Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nazis and the Old South

This is a political post 

We're here now? Seriously? What the actual fuck?

If you don't know, and you should by now, in Charlottesville VA people who consider themselves the oppressed, white males, gathered together and marched while shouting....er, Nazi slogans and giving the salute that literally gets you jail time in Germany. In a supposed protest against the removal of a statue of a person who was an actual traitor to this country. We're living in one of those crackpot alternate word books right now, we have to be, and I think if we all get together and chant the right words we can get back to a place where common sense is in charge. I say that because what I just wrote is completely true but makes no actual sense.

And then, as if to add butter on the already burnt popcorn, the President's statement was the mealy mouthed political equivalent of the teacher handing out a reprimand for fighting to the both you and the bully who jumped you, because reasons. (This is also the political equivalent of the bully being the teacher's child, or at least nephew.) Someone tell the orange one there is not hate "on many sides," just the side that showed up a "peaceful" rally carrying torches, shouting slogans that give old men night sweats and toting weapons.
The new No Hoods option

I don't even want to get into why there were no police in riot gear on hand. Or why the cops just seemed to stand around and watch. When six black people get together to protest you get SWAT teams. In Ferguson MO, when black people tried to peacefully protest the failure to charge an officer with murder or even investigate the circumstances, the National Guard was called out and they were met with tanks. Because protesting unlawfulness by the people who are supposed to keep the law should be like a thing. But when white people stand in the streets protesting the removal of a statue of a traitor to the country, shouting the slogans of a group that wanted to destroy America, well, it's just something that happens, right? The cops just mull about, if they show up at all. In my opinion, it's this casualness that lead to the circumstances of Heather Heyer's death. But I'm gonna stop there, and I'll leave that to others to fight.

Are we seriously here? I used to think that Obama's presidency and the dawn of the true ascendancy of the black man (and woman) had just uncovered the long simmering and festering hatred from 1950s we'd been unable to eradicate through education, integration, civil rights laws and television. Well, if you're from the South, since last Tuesday, but you get the idea. But now I see it's much worse, because in the 1950s they may have been racist, but at least they hated Nazis. Now they want to be Nazis? Jesus, this is suddenly the 1930s but with internet.

I'm not sure where this going, but as a kid I wonder how those people who fought for my rights did it, how they found the courage and the strength. So, I guess I get to find out.

 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The New Office Odd Couple

Ramblings Post #338
Work. I want to say something profound and memorable, but all I can muster is "There must be more than this. Isn't there?" I realize you can't chase your dreams forever, but I'm of the opinion you can still walk slowly in their direction while you keep your eye on the important things. Depending on how you define important things.  

One of the things about being a freelance ranch hand is that you keep running into characters. I'm talking about fellow Ranch Hands who apparently ride the range because they're just a little too bronco to bust, they ride rough in a world with smooth edges, or they just don't fit in anywhere else. These are people who either make you happy or dread heading out onto the spread. It is from those people you get the best stories, who with you have the most interesting experiences, and who create those moments that make you consider the priesthood.

For the purposes of these recitations I shall call this pair Shotgun Minnie and Pecos Slim.

When I moved to the big new ranch, I didn't move alone. A few of us rode up north, and among them were these two. Both of them are like me, long time Ranch hands with lots of miles under the belt, and how they ended up out here freelancing like me I refuse to ask. I've seen Pecos Slim turn down a spot in a law practice and Shotgun Minne says she used to do work all over the state. I'm freelancing because this is just where I am right now. They apparently have other views. But the two of them couldn't be more opposite.

Pecos is a middle aged guy like me, maybe a little younger, who worked at big Ranch until he just decided he didn't want to do that anymore - something that happens but nobody talks about. He holds himself out as a GQ type, and a bit of a rake, and to my honest surprise seems to do okay with the ladies. Maybe he's more charming to people with nice thighs? He eats healthy and works out a lot, sometimes twice a day, so maybe that's it? But he's also very thin skinned, wanting things his way always, as evidenced by the time I pointed out to him he was thin skinned and he nearly went ballistic. That and his declaration that his latest gym sucks, not because the equipment is bad or being too crowded, but that he can't get a wifi signal and I should have know that's the most important part of working out.

Shotgun Minnie by contrast is a older white female and may actually be the text book definition of the term "piece of work." She openly admits she thinks the word 'budget' is how you say get your buddies together in French and may have seen every single local band to play Atlanta in the last two years. Every single band. I'm not kidding. She also once asked to take a day off because she read online that a local singer she saw ten years previously had died and she needed to process it. At the old spread she would find an excuse to leave early every single day, such a doctor's appointment or something she has to pickup or something she has to do, which is odd because she also disappeared for hours at a time when she claimed she was there. If it rained she went home for the day. She told me that she preferred to go grocery shopping at 3am the day we got paid and she once sold me a commemorative coaster to get gas money.

Both of these people are firm believers that they are God's gift to the world.

At the previous spread their interaction was limited. Back down south, myself and the "trail boss" worked with Shotgun Minnie on a daily basis, trading off who would help her when she called for assistance. For everything. The running under/over for calls for assistance was six, but I think Minne beat it everyday (we're cowhands, not bookies). Pecos Slim and I shared an office, but he would arrive and put on his headphones and pretend nobody else was there. Several times a day however, he would suddenly ask a question out of the blue, usually about a news article he'd just seen online or something existential. Then get peeved if we didn't understand.  

At the new Ranch however, well, then get on Abbot and Costello. Like Crosby and Hope. Like a mismatched Cheech and Chong. Pecos still puts on his headphones, but he seems to take joy in needling Shotgun Annie about her inability to stay at her desk so he has them off more often. We counted one day and were able to get to 14. Also, this new spot requires a full eight hours, something foreign to her, and Pecos Slim doesn't seem to want to let her forget that either. Then, he talks about popular urban culture to her as though she knows what he's talking about, and holding her own she talks to him about local bands and clubs she's trying to go to in the future like he's trying to tag along. The, um, long time local ranch hand who we've been paired with and who looks like she's always laser work focused told me that she thinks the two of them are a hoot.

***

I'm not sure how to take that.

Barkeep. Some of that old Snake Eyes and some ice water. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Go...um, go Tennis?

Ramblings Post #337
The something about sport. It transcends a lot. People who can't stand each other will come together for sport. People who don't know each other will come together for THE game, whatever it maybe. As long as the common element - the home team- is winning. Winning hide flaws and quells fears. Losing however is the devil's tool shed.  

First, at the new "Ranch" they put Wimbledon up on the big screen around mid-day on Monday, so the whole office could watch. I've worked a lot of places, and I can't really think of any place else that ever did something like this. Normally a big game or event might be shown in the break area and if you were willing to catch the evil eye from your manager for thinking about something than barge lifting or bale toting, you could enjoy for few minutes. But this setup let people at their desks could literally stop and just watch for a while. We discussed rankings, shot selection, serve speeds. I'm not sure if this type of stuff is supposed to happen in a professional environment.

At some point I started rooting for Mueller, because the crowd kept cheering for Nadal.

When I broke for lunch, #4 Rafael Nadal was down two sets and I thought it over. Way underdog #16 Gilles Mueller was on his game and I figured even if Nadal surged late, the Luxembourger could weather it and close it out in short order. Your guy went to lunch, had a lovely custom made garden salad with roast chicken flavored with a able honey mustard dressing, and took a few moments to enjoy the afternoon breeze on the veranda. When I came back Nadal may as well have been running up the steps in Philadelphia while the Eye of the Tiger jamming though the speakers. As comebacks go, this one was shaping up to be epic, man versus man in the harsh and unforgiving English Savannah of the courts. Deuce after deuce, unforced error after unforced error. And seemingly the only people backing Mueller were his family and a the one guy in Leeds who put down a hundred quid. Every shot, every point by Nadal the crowd... well, it is Wimbledon, they respectfully clapped quietly. It's an English thing I guess. Without looking at the screen I knew when Mueller was doing good - I was at work after all - because the crowd would have been quiet for too long.

And they kept playing. Apparently on the English greens of legend there is no tie breaker, they are to just keep playing until someone wins by two. So it went first it was both 6, and then 8. I stopped watching to get some things done and a while later was surprised to realize they were still playing and it was 12 all. Had this been in the US no doubt both men would have been commended for their strength of character in the face of adversity, and if Nadal was able to complete the comeback it would become the stuff of legend. Wheaties commercials, an ESPN 30 for 30, maybe even a blurb on Buzzfeed....stolen from Reddit. At 13-all I was ready for someone to just stand there while the other served and watch it go by. They'd been playing for almost 5 hours, the final set at this point longer than other players complete matches, and quite frankly had more than earned a dramatic "Fuck it" as far as I was concerned.

When Muller finally was able to close out the deuce, an astonishing 15-13, I was almost certain they would both have to sit there court side for ten minutes or so getting their legs back. Or maybe I'm just that out of shape. It was good tennis...something you don't hear everyday.

They turned it back again today but the matches - Djokovic, Venus Williams match and one with a classically named Coco Vandeweghe (she lost poor dear) went pretty much as expected. They paled in comparison to the herculean effort of the previous day. Now, if Konta can beat Venus....well, then...well, it's still tennis. I just started really watching like Monday. 

Barkeep. We'll have tea and cucumber sandwiches in the garden. And by tea I mean the kind in the bourbon bottle. And by cucumber sandwiches, make mine honey-bbq and all drums. And by garden I mean hear at the bar. It's an English thing. Pip pip and all that.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Incoming!

Ramblings Post #336
I used to go to the best cookouts. Two hundred or so people, food that would run out in a half hour, a line for single bathroom, people drinking all the chaser for like no reason and girls who just needed someone to keep them occupied until the cute guys arrived. Ah, the memories. There really is something to growing up. 

The word fireworks doesn't quite cover it. The correct term is "munitions."

If there are any vets in my area who are suffering PTSD they have my deepest sympathies.

My neighbors really lit it up for the fourth. For a solid hour and a half they launched what must have been a lovely cross section of the entirety of the US military's impressive arsenal, the festivities sounding at times like a thunderstorm, then a volleys of gunfire (Steven Segal gunfire, not real gunfire), and having your position shelled.  Honest to god explosions. There is a scene in the movie Full Metal Jacket where the soldiers are resting in the bunker but the noise outside sounds funny, then suddenly they've grabbed their gear and are running as fast as they can for the slit trenches, preparing to lay down suppression fire. It was like that. My windows rattled.

When I wandered outside to see who was winning, the street was thick with the haze and smoke that comes from exploding a lot of things at the same time for a long time. And I think a few of the people had their displays set too low, as a few blooms went off while still below the tree line. Music was playing, in the dark children were granting them 'ooohs and aahhhs, and I could hear the yelling that comes from patriotic fervor, or too much alcohol  or a need for everyone to be impressed at their purchases. I went back into my house. I could still hear small explosions in the distance even after midnight as I tried to keep Vietnam movies from invading my dreams.

And I live in a pretty much all black neighborhood.

I've seen a lot of chatter online suggesting that the descendants of slaves (so, just to be simple - black people) shouldn't celebrate the 4th, because while the declaration did set off Brexit 1776, the notions espoused in it really didn't apply to everyone in that country yearning to be free. But then by that weird logic, the only people who should be celebrating it would be landowning white males, which would mean the way we celebrate would be the same - exploding things - but there would just be less demonstrations of patriotism.

Apparently women shouldn't celebrate, as they didn't get the basic benefits of being American, getting to own their own property or vote for 150 years after this grand declaration. And blacks faced  slavery and then legalized discrimination for the first 180 years since we pulled out of the BU, and things aren't so great now, so we have no reason to be happy either. In reality, when I think about it the words to "This land is my land, this land is your land" from my childhood, it really was more an expression of a idealized America, provided most of us stayed in our lane, than a realistic view of the United States. So, what exactly are we marginalized folks celebrating?

Well, for starters, I'm celebrating the country that I was born in, am a citizen of and that I live in. No, I'm not a closet nationalist or whatever term they're using these days (collaborator?), and although this country still has its many faults, problems and shortcomings* if you're not a landowning white male, it is still a fairly decent place to be in a world still rife with problems common sense should have handled years ago. I'm not necessarily celebrating America as it is today, but that idealized version of America I thought we'd have when I was a kid.

That I even have to explain this strikes me as odd now. Even those who are theoretically on the same side are so divided in their thinking.

Barkeep. A beer. Cold. No, it's just beer, it really doesn't matter.

*Faults and shortcomings being almost too many mention, including racism, sexism, injustice, poverty and the need to put cheese on everything. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

New Ranch

Ramblings Post #335
Ah summer 2017, and I'm home again, trying to get my situation right, as they say taking the time to do those things I need to do to get to where I'm going. The issue I have is, unless you're satisfied with where you are you always need to be working on the next thing. Which means I'm going to working for a long time, because satisfaction is a hard thing to pin down. 

After a bit too long a hitch at the old ranch, I've quite unexpectedly been moved onto a much better looking ranch just up north. Well, north Atlanta. North inside the perimeter Atlanta, not North northern Atlanta. It's complicated. And the transition has got me all twisted. But then, who is used to change?

To be honest, my old ranch was a place to do what I needed to do. Basically a stable, a pasture and the work. (Okay, I'm using metaphors off and on here, work with me - this ain't really no ranch but I'm keeping is nice and vague. For like, legal reasons.) But, I'd gotten used to the setup, as one does when one has been a place a touch too long. Traffic patterns for arrival, when the coffee was fresh, what time the bathroom was clear, you know, the basics. Then whoosh, just like that we get, um, the call to head north.

Now, let's be honest here, this new 'ranch' has all the amenities - free snacks, gourmet coffee, ergonomic chairs, A WINDOW, and more than the same four lunch restaurants which had fallen into a weird shifting rotation which could have me eating pasta three days in row. This place has an actual CHEF at the restaurant in the lobby. I stopped eating at the place near the old ranch because I just couldn't deal with 'guess today's price' style of running the joint. I will miss the brownies from that one spot though up the street though. Mind you this new place there is a Chipotle right there! But, the new ranch is however, as I said, further north...and therein lies the rub.

Not quite this, but for the Keurig machine the do have Stabucks cups. 

Atlanta traffic you may have heard, is a bit an odd duck. I'm fairly certain that the Marquis de Sade Traffic Commission was the principal architect of most of the city's thoroughfares. One fender bender can change a 10 minute drive into an hour wasted. The bit of I-285 between I-75 and I-85, which will eventually be known as Spaghetti Junction East and West, is commonly regarded as one of the worst stretches of roadway in the country. And all of that vehicular fever dream is directed towards or halfway funnels into and out of the area where I work now. It's a hot area. Which takes some of the shine off all the aforementioned niceties.

Given my druthers I'd much rather go in a little later and work a little later to avoid the peaks of rush hour traffic. Doing just that was an option at the old ranch, as the hours were flexible, but it isn't the case at the new one. Now that I have to deal with Atlanta traffic at its naturally occurring intersections of chaos, I have to have my track shoes on a lot earlier than I previously did, which is annoying to the say the least. It shifts my prep time and thus my whole evening schedule, which changes essentially my life. But change happens, so this is isn't the end of the world. The ride home however is a different story.

I used to have one of those unbelievable commutes, but I got deeply downgraded, to like steerage.  I live inside the perimeter, so my previous commute was 20 mins both ways. Seriously. People who live in Atlanta might scoff at the insanity of that, but from parking garage to driveway in medium just off peak traffic it was less than a half hour. I might get through five or six songs on a album. That five to ten minutes difference depended on one intersection and just how backed up the cross street was. That was the whole of my issue. Now, my commute home after a hard day of ranching is, well, unknown. I think it's 45 mins to an hour? Maybe more? All I know is that I get home at the same time or later than I used to, although I leave as much as an hour or more earlier.  

And while I get home around the same time, I now have to go to bed much, much earlier to get enough sleep. Which means my evenings just got smushed. My writing is suffering, my studying for the "cooking" school is suffering - metaphor people - and I just realized if I want to cook I need to start as soon as I walk in the door. I'm about to become one of those people who rushes to everything on Saturday because during the rest of the week I have no time.

So suddenly, I'm like normal people? What the hell?

Barkeep, I'm gonna need a tall drink of ...wait, I got to get early in the damn morning. Just an ice tea. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

And they done done it again...

Ramblings Post #334
There is something about sport. After games where my team won I've hugged people I don't know, bought drinks for people I can't stand and once got kissed by this girl who was in the moment. I felt used, but in a good way. Sport brings us together. But then I've also stopped speaking to people because I found out their Patriot fans. Or Steeler fans. Or one of those anybody versus the Cowboys fans. Grrrrr. And this is from people who don't even play. Imagine how the players feel. 

I didn't really watch much basketball this year, as my Lakers are still at the low end of their pendulum swing and the rise of the player initiated "super team" is upon us. Which is great when it gets to the very end, but really means the season is watching two wrecking balls slowly gravitate towards one another over 82 games. The storyline is straight from the old hero series style action novels I used to read, where it's not IF the hero will when but HOW? Will they when by 10 points or 30 points? Can the star get a triple double? Will they spend an entire quarter just shooting threes? It gets for lack of better way of putting it ...unexciting. 

Glad Golden State Warriors won it all though.

Not because I am necessarily a Curry fan, if you know anything by now with my persistent affection for the Cowboys, I am anything but a bandwagon fan. It's because I am not a fan of LeBron James, and the legend thereof. There, I said it. Although he is a good player, blessed with a deft touch, great shooting skill and a fantastic knowledge of the game, I think that he's not as good as his fan boys want to make him out to be. He's like an Apple product, in that if you listen to his fan club he's the greatest thing ever, but if you take him in context he's just very, very good. Now, keep in mind that when people start screaming that MJ is the GOAT I like to remind them that MJ couldn't even get out of the East until Bird's back caught up with him and Isiah Thomas (the first one) lost a step. My money is still on Magic Johnson, a point guard who could even play center at the championship level - and did when Kareem got hurt. LeBron is good, maybe the best playing right now, but still.
The current league is built from this matchup. Yet neither is in the GOAT convo?
What bugs me most about Bron-Bron is his incessant need to work the officials, as though they won't notice if something bad happens to him. Trust me, the league is looking out for him every moment of every game including halftime bathroom breaks. The way LeBron is always looking for something, if you took a shot every time he looked at the ref as if pleading for him to call the defensive player for looking at ole #23 too hard, you'd be drunk by the end of the first quarter. And it is this incessant need, this victim role, this...greed for even more, that cheapens his actual really good abilities, at least to me. He can shoot the three, knows tendencies, bang shoulders down low, so why is he looking for cheap fouls like he's playing 2K? Nobody like a whiner. And right now, he's a whiner. I wonder how many players aren't playing him tough, thus inflating his stats, because they know not is he getting that primo "Superstar foul leeway" he's also "crying for a call every time a stiff breeze ruffles his jersey?"

And for those who ask, NO, he doesn't stack up the old players. MJ, Barkely, Reggie Miller and others in their prime would dominate this current offensive minded league. No hand checks? All that space to shoot? The old school would have a field day every day. And going the other way, the current stars would be heavily hampered by the defensive allowances of old. I say this after just watching ESPN's documentary on the Lakers - Celtics where Kevin McHale literally clotheslines Kurt Rambis during a layup and wasn't even ejected. Today we're talking about throwing people out for flexing their are at the wrong moment and those guys were suplexing each other and giving up "and ones."
"Personal foul, two shots."
That and then, forgetting he left with Wade and Bosh to go play with Irving and Love, LeBron had the audacity to say he'd never played on a "super team." Even when he's the best there is, he pretends like he's some kind of victim, some kind of underdog. And so what if he is? it happens to all of us. Get over it. Go out, work harder. Geez.

I guess this really wasn't a article about Golden State, and how much Durant earned what he got. But I just had some things to say. And it is my blog.

Barkeep. I heard them Warriors ain't even thinking about going to DC. Get them a round on me. But beer only. Nothing imported!