Archive for politics

Fall Work, Ashcan, 5k, and Sandra Bland

Posted in real life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2017 by sethdellinger

1.

Winter is coming and I hate winter.  But I am coming around a little more to the idea of liking fall.  For most of my life, I’ve been staunchly against fall, citing the fact that it is a sad harbinger of winter, and the end of summer, and the season where everything dies.  But the past few years I’ve started to feel I’ve just been repeating what I’ve always said, instead of being honest about my changing views.  Fall is kind of nice.  I like wearing longer pants and hoodies.  I like crunchy yellow leaves.  So yeah, another example of allowing myself to evolve here.  Granted not on any sort of major topic, but I wanted to make it public: sure, I like fall.

2.

Work is going terrific!!! I am back to working in Harrisburg and no longer doing my crazy commute.  I work (approximately) 8am-4pm Monday-Friday.  I’m having a blast!  I’ll have a more detailed password-protected blog about it within the next week, but I wanted to give that quick update.

3.

My favorite painting of all time is John Sloan’s “Sixth Avenue and Thirtieth Street”.  The reasons are many.  First, Sloan is my favorite painter overall: his pioneering “ashcan” style–which denotes his muted color pallet, a brush technique that was representational but bordered on abstract, and choice of subject matter–speaks to me and to my view of the world.  This painting in particular (which I’ve included below) hits me on a gut level.  The titular streets are in the “tenderloin” district of New York City, which is another way of saying the poor or “slum” area.  In this work, Sloan chooses to show us this area in broad daylight at a busy intersection.  We are looking at a corner business that is perhaps of some disrepute–a brothel or perhaps a burlesque theater?  There are some finely dressed folks around, but they are not the same kind you’d find down by Central Park.  The focus of the scene is on a woman in distress; she is in nightclothes and carries a pail, is obviously upset.  Most scholars of this painting suggest this woman is drunk and is emotional.  The passersby–especially the two finely-clad young women nearby who could not be more different than the drunk woman–look on with judgement and perhaps even amusement, but no one in the scene seems to have empathy or concern for this woman.

There is a lot more that could be discussed about the painting.  Sloan did not waste a centimeter of the canvas (a quick for instance–Sloan’s decision to place the drunk woman at the bottom of the canvas, rather than center her, leaving him space to paint lots of sky, whereas he could have provided more surrounding context of the city instead; an interesting topic of discussion, that one).

johnsloansixthavenueandthirthiethst

 

4.

I have made some mention on Facebook that I have begun running, and even signed up for my first 5k (this coming Saturday)! I’m super excited but also currently undergoing a substantial amount of worry as, just 3 days ago I did my longest outdoor run yet and have had some very minor signs of some stress fractures in my shins the past few nights.  Now, these symptoms are very minor and it is 100% possible I am inventing them.  Any way you slice it, I am running the 5K this Saturday and will keep training this week on elliptical machines to avoid high impact work, and should probably know after the 5k (because my body will tell me) if I have to take a break from running and maybe evaluate my running style, etc, moving forward.  But I want to be a runner super bad so even if I have to take a significant break and make some adjustments, I’m on it.  On a side note, the running has really been a key factor in helping me get close to my goal weight: before the weekend I was 144 (goal is 140)…the weekend saw a lot of eating so I’ll know where I’m at when the dust clears on Tuesday :)

5.

Police kill innocent black people with an alarming frequency.  You don’t have to eat animals or their secretions in this day and age.  America should be a country that welcomes immigrants.  Respect women’s reproductive rights and the rights of their bodies.  Resist any and all attempts to make our culture white, male-oriented–including the language you use.  Climate change is real. There is no need to wear wool or leather in this day and age.  Do whatever you want when The Star-Spangled Banner is playing, including eating food, walking to the bathroom, keeping your hat on (I mean really) or sitting or kneeling.  Fund art programs, NPR, Meals on Wheels, and Planned Parenthood.  Oh, and in Major League Baseball, the designated hitter rule continues to be an absolute scourge.

On Anti-Fascism, Veganism, Church-Going

Posted in Rant/ Rave, real life with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2017 by sethdellinger
1.
 
There are certainly plenty of words out there in the world right now about the current state of our country, and our president, and protesting, and on and on. I realize there’s not a whole lot of original thought I can add to the mix, especially since I am far from an expert on these matters. But I feel as though I should at least take a brief moment here to elucidate exactly where I stand. So here is my elucidation: free speech is an awesome thing. It is one of the truly great things about America. An open and fair exchange of ideas is crucial to maintaining an evolving culture free of dictatorship. However, many folks have pinned this down as the absolute unchangeable linchpin of America, and believe it to be boundless and without exception. And, to the letter of the law, they’re mostly right. The Westboro Baptist assholes have the right to their hate-mongering, and Free Speech lovers like to say things like, “I hate what they’re saying, but I’d fight to the death for their right to say it.”
See, the thing is, some ideas don’t need room to breathe. I grant you that these ideas must be limited to very few, otherwise “free speech” as we know it ends. But ideas that espouse the denial of basic human rights to other citizens DO NOT NEED PROTECTION. Your precious “free exchange of ideas” does not have to extend to Nazism, white nationalism, or other hate rhetoric which, once given any sort of official platform, becomes normalized. The word “Nazi” is getting thrown around a lot in the media today, but only with the pallor of the Holocaust implied. It’s time we said it out loud: we need to take every pain we can to prevent anything even CLOSE to the wholesale murder of citizens from happening again. And it starts with labeling groups, sanctioning hate, rounding people up. This sort of activity has begun in this country. And we can no longer sanction speech that furthers these ideas. I’m not suggesting we outlaw it—that would be tricky—but the citizen policing of this vile threat is perfectly fine by me. Well beyond “punching Nazis”—WHATEVER IT TAKES.
We have seen how these kinds of things end.
2.
On a similar but totally separate topic, allow me to wax whimsical for a little while on the topic of veganism.  I’ve addressed it a little bit previously in the blog but on the whole, not nearly as much as I’d like.  I’ll try to be really gentle about this.
See, I totally get why you non-vegans get really touchy about us vegans.  Veganism–and animal activism–is really the only philosophy I can think of where, by virtue of subscribing to it, you thereby indict literally everyone else who isn’t following it.  Non-vegans sense this (usually unspoken) friction just by someone announcing they are a vegan and become defensive despite a vegan not even directly addressing them on the topic.  This is understandable; as I said, the non-vegan (henceforth referred to in this blog as carnists) senses that their very status as a meat eater means they are at odds with my worldview.  This is not incorrect.
Like any group of people, vegans come with many nuanced views and philosophies.  Many believe that we should be gentle, encouraging, non-confrontational, educational.  Some believe we should work as hard as we can to disrupt the status quo and that by causing loud friction within the world, we do the most to help animals.  Still others just want to be vegan–eat no animal products–and leave it at that.  Obviously, I mostly adhere to the disruption school, but on the whole, I say if you’re a vegan, I’m not overthinking how YOU want to do it.  But my belief that animals are our moral and ethical equals forces me to try to change their plight as quickly as possible.
If you’re a carnist, you have to understand that I don’t think you’re a bad person or an idiot.  How could I? I ate meat until I was 38 years old!  And I fully understand the ways in which our modern culture raises all of us to have blinders on when it comes to the misery the meat, dairy, and egg industry causes, but even more than that, the way our society ingrains in us the belief that we are superior to animals–so superior that we can actually create FACTORY FARMS of them.  The mechanism that can make us all blind to this is powerful.  It isn’t your fault that you don’t see it.
But see, it’s my job to try to wake you up.  And this is where I fail.  On social media, in “real life” interactions with friends and family, I still care more about your comfort and “keeping the peace” than the animal who suffers so terribly so that you don’t have to change.  Many, many people think that since I’ve become a vegan, I’ve changed, become “smug” or “judgmental”–but the problem is, I’m not even doing nearly enough.
For fuck’s sake, they’re out there right now–in the damp cold, in tiny stalls, being force fed, they can’t even turn around, they’re covered in their shit, and they know–those poor, poor animals, they know.  
And I’m not saying or doing enough to help them, just so I don’t rock the boat.  What monsters we are!
3.  Check out this masterpiece Philip Larkin poem:
“Church Going”
by Philip Larkin

Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
“Here endeth” much more loudly than I’d meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation – marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these – for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

It’s Time to Start Thinking About It

Posted in real life with tags , on January 4, 2017 by sethdellinger

When I was a teenager, I’d often sit in my car in the driveway of our house out in the country and listen to The Beatles, usually Abbey Road.  And usually at night.  I’d smoke cigarettes and pop No Doz and analyze every sound in “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.  I thought maybe there was some deep stuff hidden in there, especially in regards to the abrupt ending.  In the summer I rolled the windows down and flicked my ashes on the asphalt my father made me help him seal every summer, underneath the basketball hoop I was never any good at using.  Sometimes I put in Sgt. Pepper and tried to suss out the meaning from “A Day in the Life”.  I knew much younger than my friends what Albert Hall was, and where Lancashire was.

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Of course, some teenagers in this world of ours have to worry every day about finding clean drinking water, or whether they’ll be shot by a bullet from an AK-47, or be stolen and raped by Boko Haram.  All told, it’s probably pretty rare to be able to sit by yourself in the front of your Dodge Daytona, smoking Newport Lights and pondering why George didn’t sing more.  Such is life, I suppose.  Not that I’m brushing off the discrepancy; in fact I loathe it.  But what can be done, I wonder?

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Despite living in a very prosperous nation, and being born of the least harassed skin color and gender, many people like myself have still experienced extreme depths of sorrow and deprivation.   I have experienced such a thing.  Between the ages of twenty and twenty-five I developed acute alcoholism, which culminated in “hitting bottom” during a weeklong stay at a true fleabag hotel, in the most deplorable conditions I could have imagined. But listen to this: some of my most distinct memories of that week are watching “Rugrats” on the cable television and listening to a Barenaked Ladies CD on repeat on the boombox I had brought along. The lowest point in my life still involved what others might consider creature comforts.  Naturally, this does not diminish the pain or seriousness of the event for me, but it’s worth pondering.  What does “hitting bottom” look like to a Sudanese refugee?  Perhaps I am simply mistaken about what “hitting bottom” means. Maybe, but probably not.  Probably it’s complicated.

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I have an avid interest in the American Revolution.  I don’t think I could be called a “buff” of this period; despite having read extensively about it and visited many of the main  sites associated with it, I simply cannot remember many of the essential details.  I forget things, which I think automatically discredits me from being a buff.  But I find the Revolution fascinating without end.  I quite often find myself breathlessly declaring, What tremendous courage these men had!!  How could they have committed to this? Would I have had this within me, to risk all for this freedom?

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The Civil War and the World Wars were, no doubt and to varying degrees, important wars that fought for (again, to varying degrees) important freedoms.  But we have fought for nothing approaching the towering consequence of history since our Revolution–and certainly not in the modern era.  No doubt the men and women that go to fight for us now are brave, hardy folks, whom I respect–but they fight for nothing important, and certainly not freedom.  They have courage–but to what end?  To whose end?

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In high school, I worried about fitting in.  Cliche, sure, but there it is.  I wasn’t angst-ridding over it; I began high school somewhat timid and scared–perhaps somewhat worried about what troubles my short height might find for me–but I quickly developed a confidence I’d retain through most of my life, and have gone through most of the rest of my life forgetting I am short.  But still, I was concerned about fitting in, would I be popular?  Would there be girls?  Would I be made fun of?  Gosh, can you imagine–with all the pressing weight of human history behind us, and such shocking decisions ahead of us, we spend our most visceral years worrying about nonsense?  I spent hours trying to roll my pants legs properly.  I never got good at it.

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See, listen here:  what’s happening now isn’t normal.  This is not just a “my party lost” situation where I’m bitter at the incoming president.  I think we all feel it.  There has been a shifting.  There has been a change.  The Rubicon has been crossed.  Now, there’s no way to know, quite yet, what path the future will take.  It’s still possible that everything could be fine.  But with each passing day, that looks less and less likely.  It is painfully easy to see a future where very few American boys sit in their sports cars in their parents’ driveways dissecting Beatles tunes.  It is becoming much easier to imagine other, darker futures.

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I just now, at the age of 38, got myself a family.  I had given up on that notion for awhile, but now I have one.  I have lately begun imagining what we will do if the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.  There is nothing more important than them.  How will we stay safe?  At what point in the news cycle do we decide we need a plan?  I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I also don’t want to be the last one to have a bunker to go to.

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I have spent many years marveling at the courage of John and Samuel Adams, George Washington, Thaddeus Kosciusko, John Trumbull, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson.  They saw what they had to do.  They risked their very lives to steer all of human history.  I have wondered what I would do in their position, never imagining a similar moment could happen in my lifetime.  I am by no means suggesting that moment is here.  But I can imagine it now.  Can you?

Sounds Like a Train. Not a Train.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 16, 2016 by sethdellinger

Everything in life can seem so sudden, even though almost all of it is gradual.  Events can shock you even when you saw them coming.  Maybe you didn’t know you saw them coming, but you saw them coming.

Luckily there is love.  What matters but love?  Towering, epic love.  Basically nothing else.  To snuggle.  To profess eternity, depth of caring.  It’s not an original thought, but, well, there it is.  Love.

It’s dark on the east coast as I write this.  I haven’t done the time zone math but it’s probably dark over all the continental states.  People describe darkness as a “closing in” all the time, but really it’s the opposite.  Light closes us in, as it is an actual presence of a thing, whereas darkness happens when the light leaves.  Darkness opens us up.  Darkness is an absence.  It is a lifting of the lid.

It’s not just that Trump won the election; I could handle that.  It’s that this country isn’t what I thought it was.  It’s that I have to mourn for the uplifting future I had imagined.  I don’t care that “we lost”.  I find myself suddenly terrified of the land I live in.

It’s dark outside my door.  My neighbor across the street, Manny, appears to have gone to bed.  His lights are all off, but now he has Christmas lights on his porch, which I adore.  He has a terrific little dog, Fulton, who sometimes sniffs our Benji.  I imagine Fulton is asleep now, too, somewhere at the foot of Manny’s bed, or maybe in there with him.  The streetlights here are shockingly bright; as I step out into the crisp autumn evening, I can see them dotting the side of the landscape for five, maybe six blocks, until the natural curve of Harrisburg’s grid takes them out of view.  It’s quiet, dark and quiet and still.  The houses seem stuck between holidays, some porches still sporting mushy pumpkins, others feeling tentative strands of colorful lights.  Somewhere in the distance, a car alarm goes off, but just briefly.  I stand here in my pajamas and I imagine the people in their houses.  Most of them asleep, now, but not all.  Some watching television–although increasingly they are somehow watching it after it aired.  Some of them perhaps showering, or cooking a late dinner, or arguing, or having sex.  But most of them sleeping, breathing rhythmically in some sort of shut-down stasis that scientists are hesitant to admit they still don’t really understand.  I stand here and I imagine them.  I really do.  I’m not just writing that I imagine them–I really do it.  What a thing to do, when you really do it!  All those lives behind those doors, drifting like worried sparks, like baffled little flames, breathing in unison, with all their own concerns and private intensities.  What a massive undertaking, life.  Such a long, worrisome climb.  And you can do it anywhere.  Some folks are born as baffled sparks in a tribe in a jungle.  Others in a London flat.  Some people had to do it in the 1600s.  Still others will give it a go in 2190.  To many, my worries about the land I live in would seem a trifle, the luxury of a man who has everything he needs.  They’d probably be right, but still.  I step out all the way onto the sidewalk in front of my house, suddenly wishing all of my neighbors would come outside all at once so we could talk about it.  Mostly we don’t talk to our neighbors, but now, in the still autumn evening, I wish I could.  I wish I could look them in the eyes, I wish I could pat them on the back.  I would tell them, perhaps, one of my secrets. Suddenly as I am standing there, in my pajamas in the autumn evening, a low, distant sound makes itself known.  It starts as a quiet rumble.  I can’t tell where it’s coming from but it grows louder and louder, the rumble becoming a growl; it sounds like a train, but it’s not a train, I have no goddamned idea what it is but it’s getting louder and louder and I don’t think there’s any escaping it.

The Morning After

Posted in real life with tags , , on November 9, 2016 by sethdellinger

“Mom, wherever there’s a cop beating a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there’s a fight against the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me, Mom, I’ll be there

Wherever somebody’s fighting for a place to stand
Or a decent job or a helping hand
Wherever somebody’s struggling to be free
Look in their eyes, Ma, and you’ll see me”

–“The Ghost of Tom Joad”, Bruce Springsteen

It happened.  And there’s certainly no going back now.  Our country has changed.  It had probably changed before the election results, but now, of course, there’s no denying it.

We are a divided people, no doubt.  But we have always been.  We’ve even been more divided than this (folks who tell you this is the worst it’s ever been are the same folks who tell you to do your research, even though they’ve never read an actual book).  We are divided, but we’ll be OK.

But what Donald Trump himself might do to this country is unthinkable.  It’s not his policies or ideologies that are so terrifying.  We could survive even the most radical of a conservative.  It’s him.  What he says, does, how he acts.  His disregard for the basic foundations of our nation.  From that, there might be no coming back.

It is fully possible the election of Donald Trump signals the end of the American experiment.  He could very well set into motion forces that topple our nation.  This game is too big to survive his bluster.

I have a family now, which I love and cherish more than anything in the cosmos.  If I was still a single man, I would be speaking right now very earnestly about leaving the country.  I know that seems cliché and silly by now, but I really would.  Or, failing that idea, I might find or start some sort of anti-Trump militia–find some radical way to try to hold onto what we’ve built here.

But I must take great pains to remain an integral, present part of my family unit.  Their future is the thing I must be most concerned with.  But make no mistake: if it becomes necessary, if we are being pushed towards annihilation, you will find me in the streets.  You will find me marching toward those that would rend us asunder.  You will find me arm in arm with my brothers and sisters, and we will be holding more than signs in our hands.  You will find me in the revolution, because that’s how I will protect my family.

 

Be a Bright Blue

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2016 by sethdellinger

godspeed

Sound the alarm bells.  The ship, it is sinking.  Our shoes are on fire and our water is a virus.  Good god, sound the alarm–run.  It’s the same old damned thing, the same tired emergency.  It’s the same old lie.

Run the white cloth up the flag pole.  Watch it hang there, limp.  Shut your windows and turn on the AC.  I’m exhausted from defending my lifestyle, and I’m exhausted from checking my phone.  Turn up the static.  Lean back into something.  Grill some putrid items.  Excoriate your neighbor.

A new batch of people have come along now.  They’re old enough now.  They see evidence of lies, control.  Someone has spotted a two party system.  THEY’RE ALL LIARS, they shout.  They sense something not genuine.  They sense they are not in control of this world.  They see they are inside a machine, and they cannot even see who controls the machine, or even the walls or the floor.  It’s a machine, they say, vote for Jill Stein!

As though someone polling at 5% of the national population isn’t part of the damned machine.  Hey listen.  If you’re in a machine, you’re in it.  You think the machine lets you out?

The machine was here long before you and promises to outlive you.

Sound the alarm bells, by golly!  The construct is about to swallow another generation whole.  Like zygotes.  Like plankton.  Like dust.

Of course you can fight things inside the machine and change things.  But until you understand the actual nature of your plight, you’ll attack the wrong parts, the wrong cogs and pulleys.

You have taken the blindfold off without realizing there was a second blindfold overtop the first one.

Recognize the machine.  Feel its rhythm.  Do not doubt its omnipresence.  You speak hushed of the politicians who control you while you sit in a strip mall restaurant.  How did the strip mall get there?  Why is it there, instead of elsewhere?  How many red lights did you wait at to drive there?  Have you registered the car you drove with the government?  The gas you put in the car–where did it come from, and who decided how much it cost?

Welcome to the fucking construct.  Jill Stein will take your order now.

Be a shiny countertop.  Be a chemtrail.  Be a smiling dog.

When I was a kid, I played little league baseball for two years.  I had waited too long to get started though.  Whereas most kids in my town started very young, I waited until I was ten or eleven.  Mostly I waited so long because I had never really wanted to play little league baseball.  I was scared of the ball, and I was scared of organized sports.  I wasn’t pressured to play.  I just wanted to participate in a thing that made the other kids look cool.  They looked like major league ball players to me.  So I did it even though I didn’t want to.

Be a lazy Sunday.  Be Madison, Wisconsin.  Be a suspicious cough.

Since I waited so long to start playing baseball, I was behind kids my age, when it came to skill level.  So the people who ran the little league put me on the teams with the younger boys.  My plan to do something I didn’t want to do to be cooler had backfired.  My friends and classmates were playing on teams I never saw, and I was playing with boy 2 or 3 years younger than me.  And they were still better than me.  I was a very bad baseball player.  My coach–whose son was on the team–was frequently disappointed in me.  He thought since I was older, I’d be his star, when in fact I was the worst player on the team.  It was mortifying.  The little league had a rule that every single player had to get an at-bat every single game.  One game I did not get an at-bat.  I wasn’t very sad, since batting was just another opportunity for me to be embarrassed.  But my parents were quite mad.  Because they are good parents.  After the game they told me to go wait by the concession stand while they spoke to the coach.  I waited.  About five minutes later they came into view, laughing.  They were laughing.  What happened?, I asked.  They informed me they confronted the coach about me not having an at-bat and he had freaked out, screaming at them, somehow finding a reason to rake them over the coals for having the audacity to question him.  They said he had become red in the face with anger.  The next game, he had me bat leadoff, despite being the worst hitter on the team.  My humiliation was complete.

Be a light early-morning mist.  Be a fully-trimmed Christmas tree.  Be a cardinal direction.  Be a traffic-free commute.  Be the paint that dries.  Be a clear radio station.  Be a marching band in the distance.  Be Jimmy Stewart.  Be a sun-dappled cave entrance.  Be a bright blue.  Be your grandmother’s afghan.  Be Connect Four.  Be the olive-skinned belly dancer.  Be a stunning cul-de-sac.  Be an early dismissal.  Be a crescendo.  Be the young girl that stops to help you, when she doesn’t have to, when you’ve dropped all your groceries and the sun is starting kiss the horizon, and she is beautiful, and the air reminds you of perfect childhood, and you don’t have to work the next day.  You, too, are part of the machine.

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Badass Harrisburg, Media vs. Trump, Eraser, Alexander Supertramp

Posted in Prose, Rant/ Rave, real life, Snippet with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2016 by sethdellinger

It has now been over a year and a half since we moved to Harrisburg. Like every time I’ve made a large move, it’s been interesting how at first there is a large amount of culture shock, and then just a few weeks or months later, it’s almost like you’ve always lived there. It’s hard to imagine there was a time that I lived in Philadelphia, or Erie,  or Carlisle.  It’s hard to imagine there was a time when I actually could not imagine moving back to Central Pennsylvania. Did I ever actually move away from here? But also, the first time I lived here, I couldn’t have imagined living in Harrisburg, but now it seems the natural center of this area. Harrisburg gets a bad rap from many people, for those are people who are afraid of it, or have never spent much time in it. Granted, it is a city with its troubles, both financial and otherwise. There are plenty of areas that are downtrodden, poor, and wanting of many of the services that the surrounding areas take for granted. But there is a lot to love here, and plenty of neighborhoods that you can feel safe in, and with nice modern housing. There’s more than enough to do, more than enough beautiful views, and a vibrant arts scene. In fact, there are more things that we have not been able to do than those we have been able to do. And it seems clear to me that the city is still on the move. I know there have been lots of stories over the decades about the revitalization of Harrisburg, but this time it does seem legitimate. The independent music scene, hipster coffee shops, art galleries opening all over the place. Even a vegan coffee shop close to the state capitol building! There’s a lot to love here, and although there are certainly times when I’m riding my bike down a side street here that I miss being right in the middle of traffic on Broad Street in Philadelphia, there’s also something to be said for walking out of my job every night, looking to my right, and seeing the beautiful Capitol Dome less than a mile away, or walking my dog six blocks and being along the Susquehanna River Trail, almost always as the sun sets.

 

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The fact is, the system IS rigged against Trump, in the sense that the media (hold up; did I say the MEDIA?? You hate the media, don’t you? [I’m probably not talking to YOU here, but to about 30 people on my Facebook who bitch more about the media than the atrocities they report on}  But what is it you are talking about, when you say “the media”? It’s an institution with hundreds of thousands of outlets, platforms, and systems, and it’s actually one of the best things about our country–one of the things that really DOES keep us free. But see, you gotta do some work, too. You have to sift through some things, figure out what sources you trust, the nuances of how to best receive information from the media, and where and when you receive it. You have to READ things. Hey, quick–who’s your favorite columnist? Don’t have one? How do you HATE the media when you’ve never really consumed it to begin with? Stop being lazy. The American freedom of press truly does set us apart–and I’m not one for “American Exceptionalism”. But yeah–most of the media operates by making a profit, so be careful, and above all READ things. And it does make a difference if it’s printed on paper; it’s harder to trick your eye into only reading the “interesting” stuff or items you already agree with. Just read the news. Hating and callously dismissing “the media” is just active laziness. And memes are not the media. FYI) are not obligated to report on an aspiring despot who would end the American experiment like it was no big deal. The “media”–contrary to what many seem to think–are not obligated to be neutral observers of facts only at all times. They are to report facts, yes–but also interpret them (again, this is where understanding media nuance will serve you well: there ARE places you can go for just fact, and places you can go for opinion, and places you can go for analysis. If you go to one place expecting it to be something it isn’t, you might think it’s corrupt, when in fact you’re just a novice). So yes, the media are biased against Trump because they are reporting on a man who would destroy our nation–and harm the world. And it is not their DUTY to remain neutral. The media IS biased–but not against Trump; they’re biased against evil.

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I wasn’t ready for Thom Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser, when it came out in 2006.  I was baffled by it, listened to it twice, and put it away–not knowing if it was bad or I was daft.  I put it in on a whim today and it turns out I am ready for it.

 

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Two nights ago, I got to meet Jon Krakauer, an author who is currently among America’s top 3 or 4 nonfiction authors.  I’ve admittedly only read two of Jon’s books–“Into the Wild” being his most famous book and a work that has touched my life very deeply.  In it, Krakauer tells the story of Christopher McCandless, who left a very comfprtable and promising life, wandered the country with little to no money and no contact with anyone for over a year, eventually hiking into the Alaskan wilderness where he would eventually die.  Chris’s story is complex and multi-layered–it can’t be reduced to one single element.  When I was at very low points in my life–still drinking and in deep depressions–Chris’s decision to disappear and walk into the wild until he died appealed to me.  Later, sober and happy, other elements of Chris’s philosophy and his journey resonated with me.  Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to a man he met on his sojourn across the country.  The man–who had been deeply affected by a month or so he spent with Chris–received the postcard after Chris died:

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” –Christopher McCandless

While it was McCandless whose story has so impacted me, Krakauer’s decision to tell it, and the respect he gave the story, resonated.  In the many years since “Into the Wild” was published, Chris’s story has become of major import to a growing legion of people who find something inspiring about him, and Krakauer does not shy away from his role as a steward of the story.  It was an intense honor to meet him.

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The sun goes up, the sun goes down. The wind begins to whistle through branches now bare with late months.  The sky grays, the wind grays, everywhere color mutes, curls into itself.  Even the insects look at you with worry.

 

 

 

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