Overall a nice Christmas

Was a pretty relaxing day. Didn’t have as much work as in years prior, which was actually kind of nice. Had dinner with my best guyfriend and his mom on Christmas Eve, then later met up with Former for our present exchange. Then today I mostly bummed around the apartment, aside from roaming around Walgreen’s cosmetics section for a while earlier in the afternoon.

Received all sorts of goodies this year, including a few gift certificates/cards.    My uncle and aunt sent this cool electric fleece-lined throw blanket that I’ve been sleeping with (and which my cat has fallen in love with). They also sent along this super tasty chex mix with chocolates and pretzels and nuts in it. As well as some little slipper booties to wear around the apartment, which are always appreciated since it gets pretty darn cold in here in January and February. And I also received thick socks from a few people, as are always needed. Former went on a shopping spree this year and picked up everything he’s heard me talk about in recent months, from silicone baking sheets to sweatpants to straws (I have trouble finding ones that don’t bend, ha) to a comfy lounging sweater to socks to a pack of ankle wraps to a speed loader for my pistol to his customary box of chocolates, plus gift cards to two stores and a gift certificate to get a manicure and pedicure at the local Asian-owned salon that I like best. Very sweet of him.    I only feel bad that I didn’t buy him more fun stuff, focusing mostly on the things he needs like bunches of socks and a few pairs of warm thermal underwear and a new bread knife and another Martha Stewart cookbook (he’s a big fan of her work).

So he spent the day wrapping presents before heading to dinner with his family and I chilled here at my apartment and puttered around online mostly. Enjoyed the leftovers my buddy sent me home with yesterday. Tasty ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, his mom’s corn casserole, with slices of pear and chocolate cake for dessert.

Chatted with my Grandma again briefly earlier today on the phone. Messaged a few friends and my uncle and cousin. Don’t have any work scheduled for tomorrow so I’ll likely be bumming around the apartment some more, aside from heading to the grocery store (in need of more seltzer water — forgot to stock up for the holidays).

Not sure what will be planned for New Year’s Eve just yet. Maybe a dinner out. Maybe a night in. We’ll see.

All in all, it was a pleasant Christmas. The neighbors even knocked off their fighting, which was nice since I can hear them plain as day through my bathroom walls. Wanted to drop off some treats to a couple neighbors but that can wait. The rest of my gift-giving will be for the new year.

Even heard from a buddy I haven’t seen in quite a while. One of the downsides of staying away from bars is we never run into one another anymore, and he moved to a new house that I’ve yet to visit. Will respond to him tomorrow. Been missing his company too, but such is the way things go when my lifestyle changed. Maybe one of these days I’ll head over to see his new place and catch up.

Back to watching youtube videos now.

Christmas Eve drama

Currently in the process of getting ready to head out, having baked some brownies last night I intend to share with a lady friend of mine, with plans to go over to my best guyfriend’s place to have dinner with him and his mom. But while sitting here in my livingroom right now I’m listening to the neighbors upstairs fighting, as they’ve been doing frequently in recent days. Sometimes it’s the man and woman, but this time it’s the man yelling at a little boy. Kind of unsettling. I try to give neighbors the benefit of the doubt since we all have our moments and get into loud arguments at times. Never called the police on any of them over it and am glad none have done so on me either over the years (though I’m much quieter these days). But still. It’s more difficult to tune out when a kid is crying on and on and on. Went upstairs and listened in the hallway a few minutes ago to try to find out how bad the fight is, but I can hear them more clearly through my own bathroom walls. Puts a damper on the holidays when these fights keep erupting over and over again.

But you have to be careful about approaching people over that sort of thing. Never know what all is going on on the other side of that door. And sometimes it just sounds worse than it actually is. Overreacting helps nobody. One time several years ago a young couple were living up there and fighting so loudly to where I did wind up banging on the door with my stun gun in tow. They were scaring the shit out of me with the way she was screaming. Turned out to not be that bad of a scene despite her dramatic screams, and they later apologized to me and kept the noise down after that. And I told them that I just cannot tune out the sounds of a woman screaming like that. Hurts the soul to try to do so. And they understood and rectified the situation and we all were cool after that.

But this family I’ve already had issues with since their kids were throwing boxes of lit matches out the window a few months back, pissing off a bunch of us neighbors who’d prefer the place not be burnt down. And the mother blew her top at everybody when we confronted her about it, immediately denying her kids had done anything wrong or been left unattended. Pure bullshit, yes. And she tried getting in the face of a man who lives downstairs, creating a very tense situation that took his girlfriend intervening to deescalate. Shouldn’t have gone that far, but that’s how people can be around here. Hence why I don’t knock on doors unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary, which is extremely rarely.

The landlord knows and just tells us to call the police. But most of us here prefer not to involve the police in our business unless it’s an emergency. Best to know what all is going on before calling them since they’re not there to mediate our personal affairs and someone might wind up going to jail even if it’s not fully warranted. So…there’s always that consideration.

They seem to be piping down now. That’s good. Just makes me nervous is all.

“Joe Rogan Experience #1055 – Bret Weinstein”

Saturday afternoon viewing:

“Logic Is Not Enough”

From the Corbertt Report.

Sunday morning thoughts on that which we call God and the formation of hell on earth

A thought keeps returning to me lately. When in the Christian bible it is said that the meek shall inherit the earth, perhaps what that really means is that lower lifeforms will inherit the earth. Think plants, protozoans, and prokaryotes. (Or, thanks to human ingenuity, perhaps even nanotechnology.) The smallest of the organisms. That would make sense, when you really stop and think about it, considering how the cellular level always adapts and eventually triumphs over whatever we attempt. The microscopic evolve much faster than we do, putting us and other higher life forms at an ongoing disadvantage, with no end in sight.

Also, consider the scripture where it was said that lions will someday lay down with the lambs. Maybe by that what is really meant is that lions and lambs (e.g., higher-level lifeforms) will both succumb to death, as in going extinct as species. Just a thought…

Seems to me life is crazier than we can imagine and that it’s so obviously not constructed to cater to our human whims and wishes.

Was just listening to a youtuber Christian that I turn to from time to time to hear his commentary on current events. Today he was complaining bitterly about how stupid we human beings have become, how our civilization project has led us to become weak and incompetent, comparing us to modern farmed chickens and how far from natural they’ve strayed. What he’s pointing at there is domestication, and yes, we humans are subject to this as well, as should be apparent by now. Does it make us lazy and stupid? Yes. We too are far from natural in nearly every sense, having forgotten in a few generation’s time how to provide even the basics for our own survival. I’ve bitched about this plenty over time as well, noting how most of us nowadays only know how to wave around money, not create things of actual productive value. Sure, modern economics is largely to blame for bringing us to this point, and overpopulation, popular socialization, and increasing technological dependence will keep us here. Is this trend going to lead to human extinction? Perhaps. But such concerns no longer bother me much anymore. C’est la vie. Special as we are, we’re not above Nature. Though undoubtedly a few of us will brave the storm and survive on in the future dark ages. Maybe. Or maybe not, depending on the disaster(s) that befalls us.

I can understand people getting riled up over these topics, angry that we humans can’t seem to change course. But at the same time I also try to accept that we’re not as smart as we like to think, or at least we’re not as quickly adaptive due to our mega social/cultural/political/economic systems currently in place. The individual maintains more flexibility than the collective, yet we’re all absorbed in a major collective scheme at this point in time, whether we like it or not. Indeed, we will go down with this ship when the time comes because there is no alternative for most of us. I accept this and reckon I would be one of the first to go down when that day comes, assuming it’s a big catastrophic event rather than a lengthy decline (the latter seeming more plausible). Is what it is. I, for one, am thoroughly dependent on modern conveniences and technologies and can’t barely imagine life outside of them. Being subject to the elements directly and learning to hunt and gather when modern weaponry have run out of available ammunition strikes me as entirely daunting and best left to the survivalist types who train for such scenarios.

This is the downside of domestication. We grow increasingly dependent on the Systems humans have constructed. We know this, and yet some become very depressed when contemplating this reality. I used to as well, but then I came to see that that’s my expectations acting up. Rose gardens were never in the trajectory, much as we love to envision a utopian future. It’s just not realistic. Especially when you consider who are attracted to wielding such power over and within these Systems and how they tend to get there (hint: not through truly democratic voting into office).

Personally, I don’t wish to see the future past a certain point. Wouldn’t know what to do with it. Continually reconfirms my decision to not have children, having no way to prepare them for what’s to come. Just trying to imagine what 20-30 years into the future will hold is mind-boggling enough, based on my readings of where technologies are heading. Where others see possibilities and easier living, I see enhanced domestication and surveillance. That in no way warms my heart or makes me hopeful for my species, though I do aim to maintain an open mind since I have no way of truly knowing how it will all shake out in the end. Maybe we will get lucky and knock ourselves back into a stone age, that seeming to me to be a better alternative than winding up within intensely technologically-advanced totalitarian societies. The future looks very dystopian to me and has for a lot of years now, try as I might to imagine things working out more in the people’s favor.

Hence why I can’t stand these gender-bent movements and racial movements and other ideological oddities intent on separating us from one another. Just creates more suffering in the meantime, and very little of what they have to say is actually relevant in the big picture. Not really. Just keeps us blaming one another while our ship rocks and threatens to sink, as if that will change a thing for the better. Even our stupid political divides have come to look like nonsense to me over time. Corporate-backed teams with more in common than not, parading as if competing in our media circus. Just another smokescreen, another illusion that we all-too-willingly buy into.

So I guess when I think about these things nowadays, I’m overcome with the thought that we should probably make life easier on one another in the interim. Maybe quit paving the way to hell in our own individual fashions so far as we’re able. Cease blaming others who weren’t alive when the ball first began rolling and who individually have no more power than we do to stop it. Guess I’m taking more of a hospice outlook on life at this point, though I understand that simply making ourselves more comfortable isn’t necessarily the best idea either. But screaming profanities at one another constantly and casting blame wholesale and telling others to get off the planet certainly isn’t helping anything. Much as I don’t like the notion of coddling our illusions, I also take issue with the idea of stripping them from people and leaving them with nothing to believe in. Seems the latter will prove to be a more dangerous tactic, leading more into nihilism and a sense of despair and futility, which will only further paralyze people. That doesn’t sound like the right thing to do.

As I was talking about with a couple friends lately, everywhere I’ve explored has eventually wound me up at the same place, which is to go to God. And by that I do not mean religion, though I’m not exactly sure what it does mean. That’s just the feeling inside my heart and head more and more these days. Like this is too big for any one of us to comprehend and to take on, and perhaps we’d be better off giving one another reasons to maintain faith in humanity and that which is good and proper and reliable, rather than tearing it all down and leaving people with nothing to believe in. This is an intensely personal and emotional topic for me and not one that I typically care to speak about with others outside of my closest people, so I won’t run on much about it here. It’s just a recurring thought, a pull in a direction that I’m not yet able to fully grasp the meaning of but recognize it as significant. That which I call God isn’t what religions have taught about, though past people tried to point toward it to the best of their limited abilities. It’s incomprehensible in a way, yet very meaningful in Its reminder that life follows a “plan” we can’t control and dominate, try as we might. Perhaps referring to it as life’s “flow” is more accurate, though we tend to conceive of it as if it is a plan since we can note that its workings indeed do appear to have some sort of rhyme or reason. Just not in line with our human melodrama, which then perplexes us. I won’t pretend to understand It, and I certainly won’t attempt to articulate my thoughts about It beyond what I’ve said already since I’m not the one to attempt to do so. And that’s fine. Striving for a personal understanding is all one really can ever hope for, considering we can’t help but experience this life through our own subjective lenses.

As someone who hasn’t been religiously affiliated in over 20 years now, I admit that it feels a little weird to keep feeling this pull toward that which is greater than us, not knowing how to describe it or what it all may mean. Atheists and skeptics would look upon someone like me and say that I’ve grown scared enough that I’m just grasping for straws at this point, when in reality I’ve actually grown calmer through this process of exploration. I was far more scared in years past, back before I began to release my expectations and try to accept life simply for what it is, good, bad and ugly alike. That transition maybe was brought about originally through fear and fatigue from fretting, but I didn’t go searching for it so much as it just crept up on me over time. And I don’t know why or how or what any of it means, but I’m willing to listen to It and accept not having answers. Because there’s nowhere else to go, quite literally. So maybe it is some sort of figment of my imagination — that’s always possible. But perhaps it’s a useful one, far more so than all this bickering and team-joining and politicking and expecting humanity to find its way out of our myriad conundrums. I don’t think we can, not in the foreseeable future. And I do believe there are people poised and ready to take full advantage of whatever power grabs become available, because that’s part of human nature to do so. We’re not a good species, but we’re not entirely a bad species either. We just are what we are, complicated as that can’t help but be. Shortsighted and tribal, power-hungry and nepotistic, sometimes charitable but also unavoidably naive…and on and on it goes.

Seems to me there’s no good reason to loathe one’s own species, especially considering none of us are immune to its foibles and fallibility. This is who we are, right and wrong, and it’s what we have to work with. So many seek power over others, believing that to be supremely meaningful, but really it’s learning to exercise power over oneself that’s especially tricky. We’re not too good at that. Domestication may be partly to blame today, but this problem follows us back to the very beginning of human origins. It’s the perennial conundrum that most of us don’t even begin recognizing the importance of until we’re more than a couple decades into living and will struggle with for the rest of our lives. It’s certainly easier to deflect outward, to blame those over there for our problems, even those at the top, but really we’ve all been complicit in the games we play in this life. Whether we initially meant to be or not, we became so and remain so even after we start becoming aware of what’s going on. No political party or laws on the book can rectify this matter for us. It’s an innate flaw within us — just part of living as sentient life who are always growing and exploring and learning. Can’t be helped and can’t be altogether changed. So no, there is no utopian on the horizon, just more human errors in judgment and striving for power and popularity and playing of the games as have been set before us by previous generations. Plus more technological prowess that many of us don’t fully understand and that most of us will not be able to control.

And on and on it goes. Sometimes it feels very daunting to take in, but other times I feel relatively at peace about it, sad as it can’t help but make me. Am I still scared of the future? Sure. How could you not be if you’re really looking into what’s being developed and what ideologies are growing in strength and numbers? I worry a lot for my loved ones, but I take some solace in the fact that our lives will only last so long. Some say that’s pessimistic thinking on my part, but what really strikes me as pessimistic would be if we were designed to live 150 years or more. That sounds like hell on earth. Which gets me thinking about the reason why I lost my religion in the first place as a young teen: I couldn’t believe in infinite suffering in hell. That’s what broke me out of that faith originally, finding no answers to that question. And since then I’ve come to understand at least that hell is something we humans can create on earth, and I can’t help but believe that in the future we will construct a greater hell than has ever been known before. That’s not what I’d like to believe, but all signs keep pointing in that direction. Why? Because our good intentions don’t tend to jibe with reality, as has been proven time and time again, yet technologies can and will allow for the formation of far more invasive ways of life. And many people will embrace them, believing the hype and accepting the rhetoric claiming that these technologies will aid us in reducing waste and saving the planet/climate and becoming evermore efficient as societies and within corporations. People will believe it because they wish to, going back to that naivete mentioned earlier. And people will gnash their teeth and people like myself, calling us fear-mongerers and luddites and pessimists for not gleefully being on board. To which I say: we’ll inherit the life we deserve. So be it. We do not understand freedom and have shown nearly a fearfulness of it and the responsibilities it requires of us to maintain it. That much is clear by now. So we will get what we help bring about. Right or wrong.

I’m just grateful that life isn’t too long. Allows us to appreciate what time we do have and what people we’re lucky to know while alive. I can grieve for my country and my species in general, but it will change nothing. We’re an interesting lot, if nothing else. Life is indeed fascinating and mysterious, and I look forward to observing it continuing to unfold during my lifetime. I try to tell myself not to be afraid, that it’s just life and this is how it can go. That no suffering can go on indefinitely (though some torturers have demonstrated to the public that it certainly can go on far longer than one can sanely endure — hence our capacity for evil). Feels like a game of whack-a-mole sometimes where the objective for the average layperson is to not get shut up in a box somewhere, whether by a government entity or a crazed stranger or even in an abstract, ideological sense whereby the box is fictitious yet we treat it as if it’s real and keep ourselves within its parameters out of fear and/or obedience.

Life is crazy, life is mad. And it always will be, that much is guaranteed. But with the notion of God comes Love, and I think that’s of infinite importance right about now. Others in the distant past have said it’s true, but reality keeps demonstrating just how true it really is. But then again, that topic perplexes me too, so I continue to grapple with it, not comprehending what it’s even asking of me. Not known for being a very forgiving person myself, so I’m likely very limited in my understanding of what that all may mean. But I will continue to explore it, feeling that it’s very important and deserving of our dedicated attention and contemplation.

Makes me feel very humble reckoning with all this stuff, feeling like a little animal who’s just not competent to make sense of so much in this life. It can be very overwhelming, undeniably so. But I’m trying not to be paralyzed by reality so that I may participate in a more meaningful and productive fashion. However successful I prove to be at that is yet to be seen. My prayer today for all of us is that we be willing to reckon with all sorts of unknowns, particularly those which contemporary “wisdom” deems as off-limits, irrational, or otherwise heretical. I believe it will be good for us to do so, albeit difficult as well.

Mid-December update

Been holed up over here, not interacting much online this week before tonight. Got busy with Christmas shopping (nearly all of which is completed now) and otherwise laying low. Had a good bit on my mind lately and am keeping much of it to myself. Recorded a few videos back in November and early December that I’ve yet to edit and upload. May get around to it eventually. Especially since I’ve now hit the 6-month mark in quitting drinking. Yay me. Though I haven’t missed it much, nor the bar patrons I used to waste time with. Cravings still come and go, as they perhaps always will, but nothing overwhelming.

Haven’t been to the gym this entire past week. Was pretty darn cold out, so I got lazy after finishing work. Plus my knees are strained. And the left ankle’s weak again. Maybe it’s developing arthritis…

Took my car into to Sears auto shop last week and it wound up taking them over 2.5 hours to just put my snow tires on, even with the appointment booked days in advance and me standing around waiting with a friend to get my car back. That shop’s gone to hell. After they messed up my car’s rack during a previous unrelated job, I no longer trust them to do anything more than mount my tires, and they can barely even do that right, come to find out. Probably should re-tighten my lugnuts just to be on the safe side.

That’s been my main gripe lately. Otherwise I had been in a pretty decent mood. Kind of unusual for Christmas time, having not been in the spirit the last several years. Though now that I’m feeling somewhat chipper I’ve noticed that practically everybody else out roaming around town seem to be pissed off. Bunch of grumps in the grocery store, at Target, in traffic, at the UPS store, etc. To that I say that folks should take a break off of celebrating the holidays then. We’re not mandated to do so. If it stresses you out so severely, then say to hell with it for a year or two. Maybe only sends cards for a change. Doesn’t make much sense to wear ourselves ragged over a holiday, especially since it’s become little more than a commercial ploy these days.

Audiobooks that I’ve been listening to lately are Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (as already mentioned elsewhere on this blog); The Quest For Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell (HIGHLY recommend that one!); The Running Man by Stephen King; three books in Lois McMasters Bujold’s Vorkosigan series: Shards of Honor, Barrayar, and The Warrior’s Apprentice; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (narrated by Alison Larkin — she sounded like a chipmunk, causing me to miss nearly every third word, but I’d already listened to the story long ago — not sure why I felt the desire to re-listen to this); The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains by Robert H. Lustig; Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday; and currently I am listening to Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman (and loving it — would definitely recommend it to others, though I doubt most people I know could sit through it since its information is rather alarming for those unfamiliar with current technological threats and those on the horizon — think “internet of things”).

What else? Purchased a bunch of baking supplies and am planning to share brownies and cookies with some of my clients and friends this season. Been putting together little treat bags for some special animals in my life. Finally ordered Grandma some cookies Saturday morning (with free shipping — woohoo! Having already spent over $50 at UPS this week.). Bought lots of thick, warm socks since those are always needed in the winter. Pretty pricey too.

Cooked myself keto “mac” and cheese three days ago and have been enjoying the leftovers. Basically broccoli and cauliflower with a homemade cheese sauce, and I also poached some chicken tenders to add to the mix. Plus a side of roasted brussels sprouts. All very tasty. After two weeks of carb bingeing I figured this meal was in order. Continue reading

More on the book “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”

Wrapping up my thoughts on the audiobook Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance tonight, seeing as how I meant to get to this last week when I completed listening to it. Did enjoy its content throughout and would recommend the book to others.

I experienced what might be considered a sense of kinship while reading his story. Like that of a distant cousin. My family migrated to the South, and his headed to Appalachia and then Ohio. They sound like similar types of people, having originated from Scotland, Ireland, and elsewhere in northern England, so the culture he described is fairly relatable. Was glad to hear of his acceptance into Yale Law School, though admittedly much of what he described there sounded pretty foreign to me too. I also hadn’t realized that some of the most expensive and prestigious schools could be the most cost-effective for low-income students due to grants and whatnot.

There was a part in the latter portion of the book where he was talking about his mother and recognized that her ability to act like a monster was in him too. That resonated with me deeply. It’s amazing how many similarities we can share with those we think are crazy, especially when we were raised by them. And the culture reinforcing such behaviors certainly doesn’t help. He spoke of learning to keep his indignation in check and not being so reactive to perceived disrespects from others. Yep, that’s a tough lesson that undoubtedly requires ongoing grappling with.

But I felt proud for the author after listening to his book. Almost like how I’d feel toward a cousin who’s moving up in the world (as my own cousin actually is, graduating with a Master’s degree in spring of 2018—a first in our lineage—and we’re very proud of him too). It’s a humbling story to sit with and consider and one I’d like others to spend time with as well. Vance is right about a lot of things he mentioned there, particularly in regards to personal responsibility and accountability (which he learned about while serving as a marine). My own family has very mixed feelings about the military too. But I suppose it’s good at least in terms of instilling self-discipline.

I’ll admit, listening to this book made me realize, once again, just how class-conscious I am and apparently can’t help but be. Struggle with it as I might, it still remains ingrained. And maybe that’s largely due to socialization and culture, but I also don’t doubt a good bit of it comes via interactions. Difficult to shake that sense of “us and them” once it’s deeply taken hold. Almost like a defense mechanism where you can’t help but maintain this sense of tribal pride out of loyalty and as well as to stand up for your own people in the face of a society that likes to make fun of them and speak as if they’re unwanted and disposable, ignorant and backwards. I don’t think any amount of climbing the socioeconomic ladder can fully erase that either — your roots are what they are. Money doesn’t nullify that fact.

One point that I’m stuck on and have been waiting to address on here is the forgiveness he chose to show his mother. While I can understand the desire to do so and wish him well with that, I can’t personally endorse the idea in all cases. Sure, it’s the Christian thing to do (so we’ve been taught), but then there are concerns about enabling bad behaviors. Some people won’t change until the costs of not doing so become so great that they must, and others won’t change regardless. Maybe one important difference here is that Vance spoke of how much anger he had earlier in life toward his mother, whereas later on he came to feel sympathy for her. My own experience was just the opposite, having grown up with a great deal of sympathy toward mine the first 20 years of life, then figuring out that tough love was in order if I was ever to escape her bullshit. Then I got really angry. Nowadays I oscillate between irritated sympathy, frustration, and acceptance (in the last step in the grieving process-sort-of-way). It’s not a matter simply of what’s easiest, it’s about sanity preservation. Some people are toxic, for whatever reasons, and they either don’t see it in themselves or won’t. Either way, they’re unlikely to change if they can’t come to terms with the harm they’ve done and continue to do to those close to them. Sad but true. Not that I would encourage others one way or the other on these matters — that’s for each individual to decide for him or herself. But when he mentioned his mother getting onto heroin around the time he graduated…ugh…my heart sank for him. Some folks are inclined to chase pain, to recreate it and keep it rolling onward. And it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a healthy relationship with someone hellbent in that sort of fashion. Much as it may be tough to accept, considering these are family members. But we each figure that out however we do, or perhaps the situation might change for the better over time. One can pray, and I do hope that’s the case for Vance’s family.

This man’s story did strike me as sad in places, though I’m glad he too had the love of grandparents to help pull him through. His Memaw sounded like quite a character. The people he described therein reminded me of various persons I’ve known over time as well, to whatever degrees. I appreciate that he was willing to be so brutally honest, sharing both the positive and negatives sides to their personalities. Because we’re all a complex blend of right and wrong, well-intending and misguided, ignorant and insightful. I feel he really brought his family members to life in the pages, which isn’t an easy feat. Kudos on a book well written!

Anyway, I’ve said enough on all this. Tripped down my own memory lane quite enough also. I’ll leave off in saying again that this is a book very much worth reading or listening to.

Book of interest: “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” (my thoughts)

Today I began listening to the audiobook Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance and am currently on chapter 10, putting it on pause until tomorrow. Definitely speaks to my own spirit and life experiences, both directly and indirectly among people I knew.

To begin with, rarely have I heard of anybody else referring to a Memaw and Peppa. That’s what my stepdad’s parents were known as too. Memaw Allen we called her, and Peppa Pete we called him. Weird to write down those names now since I’ve long since switched to referred to them as simply Mr. and Mrs. Allen, having effectively divorced myself from accepting them as kin since back in my teenage years.

J.D. Vance’s description of his Appalachian Kentucky-rooted family shares similarities with what I’m familiar with in my section of the Deep South, though notable differences as well. Enough similarities though that his story really is resonating with me, reminding me very much of various family members, particularly my Papa (my maternal grandpa, not to be confused with Pepa Pete mentioned prior). Though I’d say that my own people tend to be a bit more conservative both in mannerism and political affiliation, as well as religious involvement. Interesting to observe the overlap between our two camps, not that it should be too surprising considering we share historical ethnic heritages (Scottish primarily). His people and my people came originally from the same regions of the United Kingdom at roughly the same time, belonging to the same socioeconomic class as well. Some went to Appalachia whereas others populated deeper parts of the South. The rowdiness he described there among his people is reminiscent of that which was described by Dr. Thomas Sowell in his book Black Rednecks and White Liberals, which also resonated with me. But the differences are worth noting here. He spoke of his people being Christian yet rarely attending church services, whereas many of my people remain lifelong active in their churches. He tells of his people voting Democrat because they were union folks and associated that political party with being for the working men, while my people viewed the Conservative political party as more beneficial for the working class, if only because they viewed government encroachment on their lives as doing more harm than good more often than not. Though I can see the commonality in the underlying political sentiments despite our camps belonging on opposite sides of the political divide, most markedly in their distrust of getting the Law involved in their personal affairs and vying to align themselves with the political party least likely to screw them and theirs over (though it appears we’ve all failed in that regard, both political parties demonstrating over time that they don’t give much of a damn about the working class aside from paying lip service to gain votes).

Parts of the book struck me as very funny, particularly when he described his grandparents hillbilly ways and inability (and/or unwillingness) to adjust to the established middle class norms and expectations in Ohio where they migrated to in search of jobs and an escape from Appalachian poverty. My Papa shared a lot in common with his people, from the gruff talk to the gun-toting, as well as the years of drinking and the damage that did to his family. But also the defiant pride and desire for your children and grandchildren to go to college so as not to have to work in laboring jobs like he and others in his generation had to. So much Vance said on all of that had me tripping down memory lane about my home county in Mississippi and various family members and neighbors. But we’re not hillbillies since we never resided in hill country — we were rednecks. Though I suppose to outside onlookers we all appeared to simply be “white trash” (a pejorative I do not like or accept being applied to my people).

Our stories differed in important ways, such as my mother thankfully not subjecting us to a carousel of husbands and boyfriends (to which I give credit to my stepdad for working with her as much as he did expressly to ensure that did not happen). And my mother never became a drinker nor a drug user (prescription or otherwise). Was just crazy in her own right, though not necessarily in a uniquely Southern/redneck fashion (we speculate it being due to brain damage likely experienced early in life during a car accident). But I knew those kind of people too. And I also wound up being raised largely by my grandparents and proved better off as a result thanks to the stability that offered. I also grew up hearing rough stories of violence and abuse, including episodes between my grandparents back when Papa was drinking. I can also understand the feistiness  among women that he described, though my own female family members tended to be a little more reserved about it than his. Among my people it was less acceptable for women to smoke and drink and curse like the men did, though some did anyway (myself included). And even among the men it wasn’t viewed as positive attributes to do so, the only exception being when they channeled their aggressive tendencies in the service for protecting the family. There is especially where I saw the women behave like junkyard dogs themselves, because all bets are off when it comes to defending one’s own. It’s a matter of pride and protecting, checking disloyalty and disrespect. And yes, it can go too far and wind up creating total chaos in some circumstances, which I myself have had to discover the hard way in my own behavior and reactions.

Perhaps that’s the biggest difference I noted there between our camps of people: self-control. Not that mine are terrific at maintaining self-control, but it’s definitely prized among them in many social situations. Because they deem it necessary for moving up in this world, though they too expressed feeling conflicted about it when it came to accepting poor treatment from others. There’s an underlying resentment toward those who look down upon you, who see you as nothing more than a member of a downtrodden class not worth much and treat you accordingly, leading to the manifestation of a great deal of class-related distrust (which I too continue to struggle with). On one hand they want you to do well in school so as to have greater opportunities, but on the other they don’t want you to get “too big for your britches” and forget where you come from and who helped you along the way. It does create a bit of cognitive dissonance within us to come up with so many contradictory messages. Want your daughter to marry well but then resent the man she does marry because he’s some highfalutin academic who doesn’t really with the rest of the family. Kind of sets up a no-win situation in a way. But that’s the way it goes. Probably has something to do with why I prefer to date working-class men — feels like there’s too much of a social divide between myself and my people and folks of middle-class origins for a romantic partnership to likely prove workable long-term.

In chapter 7 where J.D. Vance spoke of his Pepa dying, it really pulled at my heart strings. Especially when he stated that his Pepa died on a Tuesday and how that Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Tuesday’s Gone” played on the radio afterward. Was out walking in a neighborhood while listening to that part and had to turn off the audiobook so as to compose myself. Breaks my heart to hear of someone losing such an important father-figure while they’re still so young, he only being in his early teens by then. My Papa died 6 years ago when I was 29 and I still can’t barely talk about it without crying. Just can’t. Losing the big man in one’s life is a tragedy we don’t easily recover from apparently. In J.D. Vance’s case, it was so sudden with no warning, which is really sad. My Papa had cancer so we knew he was going down for a year and a half and tried to prepare ourselves for it, so much as one is truly able to do so. And I can understand how one wrestles with the memory of someone so important to them who also happened to have had drama with others in the family, largely due to his own doing through drinking and acting wrongly. You love him so much, and yet you can’t pretend he was perfect. We’re lucky in that our grandpas did change over time, they did both quit drinking (his in 1983, I believe he said; mine in 1990) and they sought to become better people toward their loved ones so as to find some sort of redemption. I think there’s a lot to learn from life stories like that, demonstrating that many people we consider good and valuable had to make a conscience effort to become that over time. They weren’t necessarily born that way, or their life experiences didn’t incline them toward a more noble direction originally. They had to make the choice themselves at some point, and often it comes after years of pain and strife created within their own families unfortunately. Pain likes to pay forward, and that can be a very difficult cycle to break. Speaks a lot to their merit as people, I would say. To come up in such rough circumstances, to fall into bad habits, and to eventually pull out of it. But we each wind up experiencing these events in life differently, especially us grandkids who weren’t yet alive for the worst of the storm.

He mentioned a book that really resonated with him that actually was about black people in urban areas and the problems they face. Many times I’ve noticed similar overlaps between members of the black community and my people as well. People like Thomas Sowell attribute that to a shared Southern culture, which I don’t doubt plays a role to whatever extent. But this is one reason why I find it difficult to view black people as if foreign, as if their community’s problems are entirely unique. There are similarities worth noting there, as I hope more of us explore in going forward since we’re all Americans here and share more in common than some may care to acknowledge.

When he spoke about his mom claiming her addiction was a “disease” I couldn’t help but cringe. He’s absolutely on to something when he stated that regarding addiction as a disease, while that may be somewhat true insofar as brain chemistry is concerned, winds up causing the addict to have less success in kicking the bad habit. It’s almost as if thinking of addiction like a disease winds up being some sort of crutch whereby one can dispense with personal agency, and that’s not a good situation. He spoke of his Pepa giving up alcohol after years of drinking without much fanfare or going to meetings, and my Papa handled it the same way. Yet I see so many out here returning to treatment facilities and turning to AA only to relapse again and again. But we’re not supposed to judge them because they have a “disease.” Yeah, a disease of the spirit, I’d say. An excuse to give up and give in to craven desires that destroy one’s life. It’s no good. Am currently 6 months into sobriety myself and while I’m proud of me, I’m very wary of myself also because I know me and I know the allure of alcohol and how much trouble it’s caused me and others. It’s an ongoing decision to leave that lifestyle and substance alone, one that has to be renewed with each waking day and bout of temptation. It’s not easy, but it is indeed a personal decision. A choice, ultimately. Yet some folks prefer instead to remain infantile and blame all off on external factors, as if the substance itself has the power to penetrate our bodies without our willful involvement. He has my sympathy in dealing with all of that. I’ve known many people who’ve had drug-addicted and/or alcohol-dependent parents and it sounds like a horrible way to come up. My former partner’s parents both drank (and still do) and I hear the resentment in him pretty frequently, reminded of the fighting and negligence. My ex-step-aunt and her husband were like that too, and it wound up producing nothing but carnage. Some people can manage their drinking and drug use better than others, but many can’t.

He spoke of his mom being unable to comprehend the significance of her father dying on her kids who viewed him as a father figure. Gotta admit, no disrespect intended toward the author (considering how sensitive he admits to being when it comes to his family), that level of selfishness burned my soul a bit to hear. My mother was like that in her own way, unable to comprehend how I could view her father differently than she did, she opting to blame everything in her life on him. And when he died, she didn’t attend the funeral and didn’t even so much as contact me or anybody else in the family. Asked her last year for the first time what she thought of his passing and she simply said she would not talk about it, so I dropped the inquiry. To her he’s a monster. To my aunt, he was her daddy but they grew apart emotionally over time, and I think she was bitter about that. To my uncle, he was a frustrating man but his daddy, and I think he has a lot of conflicted emotions too. None of them aired their grievances to him while he was alive, so now they’ll fester on, unresolved. Very unfortunate. But I can recall back when I was little and my grandparents were fighting for custody of me and I got caught in the middle and was made to choose on the spot between my mother and my Papa. I didn’t know what to do, being only 6 at the time, so I laid still until she began crying and walked away. In her heart I doubt she’ll ever let me live that down, and it still bothers me sometimes since I didn’t know what to do. I had to go with him — he was more trustworthy than her, more dedicated. Yet all she’s ever seen is her own view of him and her own sorrows from her upbringing, conveniently forgetting that she had a kid that had to be raised by them and who bonded with them. But in her warped mind, she just sees betrayal. As a result, I now see her as a lost cause. Like a perpetual child unable to grasp anything outside of her own perspective. Forever. No drugs or alcohol even needed to cause this to be the case. It is very frustrating to deal with, especially when you felt loyal to them all and loved them all.

I hate those memories. They always get to me, no matter how many times I’ve been over them in my head and recognize the situation for what it is. Left me feeling like the best way to stop this stupid cycle was to refuse to ever become a mother myself. Never wanted to let anybody down to that extent. Tarnishes one’s view of motherhood, whether we mean for it to or not. Some are able to overcome these types of upbringings and do better by their own children, which is good. But some of us think it’s best to withdraw from taking on such obligations, uncertain of ourselves in such a scenario and very wary of what the past brought. Guess we all must handle such matters in our own individual ways since there indeed is no one-size-fits-all answer to be found. That aggressiveness he spoke of I feel inside myself and express from time to time, always making me think that it wouldn’t be suitable around children. Not in this day and age, most definitely. Especially not outside of a tribe where such expressions are regarded as the norm, though even there it tends to prove dysfunctional. In my mind’s eye I can hear police sirens and crying, and I’ve never wanted any part of it, never wanted to bring children into such a life. Right or wrong, that’s been my resolve since I was young and remains so. Tangles my emotions to read or hear of parents fucking up, of children have to raise themselves and one another, of new men being cycled in and out of kids’ lives, of mothers who don’t understand the harm they’re creating, etc. Ugh…it messes with my head. Definitely stopped me in my tracks long ago, thank god. I just cannot imagine bearing the burden of bringing new people here and then winding up failing them. Yet, it goes on all the time…

Burden. J.D. Vance mentioned that word in reference to his Memaw having to raise him. I can most definitely relate with that. It’s quite embarrassing to feel like a burden on one’s family, so once again he and his sister have my sympathies on that. My Grandma would say things sometimes too, mostly when I was a teenager, like how she couldn’t afford me anymore. Hence why I kept moving around, trying to find ways to take care of myself so I wouldn’t be such a burden on her and Papa. Though I kept having return to her home, at least until I was old enough to attend college. Went into debt for it but never returned home to live again. Gave her and Papa money throughout my 20s in an effort to try to offset some of what they had to spend on raising me, as well as paying back what I owed her directly. Yet that feeling of being a burden hauntingly lingers on. I feel it with friends and loved ones even now sometimes. Live alone and try to be as independent as possible, yet still it lingers, whispering that if not for others I would be nothing and that I ought to find some sort of way to succeed so as to make it all worth it in the end. However success is to be defined here. Never do I forget where I come from or how much I am indebted to my grandparents for taking me in and providing so much love. Their commitment to me was a game-changer, no question. But I don’t wish feeling like a burden even on my worst enemies. Messes with the head and trains you to see yourself as a lesser-than, like a little parasite — needy. Because you can’t help but be needy as a kid. But when your own parents can’t or won’t take care of you properly, others have to, and that entails a sacrifice. I don’t know if it’s possible for such a realization to not color one’s outlook on life. But such is life. Guess it’s most important to take to heart what others have been willing to do for us and to carry that love forward in whatever ways we can. They made a choice because they love us, and I’m infinitely grateful for that. The alternative would’ve been to be perceived as a burden by people who didn’t give a damn about us, which would’ve been so much worse.

I know I’m rambling off on here a lot about my own people and upbringing, but this book tapped into all of that. And it’s a very good book so far. Very worthwhile. The author became a lawyer, so he really did manage to succeed. That makes me very happy for him. I look forward to continuing on in chapter 10 tomorrow.

Disco and Oldies night

Songs on my mind lately, beginning with a perennial favorite, Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way”:

Gloria Gaynor’s “Never Can Say Goodbye”:

“Barbara Ann” by The Beach Boys:

Not a big Beach Boys fan normally, but that song got into my head over time. Though when I listen to it I hear “Bomb Iran,” probably a discordant remnant from my peace community days. lol  Not that I wish to see Iran bombed, for the record. Just a silly play on words is all. tongue_smile

“Runaway” by Del Shannon:

Dion’s “The Wanderer”:

“Disco Inferno” by The Trammps:

Basically a bunch of songs from before my time. Foreign times to an ’80s baby like me, yet worthwhile snapshots of American culture and talent.

For good measure, while switching gears, here’s an older song’s somewhat newer Spanish rendition:

That was Gypsy King’s “Hotel California.” Couldn’t find the studio version of the song, probably due to copyright issues on youtube. So we’ll settle for a live bar performance. Actually prefer that version to The Eagles’. Yep, I’m sacrilegious like that.

Organic grossness (Flackers rosemary crackers)

While out grocery shopping today I picked up a bag of Doctor in the Kitchen brand Flackers organic flax seed crackers in the flavor rosemary. Yeah, I’m down for trying new and odd things apparently. Well, this turned out to be the second most disgusting organic food I’ve put in my mouth thus far this year. Super yuck! yuck_smilie  Managed to swallow this cracker though, unlike the Annie Chun’s sesame-flavored roasted seaweed snack that had to be spat out. Friggin’ gross and left a bad taste in my mouth thereafter. Won’t be trying that brand again.

I seriously doubt there’s anyway to make it any better either, like by adding cheese or meats. Nope. Just straight-up nasty and guaranteed to ruin any snacking session. Foul tasting. Difficult to comprehend anybody actually liking that cracker. How did it ever make it into a mainstream grocery market?

Giving that out as a gift to others in a snack basket will assuredly signal to them how shockingly bad of taste you have, even if they do happen to be vegan. Expect back a lump of coal.