Man In A Windstorm Revise

Here’s a revision of a scene from “Man in a Windstorm”. This revision comes largely out of some discussions that I’ve had with a good friend from grad school who is hard of hearing and can read lips.

I was glad that Jessica had stopped talking. The music was loud enough that it was a little hard to hear Jessica, but I could read some of the dipshits’ lips from across the room. The most annoying of the comp guys was telling his friend, “Bet she loves getting it on all fours.” This was the same guy who would tell us all how important it was to not let students leave class with the same prejudices that they started class with.

My cousin laughed at something, then she told her friend, “The pot would’ve been better at Michelle’s party, but there’s more to get drunk on here.”

I had to admire her. She was actually completely right about that. Or, I assume that she was, as long as Michelle had any decent pot at her party. I had a hard time making the connection between the girl who had been into My Little Pony and the legal-aged woman who was standing naked at a party and talking about pot.

I tried showing just a little courtesy by looking at Jessica. She was looking at my cousin, too. “She seems nice,” she said.

I raised my eyebrows and smiled a little. “Nudity doesn’t run in the family.”

Jessica laughed. “Good to know.”

I looked back towards my cousin. She was talking to a couple of other people. The comp specialists were wrapping up their ogling. “Think she’d do all three of us?” one said. Appropriate to a comp specialist, it was a rhetorical question. The other two laughed.

Jessica tapped my arm. I looked at her. She said, “Don’t let one of those creeps harass your cousin.” It was good advice, though I felt weird. I technically didn’t know that my cousin didn’t want to sleep with the comp dicks. I mean, the alpha among them usually nailed a few new students every semester. But I’d hoped that my cousin wouldn’t be quite so desperate. I guess the fact that I couldn’t be sure was what disappointed me most.

“I have to go talk to my naked cousin,” I told Jessica.

“If I had a dime for every time that I heard that,” she said. It was a god line, even if it was a cliche.

I went over to my cousin, walking in between her and the comp dicks. I said, “Hi, Ann.”

She squinted at me a little, then smiled. I could tell that she had already smoked a little pot. Or maybe a lot. “You’re in town?” I asked.

“Going to the art institute,” she said. I looked at the comp guys quickly (they were already off to check out somebody else), and then back at Ann.

“You should look me up sometime. Let me know if you need anything.”

She waved a hand. “I’m fine. Dad found this weird scholarship. And I have friends here.”

“Cool,” I said. It made me feel old. “Well, good seeing you.”

She laughed, though I wasn’t totally sure why. “Yeah,” she said. “Good seeing you.”

 

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Recovering Racist

I’m not sure if someone has already coined this phrase or not, but given the events in Virginia, it seems worth tossing out there. Racism in America is systemic, not individual. That means that white people are basically trained to be racist just by being in our culture. For this reason, I think that instead of trying to argue that we’re not racists, white people should characterize ourselves in one of two ways:  we’re racists or we’re recovering racists. I’m taking the language for the second category from recovering from addiction. The idea being that racism isn’t something that you get over. It’s not something that you completely close off. It’s something that you have to fight against every day. It’s something that you likely backslide on, and you need to remind yourself to fight. And, when I say “white people”, I’m including myself. How many times do I watch a TV show with all white faces and think of it as normal instead of a problem? Many times. How many times do I take my privilege for granted? Daily. Multiple times. So this is what I need to work on. This is what I need to recover from.

The Fire

Last night, there was a fire at a house just a few doors down from mine. When I say “a fire”, I mean a roof collapsing/wall gutting/life taking fire. It was very scary to watch.

Also this weekend:  my step-grandson told my wife and I that one of his favorite songs was Pitbull’s “Fireball” (a stupid song, I say, but that’s neither here nor there, he’s only 5). The point, though, is that, several times during the song, there’s a line about the roof being on fire.

How does this all relate to this blog? It made me think about the issue of language. How many songs have something about being on fire? How many metaphors rely upon the imagery of fire? How many movies incorporate fire imagery? If you lost your parent, sibling, or significant other in a fire, how would you hear these images or metaphors? As I thought about all of this, it made me think about how much of what we discuss is wrapped in racist, sexist, or homophobic speech. how do we get away from it?

As discussed elsewhere, I don’t have a clear answer, but I will say that it’s a good type of awareness to have. It’s important to be mindful of how we talk, what we hear, and how it can impact others around us. Calling a person “a little bitch”, watching old films with clearly racist portrayals (Peter Pan’s Indian’s, for instance), or recommending a book even though it has homophobic material. These are all things to try to avoid as much as possible.

Man In A Windstorm

Last night, I reread my story “Man in a Windstorm”, the next up on the docket for revising. I’ll admit, I was inebriated as I read it. It wasn’t bad. Maybe it was the drinking, but it moved relatively quickly, it had some good humor, and it felt real. But that last part is largely what will make the revising process difficult. It’s a world I knew well (though an exaggerated version of it), and so to change things will be difficult. Not that I’m complaining. Instead, what I’m interested in saying is that it struck me that I very rarely write fiction that’s mainly autobiographical. In some ways, that makes the revision easy. I’m always writing towards another universe, and so I can rewrite rules and have vastly different social norms than the real world. In other words, I give myself a lot of wiggle room. I love slipstream, I love genre fiction, and so I don’t imagine that I’ll totally curtail this going forward, but I do see myself thinking a bit differently about the nature of these rewrites, trying to let the conceits be interesting but keeping the social interactions nad the types of prejudice and tensions as real as possible.

A Truly Awful Presence Revise

Here it is folks, in all its mediocrity:

I knew what it was, before it really sunk in. I’d read the folktales, and I’d memorized them like he names of basketball stars. Like Bird and Magic, the two races that pushed out my own. I was half a foot in and half a foot out. But when I walked into the bathroom, my newly missing tooth in hand, the folktale shit got real, and real quick.

I guess I’m trying to be funny, there, because it wasn’t quick. Maybe that’s what made it seem more real. The slowness. And there was the thing. It had its long, wet tongue running behind the tub. We had one of those claw-footed setups. As hard as my mom would scrub, you couldn’t get rid of everything. It was the kind of thing that we noticed but never commented on. We all figured that her keeping the house in working order for everyone was good enough; getting the little fuzz on the backside of the tub was unreasonable. Unproductive.

But there was the Akaname, snaking its tongue between all the feet and licking. I froze and closed my hand on my tooth. Hard. It was stupid to worry. I hadn’t rinsed my tooth, but it also wasn’t filthy. Just the usual amount of plaque and food particles. But, when I saw the thing, and it lifted its head up a little, I froze hard. First, I just kind of tightened up. Then, I started to cry. Then it made some sound. Not a growl or a hiss. More like a specific kind of swallow. And that’s when I started to run. I took off running and crying. Yelling for my dad. All the manliness that I felt at having pulled out my own tooth was gone. I’m not too proud to admit it, too:  I wet myself. I was seven.

By the time that I got to my parents, that fucker in the bathroom was gone, of course. Maybe it had lapped up all the filth and left. But either way, it was humiliating and violating. It was awful in the worst ways. Or so I thought. Until what I saw later, in the backyard.

Analogy

One of the core principles of this blog is communication, so I want to think about how to communicate an idea to a broader audience. The idea is gender fluidity, and I’ll offer the following analogy.

Imagine that, at birth, you were given a job. You were told that you would be a farmer or a teacher or a psychiatrist. For many people, they would have been groomed for their job enough that they would be happy or reasonably happy. However, there are some things that you can’t necessarily tell about a baby just by looking at it. For instance, I have terrible coordination. If I was given the role of “surgeon”, it would be awful for my patients, and I would be horrified at the principle of going to work every day.

On top of that, think about the excitement that you had at your first “real job.” Now think about your current attitude towards your job. You might be excited at first, but, as you start to fully understand the nature of what you do, you might change your mind.

All of this to say, the things that many of us take for granted might be deeply frustrating and stifling for others. So, as we think about gender, it’s good to think about flexibility and fluidity. It’s a major part of someone’s life, and if we don’t give people the opportunity to take an active role in what works for them, it’s not good for them, and it’s probably not good for anybody. It costs so little to recognize others’ needs and preferences, so why fight them on it?

NRA

A lot has already been said about the NRA video. Instead of hashing out the problems with it (I assume those are clear already), I want to talk about the difference between grassroots work and top-down leadership. I would guess that at least a third of my high school classmates are NRA members. I’m sure that they view it as part of tradition and part of their culture. If you ran a focus group and asked them what they use guns for most, I’m sure that the answer would be “hunting”. But that’s not what the ad suggests.

So the question is:  how do we communicate (in a reasonable and effective way) what’s so very wrong with the ad. In what context could I talk to a member and get them to care about it. The problem is that talking to several members at once would likely not work. I don’t think that any one of them would want to be the first one to come over to my side. But, if I spoke to one individually, would they go on and talk to other members? It seems doubtful.

I wish I had an answer here. I wish that I had a program or formula in which I had confidence. But I do not. Instead, I only have the grim feeling that change will happen glacially if at all. It will require a patient and sustained effort, but there will be a push from the other direction all that time as well.