On the need for silliness in a serious world. (NSFW).

As a parent, stay at home parent, working parent, or general denizen of the earth, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of taking everything way too seriously. I battle with this daily.

My home is located in a social desert (e.g. there’s nothing but urban sprawl, shopping malls, and people I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with) and I live in a part of the Continental United States where the sun is a crushing ball of hate 7 months out of the year. As a result of those factors I am alone 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, and I don’t go outside all that much. I’m not complaining, those are just the facts.

When it’s just you and your thoughts, it doesn’t take much for the trap to be sprung and all of a sudden you’re on that slippery slope that is above the chasm of seriousness. One misstep and you’re thinking about all of the shit that you’ve been trying to ignore that other people have perpetrated. This has been my daily battle for the past 2 years.

As such, I always try to amuse myself. 

Prior to my acceptance of being the parent who stays at home I was a member of the retail workforce. One of the jobs that I occupied was that of a field representative of a now defunct company who provided outsourced maintenance to Home Depots.

One day I had a business meeting. Upon the conclusion of said meeting, I was walking my then boss (and his lackey) out to their automobiles. It was a nice spring day and for some reason, the area had seen a spike in the bee population. Seriously, the little fuckers were everywhere.

As we were exiting the building, I was concluding my plan for success and out of the corner of my eye, I spied a bee buzzing it’s way towards my left arm. Without hesitating, I left out a deafening “HYAH!!!”, karate chopped the little fucker, and concluded my spiel.

When I had finished talking, my boss immediately inquired:

Advertisements

In Which, I Talk About My Adventures in Body Hair Grooming.

Shortly after our world had stepped over the threshold into the 2000’s, man-scaping became a ‘thing’. Men, once hairy of forearm, were spotted out in public working on their farmer’s tan. Father’s once ashamed to sit on their front porch on a hot day, without a shirt, could now do so and know what a stiff breeze felt like on their stubbly back. Eventually, the Internet to spoke up and created a new word for these men who folliculy manipulated their appearance (amongst other things). And lo! metro-sexuals were born.

For those who don’t know what that is, the term metrosexual is a now antiquated term used to identify a grown male who takes care of their appearance in the same way that women zealously use beauty products and age defying cleansers. This male, the metrosexual, sexually prefers women, contrary to the implication of their description.

Men began publicly identifying as ‘metro’ when Bravo put Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on the air. Essentially, this was a reality show that took 5 gay men (of some renown) and tasked them with some hapless chump who couldn’t dress himself and lived like a college kid in a dorm room.

Yes, I watched the show regularly for the first couple of seasons. Don’t judge: it was 43 minutes of catty gay men ripping on a man child. What’s not to like about that?

At the height of the metro sexual phenomenon, my older brother and I were regular drinking companions.

On one particular excursion, I had met him at his apartment in Brooklyn, Ohio. For some impossibly stupid reason, my brother needed to change his shirt. He did it really fast, like the fat kid in gym class. But it wasn’t fast enough for me to notice that something was ‘off’.

His torso, from his pierogi shaped chesticles down to his (at the time) 3rd trimester food baby belly was completely nude. No hair. Smooth & shiny.

I didn’t question him at the time (probably because it was his turn to buy) but I did have an immediate thought. Either he’s on estrogen pills or something fucked up is going on here!

  • My father was a hairy man. He wasn’t Robin Williams hairy but he had enough for people to make sweater jokes should he doff his top. As such, my oldest brother (not the drinking buddy) was also hairy. Point of fact: I remember seeing a picture of Oldest Brother from the 1980’s in which he was wearing a sleeveless shirt. The hair on his shoulder/upper arm area was the same length as his moustache. Further, I was (and am) hairy. It only stands to reason that all males from the same parents would be just as hairy as the father, no? My confusion was palpable.

I questioned my brother about the incident recently and this is what he had to say.

img_4754

Sidebar!

Yes, I probably did call him a faggot. No, I don’t recall given that this was over 10 years ago. In the event that there might be someone somewhere reading this with bunched panties, I’d like to point out a few things that you may or may not be aware of.

The relationship between brothers, good brothers who keep in touch and have your back when you need it, should be the epitome of tough love. Case in point, if one brother is doing something vaguely effeminate, it is the duty of the other brother to call him out on such behavior. Doubly so, if the reasoning for the effeminate behavior was unsound. Hence, my word choice.

Do I use this word regularly? Nope. Have I in the past? Yep. But not in a harmful way.

My understanding and use of the word fag, as well as gay, or retarded has been in terms to describe something as dumb, boring, or useless. Do I still use those words in the same way? Not really. I have kids who understand the comic value in swearing and name calling. As a result, I have to watch my mouth.

End of Sidebar!

After my brother’s admission and his reasoning (that being, it made him feel less ape-like) I decided to give it a try. Sadly, I thought at the very least a lack of body hair might help my chances with the ladies as I had just come out of a horrible relationship at the time and I was remarkably lonely.

That’s right: the advent of man-scaping officially brought men into the circle of hell that the advertising & cosmetic industries had been holding women hostage in for years. “Do this thing with that product and the mate you want will love you forever”. Such a sad, and fucked up world we live in sometimes, no? I digress…

The first time I did it was on a wintry Sunday night in the laundry room of my mother’s basement. No, not exactly prudent timing on my part as far as the seasonality goes. And yes, I was still living at home at the time. Why? You might be asking… Because it was a lot cheaper than living in some shithole apartment.

There were a few remarkable things I noticed upon completion.

  1. Since I had never done it before, I decided that everything must go from the head down. So I took a pair of clippers and went to town. The drop in temperature from start to finish was bananas! (In the future, I made the strategic choice to doff my fur coat during the height of summer. It makes existing when the temperature is 90+ degrees much more bearable).
  2. Muscles. I had muscles. I had never noticed them given all of the personal foliage.
  3. Genital shaving is a fine art. Additionally, there is no greater pain than shaving your junk and knicking it because you were having a hard time clear-cutting the forest, as it were. And yes, the first time I knicked myself was the first time I was teary-eyed and trying not to land on the laundry room floor.

The next day, everything was amazing. My skin was new. Wearing clothes, watching the muscles in my forearm work, even taking a shower was a new experience. I was convinced that no woman would find me attractive as hairy as I was and I became fanatical about man-scaping for the next 10 years.

My fanaticism reached the point where I would actually take shaving cream and razor to a given area after it had been buzzed with the clippers. I was in pretty deep and it was inescapable. About a year later, advertising company’s were capitalizing on this new trend. Special clippers and lotions were made just for man-scaping.

The bitch of all that nonsense was that I had found someone who loved me for me within a year. Unfortunately, it didn’t dawn on me until almost 7 years into our relationship that I could be doing all sorts of other things with the time I spent shaving myself.

Nowadays, the only shaving I do is my face and my swimsuit area. On occasion, other areas will be groomed but only by my wife’s hand. She enjoys it and it keeps her calm.

I’m sure there are weirder forms of meditation out there.

In Which I Voice a Very Unpopular Opinion

Tamir Rice’s family, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ people, the ‘All Lives Matter’ people, the PR People for the Cleveland Police, Cleveland Media Outlets… well, everyone still talking about the entire situation, really need to shut their stupid mouths. 

While it may seem like a harsh sentiment to put into print, stay with me: I do have a point.

Fact 1

I am a Cleveland native. Up until two years ago, I lived in that city my entire life.

My father was a Cleveland Police officer for 32 years. While he has been dead and gone for over a decade, and he had been fortunate enough to spend majority of his career in relative quiet, what he did not anticipate about his choice of employment is the impression that he left on his family with respect to the ‘policeman’s life’.

I’m not saying that I’m an expert on police behavior. What I am saying is that I have a better understanding of what being a police officer does to a person. This is a perspective that most, if not all, media outlets fail to acknowledge, let alone recognize.

With respect to what policing over any length of time will do to a man or woman, what everyone disregards is the simple idea that being a member of law enforcement will change a person in ways that they didn’t think were possible.

Any member of law enforcement has a front row seat to people at their worst. If they are not prepared for this change, it will change them for the worse. If they aren’t prepared for that kind of change, they won’t be the picture of the person that they were. Instead, they’ll be the image of that person left on the negative.

My father wasn’t any exception to this. His career started in the 1960’s and ended in the early to mid 1990’s. He started like everyone else (as a patrolman), spent time as a homicide cop, and ended his career in SIU (booking and fingerprinting).

According to my mother being a police officer made him jaded.

Understandably so. During his career he experienced the Hough Riots, the fallout from Danny Greene and all of the associated Mafioso, the homicide rate alone… Cleveland was not the place it is today.

Fact two

I know the neighborhood where Tamir was killed rather well. 

While that area, as well as other parts of Cleveland have been riding the urban renewal train (and have been making progress, albeit incrementally) that area is fucked up.

Cleveland, like most modern metropoli, is built out of neighborhoods that belong to certain ethnicities. (When I use the word ‘belong’ I’m not implying any sort of racial connotation. Although that’s exactly what it is: Hough, Fairfax, and East Cleveland, are largely African American, West and Southern Cleveland are largely European…).

When I was growing up, the further away from Downtown you lived, the better off you and your family were (economically speaking). In some respects, it’s still like that today.

Fact Two-A

Around the turn of the 20th century, if you had a job in Cleveland, it  was undoubtedly somewhere Downtown. Because of that, the first neighborhoods that popped up were established around the center of the city. These neighborhoods still stand today. However, if you were to drive through some the less gentrified ones, you would:

  1. Lock your car door regardless of what skin tone you possess.
  2. Immediately notice how close the homes are to each other. Close, as in, they are single family homes that practically share walls with the neighboring homes.

These neighborhoods were erected when everyone knew everyone else. All of the kids went to the same school. Everyone’s father worked downtown and everyone’s mother knew everyone else’s mother.

As time went on, suburbs like West Park, Fairview, and North Olmsted were established presumably in an effort to give people a quieter sense of community. What  unintentionally happened was that the growth of these suburbs eliminated the need to seek employment in Downtown Cleveland. As a result of this, people moved out of the old neighborhood in an effort to look for a better place to live while giving their children more opportunities for advancement.

As a further result of this, the first neighborhoods that popped up around the city went into a state of decline. Homes once populated by ‘old world’ families became vacant because the kids moved away and the parents were too old to keep up with repairs. Those houses were torn down or stood vacant. Other homes became low rent housing that attracted ne’er-do-wells of all colors.

One neighborhood that fits this bill and is still waiting for gentrification to strike is the neighborhood where Tamir was killed.

Fact Three

There’s absolutely no denying that Officer Lehmann fucked up bad. A few days after the story broke, the footage of the incident was released and there was denying it: this kid was murdered and the CPD tried to justify it.

Police corruption happens. This isn’t anything completely new or out of the ordinary.

What made this the positively catastrophic situation that it is, is the fact that it was one in a series of events where a white police officer had assaulted, and even murdered, an African American.

Because of this fact, popular media outlets latched on to the story and the surface details like a plecostomus catfish, shouting to anyone within earshot about police brutality and the rise of racism in America. 

As if racism had ever went away in the first place. 

Fact Three-A

If you were to do a quick Wikipedia search of the Civil Rights Movement, you can see that the movement started in the 1950’s and essentially ended around 1984.

At that time, equality had been reached but not fully achieved and the world at large had generally taken the necessary steps to move on with their lives. This generally came in the form of accepting that people who have a different skin tone aren’t that much different from yourself.

What’s not touched upon when the topic of Civil Rights comes up is that the only thing that changed throughout the course of the Movement was that it become socially unacceptable to say ‘racist’ things in public.

Fact Four

Admittedly, I hadn’t been paying close attention to all of the demonstrations and protests that had been happening in Cleveland shortly after Tamir was killed. I know it’s petty but the majority of the protestors and demonstrators pictured appeared to be childless children, or young people in their 20’s.

When I saw all of those young faces, the thought I had then, which is the thought I still have now, is how can you protest something that you obviously haven’t lived long enough to experience? Yes, it is great that people took to the streets to point their collective finger at corruption, but if you haven’t experienced any form of racism first hand, be it by the hand of a cop, or the hand of someone that you could call peer, do you fit as a part of the mob? Or should you go back to your mother’s basement.

Maybe I’m just being old. I know that you’re supposed to be an asshole at that age. You’re supposed to think that your opinion matters and that you’ll eventually change the world. It is my sincere hope that every one of those kids who took to the streets of Cleveland will get to that point in their lives when they realize that the most powerful act of change that they can invoke in any situation is to just be nice.

Fact Five

Like most people, what renewed my interest in this matter was the fact that neither officer was prosecuted. The released security footage of the entire incident, the fact that the officer’s involved covered it up, and the additional fact that the offending officer had falsified his application to the police department… I’m still scratching my head over the matter.

Then a thought struck me: If the cops beat the charges, there has to be something that I wasn’t aware of.

There would appear to be a lot that I wasn’t actually aware of.

Samaria, Tamir’s mother had been convicted of drug trafficking. Tamir’s father, Leonard, has been convicted numerous times of domestic abuse. Additionally, Samaria has been the victim of domestic violence not only by Tamir’s father but also by other boyfriends after the fact.

For the record, the above items came out shortly after the shooting. As best as I can understand, these facts were dismissed from public view because they were written off as character assassination.

Regardless, it begs the question: If Tamir had witnessed any of this, of his mother dealing drugs, of his father beating his mother (or his mother’s boyfriends beating her) would he have known better than to point a toy gun that looked like a real gun at random people? Probably not.

In Sum

As a parent, there are a lot of unanswered questions that still bother me about this tale of woe. 

What was the mother doing? Why didn’t the sister tell Tamir to knock that shit off? Was he playing by himself? Or with a group of friends? Was he harassing people at the park or just pointing the gun at them? If the park was across the street from the house couldn’t the mother her see what was going on?

In all likelihood, I won’t have any of these questions answered. The world will keep turning, and the majority of the people that I share air with, will only be concerned about the surface details. Tamir is gone. No amount of yelling and screaming is going to change this or any of the facts that demonstrate that the CPD dropped the ball.

If anything were to change this, it would be the quiet acknowledgment that everyone has failed. Samaria & Leonard, the sister that was supposed to be watching him, the broken system of law enforcement that is supposed to make everyone feel safe, the demonstrators & the bystanders. In accepting this, maybe we can all take the steps that we need to take in order to just be nicer to each other.

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett.

Admittedly, and I’m not ashamed of throwing this out there, the only reason I picked up Reaper Man was due to the fact that it was blurbed on the front cover by The Cleveland Plain Dealer (I am from Cleveland). At any rate, I had reached a literary impasse between two books and I needed something that would initiate a tie breaker and that was it.

In Reaper Man, the Grim Reaper finally gets a little time in the spotlight.

In this story, Death is essentially retired by the Auditors of Reality because he was beginning to develop a personality. However, since Death’s “untimely” dismissal from his superiors, Death realizes that he finally gets a chance to enjoy the thing that he has taken people away from for long: that’s right Death enjoy’s life.

There’s a problem though, the Auditors completely lack imagination and as such, they are unable to replace Death with a “new death”. Only the given species can do that. So while humankind drags it’s heels creating a new death, the collected spirits of the recently deceased build up because they don’t have anyone to usher them to the great beyond.

Nonetheless, this like any other book by Pratchett, is well worth the read.

 pic courtesy of: http://s836.photobucket.com/user/NoCoolUserName/media/LookoutMountainBookstore/ReaperManUSPbk.jpg.html