I Am Not a Sports Fan

Any sport, really. But, football is the egregious offender.

It’s the Monday after the Superbowl and I’m dreading it. Why? Because I know that I’ll be peppered with questions like, “Did you see that play last night?” or “Man, ________ is GOAT, isn’t he?” And, I’m going to have dip into my bag of ambiguous responses and say “Oh, man. That was something!”, “You know it, brother,” or a few other non-answer answers because I did not, nor will I ever, watch another pro football game. You may wondering why I would say something like this, as being a sports fan is so ubiquitous in this country. It’s simple, I am not a sports fan. I hate sports and think they’re a cancer on the soul of America.

Why am I so bitter? In a nutshell, good ol’ toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity tells men and boys that “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” According to the twisted logic of toxic masculinity, the greatest sin that an American could ever commit is losing, even though you learn so much more from losing than you ever do winning. Really, the worst sin is not being a sports fan, especially a football fan, because then you’re a pussy and even losers rank above pussies.

Toxic masculinity led other boys to look down on me because I’d rather read a book than play football/baseball/basketball during recess. So, I played. I didn’t want to, but we all know what happens to kids who are different. As I got older, I went out for a couple of teams in junior high. But my heart wasn’t in it and I never made it past the first cut. Honestly, it was a relief. But there was still P.E. to deal with and guess who teaches P.E. classes? That’s right, coaches. And, coaches can be preeminent purveyors of toxic masculinity. Not all, to be sure. But, with the way toxic masculinity is built into American sports culture, even those who didn’t buy in were complicit to one degree or another.

Later on, after I became a firefighter, I still had to deal with the fucked up ideas about masculinity and sports, because sports figure prominently in hyper-masculine spaces. Only this time, it was mostly watching. Strangely, watching sports in America is second only to playing sports in importance. Somehow, men get ready to watch a game like a teenage girl prepares for her prom (the right dress/favorite team’s jersey, the proper accessories/a football, a foam finger, etc, makeup done correctly/face painted in team colors, and hair/favorite players name shaven in somewhere). And, these thought I was effeminate for getting lost in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” or “Dune”. I have never understood that. But then, no one ever said toxic masculinity made sense.

There is nothing I’d love to see more than an end to American worship at the altar of sports. But sports are so inextricably woven into the American psyche, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Until it does, I guess I’ll keep dipping into that bag of responses I mentioned earlier so I can answer all those inane sports questions and not have to deal with people wondering why I’m such a pussy. That’s why I dread the Monday after the Superbowl.

Shutdown Rant

For 35 days you held us hostage and jacked my check twice,
you motherfucker.
And, for what? You caved and didn’t even get a
single strand of fence to keep out those
imaginary Mongolians that came to you in a
fever dream.

Meanwhile, my Shylocks want their
pound of flesh
and my cupboard looks like Mother Hubbard’s because
the Shitty Kitty won’t let me buy groceries with my good looks.
Meanwhile, your pet turtle is working overtime to line his pockets
with yet another tax break instead of making sure guy’s
like me get even a little backpay. How the hell am I
going to get out of this hole you threw me in?

You claimed you were the supreme negotiator.
That no one made deals like you do.
But, you got owned by a septuagenarian
grandmother from Pacific Heights.
Some fucking deal maker you are, you
bugged-out
bilious
ballbag.

50 Rules for Being a Good Man

My father, who taught me much of what I know about being a good man.

The internet is filled with rules that men should follow. Unfortunately, many of them are loaded frivolous and/or misogynistic bullshit. And, generally, these lists seem to focus on being a “real” man, rather than a good one. So, I decided to make up my own. Will following this list will make a good man? Probably not, but it will allow you to fake it until you make it. And, that’s a good place to start.

  1. Treat everyone with respect. Everyone.
  2. Remember that there are times to work hard and times to work smart. Know which is which.
  3. Do the right thing. Not for a reward, but because it’s the right thing to do.
  4. Be yourself and never let anyone shame you for it.
  5. As Mick and Keith said, “You can’t always get what you want. But, if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”
  6. Never let becoming rich and famous be your end goal. 
  7. Follow your bliss. But, understand that your bliss doesn’t have to be what you do for a living. So find value in your work, whatever it is.
  8. Never be afraid to cry. Feeling your feelings isn’t weak, it’s healthy. 
  9. No man is an island. You need a community to get through this life.
  10. Don’t talk about things of which you’re ignorant.
  11. Don’t live in the past. Embrace, honor it, learn from it. But, don’t live in it.
  12. Read. A lot. Good stuff, not trash. And, make sure that more than half is fiction.
  13. Never be afraid to make a mistake.
  14. Never be afraid to apologize for a mistake.
  15. Learn the art of forgiveness. Holding a grudge is a waste of energy.
  16. Don’t avoid conflict. But, don’t seek it out, either. When it happens, stand up and deal with it.
  17. A gift for a significant other doesn’t have to be expensive. There is truth in the saying, “It’s the thought that counts.”
  18. If a gift for a significant other does have to be expensive, find a different significant other.
  19. Learn from your reverses.
  20. Always be honest. But, understand that some truths are best kept to yourself.
  21. Stand up for the vulnerable.
  22. Never, ever punch down
  23. Look for the beauty in the world.
  24. Be a man of your word. If you say you’ll do something, do it. Even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to.
  25. Always break up with a significant other in person. Anything else is cowardly.
  26. A real man lets a woman walk wherever she damn well pleases. If it happens to be on the side nearest the street, he’s okay with that.
  27. Be prepared for a bluff to be called.
  28. The Golden Rule is a pretty good one to live by.
  29. If you’re not sure your shirt is clean, it’s dirty. Change it.
  30. Remember that appearance is not an alternative for substance.
  31. When making a decision, choose a course of action and commit to it. No one likes a ditherer.
  32. Most people won’t find your hobbies anywhere near as interesting as you do, so don’t bore them. Instead, find that person who loves 19th century romantic poetry as much as you do and geek out to your heart’s content.
  33. Take care of yourself. And, by “take care of yourself”, I mean, learn to cook, clean, and do your own laundry.
  34. Be kind for no reason.
  35. Live the life you want to live, not the one your parents/grandparents/friends want for you.
  36. Never tip less than 20%, no matter how bad the service may be.
  37. Having one very close friend is infinitely better than having a hundred acquaintances.
  38. Whenever possible, opt for quality over price.
  39. Always be faithful to a significant other. Even if you think they’re not being faithful to you.
  40. Know how to change a tire. AAA isn’t always available.
  41. There are plenty of stupid questions. But, the most stupid is the one you don’t ask.
  42. You get a limited amount of time on this earth. Use it to your best advantage.
  43. When possible, do the unpleasant things when you think of them. If you put them off, they won’t get done.
  44. Be grateful.
  45. If you didn’t do the work, don’t take the credit.
  46. Do the work.
  47. Spend time with old people and kids. You can learn a lot from both.
  48. It’s never too late to change.
  49. A good plan executed now is always better than a perfect plan executed later. (paraphrased of George S. Patton)
  50. Know the person you want to be remembered as and work to be that person every day.

Advent is Upon Us

Lifted from Homebrewed Christianity

Oh, dear god,
the season I  dread most
has arrived in full force and
I’m not sure I’ll
make it till the Eve,
or even the eve of the Eve, 
without punching someone
in the throat.

Why? Because it’s Advent,
that time of already and not yet,
and the theology nerds
won’t shut up,
prattling on like
nattering nabobs of
negativism, 
sublimely unaware that
people don’t like it when you
shit on their fun.

What, pray tell, is the draw
of this liturgical season? 
I’m told it’s a time of
expectant waiting. 
Waiting for what?
Short days and
shitty weather? 
I think I’ll pass. 
Even Lent, the
bummer before summer,
holds the promise of
a bit of warmth 
after it passes.

Also, I keep hearing that
Advent is a time of
deep reflection.
Seriously? If I reflect deeply
(or even shallowly)
I might have to look
a feeling
in the face.
Who the hell wants to do that?

You people don’t seem
to understand that 
I don’t want to
wait,
or think,
or do
anything with
a lick of 
substance.

What I want is to
eat and drink too much,
sing dreadful ditties like
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” or
“Santa Buddy”,
and spend money
I don’t have
to distract myself
from the massive hole
in my soul. 

Stop trying to
make me think or
have encounters that hold
any depth whatsoever.
I’m begging you, please,
allow me to sail thru life and
never,
ever,
dig deeper than the 
thin crust of abject materialism
and selfishness that is
the American Way.





An American Sonnet of My Own

I haven’t watched a single basketball
game since you left me on that Tuesday too many
years ago because that was where we would
connect when the chasm between us yawned wider than
the Grand Canyon and neither of us was
willing to reach out to the other one and one
bad call would bridge the gap and the bad blood
would wash away like pollen in a thunderstorm
and everything would be good between us again
and I wouldn’t feel like I’d let you down
again like I had all those other times before
when you looked at me like you were ashamed
for anyone to know we were from same blood
that I sprang from your loins just to irk you.

F*ck That Noise

 

 Well, beloved, conservatives showed us just what they think of women this past Saturday. Despite what should have a damning list of accusations of sexual misconduct, up to and including sexual assault, the Senate voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court anyway. I don’t know about you, but right now, I can’t get Padme Amidala’s comment from “The Phantom Menace” out my head. You know, when Palpatine declares himself emperor and she says, “So this is how liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause.” It fits, doesn’t it? Well, except for the thunderous applause bit because the Senate’s action was met with howls of outrage from decent human beings that rivaled the applause from Lord Dampnut’s vile supporters.

   To say this is a disheartening time is an understatement akin to calling World War I “a slight  kerfuffle”. Isn’t enough that our president is a semi-sentient sweet potato with a hair piece who regularly embarrasses us on the national stage? I guess not, since this repulsive asswipe, along with his reptilian henchmen Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, are doing their level best to destroy our republic. God damn it.

     By now, you’ve probably seen some memes and posts telling you not to get mad, not to yell at the people responsible for Saturday’s debacle, but to get out and vote. Fuck that noise. I mean, yes, get out and vote. But, don’t stop there. Get mad. Get loud. Get crude. Let those despicable motherfuckers know exactly what you think of them. And, not just the ones in the Senate who voted to put that loathsome frat-boy son-of-a-bitch on the Supreme Court, but every hateful twat who backed them and are now crowing with delight at his appointment.

Or, to quote the ever-eloquent Henry Rollins:

“This is not a time to be dismayed, this is punk rock time. This is what Joe Strummer trained you for.”

So, marinate in your fury. Let it soak into your bones and become a part of your very being. Because we’re in a fight for the soul of our nation and it’s not going to be easy or short. It will be a long, hard slog and we’ll need to pull energy and inspiration from places that might make us uncomfortable. But, the alternative is to let that tangerine nutsack and his pals eviscerate democracy and inflict damage that will decades to repair. And, that’s if it can be fixed at all.

     Now, some people will say this is bad advice, that it’s divisive or harmful to your soul/mental health. Bullshit. What we’re feeling is righteous anger and using it to bring desperately needed change is no different than Jesus kicking over tables and using a whip on the money changers in the Temple. Understand that the people who tell you this shit are the ideological descendants of the white moderates who vexed Martin Luther King so much in his fight for civil rights and they are more harmful than the avowed racists and misogynists cheering so loudly right now. So, like I said earlier, Fuck. That. Noise.

Time to Man Up, Fellows

It’s not a fun time to be a man right now, what with all the terrible behavior being revealed by #MeToo. It’s even worse if you understand that we deserve all those bad feelings and more. So. Much. More. We deserve it because we’ve behaved horribly, whether we’ve perpetrated the awfulness ourselves or told victims we don’t care about what’s happened to them.
Last week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford went before the Senate Judicial committee to testify about her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when she was 15 and he was 17. The whole thing was an avalanche of awfulness that included from a fairly detailed recounting of a sexual assault, a bunch of old men cowardly hiding behind the skirts of a woman brought in to do their dirty work and, finally, the realization that the Republican members of the Judicial committee and a not-insignificant portion of Americans don’t really care that a man who may well have committed a sexual assault could be elevated to the highest court in the land.
Right about now, you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with me? I don’t know anyone who’s been sexually assaulted/harassed.” I hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong. You do, they’re just not willing to tell you about it. And, I’m not talking about acquaintances, either. I mean, spouses, children, other family members, close friends, etc.  Think about that for a minute. People who are as close to you as it is possible to be are dealing with awful, demeaning, traumatic experiences and they’ve never mentioned it to you. Why do you think that might be?
Maybe, just maybe, it’s because you’ve given them a good reason not to. Now, you’re probably thinking, “What!? How did I do that?” You did it when asked what a rape victim was wearing/how much she had to drink beforehand/what she was doing in that part of town in the first place. You did it when you said someone who reported that they’d been assaulted was a liar because they waited (sometimes months, sometimes years) before coming forward. You did it when you said that someone telling the story of how they’d been assaulted had an agenda, that they were out to smear a good man’s name. You did it when you asked tried to dismiss victims by intimating that false accusations of sexual assault were a bigger problem than assault itself. Basically, you did by being a douche bag. Instead of wondering why they don’t trust you, you should be wondering why they continue to allow you into their life at all.
Like I said in the opening sentence, it’s not a fun time to be a man right now. But, know this: the way you’re feeling right now is nothing compared to the way people who have been victimized sexually feel.  It is, at most, a tiny clouded window into what those folks live with every day. And, as a man, you should be looking for ways to lessen that awfulness for them, not doubling down on it so your side “wins”. To put it bluntly, man up and stop being a douche bag.

Any Port in a Storm

You may or may not know that, after an extensive break (about 35 years), I have returned to school for an English degree. This semester, I’m taking a class in writing poetry. The following prose poem is one of my efforts for that class.

Barney Stinson, the living embodiment of Bro Culture.

I could see her lips move, but the words were buried under the avalanche of sound that poured from the speakers like snow down a mountainside. Normally, “Nasty” set my teeth on edge, but in this moment, I loved Ms Jackson because she was drowning out the insipid, inane babblings of the blitzed bottle-blond I was presently trying to talk out of her panties. A stiff dick may not have a conscience, but it can have taste and if I had to listen to this chick for more than a minute, I’d go limp as a dishrag. But, it had been almost a week since I’d had some action, so any port in a storm as the Navy boys over Gulfport like to say.

Off the dance floor and over at the bar, I lost Janet’s assistance and I had to hear her. So, I focused on her impressive rack and kept my eyes on the prize. “What’s your name?” she asked. “Where are you from?” I was ready for this, my lies laid out ahead of time. I told her my name was Charles Chandler, but everyone calls me Chad. That wasn’t a full-dress falsehood; I’d been Chad for as long as I could remember, but I’m an actual Chad, not Charles, and Chandler isn’t even close to my factual last name. I told her I was a lieutenant in the Air Force, stationed at Barksdale/Bossier City but stuck in New Orleans because of maintenance issues. “You’re a pilot?” she asked as her face lit up like Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday night. I just smiled and ordered us a couple of cocktails. That’s the trick to an effective lie, you know: Never say it yourself, just drop a few hints and let the dunts connect the dots themselves. I’m telling you, it never, ever fails.

5 hours later, I was crawling out of cab in front of the Motel 6 in Metarie where me and 3 buds from my admin clerk class at the base back in Biloxi had rented a room for the holiday weekend. The sun was coming up and I was going down after a long, hard night. And, not long and hard in the good way, either. The bitch kept wanting to talk, acted like this was something besides a somewhat sleazy one-night stand. Yeah, I said sleazy. It’s not lost on me that I’m a degenerate, depraved douche bag. And, if I’m being honest, most morning afters I feel like I need a shower, even though there’s not enough water in the world to ever really feel clean again. But, the only other option is to get real, connect, feel something. And, I’m way too broken on the inside for anything other than slumming. Any port in a storm as the Navy boys over in Gulfport like to say.

Go Home GQ, You’re Drunk

 

Screw GQ. Read ’em all

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a literature major and if I’ve learned anything in my study of belles-letters, it’s that fiction hasn’t fared very well in this postmodern world. I don’t mean quality-wise; there’s plenty of fiction out there that holds its own with Hemingway, Hurston, or Fitzgerald. For example, Margaret Atwood tackles Christian theonomy in “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses gave us an unflinching look at Islam. Not to be outdone, Neil Gaiman showed us what we really worship in his novel, American Gods. No, beloved, when it comes to fiction, the quality is as good as it ever was. It’s fiction’s reputation that’s taken a hit.

It seems to me that most people view nonfiction as “serious” reading, while fiction is strictly for fun. I have more than one friend who share the nonfiction works they’re reading as deep and important, while fiction is reserved for “beach reads”. I’ve long thought this was a discomfiting trend and GQ magazine recently provided more evidence of that when they published an article titled “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read”.

Now, if you’re thinking that GQ isn’t exactly a bastion of literary criticism, you’re right. It’s basically the male version of Cosmopolitan and deals mostly with fashion, style, and culture for men. As a rule, I pay more attention to Oprah’s Book Club than I do GQ when it comes to literature. But, this article caught my attention because, well, it’s a list of books that we’re told don’t have to read and anytime I see someone discouraging reading in any form, I get a little miffed.

Lately, I’ve been trying to avoid things that get my blood pressure up, like political discussions, internet arguments, and, well, stupid lists about not reading certain books. But, against my better judgement, I looked it up. It was worse than I thought. Not only did these yahoos include the Bible (it is the most influential book in history. That’s true whether you like it or not), they also included books like, Catcher in the RyeAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Lord of the Rings. Really? In a world where crap like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray exists, why would you steer people away from good writing?

I noticed two things while perusing this list: First, it was very heavy on old, white guys. As in, the books deemed unworthy of reading were written by white men. And, when I “heavy”, I mean “every book”. And, lest you think I’m one of those “Don’t-like-minority” types, I firmly believe we don’t hear from those minority voices nearly as much as we should. But, reading those authors shouldn’t mean tossing out the classics.

Second, one of the chief complaints about the works on the “Don’t bother” list was that they weren’t entertaining enough. I get that being entertaining is important because people tend not to read books that aren’t entertaining. I mean, when’s the last time you anything by Henry James? But, being entertaining isn’t the only thing. Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is very entertaining, but it doesn’t break new ground, transform literature or do any of the other things the books on this list have done.

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about the list is that it was compiled by authors. And, all too often, those authors didn’t seem to grasp the finer points of these works. This is evidence of another disturbing trend I’ve noticed: most Americans read fiction the way an evangelical fundamentalist reads the Bible: literally and without searching for any deeper meaning. That is not a good thing.

Why is that a bad thing, you ask? Well, my friends, we live in a world that is chock full of things that are extremely hard to talk about. That is partly because, as much as we claim to prize plain-spokenness, differing ideas uttered in a plain-spoken way tends to make us angry. Especially when it’s applied to something we’re sensitive about. And, that’s where fiction comes in. Because fiction is an excellent way to talk about the things that we can’t tackle head on. Really, fiction is the new mythology, allowing us to explore and express who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. If we avail ourselves of this amazing device, we might even get there without destroying ourselves in the process. I’m not holding my breath, though.

The Tone Police

The Tone Police in action

I think it’s safe to say that, right now, public discourse isn’t at it’s loftiest point in our history. Up until last week, I told myself that things could certainly be worse, saying “Hey, no one’s taken a stick to a colleague on the Senate floor while a compatriot pulled a pistol to keep everyone else at bay. That’s something, right?” But, I’m not sure I can hold onto that slim strand of hope much longer.

Last Thursday, a man with a long-standing grudge against Annapolis, Maryland’s Capital Gazette newspaper walked into their office and opened fire on the staff, killing five and wounding two. You might be wondering why I would bring up mass murder in a discussion about public discourse. I get that, killing a whole slew of people in one go is pretty much the opposite of talking. In another world, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to bring up mass murder in a discussion about the community’s rhetoric. But, we don’t live in another world, we live in the “Trump-side Down“: A world where a thrice-divorced reality show huckster who said he’s never felt the need to ask God’s forgiveness and has paid hush money to an adult film actress over an affair enjoys massive support from evangelical Christians that they elect to the highest office in the land. Meanwhile, a devoted husband and father who has repeatedly demonstrated his faith through his actions is reviled by these same people as a “secret Muslim” who is mounting an assault on Christianity. Y’all know these folks make Jesus cry, right?

If the way Obama was treated while 45 is embraced isn’t enough proof that we live in a parallel universe  where everything is twisted and warped, check this out. Thursday evening, on AC360, Anderson Cooper replayed a previously taped interview with some of the survivors of the shooting. In it, reporter Selene San Felice said, “But I’m gonna need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers because it’s — our whole lives have been shattered. And so thanks for your prayers, but I couldn’t give a fuck about them if there’s nothing else.” Whether by mistake or by design, they didn’t bother to censor San Felice and the expletive came thru loud and clear. In the normal world, the only way to respond to that is the way Cooper did: with sympathy and grace. However, in the “Trump-side Down”, it seems that tone-policing is an appropriate response.

I say that because, Friday morning, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl) tweeted:

“Sign of our times… the F word is now routinely used in news stories, tweets, etc. It’s not even F*** anymore. Who made that decision?

Wow. Let me see if I understand what’s being said here: In the aftermath of a mass shooting that left five people dead and 2 wounded, Senator Waterboy is upset by the “F word”? I don’t know about you guys, but I can think of a lot of words that are worse than “fuck”, like murder, racism, famine and a whole bunch more. But, I suppose it is nice to know where Marco’s priorities lie.

Now, the cynic in me thinks that this really about all Rubio can say,  what with bought and paid for by the NRA. But, my idealistic side says that, rather than just making snarky comments, I should try and look at things from Marco’s point of view. I don’t know, maybe “F***” is worse than I think. So, let’s do a little research, shall we?

As a word, “fuck” has been around for a long time. The first attested usage dates to 1475 in a poem by some English friars (it does appear earlier in a couple of names). It is probably a cognate of some German words that have a sexual connotation. Or, it may derive from an Old French word that means “to fuck”. Originally, it referred only to having sex and it’s hard to tell when it lost that happy association and picked up some of the more unpleasant and offensive meanings it has today. But, even with all those negative associations, when stacked up against violent death, bigotry, and hunger, “fuck” just doesn’t seem that bad to me.

Of course, Rubio isn’t the only person to use this approach. All of our social media feeds are full of “Trumpies” calling for civility now that everyone else has had enough of their crap and started giving it back. Sorry snowflakes, that genie is out of the bottle and it ain’t going back in. Deal with it.