humor, music

Catching the “musical flu” and spreading it around…

My friend Ken Turetzky, pumping his own gas…

I should preface this by saying that Ken and I are only the most casual of Facebook friends. I have never met him in person, although he did reach out to me about twelve years ago, when I wrote a review of musical comedian Red Peters’ album, Best of Red Peters Comedy Hour, Volume 1. Ken’s song, “Her Shit Don’t Stink” was featured on that compilation. It reminded me of Bill’s ex wife, who was at that time, pushing a false narrative that her shit didn’t stink. Anyone with their eyes open and nose unstuffed knew the truth, though, and those who weren’t aware would soon become aware as they came of age.

Years later, I care a lot less about Ex than I used to… Bill’s daughters are now grown women and we’re no longer subsidizing Ex’s household to the tune of $30,600 annually. However, we have become aware that for all of Ex’s gas pumping, she was mostly full of hot stinky air. Enough said about that, although there’s a lot I would really like to write. I won’t, though. Not in this post, anyway. Instead, I want to write about something totally unrelated– except I wish I could have helped spread the musical flu to Bill’s daughters.

Yesterday, my sister sent me a private message, asking if I subscribe to Apple Music. I wrote back that I don’t, mainly because I prefer to own my music rather than renting it. Also, I read some disturbing accounts of Apple Music overriding people’s private music collections. I have some rare stuff that I managed to get from Napster back in the day. Those were the days of dialup, so you know I spent a long time downloading those things. I don’t want to lose them by allowing Apple Music to invade my machine. I would imagine that Apple Music has fixed this issue, but I still prefer to buy rather than rent, particularly when it comes to music. I have so many tracks that it would probably take a year to listen to everything, anyway.

My sister, on the other hand, does use Apple Music. She wrote that she heard a song by the jazz player, Michael Franks. She hadn’t really liked him much, but got hooked on this song that came on Apple Music. I told her that I have a similar problem. I’m the kind of person who remembers really obscure songs from many years ago and tries to find out who did them. Sometimes, it takes years. I got tickled by my sister’s comments about Michael Franks, because it turns out that one of his songs was a track I obsessively “hunted down”.

I was first introduced to Michael Franks’ banal style back in the year 2003. Bill and I hadn’t been married a year. We lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in a cheap apartment, because that was what we could afford. We decided to go to the Army Birthday Ball. I needed a formal dress for it, so I drove to a mall in Northern Virginia to go shopping. It was probably Springfield Mall, which is where I used to go shopping when I was 6 or 7 years old.

Eureka!

I was in a department store trying on dresses, and this song by Michael Franks came on. I didn’t know who Michael Franks was, of course. I just remember the song and its monotonous, mind numbing chorus, “Don’t touch that phone.” repeated by female singers over and over again. I don’t even remember liking the song that much. I just remembered the chorus. It stuck in my head for years. I had no idea the name of the song or who sang it, but I relentlessly searched until, finally, I found it. And even though I didn’t love the song, I ended up downloading the album.

My sister and I kept chatting and it occurred to me that she has really had an enormous impact on my musical tastes. It’s almost like she was carrying a kind of “musical flu” bug. Although she is not the sister closest to me in age, I shared a room with her when I was a little kid. I was exposed to a lot of what she liked. My sister famously introduced me to the magic of Kate Bush. She also introduced me to James Taylor, The Police, and Dead Can Dance… as well as the hilarious stylings of Ami Arena, who can’t sing, but is funny as hell.

One of my favorite songs by Kate Bush. I was introduced to her when my sister bought Bush’s 1982 album, The Dreaming, when I was about ten years old. Years later, I bought the album myself, and have since bought it a couple more times.

Back in the early 90s, when I worked as a summer camp as the cook, I had a week off mid summer. My sister invited me to visit for a few days. While I was visiting her in Northern Virginia, she took me to Ellicott City, Maryland. We went shopping, and she introduced me to the band, Dead Can Dance. I remembered one song in particular and liked it, but it was about sixteen years later that I finally broke down and bought the album it came from. It’s still awesome music, even though the album is probably 30 years old by now.

This song stuck in my head for years until I finally bought the album. It’s still a great track… it doesn’t age.

During that same trip, I was exposed to Amy Arena and her sarcastic and very funny brand of music. Amy Arena can’t sing, but she’s witty and snarky and I enjoyed her very much. My sister played Amy’s album and we shared a laugh over the irreverent lyrics. Years later, I bought her CD, too…

She’s a certain king of gap toothed woman… I’m a gap toothed woman, too.

Then my sister told me that both Dead Can Dance and Amy Arena were introduced to her by a guy she used to date– a German dude by the name of Bernd, who played in a band that did live music at a restaurant where my sister used to wait tables. That restaurant, name of Whitey’s, is now long defunct. But for years, it was a great place in Arlington for live music, beer, and junk food. And the funniest part of all is that back in the 90s, when I had to get a food handler’s card to work in food service in Williamsburg, Virginia, I had to watch movies about food safety. One was made by the public health bureau in Virginia and they had actually filmed at Whitey’s. I immediately knew it was Whitey’s, because that place had a big sign that read “EAT”. It was unmistakable.

Both charming songs that you should learn…

When my sister told me about Bernd introducing her to that music, it occurred to me that Bernd had influenced me, too, even though I never met him. Although my sister hasn’t seen Bernd in years, he passed along the musical flu to her, which she then passed to me.

And I have influenced Bill, by sharing the music with him. I have also shared stuff with people on the Internet whom I don’t know. A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about Rush Limbaugh’s death. In that post, I shared a video by the awesome band, Folk Uke, fronted by Willie Nelson’s daughter, Amy, and Arlo Guthrie’s daughter, Cathy. The video was of Folk Uke singing “Shit Makes the Flowers Grow”. I discovered Folk Uke when I lived in Georgia and I had downloaded Willie Nelson’s “children’s” album (quoted, because Willie gave up on the children’s part of that album about halfway through). Amy was featured heavily on that album and I liked her, so I went searching on YouTube for more of her music… and I found Folk Uke. Now, I am a devoted fan…

I used Willie Nelson’s version of “Rainbow Connection” for MacGregor’s memorial video. This song was on Willie’s “children’s” album, which featured his daughter, Amy, half of Folk Uke! I don’t know why, but there’s something about Willie’s take on “Rainbow Connection” that touches me.

When I met Bill, he was pretty limited in his musical tastes. He liked industrial, progressive music, and shunned anything vaguely country. But I think he had the idea that country music was nothing but the pink sequined pop stuff his ex wife listens to… He had not been exposed to bluegrass or classic country music, or outlaw country. It wasn’t long before I had him turned on to people like the Infamous Stringdusters…

I actually discovered them while watching a morning show in Murfressboro, Tennessee. Ever heard a U2 song done quite like this?

And then, thanks to my constant ear to YouTube, I found the likes of Todd Snider and Paul Thorn, both awesome musicians who are entertaining, talented, and fun…

Story of my life… or at least it was when I was at Longwood.
Damn, I want to see him play. If you have a raunchy sense of humor, listen to this.

Last summer, I was on Facebook, and Keb’ Mo’ shared a track that he was listening to. He had played on guitarist’s Lee Ritenour’s compilation album, 6 String Theory. I looked at the album and quickly downloaded it. Then, noticing that there was a cover of Sting’s song, “Shape of My Heart”, I alerted my friend Andrew. I think he was skeptical at first, but then he decided to check it out. Sure enough, I had guessed right that Andrew would like the cover– he’s a big Sting fan, like I am. But this was a great cover done by other people.

Thanks to Keb’ Mo’, I found Lee Ritenour and a new take on Sting.

Speaking of Keb’ Mo’. I’ve been trying to see him play live for years. I have tickets that were supposed to be used on November 16th, 2020. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and the show has been rescheduled three times at this writing. I think it might go on in September, if enough people get COVID-19 vaccines. I was introduced by Keb’ Mo’ by Martha Stewart, of all people. I bought an album she made for new parents. It had really lovely pop music that would appeal to babies and grownups alike, and Keb’ Mo’s song, “Infinite Eyes”, was on it. I liked it fine, recalling that I had heard Keb’ Mo’ on a Lyle Lovett cover of “Til It Shines”, a Bob Seger cover, and liked him then, too. Then one day, when we still lived in Fairfax, Virginia, Bill and I were having lunch at Austin Grill. They were playing some really great music over their sound system, and I heard Keb’ Mo’s unmistakable voice. He was singing “Folsom Prison Blues”, a song originally by Johnny Cash. I loved it, so Bill and I went to a Border’s to see if I could find the album there– it was still the era of CDs, after all.

Well, I didn’t find Keb’ Mo’s cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” until many years later, but on that day, I came home with, like, three of his CDs. And I quickly became a big fan of his music. Now, one of my favorite songs by Keb’ Mo’ is this song…

I love this song… it’s like Bill and me. He gladly indulges my musical obsession. But it’s just one of my favorites by Keb’ Mo’.
This song is more like the reality of my life… ๐Ÿ˜‰ Especially the line about the dog shitting on the floor.

I could do this all day. In fact, thanks to COVID-19, I’ve got little else to do… although I will admit that the above video makes me want to practice guitar. This post does have a point, though. I don’t know how it is for other people, but I tend to catch musical influences like the flu. I hear something, like it, buy it, and use it to find other stuff I love. And then I spread my musical flu to everybody else… even people I don’t know. Just like people I don’t know spread it to me.

I caught Robert Randolph & The Family Band from Eric Clapton. They opened for him at a concert Bill and I attended, and were a hell of a lot better than Clapton was.

And finally… as I sign off, here’s a plug for my alma mater. This morning, I donated $550 to the music department, not because I was a music major, but because the music department at Longwood University literally changed my life. And I really enjoyed this concert, featuring one of my former professors, Dr. Charles Kinzer. His wife is also a professor at Longwood. She used to be my accompanist, and now she teaches piano. This morning, as I watched the jazz concert, it occurred to me that these folks have also spread the “musical flu”, and still do– even 27 years after I graduated.

Anyway… I long for the days of live music again. I love to discover new stuff and spread it around. Bonus points if the music is also funny. And now, it’s time to play with my guitar. Maybe someday, I’ll play it for public consumption, and spread even more musical flu. At least it’s a kind of infection that doesn’t kill anyone.

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funny stories, Germany, humor

R.B.F.

Yesterday, the weather was predictably nasty. Bill decided to take the dogs for a quick walk before the rain started in earnest. As he was walking along the main drag, Arran decided to drop a load. Bill was stooped over picking up the mess when a “scraggly” looking guy passed. Just as Bill finished cleaning up the poop, Arran took a couple of steps and cocked his leg on a cement pillar that formed part of an archway.

The scraggly guy turned and said, in German, that letting the dogs pee on structures isn’t a good thing to do. Bill said, “Ja, ja.” and went on about his day. Then he came back home and stewed about the encounter for awhile. Bill is unusually conscientious and takes public rebukes to heart. I could tell he was upset about that confrontation. I can’t blame him for that. I hate it when random people speak to me, particularly when they really need to fuck off and mind their own business.

For some reason, it seems like Bill runs into people like this more than I do. So I told him I thought he should develop R.B.F.

You know what that is, right?

I posted about it on Facebook, and my friend Meryl wrote, “Huh?”

Resting Bitch Face. I think Bill should develop one.

One of my other longtime friends who, I guess, is often shocked by the things I say and write, commented that she was grateful that someone asked what R.B.F. is so she wouldn’t have to. I thought it was self-explanatory. I have a pretty good R.B.F. myself. I think a lot of women develop one so they won’t be harassed by men. Seriously, if you look unpleasant and unapproachable, most people will leave you alone. It’s a great defense mechanism. Today’s featured photo is an example of one of my MANY R.B.F.s. Actually, in that photo, I was pretty pissed off.

As Bill was telling this story, I was cracking up. I told him he should have pulled out his Schwanz and taken a piss, too. It’s not like we haven’t seen dozens of European men peeing in public, although they don’t typically do it on busy thoroughfares. But the weather is so chilly that it would have meant instant shrinkage. We’re talking a stack of dimes shrinkage. Bill isn’t that bold, anyway.

I usually try not to let Arran pee on buildings, though, mainly because I don’t enjoy being confronted by random people about my dog’s natural toileting habits. Arran peed on that pillar because many other dogs have peed there. That’s like the community bulletin board for dogs. They go by and leave their urinary calling cards for all of the other dogs in the neighborhood. It’s Arran’s way of saying “Arran wuz here.”

The one time anyone German (other than ex landlady) ever spoke to me about my dogs’ potty habits was pretty positive. I was walking Zane and Arran through the field near us and one of the dogs pooped near a wood pile. I was cleaning up the pile when a guy drove up in his truck. He had a look on his face that told me I was about to be confronted. I immediately got nervous, because I figured the guy was going to yell at me. Then I realized that the look on his face wasn’t one of annoyance. In fact, he looked amazed and appreciative.

The man explained in German that people were regularly letting their dogs go potty by his wood pile, but they usually just leave their dogs’ piles of crap there. So he was delighted to catch me cleaning up after my dogs and was offering thanks. That was a memorable experience and every time I pass that woodpile, I remember it with a smile.

Hearing Bill relate that story also reminded me of a funny memory from several years ago, when we visited Rome. We were wandering around the city and happened to pass a church, where a homeless looking guy was sitting on the steps, drinking a beer. Another man was passing and shamed the homeless looking dude for drinking on the church steps. The street person did not seem affected by the shaming.  He casually raised his bottle as if to offer a sip to the guy who had just yelled at him. It was pretty funny.

As I sit here writing this, I’m reminded of how much I miss traveling and interacting with people. We have had so many funny things happen to us, especially in Europe. Like, for instance, the time we were in a Seville restaurant drinking wine. A bum came in begging for spare change. This guy was pretty ballsy and had a sense of humor. He was very persistent about begging for change, and I was a bit drunk. The bum and I ended up engaging in a really funny exchange, so at my prompting, Bill gave the guy a euro or two. Then I told him to beat it.

Actually, I rarely wear a mask, because I rarely leave my neighborhood.

I really hope this COVID-19 crisis eases up soon so we can have some fun again. It’s pretty sad when a random encounter with a German guy over dog whiz results in a blog post. I miss creating memories. Hell, it’s almost time for President’s Day, which is typically a long weekend we use for traveling to other places. Last year, we went to France. It’s also Fasching season, which usually means there will be festivals involving costumes, drinking, and partying in the streets. In 2019, we even got mooned while eating in a restaurant! But not this year. ๐Ÿ™

We can’t go anywhere or celebrate Carnival, because everything is locked down. I guess the one consolation is that the weather is positively shitty right now and will be so for probably another week to ten days, at the very least. So another precious long weekend gets lost to the stupid virus. At least we have Noyzi here to provide some fun. And at least we live in a comfortable home, in a neighborhood where people are generally nice and leave us alone. I don’t have to employ my R.B.F. very often in these parts. I guess I have to take my victories wherever I can find them.

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complaints, funny stories, humor, Trump

Repost: Rude awakenings…

I’m reposting this article from my old blog. It originally appeared on August 10, 2018. I’ve decided to share it again as/is because it makes me laugh. I think we need a laugh, and I don’t feel like writing about the usual stuff today. I might do that anyway, because something is bound to irritate me… but here’s an alternative post for those who are sick of the usual 2020-21 topics. This was truly a WTF moment for me.

I had a “rude awakening” this morning.  You know that expression, “rude awakening”?  People often say it when someone is about to face reality in an unpleasant and unexpected way.  Well, that’s not the type of rude awakening I had.  I literally had a “rude awakening”… as in, someone rudely accused me of being rude and offensive!

Last night, just before I went to sleep, a Facebook friend who does stand up comedy posted this.

I don’t usually play along with these things, but decided to this time…  perhaps it was my mistake.

So here was my response, which several people “liked”.  

I didn’t think this was offensive.  Given our president’s penchant for affairs and grabbing women by the pussy, I thought it was spot on.

Imagine my surprise this morning when someone called me out for being “rude and offensive”.  Have a look.

Well, it’s not the first time someone has called me rude and offensive, but I was truly puzzled by this…

I gave some thought to going off on this guy, especially since it was about 5:00am and I hadn’t yet had my coffee.  Fortunately for him, I was sitting on the toilet, which gave me a few minutes to compose my thoughts.  Below was my response.

This was actually much nicer than the first response that came to mind.

Then, the guy came back with a response I never in my wildest dreams would have come up with, even on my most random thinking day.  Behold…

Thanks for mansplaining this for me.  I clearly never would have made the connection.

Honestly, I was baffled by this response.  Yes, I am old enough to know who Ryan White was.  He was my age and, when he died at 18 years old, was already 100 times the man Donald Trump is.  Moreover, while he did have a infection that can be transmitted sexually, White did not himself contract AIDS sexually.  He was a hemophiliac who received weekly blood transfusions to treat his condition.  Unfortunately, he received blood that was tainted with the virus that causes AIDS, and that’s why he got sick.

Ryan White made headlines because he wanted to keep attending school. People in his community were ignorant about how AIDS is spread and fought to keep him out.  White very bravely kept fighting and educating, and he eventually died a hero among my peers.  I have tremendous respect for Ryan White.  I have zero respect for Donald Trump.  They are completely different people.  In fact, Trump probably would have been squarely on the side of the people who wanted White banished from school.  To bring Ryan White into a discussion about Donald Trump is, in my mind, the height of bad taste and offensiveness.

I never in a million years would have ever thought of Ryan White as being the reason I shouldn’t crack jokes about STIs.  Even if Ryan White had contracted AIDS sexually, I just plain wouldn’t have made the connection.  To be honest, I was initially very offended that this random stranger would make this kind of comment to me, a person he doesn’t know from Adam.  But, once again, I fought the urge to write a nasty response.  Instead, I posted this.

Civil enough?

And he posted this…

Dude, I could have “thought” all day and never come up with the Ryan White/Donald Trump connection…  That’s just a little “out there”, in my opinion.  But thank you for the suggestion and the chastising.  

I think it’s funny that as this conversation was occurring, I was actively thinking about what I was going to post.  I really wanted to tell him off in an epically snarky way, but held off on doing that because I got the feeling he’s not your usual Internet troll.

And then I decided to add a suggestion of my own.

Wise counsel?  I hope some people have learned from Trump’s White House fiasco.

I must admit that I was curious about this man.  I wanted to know what made him call me out for insinuating that Donald Trump should have a sexually transmitted infection named after him.  I went to his Facebook page and found it wide open, with a hodgepodge of odd public videos, YouTube videos of himself, and posts lamenting about cyberbullies and how miserable his life is.  

It appears that some people have had a go at this dude, sending him mean-spirited private messages.  And even though I did not engage him first, I guess he equated me with the Internet meanies for making a joke about Trump and STIs.  Obviously, I didn’t do enough thinking about how Ryan White and Donald Trump have things in common. 

Of course, I have no way of knowing what will offend people, especially those I don’t know.  He took offense at my generic comment about our current White House occupant, but failed to realize that his very personal comment accusing me of being rude and offensive was much worse.  After all, we don’t even know each other.

I am glad I didn’t give in to my initial impulse to blast him.  Even though I think his comment about Ryan White is completely ridiculous, it appears that he’s troubled.  I don’t know what his issues are, and I wish we hadn’t crossed paths, but I don’t want to cause him pain.  I am a bit surprised that he wasn’t upset about another suggestion that appeared in response to that meme…

I mean, this seems more offensive to me than suggesting an STI named after Trump… but, like I always say, you never know what will shake the nuts from the trees.

This is what inspired the comment about monuments to fucking daughters…

Edited to add:  The above comment was posted by a different person who was responding to the original meme, not to me.  No one is in any danger or being threatened– the “daughter” referred to in the comment is Ivanka Trump and the comment refers to Donald Trump’s statements about how he’d want to date her.  The person who posted that is referring to a hypothetical monument named after Donald Trump.  It’s just tasteless political humor.  I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer about that.  

Anyway… I think he will go on my block list so I don’t offend him again.  Who’s got the time for that shit?

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humor, royals, technology

God bless Queen Elizabeth II…

I don’t have much to write about today. I wrote about how we spent yesterday on the travel blog, so if anyone is interested in that, click here. Other than that, I just have one more thing to write about, and that is the mighty Queen Elizabeth II and her annual Christmas speech.

I never used to consider myself an Anglophile, even though my earliest memories are of England. As I’ve gotten older and have had a chance to visit my ancestral homeland a couple of times, I find myself more appreciative of England and its immediate environs, to include Ireland, even though Ireland is definitely not England.

This morning, my ex shrink, who is now a friend, shared Queen Elizabeth’s annual Christmas message. I decided to watch it, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t moved to tears by it. Queen Elizabeth still looks fantastic, and I am awed by her fortitude and attitude of service. She’s 94 years old!

“God Save The Queen”… the band on horseback and the healthcare workers singing were highlights, besides Her Majesty’s wise words. She really is a remarkable woman.

After I watched this video over breakfast, I sat at the table sniffing back tears. At the end of the Queen’s speech, there’s a lovely version of “Joy To The World” sung by NHS workers that made me all weepy. The older I get, the more scenes like this make my heart fill with emotion. It’s nice to be able to cry because I’m moved, instead of because of someone or something hurting me. I love the way the Brits celebrate tradition and pomp and circumstance, and I love the music and humor of Britain. It makes sense that I’d love the Brits, though, since I would have been a Brit if my people hadn’t moved to America. They’re kind of my people.

Then Bill showed me the very cool and pointed “deep fake” version done by Channel 4. Bill earned a master’s degree in cybersecurity a couple of years ago, so he’s particularly interested in this stuff… I thought it was brilliantly done, although I’ve heard that the folks who made it got some flak. It’s a good reminder, though, that things are not always as they seem, especially online.

Always verify your info and double check your sources. What you’re seeing might not be real.

It’s pretty scary how technology has made it possible to alter messages and create disinformation. I, for one, plan to keep this in mind in 2021. Well done, Channel 4! They managed to make this valuable and entertaining message without being mean spirited or preachy. And yes, I laughed after the Queen made me cry.

And if you’re interested in seeing how this was done, check out the video below!

Fascinating! I like that they’re reminding us about how technology can be used to trick us.

Hopefully, in 2021, there will be some sense of normalcy restored. Until then, I’ll keep following Queen Elizabeth II. She’s a wonderful lady and I admire her very much.

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humor, music, social media

Oscar the Grouch never invited anyone to his trash can…

The weirdness of the past nine months are starting to get to me somewhat. Last night, I was feeling “cheeky”, as the Brits would say. Although I haven’t personally suffered as much as a lot of people have, I have been feeling kind of “tense” lately. Little things bug me more than they might usually, not that I’m a particularly laid back person to start with.

I always get a bit nutty during the holidays. When I was growing up, the holidays were always fraught with expectations that were never quite met. As I became an adult, the holidays became downright unpleasant. For several years, my eldest sister hosted our family gatherings in her house. I can remember a lot of fights with my sisters and tense moments with my parents, especially my dad.

The last time I spent Christmas with my family of origin was in 2003, just after my sister Sarah had her son, who turned out to be the last grandchild. Imagine that. My parents had four girls. You’d expect there would have been a lot of grandkids for them. But nope… My sister Betsy had two kids, a girl and a boy, Becky never married, Sarah had a son, and Bill and I couldn’t have kids thanks to his vasectomy. The older I get, the more I think that might have been a blessing. Family life has become surreal these days. I feel kind of divorced from mine.

Add in the shitshow that 2020 has been, and this year’s holiday season is even weirder than usual. So I had a good laugh when I ran across a funny video by Sandy and Richard Riccardi, a talented couple on YouTube and Facebook who make funny parodies of popular songs. A lot of their material is political, but sometimes they do songs about common situations that come up in everyday life. I think the first song I ever heard by this funny duo was a song called “Unfriend Me”…

Listen all the way to the end for the punchline.

Since Trump came on the scene, this couple has come out with some very amusing songs about him, as well as some of the current events that affect everyone. I like a lot of their stuff, but I don’t always love what they do. Like, for instance, I wasn’t a big fan of this song…

Yeah, I know… I know… but I am so fucking tired of hearing about it.

To be clear… I get that the masks are necessary for now. I’m just really fed up with some how people feel emboldened to constantly clobber people over the head about them. I hate the aggressive, belligerent, and obnoxious hashtags, and in your face slogans like, “Wear a damn mask!”. I don’t think those types of messages are helpful. They certainly don’t inspire respect or compliance.

Yesterday, I was reading a Facebook thread started by true crime author Kathryn Casey, who wrote that she had sent away a couple of maskless workers who had come over to do work on her house. The workers mocked Casey’s husband when he asked them to wear masks while they were working. A thread ensued, in which people were congratulating Casey for sending away the maskless workers and hiring a different company. Casey’s choice to fire the workers would have been alright with me, but accompanying those comments were others that were hostile and aggressive. One lady wrote about how she was tired of how non mask wearers were so “belligerent”. Then she wrote, “Wear a damn mask or stay home!”

Another lady wrote that she was tired of people telling her to “wear a damn mask or stay home.” She explained that she has an eating disorder, lives in a remote area where grocery delivery is unavailable, and has a medical problem that prevents her from wearing a mask. None of her friends or family have offered to help her, so she’s been having to deal with people getting up in her face about her lack of a mask for what, I assume, is a real medical problem.

A third woman came along and, in a rather haughty, holier than thou tone, asked what the woman’s medical problem was. She included a news article (which is what everybody seems to use to cite their points these days) and claimed, per the news article, that there are very few medical problems that actually prevent a person from wearing a mask. This woman added that maybe she could see it if the woman with the eating disorder had a burn on her face or something. But otherwise, she felt the lady with the eating disorder was full of shit– despite not knowing her or her personal situation.

I couldn’t restrain myself from commenting. I feel like a lot of people aren’t really giving this issue much consideration. If I sit here and think about it, I can think of several medical problems that might make wearing a mask difficult or impossible for some people. Just off the top of my head, I’m remembering the two men I’ve met at different times in my life who were literally missing parts of their ears and had trouble using their hands due to injuries they’d sustained in wars. Then there are people who don’t hear well, have speech impediments or breathing problems, deal with severe anxiety or PTSD issues, or have trouble with their vision.

But most people don’t stop and consider people who really do have legitimate problems with wearing the masks. They just say, “Wear a damn mask!” If someone doesn’t or can’t comply, they think they are entitled to an explanation regarding another person’s private medical situation. And they think their opinions about another person’s circumstances have merit, and they are entitled to weigh in, even though they don’t know the other person from Adam and aren’t any more knowledgeable about the pandemic, or public health issues in general, than the average person is.

The “Wear a damn mask” slogan, in my opinion, is too aggressive. Those who truly don’t care about others will simply ignore it. Those who can’t comply will just feel worse than they need to about something beyond their control. And that harsh directive just adds to the overall dehumanized, dystopian, and downright creepy vibe in the air this year. It’s very depressing to me. Although personally, I don’t have it bad at all, I often think of the relatives I’ve recently lost and think they’re lucky to have escaped this living hell. The future seems bleak, and the constant anger and polarization only makes it worse. It makes me want to check out.

I can’t be the only one who feels like this, so I decided to respond to the woman with the eating disorder. I wrote that I was sorry she was having a hard time and I hoped it would get better for her. And I find it rich that people are complaining about belligerent “anti maskers” while they make aggressive demands like “Wear a damn mask!”, and aren’t willing to consider why people legitimately can’t or won’t wear a mask. I added that I won’t ask her what her health problems are, because they are none of my business.

Frankly, if I see someone who isn’t following the rules, I just stay away from them, if I can. I don’t automatically assume they’re selfish assholes. While I’m well aware that there are selfish assholes out there who simply don’t want to comply with the rules, it’s less depressing to me to assume the best about people whenever possible. Or, at least I like to tell myself that.

After that little exchange, I was feeling tense. But I ran across another funny, snarky song by the Riccardis. This one was called “Braggy Christmas Letter”. It had nothing to do with any of today’s most annoying and pervasive topics. I just thought it was funny, so I shared it.

I don’t get too many of these. It’s probably because I don’t go to church.

I had a good laugh as I listened to this song. It reminded me of how, about fifteen years ago, I ran across a family Web site created by a Mormon doctor in Wyoming who, by all images, seemed to be living the perfect life. I remember this guy had every single braggy Christmas letter he’d ever written posted on his site. He’d been divorced, but he even included the letters he’d written while he was with his first wife. I remember sharing that site with people on RfM, who are very familiar with “braggy Christmas letters”. While I don’t think the Mormons have cornered the market on this particular habit, I do think churches that promote a “prosperity gospel” message– ie; if you’re doing really well financially, that means God is smiling on you– prompt certain religious people to send these types of Christmas messages, even if they’re stretching the truth. It’s the whole, smug “seriously, so blessed” vibe that, on the surface, may seem harmless, but can make other people feel really small and devalued.

I didn’t think the above video would be controversial, but somehow even the most innocuous things can become that way. Why? Because everyone is different and sees things differently. Apparently, some people like getting “braggy Christmas letters”. I’m sure they have their reasons for feeling that way. Maybe they genuinely like reading that others are “seriously, so blessed”, with expensive houses, fancy cars, perfect figures, and fat bank accounts. I guess they’re above the petty, snarky people who poke fun. Or they like to appear that way.

I don’t mind getting newsy letters that contain positive news, especially when they aren’t mass produced. But there’s a big difference between a friendly letter with happy news in it and a letter that seems meant to make other people feel insignificant and second rate. The letter Sandy Riccardi is singing is the latter type, and I can’t imagine being happy to receive one of those, especially if they come every year like clockwork. I wonder if the people who were being contrary on that thread actually listened to the song before they commented. Or maybe they just wanted to feed their own egos by being contrary and “above” the snark.

So I got even more tense and grouchy… and Bill, who is always game to make me laugh (and it’s not hard to do), said “You know, Oscar the Grouch never invites anyone to his trash can.”

To which I responded, “But I invited you, Bill. How do you like the smell?”

And then we both laughed.

There was a time when most people had real conversations with people face to face or, at least, on the phone. Nowadays, a lot of us connect via social media. That can lead to a host of communication problems that range from everything from misunderstandings to people feeling emboldened to be mean or smarmy because they’re behind a screen. Some folks also feel that social media is the best place for them to preach or “set a good example” for others to follow. I will admit that it’s annoying to me when people feel the need to check their neighbors and give them unsolicited “special help”. It makes me grouchy.

At the risk of rambling on too long… here’s another example that came along last night. I read a news article in the Washington Post about people who have decided to get plastic surgery during the pandemic. Why? Because they don’t like how they look on Zoom calls. I don’t usually comment on newspaper’s Facebook pages because comments there invite interaction with unusually obnoxious people. But I thought this was an innocuous comment…

I donโ€™t even wear a bra anymore. I figure people can deal with my sagging boobs as well as my wrinkles and jowls. Itโ€™s been a rough year.

A lot of people thought it was funny. But then I got this response, which sounded like something my mother might say…

I choose to care about my appearance because if I look good, I feel equally good!

(My mom did actually say that shit to me when I was a teenager, dirty and stinky from hanging out at the barn all day, or simply not wanting to dress up and put on my face. Mom likes wearing her makeup. I don’t. What can I say? People are different.)

So my response was…

Here… have a cookie. Or a Coke and a smile… and then, kindly STFU. You do you, and I’ll do me, mmmkay?

Most of us are legitimately guilty of being smug sometimes, and inflicting our self-righteous, superior bullshit on others. Sometimes I do it myself, although I try to be conscious of it. I mean, you might say I did the same thing to the woman who was harassing the lady with the eating disorder about her reluctance to “wear a damn mask”. But I doubt the lady with the eating disorder will offer me a cookie, especially as I dwell in my trash can of grouchiness.

One last note: I think my landlord’s grandsons think I’m grouchy. They rang my doorbell yesterday while I was binge watching The Crown. I thought they were delivery people. I opened the door; the dog was barking; I wasn’t dressed; and they were speaking very quietly in German. I didn’t understand or even hear them very well, so I said I didn’t understand and closed the door.

In my defense, in Jettingen, I used to get visits all the time from all manner of people wanting to sell everything from many kilos of apples and potatoes to religion or charities. The visitors came in all shapes, sizes, and ages. I had not met my landlord’s grandchildren, so I didn’t know who they were.

They rang the bell again, and my landlord asked me if I wouldn’t mind fetching their ball, which had gone over the fence. I felt pretty bad, and I noticed that one of the boys was cowering under our front stoop. I got the ball and tossed it to my landlord. Then I noticed he’d left us a wheelbarrow full of firewood. Later, I spotted their ball in the backyard again and felt another pang of guilt. I guess the kids were too afraid to tell me the ball was back in my yard. I tossed it over the fence for them. Hope they find it.

I’m really not a bitch most of the time… I’m just on edge, as we all are. Hopefully, next year will be better.

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