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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Is God Frail Or Just Not There?

With the wonderful announcement today that marriage for all has been made legal, and the backlash of conservatives and ministers (with one promising to set himself on fire) has made me wonder - if there is a god of Christians (the same one who was worshiped by the Jews before it was co-opted), has he become weak and frail?



The people who worshiped the god of the Old Testament were not many in number, yet that god was able to smite people, level cities, and create the world, along with Adam and his two wives (remember, Eve was attempt number two). When we reach the New Testament - the version approved by the Council of Nicea after they drew up the business plan for Christianity - we see fantastic visions, people being swept up into heaven, and miraculous acts. At this point in history, Christianity was still not as ubiquitous as it is today.

Today, we have megachurches, televangelists, tweets from the Vatican, and the persistence (though I can't fathom how, in this enlightened age) of Peter Popoff, et al. Gone is the god who, you know, did things. The one who had no problem demonstrating his displeasure. The god with teeth. The god with wrath. The god who bestowed blessings and greatness upon his chosen ones (though let his "son" get abused and murdered).

What I am saying is that the Christian population is much larger than it was when The Church was first formed, yet we have no signs of divine intervention. Surely if a powerful god did not approve of what the ergot-eating saints called "sin," he would do something. If some Christian leaders cannot come to a mutual agreement on something (which has been a recurring problem going back to The Reformation, the Council of Nicea, and even the Gospels themselves) how can we say who is correct?

I have no problem with the Christian tenets that boil down to "don't be an asshole to people." That's a good one to live by. So is the one about not being vociferous with your religious convictions (Matthew 6:6 if you need to look it up - because there actually is more to that book than that one part of that one passage of Leviticus that people quote without adhering to any of the others).

Now we have people like Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and Texas' Ted Cruz (and to a lesser extent, Greg Abbott) claiming that marriage is only an institution of one man and one woman. It is not for us to decide what is right, but God.

First off, I'm not seeing God weighing in, but rather loud people clinging to guidelines that kept pre-electrical society alive, while society, technology, mores, and overall quality of living continue to evolve.

So, is God just standing back on this one? Does God perhaps condone the shift toward a more equal society? Did God retire and not tell anyone? Is that why the grand visions have stopped afflicting people?

Or perhaps, just perhaps, God was never there.


But whatever. You want to be a Christian, keep it to yourself. You want to be a martyr and set yourself on fire? I won't even dignify your choice by getting the marshmallows. You want to be a Christian leader? Then do it by welcoming all, and do not worry about those who feel no need to join your flock. Most of all, rein in the hatred and don't be an asshole. I don't know which version of the Bible has hatred in the teachings of Jesus (unless you're like, a tax collector or something), but I never ran across a copy of that version of the New Testament in seminary school.

As a final note, Judge Scalia - When your peers decide to let people, y'know, be people, with all of the rights and liberties being a person entails, then how exactly is it ruling with an agenda?

Now, about that flag...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Great White Nope

Austin...shit. We're only in Austin. Every time, I think I'm going to wake up back in the Crescent City. Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted to move to New Orleans. And for my sins, I was given a trucker. Sent on over to me like room service. Well, more like a lingering cold that some resentful god of relocation sent on over to our table by sneezing on the food.
And you CAN, by bringing in more people from California!

Let's wind the clock back about a month.

My wife, best friend, partner, and inmate in the city of Austin, Gwyndyn Alexander, came out into the living room after a very bad dream. I did the best thing I could do – I listened.

“I had a horrible dream that we were old, living in Austin, Texas, and reminiscing about that one weekend we spent in New Orleans.”

My wife is from New Orleans, and she's been living in exile in ever since that bit of weather back in 2005 displaced a good portion of the inhabitants of the Crescent City. Home? Gone. Possessions? Gone. But Austin took her in and for that she was grateful.

When someone comes to you with a dream like that, it's terrible. Remember that one time we visited the one place that means more to me than anything? Remember that one time you ate food? Remember that one time you were ever truly in love?

What do you say to that?

“Let's move back home,” was my only response. I'm terrible at construction projects, but that little statement was the first step in paving a superhighway to Hell.

The first step was to find an apartment, which Gwyndyn did. I write (mediocre) comedy. This is what people do when coding, the laws of business, and critical decision making skills escape people, yet they find themselves fully possessed of laziness. Gwyn, however, can run logistics and eliminate unknowns to carry on a military campaign.

This is the After Action Report.

We landed a great apartment (LEED Certified, hi-tech, in a great location, and for a price that was better than our little 1970s-era place in the barrio). The property management was willing to let us out of our lease, provided we were out of there by 4p.m. on June 14th (make note of that), because that's when the new tenants would be taking over. We started packing things, labeling boxes, color-coding them, and grouping things so they could be loaded onto a truck in a certain order, and then unloaded and organized. Loading and unloading the truck should have taken four hours total.

We were still six weeks out from the move. Everything's cool.

Gwyn doesn't have a license to drive. Nor do I. We've always lived in cities, where things were within walking distance. State ID was always enough proof for anything, but with the move coming up, I figured I'd get my license (again) so I could drive a truck. After many delightful trips to the DMV (I swear I saw the crew from Flight 19 waiting in line ahead of me), I found out that there was a mark on my driving record, which I was able to track back to the sleepy town of Chatham, NY (Chatham has a population of about 50 during the winter, but over 6,000 during the summer months due to vacationers from New York City. They do, as they have always done – reap the revenues of unnecessary traffic violations to fill their coffers.)

When I called their town court (a part-time affair that's in session every other Wednesday, and the town refuses to correspond with “the electronic mail,” it's in writing, in person, or not at all), they told me that my traffic violation dated back to 1997. I asked what the fine was. I'd pay it, and be done with the whole mess.

Not so fast.

Apparently there was no fine, as of yet, but I could contest the ticket. (AWESOME!) Contesting the ticket required I show up in person to plead my case, OR (What's behind the curtain, Monty?) if I couldn't make it, I could plead guilty now and (but wait, there's more!) the case would be sent to the judge to decide the penalty, which could range from a fine (which would NOT be small, considering I made them dig out a file from 1997) to time served, or both. Thanks Mayberry FU2.

Panic sets in.

Now we needed a driver. There was frantic research done online to hire drivers, to price movers, and there was even a debate of how cost effective it would be to fly out one of our friends from New Orleans to drive the truck from Austin and compensate them with money, food, what was left of our souls, etc.

Our online family (and let me tell you, this entire move has made me rethink and redefine the word “family” and those who care and will go above and beyond in any situation, no matter where they are located) looked into their own resources, and we had a possibility. Hope! The fiance of a friend of a friend had a truck, and would be willing to help us move. In exchange, we would furnish money for parts to ensure the truck was in working order, as well as food and lodging. We would indeed be out of our apartment on June 14th before 4p.m.!

It all goes to hell with the great white hope.

A heroic portrayal of our driver
Initially, the driver (one MatthewHouse if you're interested in looking up this great catch online, because I'm only protecting the names of the innocent here) wanted to load up our things, then load up his motorcycle and drive it to his mechanic, unload the bike, and then drive us to New Orleans. This was illogical. Gwyn told him to drop off the bike first, and then swing by our place. Mr. House said that was fine, and he's be there around noon or 2 p.m. at the latest.

We had friends come over to help load up the truck. We had neighbors willing to help. We had everything but the truck.

At 2:30 in the afternoon, we received a message that he was on his way, and that he'd be here in 45 minutes. Let that sink in. We had an agreement to be out of there by 4, yet he was going to show up 3:30. We did not have enough expletives.

Finally, he arrived. The truck was about to fall apart. No AC (which the cat we were also taking with us loved). On top of it, the person driving the truck stepped out and I beheld his impressive mass. 400 plus pounds of proof that there is an exception to both Darwin and Intelligent Design.

He was the angry white man. Two handguns in the cab of the truck. He knew everything about what was wrong with politics. He also absolved himself of all responsibility to help us move.
How the driver saw himself, for all the wrong reasons.

By that time, our friends who had taken time out of their day to help us move at the original time had to go home, so at 3:30 in the afternoon, Gwyn, two neighbors, and myself loaded the truck. Then our driver informed us that he had to make a stop at Wal-Mart to get a battery charger, snacks, a few other things, and plot a course because, you know, why do these things in the three weeks he had to prepare for this?

We were on the road out of Austin as the clock was ticking toward 8 p.m. Maybe, just MAYBE there was chance to reach Lake Charles (halfway to our destination) before midnight.

Along the way, Mr. House proceeded to tell us how he was in the military (Gulf War One – though he couldn't recall what years he served, when asked). He hinted at being Special Forces (though Gwyn, coming from a family of Special Forces officers was biting at the chance for him to actually say it to call him on it - “Coin up, soldier!”). He was an “engineer” and told us of his great ideas for a 3-D concrete printer to make cities, how he designed a 12-shot device that could be smuggled onto an airplane (Attention DHS: his name is Matthew House and he lives in a mobile home in the outskirts of San Antonio, TX).

And there was Mansplaining. I'd never witnessed it in action, and it was a hot buzzword, but I actually saw it!

Gwyn is a very active feminist. She's gotten rape and child abuse laws changed in California. She had two masters degrees from Stanford before she was 22. Yet Big Dick Dudley driving the truck had no qualm about telling her how fetuses could live outside the womb at 6 weeks, exactly why it was wrong to be pro-choice, why government funding in any form is bad, and how he had “secret intel” on why Israel's war against Palestine has nothing to do with ethnic violence, but couldn't reveal anything more than that. I think he conceded that she “seemed really intelligent.” Oh, and we also had no idea what the Tea Party was, because what we saw on television and in the news were the 10% who give the party a bad name.

We were to feel sorry for him because his third wife (a red flag in itself for anyone looking to be the next Mrs. House) died of cancer. At this point, I think she's just using it as an excuse.

Let's review:

This large white male who was a proud gun owner, loved living off the grid as much as possible, hated the government, and wanted to be “an engineer” outside of any restrictions – who delegated ALL responsibility of his end of the agreement save for driving a truck (and the vehicle was exceedingly loud, yet nowhere near as annoying as the driver), and dismissed other points of view in order to impose his wisdom was NOT one of those people giving the Tea Party a bad name. It was the other guys. He was a fine example of everything that was good and why you should join today! Operators are standing by.

We stopped in Beaumont. Texas, that is.

We decided to sleep, let the cat stretch, eat, drink water, go to the bathroom (things that tiny creatures need to do on long rides), and then get an early start. We stopped at a motel that was charging just shy of $80 per room, per night. Gwyn found a less expensive one up the road, but our driver (you know, it's not his dime, after all) made a comment that she was being cheap in wanting the $50 per night place. I'm sorry, but we like eating food, and we'd already dropped $800 on this guy and got every ounce of disappointment money could buy from this man, but we were being “cheap.” We also like not eating top ramen. Also, two people of color walked by the truck. I watched this. They could not care less about the truck or its driver, but Mr. House then commented to us that he didn't like this area and it seemed pretty dangerous. He was worried he'd have to defend himself.

So we all went to bed in our respective rooms so we could start fresh in the morning, get to New Orleans, and have a few laughs over speed bumps we'd experienced up to this point.

The next day would make this one seem like a fairy tale.

We were unable to get any sleep. Mr. House informed us that the battery was dead in the truck. You know, because he took the $800 we paid him and spent it on the bike he dropped off before the trip, instead of, you know, making sure the truck was running in better order than “let's hope it makes it.”

He was able to get some nice people from a local waffle house to give the truck a jump start, and we were off. More than an hour late from on our schedule, but we were off.

The rest of the ride was mostly silent, as Gwyn and I focused on the scenery as we transitioned from Texas to the lush greenery of Louisiana, and also making sure the cat wasn't panicking herself sick.

We arrived in New Orleans, at our apartment in the Garden District (look up that area). Mr. House was insisting that this was a terrible neighborhood, and that his truck would be up on cinder blocks if he parked it for any amount of time, because he saw more than one person with skin darker than his. TheGarden District (look it up). In New Orleans.

For those keeping score, or for those who want a checklist of how to abuse passengers in your vehicle, during an already time sensitive trip:

  • Mansplaining
  • Late
  • Self-absolved of all responsibility
  • A horrible liar (not just about his military record)
  • Gaslighting (The truck MAY not work. We MAY not get there for yet another day, etc.)
  • A terrible engineer (I say this as the son of an engineer at a time when SDI and Skunkworks business cards were as commonplace in our household during the 80s as AOL discs were in the early 2000s)
  • Insulted Gwyn
  • Insulted me
  • Insulted the city of New Orleans
  • Racist as all get out

And for the bonus round...

Gwyn and I had to unload the truck ourselves with ZERO help from Mr. House. He wouldn't move an inch, but tried to advise me that stacking our computers on a very unstable hand truck (provided courtesy of Mr. House) was the best way to transport the very things that allow us to make our money. No.

Now I've reached the part in my fond memory of this move where I stop being polite.

Gwyn is bionic, but not in an awesome “let's make a television series about this” sort of way. She has three fused vertebrae. She has an artificial hip. She has Stage V endometriosis. She has a wrist that is pinned with what amounts to a door hinge.

I was never much of an athlete, and at my best, I can bench a modest 20, maybe 30 pounds.

The sun was beating down, humidity was high, and Matthew House, white American patriot, sat his 400 pound ass in my (!!!!!) office chair and complained about his pain while Gwyn and I overheated ourselves, vomited, and moved the majority of the contents up to our fourth story apartment. Our one friend who was going to help us was hospitalized the night before, and our other friend was not going to be able to make it until later that day.
I hate to speak ill of the dead, but our driver looked just like John Tenta, except less active.

Dude (Mr. House) did come upstairs once, to sit in the AC, take a dump, and sit in the bathroom while he made phone calls (on speaker, because he's a classy fellow) for about 20 minutes. This held up everything because, well, I just don't like sketchy people hanging around in my home unattended.

Only one thing came to mind: Tank Abbott

I remember UFC when I found it interesting. Tank Abbott was not a man of great agility, but he had one very effective move, which was a crushing punch to the sternum that could disrupt the steady beating of the human heart. Other than that, Tank Abbott wasn't too remarkable.

But that one move was all I could picture doing to Mr. House. I just wanted to see him drop and shake, while Twinkie filling and lies poured out of his body (which really wasn't that much unlike how he was now, except for the dying bit). I hated this man. Close to $1000 dollars ($800 for the truck, plus food, plus lodging, PLUS the $250 security deposit we lost because this jerk ignored everything we told him prior to the moving day) for this man to ruin everything we'd worked for to get to New Orleans. He played on his little phone, adding snarky remarks to our Facebook pleas for help. From my chair. In the middle of the parking lot.

I came downstairs from bringing up a load of books to our apartment, and caught Gwyn in the middle ripping Mr. House to shreds. He'd never once apologized for ANYTHING that set us back along the way. Gwyn is very professional, and will usually internalize, or at least save her discontent until well after the fact, but after all of this, that wasn't there. She wanted him gone. He suddenly moved like he had a flame under his ass, to arrange things in the truck so it was easier for us to unload them.

Our friend Quentin came to help, and scared Mr. House (Quentin is a very large – as in solid and muscular – person of color who is one of the smartest people I've ever met - who also was having none of his shit). One of the neighbors volunteered and we unloaded the truck and sent him on his way.

He tried to appeal to me, saying “Your wife tore me a new asshole, and for the record, I had no idea you needed to be out by 4 until the day of the move.” (READ YOUR FUCKING CHAT LOGS! We explained that many times over for the three weeks leading up to the trip! This only proves that you are either ignorant, or have no respect for what other people say.)

We got everything in and done by 9 at night. Mr. House was on the road for about an hour by that point, and I was half tempted to call the state constabulary to inform them of a “self-proclaimed patriot driving an unmarked white truck with two loaded guns (at the very least!) in the cab of the vehicle.” That can really put a crimp in your plans to get home and piss away the rest of the money we'd paid you.

However, thanks to our online family, the care, love, support, and help (both direct and moral) we are now in New Orleans and recovering from heat stroke. We are going to survive. And we are going to live in New Orleans in a way we couldn't in Austin or anywhere else.

In closing, if you need a truck, and a dependable person to assist you, do not give your money to Matthew House. He is a thief, a liar, a terrible example of  humanity, but an excellent representative of the Tea Party.


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