Category Archives: Privacy

Never Veer

I love sharing on social media. I do. It’s personal, revelatory, and I try to be honest without stepping on people. I tend to step on myself the hardest.

I learned to play the game of Chicken with my crazy dad. Do you know what his secret was? NEVER veer, even if you’re going to get killed. He told people beforehand, “I’m not going to veer. I’m not kidding.” And he never did, even when it could have killed him. People learned not to play Chicken with Bobby Dean. Not in cars, not on tractors, not ever. Never veering is a stupid way to play chicken – unless your goal is to stop people from challenging you. There is no truth I will not confide if it is in my heart to do so.

I wrote very personal posts on the 23rd and yesterday. Both were honest and revelatory. The one from the 23rd was an admission that I’m as guilty as anyone about being a revisionist. I’ve not hurtfully crossed the line needlessly about anyone – including my ex-wife. That’s not to say I couldn’t. Two of the components of my post were to mention that I appreciated the good years, as well as to mention that I could have engaged in a flame war during the divorce, even though I bore the responsibility for the mess. It’s okay to need to gain perspective and distance. Even if it makes me the villain. It’s not okay to wipe away the good times, the good things, or the concessions I made to mitigate my self-made disaster.

With my level of humor and stark, combined with my willingness and ability to literally say anything, it would be manifestly easy for me to shatter a lot of illusions and break eggs. Even while still admitting I’ve behaved like a lunatic at times. I’ve been considerate after-the-fact. I can’t erase the past. It’s unwise to argue with someone who buys ink by the gallon, or with someone who will respond to accusations by admitting even worse truths himself. No one can win a “let’s share secrets” war with me. I will go there – not out of spite, no matter how someone pushes me to inflame or respond to fire with fire. It’s a fool’s game, especially after the final whistle has blown. The players should exit the field, hopefully with the goal of learning from what happened. Even if they fouled forty times during the game. An examined life always yields lessons.

People trust me not to reveal secrets they share. Believe me, one of the most satisfying aspects of social media is that many people have shared some of the most intimate things possible using it.

As you’d guess, I caught hell privately for the things I shared. Even the post about my wife who died brought out a level of accusation that surprised me. None of those accusations touch the truth, though. Everyone was kind, loving, and supportive to me for both posts. Well, almost everyone. And I love that. Worrying about the critics is another fool’s errand. Because I’m a fool, I’ve been guilty of that at times.

“You’re the villain in someone’s story” has always been true.

Equally true is that telling me I can’t tell my story isn’t going to end well. I’ll be respectful – but not silent. Trust me to be both honest and responsible.

If you play Chicken with me, I will not veer, now or ever.

Love, X

The Curtain

Because it’s my life to tell, I could tell some stories that would make you wonder if I’d lost my mind. Though I’ve shared so much of what most wouldn’t, especially on my blog, I’ve tempered my urge to be open against the strains of privacy with which so many people shield themselves.

Most of them have the same common thread: we all have a similar composition no matter how people present themselves.

Careers, family aspirations, doubt. All of it succumbs to the same basic need for appreciation and understanding.

Standing in a kitchen, holding someone.

Waiting in a parking lot, even as the rain quickens and drenches.

The gut-wrenching hurt of loneliness, anger, or misunderstanding.

Looking at the doctor across the desk, holding one’s breath, judging the content of one’s life in the interval between test and certainty.

The litany of thoughts, desires, and jokes people tell in private but fear the knowledge that others might see and hear – and judge.

I’ve peeked behind so many curtains in this last year!

All of them are from the same fabric.

We superficially seem to be vastly different; I know better.

I see your secrets.

I know your secrets.

I am your secrets.

Love, X

The Broken Record Is Renewed

For those who wanted a simple timeline, instead of my endless commentary. Names have been changed to protect whoever wants such protection.

One part of my motive for this blog was to share my stories and cement my stories so that revisionists couldn’t later do what they do when attempting to silence someone doesn’t work.

This isn’t going to be perfect. I’m leaving out huge gaps of nuttiness and drama.

People who read this blog won’t know who is being discussed unless they have a Ouija board or an exceptional dossier on the thousands of people in my life.

Earlier this week, my family member (who I will call Mark) created more identities and emails to attempt to interact with my blog. I already have a large list of blocked IP addresses, aliases, and emails he’s used previously. Though I can screenshot them, only people in denial would claim I’m making it up. I’ve shown it to a couple of people, ones who are familiar with the long pattern of anger and addiction that I’ve dealt with.

Mark was always a blowhard. When he was younger, his wit and intelligence were formidable. As his personality hardened, he became a victim to his own assuredness and secrets. We had a lot of great moments. To talk about the ones that diminish him does not negate that great moments occur. Mark hated my outspoken nature, especially when it walked over family honor. (Or dishonor.) Throughout most of his adult life, he was angry. Addiction did not help him in this regard. Whether anyone wants to hear it or not, his legacy will be one of anger and discord. There will be those who point the finger at me. Those who know me know that my life isn’t punctuated by this sort of addiction or constant refueling of anger and drama. It’s pointless.

When Mark resurfaces and starts in on me, he usually has a commensurate reaction in his personal life. When people get out their flamethrowers, they tend to scorch everyone. Previously, I let his wife know. (I’ll call her Jolene.)

I wrote Jolene a simple email to let her know Mark was at it again.

She responded angrily and with a swatch of allegations regarding my motive, character, and credibility.

I replied back, saying I wasn’t going to reply in anger, given that it wouldn’t help anyone, much less either of us.

She replied again, doubling down on her accusations. The email was boiled in anger. I could post the email chain here with names edited. It’s obvious when reading them who is suffering. And although Jolene wouldn’t want to hear it from me now,  I still feel a profound sense of loss and empathy for her and those who grew up in Mark’s sphere.

It has nothing to do with morality, superiority, or any of those accusatory defenses. It’s simply a matter of life not well-lived.

I replied a final time, using a short 3-sentence reply, one absent rancor, or accusation.

I went a long time without interacting with my Mark. In 2013, while I was helping to care for a cousin who was dying of cancer, Mark launched an all-out campaign to threaten me. It was effective. He worked in a job that gave him great ability to follow through on his threats and had a long history of alcoholism and anger issues. Instead of pressing charges, I tried to get someone to get him some help. I nearly lost my sanity for a bit.

As he does, Mark flipped it on me and told everyone that I was trying to get him fired. I still have the emails with his bosses that easily prove I’m telling the truth. Having perfected his skills over the decades, he told his bosses that I was bipolar and his family that I was out to ruin his life and get him fired. It took me forever to make him stop contacting me. My cousin died while I was dealing with Mark. Afterward, I had to endure the interference of family members who tried to paint it as a disagreement, despite that Mark had threatened to kill me – and that I believed it. People who knew me and who had heard his voicemails and calls knew it. While I might have been guilty of being an asshole, a charge I must confess to, Mark was guilty of an actual crime, one which I contributed to me trying to get him help instead of arrested.

In the intervening years, I dreaded the other shoe dropping. I knew that it would.

Not terribly long ago, Mark was forced to retire from his job due to alcoholism. I didn’t know that for quite some time. I didn’t know that he had been forced to get treated before, either. How could I know?

He began to call me intermittently and I answered. I was cautious. During one of my trips to Hot Springs, Mark called me. I’ll never forget telling him that he broke something in me in 2013 and afterward and that I might not ever regain it.

Mark began calling me more frequently. I tiptoed around his issues, wanting just to reconnect.

Many of us foolishly try to keep a relationship alive, even while swallowing huge parts of ourselves in exchange for doing so.

I sent Mark books, encouraged him to write his stories down, and made him personal gifts to encourage him. I tried to put in an effort.

Later, his wife Jolene wrote to me using an alias on social media, asking me to please call her. It’s important to note that I did not reach out to her; she asked me to talk.

Much to my surprise, we had an instant rapport, after so many years of not communicating. She shared with me that Mark was suffering badly from alcoholism. We talked many times and at length. I can’t stress enough that it was rewarding. We found out that Mark had told us differing stories to keep us from comparing notes. He had constructed a huge web of deceit and was continuing to victimize those around him.

At some point, Mark called me and told me he was another state to confront an ex-brother-in-law who slept with his wife Jolene. He was going to come back through Arkansas afterward. When I called Jolene, she said, “What are you talking about? He’s outside the house right now.” And she sent me a picture, which I still have.

Suddenly, all the things that Mark shared with me were called into doubt. He had told me a 1,000 stories, many about how evil Jolene had supposedly been to him. Most of them weren’t true. Jolene and I shared a lot of stories and compared notes. Mark had lied about his injury while drinking, as well about so many others. I won’t recount the list here. Suffice it to say there was a staggering amount.

My heart broke for Jolene and her children. All those years of assuming she hated me washed away. Mark was the spider in the middle of the web.

I tried to continue to talk to Mark. We talked many times, usually reminiscing. I tried to avoid mentioning the disparities or anything that would crash his fantasy world. It became harder and harder to do it – as well as to be nice to Mark. The longer I interacted with Jolene and her children, the more I tried to make him get help. I also worked hard to convince Jolene to get as much help as she could and to leave Mark if he wouldn’t do everything possible to get better. We talked many times about these issues.

I can prove it all, not that anyone reasonable would doubt what I’m saying. For those that do doubt, I can prove it. I’d hope that no one would make me. It’s needlessly traumatic.

During one episode, I recorded Mark at Jolene’s request. I emailed her the audio of the conversation. It laid bare to her how deeply Mark’s pathology extended. I’ll never forget that conversation we had. There was no escaping how deeply Mark’s addiction had advanced or how far he’d go to protect his choices.

At one point, Jolene sent me a picture of Mark passed out inside the garage, between the car door and the car. He wouldn’t stop drinking and driving. He was hiding alcohol everywhere.

I spoke with Jolene and one of her children.

I didn’t do it to refuel my drama cart. I did it because I was concerned. That concern grew to be anger at Mark for refusing to get help – as often as it took and for as long as it took. I discovered that he’d been misbehaving for a long time. I already knew it to be true due to a combination of observation, instinct, and passing comments from friends and family. Families traffic in gossip, truth, and innuendo.

It’s true that toward the end, I grew to be disgusted with Mark. I had to avoid him for long periods because I couldn’t peacefully maintain the facade of deceit or pretend I approved of his life. It would have been different had he not been so evil to his own family.

At some point in all this, he was caught driving drunk and endangering a lot of people. It was mishandled and because of his profession, he was not required to be accountable like a normal person. And so, he continued to drink and drive. I won’t share those stories which were shared with me.

He threatened his family and did and said things that were truly malicious.

Jolene told me to let it out and tell him how I really felt. I finally did.

Naturally, Mark waited until the day of the funeral for another family member. I’ve never participated in a conversation so ugly, even those involving my Mom. The level of pathological lying and misdirection was beyond what I’d dealt with before.

For me, the worst I behaved during all of it was during the phone call on the day of the funeral and later texts I traded with Mark In October 2019. I hit him in the jugular to try to get him to admit his issues and to get him to talk with me and Jolene simultaneously so that I could ask questions with her listening and gauge his response.

 

 

 

Screenshot_20191028-163325_Messages jeanine and numbers removed

Screenshot_20191028-163332_Messages without names and numbers

 

There are other screenshots in which I’m chasing Mark to be honest, to talk to me with someone else, etc. Truth be told, I wanted nothing except to have Mark and Jolene on the phone with me at the same time.

 

Ultimately, Jolene stayed with Mark, even though the children wanted her to leave. Jolene tired of talking to me and said she thought it would be easier if she didn’t keep me informed anymore. I agreed. I couldn’t be nice to Mark anymore and I realized that Jolene reached her endpoint.

I talked to her another time, as well as to one of her children, who told me that it was still terrible at home.

I knew the risks of talking to someone so close to Mark and that the likelihood of it being spoiled given enough time would be a certainty.

I traded texts back and forth with someone earlier this year – and it was worse than I had left it. It killed me to know that Mark not only had angrily refused help but had tightened his grip on those around him.

Each time I asked Mark to stop calling me, texting me, etc., he took great pains to go out of his way to ridicule me and do it even more. I have screenshots of pages of his calls. If I blocked his number, he’d leave nasty voicemails. For a time, I had to leave my voicemail full just to keep him out of it.

A few years ago, I had changed my email and phone number to avoid talking to him and my Mom. An allegedly well-intentioned family member gave him my new phone number.

No matter what Mark’s mental condition, he was together enough to employ complicated and ongoing efforts to create identities, use IP addresses, and continue to bother me when he knew it wasn’t welcome. His addiction and anger worked together to continue to convince him that I had no right to keep him at arm’s length.

I missed being able to talk casually with Jolene. We all shared a common battle and it shaped all of us and all of our lives.

But even that is gone now, probably forever, another casualty in the addiction war. Mark won. He’s poisoned us.

I have a mass of notes and records from all the craziness. I don’t like to peer into it for too long or look up details to understand. There’s nothing to understand. It’s just another wasted life being brought to a withering end.

Because Jolene called me a victim and insisted that I love washing in it, I’d agree I’m a victim in the sense that Mark perfected part of his skill at angry manipulation on me. I was stupid for returning to the scene of the crime. I failed Mark – and I failed Jolene and her children.

I knew there was a good chance that I’d end up on the wrong end of anyone conected to Mark. He’s gaslighted so well and so consistently his entire adult life that it is a rare person who escapes unburned.

As for that, there are more footprints on the internet that Jolene may realize. Not from me; rather, from those who were close and shared bits and pieces in their own way. They too shared parts of their stories, whether Jolene realized it or not. I didn’t go out of my way looking for them. They were offered voluntarily and at their own pace. They prove that the carnage was real and much worse than what is willingly admitted to. A lot of people eventually tell their stories. They validated what we all knew and whispered about. It’s no shame that someone had an addiction or couldn’t get their loved one to make amends.

We all failed. I wasn’t equipped to deal with it. I learned my own way and mostly avoided the craziness that Mark did. I didn’t escape it entirely, though.

As to whether I wrote too much about it, I only wrote about it when it dramatically crossed paths with my life. That’s my right. I can’t help it that some of those involved wouldn’t escape it. I understand that they have to paint a different picture, choose another villain, and ask someone else to pay their price on their behalf.

If you think I’m the problem, you need to take a long hard look across the internet. The truth is out there.

 

 

 

 

King of Kung Fools Rule

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The King of Kung Fools Rule: once you ask that someone leave you alone and not communicate with you, total silence is the only option. If you engage, you will be bogged down in a perpetual fight wherein you’ll be held into a perpetual account for exercising your right to be free of someone.

If you’re reading this, you should think of Carly Simon: “I bet you think this song is about you.” It’s not. It’s about me and about the lesson I have to learn over and over.

We watch in society as people with protective orders still deal with the people tormenting them. It’s incredible it requires that. Pathology drives people to ignore the wishes of other adults.

It’s hard. Believe me, I know. I’m a fool on my best day.

Despite what people at a distance from me might think, I’m a bigger fan of snark, wit, and pithiness than you’d imagine.

I don’t care what you have to say or what motivates you. If I’ve asked you to stop communicating with me, you can be sure that you’ve done or said something (or many things) that brought me to the decision. Even if I decided on the spur of the moment, it is still my right to do so.

Even though I’ve been on both sides of this issue when I was younger, I’ve learned repeatedly that when someone says, “Leave me alone,” you should leave them alone. No matter how you’re connected, whether you’re related, past friends, or any other relationship, real or imagined, when someone says “No,” it means “no.” Regardless of your past connection, an adult has the right to say “Enough is enough,” if not, “I’ll let you know when I’m ready.” Forcing a conversation when it is unwelcome is aggressive and indicates that you don’t understand that each person has the right to choose who, what, when, how, and where regarding their lives. Who they permit to interact with them is entirely their choice and not subject to veto.

Manipulators and abusers insist they have a right because of __________. (Fill in the blank with the most common nonsense abusers mention.) This insistence indicates either immaturity, anger, or pathological tendencies on their part. Do not engage further. No matter what explanation you provide, it won’t be good enough. They will move the goalposts, gaslight you, or avail themselves to the tactics that all manipulators attempt. The worst will misbehave by saying or doing things to provoke a reaction. These actions will escalate to horrific levels if you acknowledge them. Being kind to them won’t work. Being mean to them won’t work. Their insistence to have access to you is a warning sign that they need help.

Have I mentioned how terribly I have failed to follow my own realizations listed above? I am an expert in falling into the holes I’ve dug for myself.

If you do engage, they’ll eventually succeed in making you respond with anger. They’ll then triumphantly screech in mock horror (and glee) that you got angry. Your anger at their stupidity is normal. It’s a superpower to be able to ignore abuse like that.

My Mother was a Kung Fool like no other.

At each stage of my life that I exerted control, she’d enlist any available family member to guilt me into reconnecting. My love for her sometimes interfered. It was a long, exhausting cycle. Not too long before she died, I finally broke the bond. I’d had enough. I mean, really enough, not the ‘enough’ of ‘maybe I’ll change my mind later’ enough. I only talked to her again because my Aunt Barbara called me and told me she had stage 4 cancer. Even then, I felt like I violated every protective mechanism I had in place. This was especially true because I had another family that convinced me he was going to kill me. In my family, that sort of thing is discounted at your own peril.

Addressing the other common refrain: you’ll be called crazy, a liar, or heartless. (Or some other word you can find it an Abusers Thesaurus.) IF the other person is correct and I am demanding to be left alone because I’m mentally ill, irrational, or simply hateful, it still doesn’t change the fact that I’ve demanded to be left alone. IF you insist on continuing the attempt anyway, you become the problem. If I’m spouting off nonsense, let me continue to do so and the truth will find me. Even Obama made famous a saying to let fools do their own talking.

If you can’t let me, you’re afraid of my message and that becomes obvious to people watching.

If you’re the abuser or troll, once the word “Stop” or its equivalent reaches you, stop. If you can’t get help, because you have control and anger issues that need to be addressed.

So, again, I don’t want to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another DNA, Another Day

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I’ve always had my DNA set to ‘share’ on the sites I use. Recently, because of renewed interest because of the show “Genetic Detective,” I ensured that it was uploaded to GEDmatch for law enforcement use. I’d been a victim of my own procrastination, even after watching a season of “The Innocence Files” on Netflix.

Are there cons to this? For some people, yes. No pun intended with the use of the word “con.”

Are there advantages? Definitely yes.

I can understand why some people have objections to DNA sharing. I’m not entirely comfortable with it. There are legitimate reasons. There are also many unfounded reasons. The good thing about DNA is that only a portion of the populace needs to participate to map out everyone else – so even if you withhold your genetic map, it is likely another relative will divulge theirs and make your decision moot.

I’m that guy. I have to be. It would be immensely hypocritical for me to constantly tell everyone that privacy is both a leprechaun and unicorn while foolishly attempting to protect my invisible genetic blueprint.

Despite being a liberal, I’m in favor of never having another unidentified soldier, as well as ensuring that crimes involving DNA are solved. It would be ironic for me to be charged with a crime based on voluntarily-submitted DNA results. Mistakes do happen. If humans are involved in the process, things are going to go wrong. If the government can force me to sign up for the Selective Service, I don’t see much of a problem with us collectively expecting a genetic database to protect us all. Again, I recognize that this sort of thing can (and sometimes will) be abused. Using the potential abuse of a few to justify doing nothing different doesn’t appeal to me. No system is going to be perfect.

However, I’ve always believed that DNA (and other advances) are going to strip away generations of mistruths and ignorance about our ancestors. If this information assists law enforcement with doing their jobs, I’m for it. I have the same argument for fingerprints. As long as scientists have review power over the application of such evidence, I’m at no greater risk by others having it.

If I don’t trust the government, I’m already screwed.

Believe me, I have some problems with the government, especially under our current President.

As for the police? If you know me, you know I have a sideways opinion about several of them and systemic objections to the way they are operated. Focusing on these concerns, however, as an excuse to fail to help in the way I can, that would be a greater sin of omission.

The interesting thing about the show is that it beats the drum that even remote ancestors allow for research and triangulation toward suspects in crimes involving DNA. This means that my DNA could potentially come up in a criminal investigation. It’s possible that someone will knock on my door as a result.

I have relatives who I believe are capable of committing crimes, even crimes a generation ago. Many currently living certainly committed such crimes already. It’s not a question of debate. It’s true.

Though I have no proof per se, I also know it’s likely that family members might have fathered children during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I have only whispers to base my suspicion on. However, my other suspicions have been proven correct, too, even though I waited years for some of them to find confirmation.

For much of my life, I endured ridicule and hostility for some of the views about my Dad. Just a year ago, I found out that my suspicions were correct and that he’d fathered a child with a very young woman in the early 70s.

Such revelations, in combination with a checkered past for many of my relatives, paints a realistic picture that other shenanigans may have gone undetected, too.

I’d like to part of the solution to the problem.

For those thousands of people who’ll be reachable because of my participation, please accept my apologies.

It is my DNA, after all, freely given.

In the same way that some of my ancestors kept their foot on the closet door, gun in hand, in order to protect the skeletons in the family closet, I now stand on the other side, with the door wide open.

 

High School Picture Vanity? (The Picture Rule)

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Do I have your attention with this horrible picture? Is it completely real or photoshopped? Who knows! Who cares? It’s more or less me back in 2005. I’ve posted it before. It makes me laugh, precisely because it makes me look like the “before” picture for both the South Beach Diet and John’s Guide To D-I-Y plastic surgery.

I enjoy the posts about people complaining (gatekeeping) about people posting their high school pictures. It’s true that it doesn’t “help” current seniors. Let’s be honest, though. High school pictures don’t seem to help anyone. Except comedians. We all love a crazy high school yearbook picture. We can’t help it.

They do, however, remind us that our idea of hairstyle and fashion was never as great as we’d imagined. This is the case of every graduating class in the history of… well, history.

I know it’s not an ironclad rule, but I distrust anyone who is truly upset about anyone seeing their high school pictures. Not only are almost all of them available online, but they are precisely the pictures more likely to survive the next 300 years because they are public and otherwise in the hands of so many other people. They are copied, indexed, and even included in genealogy websites.

What am I saying? You’re screwed if you don’t want people to see your pictures from school.

Years ago, I scanned and archived several years of Springdale High School’s yearbooks. I also uploaded them to all the relevant SHS FB class pages, for everyone to share and enjoy. It look me 100+ hours. It was a huge way for all of us to get acquainted again, whether we liked it or not!

By the way, a huge number of yearbooks are available on classmates. Get a free account and start looking. Other websites carry college yearbooks, too.

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The Picture Rule: If you’re complaining about the existence of your high school pictures, you’re probably at the mercy of either an exaggerated vanity or a profound scarcity of a sense of humor.

P.S. I have almost never been stymied finding EVERYONE’S yearbook picture, not to mention the address you lived at when you were 7. Your life is an open book, no matter how badly you want to stick it under the bed where no one will ever find it. The more you want to hide your pictures, the more likely your brother-in-law is passing it around secretly via text, email, or DM.

P.S. Redux: If you are desperate to find someone – or a picture of them – let me know and I’ll get enough details to sleuth them out in the interest of both lovingkindness and transparency.

Love, X

An Echo of September

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In early September 2017, I had an issue with an angry driver as I walked along Friendship Road. I wrote about it back then. Luckily, nothing happened that couldn’t be taken back, mostly because I blew it off instead of escalating it. I had an escape route planned, one involving a precarious run through the brush.

The driver was in a distinctive red and white vehicle with antique plates. He thought I was Latino. My instincts told me he’d probably done some fairly aggressive or harmful things to others over the years. People like that tend to until they’re forced to stop.

The picture is of the beautiful curve in the road where I was accosted. Until this week, when I walked there, I wondered where the idiot was.

Over the years, I’ve kept my eye out for that racist lunatic. I’ve walked hundreds of miles without unluckily crossing paths with him again.

The timing was a bit coincidental for me this week as I recalled the incident.

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about another road rage incident a couple of weeks ago. It involved a distinctive vehicle with vanity plates that made it crazily easy to identify. I wrote that knowing I could find out who it was strangely comforting to me. I wouldn’t want to be the angry gentleman who hit the back of my car on purpose, knowing that my victim could find me in about thirty seconds.

My post earlier this week happened independently of my discovery of the other road-rager near my house. Eerily, the two drivers look amazingly similar.

As I drove home this week on a cold, rainy afternoon, I was listening to Trump on NPR, not paying close attention to anything specifically. I’ve driven the route a few hundred times in the last four years. I casually looked to the right and almost hit the brakes. I slowed to a crawl after checking for traffic behind me. The vehicle from 2017 was sitting in plain view off the main road. It’s a distinctive vehicle. There was no doubt it was the same one.

I wondered if the man who had assaulted me three years ago would be amused if I stopped and knocked on his door. He wouldn’t remember me. He’s undoubtedly victimized many people who’ve had the misfortune of crossing his path. Should I speak Spanish to him to trigger his racism? All that time ago, he seemed to hyper-focus on my perceived “Latino-ness.”

Instead, I drove by. I laughed. Perhaps a bit maniacally.

This morning, I looked up his address, his house, his name, his picture, his life, and his ancestors. He would be very uncomfortable to know that a random encounter and his racism from three years ago could have aligned with an entirely accidental recognition of his vehicle.

Don’t be alarmed that I took the time to find out who he was. It’s one of the few things I do alarmingly well. Luckily for the guilty, it is the mystery and curiosity that drives me, rather than a desire for justice or revenge. Unlike both those angry white men might do, especially if they could do so in secrecy, I wouldn’t inflict harm on them for their stupidity.

As I read about his ancestors, I wondered what is wrong for him. I wondered if anyone else in his family knows that he lets his prejudice run free as he drives around. His wife has a mutual friend with me on social media. It’s a small world.

His, a small mind.

The Curtains Must Open

murphy 5th great-grandfather

Absent pedigree collapse, which occurs when the same genetics overlap in one tree due to noodling between relatives, I have 126 5th great-grandparents. Pedigree collapse is why our family tree pyramids are amazingly flatter than we would conventionally expect. Historically, about 80% of all marriages involved 2nd cousins or closer, due to geographical limitations. Most children resulted from people living inside a 5-mile radius. Modern people cringe at the idea, but proximity inevitably leads to relationships.

Life will find a way, as Malcolm said, whether it’s dinosaurs or people.

Because of the thousands of people in my main family tree and the fact that I’ve been using DNA for many years to trace my lineage, my DNA trail is remarkably old for some of my family tree branches. (And demonstrably absent for other alleged branches.) Occasionally, I encounter tree owners who hide or keep their ancestry tree private, which might be useful or warranted for current generations to protect their privacy. Still, it is 100% pointless to do it past one’s grandparents. Even if you’re not willing to pull the curtain back, the statistical likelihood that another descendant will do so approaches 100%.

The number of people using DNA results exponentially grows past three generations. Whereas paper trails and family history can be manipulated, expunged, or hidden, DNA is the math that draws a map directly to one’s ancestors. As more participants share their DNA, the tapestry of everyone’s relationships becomes incredibly detailed. Our ability to use algorithms and computers has rendered secrecy to be moot.

In the case of the example pictured, my DNA and family tree draw me through 7-8 generations, with multiple confirmations across hundreds of people. For whatever reason, I have a gap with my 4th great-grandfather Murphy, thanks to those who think hiding the identity of the person to be valuable.

Due to DNA, however, I can easily ‘ignore’ the missing 4th great-grandfather and jump up to the next generation with my 5th great-grandfather Murphy. This happens because of many people related to the cousins and siblings of my unidentified 4th great-grandfather having shared their DNA results. Using census, marriage, and other records, it is straightforward to use the process of elimination to identify the ‘secret’ ancestor. If it is someone unexpected, such as the mailman, it is likely that multiple DNA sources from other family lines have identified their overlap.

Given a large enough sample, no one currently alive escapes multiple points of intersection with our living DNA map. In case you’re wondering, it takes only a small percentage of people to finish a complete DNA map for every person alive today.

In other words, as I’ve said many times before, DNA will always ‘out’ a person’s intention to keep their family secrets hidden. People might not talk, but DNA is the hidden voice that lies in plain sight.

Unlike many, I find this to be a comfort. It’s probably a good thing, too, if for no other reason than I am powerless to do anything about it, regardless of my opinion.

DNA, in combination with my insistence on personal transparency, led me to discover a new sister. It didn’t allow me to force my search onto her; it allowed her to make the same choice and meet in the middle. Using my example, it is possible that one of her children or family members eventually would have come forward anyway, resulting in a similar discovery of new siblings. It just would have happened later or after my death. Whether we are comfortable with the idea, our DNA roadmaps are subject to the whims of those we’re related to, as the Golden State Killer famously discovered.

Yes, of course, DNA information can be abused. Using the possible negative consequences to justify a knee-jerk reaction is more a symptom of our inability to be responsible citizens and govern ourselves maturely than it is of a warning against using DNA at all. You leave DNA everywhere you go. Even now, your body is shedding your entire genetic structure into the air, on the floor, and on almost everything you touch.

My DNA experience also confirmed that some of my aunts and uncles had reason to be fearful of my dedication. Though most of them are now departed, their harsh demands about the silence of some of our family history are soon dispelled. Some of the secrets seem tame now. Others belie something unsettling. Their demands actually created a stronger desire to find out what all the fuss was about. Thanks to them, I have a specific list of questions that strike directly into their concerns.

People with nothing to hide also tend to welcome sunlight. If someone seems overly concerned, you should always assume it’s a sign you’re looking in the right direction. It’s not always the case. It is, however, logical.

Regardless of how we interpret uncovered facts, they don’t alter the truth they reveal. It’s an ongoing fascination of mine to observe the reluctance of some people to see their stories mapped and visited by other eyes.

For me, for now, forever, I embrace the universal nature of DNA.

May the curtains be forever opened.

My Apologies For The Troll(s)

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Friends:

Please accept my apology, one offered to all those who may have seen some particularly hateful commentary.

Someone I know is struggling with alcoholism and mental issues. The prognosis is such that it’s not going to improve. The truth is that I’m going to simply have to tolerate it until he’s no longer able to behave inappropriately. On the one hand, what he’s doing is completely objectionable; on the other, he’s often not in charge of his own faculties, so it’s difficult to hold him accountable like I would a normal person. While what he’s doing is a crime, I ask that you ignore anything bizarre that might appear in the comments for a short time. I’ll clear, delete, and block all the offending content as soon as it’s brought to my attention. I can block by email, name, and IP; as you know, however, these are not sufficient to thwart someone who actively seeks to inflict distress or inconvenience on another person.

If you see or hear anything crazy, threatening, or angry, please let me know. (Not from me – from him. You can ignore my stupidity and treat it as normal day-to-day craziness.)

I’m not posting this to draw sympathy, prayers, or well-wishes.

It’s literally to let you know that you might see some startling things across my blog and social media. I’ll correct them as soon as they appear. I’ve spent 50+ years adjusting to the insanity of anger and addiction; a little bit more probably won’t ruin the remnants of my own sanity. I have to admit the latest round of hatred and bile thrown at me was a bit over-the-top.

Thanks, X
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Financial Advisory

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For all of my friends who aren’t aware… In 2017, Equifax suffered a huge security breach, likely the largest ever. About 1/2 of all Americans had some or most of their private financial identifiers stolen. Most of the people I’ve mentioned it to seem to have no idea that it happened, much less that they are at severe risk of having their identities stolen or their credit ruined.

Equifax is offering a settlement, and the details are being finalized. While it is possible to easily file a claim and get a check of slightly more than a $125, I would recommend that you forego the money and opt for the 4 years of credit monitoring through the 3 major credit reporting agencies. Also, Equifax is offering an extension of 6 more years after the compulsory 4-year term lapses.

While I can’t force you to check your status on the settlement page, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you do so. I’ve always maintained that privacy is a unicorn; however, in events such as the Equifax data breach, I can promise you that you are gambling with your entire financial future if you ignore the risk. Here’s the direct link:

Link to check your eligibility and risk…

My name resulted in a positive. I, of course, signed up for the credit monitoring from all 3 of the major credit bureaus. This will allow me to reach out and expect assistance if and when my identity or credit history is used without my knowledge. It’s difficult to put a price tag on this sort of service. Anyone who knows someone who has suffered the agony of attempting to recover his or her history and identify after such misuse will tell you that is a personal hell of bureaucracy and paperwork.

Hopefully, your name will not result in a positive result. Even if it doesn’t, you should at a minimum be requesting a copy of your credit report once a year. Also, don’t get comfortable with the mistaken idea that you already participate in a credit monitoring system via your smartphone or one which is included with a credit card you might own. The truth is that the ones which are easily used often do not provide you the peace of mind and certainty that you believe that they do.

P.S. The website through which you can immediately see and download all 3 of your credit bureau reports: Link to get your annual credit reports…

Thanks, X