Category Archives: Safety

Duh!

The apartment near me is now empty! Even though it is not libel or slander to state the truth, I’ll refrain from commentary about the previous tenant(s). It’s a relief, even though I know the next tenant(s) could easily surpass that tenant’s curriculum vitae. It still surprises me when stress is relieved, one that is almost subliminal. It’s not that the person was a particular threat per se, other than the one incident when I thought I would have to summon the Bobby Dean demons. It was the unknown of what such a tenant invites, who they attract, and who they have in their circle.

Even though most people won’t understand it, I got triggered AF for a while. I’m not normally prone to that kind of unease. Not just for myself but also for everyone else. I listen to that instinct. My dad, despite his flaws, literally beat that instinct into me.

I love where I live for a lot of reasons. I’ve done more than my share to make it better. It’s an uphill push sometimes, but what isn’t?

I’d like a family of Latinos, someone older, or someone who speaks a different language. Or plays the piano. Someone creative and without the urge to find odd ways to live joyfully. I doubt those checkboxes can be found on most applications for a lease. Plus, no one asked me, even though I am certain I could do a fantastic job of weeding out the crazies. Not just because I identify with the crazies but because my interview questions would be a hell of a lot more interesting.

Being in apartments brings disadvantages; it also brings opportunities, too. People surprise me, especially when they turn out to be interesting and people I’d likely not meet otherwise. Some have reminded me that it’s hard to “judge not” based on first impressions or the people they are related to. All of us have outliers in our families, which probably sounds odd coming from a weirdo like me.

It’s akin to humanity bingo.

It’s dumb to be thankful for the absence of a neighbor.

But I am.

I recognize that tingle in the back of my mind: I feel safer now.

I’m a big, big believer in letting people do their thing, no matter what it is. If people want to set their hair on fire inside, that’s wonderful. If they want to blast music, even when it’s not necessarily joyous for me, that’s okay too. My litmus test is, “Is it safe for everyone else?” Otherwise, bring on the clowns.

Some things are not the like others, though.

Love, X
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Anger, Flying Windows, And A Cat

Entering the convenience store, I noted several people waiting or milling around. A couple of them seemed uncomfortable. Within a second, I realized why. A woman was standing near the counter, berating the workers for some kind of misunderstanding or error regarding the gas pumps. No matter the content of her argument, all I witnessed was someone forgetting the stupidity of such behavior. Her anger possessed her. I could see it contaminating everyone witnessing it. The woman in question stomped out, hollering, “Never mind! I give up.” When I exited, I could see her angrily talking to another person at the pumps in a different vehicle. “Spread that anger infection some more, yes, please,” I said to myself in my head. I hope I remember the experience the next time I feel anger flare uncontrollably inside me. Anger seldom looks attractive on anyone.

On the short leg of my drive home, I followed behind a Jeep. It happened quickly, so I had no reaction time. The plastic cover inserted into the missing back window frame blew out. I watched in slo-mo as it flipped over a couple of times and went under my car. It seemed inevitable that it would have flipped up and hit my windshield directly. I followed the Jeep, honking my absurd horn. It slowed as if to turn left. I honked again, and the Jeep instead continued straight. As it neared the light ahead, it turned red. When the Jeep stopped, I hopped out and ran to the driver’s side. “You lost your back window back there. It didn’t damage my car, but it’s still on the road. You’re going to be a bit cold without it. Have a great day!” I gave him a thumbs-up and ran back to my car.

Because no one knows how to easily turn into my driveway, the Jeep contained ahead, and I turned in. After parking, I watched the road for a minute. The Jeep went back by in the opposite direction. The driver undoubtedly decided that the cold warranted a return trip for the plastic window insert. It made me happy to think I took a chance to let him know. I’d recommend some screws or duct tape if he’s going to put it back on.

As for Gûino, he will be 15 early next year. He’s a spry, healthy cat for his age. If he is so inclined, he can scrunch down and jump seven feet straight up. There’s no doubt about it that he shouldn’t go outside. When I moved here, and he came back to live with me, his paws didn’t go far from the door and certainly not downstairs. He’s grown familiar with the building, the pitbull who loves cats (really) on the end, and some of the residents. I stopped letting him out in the dark after a particularly scary moment a few weeks ago. But one of his joys is to scamper out the door and sniff, discover, and explore. It could easily result in a surprise or tragedy for him. There’s no denying it. But at his age, given the unlikely scenario that he’ll survive as long as I’d like him to, I stopped struggling with the overwhelming worry he would get lost, kidnapped, or fatally hurt out there. I try to monitor him. Sometimes he fools me. I have three Blink cameras to surveil him. If the worst happens to him, I will be devastated. I’ll feel immensely guilty. I temper that possible outcome against his age. To be inside all the time when I know he’s grown to love scampering outside, sometimes forcing me to chase him on the upper landing, up and down stairs, and across the parking lot. It’s a game to him.

Erika sent me a video from her Blink from yesterday. Gûino had already enjoyed his prison yard time but decided to dart out the door without written permission from me. So, to startle him into remembering he can’t do that, I chased him all the way down the building and stairs, all the way back inside my apartment. And yes, I know I was running a little bit fruity in the video accompanying this post.

I want him to have a longer life. But I’d rather him have a fuller life, even if that brings risk.

As someone who narrowly avoided precarious death a few times, it’s hard to convince me that risk is entirely real.

Love, X
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Not The Usual Story

Not The Usual Story

Earlier, I watched as a crew dangerously and hilariously attempted to connect the electrical panel of the newly-constructed house next door to a utility pole. I heard a heated conversation yesterday in which one electrician patiently attempted to explain why they should not do it the easy way. That guy was obviously voted down. They used our apartment parking lot to stage the melee. Since they didn’t trim or remove any of the already dangerous overhanging trees from the property, it was foolhardy at best. (It’s a waste even to connect it there. With the first high winds, that house is going to lose power as the limbs snap off. I should know – I’ve picked up a literal ton of the limbs that have fallen there as they crash down. I feel a bit sorry for whoever buys the house with all those weak and damaged trees towering over it.)

Even though I should not let Güino roam so much, I let him periodically downstairs for short increments. I don’t want anything to happen to him. He’s 14 1/2 years old now. So, I pity him and let him roam a bit. I accept the risk of his possible demise by various causes. He’s insanely happy exploring. The cacophony of the trucks, crashing tree limbs, and the cursing of the workers scared him. I went out to retrieve him and couldn’t find him. The worse scenario filled my brain: he ran away to escape the noise, possibly forever. I waited ten minutes and went back around the area: no Güino. After a few more minutes, I found him sitting behind the loudest and largest truck with the canopy lift. Regardless of the workers, I crouched under the truck on its pedestal supports and managed to get him. One of the workers told me to move away. I was very polite and said, “Given that you’re on private property, undertaking a foolish means of connecting a power supply, I think I will go wherever I might please, sir. If you have a problem with that, keep it to yourself.” He didn’t reply.

When I went out and about, I discovered that I had sent my most prized possession (“the” nail) to the wrong address. It was my mistake. I knew that the address didn’t look like the current one, but I trusted the master list on which I keep everything. The nail might be lost forever. Either way, I had released it back into the universe. I told my sister I was confident it wasn’t lost forever, even though I can’t explain why I believe it.

I was in a weird enough head space anyway, and my anxiety had flared. Between the nail, the cat, and personal thoughts intruding on me, I was already a bit out of sorts.

When I was backing out of a parking spot at Walmart, I waited for a split second for a woman to my right to enter her vehicle and shut the door. I continued to back out, and I heard a weird shout. A man resembling a cowboy stood a couple of feet away from my car, looking very angry. Evidently, he had stepped out between the cars parked the opposite way. I’m assuming the huge red truck with a million accessories was his. I stopped and exited the car as he began his tirade. I didn’t even put my hands up, even though I was certain he would hit me. As he grunted and cursed, I took a step toward him. My eyes teared up, and he saw it. Something recoiled inside him. I saw it in real-time. He shook his head and walked away quickly. Make of that whatever you want to. I didn’t tear up because I was scared; quite the opposite. No matter how stupid this is going to sound, I think I wanted him to hit me.

A friend wrote and told me about the shooting in central Arkansas. I had a conversation about that sort of thing happening in the workplace this morning. One of my co-workers who has another job worked with someone who killed and dismembered his girlfriend. I’d say allegedly, but his track record of anger is well-known.

We all need a hefty dose of hugs and peace.

This is true every day.

Güino is safe. I’ve left the door open, and he’s exited and entered twice more, both times to get a few pets.

I’m safe but not sane.

I’ll keep an eye on the electrical lines as they spark and fail sooner rather than later.

Let’s keep an eye out for people who spark and fail, too.

But let’s also remember how much life has to offer.

Love, X
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3 a.m. Adventure

I woke up slightly after midnight this morning and stayed up.

It wasn’t that the man standing there with his small bicycle outside the convenience store looked dangerous. His clothes were nice and he had a small backpack behind him. I watched to see as he approached someone who parked in front of the store. The woman exited her vehicle. Although I could not hear what was said her body language communicated that she was very uncomfortable. The man continued saying something to her and his body language wasn’t nice. As the woman walked hastily into the store, I exited my vehicle and darted in behind her. When I came out, his body language was off to me. He spoke quickly and the way he talked in combination with his body language made me uncomfortable.

That’s rare for me. I love convenience store interactions! Since I’m both weird and often unpredictable, it’s a great way to meet people. Even if they are weirder than I am.

I took two steps back and asked him to please stop as he of course he walked toward me.

I think he’s unaccustomed to people being direct. He took a step forward and I held my left hand up.

“Why you got to be like that?” he asked me.

“It’s barely 3:00 a.m. If you need money for something urgent, I would more than likely help you. But I saw you make the woman going in uncomfortable. Don’t do that.”

“Eff you,” he said and took another very small step towards me.

I laughed, even though I didn’t want to.

“Three things,” I began. “There are cameras literally everywhere. Second, you have no idea who has a concealed carry permit on them or a gun without one. Finally do I look like I’m in shape. Or do I seem nervous? I think it’s time for you to stop hanging out in front of convenience stores. And I hope whatever is going on in your life gets better. I really do. But this is going to end badly for someone because you’re making people uncomfortable and people are not quite sure what you’re up to. Fear causes a lot of needless reactions, the least of which is people calling the police.”

“It’s not a crime to talk to people,” he replied.

“Loitering is. Unless you have demonstrable evidence that you’re conducting business inside the store, someone is going to call the police and you’ll have to explain it to them.”

He stood there a second and I did wonder if he was going to threaten me or lunge at me.

So I ignored him and turned to walk to my car. I half-expected a hand on my shoulder. When I opened the door and sat down inside my car, he was already peddling away furiously on his small bicycle.

The convenience store I went to is one of the nicest, safest, most brightly lit ones in the area. It is immeasurably better than Wild Bills over on Garland. That place is a magnet for crazy. That’s probably why I like it.

I’m certainly no badass and I have yet to implement the new self-defense moves I learned last year. I rely on the fact that all but a very small percentage of people are either good-natured or have enough sense not to threaten other people. The biggest danger to me is still pepperoni or potato chips.

A very small sliver of me would like to know what I would have done had the man reacted differently. That little piece of Bobby Dean in me makes me nervous!

X
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A History Of Violence

Plot twist/spoiler: he hit me a lot harder than he thought he was going to. That I was paying him made it hurt a little worse.

This is a personal post. It might be upsetting to some people. Fair warning. As always, I’m setting aside perfectionism or worrying about getting the content or tone exactly as I want it. I can’t control how what I write might be interpreted.

Backing up a little in this story. I have a secret. I hate secrets. I wasn’t sure I’d go through with it.

Several weeks ago, I had a Bobby Dean moment. It was one in which I realized that the only way to diffuse the potential for violence was to step in and confront the person as if I were willing to be hurt or hurt him. I’m glad I did it. As much fear as I felt, I stepped toward him to signal I was willing to find out how far I’d go. Despite his size, he wasn’t certain. I’d already told him that people misjudge me. I don’t want to say that I’m proud that the latch for violence inside of me is dormant but still present. My confession is that a little sliver of me WANTED him to make the mistake of forcing me into action.

That’s not the secret, though.

My Dad violently taught me to fight by hitting me unexpectedly. He also hated that I was non-violent and passive. But one of the lessons he taught me is that it is always a mistake to delay the pain. You have to step in and strike as hard and dirty as you can. The first punch often determines the entire outcome of the altercation. Most people spend a bit of time talking or trying to lull the person they’re threatening. If you know you’re going to be hurt, it is always better to hit them with everything you have, quickly. (If you can’t walk/run away.) Though my Mom had great dental and health insurance through Southwestern Bell, I only went to the doctor if it were a case of imminent death or blood spurting. When I was 18, I had a massive cavity that almost crippled me with pain. When the dentist examined me, he said, “How’d you crack your jaw? It’s almost aligned perfectly again.” Although I had many mishaps in my youth, I knew the break probably happened when my family lived on Piazza Road in Tontitown. Dad came home drunk to our luxurious trailer. I’d lost a lot of weight at the end of my 9th-grade year running the roads there. Dad hated that I’d gotten into shape running several miles a day, lifting my brother’s weights in the downstairs storage space, as well as doing pull-ups until my arms were dead weights. I don’t recall his exact slurred words, but he said something like “I’ll teach you to be a man!” Despite being on my guard, or so I thought, he hit me with a savage right slight uppercut. My head snapped back and I fell, hitting my head on the stone fireplace at the end of the trailer. “What did I teach you? Always expect to get hit.” For weeks, I knew something was wrong with my neck and jaw. I kept running, though. And even though it hurt to play my French horn, I still made the All-State band that year. Only the band director Ms. Ellison knew at the time that something was wrong. I’m sure she knew the cause, too, though she never said anything out loud. In time, the pain disappeared. Until the dentist mentioned it, I hadn’t thought it was anything serious. I was lucky. Not only that time, but dozens of others.

My brother Mike, who was a big, well-trained ex-military meathead and later a policeman and detective, often got exasperated at me, especially when we were younger. I still have a tooth imprint on my left index finger, though. I hit a bully so hard that I thought I killed him. His tooth hit bone when I punched him. He underestimate the anger I had toward him. That anger was honed by my brother Mike screaming at me that if I didn’t confront the bully, HE was going to punch me silly. Growing up, Mike and I had infrequent conversations about why it was that a higher power didn’t protect us. We both knew that the world didn’t work that way, but we still fantasized about someone stepping in and either beating our Dad senseless – or killing him. There is no question that Dad would have deserved a brutal death a few times. He had violent demons, ones which combined with alcohol and anger, made him capable of incredible acts of inhumanity. How he survived as long as he did still astonishes me. I do know that before he died, he realized that he had done considerable evil to us; I’ll never know how much road he would have needed to directly admit it and change his life once and for all. My optimism tells me that he would have made amends. He died at 49.

Because of that recent near-miss with violence, I decided that as contradictory as it might seem, I had to learn to hit more effectively – and to be able to turn off the switch that controls aggression. Living where I do, I don’t worry per se about getting robbed or hit. Let’s be honest, though. It’s much more likely. It turns out that the biggest threat I’ve faced so far has been extremely close to me. That’s usually the case.

The secret?

I have paid someone for 1/2 sessions to teach me the mechanics of responding harshly to being threatened.

I messaged two people, asking them if they’d teach me the harsher side of self-defense, one that would enable me to channel a version of my Dad’s loathsome philosophy about fighting. Only one person replied – and he had misgivings about distilling his method to what I wanted to learn: not to diffuse, but to hurt. He relented when I explained that I am non-violent and had no intention of being the aggressor in any situation. I went on to tell him that circumstances in my surroundings necessitated that I be prepared if I couldn’t escape the threat of harm. He understood that he couldn’t hit me in the stomach, for obvious reasons, or throw me unexpectedly.

The first time I met him, he taught me the basics. Don’t go for the chest, as it never works. Don’t try to sweep the knees as a beginner. He liked that I understood that the first few seconds are critical in avoiding getting really hurt – and to try to get away if at all possible, but if not, hit hard to dissuade the attacker from choosing you as a target. It’s not about winning, because it’s not a competition. It’s about getting away, diffusing, and if that’s not possible, hurt the attacker as brutally as you can, immediately. (And get away as soon as possible.) Any altercation that drags on is almost always going to end badly for you. Run – or end it quickly.

A couple of days ago, he walked me through strategies to hit someone in the nose with the palm or side of my hand, strike the throat, hit in the stomach, or in the groin, in that order. He further instructed me, if you know you’re going to have to hit, hit immediately, and don’t pull back one iota of everything you’ve got. Break your hand if you need to: just hit violently. If you’re defending yourself, you need to ensure your safety without needlessly hurting the aggressor. As we repeated the same moves, he moved faster. Because he told me to keep moving, I went to the right just as he tried to hit me in the neck. He didn’t hit me with full force, but the side of my face felt like I’d been whacked with a stick. “Ha!” I said as I stepped back. “Picking on a post-surgery client like that!”

He laughed but also said, “Your attacker won’t care that you’ve been in the hospital, X. If they’re out to hurt you, it might entice them. You dropped a lot of weight. You’re in great shape for 54 but not having the weight means you have to be much faster when the time comes. If they get you on the ground, your options go to near-zero very fast.”

I thought about that for a few seconds, especially about the would-be aggressor not caring about my physical condition.

He added, “Your dad wasn’t wrong. If you’re surprised by an attack, use anything nearby as a weapon. Anything. Just use it with full force when you pick it up. Don’t hesitate. The other guy is the bad guy and you have every right to protect your safety and life.”

He spent a few minutes telling me that because my hands aren’t large, it would help me to improve my grip strength and to practice punching something relatively firm. I demonstrated that I’m quick – and doubly so if I need to run, no matter ridiculous I might look doing so.

I’m not violent. Fighting is ridiculous. There’s always someone stronger, faster, and probably armed. No one wins.

But if I get into another Bobby Dean situation, please remember that I want to be cremated. After I’m dead, for those who would do otherwise.

It’s a strange juxtaposition to go to a counseling session and then thirty minutes later to be discussing the physiology of hurting someone in self-defense.

I didn’t expect to ever go to counseling. I certainly didn’t expect to be living where I’d more likely need to channel my aggression effectively. Here I am, though.

The person I had to confront several weeks ago is one of those people who seem like they aren’t violent. I know better. I shut him down by convincing him that he needed to be wary of me. I trust my instincts: it’s obvious he’s hurt a lot of people in his life and doing so didn’t bother him like it would a good human being. There are a lot of “hims” in the world. He said a lot of vile things, ones which telegraphed that he has hurt several people, including women.

Learning these basics won’t make me over-confident. I’m a terrible fighter. The truth, though? I had a premonition that I will need the skill and ability to channel Bobby Dean at some point. And if I do, I hope the aggressor realizes that I, like so many other people, have a history of seeing (and feeling) how failing to defend oneself is a greater danger than being able to let the fire flow when it is necessary.

My brother Mike died a year and seventeen days ago. He would be laughing at me. “You JUST realized this?” he would say. “What have I been telling you your entire life, dipsh*t?”

I will probably need a neck tattoo to add a little menace to my appearance. The brooches I wear probably send the wrong message.

Love, X

Stolen Rock Window Larceny

As I stood outside painting another big rock for my landing, I realized that they are the perfect size to throw through my large front windows. This one, the one I painted today, I stole from the remnants of a neighbor who moved out and left the apartment in a “shambles,” whatever that is. The neighbor who moved should have taken her trash with her; it would save time for her to clutter the new place like this one immediately, so she’d feel more at home.

Notes:
Metal security doors are dumb when there are large, knee-high windows right there next to them.
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I have a metal flipper that goes inside the jamb. It requires two hits with a battering ram to break through. This will give me time to make coffee and donuts for the police who will inevitably storm my apartment by accident, thinking I’m the drug dealer here. I’m considering putting a note and an arrow on my front door, pointing to the actual known drug dealer. It’s problematic if he sees it, though.
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I do have a security camera, though I almost always leave it unarmed. And unlegged. I use it more for entertainment and as a virtual window than anything.
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If you’re wondering, YES, I do paint rocks ornately or with clever messages and leave them all over Fayetteville. The rocks are free ( 🙂 ) and the paint doesn’t cost much.
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I also love painting quarters and then using them in the washing machines and dryers. Sidenote to this note: you can get master keys to almost all commercial washers online. I wouldn’t of course. I just like knowing that I can.
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I had a rough few moments today. I had some great moments too. My emergency ER visit and subsequent surgery happened three weeks ago today. The bills will inevitably come. The good news is that I know the hospital is very invested in me not dying because otherwise they won’t get paid. I take solace in that!

…also, my 401k provider keeps saying, “You fixed it,” and then emailing me to say my account is not up to date. I kindly call them and say, “Hey, I almost died. Could you get this updated and fixed?” They say, “You’re good.” Four times in a row. I had to falsify a pdf form today because the fact that I’m not married evidently isn’t proof that my spouse consents to the change. 🙂

Love, X
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Bird’s Butt View

I have my own version of the Weather Channel now.

I bought a nice Blink wireless camera. It allows me to watch the birds on my plant/bird feeder balcony hook, as well as the world outside.

When I initially set it up, I was surprised to see that Amazon had somehow sent me the feed from the backyard camera at my old house on Vanleer in Springdale.

Having the camera also opens up a world of creativity, too, such as “Skits On The Balcony,” or “Let’s Look At Humanity” documentaries. (With “People of Walmart” in mind.) I will try not to be intrusive with this. However, that’s the problem with this sort of technology. I’m confident that I’m going to wake up to find I have an hour of footage of the neighbor romping in the parking lot in his skivvies. A few days ago, I stood on the balcony getting cooked in the sun. A car drove in, and a young woman hopped out without a shirt. From somewhere in the car, someone hurled a shirt through the passenger window. The woman caught it and put it on almost one-handed. There’s a lot of inferences I can make with this anecdote, some lewd, some amusing. When she looked up and saw me on the balcony, I gave her my Forrest Gump wave and laughed.

As old as these apartments are, somehow I was surprised to find no security cameras, even in the laundry room from “Nightmare On Elm Street.” They can be installed cheaply and require no monitoring. The type I bought can be used with a USB drive, hidden anywhere – and checked only when a tenant decides to test a flamethrower from the balcony. (Note: this isn’t unlikely.)

Last week, after a long interval of no additional improvements, a small crew showed up with a Bobcat (not the nocturnal prowling kind) and erected the bones of a lateral fence in front of the dumpster. This will ensure that passersby don’t see it, whereas the residents will get an enclosed cauldron of trash and insects. It seems like a fair trade. That fence will also obscure a big portion of my view of the intersection there. That’s too bad, as there are a lot of fender-benders there. Everyone attempting to pull in here runs the risk of getting hit from behind due to the unequal alignment of the apartment driveway versus the opposing cross street. The fence partially quashes my money-making scheme to sell the footage to those unlucky souls engaged in an impromptu demolition derby.

Anyway.

I’m making a list of tomfoolery in which to engage with this camera.

Love, X

Apple Pie Electrocution

This looks like a dessert – possibly apple pie.

It’s not. It is the housing for one of two kitchen lights. Both of them were hideous. And, as it turns out, were also a hazard, more so than I am doing minor electrical work. I’m very careful. I haven’t shocked myself electrically in a while. The last time reminded me that I am mortal.

I have an older apartment. When I moved in, I discovered that the disposal didn’t work. Tracing the wiring, I discovered it was the switch. Luckily, I decided to fight the stripped wiring and replace the receptacle, as the ground wire wasn’t connected to anything. Water and electricity combined cause a whole lot of stories to be written, usually under the “Obituary” heading. (Which explains why my combination Coffee Pot/Toaster For The Bathroom idea was rejected.)

I bought modern low-profile lights, when left at a certain setting, remind me of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind -except without the mashed potatoes. When I took off the original light, the housing was burned and the connectors turned to ash when I pulled at them. Needless to say, this is NOT what one hopes to find inside wiring boxes.

Because I’m making permanent improvements to my apartment, I unfortunately had to choose “Practical & Stylish.” I wanted “Fabulous & Ridiculous.” I hate that I can’t paint the walls like I’m on an acid trip. My neighbor keeps admonishing me to dial it down, take a step back, and to NOT do anything crazy. It’s like she knows me well or something. A good example of this is that I watched a paintball episode of “Community” and thought, “Man, now that would be a great way to paint a room!”

I bought an array of switches and plugs when I moved here. I’ve replaced a few. It’s a hard fight, given that the builders didn’t leave much extra wiring sheath to work with. For anything I want to keep from being fried, I installed surgery protectors on top. These older buildings tend to experience more power surges than __________. (I left that blank because the joke I wrote there, while amusing, was NSFW.)

I’ve only used my dishwasher three times. All three times were to scald the heat and air vent covers after I scraped them. I’m not saying they are antiques, but the serial number for the first one was just “1.” I experimented with paint until I got it right. (Which means I did it REALLY wrong three times before I stopped being a dumbass.) I painted them whitish, too, even though I have 13 different colors here I would have rather used.

I don’t mind fixing things here. It’s just a place. I can sit at the front window on mornings like this, my hair full of dust and fiber from doing electrical work, and watch the expanse of sky above the trees, the crows warring over imaginary territories, and my weird neighbor with the forest on the balcony. I miss my cat Guino and still sometimes turn to look for him at the foot of the bed or next to me. I do hear traffic a lot. But right now, I hear the wind bending the trees and the birds telling each other secrets.

I suppose I need to get up and paint something else.

I think the whole world needs to be painted.

PS I listened to the voices of reason and bought renter’s insurance immediately. After seeing the wiring, I’m more confident than ever how smart that decision was. It will also come in handy next year when I use the bedrooms to start my Build-Fireworks-At-Home kits.
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You Live, And You Don’t Learn

You have to start small. But sometimes, you have to stop thinking and trust yourself. In my case, I know I’m an idiot. So worrying about s-t-a-r-t-i-n-g to think is a bit excessive.

Because I lost so much weight, I now get these ideas that seemed ridiculous to me before. Losing weight erased much of the sense I could fake and replaced it with a noted capacity for more what-could-go-wrong thinking.

One of my favorite places here has a couple of picnic tables. It’s not that they’re tall, but rather that they’re wide. (A problem I used to have personally, too.) So if you’re going to take a run and jump, you better be prepared to lunge with a wild enthusiasm that will clear you. Otherwise, you’re going to figure out what a somersault feels like, one with splinters and a broken head. (If you’re a masochist and reading this, it still isn’t advisable, so take note.)

This tendency to fail to jump with all your enthusiasm and effort is one of the biggest reasons so much goes wrong in life.

Yesterday, without any preparation, I cleared my head of reason and restraint and ran ten steps… and jumped. To my horror, I cleared the table. Today, I walked around to gauge the logistics of the other table. Instead, I took off running and hurdled it like an ice cream buffet on weigh-in day. I landed a foot further than I needed. I applauded myself like I had brain damage and took a bow.

As I sat on the bench of the picnic table, rubbing my victory in, so to speak, a woman came around the side of the building. She had watched my jump from the vantage of one of the many windows along the back, unbeknownst to me.

“But can you jump the table lengthwise?” she asked.

Although I wasn’t sure I would be able to, I knew that I could, if conditions were perfect. And if they weren’t, at least the witness would have a great story to tell, the one about the middle-aged nutcase jumping a picnic table lengthwise.

The table in question wasn’t much longer than its length. In any case, I’ve lived a good life. I jumped up and turned. Just as I was about to run and jump (or try to), the woman said, “NO! I didn’t mean for you to try it!”

I laughed. I didn’t attempt the jump. Not today, anyway. I’ll call Blue Cross and ask a couple of questions. And reconsider my options tomorrow.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have tried to jump a picnic table. Now, I see metaphorical picnic tables everywhere.

Love, X.

Dry Counties In Arkansas

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*This is a truncated version of a social media post I wrote for someone in a dry county a few years ago. It tickled me that after commenting on a post of one of the pages working for a vote in the county in question, the person organizing it asked me to write a post about the basic arguments against dry counties. I removed the arcane historical information that, while interesting, was too cumbersome for many people.

Before launching into my point, I’d like to mention that DUI/DWI and alcohol-related violence has affected my life. I had a family member killed in a DWI incident. Many in my family were affected by violence and many were also affected by alcoholism. It’s a subject that has touched the core of my life. We as humans are immensely gifted at perverting pleasures into afflictions. It is wrong on a moral level to dictate the otherwise free choices of citizens living in a free society. For those who abuse, we should focus on lending a hand without exception.

It’s easy to look at a United States map of wet vs. dry and draw an immediate conclusion: dry counties still exist predominantly in areas in which have a less-developed infrastructure – and residual religious influences at work. Most of us with a rudimentary grasp of history know that the United States attempted to stop all alcohol consumption in the past. It was a failure. Afterward, the federal government left alcohol laws in the hands of states. The South is home to most dry counties.

In Arkansas, many of the counties are dry. The counties with the highest level of economic development and education, interestingly enough, are wet. Studies continue to demonstrate that dry counties are punishing their own economic growth. If you’re interested, the U of A did a study for Independence County in 2016. The conclusions and observations it makes are exactly what one would expect: being dry is a terrible economic indicator. (If you’re not interested in contextual facts – or reading anything contrary to your established opinion, please stop reading now. Reading my opinion will likely cause spontaneous shouts of anger.

To those who say, “But we will gladly lose economic vitality if it means we can restrict alcohol sales in our county,” I’d reply that they are making the decision for everyone else. This attitude tends to come from those who believe that they have the duty to impose a quasi-religious restriction on their fellow citizens. The geographic areas prone to agree with limiting alcohol sales tend to be cloistered and resistant to the idea that other viewpoints have validity. It’s a generalization; as such, it’s generally true in the spirit in which it is cited. Believing that it’s better (or easier) to outlaw alcohol sales instead of addressing any potential problems strikes to the core of an authoritarian mindset.

Some religions ban pork, others caffeine. In a secular society, it is both immoral and ambiguous to allow a specific religious minority to dictate these choices.

I use the term ‘quasi-religious,’ not out of contempt, but rather as an acknowledgment that it would be disingenuous to classify the argument as exclusively religious. To claim it as a religious reason would be in denial of the fact that most people who self-identify as religious have no issue whatsoever with adult consumption of alcohol. That a vocal segment of religion continues to attempt an illogical co-opting of the singular voice for all religious people speaks to the problem inherent in such an ideology. In short, if it were strictly a religious issue, those identifying as religious would overwhelming agree. They don’t.

To further clarify, I have many religious friends who loathe the fact that some religious groups attempt to limit or sanction the choices people of other religions or denominations make. Most people are cautious about using their religious beliefs to justify an imposition of their will on another member of society. This type of circular reasoning leads to some groups dictating behavior to others. When the tables are turned, they shout in protest, alleging persecution or a lack of freedom. It’s troubling to me, as we all walk out our respective doors into a society which we expect to generally leave us in peace unless we are harming other people.

I’m not asking anyone who wishes to not drink to do so. Quite the contrary; I’m asking for those who choose not to, for whatever reason, to respect the adult decisions of those around them. You lead by example, not by pointing angry fingers at those who live their lives differently. For Christians, it’s difficult to reconcile a defiant attitude about alcohol when Jesus himself imbibed.

I am of course not making the argument that alcohol consumption doesn’t come with some serious caveats. Like all human activity, there are undesirable consequences. It’s our job as a society to balance the consequences with our ability to stop encroaching on the lives of our fellow citizens. I’ve learned to distrust anyone who feels competent to judge the acceptability of certain behaviors in others. Once the line is crossed, it becomes all too easy to begin judging many other personal decisions.

“More crime!” some will object. Even if such a scenario is true, the economic gain from alcohol sales c-o-u-l-d overcome the negative impact, especially if we use the motivation and collective intelligence of the people around us to divert money toward enforcement and assistance for problems which may arise. More importantly, though, is that in a nation of laws, it is hypocritical to argue that each of us is responsible for our own actions, yet demand that fellow citizens desist from legal activities because they might misbehave. Abolition of all potential negative behaviors is no way to run a democracy.

We already spend an inordinate amount of our budgets on police and incarceration. I tend to have less interest in the abolitionist mentality of the police for a variety of reasons. Among them is the fact that law enforcement tends to suffer from a greater degree of alcoholism than the general population. Another is that it’s generally unwise to prioritize the complaints of those tasked with enforcing the laws we decide.

“More DWIs,” others will say. It’s as if those saying this believe that adults interested in drinking aren’t already doing so, many after being forced to drive to imbibe in their own homes. Interestingly enough, the argument of a greater frequency of possible DWI incidents echoes that of those who resist any gun control laws, stating that the responsibility for misuse falls on the person misusing them. The same logic, therefore, falls to driving while impaired.

Each of us has the ability to choose to engage in behavior we find rewarding or pleasurable. To participate in a system which gives greater voice to another person’s personal choice, even if based on quasi-religious reasoning, is wrong. If you disagree, I’ll remind you that many people have quasi-religious issues with pork. Imagine if we were to collectively vote to outlaw pork. Bacon is the unofficial salvation of many an Arkansan. Or imagine if we outlawed hunting, citing dangers to hunters and bystanders, or an appeal to ethics toward animals.

Additionally, citizens of today are not obligated to honor the decisions made by their predecessors; laws, like society, change over time. Some proponents of dry counties point to the past as a mistaken indicator of how best to proceed in the future. For anyone interested, take a look at the time frame during which many dry counties measures were passed. Even a casual look back into history immediately reminds us that we’ve made some monstrous decisions, some which we defended despite serious moral foundations. Each generation has the opportunity to examine its laws and to determine their relevancy. To those thwarting the necessary reexamination of past laws, you should remind yourself that no positive social change ever occurs in which people aren’t given a choice.

Even in supposed dry counties, many allow private clubs. This fact provides an anecdote for the contention that many dry counties cater to those with economic clout. The cliché of wealth demanding access to alcohol exists in recognition of the fact that people with political influence will drink regardless of local prohibition laws. Although it is needless to point it out, those who are members of private clubs are generally going to drive away from their private clubs after drinking. Dry counties with private clubs are one of the most perplexing things I’ve encountered.

Dry county laws more adversely impact a person if he or she is on the lower end of the economic spectrum. If you’re about to make an argument in the spirit of “looking after your fellow man,” I’d like you to start by doing so in all aspects of life, not just in those areas in which you feel you have a moral voice to do so.

As for the argument, “I don’t want to pay for other people’s decisions,” I default to my observation that this is exactly what we all do in regards to everyone else. We all pay for issues, programs, or consequences we disagree with. People with no children fund schools their entire lives, those who don’t drive pay for roads, pacifists fund countless wars, and so on.

The reality is that being a dry county simply obscures the fact that a great number of its citizens are still consuming alcohol, whether in private clubs therein or by spending their tax dollars in surrounding communities. Prohibition relies on an illusion, one which most adults recognize as false. Perhaps it helps some people to know that they’ve made another person’s choices much more difficult or that the ‘other’ is the real problem.

I’d like to point out that regardless of whether you’re in agreement or not, it serves no one to needlessly insult the opposition. Most people simply wish to be able to live their lives without needless restrictions. It’s important to be able to passionately engage yet simultaneously avoid the pitfall of shouting in anger or vilifying those who disagree. At a certain point, though, those who feel the boot on their neck are going to stop being so polite or careful in their choice of words. Although it may sound like it, I am not categorizing all those who oppose their counties becoming wet under the same label. There are many reasons people use to justify staying dry; some are reasonable and more logical than others. For me, all of them fall short. To be clear, it’s important that we define who objects to alcohol sales and why. Not all opposition is created equal and not all arguments are worthy of usage in a free society.

If you live in a dry county and wish it were wet, please accept my apology. That feeling of frustration you experience when you consider the idea that other adults feel capable of limiting your personal choices and enjoyment of life can only be avoided by demanding that it be changed.

Further, if you reside in a county in which there is a concerted effort to thwart such an issue reaching the ballot box, you can be certain that those doing so do not have your best interests as a free citizen in their hearts. Such efforts are an obvious nod to the fact that abolitionist views are in the minority. That’s no way to run government and no way to treat citizens.