  She talked about it at work, and her boss made a comment about how Gayfers (the swanky department store in town) does "Christmas in July".  Hmmm.

She complained to my father that she was sick and sick and sick and tired of hot dogs and hamburgers.  She wanted to do a turkey dinner.  With all of the fixings.  And so it was, the fridge got stocked with the appropriate foods.

She did not tell him about the rest of her plans.

When you live in the subtropics, your relationship with bugs is one to take seriously.  In more temperate areas, having lots of bugs in your house a sign of, well, bad housekeeping shall we say?  In the south, the roaches come by when you first move in, introduce themselves and offer a covered dish as a housewarming gift.  Bugs are an icky but normal part of southern living.

Especially if you have, like we had, multiple pets.  Of the dogs, cats, rabbits, turkeys (no, they weren't slaughtered for the occasion), ducks, geese...only the dogs were actually allowed in the house.  (I feel there should be a way to work in the part about how we did actually have a pear tree, but no partridges).  Dog baths, flea dips and still swatting those tiny black hopping flecks off your clothes...ahhh.  I can't tell you how much I miss it.  No, really, I CAN'T.

Mom sent us to bed early, and let us know that she would be spraying the carpets for fleas after we went to bed.  Nothing says "stay in your rooms til dawn" like knowing the floor will poison you if you walk on it.  So off we tromped to bed, thinking it was just another Saturday night. Once satisfied that we were all asleep (Dad included), she got up and decorated the house. She even sprayed "condensation" on the windows (that spray snow) to give the luster of "snowiness" to our view of outside.

The next morning, my father went out to make coffee. Upon returning, he asked her why she had turned the air conditioning down - the house was so cold, the windows were fogged.  She sent him back out, and then back out again...(as it was before HIS coffee, he hadn't noticed the decorations).

Finally in on the joke, Dad woke Mena, and asked her to make coffee for him and Mom.

A few words about Mena, as a child.  Sweet, spritely, cheerful.  Always happy to do something for you...even at the ass crack of dawn.  Also, she was in, say, 4th grade at this point - before all humans go grouchy haywire.  So, while slightly annoyed that he managed to get all the way to our bedroom (we shared), but apparently couldn't make his own coffee - and maybe a little annoyed that he didn't ask me - she bounced out of bed.

She noticed the foggy windows.  She went to the kitchen and made coffee.  On the walk back to Mom and Dad's room, she saw it.  The tree, the gifts, the blinking lights.

I just got off the phone with her (wanted to get the details). 

MENA:  And I thought to myself, HOLY SHIT.  Only I was 10, so I didn't say "shit".  I probably thought, OH MY GOSH. 
ME:  So, you were the one who figured it out?  I couldn't remember...
MENA: Hell no.  I was terrified I was going to fuck it all up again.
ME:  Fuck it u- what?

Apparently, not two weeks before, Mena spilled the beans on Mom's anniversary gift.  Dad was NOT pleased. 

She delivered the coffee. 

MOM: So, how's your morning?
MENA: Fine.
MOM:   Did you notice anything out there?  Any fleas?
MENA:  Nope.  Nothing.
MOM:  Um...well, was there anything?  It's okay, you can tell us -

By this time, Jack, Isaac and I had joined Mom, Dad and Mena. 
We opened our presents, congratulated Mom on a fantastic prank (and of course thanking her for the gifts).  I invited Sundance, and we had a lovely ""Christmas".  Story over, right?

Well.  There were all sorts of unexpected side effects.  When Mom went back to work, she told her friends how it went - and people started talking about it.  It finally reached the president of the college (I kid you not) who told her she should have called the newspaper and had someone take pictures.

Oh, and lots and lots and LOTS of people were miffed that they weren't invited.  It was smoothed over with the assurance that no one was actually invited (Sundance was my doing), and by promising to throw another party next July. 

That was 19 years ago. 

The pomp and circumstance around this holiday has waxed and waned and waxed again over the years - though I admit I did not realize how important it had become until last year. I thought going to Georgia for Isaac and Shelly's wedding (the excitement, party, etc.) would be quite enough of an event for the boys - and decided to skip Christmas in July.

This was a mistake.

A certain 12 year old made it crystal clear that the true meaning of summer is found in Christmas in July, and there had better damned well be a tree and a turkey when we returned home.  Not in so many words, of course.  To show the boy in a better (and more accurate) light, he was heartbroken first - then pissed - then heartbroken again. 

Last year, it was Christmas in August.  Not quite in keeping with tradition, but what can ya do?

As for this year...

It's 90 degrees (Baby It's Hot Outside),
There's barely a breeze (Baby It's Hot Outside)...

Oh dear, I should probably stop now...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crikey's Sunrise Lesson

A little over two months ago, I was sad.  Very, very sad.  A dear friend of mine had just experienced a terrible loss and, though there was still a couple degrees of separation, it broke my heart. 

Today, I am angry.  There has been so much loss, lately. War, natural disasters.  Loss of loved ones - relationships ending, lives ending. In the post "The Comings and the Goings", I touched on how it's all part of the great circle of Life - transition and all.  Also about how, when it hits close to home, even the most philosophical among us want to "call bullshit".

There's a part of me that wishes cancer could be a corporeal being.  So I could beat it with my bare hands and kill it.  So I could put on a red dress, with sparkly red shoes and dance on its grave.

Today, I was angry.  It's one of those magical moments in Life - when you're given the opportunity to see things a little differently.

Today is the Summer Solstice, Litha, in the Pagan community.  Longest Day of the Year.  I am sure that, for certain members of my family, that last description is way too accurate.  However, for me, it brought some peace of mind.

I live pretty far up north.  This means that, even on a regular day, the sun comes up really early.  The "'O' stands for 'O my God it's early!'"-early. 

By pure chance, this morning I woke at '0'430.  The sun hadn't risen, but it was light outside.  For years, I'd been trying to wake up early enough to watch the sun rise on the Summer Solstice...but...

Yeah.  430 sucks.

I got up and made coffee.  Out of cream, I hopped into the car to zip to 7-11.  Not willing to go even that mile and half without my tunes, clicked on my iPod.

The song "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)" started.  The first time I heard it was during the end credits for the movie Charlie Bartlett - and they kicked me in the head then.  It has since become a bit more popular (Franklin and Bash is using it in their trailer commercial), which I like, though I hope it doesn't go the way of the Cranberries' "Dreams" - phenomenal song, but overused to the point of being overlooked, lyrically.

This is going to be one of my shorter posts - not because I don't have much to say, but because there's just no way to say it well.  So I'll let them do the hard work...

Hey Man (Now You're Really Living), by The Eels

Do you know what it's like to fall on the floor,
Cry your guts out 'til you got no more?
Hey man, now you're really living.

Have you ever made love to a beautiful girl (guy),
Made you feel like it's not such a bad world (Life)?
Hey man, now you're really living.

Now you're really giving it everything
And you're really getting all you gave
Now you're really living what this Life is all about.

Well, I just saw the sun rise over the hill.
Never used to give me much of a thrill,
But, hey man, now I'm really living.

Do you know what it's like to care too much
'Bout someone that you're never gonna' get to touch?
Hey man, now you're really living.

Have you ever sat down in the fresh cut grass
Thought about the moment and when it will pass?
Hey man, now you're really living.

Now what would you say if I told you that
Everyone thinks you're a crazy old cat?
Hey man, now you're really living.

Naturally, there is a bunch of repetition (chorus, the first verse)...I didn't see much point in having you re-read most of that, though I do like how it underlines the point being made.  The song ends with the lines that I always thought were the most promising, most important. 

"I just saw the sun rise over the hill - never used to give me much of a thrill - but hey man, now I'm really living!!"  (their emphasis)

For those of you who have been to my house, you understand when I say that there's not much point in watching the sunrise from my back deck.  For those who've not done so - there is a big, BIG wall of trees blocking the view to the east.  I thought I'd be up for the principle of being up when the sun was rising - it's the best I could do, right?

On the drive to 7-11, actually got to see the be specific, I can actually say that, as I drove, as I saw the horizon, the sun rose just in time, not only for me to see it, but to do so in perfect time for the line:

"I just saw the sun rise over the hill"

And, sunrises never did give me much of a thrill.  Pretty, beautiful sometimes, but not thrilling. 

Today, against all reason, the simplicity of a sunrise did lift my spirits.  It made me think of lives well spent, well loved. 

The sunrise can't bring back what or who has been lost, but it can remind us that Life is for living, for celebrating, for rejoicing in what we've been able to experience and the people who were (and are) on that ride with us.

By rising every day, no matter what, it isn't mocking our pain, or undervaluing it.  It's carrying on for us.  It's moving things along for us while we're too overwhelmed and grief stricken to think about anything else.  It's there to tell us, when we are ready to get up and move again, it will still be there. 

In the time it's taken me to write this, the boys have gotten out of bed.  I love writing, but it's excruciatingly hard for me to write when there are people milling around me.  For the past several paragraphs, Crikey has come out and interrupted me by kissing me every few minutes.  Each time, my frustration increased. 

Then I realized that, as usual, Crikey gets the point better than I do.  While it's right and good to acknowledge loss and to work through it (each in our own way - writing for me), as he used to put it, "I gots utha things ta do"...and my allotted time for thinking "about the moment and when it will pass", has passed. 

I'll part then by saying, Aunt Sheryl, while I'm happy that you're no longer suffering, I will miss you.  More importantly, though, I'll think about you, and when I do, I'll think of what a great mother, grandmother and aunt you were (and are).

PS:  here's the video.  I just watched it for the first time this morning.  Initially, I wasn't sure if it was the official video (despite the intro - it is You Tube, after all), but after viewing it, I didn't care.  It's perfect.  Even the ad, if you're made to watch it (it only came up once for me) fits.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

So Women Are Like Cars? My Expansion On Fr. Murphy's Nudge Sunday

So, just like men are not the devil, women are not objects, car-like or otherwise.  That's not where I'm going with this.

Back in Doesn't 'Diablo' Mean Devil, I rambled a bit about how men show affection and  I admitted to not knowing too much about women.  Well, women other than myself.  I "get" myself pretty well and am, undoubtedly, a woman. 

This is meant to be a companion to the above mentioned post - though I must warn you that I'm going to take what is probably an unexpected road with it.  I no longer consider myself a religious person, per se, but I'm intensely interested in spirituality in any form (regardless of creed) and make my own development on those lines a priority in my life.  That being said, though I no longer limit my spiritual resources to solely Catholic choices, I still think the Bible has a lot of great advice in it.  There's one passage I love - one I used to hate.  Most women still do.  With this post, I hope to clean up it's bad name - especially since it's fantastic advice, when taken the right way.  (clearing my throat)

Colossians 3:18-19

"18 Wives, submit  yourselves to (or "obey", as I've always heard) your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them."

Hooo-boy.  These days, them's fightin' words.  But as is obvious in pretty much every corner of our reality - taken out of context, ANY Bible verse can be used as such.  For me (as for, I am sure, many women) this verse used to make my blood pressure sky rocket - even as I looked it up via Google (true to my Catholic foundation, I'm very familiar with the Bible, but studied it for content, not chapter/verse memorization), my hands started shaking in rage when, instead of the simple location of it, the first dozen were titles about how God, the Church, Christianity (and on, and on) are either "keeping women down" (written by irate women), or how the above authorities are "showing women their rightful place" (written by smug men...and a few women, strangely enough).  (okay, yes, my own prejudices are coming into play here)

All I wanted was the chapter/verse location.  Sheesh.  Hold on...

Ha HAH!  My dear friend Jo just sent me the information...I've copied and pasted (of course, you've already read that part...)

Anyway.  The seed for my current position on this matter was planted in my young adulthood by one of the most incredible priests in the world, Fr. Murphy (an honest to God, from-Ireland Irish priest).  This man is Great.  Even Marshall likes him.

It's Sunday morning.  I'm at Mass with my family (for non-Catholics, "Mass" is Catholic for "Service"), and here comes That Reading. 

I now live in an area where people seem to have many, MANY unfortunate run-ins with Catholicism.  Not only is this a shame, but it's actually kind of funny for me - I grew up in the South, and down there the Catholics are actually considered pretty darn liberal.  We dance, drink, have the Etch a Sketch Forgiveness System and with Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church actually flat-out admitted that folks don't have to be Catholic (or Christian) to go to Heaven.  Imagine my surprise when, moving here, every person I met, upon learning the flavor of my religious upbringing, expressed (intentionally complimentary) amazement that I wasn't a self-righteous bastard (humor on many levels there, I know).

To paraphrase Bill Cosby, "I told you that (paragraph) to tell you this":

That Reading. 

In our (relatively) liberal parish, the squirming started.  Husbands nudging their wives - wives dodging the nudges and giving their husbands looks that clearly spelled out "Remember that I'm the one who gives you sex.  Tread carefully, mother fucker." 

Well, that's how I read the faces.  Knowing the wonderful, classy, kind women in that parish, I can assure you, they would never dream of such language in their thought bubbles, despite the liberties taken in my translation.

I honestly can't remember if Fr. Murphy's laugh was knowing or nervous.  Clearing his throat for the homily (sermon):

"You know, I have always thought of this day as Nudge Sunday." 

(I'm sure I don't have to point out that he too explained the nudging/dodging/dirty look description more tactfully than I just did)

His talk was brilliant in its simplicity.  In fact, when he explained it, that verse just became plain old, common sense marriage advice.  In summary:  yes, it was a different time with different ideas about gender roles.  However, despite those differences, men back then did still love women, so to paint every last Biblical-era man as a misogynistic jackass was more than a little unfair.  So, let's take a walk on the wild side and allow that the English language is limited and there may be more to the story...

Ladies, you can tell your husband you love, respect, admire him...but if you don't back it up with actions, he ain't gonna' believe you.  (essentially, "obey" means "prove with actions that you dig him", not "bring his slippers, pipe and smoking jacket to him when he rings a bell")

Hold on - wasn't that the main thrust of the Diablo post?

But what about the men?  Love their wives?  Don't be harsh? We give up control over our own lives and they're just told to love us??  Seriously??  That's IT?!?!?

Well, if "obey" can be interpreted differently, why not "love" and "harsh"?  (heck, we all know love can be used to describe everything from affection for bunnies, beers and babies to sappy movies and a low tennis score)

And this is where the cars come in.  Stay with me, ladies, I'm bringing it around.

When explaining things to women, you can use all the words you want.  They will be interested, as long as what you say is interesting.  Men, on the other hand (as I've mentioned before) just don't like the talking as much.  So, when having this conversation with one of my favorite men, I used a metaphor that I thought would intrigue him.

"Women are like cars."

Head tilted, eyes a little squinty, he said "Okay, I'll admit - I'm interested."

Gentlemen, think about what the average car needs to run well.  Drive safely, decent fuel, never let the tank get below a quarter full, regular oil changes, inspections, cleaning.  If it starts making funny sounds, take whatever steps necessary to get everything back to functional.  Finally, drive it appropriately - an SUV is going to guzzle fuel in city traffic and a cute little sedan is going to self destruct in a myriad of ways if you take it on bumpy, lumpy, unpaved back roads.  Go ahead - crash into a few things, let the tank run dry, never change the oil, get it inspected or clean it out.  Use a VW bug to tow a horse trailer and see how far that gets you.  Not only will the car fall apart at the seams, the situation is going to smell really bad when it does.  See what I mean?

He did.

Okay.  What that has to do with Women:  Think about what it takes to keep the average man and woman love relationship working well (which, by the by, isn't limited to romantic ones.  Moms, daughters, sisters, skipping the sex stuff, this'll work with any woman you love - though you get into huge trouble if you try it with female friends - this is LOVE advice).  Drive safely - no physical abuse.  Decent fuel - give her attention, kindness, affection.  As for the quarter tank?  Don't make her go without the attention, kindness and affection for long periods of time (which may be the one that gets guys, especially really good guys, into the most trouble - fellas, read that one a few times).  Oil changes?  Let's have some fun with that and call it attention to keeping the sex life from getting stale.  Inspections?  Brother, you know you need to remember birthdays, anniversaries.  Cleaning?  Apologize if you fuck up.  If you've been following the above advice, she'll accept the apology gracefully (unless she's evil - then ditch the bi -eh hem...her).  Car's making noises?  When she objects to what you ask of her, take the time to not only listen to but hear her concerns - and then address them appropriately.

Have to say, most of the above is no-brainer stuff.  In all fairness, almost all of the men I know do their damnedest to treat their women that way. 

But the connection to That Reading?

Let's assume (for the sake of argument) that you are in a relationship where the woman in question is open to the obedience idea.  It's actually not as crazy as it sounds - most (good) women actually are.  I mean, ladies, who among us doesn't try to keep the peace?  Especially if our guy is so fucking awesome that he's really following through with all of the above? 

So men.  Stop for a moment and THINK ABOUT THE POWER YOU WIELD HERE.

IF you are in a relationship where you have the final word, that means you have an enormous amount of influence over the behavior of another human being.  THINK about how profound that is.  THINK about what it must take for her to trust you with that power.

"love your wives and do not be harsh with them."

This is not about chocolates and flowers.  LOVE your woman - take the time to get to know what she loves, hates, fears.  What makes her cry?  Brings her joy, heartbreak, anxiety?  And with that knowledge:

DO NOT BE HARSH WITH HER:  With the awesome (as in awe-inspiring) gift she has given, you better be doing your damnedest to stay within the bounds of what she is comfortable/happy to do.  Never, ever EVER abuse that power.  Never, ever EVER use that power to force her to act against her will.  Back to the car, don't expect that sexy sports car to be okay with back road deer season driving.  If she loves you, trusts you so much that she is willing to give you the gift of obedience, BE WORTHY OF HER TRUST.

It's like Scripture is telling women, "Look, I know this sounds crazy, but you know you don't want to handle every little bit of existence - that's what division of work is all about.  He's going to enjoy and excel at the decision stuff.  You like him, right?   What, you love him, too?  Then he must be a good guy.  Hey, if you disagree with what he wants you to do, then remember this: he loves you right back  (both naturally, and I gave him the SMACKDOWN directive to do so).  He genuinely wants you to be at peace with his wishes.  If you mirror the kindness he shows you when you tell him that something upsets you, he will do everything in his power to respect your concerns and adjust his demands (don't worry, that was definitely included in his orders)."

And then Scripture turns to the men and says, "Okay, guys.  I actually got her to agree to that.  BUT, since she has the brains to identify potential problems, she is very much aware of how easily this could backfire on her, the children and your entire life together.  DO NOT fuck this up by being an abusive jerk."

I have to say, to me, that seems pretty fair. 

Oh, and it works really well.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Long Overdue Thank You

According to my loved ones, when people first meet me, they recognize four things:

Initially: Someone feminine and soft looking (some even say pretty - and ain't that sweet?)

Once I open my mouth: Attitude - sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always honest and dripping with sarcasm.

After any kind of prolonged interaction: A Fucking Juggernaut - hope you like the show I'm running, 'cause the door's over there if you don't.

If they're still there after that: I'm an enormous fan of Nikki Sixx and his work.

As a mother, writer, Reader, decent astrologer and an ironic suburban housewife/soccer mom (I love that the suburbanite soccer mom is the part that bemuses me), folks find that last discovery both funny but unsurprising. Or maybe funny because, at least to them, it should be surprising?

Sixx just released a new book, titled This is Gonna Hurt. He is on a book tour and will be just a few hours south of me on May 6th (I considered naming this post ""She (Went) Down" on the 5th to Meet Sixx on the 6th", but that led to a few too many oral sex jokes "just what DID you do to get him to sign the book?" etc.. While my naughty sense of humor loved it, there was a problem...)

The jokes have been gentle, but numerous. All to the tune of my turning into some Beatlemania-esque crazed preteen, hastily escorted to the exits after accidentally cracking the man's ribs with a hug.

Because, obviously, I have such a crush on him, you see.

It hit me that, despite how I've gone on and on about his music, his writing, his strength, his efforts to help others...I haven't gotten any farther than the playful argument I had with Ms. J while we were still in high school:

"Yeah, 'cause that's a picture of his brain hanging on your wall."

Granted, when I was fourteen, I most certainly "loved" him as only a teenage girl can "love" a rock star. As an adult, can I appreciate that he was an exceptionally beautiful guy who has grown into an exponentially more attractive man? I most certainly can. (I have ADD/Asperger's - not parenting related, sleep deprivation induced blindness).

However:  Right now, despite how well he's aged, he feels more like a long time, cherished friend. And:

Instead of swooning over his dreamyohmygodhe'ssohot-ness, I currently find his good looks to be, since they're causing this drama for me, a pain in my ass. (what the hell, dude? can't you just fucking age??? it would make my life way easier right now...)

He may have helped me make peace with the fact that I'm a warrior instead of a docile peace maker (though I only bring the smack to those doing harmful things). He may have been a sympathetic (if metaphoric) comrade in arms, helping me vent anger through listening to his music (rather than lashing out at loved ones). His work may have helped carry me through my son's autism diagnosis and through watching September 11th from a window instead of a TV.

But my affection for him is just because he's super cute. Okaaaaayyyyy....

Through his work, his art, his struggle, his life - and his willingness to display it all "for the whole world to see", Sixx has been a positive force in my life for a little over twenty years. I hesitate to say that I "love" him, since that word is shamelessly overused in our language. I love my kids. I love the beach. I love writing. Each is a different kind of love. See?

Instead, I'd really like to give him a hand on a bad day - to be able to say "don't worry, brutha - I'll take care of that for you". It would wonderful to be in a position to reciprocate at least a little of the support and peace of mind he's given me over the years. Acknowledging the enormous debt I owe him has nothing to do with his looks. "Loving" him for the difference he's made in my life (and the lives of those who deal with me) is, I think, very different from rock star lust. So there.

When I had the opportunity to meet Norman Reedus, the entire experience, from finding out to coming home after the event, lasted under four days. I found out about Sixx's book signing almost a full month in advance. Which means that rather than just excited, I now have time to entertain a great deal of terror.

Marshal says, "Megan, he is just a guy. I'm sure he puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us."

No doubt Marshal's right. Problem is, I'm not scared of Sixx - I'm scared of the time limit.

This is a one shot opportunity to thank this man for all he's done for me, knowing that he actually gets the information.  How do I fit it all in?

Harsh reality: I can't. Any attempt to do so will certainly result in the above described ejection. It would be amazing to know he remembered me...but as a girl with a heartfelt thank you, or as proof that even though he's been consciously trying to help others for the past several years, he's been making a huge damn difference in my life for over twenty. Or hell, even that I was the chick with the shock of pink hair and a thing for carnelian. Any of those would be great.

As a blubbering, inarticulate, emotionally short circuited fan getting dragged out? Not so much. That's the kind of memory that would inspire him to have his security team carry my picture.

Solution? Give him a handwritten letter expressing my personal thanks, a gift that will be (hopefully) helpful to him and be content that I've given back to him to the best of my ability.

Or I can try just a liiiiitle more...and hope he reads a blog entry if I post it to his wall...

POST SCRIPT: Upon reflection, I find it very, very funny that when dealing with the crazy trespasser scaring my kids (from the post, Neighbor on the (Pain in the) Backside,) I talked about WWMD (What Would Murdock Do?)...but ended up actually doing WICSSD (What I Could See Sixx Doing).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Comings and The Goings

I just read a book about housecleaning. Apparently, my Mopping Day issues are getting more pronounced... eh hem...

So. Housecleaning. According to the author, the most important thing a person can do to keep the energy of a home happy and healthy is to declare a kind of war upon clutter. This is so important, the first half of the book is, in one way or another, dedicated to it.

As she defines it, clutter is anything you don't absolutely love, absolutely use (often) or wouldn't pack and take with you were you to move. Using this as the guideline, go through the house and throw out or give away anything that doesn't fit in one of those three categories.

Interesting concept. I decided to start with the closet that has (among other things) all of our photos. Photo albums, photo boxes, plastic bins stuffed with those envelopes of prints. LOTS of pictures here. This also seemed to be the right time to go through and label who's who in each shot.

This was, for the most part, a very pleasant walk down my very own Memory Lane. However...

Unless you've lived a life free of any conflict, arguments, love, break ups, children or relationships...or if you did, but never photographed any of it...every once in a while, as you whip through piles, a picture will pop out and smack you.

Remember her? Remember him? God, it's been forever since we've spoken! I think that particular reaction is the old timer's version of "finding" unexpected people on Facebook. For me, over 90% of these pop ups were pleasant (at least). Every once in a while...

It hurts. Maybe because that person was an ass ("how the hell did that idiot end up in so many of my pictures?!?"). Maybe because the shot reminds you of a time you miss...a happier, simpler time. Maybe it represents mistakes you've made, or people you've hurt...people who've hurt you.

Mostly, for me, the ones that hurt were of The Goings.

I believe that people come into and go out of our lives for reasons. I used to call it the Towards Zero Effect. Towards Zero is a novel by Agatha Christie - its entire premise is how people dramatically affect reality every day, all the time - and only realize it occasionally. It may be something obvious, like stopping someone just as s/he was about to step out in front of a moving car (saving that person's life). Or, more often, it can be the kind of thing that you never even realize, like being in plain sight of someone who would have done something regrettable if thought unseen. That second one is tricky, since recognition of it relies on that person admitting to the act that would have been committed, but for your presence. However, I have no doubt it exists. The possibilities are endless, and I won't bore you with them.

Mostly, though, I think the Towards Zero Effect addresses The Comings and The Goings.
These are relationships and or situations that Come into your life and last only for as long as it takes them to complete their function - at which point they Go. A boyfriend that helps you realize that it's okay to be silly, or a girlfriend who introduces you to your future wife. Me, I once had a crazy, sadistic teacher who hated men (though went out of her way to get a job teaching at an all boys' school). She despised me for not hating them with her and tortured me every day for being, and I quote her words, "young and beautiful." It was a miserable time - but I learned some very important things from her. What's more, once the lessons were learned, she disappeared from my life - never to be seen or heard from again. As a Coming, she was insufferable. As a Going, I felt that pleasure that's not really pleasure - just the relief of the cessation of pain.

But there weren't any pictures of her.

I have moved around a lot in my life and have, as a result, a very scattered circle of friends. As computer savvy as I assure you I am not, Facebook, even in all of its Big Brother wonder, has been a God send for me. It has been a way of reclaiming (at least temporarily) many of the Goings that I actually miss.

Sometimes it's a genuine reboot of a friendship (yay!). More often, we exchange Life Summary Paragraphs...and that's it. How many of us have a bunch of those Facebook friends? Reconnect, swap summaries, go back to not speaking? Still, it's nice to have them there.

But then there are the other Goings. The ones whose departures were noted for the screaming, the crying, the insults, the unforgivable acts of back stabbing or just plain old asshole-y-ness. The ones that hurt.

And...since the reason it hurt was because the Relationship That Was was one based on actual affection, there are plenty of pictures.

The common sense way to deal with those pics is a simple heave-ho to the trashcan we go. Very cathartic, and I highly recommend it.

But what about the related pictures? Not of the Goings, but of their kids? The innocent bystanders who spent so much time with my children that the group's dynamic was less like friends and more like family? The ones that, despite mutual affection, I'll probably never see again, but in those pictures? There doesn't seem to be a common sense approach to that one.

But note that I said "probably". It is certainly possible that I could see them again. What about the last type of Goings? The ones who didn't leave by choice?

"Luminous beings are we. Not this crude matter." - Yoda

Obviously, I'm keeping the pictures of the loved ones who've passed. That's not the question. This one is about addressing the loss.

Death is, of course, just as natural a part of Life as Birth. Just how similar, though? We're all familiar with the description of near death experiences - going through a dark tunnel, into light, surrounded by loved ones... That does sound an awful lot like birth to me.

I read somewhere that when a baby is born, Heaven mourns for the loss of that soul. Not lost in the sense of being damned, or misguided...but lost to them. That soul has left their company to have a new existence in a new form. They know this; academically, they're happy for the soul. The separation still hurts.

On the other side, we're in the delivery room, waiting anxiously and excitedly for that soul to hurry up and arrive (having twice been the landlady of that dark tunnel, I'm here to tell you that "anxious" and "excited" don't even come CLOSE to how ready I was for that transition to be completed).

Buddhism teaches: a) all learning involves some degree of suffering and b) this is the only world where suffering exists. We come to this life to learn, to progress (and to repeat some grades if you want to throw in some reincarnation theory). When we're done learning, we're done suffering. When we've completed both, it's time to leave the world of suffering. And that's when we go.

This is all great in theory. It makes sense to me...academically, cognitively, I believe it, embrace it. But when it happens for someone you love, all of the cerebral logic falls way too short.

On April 9, 2011, Heaven got one of it's angels back. As sure as I am of the welcome party she received, as happy as I am for her that her suffering has ended...

The separation still hurts.

I can only assume that Faith is knowing that God appreciates who He's got there and that He had a damn good reason for calling her back so ridiculously early...

Because this is a Going that makes no sense to me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Part 4: So I Became a Wingman and She Had My Back

I turned around, and yes indeed, there he was. 

Oooookay.  Not to worry, I'm not going to go into some gooey girly gab fest about how dreamy he've seen the movie?  Yeah, he's that good looking in person.  His hair's a little lighter (which makes that whole tattooing scene in ASD even funnier) - but that's it. 

Now, I'm not one to stare...but my logic went like this:

He's beautiful.  He chose a career that involves people looking at him.  He chose to attend a party where he was (clearly) going to be the center of attention.  He signed up for this.

Still, staring is rude.  I can honestly say that it felt more like watching someone who's on a stage.  Sure, you're not looking away...but not staring.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Eventually, when he was pulled onto stage, he talked about how he feels uncomfortable/shy in crowds.  This only impressed me more since, like the rest of the guys, he was very friendly, enthusiastic about signing autographs, posing for pictures, even joking and talking with fans who lingered past their turns.  He, like the rest of them, is a class act.

I watched him work his way through the dozens of people pressing in on him.  There were no velvet ropes, bouncers blocking for him or anything.  The guy's just hanging in the middle of a crowd.  A very, very excited crowd.

And then a strange thing happened.  He looked up and his eyes swept the room.  He saw me and stopped.  Now, when I say "we locked eyes" I don't mean to imply there was anything romantic or sexy about this.  There wasn't.  It would have been more polite, I know, to look away...but see above (re: my logic).  So I kept looking back at him. I know it should have felt awkward...but it didn't.  Ten solid seconds of eye contact doesn't sound like a lot, but it is.  Try it now.  Look at something for ten seconds.  That's a long time, huh?

Again, not romantic or sexy.  If anything, I think it's because I wasn't jumping, screaming, waving - I think I may have just seemed to him to be the only quiet spot in the room (ironic, I know).  It just felt friendly.  So I gave a quirky little smile and half shrugged in reference to the craziness in the room.  He broke into a wide grin...looked for a couple more seconds, then went back to signing, posing, talking, laughing.

There was a part of me that decided that that was worth more than an autograph...or a picture...

Yeah, but I still wanted them.

About a half an hour goes by...there is one person ahead of me...that person is all done...

And the producer comes up behind him, apologizes to the rest of us, and pulls him onstage.

I won't say he wasn't entertaining on stage.  Or that I didn't enjoy Troy's speech.  Or laugh with everyone when Bob Marley did his routine (in real life, Det. Greenly is stand up comic Bob Marley).  Ty Stone is a hell of a performer (he and his band do several of the songs in ASD).  It was all fantastic. 

But I was more than a little frustrated.  I'm sure it sounds petty, but at that point, I was disappointed enough that I was in danger of being sad over the whole situation - it's one thing never to meet someone...quite another to almost meet the person and have it snatched out from under you.

Well, nothing is going to come from standing in one spot.  I start walking around, and I spot Elle.  She's talking to none other than Rocco.  What's even more interesting is watching these girls (aged about 21-22) come up to him, giggling, with shots.  As Elle backed off (as she later told me "I figured he'd spent a lot of time with me, I should back off"), he turned, did the shot with the girls, thanked them, gave them back the glass...and turned back to continue his conversation with Elle.

Working under the assumption that she'd probably kill me if I interrupted them, I set off to find Norman. 

Elle and I finally hook back up.  She's on Cloud 9 and I'm busy trying not to feel ungrateful.  Having scoped the main floor of the club quite thoroughly, we decided to go to the lobby.  Daniel DeSanto is at the bar, surrounded by girls buying him drinks.  It would have been nice to meet him (etc.), but he looked awfully occupied.

I asked a couple of the women at the bar if anyone had seen Norman.

"Yeah, he's right outside..."  (Wile E. Coyote cloud of dust in place of Elle and me)

There he is.  Smoking a cigarette and speaking with a few folks.  No pushing, lines, nothing.  We walk over, wait our turn to speak, and I ask him if he'd sign (the Christmas presents I'd bought).  He couldn't have been nicer.

ME:  Would you mind taking a picture with me?
NORMAN:  Sure!!!

Elle's got the camera, he goes to put his arm around my shoulder...


PRODUCER:  Sorry, he has to go.
ME:  (my head whipping in his direction) SERIOUSLY? 

I didn't yell it, I didn't even use what has been coined my Bitch Mommy Voice.  Considering how I felt about the matter, I think he got off pretty easily.  This time he and I made eye contact.  Weighing his options, he said:

"Fine, you can walk in with us."

With Elle hot on my heels, camera at the ready, we were off.

I'm not a tall woman. However, my lack of height comes from my lack of torso, not legs.  The producer did not count on this as he tried to lose me.  Elle is not as tall as I am, and in heels.  That woman has moves.

Now, if Norman had been trying to get away from me, I'd have backed off.  In reality, Norman (whose left arm was in the producer's Death Grip) was being marched very quickly down the hall, the whole time trying to talk to me over his right shoulder. 

The producer's first mistake was misjudging the length of my legs.  His second one was thinking he'd be able to move the star of the movie quickly and unobtrusively through the Big. Crowded. Club. 

They hit the throng and some girls latch onto Norman.  I waited for them to finish, and there was my shot.  We posed for the camera, shot taken...(finally)...

And the moment of truth. 

Up to this point (from the moment I decided to attend the party to this second) I'd been worried, terrified that, if I did get to speak to him, I'd stick my foot in my mouth.  Hard.  I skipped over anything that could be construed as flirting (apparently, I'm a fairly good girl after all).  Everything I'd come up with thus far had either been what every single other person has probably said to him, or stupid.  But now?

What's that I'm under?  Oh, it would be a gun.  He could see that I was trying to say something, so he leaned in to listen.

So I said the first thing that came to mind.  It was heartfelt, sure, but it didn't seem like much. He looked at me again...eye contact again... and with a really big smile said an earnest "Thank you!"

Then he was gone (this time his feet left the floor a bit when the producer yanked him away).

I turned to Elle, and said, "We can go - my night's not going to get any better than it is now."  In order to get back to our car, we had to leave the party well before the trains stopped running.  She said okay and then asked:

"What did you say to him?" 

Crap.  I thought it went pretty well.  "Why?"

"Well, he was listening, then leaned in to listen closer, then he did this double take, then this huge smile..."

Okay, so I didn't screw it up.

We walked toward the door...and all of the sudden, I'm alone...I turn around...

Elle is about ten feet behind me, talking with Rocco.  Who am I to rush her?  Besides, I now had something other than my phone for him to sign.  At a pause in the conversation, I ask him if he'd mind signing one more thing for me.  Ever the gentleman, we walk over to the bar (so he'd have something to lean on).  While he was doing this, I had an SBI (Scathingly Brilliant Idea).

I leaned toward him, and said "Excuse me?"
ROCCO: (turning) Yes?
ME:  My girl over there, she has the most enormous crush on you. Buuuut, she's also wicked shy.  Never in a million years would she ask, but she'd love it if you'd sign her chest.  Do you mind?"
ROCCO: Sure!  (glances over his shoulder) Which one?
(I specified)
 ROCCO:  (looks at me) She's pretty hot...

Elle maintains that, crush or no, she is also a good girl after all, since, when he walked over and moved her shirt, for that split second before she realized what, exactly, he was doing, she did freak out a little.  But only for a second.

After that, she turned to me and said: "NOW we can leave!"

We kept a moderate amount of mature, level-headedness at the party.  Once on the train, we became two teenage girls coming home from the Beatles playing Shea Stadium.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Part 3: Rocco, T. Duffy and Bob, Oh My!!!

It's taken a while to get back to this (I site creepy neighbors and creepier writer's block.  This has nothing, NOTHING I say, to do with procrastination). 

I started this blog because I function well in a forum for monologuing (and because my sister and the OY department bullied me). I like to think that I can at least entertain (if not help) others by sharing amusing (and hopefully useful) observations and stories.  One of the things that kept me away from finishing this little series was the concern that these entries would only be interesting to me...and a few others.  Was I falling into the BBT?  The Boring Blog Trap?  Sigh.

Oral tradition is alive and well in my life.  I come from a story telling family; over the years, I consistently make friends with story telling (or listening) people.  However, unlike the other stories that get told  (and retold, and retold) in my circles of friends, this one is only between Elle and me.  While we never get tired of reliving this night, we seldom tell it anymore.  Because it's something that happened to just us, it's the kind of story that's fun for everyone else to hear...once.  Maaaaybe twice. 

Since it doesn't get retold, it is in danger of losing details.  Even as I prepared for this entry, as Elle and I got all excited about it, we discovered that she and I remembered (and forgot) different things about that night. 

In conclusion:  the reason I wanted to share this story is that I want a record of it. 

So.  After this (and it's conclusion) I promise not to make too many entries of this kind.  That having been said...

As I mentioned before, we had no desire whatsoever to drive a car in Boston.  Therefore, I GPSed our way to Alewife parking garage/train station while Elle watched All Saints Day on the shotgun side.  It wasn't the best way to see it, but the sequel's villain would be at the party, and most (if not all) of the people attending will have seen it.  Avoiding Spoiler Poisoning 101. 

We parked, realized how suburbanite we've become (ticket purchasing has changed a LOT from the mid-90s, pre-everyone-using-plastic-for-everything days), amused an information desk person with our naivete, bought train tickets and got our happy asses on the train. 

And this is the point where we started slipping down the slope.  The slope of age.  By the time we arrived at the club on Commonwealth Avenue, we were twitching and laughing and, literally, wide eyed as two teenagers.  Folks who know me personally can attest I don't often go the the Giddy Place - but there I was.

"And to make a long story short (too late!) one by one (we) all arrived."  - Tim Curry, as Wadsworth, Clue

Arrived, got inside, whatever.

Breezing through impromptu Christmas shopping at the concert kiosk-esque counter and making small talk with other woman (who apparently follows them around the country) casually mentioned that David Della Rocco's in the lobby.  I'd like to pretend that we absorbed that information with cool detachment and politely found a way to saunter out to the lobby.

But we didn't.  Again, teenage girls.  To our credit, though we practically Harry Potter Apparated to the lobby, no squeally, squeaky, "omigodomigodomigod there he is!" nonsense came from us.

In the movies, Rocco is funny, loud and spends most of his time looking unkempt, unshowered and sweaty.  In real life, he is still funny, but fairly soft spoken and quite clean. He graciously posed arm in arm for pictures, signed the back of my phone when I couldn't find a piece of paper (of ALL of the things not to bring???) and humored us with some friendly chit chat. 

Well, humored me.  I found out later that as I was getting my phone back from the person who took the picture, he had quietly asked Elle: "Would it be alright if we just stayed this way?"

Now, Elle may be a #3 - but that's only in her choice between Connor and Murph.  Just as I had come primarily to meet Norman Reedus - she was there to meet David Della Rocco.  She tells this part of the story with lots of happy, happy sound effects - but I was there, and can attest that, when I saw him discretely whispering to her, her response was pleased but dignified.

The next couple of hours went by in a bit of a blur, punctuated by moments of clarity.  Specifically, when Troy's pen ran out of ink just as he was to give me an autograph, he put up his hands, said "WAIT HERE. I'LL BE RIGHT BACK", left, and actually DID work his way back through the (enormous) crowd to find me, and get back to taking pictures and signing things. 

With Bob, my freaking camera wouldn't work - but he waited...and waited...and waited.  Since there were so many people waiting to get their pictures/autographs, I felt badly and told him not to worry about it.  He looked at me and said "Don't worry, sweethaaht" (love his Maine accent), "I'm not going anywhere, you just tell me when it stahts working."  He turned, signed, posed, etc.,

Eventually, the camera got back in the game, but I figured it had been too long...he was busy...ah well...

(tap, tap, tap) "So is you're camera working yet?"

Which brings me to what is probably the most important thing I took from this evening. 

When you read about celebrities, or see their pictures, or watch them in interviews - you, or at least I, wonder - "yeah, but are they nice in real life?" Troy Duffy, especially, has been painted with a very dirty brush as being an egomaniac, a jerk.

These men are honestly decent sorts.  Bob didn't have to take the time to talk to me again, and if Troy is an egomaniac/jerk...I didn't see it.

Cynically, you could argue that Elle and I are women and, while not supermodels, still attractive.  Maybe they were flirting.  However.  Those men took the time to sign and pose for everyone.  They took just as much (obvious) enjoyment from hanging out with the men who were there to meet them as they did with the women (no matter how young, or scantily clad).

Yes, they're famous.  Yes, they're adored.  Yes, they have a fan base so rabid that, after 10 years a movie that went straight to video got a theater released sequel.  But...

They genuinely know, understand and appreciate why they have all of that.  You could see it in all of their faces - they really love their fans and were enjoying the opportunity to interact with us.

There I am, in the middle of a crowd, savoring this epiphany, when Elle gives me a tap, points over my shoulder and says, "There's your boy."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Part 2: How Stella Got Her Irish On...

So, back to our regularly scheduled programs.  As a add on to Part 1 - I have been informed that I made a small error - there are, in fact, two more groups of women.  Women who prefer Rocco (David Della Rocco) and those who prefer the character played by Billy Connelly (to be more specific would make a spoiler).  I maintain that, despite ultimately loving say, Rocco or Billy, when asked, most women who've seen and loved the movie will be able to choose between the two brothers.  This does not diminish their love for Rocco or Billy - it's just an illustration of how, upon meeting another woman who loves this flick, I've been able to ask "Connor or Murph?"...and get that quick response.  R or B women will generally follow with a variation on "But I have to say, the one I really love is..."  But it will always start with a brother preference. 

In the two days between deciding to go and the actual event, Elle and I were on a high tilt warble of excitement. 

We made all of the common sense preparations - outfits that were flattering but not slutty, packing the mini DVD player so Elle could watch All Saints Day on the way down, that kind of thing.  I was trying to get as much done as I could, since Elle was working late to prevent work from piling up too much while she was gone.  To fuel this mission, my house was in a constant marathon of the two movies.

Stella came for a visit the day before the party.  To understand what comes next, we need a clear picture of Stella.  She is, as I've described before, a Social Butterfly.  She embodies the grace and charisma that makes hosting a party with innumerable guests look like child's play.  She's one of the few people I know who can be in a room full of strangers - and not only be at home, but through her sparkling energy and tactful instincts, can make those strangers feel like they've known not only her, but each other, for years.

Stella is also a voracious athlete and sports fan.  She watches TV, but really for live action, real time things.  Sitting down to just enjoy a movie (let alone over and over) - SO not her thing (obviously, she's a Woman #1 - never seen The Boondock Saints)

Essentially, we're each other's photo negative - though that doesn't stop us from loving each other to bits.

Often, I find myself saying to her (say, during March Madness, or a football game of sorts) "well, I can't pretend that I "get" why you're excited, but I'm very, very happy for you." (or sad, depending)  This has become a joke between us (though I do mean it, every time).

So.  She and I are visiting and she watched as I bustled around the kitchen.  Finally, it was her turn to say:

"Megan, I just want you to know that, while I don't understand why you're excited, I'm very happy for you that you have this opportunity."  We both laughed.  Then it hit me - there was a way to help her understand...just maybe...

There is a deleted scene from the first movie that is fantastically hilarious and aesthetically magnificent.  Even the director himself has admitted that he regrets cutting it from the final product.  It involves the boys getting a phone call from their mother in Ireland.  For reasons logical to the script, but too long to repeat, they are naked through this scene (hence the aesthetics - sigh).  Since the scene takes place just after the opening credits, one only has to watch up to the part where the main title is shown.  As much of a movie fan as she is not - Stella agreed that she could sit through that much.

SCENE:  The boys are at the meat packing plant (their livelihood, pre-killing spree).  The first one we see is Connor.

Stella says, "Oh, he's pretty cute!"  So, I'm thinking that, though she'll never watch the entire movie, she would be a #3 (those who love Connor). 

As the plot thickens, Murphy shoots a look over his shoulder (pissed that Connor's getting picked on), and she grabs my arm and asks "Who the hell is THAT?!?!?"

Ahhh.  She's a big, bad #4. 

"That," says I, "is Murph."

STELLA:  That's Norman Reedus?  
ME:  Yup.
STELLA:  The guy you've been talking about?
ME:  Yup.  Keep watching.

I switched to the deleted scene.  We watched it in reverent silence.  Sigh.

It's over; I turned off the disk.

STELLA:  You're going to get to meet him?

Kinda makes me feel like Riverdancin'.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Neighbor on (the Pain In) the Backside

I apologize for the length of this one.  As it's purpose was to be informative as well as entertaining, I don't have the luxury of splitting it into smaller pieces.

I really did want to do my 3 part St Paddy's Day special all at once...but circumstances have distracted me.

Circumstances like sitting down after bringing Crikey home from school, planning out the making of the Irish Dinner (none of that corned beef and cabbage - we are authentic here)...relaxing for a bit...

"MOM.  There's a man outside our fence taking pictures of our house!"

I get out there in time to see the fellow walking away.  I call out:

"HEY.  CAN I HELP YOU?"  I admit, my tone of voice was not a welcoming one, true.  However, I think I can be granted a little indulgence here.

This pillar of society just walks away, into the trees behind our house.  Hmmm.

Now, my land line had been down for a few days, and I hardly get any cell reception at my house, so calling the police was a bit of a challenge.  I texted Marshall and Elle, asking them to do so, and tried on my own.  I finally got through; an officer came over.

He questioned Crikey, who, while I am very proud of how he came right in to tell me about the Creepy Old Guy, he did NOT give me all of the information.  So, it is while he's giving his statement to the policeman that I learn:

CRIKEY:  And then he asked me the dogs' names.

Wait a fucking minute.  WHAT?  I do that slow turn to the boy, and ask:

"He spoke to you???"

For the record, I did not lose my calm.  I did not interrupt his narrative further.  However, what has started as a mild case of berserker rage was slowly escalating to something a little more potent.

Let's speed up this part: 

There was a man.  He had a camera.  He took pictures of our dogs, our house.  He talked to my child (thinking he was unsupervised).  He left when I came out.  Officer found footprints adjacent to our fence, and a trail leading back to the condos 150 yards from our property. 

At first, I thought it was our neighbor.  Reasoning?  He's a nutjob with a history of throwing dog feces at children walking their dogs, aiming for children when he's driving through the neighborhood, taunting dogs (and then calling animal control to complain about barking).  He was IDed by our next door neighbors' babysitter as doing the photograph-then-turn-tail-when-confronted act in their yard (though, for all of his faults, it's nice that's he's been exonerated from this one - read on).  He's also been suspected of killing a few of the neighborhood cats.  Personally, until this incident, my encounters with him have been limited.  He left a passive aggressive note on my car about Marshall's parking habits; he's been quite civil to me when I've approached him about our dogs' barking (though he gets quite apoplectic when complaining about our dogs to the neighbors).  It seemed the logical place to start.

Now, if it was CNG (Crazy Neighbor Guy), I have to admit, I was not worried about Crikey's safety.  He's an ass (with no tolerance for children) but he only lashes out at kids when they directly inconvenience him.  My main concern was the possibility that he'd throw poisoned food over the fence, neutralizing the dogs that way.

However, never let it be said that I'm unfair.  If it was CNG, I want him nailed to the wall.  But if it wasn't...

My mother texted me the next morning, suggesting that I shouldn't let the kids go outside.  While I understood her point - the sheer notion of hiding my children and my dogs inside Pissed. Me. Off.  This is their home.  Marshall's home.  My home.  Our yard.  Our property.  I absolutely refuse to be frightened while on it.

I think it's quite telling that, when I announced this situation as my Facebook status, the response from my friends was immediate, outraged and concerned (I really do have the best people EVER in my life) There was also a kind of anticipation of how I would deal with the situation - I have to say I feel very flattered by the absolute confidence everyone had in my ability to take care of the way or another.  To sum it up:

He picked the wrong Bitch to piss off.

As usual, I sent Crikey outback with the dogs when he got home from school.  I have a collapsible chair that I keep in my car trunk for the sporting events I attend.  I set that up on he back deck.  Along with my lapdesk, netbook, glass of seltzer.  One last thing...

The expression on Crikey's face was one to remember when I brought out Marshall's 12 gauge rifle.  With big eyes, a half smile and a nervous laugh, Crikey asked:

"Uh, mom, don't you think you takin' this a bit too far?"  (nervous chuckle)


(a little more heh, heh, hehs... and an expression of "are you for freaking real with me?"

There is a fine line between having your children live in terror of their world and instilling in them healthy caution.  As intelligent as Crikey is (inconveniently so with matters such as these), a little information would quickly lead to understanding the whole, terrifying picture.  So we have, perhaps, erred on the side of too much caution.  Now that the situation has come to somewhat of a head...

"Crikey, do we know for a fact that he's not a kidnapper?"  I hated pointing it out.

He blinked.  He looked away.  I saw the flicker of "oh shit, I didn't think of that."  He looked back at me. 

My son was on the teetering edge of  Fear.  I was on that same edge with Hate.  And then:

He looked at the shotgun.  His eyes widened with the understanding that Mom had a gun, she knew how to use it, and she'd kill the shit out of anyone before she let that person take/hurt/kill him or his brother.

He looked back at me, and the biggest grin spread across his face.  Fear was gone.  Caution was there.

And I had become Han Solo.

Before it seems to the world that I had lost my mind, Ted Nugent style - allow me to point out a couple things. 

1 - I had (and have) no intention of harming another human being unless that individual poses and clear and present threat to the safety of my children, Marshall or myself (or other people - you get the point).

2 - The reason I had the 12 gauge out is because it was not only big enough to see from behind our property - it was not loaded.  Granted, the .45 in my lap was - but I was working under the concept of the big visible gun working as a prophylactic measure.

3 - Nothing would please me more than to know that it is unnecessary for me to prepare myself for the trauma it would cause me (to say nothing of my kids) if I did have to take the life of another human being.  It's easy to act all badass "oh, I'm gonna do (this or that - insert violent act of choice)" - but actually Killing A Person - that is huge.  More enormous than the crime statistics would have us believe, far more painful (to the person pulling the trigger) than anyone (who hasn't had to do that) can imagine.  For all of my badassery, for all of my willingness to do whatever it takes to protect my children, for all of the humor I used to carry myself through this experience, I dreaded the idea of actually having to do it.

That's right, I said humor.  This post hasn't been funny so an apology for that, I shall share the other options that came up through the brainstorming with Marshall and my awesome friends.

The first thing I did was change my profile picture to a cartoon drawing from Brilliant Blogger Extraordinaire Allie Brosh (of Hyperbole and a Half - if you haven't read it, you must start.  She is possibly one of the most hilariously brilliant human beings who ever lived). (yeah, I used "brilliant" twice - she deserves both):

Also, the lines from 99 Biker Friends, by Bowling for Soup, also seem helpful:

"Let's get the A-Team, 50 Cent with his bling-bling and a couple of prison guards...and I have 99 Biker Friends, who wanna kick your ass!"

Speaking of the A-Team, the brainstorming went with the theme of  "WWMD" - What Would Murdock Do?

Install a nanny cam on the culprit's property with a Internet live feed so we can all tune in and watch HIM.  "" maybe?

Install motion detectors that play Hank Williams Jr.'s "A Country Boy Can Survive" as an alarm (specifically the line that goes "I got a shotgun rifle and a four wheel drive and a country boy can survive")

Electrify the fence

Barbed wire

Electric barbed wire

(and since he was CLEARLY banking on our being New England Liberals (which is a realistic assumption for our area) and therefore unarmed: 

Hanging a sign on the outside of the fence (where his footprints were found) that reads:


It turns out that CNG wasn't home at all that day. 

In seemingly unrelated news:  over the past year or so, there's been a car slowly driving up and down our street.  Not every day - or even every week.  Just often enough that even I noticed it. I figured it was city related (many folks around here use personal vehicles even when doing city work).

Yesterday, we took the boys to see the Harlem Globetrotters.  On the drive back, Marshall got a call from the police, letting us know that they'd been called about a car driving slowly on our road. 

Turns out our next door neighbor, Ava, had seen a man walking around outside her yard and toward mine.  She called to him, he slunk behind a tree, and then, as her husband went to follow him, he left...back to the condos.  They called the police.

Shortly after that, the car was back, cruising our street.  Ava  walked into the road and stopped him.   Same jacket, same hat as the man she had just seen minutes before.

She asked him if he was lost, if he needed help - that kind of thing.  His response was civil, though not pleasant.  However, when Ava pointed out that she recognized him, he smirked and said that he didn't know what she was talking about, and that she couldn't prove anything anyway.

AVA:  (I'm paraphrasing) Actually, I recognize you.  There are at least two children who will recognize you.  Also, my babysitter not only can identify you, but would be happy to testify against you.

That did make him pause...for a bit.  Then he identified himself as the President of the Condo Association and started going on about the evil of my dogs (why he needs pictures of their yard because of my dogs is still unclear to me).  Since she knew it was only a matter of minutes before the police showed up, she kept him talking.  When he got to the part where he was going to go to the police and complain to the mayor, the patrol car pulled up.  Very nice timing, I have to say.

Over the course of that conversation, he learned two things:

1 - He had underestimated the opposition:  this neighborhood is full of law enforcement, fire department, to say nothing of the ex-Marines and Airborne Rangers.

2 - He would be arrested if he came on our property again

That is where the situation stands as of this writing.  Ava's put up her no trespassing sign.  I'm going to make one or two.  I'm going to clean up the language a bit, since there are kids back there, but my signs are going to be pretty creative.

And I want him to know about the shotgun.

The link for Hyperbole and a Half is: