He Likes Sunbathing

Posted in Rant/ Rave, real life with tags , , , , on September 5, 2017 by sethdellinger

Today, Boy and I went to the pool in our development for some late summer swimming. The water was freezing, but the company was terrific, and the sun was shining. After about half an hour we took a break and sat on a bench eating some snacks. Suddenly, something hit me in the chest with a thud. I was shocked and bewildered, and quickly realized it was in fact the largest fly I have ever seen. I guess it is what they call a horsefly, although I have no idea what it scientifically is called. This fly, which after running right into my chest circled around Boy and I for a few minutes, was, hands down, one of the largest insects I have ever seen. It landed on us occasionally, and I swear it was the size of a small rodent. When it landed on you, it had true heft, you could feel its weight on you. I won’t deny being a little creeped out, and I did continually wave it away from me, but naturally, the thought of ending this thing’s life never crossed my mind. Why in the world would it?

After a few minutes of this fly circling around us, it became evident that we were not the first people at the pool to have noticed it, and now a lot of eyes were trained on us, watching us deal with it. A few minutes after it encountered us, it landed on the concrete sidewalk about ten feet away from us. One of the local girls who was also at the pool, probably about ten years old, sat a few feet away from it, staring at it in disgust. She held in one of her hands a flip-flop. She looked at me, assuming that I would be in league with her on this, and she said to me, I hate flies, and she inched toward it raising the flip flop. I said in a calm tone, It’s not hurting anything, leave it alone. What I said must not have registered very much, as it is an unusual stance about insects so it usually washes over people at first. She continued to advance on it and raised the flip flop higher and repeated her statement, I hate flies. Before she got any further I said in a sharper, more urgent tone, It’s not going to hurt you. Please don’t kill it. 

Before I tell any more of this story, I think it is important to note that I am in no way telling this story to get kudos for saving this fly’s life. Asking people around us not to senselessly kill animals who are minding their own business is, in my opinion, the very least we can do, and is not something we deserve kudos for but is in fact a moral obligation. That being said, I will continue the story.

The interesting thing is that when I pleaded for her to not kill it, you could see some sort of flash of recognition across her face. It is probably likely that in her life she had never heard anyone plead for the life of an insect. And although she was about ten years old, which in the grand scheme of how we form our worldview is actually rather old, she is still young enough that simple truths like that can penetrate in ways that the psyches of older people don’t allow. A second after I pleaded for the insect’s life, and the flash of recognition happened to her, she looked at me and gave a little smile, looked back at the fly, and almost seemed to look at it with affection. After a few more seconds, she looked at me and said, He’s sunbathing! He likes sunning, doesn’t he? I said, he probably does.

Boy–who of course is no stranger to this rhetoric and is fully on the “don’t kill insects” team–none-the-less wasn’t so sure about my authority on this particular issue. “How you know it likes suntanning?” He asked me. I don’t, I said. But I bet it does, most people do. And then, looking at the girl again, I said, But one thing I do know is, it doesn’t want to die. Nothing wants to die.

The girl walked away, and over the next few minutes I heard snippets of her conversation with her friends, and she kept saying, The fly like suntanning, the fly likes sunning.  Kids are so receptive to these simple ideas, which almost certainly means they are universal truths that we are born with and culture shoos us away from.

The argument I always come back to in any sort of discussion about veganism, animal liberation, animal rights, etc etc, is that things don’t want to die. People can talk about humane conditions or slaughter, humans being natural carnivores, or even justify eating certain creatures of the sea because they lack certain elements of a nervous system, but sentient beings don’t want to die. Things want to live. Even insects. Even worms. Animals want to live.

Dance

Posted in Memoir, My Poetry with tags , , , , on September 3, 2017 by sethdellinger

In all these tiny useless shops, with all this
torn and tattered furniture and too-small coats and
half-working vacuum cleaners, I have never come across
a velvety orangeish curtain like the one we hung
in the living room on Big Spring Avenue; it was
wide and garish like a Lady Pope’s vestments
and it kept the heat from pouring down between the
hardwood floor slats into the musty dirt basement;
likewise, in none of these big city shops have I ever
danced around with a cocker spaniel like I did
with ours–Cocoa–one bright Saturday morning
when I was all alone with her.  I did the funny dance I
only ever did with Cocoa, one hand in my armpit,
jumping on one foot, the sound of my skin half-drum,
half-fart, the world at last and for a moment a perfect
sun-filled room, a dappled meadow, Cocoa just
staring with all-black eyes, shimmying just to
get out of my way, me whirling and singing a song
I can’t recall, then laughing and laughing in the
sun beaming through the windows, falling down
with her, as if we were dying, as if we could
never stop–in 1984, in Newville Pennsylvania–
beautiful strange small-town Newville,
home of Laughlin Mill and the Bulldogs–
a hundred miles and thirty years away from
this dingy city thrift store I stand in, remembering
the orangey curtain and the drafty floors and the
sweet temperamental dog so confused with her
round voids of eyes, she’s gone now, so gone even
her dust is gone, oh giant universe, oh wild universe!

Anyone Other Than Me

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , , on August 18, 2017 by sethdellinger

You have rescued me from a trail of tears.
In a world of fear
did you know that I’d be there?
Every time I speak your name
there’s a shiver that holds me close;
from a pin prick famous place
where forever forgets what we should know.
Did you think it would be anyone other than me, dear?
You’ve outlasted all my friends.
I buried roots and you dig them up
and you share with me my place.
A perfect circle– never give it up.
Did you think it would be anyone other than me, dear?
Empty bottles and hallway shoes;
you whisper close to my body hush.
‘Cause if every word could change my face
not half as much as I need your touch,
did you think it would be anyone other than me, dear?

Men, Keep Your Shirts On

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , on August 11, 2017 by sethdellinger

Men, keep your shirts on.

Listen, I know this sort of ideology really makes lots of people groan, even so-called “liberals” who can often be heard to say “I’m all for (fill in the blank) but enough is enough!”  But usually, when you find yourself saying enough is enough, that usually means you might actually be approaching the line of what is right and just.

When you were growing up, did you ever think to yourself, Isn’t it weird that men or boys can walk around with their shirts off and women can’t?  I’m willing to wager you did think that, probably sometime between the ages of five and ten.  You thought it because it’s OBVIOUS that it’s strange; like so many other oddities you thought of as a child (“Isn’t it weird for humans to drink the milk of a cow?” and “If people of other races are just like me, why do we treat them differently?” and maybe even “If police are here to protect me why do they scare me?”) our culture has a buffet of fictions it has produced that you are fed with such alarming regularity that, after you are a fully acculturated pre-teen, you take these oddities to be self-evident normalcies.  Men can go topless, women can’t.  That’s just the way it is.

Of course, this isn’t about shirts or nipples; not really.  It’s about living in a land where, even with all the strides we’ve made toward gender equality over the past 50 years, the most basic “stories” of our culture still seek to control the woman and set the man free.  We can work toward pay equality, and make superhero movies about women, and all these wonderful things that truly are wonderful, but until we change the most basic tenets of our culture (practically our entire language is about men, women’s clothes aren’t functional or comfortable, women are judged on their appearance to a degree beyond male comprehension, and on and on and on and on) any man who is even moderately awoke to this fact is absolutely obligated to do everything they can to combat it.  And it is absolutely imperative that we not do something that our female counterparts would be forbidden by law to do simply because of their gender.

To walk out of your house without a shirt on is to take part in systemic inequality of the most deeply-rooted, insidious sort.  Who do you think you are, walking around bare chested?  My fiance is not able to do it–so how dare YOU?

I don’t care if you have six pack abs or a beer belly.  I don’t care if you are working out or sunbathing.  It’s not OK.  Once you are “woke” to this fact, a man walking around shirtless can seem, in fact, downright sinister. (I must admit here a caveat: I swim shirtless at our apartment complex because it’s an actual rule there, but I’m working up the courage to stop doing that).

I understand many people I know, after reading this very simple, straightforward statement will still want to argue with it.  This is natural, because the fiction you’ve been told has strong sway on you (even when you are the oppressed class). All I ask is that you let it sit within you for awhile, before pushing back.  Think about it when you see a shirtless man go running past you.  If he were running with a woman, she’d have to be shirted–and hotter and less comfortable.  Let it stew.

Posted in Photography, real life with tags , , on August 8, 2017 by sethdellinger

zzz

More Hand Gestures for Driving

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 27, 2017 by sethdellinger

The other day, I was driving and I saw someone use one of the hand signals you are supposed to use to signal a turn if your turn signals aren’t working.  It got me thinking about nonverbal hand signals we can use to other drivers on the road.  There are the turning hand gestures, the “you go first” gesture, and “the bird”, and that’s about it.  It got me thinking how great it would be if we had a longer list of “official” hand gestures we could use to easily communicate to other drivers.  Here is a partial list of what I think would be very useful for us all to learn, although I have no idea what the actual gestures would look like, but we need some that mean these things:

–“I know you waved me to go first, but really, I think you should go first.”

–“I’m only changing lanes really briefly.”

–“I’d prefer you not drive that close to me.”

–“Are you a police officer?”

–“I really like your sunglasses.”

–“I still buy CDs.”

–“Who is your favorite Golden Girl?”  (note: there would need to be hand signals for each Golden Girl, including Stanley.)

–“I wish I could grow a mustache.”

–“I am not personally responsible for this traffic jam.  Would you like to get to the bottom of who is?”

–“I’m really more of a ‘dog person’.”

–“How about this weather?”

–“I can give you some pointers on how to go vegan, if you’d like.”

–“Do you happen to have a bathroom in your car?”

–“Wow! We’re both going super fast!”

–“Stop texting!”

–“Evolution is not a theory.”

–“You know, fellow traveler, driving down this nondescript highway, in a car I am indebted to, toward a job I hate, has me feeling like just a cog in a sinister capitalist machine.  Good day to you!”

–“I just had carpal tunnel surgery.”

–“*HAZARD LIGHTS*”

–“I wouldn’t mind learning the art of topiary gardening.”

These are just a sampling of the standardized hand gestures that I feel could make our lives easier.  Are there any I have left out? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

It’s Going to Be OK

Posted in Memoir, real life with tags , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2017 by sethdellinger

I sat, waiting, in the Big Room.

Around me were gathered about forty others, in the hardbacked plastic seats, under the blare of florescents.  Most were having side or group conversations, hushed, but I sat quietly to myself, waiting.  The Big Room was, naturally, the largest room in the rehab facility.  It was the only room that everyone gathered in at once.  We started our days there with roll call and would cycle back in a few more times each day for various large meetings and activities, and ended most nights there with, typically, something profound or at least an attempt at profundity.  This is such a night.

The hushed conversations come to a halt as the head counselor, Bob, enters the room.  He takes his time situating some papers on a small desk near the front of the room.  We all give him our full attention.  Bob is that rarest kind of person: a truly warm-hearted, immensely kind person who nonetheless is not to be trifled with.  Finally he clears his throat and begins.  “Tonight, folks, we are going to put you in touch with your younger self.”

Bob went on to explain that in a few minutes, another of the counselors was going to join us; I forget this counselor’s name, but she was one of the counselors who mainly stayed in her office and had individual therapy sessions, so her joining us at night in the Big Room was unusual.  Bob explained that she was going to walk us through an experience that was like hypnosis, but was not hypnosis, and this was going to be a special night for us.  Then the other counselor came in, and Bob turned the lights almost all the way off.

“Hello,” she said.  “I want you all to get as comfortable as you can.  If you want to stretch out and lay on the floor, please do, or stay seated if you prefer.”  I stayed in my seat.  “I want you to imagine a house you lived in when you were younger.  It doesn’t matter how much younger, just that it be a time before you started using drugs or alcohol.  Picture the outside of the house.  Now I want you to breathe as steadily, as deeply, as slowly as you can.  Picture the outside of the house and all its details until I speak again.”  Here there was a long pause.  “Now keep breathing just as you are. Slowly but steadily.  Please envision yourself gliding in toward the front door of this house.  Imagine you are a–”

 

I am in the kitchen.  It’s the kitchen of my childhood home, the one on Big Spring Avenue.  I smell the old smell, and the quality of the air.  I blink my eyes to make sure I am seeing this correctly.  I am seated with my back to the den, the open doorway that opens onto the den, and I am looking into the kitchen.  The trusty, dense and solid dining room table sits in the center of the room, just a few feet in front of me.  To my right is the open door into the playroom (later, the office) and to my left, the trash can and the corner of the kitchen.  In front of me and beyond the dining room table, there is the old boxy Frigidaire, the squat electric range, the closed door to the “back room”, and the cabinets, sink, the intense orange formica countertops, the paint on the cabinets so thick from multiple coats that I can see the bubbles from way over here.  But most of all, the wallpaper, the paisley-esque floral pattern that never seemed to repeat itself, the busiest walls in town,  all the swirling greens, yellows and oranges you could ever ask for.  I sit staring, agog, at a room from the dustbin of my mind, all the details intact, the sensory flash a blinding experience, like surfacing from beneath water which you did not know you were beneath. It seems that full minutes pass as I sit there–seemingly immobile–in silence except for the ticking hands on the Seth Thomas that’s above the trash can.  Then suddenly, I see him enter from the playroom.  He is quite young, perhaps eight years old.  He is a tiny little guy, and his bright blonde hair is almost blinding.  I do not take notice to what he is wearing, I am so focused on his face as he strides toward me: quite serious, bordering on dour, his skin so new and flawless, like aloe straight from the plant.  He walks toward the kitchen table with a purpose, without looking at me, then as he is directly in front of me, he turns to look at me.  The gravity of this moment is not lost on me.  He looks me in the eyes, the seriousness of him slowly morphing into steadfastness, then further into assurance, and finally, the corners of his lips turn up, and he is smiling.  Not grinning, and not smiling as though at a joke, but as if he was happy in some secure knowledge.  Then he opens his mouth to speak and his tiny voice comes forth. “It’s going to be OK,” he says.  I am unable to move or talk, but I know this statement makes me cry.  He smiles even bigger now and takes one step toward me.  “It’s going to be OK”, he repeats.  Now he steps even closer, and somehow climbs up onto my lap, even though I can’t actually see my lap.  He turns his head toward me and I can see he is now smiling the smile of the joyous, the thrilled, the exalted.  His little smile seems to go all the way up to the highest tuft of sun-touched blonde hair on his eight-year-old head.   He leans in close to me and through that gaping smile he whispers, “It’s going to be OK.”

Nowadays I share a lovely apartment with my partner, the best person I have ever known.  I have everything I could ever want, both material and ethereal.  I move through every day like it was a dream, even when they are hard days.  We listen to some good music, or read some good books, or lay and talk.  And some days, while she is in another room or out on an errand, I may be sitting on the couch when a boy runs down the hallway and jumps into my lap.  This boy is really here, in the here-and-now, and he’s glorious.  His blonde hair isn’t quite as shocking, but it is bright and fine and bounces on his head when he runs, and his skin is like aloe, straight from the leaf, and his eyes are that kind of blue that are only blue in pictures; when you look right at them it’s like you see right through them.  Many days he jumps on my lap on the couch and shows me some spot he has injured in his play; a brush burn on a knee, a scrape on a wrist.  The tears in his eyes are real, teetering there in the corners, wobbly, almost-falling down the cheeks.  “Dis gonna go down to the bone?” he will ask, or “Me am gonna die?”  I kiss his boo-boos as well as I can and gather him up into my arms as tight as he’ll allow, and I whisper to him, “No, honey, it’s going to be OK.”

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