Two days away from our flight and so far the country hasn’t melted down! It’s interesting, though: looking around, I’m not like “oh yeah that was silly, I was overthinking it, everything is fine”. Everything is not fine, but I think we’ll get to Hawaii okay. And there’s always the possibility that things are more in hand than they seem.
The Girl Scouts were socially sanctioned for posting congrats to Amy Coney Barret for being the fifth female supreme court justice in its, whatever, 250-plus history. They apologized and took down their post. No one has any balls; least of all the Girl Scouts.
I went to a couple Brownies meetings, back in the day. How old was I? Let’s see, when did we move there? I guess I had to be in first grade, probably. They just served rice crispy treats and KoolAid, or white cake and KoolAid. At first that was compelling, because we didn’t eat shit food at home, but then my body just hated it. They’d bring more out and I was like, god, no. I told my mom I wasn’t into it. I don’t remember what they talked to us about, but it wasn’t interesting to me.
I was subjected to NPR yesterday — definitely the longest I’ve ever listened to it. I don’t understand why, on a publicly funded American radio station, everyone has a British accent? Anyway, I was getting my permanent cosmetic eyeliner and brows freshened up with Pam Netzler (Faces Artistry, highly recommend) in Tucson, and she just had it on in the background. I love hanging out with Pam, despite the discomfort of the procedure and listening to NPR. So most of my attention was tracking either our conversation, or my physical sensations, or the two bugaboos that were laying on the table with me — Milo on my stomach and Buffy along my right leg. Buffy has been coming with me to my annual cosmetic makeup retouches for six years, now, but this was a first for Milo and he did great. He’s really learning when it’s time to chill and when it’s time to get fussy.
NPR was covering this story of a black woman who decided to buy a firearm. I’m assuming it was a handgun and not a rifle — everyone in the soft-focus narrative kept referring to it as a “gun” so it was probably a derringer with a nine pound trigger pull. Women who dabble in guns and motorcycles but don’t commit to really learning about them seem to get sold on these “smaller-for-her” offerings that are actually much more dangerous than a larger one would be, ironically. You don’t want to get passed by a semi on a windy day on a bike that’s too light, and — has anyone ever hit what they were shooting at, with a derringer? In like the history of the world? I doubt it.
Anyway, she decides to buy a gun. Her rationale was the danger for her, as a black woman, given that both the police and the white supremacists are, en masse, killing black people, en masse. This was established as a given through both the woman’s account and the narrator’s little rhetorical softballs, here and there. Not even a pernicious fear, or a supposition, just a fact. I had forgotten, you know, how NPR doesn’t so much deliver the news as they create a dreamy, pathos-saturated mood-scape. It’s like the aural version of getting a massage, and you have this vague awareness — now my feet…now my scalp…now my spine…but it’s like, a gun, sans nomenclature, in its most symbolic and iconic form, is projected from the sleepy narrative onto the horizon of your consciousness, where it floatingly rotates, like a hologram, for your emotional examination, as the experience continues. The woman shows the gun to her…dinner party companions?…and no one has anything concrete to say, it’s all still ethereal — like, I’m not even sure these people understand that different guns require different bullets, at this point — and then we move on to the part where she actually fires it. How did she find a range? Undisclosed. Sounds like she’s in an urban area and so that would have been a feat, but per NPR the mood-scape naturally transports us from the factual lament of everyone killing black people wholesale in America, to the ritual imagery of the gun, to the ethereal dinner party, and now suddenly firing it. All details about that have been obscured in order to really amp up the next part: she begins sobbing uncontrollably. That’s right. She fires the gun for the first time and begins sobbing uncontrollably. In the world of NPR, it’s implied that she has now become that which she sought to destroy. She has no choice. Either she will be casually slaughtered, because that’s what happens to black people in America, or she must, herself, become the weapon. She cries for her lost innocence. She cries for her soul. She cries —
I just couldn’t, any longer, in my cosmetic tattoo appointment. I burst out laughing, while having my fucking eyelid tattooed, and said, “Who LISTENS to this shit!”
Pam drew back a little, with her tiny needle pen and gloves and masked face. “What? What happened?”
I wanted to shake my head in amazement but she was still gripping the side of my face pretty firmly. I laughed, though, wholeheartedly. “Oh…just the radio. It’s just funny. They’re talking about guns. Sort of.”
I told Nick about it, on the drive home. He said, “I’ve seen a lot of people shoot a gun for the first time but I’ve never seen anyone cry from it! They always seem really excited.”
I just marvel at the particular flavor of pathos that permeates this media, this entire perspective. It’s not so much a series of thoughts or decisions you have to entertain, but a certain emotional orientation. A Facebook friend (since released back into the wild, because I can’t handle it anymore) recommended some time ago Nick and I attend a BLM “protest”, listen to the people, really feel their passion and their pain. That was the actual phrasing. And, from that emotional orientation, nothing seems amiss about that phrasing. Feel their passion and their pain. It’s a sort of orgasmic melancholy, I suppose, that ebbs and flows like the tide — spilling over its banks sometimes in the mute but unmistakable poetry of the oppressed (looting Footlocker, setting fires). This entire year has been mistaken for a crime of passion, it seems, by people who worship a different kind of passion than I do. It’s the most emo shit I’ve ever seen. Someone should set a montage of footage to, maybe, Lincoln Park?
Anyway, it’s interesting to get these glimpses behind the curtain of the little, bespectacled Wizard of Oz, frantically operating his gears and levers to create an uninterrupted suspension of disbelief. A populace stoned on feelings, a national opium den.
My dad always told us, the ego is a big strong ox, and we need it to pull our cart, but the ox is too stupid to be deciding where the cart should go. I feel the same way about the intellect, which functions more like the lead dog in harness, amid a team of really badass sled dogs. The intellect is not to be suppressed or abused or neglected. It’s our strongest ally and our most significant advantage. It has the ability to organize and meaningfully lead all our other faculties, all the other dogs — our emotions, our instincts, our thoughts and words and decisions.
But it can’t be the intellect’s job to decide where to go. That’s our source connection, our spiritual sight. We’re in good shape if we can both control our sled dogs and yet also allow them to relish the adventure of pulling us along, at least a majority of the time. That’s how I conceptualize an ideal relationship to myself and to reality, I suppose. And the intellect is our lead dog, and we need a lead dog, so let it lead. Let it be in charge of a lot. Not everything, but a lot. It’s a win/win.
So when I’m confronted with this maundering, incredibly non-specific, fappy, pathos-drenched emotional orientation, that’s being literally *manufactured* and, for all I know, pumped into our water supply or some shit, I feel like I’m doing pretty well in the Iditarod, cruising along, and I’m passing these sideways sleds with confused dogs just jingling around in harness, howling at the moon and pulling against each other. “Feel their passion and their pain!” Oh, I feel it. I see it. That’s not the issue. It’s just that the whole point is to get them harnessed up and moving forward in an organized direction.
I like emotions. I like intellect. I like hierarchy, especially the hierarchy of our own inner aspects emerging and functioning in tandem, pulling us powerfully forward. Most of all, I like our clear-sighted, bold, autonomous and sacredly sovereign spiritual sight. It’s a gift we’re all given, but you know — use it or lose it.
I feel that, if I listened to NPR frequently enough, I would soak up some of that ambient, gently persuasive melodrama. It’s like a sick bed where you can’t really move, and someone lifts your head and tilts a cup of broth to your lips, and you just sip as best you can and then helplessly fall back among the pillows. I would probably react like a vampire to sunlight if I then encountered something like, I don’t know, Ben Shapiro or Michael Knowles. I’d be like, aaghhhh! It burns! It burns!! It’s so factual! Close the blinds!! Let me rest, floating, spinning, stoned on my passion and my pain.
Anyway, good luck to that woman with her gun. I mean, the nice thing about guns is you tend to feel a greater sense of agency in the world. You run through mental scenarios, speculating on what you would do if x y z happened, envisioning yourself less as a victim and more as (surprise!) the final boss. I think that type of imagination exercise can be, in itself, an antidote to the vague atmosphere of dread with which people allow themselves to be otherwise colonized. If you get a gun, though, and start crying as soon as you put a couple bullets downrange, I don’t know — might not be for you. Maybe go with a little can of mace or something.
On the one hand, good for NPR for highlighting a story of a woman living in fear of a bunch of stuff the entire NPR machine takes for granted as being reality, despite all evidence and data to the contrary, and taking the proactive step of buying a gun. That’s alright I guess. On the other hand, the emotional message of the entire segment was, BEHOLD! — the ultimate trauma!
This seems as good a time as any to tell you all about the first time I ever shot a .50cal, which is basically a tank-killer, for the uninitiated. It was on a virtual range with an interactive IMAX-type screen. So it was a real .50cal, it had a real kick, but was wired up to essentially laser-connect with targets on the screen. The screen displayed live action people — not animations, I mean — so I don’t know how they did all that but I guess with the military’s budget, most things are possible, both officially and unofficially.
So my Northern Arizona Guard unit went down to the range in Phoenix to re-qualify on our M16’s, which was an annual thing, and then they ran us through the .50cal simulator too. The simulator had some acronym, of course, but I don’t remember it. So the range sergeant is a total asshole, we all notice right from the start. He’s yelling at us, acting like we’re stupid when we don’t immediately understand his very unclear directions. If you’ve never been in the military, maybe you think that’s how it’s supposed to be, but after boot camp it’s a lot more like a normal job and does not, actually, entail being yelled at routinely whatsoever. So we’re all just like, “good lord”. We’re a motor transport unit, perceived in the scheme of things as being the dumbest of the dumb, and hey — maybe we weren’t the sharpest tools in the military shed but the guy was totally unprofessional. Bursting out of his BDU’s, I might add, so it’s not like he was Mr. Strack himself. I was like, how has he not been flagged for weight by his unit? His ass needs to be on a treadmill, not a .50cal range simulator.
So amidst all the yelling and sneering, we get situated along this sort of large shelf, where we sit, and then he screams at us for a volunteer to go first. Standard protocol for military service is, never volunteer, but I’ve found it can be in my favor sometimes. If I volunteer to go first, I can fuck it up as much as is likely, but it doesn’t really count against me because, hey, I was first.
So I raise my hand and say, “I’ll go,” and I forget if I was directed to sit behind the .50cal or lay in the prone or what. Anyway, the range sergeant screams at me (that guy really missed his opera calling) that a tactical scenario will play out on the screen and I should just light ‘em up before they get me, because as soon as the simulation begins, I’m fair game as well. And keep in mind, I have no idea what to expect, here. I didn’t know if it would be live action, or animation, or drifting shapes like that old game Pong, or images of paper targets, or what. No idea.
So the screen lights up and it’s like, people in turbans, people in Subarus, people walking around, kind of a crowded street, and I just start shooting. I’m just shooting every fucking thing that moves. I don’t know if that’s what I’m supposed to do, but hey I’m going for it. (None of this is making me sob uncontrollably, if you were curious.) So the range sergeant is like WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?! And I look up from the sights to see what he’s on about, sort of hunching into my own collar in dismay and startled shame, and then someone in the simulator shoots me, and it’s all over.
YOU WERE KILLING FRIENDLIES! YOU WERE KILLING CIVILIANS! I was like, oh shit, my bad.
He gets real agitated and starts stalking around, waving his arms and yelling at all of us now, and my friend in the unit, Sergeant Anderson, who I’ve never seen take shit from anyone, says very mildly, “Look, I don’t think there’s any need to yell at us. Just explain what you want and we’re happy to do it. You didn’t give Sergeant Pralle a lot of information, here.”
The range sergeant wheels around, an apoplectic walrus, and tells Anderson, YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE HERE; I AM IN CHARGE HERE. IN COMBAT, YOU WILL EXPERIENCE STRESS YOU CANNOT BELIEVE.
And so Anderson says, “In combat, we’re not gonna have some asshole like you standing behind us and yelling at us.”
The guys fucking loses it. GET OUT! GET OUT! EVERYONE OUT! So we all just stand up and head out into the heat, high fiving Sergeant Anderson and rolling our eyes.
I did get a chance to shoot a live .50cal on a separate occasion, thanks to my involvement in competitive military marksmanship, and it was neat.
Alrighty, on with my day. Last day in Flagstaff. We’re down to nothing at the house, now, especially in terms of am coffee supplies, so in the course of this blog I took the rental car down to the coffee drive through and got some nice stuff for Nick and I. The cashier at the window was a vibrant, skinny ginger guy, and he said, “Good morning! Your total is x y z!” I greet him, hand him my card, and he goes, “Any fun plans for the weekend?”
I say, “Yeah, actually! We’re moving to Hawaii!”
He goes, “Oh!…Oh!” He was so surprised, he’s just holding my receipt and card for a second, forgetting to hand it back to me. We chit chatted about it a little. He just moved here from San Jose, for the snowboarding he says. We talk about the cold, and we talk about the beach, and he waves me off fondly with a wish for good luck and good times in Hawaii. I wish him good luck and good times with snowboarding, and finished the rest of my blog here in the car, in the driveway, since there’s no chair to sit on, anyway, inside.
Final, final, FINAL dog emigration stuff is handled — oh shit, no, there’s one more thing — my god it never ends. We did upload our paperwork to United Airlines, for our emotional support bugaboo privileges, which must be accomplished 48 hours in advance of flight — and we almost blew that, remembered at the last moment — but now they emailed us back and said we have to email them back with our Hawaii Dept. of Ag dog emigration permit numbers. So just that one more thing, and then we’re done. I think. Yes, should be done then. I know I’ve said it before, but the monumental tasks of moving our own two households, vehicles, putting the house on the market, and training/testing Nick for his Class A CDL have paled in comparison to the never-ending expense and uphill battle of our bugaboo emigration documents. Amazing to have that, except for one thing, done. I will have a photo of us and the dogs taken, at the beach, once we’re there, just to prove that it can be done, because it seemed almost impossible at some points. I wish our little dogs could know what we’ve accomplished on their behalf. If translated into Buffy terms, it would be like: bury a dozen treats in random places along three hundred miles of interstate rest stops and then go back and find them all again, and dig them up, and then bury them in new places, and then drag sticks onto the ground in a pattern to represent a map of where all the treats are. And also pay three thousand dollars.
Okay, time to get this day cracking. As Riss Flex likes to say: Byeeeee!