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Friday, April 7, 2017

Letter 129: When pacifists rebel

This has not been an easy piece to write because it is more subjective than I want to be. Journalists are supposed to be objective and downplay personal feelings. Granted, I am no longer a columnist in any establishment's employ but I hope I at least try to be fair and unbiased.
***

Dear one,
   I must make small talk for a while and sort of ease into this letter. I have sent out letters to long-time correspondents and those who are "new kids on the block" correspondence-wise. Received a missive, in past few months, which included drawings made by a couple little kids. Very recently, I got a letter from the man who served as vice-principal during my high school years. I have been illustrating several letters for a couple years now and folks enjoy my often primitive sketches. Drawing is another means of communicating and can stand alone or be coupled with words. Art is diverse.
   Conflict seems apparent, no matter where one looks: it seems one must diligently seek good news. Search results have been something less than satisfactory but I am an optimist by nature: it's what keeps me going. I also consider myself a realist. So, I have begun my "resistance" by defying convention in small ways: wearing socks and underpants inside out because my comfort in avoiding seams, is more important than what the world at large may think of my little eccentricities. Besides, it isn't as though my skivvies have a big viewing audience.
   Lying in bed one morning, I composed a new prayer: Entity of Goodness, grant we may see this world through your eyes: Then we will see that distinctions of, class; skin color; language; sexuality/gender identity; culture; religion, or whatever difference we may choose to judge a group of humans, are meaningless. There is no *other* - there is only one; and we are equal.
   Not being widely-traveled, not so much as owning a passport, I only know of other countries what I read or hear on the news. I realize there are other countries and cultures which trample rights of those who dare to be different and not conform: whether those be socially-dictated gender norms or some other arbitrary confine. What is so irksome to me is United States having the unmitigated gall to chastise others for inhumanity, while itself committing blatant infractions. I am not, at this point, advocating anarchy - but what would it hurt if everyone was free to choose how to live? Obviously, restrictions are needed, but they need not be punitive or dictatorial. 
   Let us start with marriage equality: what does anyone gain by denying another person the right to marry whomsoever they love. Miscegenation laws kept persons of different races from inter-marrying but the world did not end when those laws were struck down. For generations, convention dictated only persons of opposite sex could marry and, again, it was no great disaster when persons of same sex could be joined together by legal ceremony. If you are walking down a street and see a person whose gender is not readily apparent: what difference does it make? Now ask yourself that question with regard to religion, socio/economic status, ethnicity, and so on and so forth. If you are honest with yourself, you will conclude it makes not make one bit of difference, so long as it does nothing to damage or disrupt your life. And don't go all fundamental on me - I mean really damage. 
   Here in United States, there is a group of mostly [old white] men who fear power will be wrested from their grasp. They arm themselves by denying rights of poor persons and those of women - particularly reproductive rights. Calling themselves "pro-life," they seek to block access to safe legal abortions and legislate removal of funds from programs which provide health care to indigent persons. There is [effectively] no concern for these children once they are born: they, the legislators, simply cannot be bothered.
   It is time to employ the *Lysistrata* strategy. For those unfamiliar, Lysistrata is an anti-war comedy by Greek playwright Aristophanes, in which women declare a moratorium on sex until a peace treaty is worked out. It is probably unrealistic to believe this could happen in great enough numbers to be effective. What about using "safe sex" measures, geared not only toward avoiding transmission of infection but unwanted pregnancy? That sounds like a winning combination. Meanwhile, promote adoption - because every child deserves to be wanted.
  I don't want to believe I have become a jaded cynic but I am inclined to believe the main goal behind forcing women to have babies, is a continuously replenished supply of cannon fodder. Perhaps military might is some kind of aphrodisiac? If one is determined to build a war machine, it would seem logical to at least give the "grunts" what they need to do their jobs effectively. But no: instead of decent boots - which Powers That Be want "on the ground," and rifles that function well - money is spent on big ticket items like aircraft carriers which, bluntly speaking, do not deliver all that much bang for the exorbitant amount of bucks they cost. I am a person of peaceful temperament but believe anyone committed to doing a dirty job ought at least be outfitted with appropriate gear.
   There is bias in our educational system also: I doubt this situation will improve under current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who seems hell-bent on destroying public schools. Inequity of education has long been a problem and I saw example when mentoring through HOSTS [Help One Student To Succeed] program. A child from a home in which English was not parents' first language, was supposed to write down vowels associated with certain pictures. I distinctly recall one of the objects depicted was a golf club. Trust me, "golf" was not a word in this child's lexicon. Standardized tests and worksheets geared to affluent whites, are a piss-poor terrible way to measure academic achievement. We are supposed to be raising children, not little machines. I do not claim to have *all the answers* but encourage people to talk to one another and work towards empowering people, not beating them down. There used to be a slogan "A mind is a terrible thing to waste:" well, that mind may be in the head of a child who is not afforded quality education, due to parental poverty.
  I hear older [generally over 50] people complain about 'what the younger generation is coming to.' (This has been going on since verbal communication began - maybe before.) Well, make sure everyone has ready access to: potable water; adequate housing; a living wage; a safe environment. Because believe me, until you guarantee those minimums for everyone, pink hair, inked skin, and pierced faces, are the very least of your problems.
   This is a lot to mull over and we could talk until we are both hoarse, but we will let the rest go for now.

Rebelliously yours,
Jo

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Victims and oppressors - letter 128

Hello my dear,
   This missive was not born a fait accompli - it sort of evolved. I know I promised to send it when you came up in queue but it was your response to Mr. Y on 22 March, 2017 that directed me on this course. It is our communion which led me to believe this needed to be read by our comrades.
   I do not believe I have ever considered myself a victim and - even as a big sister, I doubt my siblings considered me an oppressor. Oppressors, like their subspecies pedophiles, tend to breed their own victims, ensuring continuous supply. As a close second, oppressors foster the system that does its best to keep people from escaping the ranks of victim status. There seems no end of means to debase individuals, and all one need do is convince a target audience that a certain class of people deserves to be degraded. Voila! a segment of the populace is seen as undesirable. Fortunately, this is not foolproof: in every age, in every culture, there is a rebel band that refuses to accept the notion of 'other,' knowing that all are meant to be one. I like to believe I have now evolved into a member of this band, though I was not always so compassionate.
   I have come to appreciate my good fortune and am aware of my privilege. During last two decades, have striven to use my position to benefit others. Though I rarely wear earrings now, at one time I wore 18 - and was pleasantly surprised how well multiple piercings were received. I also have several visible tattoos and am quite vocal in admonishing those who persist in demeaning and decrying those who wear ink. Seems to me people who have tattoos are not so different from those who, say, dress exclusively in red clothes. Personal preferences and fashion statements are marks of individuality: as such, they should be celebrated. What I'm saying is, "cookie cutters" are for dough and labels for promoting products: neither should be applied to people.
   One venue in which oppressors seem keen to build a pool of victims is United States healthcare system. A few years ago, when I moved into [this] HUD housing unit, there was a resident who paid full market value because her net worth disqualified her from receiving subsidies. Subject of healthcare came up in one of our discussions as we were playing cards one afternoon. She said, "With 'Obamacare,' you're doing as well as I." It was clear from her tone of voice she was distinctly disgruntled. Looking her straight in the eye, I retorted, "As well I should." Not bothering to take into account the luxuries her wealth afforded her, the unspoken attitude was clearly, *What's the good of being rich if poor people are treated the same?* What boggles my mind is that education, decent healthcare, and affordable/adequate housing are seen as anything other than basic rights. When people toss out "Well Jesus said, 'The poor you have always with you'," as some sort of just justification, my reply is that perhaps it was a challenge to those of means to step up and help the less fortunate. My opinion rankles some well-to-do persons: maybe I'm doing something right.
***
   As you contemplate the above, perhaps formulating a public response, let me leave you with a lighthearted scenario. Between St. Patrick's Day and first day of Spring, I telephoned one of our Texas friends to read a passage about defrosting a freezer which had greatly amused me. She chuckled delightedly and said it was funny I had read that to her - as she was dealing with same issue herself! Since I have been on something of a haiku kick, I came up with a bit of verse which, as most poetry can, be read on many levels.

A tyrant of ice,
smothers victims in its cold -
Defrost; set them free

Make of this what you will. I look forward to your reply - either on paper or online.

Fondly,
Jo

Monday, March 20, 2017

haiku/short poems

These verses have been written since I returned from Texas in 2011; some as recently as March 2017. Poetry, whether of epic length or short-form, is a means of expression as personal as individual writers and readers. These were written for my own enjoyment and are shared with you for whatever pleasure or insight you may find.
*****


(A haiku of winter doldrums)
A song of darkness,                             
is sung in the key of sad -                      
Does anyone hear?    

(Getting the mail)

Bundle up, go out
shovel snow and chisel ice
trudge back, bearing bills

Pecking at keyboard

sort thru' glossy images:
cyber dating sites

Chimney standing watch:                       
a sentinel on duty, 
guarding the fortress                                             

Glimmer of sunshine
waiting for me on the banks,
Calling me homeward                                        
                          


Remote start the car,
Wander out into the dark:
The morning commute

Old person wanders
confusion and loneliness:
Senile dementia

Icicles hanging
like the Sword of Damocles -
peril lies below!   

'Neath my feet, snow squeaks              
White stillness gleams in the sun,           
While winter surrounds me                   

Slice and butter bread                          
toast golden-brown in skillet                 
with cheese in between

Grilled cheese on rye bread
and creamy tomato soup
Comfort, sustenance                           

Coats, scarves and mittens                   
children stomping through the snow:      
Boots conquer terrain!                          

There, 'midst melting snow
a tiny bud is peeping
Crocus - breath of spring 

Clouds, like puffs of breath
Shadows creep in, daylight dims -
Evening settles in 

Pressure has formed ice,
snow is piled ever higher -
inhospitable

Darkness settles in,
the day's promise is fading -
yet hope still lingers


If I take these pills
does that make me a junkie? 
Please, just stop the pain.

Seeking comfort, warmth -

call familiar number,
"Thin crust, extra sauce."

Infrastructure:
framework, standing all alone,
will "wear" tomorrow
 


Moon riding aloft,
whispers a song to the darkness,
"Be at peace, dear one." 


I'm so very cold,
It feels strangely like death - but
Heart beats, breath fogs mirror
 


Another Sunday
just one of fifty-two, that I'm
glad to spend with you
 


Polar vorteces,
new-age plague of snow and ice:
Not Black Death, but white

Malicious snowfall
smothering Spring as it wakes
unrelenting cold 

Spectral melody
Whispering through dim-lit woods
a ghostly goodnight 


The next several snippets of verse were written as I sat by the bed of a hospice patient, a client.

Breaths which are shallow, 

chest rising, nearly imperceptibly: 
Death lingers near, as yet uninvited.

Snow falling outside
dancing, dizzy little sprites -
Winter's last hurrah!

New season summoned,
Brave crocus heralds the news:
Lady Spring has arrived

Warmth sings siren song
holds promise for which I long - 
It is Spring, at last!


Long-awaited Spring,
we thought you would never come -
How welcome you are!

Beguiling beauty,
intoxicating splendor,
I am enamored

From the porch, chimes sound -
stirred by a vagabond breeze:
Song of enchantment

Dead tree stands in the back yard:
limbs long since broken and burned;
laughter of children who once scaled its heights,
only an echo, a faded memory

Death waits outside the door, 
not knowing Its presence would be most welcome:
communication breakdown
________________________________________________________________ 
Chilled beyond my bones,
cold consumes me totally:
Will I ever thaw? 

Light is not "hidden,"
but sometimes it is disguised -
look then, more closely
 


The labyrinth winds
Grace, smelling of spring flowers
Road to salvation


The path beckons me,
Silence of the Lamb of God,
meek, humble, I follow 


Birds, bees, flowers, warmth:
Spring has finally arrived!
"Really?" sneered Winter
 


I salute you, Goddess Moon,
your beatific smile and serenity comfort me,
your regal bearing enthralls me 

Sun shining brightly
its warmth is a loving smile -
a benediction 


Evening shadows fall,
melancholy, or watchful:
it's how one sees it. 


Sultry evening,
dark clouds on the horizon -
then rain is released!

The fire of love is burning bright
It beckons me on this lone, cold night - 
The cat's eyes blink in welcome


Shadows gathering,
speaking of wonders untold -
I am listening 


Geese honk overhead,
heralding the coming day,
flying before it 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Making friends with Black Dog - letter 127

   Through Facebook and other means, I am in contact with people throughout the world. It seems a large number are subject to bouts of depression, with episodes varying in frequency and intensity. My personal experience with depression was brief: it was situational in nature; a result of sadness at missing my Texas friends and surroundings. Following are my thoughts on the subject. Though I have a Minor in psychology, I am by no means "expert."
***

My dear,
   Though I address this letter to you, it is written for a lot of people, including myself. I do not believe anyone is exempt from at least short periods of dysphoria. There seems to be a school of thought which decrees one must be "happy" at all times. Rubbish!
   Have you not occasionally reveled in the gloom of an overcast day? Sometimes it just suits one's mood to give in to 'the me-grims' and be blissfully melancholy. Yes, that is a contradiction in terms. So what? Life is a contradiction in terms and the sooner we acknowledge and accept that, better off we are.
   Reviewing letters recently, I read differing views on phenomena of melancholia and depression. To be sure, they differ from person to person; culture to culture; even generation to generation. It feels unhealthy to me to encounter insistence on being upbeat all the time. The *road map* of life includes potholes, detours, and head-on collisions: naturally responses to these glitches will differ from those expressed at weddings, bar mitzvahs, christenings, and the like. The various states of human psyches are fascinating, confusing: nothing short of a glorious mess. Fears and anxieties abound and there are times a person requires medication to facilitate function. Sadly, pill-popping seems to have become a national pastime. Not a judgement, merely an observation. Thinking of several friends, acquaintances, and one very special black dog, I was moved to write following poem.

27 Feb. 2017
The Black Dog
I blamed Black Dog for taking my joy - did not understand it wanted to play.
But the games Black Dog played were strange to me: he was wrapped in dark veils, he hid behind trees.
Was Black Dog "Depression" - or just Melancholy? Modern folk do themselves disservice -
thinking they must always be *jolly.* (What folly!)
I learned to love Black Dog, who meant me no harm; Indeed, I find *weirdness* exudes certain charm.
Melancholia gives freedom to not be "on stage" - to take off one's makeup and let go of rage;
to wrap in the comfort of silky gray shadows, to walk in stark fields and storm-harried meadows.
When one goes thru' a Dark Night, the Sun comes out brighter. After burdens are shed, the soul feels lighter.
Black Dog is coming but don't run away: stand your own ground and then firmly say,
"My life, my rules: we can stroll in the shadows but beyond this grim field, I see a bright meadow.
I will walk there a while but will come back to you. We two share a bond, as friends often do."
I will linger a while as we shed wistful tears; we will know quiet times as we go thru' the years.
But you must let me go to walk in the sun - to dance and sing, mayhap even run.
I love you Black Dog, for I now know your worth; you're like rain and dark clouds, which help nourish Earth.
We need times of darkness to regroup and rest; then comes the Sun, to highlight the best.
"Bright" wouldn't be there, without times of sadness - eternal sunlight would surely bring madness.
I cherish your darkness, please bask in my smile. Let's play together, then part for a while.
We'll never be strangers; you're deep in my soul. We're half of each other; together we're whole.

   I hope you have been well served, dear; one friend has commended my insight. May you find the joy you seek.

Always,
Jo

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Last time I saw Skinny

   In March 2009, I took "Skinny" back to court - as you may recall, his appearance had been rescheduled. Though he was still around town, I never really saw him after that day. Several years later, heard he was still in general region, having moved one county south. This is final chapter of our *relationship.*
***
   It seemed like I was back in fifth grade, only instead of "How I spent My Summer Vacation," I was writing a report on how I spent my day, finishing with a not-too-detailed projection for weekend.
   Dang but it was cold Thursday morning! I went over and let friends' dog out to euphemistically *avail himself of the facilities,* returned home to do so myself, then crossed town and picked Skinny up at the yard. While driving eastward, mentioned the incident a week prior when a helicopter had flown over and I'd had a momentary thought regarding guilt by association. We simultaneously recited the adage, "A person is known by the company they keep."
   Arriving two counties over, I parked same place I had previously, noticing several vehicles parked on inside lane. I admitted that, were I the paranoid type, I might think they were trying to hem me in and block my exit. Skinny told me when he drove, he parked so there was nothing in front of him. As we were against a raised curb, I offered to move my car. He said we were fine.
   We entered courthouse and I wondered if this visit would prove as pointless as our last. At least he'd been given more than 24 hours notice this time. Skinny went into district clerk's office, paid his $411 fine, and got his receipt. Clerk was friendly and made small talk, saying after living in a metropolitan area, coming to work here was like stepping back in time 40 years. [Ain't that the truth.] Skinny told clerk judge had told him if he paid fine before court convened again,  he wouldn't have to come back: Skinny said he'd like to have it in writing. [Erring on side of caution, don't ya know?] We kept our eyes on that receipt as a copy was made; it was then taken down hall and filed with clerk. Finally, judge came out, shook Skinny's hand and said he was good to go. Skinny replied, "Nothing personal but I hope I never see you again." Judge said maybe he could stop and just pay a social call next time he was in town. Right.
   We went upstairs to courtroom. In 'same old same old' department, saw a hefty blonde in same red and black argyle-patterned sweater she had worn in February. I wondered aloud if it were her *official* courtroom sweater and Skinny figured probably so. A shackled prisoner was brought in: I leaned over and whispered, "If it were me, I'd probably be asking, 'Do these stripes make my ass look fat?' " Then I inquired, "Who's the guy in the red tie?" Skinny told me that was his lawyer and to be nice. When am I not nice? (Don't answer that.) so I just observed it was an improvement over pukey green tie he'd worn last tie he'd worn last time. Judge read off, "Docket number ...: State of Texas versus Steve Martin."
   Skinny and I turned to each other and, sotto voce, said "Well excuuuuuuuuuuse me!" One has to find comic relief where one is able.
   Skinny's court-appointed legal counsel came over and said he was going to ask for "Ten for ten," which would put Skinny on probation for ten years. Skinny said he would rather spend a year jail. Anyway, presiding judge finally called his docket number and I learned Skinny's middle name - which I have long since forgotten. Skinny approached the bench, lawyer said he had made all his dates so far, and even the one time he had not received prior confirmation, he had come virtually at a moment's notice. Judge said Skinny would be taken off county docket but should appear before this court, 14 May. We got our coats and left.
   During our drive westward to our home county, Skinny made a couple calls: work - to let them know he was on his way back; his housekeeper, to let her know he would call her later; then he briefly contemplated a third call but decided against it because "She'd want to talk ..." I commented, "Hey, I'm just the chauffeur." Skinny assured me I was an integral part of this, not just his ride: I was a credible witness that his comments about *the way the courts operated* were true - and I had documented it.
   Took him back to work, he gave me a $20 for gas and said he'd call me later. I went home and had lunch, including Milky Way Dark I'd had Skinny buy at convenience store. Then I went up to library and started work on my report.
   Around 2:00 that afternoon, went over to let dog out again; spent a little time wrestling with him, then played fetch with squeaky bunny toy. Friends came home and after we'd visited a while, I returned to my humble abode. Rest of my evening was pretty quiet: watch TV and crochet.
   Friday dawned cold and wet; sun was not visible behind cloud cover but sky got lighter. After 30 minutes of mentoring, bought a few items at Walmart, got four gallons RO [reverse osmosis] water, and cashed check from last article I'd sold to newspaper.
   Recently decided to purchase one newspaper each week, as my contribution to keeping the industry alive. after all, I make my living - meager as it is - from working at a newspaper. as an aspiring journalist who occasionally sells a story, it is in my best interest to assure longevity of medium in which I work.
   Here is "planning ahead" part: decided to gas up car, then buy Friday paper, to read Saturday morning; I was already cold and wet so might as well have something tangible to show for it. Now I wouldn't have to get out in the morning unless I went to library. Saturday is one of the few days I don't have to set an alarm, so can rise at leisure. Perhaps I'll fix a pot of Earl Grey tea, toast a slice of pound cake and, if wind is blowing, listen to my chimes while reading newspaper. Life's simple pleasures really are best.
***

   I don't recall if I drove Skinny to his May date. In September 2011, I returned to my native Michigan and am now happily retired. Every now and then I ponder and muse - a pastime which brings pleasure, bemusement, and sometimes a degree of wistfulness.

'Til next time, I'll be wandering and wondering ...

Monday, February 6, 2017

Courtroom drama: Another day, another docket

[NOTE: This was written before 2010 and though naming people and places might not amount to anything, I have tried to maintain privacy of individuals connected with this little narrative.]

   It was 7:59 A.M. when I picked up my long lean friend from his work place and we headed eastward. On the way, he placed a phone call: it was his daughter's 18th birthday and he expected to hear from her. Furthermore, if he did not hear from her, he would be coming to the town she lived in.
***

   Courtroom dramas should be more exciting. My buddy leans over and whispers, "Surely, I'm not supposed to be in L-town this morning." I asked didn't he know which court he was scheduled to appear in? He informed me that the whole mess began because nobody ever told him where he was supposed to be. Then he looked toward the bench and said, "Nah, it's here, 'cause that's the same judge. The one who told me to be here."
   An office of the court approached and asked if we had any pocket knives or cellphones. I gave my keys to Skinny so could take his cellphone three flights down and put it in the car. The very act of handing over my keys is an act of trust; this is somebody I met a month ago at the library. We have similar tastes in reading material and find ourselves able to have meaningful conversation. This last is a premium commodity, the value of which is not to be underestimated. He is back so quickly, he must have taken the elevator: even with his long legs and agility, it ill-behooved him to risk being held in contempt for not being on time.
   One lawyer looks like "Allen" - the responsible brother on Two and a Half Men. Skinny's counsel was not present. There were three or four other folks and their respective representatives. We had taken seats in front row.
   A woman stepped before the bench and judge has difficulty with correct pronunciation of her non-Anglo surname. He observes she is empty-handed. This is a divorce case and he ascertains that her mother-in-law signed receipt for registered letter by which the man was given notice of intent. Judge determines there needs to be a reset date when woman is in possession of documentation with her spouse's signature, not his momma's. Judge asked, "Are you writing this down?" and I feel a momentary flutter in my belly, thinking maybe I'm doing something I shouldn't ought to. Then I looked up and saw a clerk had come in: it was she to whom question had been addressed. She asked if a specific date had been set and magistrate replied, "No, just whenever they get it done." Believe me, the *behind the scenes* action would never sell: too boring for television.
   A beefy fellow with a sneer, bad haircut, and a badge, enters through a door marked "District Clerk." A dweeby-looking strawberry blond guy, smaller than the swarthy dude, strolls over. He has chin whiskers, wears glasses, is shod in slate blue ostrich boots, and clad in jeans and a white shirt. He hikes his gun belt up over his not-quite-spare-tire belly, and the two men confer briefly. On other side of bench sit two blonde-headed women on either side of a laptop. The "Allen" lawyer steps up and says, "I think we're really close; I just need to consult Mr. C another moment." Giggles erupt and another lawyer, jowly and older, walks through and says, "Just a minute, Judge." I glance surreptitiously over my right shoulder and observe there are more people present than I had initially perceived.
   It occurs to me that, fleshed out a little, this might make one of those educational comic books. A lot of people used to read Classic Comics and I'm all for anything that educates folks, stemming the overwhelming tide of ignorance.
   Skinny, sitting to my left, shifts his weight a little: there is still no sign of his court-appointed counsel. A young woman on far right of front bench informs guy behind her, "You'll just have to stand here and listen to what they say." Meanwhile, the Two and a Half Men guy approaches the bench, flanked by Mr. and soon-to-be-ex Mrs. C. Hearing them affirm desire to dissolve their union, mutters, Skinny mutters, "A damn divorce!" The woman is awarded spousal support in amount of  twelve hundred dollars a month from this month (February 2009) through a goodly part of 2011. As a divorced man himself, Skinny is appalled and wonders how come she deserves to walk away with that much money. Our differing viewpoints are biased by gender and, though it remains unspoken, I figure we pretty much just agree to disagree.
   Again, Skinny wonders about his need to be here but judge himself told him date was February 19. He had figured this would be easy enough to remember, since it happened to be his daughter's eighteenth birthday. Next up, the parties of 'J', 'W' and her counsel, stand before the magistrate, having reached agreement. The three issues of divorce, conservatorship, and one other legalese term, have been detailed in an eighteen page report. Pertinent items are detailed on Page Six of said document. Wife's attorney states, barring magistrate's insistence, he will forego reading it aloud. (Thank you, Lord!) Then 'J,' who has listened patiently while he was more or less defamed, stepped forward and agreed that until such time as he had two consecutive negative hair follicle results for methamphetamine within a ninety (90) day period, he would not be alone with the couple's children, ages eight and twelve. All this takes a while and the dweeby-looking dude leans against the wall, while the swarthy fellow stands at "parade rest. " Something inside me was glad it was the Anglo who was slouching. Wife also demands $195/month child support. Beside me, Skinny nearly has a cow. I smile and say, "At least it's not twelve hundred." Judge kindly wishes 'J' all success in his efforts to get/stay clean. 'J' exited courtroom.
   A slightly overweight woman, wearing red and black argyle-patterned sweater, walks through courtroom. Skinny speculates she is an assistant district attorney (ADA). There are whispered conversations going on all around. I ask Skinny if he has a number for his lawyer guy and am told, "He's supposed  to take care of this; I'm not to bother him." It is my opinion, a little bothering is warranted; Skinny uncrosses his long legs and folds his arms across his chest, mumbling that he's "fixin' to do quite a bit of *bothering*."
   The beefy dude and the dweeb are talking to the judge. My companion mutters, "Prison guards." I ask if they're on crowd control; he tells me "Bailiffs, yeah," then asks, "Haven't you ever been in court?" What can I say: my courtroom experience is limited to a couple bouts of jury duty and two uncontested divorces.
   New people are coming in; I hear a woman ask one of the recent entries, "You still got chickens?" Skinny leans over, making observation that one of the three fellows is having a horrendously bad hair day, then goes back to a newsletter he brought along to pass time. Shows me an ad, "50% or half off - whichever is less" and rolls his eyes. We've been sitting on this hard bench for well over an hour, as people have come and gone. I lean to inquire, "There's nobody you can ask, huh?" I am answered with a terse, "Uhn-uh." There might oughta be more *n*s in that sound; either way, the answer is a definite no. I had gone back to book I was reading, and occasionally taking notes. Another attorney arrived; he was middle-aged and average looking. He was in shirt sleeves and wore a hideously ugly tie. I had a feeling.
   Hearing a resigned sigh from Skinny, I asked, "That him?" An exhaled breath, "Yeah." The older lawyer and a guy who resembles Craig Nelson character from Coach, sat flanking Skinny's representative. Nondescript fellows come and go; one addresses Skinny, asking if he is "Mr. Hunt." Skinny says no. I finish my chapter and wonder just how much longer we are going to be there. I see a fellow who looks like someone I know. Skinny informs me that despite a questionable background, this person was recently elected to public office. (Sound familiar?) On ride home, Skinny further informs me person who previously held the position was under investigation for cattle theft. (It just gets better and better, doesn't it?) Anyway, did not leave a favorable impression of law-enforcement.
   Couple females in striped prison garb are brought in - one wearing pink handcuffs. Rolling his eyes again, Skinny mutters, "Pink handcuffs; now I've seen it all" to which I reply, "Well, they are girls." One of the suits is wearing a red tie; looks kind of pimp-y to me. At first I think it's the only red tie in the room, until I notice the Two and a Half Men guy has a maroon tie with an emblem thingy on it. So, maroon is in the red family, but at least it's not *sure enough* red. I know some of these details are girly and irrelevant, but I sat there a very long time: I had to look at something. I turn my pinkie ring. It is one of the 'talismans' I've chosen to wear today. The other is a small sterling silver dragon on a fine silver chain, acquired from late sister's estate. Dragon is my sign on Chinese zodiac. I know: meaningless detail.
   At about 10:47, Skinny's lawyer and the mistaken identity guy come over, engaging Skinny in conversation a minute or so. In a colossal demonstration of the right hand being sadly clueless regarding what left hand doeth, Skinny's case wasn't even on the docket. Bondsman said if there was any fallout, he'd tell the judge it was his fault. Skinny figured that wouldn't do him a whole lotta good if it was his [own] butt sitting in a jail cell. The long and short of it is, we were free to go. After waiting almost two hours, we find out it's been a waste of time. Five minutes later, we are three flights down, have hit the head, and are driving westward - going home. Skinny fumes, "And folks wonder why I have 'a bad attitude,' why I drink."
   During the drive back to McCulloch County, he receives a call from Child Protective Services. This is a direct result of the call he had placed three hours earlier. What I gleaned from his side of conversation was, he was expressly forbidden to seek contact with a child who had reached age of consent. He had not [to my knowledge] received court cooperation, nor been provided means of parental contact. In my opinion, it sounded not just iffy, but illegal and immoral - I concede I only knew his side of the story. He placed another call to CPS, which remained unanswered. Skinny said there would probably be black helicopters looming overhead in the immediately foreseeable future because nobody was going to keep him from his daughter, now she was 18.
   Took him back to work; he thanked me and gave me gas money. He'd already told me he was glad to have me along as a credible witness to inefficiency of judicial system. For the record, I did see a black helicopter in the distance when I left him in the yard.
   What a day - it wasn't even noon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Resistance is NOT futile - letter 126

   Sometime in your life you have probably heard a phrase admonishing you to "Watch out for the quiet ones." I believe it is because quiet people do not telegraph intent, so when they act, it comes as a surprise. I'm not exactly a *ninja* in stealth department but I have managed to catch a few people unaware from time to time.
***
Hello my dear,
   Writing to my adopted daughter, I speculated on number of American [United States] women who would postpone or totally forego having children during current restrictive political leadership. In power is a group which apparently sees miscarriage not so much as a personal tragedy but as an *offense against the state,* punishable by law and furthermore, demands miscarried or aborted fetuses must be properly interred or cremated. Big Brother was apparently not bad enough: women are now threatened by Big Daddy, who is only too willing to *spank* a naughty child who commits an infraction. For years the [so called] Right to Life movement has tried to undo advances in reproductive healthcare. There seems to be such fervor for fetus rights that those of the women - who seem to be regarded simply as vessels, bearing those fetuses are completely overlooked. Is it forgotten these child bearers are living breathing women? Without diminishing the sanctity of life, I would remind those inclined to forget - while pregnancy is not always a choice, decisions to terminate should be. Furthermore, terminating a pregnancy should not be accompanied by demeaning tactics, threats, or other inhumane treatment.
   Weekend following inauguration of forty-fifth U.S. president, there were marches throughout the world, promoting the rights of women. From reports I have seen, these demonstrations were conducted in an orderly fashion. This only makes sense: one does not further one's cause by being hostile nor by engaging in counter-productive behavior.
   Writing a letter to a former classmate, I lamented inability of some to get priorities in order. People really need to learn who benefits from stirring up conflict. So far as I am aware, none of my friends or readers are even in top ten percent of world's wealthy, much less top one percent. Who benefits from hate/discrimination? What difference does it really make: who marries whom; whether one is left-handed, right-handed or ambidextrous; whether one prefers deep-dish or thin crust pizza? Our differences are as superficial as those of plaid and paisley; a matter of preference. Live and let live, love and let love. You read via an electronic device, I choose to hold a book; I write letters, you communicate through text message or email. These are not things over which one *goes to war.*
   Examine your life. Are your basic needs met? Do you have adequate food and water; clothing; shelter? Does your having diminish someone else? If your answers are yes; yes; (and) no, you are doing well. It has been said Earth cannot afford another United States. It is becoming increasingly apparent United States cannot afford United States. We (all) need to clean up our act - nationally and individually: morally; ecologically; economically.

Enough for now. Take care,
Jo Ann