celebrities, communication, condescending twatbags, music, overly helpful people, social media

An innocent birthday greeting goes horribly awry…

Yesterday, as I was enjoying the fact that it was Friday, I ran across a post by famed singer-songwriter Janis Ian. I recently started following her Facebook page again after an incident in 2019, in which an overbearing twit shamed me for a rather innocuous comment I made. Okay, so on the surface, it was kind of a violent comment, but it was in response to someone else’s comment, and was pretty obviously not meant to be taken literally. This guy chose to come at me, instead of the person before me. I got annoyed and responded to him, and Janis Ian, herself, left me a response, which I decided not to read, because I was irritated and didn’t want to be compelled to respond further. I think it happened during one of Bill’s TDYs, which always cause me stress and aggravation. You can read about that incident here, not that it’s all that exciting. Actually, that post is a bit nostalgic, since it was posted before the plague.

After that minor spat, I decided to take a break from Janis Ian’s page, because, even though I enjoy her music, I find her a little bit hypocritical at times. Some of her followers are also a little too rabidly “woke” for my taste, too. I don’t like aggressively obnoxious people on either side of the spectrum, who insist that their opinions are the only “correct” ones. Life is stressful enough as it is. I probably comment once or twice a day on pages that aren’t my own or a friend’s, mainly because I don’t like arguing with strangers. During the pandemic, I have noticed that more and more people want to fight with others. It’s as if many of us have lost all concept of basic civility and decorum. I think that may be one major reason why so many people are freaking out in public.

So lately, I’ve been following Janis again. I enjoy most of her memes. I think she has a good sense of humor. A lot of her songs are beautiful. But every once in awhile, she reveals a part of her personality that, I think if I knew her personally, I wouldn’t like very much. I ran into that yesterday, when I saw that she had posted a sweet birthday greeting to Roberta Flack, who turned 85 yesterday. Yesterday was also my eldest sister’s birthday, so that’s probably why I noticed.

I’m sure Janis Ian was being very sincere when she wished Roberta Flack a happy birthday. It should not have been a controversial post at all. But, when Janis wrote her greeting, she commented that Roberta is now “85 years young.” One of her, probably ex followers by now, took her to task for writing “85 years young” instead of “85 years old”. The follower wrote that she found the use of “young” instead of “old” very condescending and made some other comments that were a bit chastising in their tone and, no doubt, offensive. I do remember the woman’s parting shot was something along the lines of, “There’s nothing bad about getting old. It’s better than the alternative.” There was more to the post, but I didn’t bother to get a screenshot, nor did I leave any comments myself. I was just observing.

Allow me to state two things from the upshot. First off, I kind of agree with the poster that substituting the word “young” for “old” is potentially condescending and ageist. I remember a wonderful and wise rant by the late George Carlin that addressed that very thing (see the video below if you’re curious). He was talking about how many Americans have a tendency to substitute soft, flabby euphemisms for things that are potentially offensive or unpleasant. And one of his examples was substituting the word “young” for “old” when mentioning someone’s age. The poster who took on Janis Ian yesterday was echoing George Carlin, and as far as I’m concerned, George was often right about a lot of things. Or, even if he wasn’t right, he often stated things that invited more consideration.

I tend to agree with George on a lot of things, including using the word “young” instead of “old” when describing a person’s age.

And secondly, I agree with Janis Ian that it’s annoying when you try to post something on your very own Facebook page or blog or whatever, and some rando comes along and criticizes you for how you express yourself, your opinions, and whatever else. A lot of times, they completely misconstrue, miss the point, or project their own shit on a situation and turn it into something it shouldn’t be. As a blogger with authority issues, I run into that situation myself all the time!

My whole life, people have told me that I’m inappropriate, rude, obnoxious, offensive, or any manner of other adjectives, often for just speaking my mind or stating the truth as I see it. As a woman growing up in small town southern Virginia, as the youngest sibling of four, and as the daughter of a mentally damaged alcoholic with PTSD, I have been on the receiving end of a lot of negativity regarding my looks and personality. Many people have criticized me for being myself. Even my own grandmother found me annoying, and she even made a crack about how Bill’s “charm” was rubbing off on me. Both she and my dad (her son), hated things about me that I can’t control, like my laugh. Too many people have tried to silence me and squelch my natural personality, instead of just scrolling by or considering for a moment why I am the way I am. I used to let it depress me, but now I tend to speak up… and if I’m honest, it also gets me down, too. Can’t lie about that. By the way, who I am isn’t actually all that bad… if you get to know me. But I know I turn off a lot of people, so… 😉 Most of the time, I don’t bother anymore. I am what I am, and if you don’t like it, you can keep scrolling.

Anyway, part of me felt for Janis, because I’m sure that it’s especially irritating for her when people try to tell her what she can and can’t say or do. She’s an artist, and has made her living expressing herself beautifully through words and music. And she’s a person, first and foremost, so she should be allowed to post what she wants on her space without being taken to task by a random person. That part, I don’t disagree with at all. It was what happened next that caused me to pause for a moment.

In the wake of receiving the chastising response about using a potentially ageist euphemism, Janis issued a sharp retort to the person who commented, sarcastically “thanking” her for telling her how to express herself on her page. She added a bit more snark, which I thought was unnecessary, especially since Janis insists that people be respectful and civilized on her page. Being snarky and sarcastic, while certainly understandable, is not respectful. People don’t like hypocrisy or double standards.

A bunch of followers piled on, praising Janis for her thorny response. Some followers added more abuse to the poster who had chastised Janis for substituting the word “young” for “old”. It became very negative in a hurry. And then, Janis wrote an insulting second post that basically invited the first poster to have a look at Janis’s latest album cover and compare it to the poster’s profile, and then see who was aging better… (or something along those lines. Again, no screenshots, just memory). I thought that second post was completely hypocritical and unnecessary, even if I understood the irritation behind it. Janis Ian is human, as we all are. However, she is also a public figure, which gives her a certain power and platform that regular people don’t have. And if she’s going to insist on civility, she really ought to practice what she preaches. Otherwise, there’s a double standard.

I noticed a few posters were sticking up for the woman who had expressed her opinions to Janis. It was only two or three– one was a man, who made perfect sense to me, but was immediately accused of “mansplaining”. He wasn’t mansplaining, in my opinion. He made the valid point that Janis Ian, as a famous person, has more power than the average commenter has. The first woman had just made a random comment that might have been ill considered, but was basically harmless. Janis responded with venom, in spite of her policy that people be civil on her page. Then the few people who stuck up for the rando were piled upon by some of Janis Ian’s more rabid fans. That compounded the problem, and of course, was not civilized at all.

It was getting pretty nasty, and I was getting a bad feeling about it. I could see Janis’s point, but I could also understand the first woman’s comment. Yes, she probably should have just kept scrolling, but it’s Facebook, and people chime in with inappropriate stuff all the time. It’s usually best to take a breath and respond with kindness before snark and defensiveness. I’m not saying I always do that myself, but I’m not a public figure (in spite of what some of my blog commenters seem to think– this is NOT a popular blog). And I do usually try to be civilized, even if I fail sometimes.

I quit paying attention to the drama after a few minutes. What can I say? Dr. Phil circa 2014 was calling… So I clicked off of Janis Ian’s page, but had a brief discussion about what happened on my own page. One of my friends, who is in the music business, wrote that she had actually met Roberta Flack and found her to be a delightful lady. We bonded a bit about that, since I have some fond memories of Roberta’s music from my childhood. That’s one of my fond memories about my dad. He used to play her 1973 album Killing Me Softly, when I was really little. The songs stuck in my head until many years later, when I purchased it myself.

This song, especially… stuck in my head since about 1975 or so…

This morning, I woke up to find this post by Janis Ian. I guess I missed out on even more drama, because she ended up deleting the post that had prompted the post I saw this morning.

I hear you, Janis… but the other lady also had a point, though it was stated in a rather abrasive way. And when you responded with snark and sarcasm, you violated your own policy.

I commend Janis for asking her followers not to chime in with comments about how “great” she is, telling her she’s “right”, or personally attacking the other person or anyone who defends the other party. That doesn’t help. I appreciate that she took a moment to consider what happened and address it rationally with her followers. I think she’s sincere when she writes that she wants to encourage civility. She’s usually assertive when she insists that people “keep it clean”, but I notice that when you prick her, she bleeds, too. That just makes her human, as we all are. But there is no reason why that thread should have gotten as ugly as it did. It was a birthday wish, for God’s sake.

I think it probably would not have escalated if Janis had simply thanked the woman for following and commenting, and then, in an assertive way, explained that using “young” instead of “old” was not meant to be offensive to the elderly (if it really wasn’t, that is, which I am sure is the case). It was a simple birthday greeting to a legendary musician who has reached a grand age. And then Janis could have politely reminded the woman that it’s her page, and she would appreciate it people would allow her to express herself without unnecessary criticism. On the other hand, I completely understand why she was irritated. Nobody likes to have their words picked apart, especially by a perfect stranger. At the same time, it appears that both of these women were triggered for different reasons. I can relate to both of them. It happens to me all the time.

Anyway… it’s Saturday, and already past noon, so I think I will close this post and get on with the day. It can’t be easy to be famous, especially if you have an artistic personality. No wonder a lot of famous people have people to run their social media for them. I don’t envy that part of being well-known and successful at all. On the other hand, one thing I’ve learned is that you should never ask of others what you are, yourself, unwilling to do. That will only lead to trouble.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, rants

Repost: Thanks for your opinion, now feel free to…

Here’s a repost from December 30, 2014. I remembered it this morning as I was reading through my Facebook memories… back in the days when things like this would get me riled up. Actually, as I was reading the original comments, I was feeling annoyed anew. It does irritate me when people tell me what should or should not irritate me. Youngest child syndrome at work again, I guess… I’m still trying to decide what else to write about today, as 2021 winds down.

Edited to add– it’s eerie that I reposted this two days before Betty White died! And people are sharing that misattributed quote as a way of honoring her.

go take a flying leap!

As Dr. Phil would say, I have a “psychological sunburn” about some things.  Folks, I am well aware of my “thin-skinned” nature.  I am neurotic and I know it.  Little things that “shouldn’t” annoy me often do.  I know I should work on it.  I know that if I were less easily irritated, my life might be better.  Here’s one thing that doesn’t help me get over it, though…  Don’t tell me what should or should not offend or annoy me.

Yes, this came up on Facebook yesterday…  it’s kind of a rerun of my many issues, I suppose.  Someone on SingSnap— apparently much younger than I am and from Alabama– left me a generic comment, called me “sweetie”, and invited me to go listen to one of her recordings, which already had lots of hits, comments, and likes.  I ignored the comment, but decided to vent about it on my Facebook page.  I knew full well that someone would come along to tell me that homespun terms of endearment is a “southern” thing and I shouldn’t be offended by it.  Naturally, I wasn’t disappointed.

Okay, first of all, I am from the southern United States, so I am well aware that cutesy pet names are a “thing” there.  Having been born and raised in Virginia and spent lots of time in Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, I know very well that southern people, in particular, can be casual about using a pet name in lieu of a person’s real name.  And if the terms of endearment come from someone I know, or an older lady who is waiting on me in a diner, or something, they usually don’t upset me.  

It’s when I get them from total strangers who are young enough to have crawled out of my uterus that I get especially irritated.  Why?  Because names like “honey”, “sweetie”, and “darling” from a total stranger imply a familiarity that doesn’t exist.  They also suggest laziness, since in the case of the SingSnap commenter, all she had to do was go to my profile page and see that my real name is provided there.  She could have called me “knotty”, or she could have called me “Jenny”, but apparently, it was easier just to call me “sweetie” and pimp her song.  Sadly, her efforts to woo me to her page failed. 

Secondly, while I understand that getting annoyed by a stranger calling me “sweetie” is pointless, so is telling me that I shouldn’t get annoyed.  Because I am already annoyed.  Your telling me that I’m being too sensitive and need to get over it is not going to make things better, because that will also annoy me.  It’s not nice to discount or diminish other people’s feelings, especially if they are adults.  Besides, I think I should be the one who determines what I find irritating and what I don’t, especially if I’m posting about it on my personal blog or Facebook page.  Trust me, I wish little things didn’t piss me off.  They do, though.  I can’t help it.  And if I want to vent about it, that’s my business.  If it bothers you, you can choose to hang out elsewhere.

My “friend” who chastised me for getting annoyed pointed out that she’s been called worse than “sweetie”.  She said, “At least they didn’t call you a bitch.”  Being a card carrying southerner, I will tell you that sometimes, when a southerner calls you “sweetie”, they really are calling you a bitch.  It’s a passive aggressive thing that terminally “nice” southerners do when they really want to let ‘er rip on someone, but don’t want to stoop to cussing them out. 

Recently, I was watching old episodes of America’s Next Top Model cycle 14.  Contestant Anslee Payne-Franklin of Dacula, Georgia, got into an argument with fellow Georgian Alasia over the fact that Alasia left some raw chicken on the counter.  Did Anslee flat out call Alasia a bitch?  Well no, not at first.  She said, in a rather acid tone of voice, that Alasia needed to put the chicken away, but then sarcastically added the term of endearment “sweetheart” to her statement.  Do you think that made things better?  Well, no, actually it didn’t.  Because Alasia, who instantly caught on to Anslee’s condescending tone of voice, immediately escalated things by attacking Anslee’s mothering skills.  The rest is television cat fight history.

I happen to be one of those people who is sensitive to a lot of things.  It would make my life so much easier if I were a really laid back person who didn’t notice the things that regularly get on my nerves.  But if I were like that, I wouldn’t be myself.  A lot of people love me for who I am.  Bill is one of those people.  He loves it when I get wound up over dumb things because it usually results in an entertaining rant.  Believe it or not, Bill actually likes listening to me go off.  He says my rants are often funny and usually make perfect sense.  I also tend to say the things he’s thinking, but lacks the temerity to say out loud.  The world would be a very boring place if everyone were low key and laid back, don’t you think?  We need a few folks around who provide excitement by raising a little hell.

The person on SingSnap who inspired this rant wasn’t calling me a bitch when she addressed me as “sweetie”.  She was just treating me like a little bitch by pimping her song to me on SingSnap. Apparently, she thought that calling me “hon” or “sweetie” would flatter me and make me more interested in hearing her recording.  Instead, I found it off-putting, the same way I find the picture below off-putting…

Someone posted this yesterday…  interestingly enough, it was a woman.

Have a look at that photo.  Notice that it basically says that if you have “hurt feelings” you are thin skinned, a woman, or gay.  I find it also interesting that the form says that people who have hurt feelings are “pussies”.  As a comedian other than Betty White famously quipped,

People often attribute this to Betty White, but actually Sheng Wang said it…  I suppose it’s funnier if it seems to have come from Betty White, but she has publicly said she didn’t say this.
And Sheng Wang supposedly got his routine from one by Hal Sparks, who also notes that vaginas are much tougher than dicks and balls are…

The reality is, folks, vaginas tend to be tougher all the way around than balls are.  So calling someone a “pussy” is kind of counterintuitive.  Moreover, I have some homosexual friends who are among the strongest people I know.  Same goes for some women I know, though a lot of them are just as equally annoying as they are strong.

So, there you have it… yet another rant on cutesy pet names and the people who think I have no right to be pissed off by them.  I have a perfect right to think and feel whatever I wish and express myself accordingly, fuck you very much.  Likewise, you have the right to respond, but don’t be surprised if your advice falls on deaf ears and makes the situation worse.  Of course, sometimes, I think that’s the whole idea.  Remember, people like it when someone raises a little hell.  It gives them something to talk about.

And, in case you were wondering, yes, it is still snowing. (Alas, in 2021, all we have is RAIN. That was an epic snowstorm, though… very pretty! I saw the pictures from the storm on today’s Facebook memories, too.)

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condescending twatbags, housekeeping tips, money, politics, sex, silliness, technology, transportation, travel, YouTube

Lime scale, lobsters, lectures, and lost causes…

Today’s featured photo is of the Boothbay Harbor blue lobster. Bill and I visited there for my birthday in June 2011, and I got a picture.

So yesterday’s “boring” post about water and limescale actually generated a lot of comments– for my blog, anyway. I know there are a lot of mommy bloggers out there who go viral and get hundreds of comments on their posts. But they tend to be sunny people who write things like “totes amazeballs”. I’m not like that. But since everybody poops, everybody needs water, and most normal people like to poop in clean bathrooms, I guess yesterday’s potty post resonated! Good for me! And thanks to everyone who read and commented! I probably ought to take a look/see at the bathroom in the basement. I almost never use it, but it also has some lime build up.

There’s still a little buildup, but it looks a lot better than it did yesterday.

And I just looked, and sure enough, that toilet has pretty terrible limescale build up, too. So I treated it with vinegar, and then tried the sink and the water is barely flowing. I have a feeling the pipes have lime in them. I treated it with baking soda and vinegar, but it may need a professional’s attention. This house has pretty terrible lime issues. When we first moved in, the buildup was so bad that we literally couldn’t turn on one of the faucets in the shower. It was completely stilled by calcium. The basement bathroom rarely sees any action, so I guess this is a reminder that it pays to stop in on occasion. Curiously, the toilet on the main floor doesn’t have much buildup at all.

I have a few things on my mind today, so this post is probably going to be multi-faceted. Now that I’ve written more about lime scale, and the payoff from yesterday’s project, it’s time to move on to the next topic. And the next topic is lobster.

A couple of days ago, Bill and I watched some random videos on YouTube. I ran across one about a guy who rescued a live lobster from the grocery store and kept it as a pet. I don’t know what made me decide to watch that video, but I found it absolutely fascinating. It also kind of made me a little ashamed of how much I enjoy eating lobster. This guy brought the lobster home, cut the rubber bands that rendered him helpless, and dropped him in a saltwater aquarium, where he gave him the name Leon and observed his behavior.

This was an unexpectedly fascinating and somewhat sad video… I might not ever be able to enjoy eating lobster rolls again.

I’m sure on one level, Leon is happy enough not to be someone’s dinner. On the other hand, Leon escaped death, but now lives in an aquarium, where he depends on the kindness of the guy who “adopted” him. He can’t really hunt, and he has no lobster friends to hang out with or have sex with… I guess lobsters have sex, and I’m sure Google would tell me if I cared to research further… It might be too early for me to explore the potential joys of lobster fucking, though.

Okay, I have to admit, my curiosity got the better of me. I Googled, and sure enough, lobsters enjoy a rather “kinky” sex life. Apparently, female lobsters attract mates by repeatedly peeing on their faces. And lobsters have urethras under their eyes that evidently make this possible. The female lobster pees on the male, then runs away. Female lobster pee evidently has the magical essence of an aphrodisiac, and after a few days of golden showers, the male lobster gets romantic and loves the lady lobster enough to cause reproduction. Wow… the things you learn on the Internet! And this was all inspired by a YouTube video about Leon, the lobster, who was rescued from the grocery store and now has a job teaching humans more about crustaceans. Leon should be proud. Not everyone has the chops to make it as a YouTube star.

I highly recommend watching the above video, if you’re interested. I legitimately found it informative and entertaining, and it reminded me that the animals we eat are still sentient beings with personality. Sigh… I really should be a vegetarian. Maybe someday I’ll give up my carnivorous ways… live on wine and beer, instead. Which brings me to the last two topics, lectures and lost causes.

Seriously… I don’t like the idea of promoting drinking, but this COVID-19 lifestyle is a real fucking drag. Last night, I had a mild meltdown after reading an article about how Dr. Fauci thinks we’ll be forced to wear masks on airplanes from now on. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. I have a feeling that this prediction of his– while entirely possible– probably isn’t going to happen. Why? Because the world is a big place, and there are parts of it that are still pretty undeveloped. I remember being in Armenia in the mid 90s and seeing that most people there still weren’t wearing seatbelts, even though they have been “required” in most modern places for many years. And I simply doubt that people all over the world are going to embrace being forced to wear masks forever. They are uncomfortable, impractical, and annoying, and while they may save lives, a lot of people are inherently selfish.

Moreover, even in so-called “civilized” places, people are still losing their shit over masks. And they are deeply polarizing, with a lot of smug, self-righteous, left leaning all knowers discounting and insulting those who are legitimately terrified of government overreach and tyranny. Look at how many people are freaking out on airplanes. There are a lot more people wigging out in the “friendly skies” these days. Obviously, the masks are causing stress. And don’t tell me they aren’t. In 2019, there weren’t nearly as many people misbehaving on planes. What’s changed? People have to wear masks. THEY ARE AN OBVIOUS PROBLEM for a lot of people, even if some people don’t think so.

The fact is, you may not mind wearing a mask at all, but that doesn’t mean your neighbor agrees, nor should they have to agree if we’re living in a free society. Disagreeing with masks doesn’t give someone the right to be unruly on an airplane, of course. All I’m saying is that telling someone that masks are “no big deal” is disingenuous. To some people, they ARE a big deal. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be so much bad behavior, violence, and legal morass surrounding their enforced use. And I think that not respectfully listening and trying to understand why some people aren’t embracing face masks is going to help prolong this situation we’re in.

Now… before anybody comes at me, let me state that I realize that masks are necessary for now. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t wear them. What I am saying is that this talk of forcing people to “mask up” (ugh, hate that expression) forevermore, and dismissing their concerns about the depressing prospect of that, as you tell them it’s “no big deal”, is part of what is driving all of this stubborn rebellion. Nobody likes to be condescended to or lectured– at least not when they haven’t paid tuition and specifically asked for a lesson. Telling someone to “get over it” is rude and disrespectful, and it’s not likely to inspire cooperation. And while you may think they’re rude for non-compliance, there are always other perspectives in any situation. I just think the wise person will take a minute to try to understand the other perspectives, even if they seem ridiculous. At this point in time, even ridiculous people can still vote, right?

When I venture into comment sections and someone raises a concern about masking– even when it’s done in a respectful way– there’s almost always a slew of comments from people who lecture, insult, condescend, or outright dismiss those concerns. Those who are anti-mask, or simply have concerns, then get pissed off and more stubborn, and some of them get pissed off enough to vote in politicians who don’t support mask mandates or vaccines. Unfortunately, a lot of those politicians also don’t support other policies that are community oriented or family friendly. So maybe you don’t have a vaccine mandate or mask requirement, but you also have some white, Southern, conservative yahoo who wants to make guns easier to buy and abortions harder to get.

As for Fauci’s predictions about masks on planes… I will state that I think money will be the deciding factor on this. I think there are people who are already looking for innovations that make it harder to contract illnesses in buildings. There’s a lot of money to be made with a solution like that. You can bet someone out there is looking for a way to filter air so that people stay healthy and productive. It’s not necessarily a trend that arises for the public good, either. It’s because there’s money to be made, and money drives a lot of people into action. Healthy people can work longer and generate more money.

Some people don’t want to travel if they have to wear a mask. Just yesterday, I mentioned a dream I had about moving to New Zealand– probably been watching too many Mama Doctor Jones videos. She is moving to New Zealand. Someone on Facebook mentioned that that sounded nice. I said I don’t want to sit on a plane that long in a mask. Flying sucked enough before the masks. The seats are uncomfortable, the fares are high, the food is inedible, and there are a lot of rules to follow. Now, many people have this dystopian “hall monitor” mentality, where everybody is watching and judging everybody else. Personally, I think I’d rather stay home or drive somewhere, than sit on an already uncomfortable flight for hours with a mask on my face. At least in a car, I don’t have someone watching my every move.

Same goes for cruising. Some people don’t mind wearing masks on ships, but others won’t like it. I think of the ships Bill and I tend to frequent, where booze flows freely. A person could sit and drink all day, if they wanted to. I have also personally witnessed people on ships getting drunk and belligerent. I remember hearing about v-loggers who were on SeaDream last year, documenting the trip, which was supposed to be “maskless”. People got COVID on that trip, and the v-loggers mentioned it, causing SeaDream to force passengers into masks again. The v-loggers were on the receiving end of a lot of anger, mainly because SeaDream cruises are very expensive and people were wanting to escape the COVID rules for a bit. No such luck. I know I don’t want to drop ten thousand bucks on cruise fare for an experience like that. There ain’t enough free flowing Prosecco in the world.

I think about how Royal Caribbean just built several HUGE ships in the last ten years or so, and now they’re in the news because 48 people tested positive for COVID on a recent cruise. Having such huge ships is bound to become a liability, especially if people are turned off of traveling due to draconian rules. Cruising will be probably less popular if people have to wear masks as a general rule. One of the things that makes cruising fun is socializing, and a big part of socializing is seeing people’s faces and non-verbal communication. Masks make it hard to forget the troubles of the world. They are a visual reminder of how fucked up things are. One of the reasons cruises are appealing are that they allow people to forget things that are stressful. So I think forced masking from now on will probably not fly in the long run.

It may not be a bad thing, though, if people travel less. It will be better for the environment. But it will also force some people to find new ways to make their livings. Again, I think money will be what drives this trend. If enough people decide to stay home, the policies will be amended… and/or someone will come up with a way to make traveling maskless safer.

Either way, I think people should try to be more understanding, patient, and willing to listen to other viewpoints without turning shitty. We’re in an unprecedented era for most people who are living, but don’t forget, this is NOT the first deadly pandemic of humankind. One hundred years ago, Spanish Flu killed lots of people. Masks were a thing back then, and I’m sure the thinking was eerily similar that things weren’t ever going to be normal again. But they eventually did go back to “normal”, although we came away with more knowledge.

To take it a step further, think of all of the crazy stuff that’s happened in the last hundred years. I wonder how people felt during World War II. Did they think the war would go on forever? Did they think the world was going to end? Some people probably did… but as you can see, they were wrong. There will be life beyond COVID-19 for those who don’t die from the disease. And I think it will more like it used to be, which may or may not be a good thing. Some of the COVID changes haven’t been bad, after all.

And finally… I think it’s inevitable that most everyone will end up with COVID at some point. But it will eventually be less deadly, because it’s not in the virus’s best interest to kill everyone. I still think getting vaccinated and staying away from other people is the best way to go. And if you have to be in a crowd, masks make sense. But I don’t think they should be something we strive to normalize forever, and I don’t think they’re the end all be all of fixing this problem. They’re just one facet of the solution. This is a problem that needs to be solved, not “lived with”. Fortunately, history shows that some human beings are very good at finding solutions. So that’s what keeps me going, for now…

But, I will admit, sometimes I envy those who have already peaced out of this life. As extraordinarily fortunate as Bill and I are, I find today’s world frightening and depressing, and I wonder what the point of it all is…

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true crime, Virginia

Repost: The Colonial Parkway murders… and a near miss on the Parkway for me…

I am planning to write some fresh content today, but I wanted to repost this piece I wrote on March 23, 2015. It’s here “as/is”. I think it will be interesting to people who know the Williamsburg/Yorktown/Gloucester areas in Virginia, as well as those who knew me when I was young.

Today’s post is inspired by an article I just read in the Huffington Post…  The featured photo is a picture from the National Park Service of the Parkway in spring…

I have mentioned before that I grew up in Gloucester, Virginia, not too far from Williamsburg and Yorktown.  I spent much of my young life traveling on what is known as the Colonial Parkway, a 23 mile stretch of scenic road between Yorktown and Jamestown.  As a kid, I’d ride with my mom on the Parkway to get to Williamsburg.  We often went there to go shopping or stop by the Naval Weapons Station, which used to have a small commissary my mom favored over the larger ones at Fort Eustis and Langley Air Force Base.  It’s a beautiful drive.  I actually enjoyed making that drive when I was younger and had jobs in Williamsburg, though sometimes I would take an alternate route just to shake things up a bit.

I grew up in the 1980s.  During that time period, there was a series of murders that took place on the Colonial Parkway.  The first one happened in 1986, when I was fourteen years old.  The two victims, 27 year old Cathleen Marian Thomas, and 21 year old Rebecca Ann Dowski were last seen hanging out in a computer lab with friends at the College of William and Mary.  Three days later, a jogger on the Colonial Parkway spotted Thomas’s car on the edge of an embankment.  The women had been strangled and their throats were cut.  The killer was never found.

As time passed, there were more murders.  I’m not going to detail them in this blog post because you can read the article I linked for more accurate information than I can possibly offer.  I will mention one other pair that were killed because I remember them the best.  On April 9, 1988 20 year old Richard “Keith” Call and 18 year old Cassandra Lee Hailey went out on their first date.  They were both students at what is now Christopher Newport University.  They disappeared after that fateful first date and haven’t been seen since.  They are presumed to have been victims of the Colonial Parkway killer.

I believe Keith Call was from Gloucester, so I remember hearing more about him and Cassandra Hailey than the other victims.  I remember seeing the posters asking for information about their whereabouts.  That same year in Gloucester, a teenager named Laurie Ann Powell was also reported as missing.  She was a graduate of my high school and was last seen alive on March 8, 1988.  She was found in the James River April 2, 1988.  I remember there were posters on the walls at my school about her, too.  I remember reading her “senior will” in the Dukes Dispatch school newspaper and thinking how eerie it was.  She had written this memorial to her high school days, not knowing that she wouldn’t have many days beyond high school.  I never knew her because she was a few years ahead of me.  Over twenty-five years later, the murders still haven’t been solved.  The killer(s) must either be dead or locked up somewhere, since as of around 1989, the murders seem to have stopped.

It never occurred to me to be afraid to drive on the Colonial Parkway.  I did it all the time.  I remember having a job in Williamsburg and my boss– a woman I couldn’t stand and who likewise couldn’t stand me– used to scold me for driving that way to work.  Coming from Gloucester and needing to get to the part of Williamsburg where I was working, the Colonial Parkway was the quickest and easiest route.  And again, it was (and still is) a very lovely drive.  Fortunately, I never broke down on it, though I did end up in a very scary situation once that involved the Parkway.

I’m about to veer off topic a little bit, since this incident has nothing to do with the Parkway murders.  It does have to do with a sleazy person, though, who scared the shit out of me while driving on the Colonial Parkway.

From late September 1997 until mid August 1999, I lived with my parents in Gloucester County.  I was fresh from the Peace Corps and dealing with some rather serious depression and anxiety issues.  Because my father was an alcoholic and we didn’t get along, I needed support.  At my mother’s suggestion, I started attending Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings in Williamsburg.

The meetings were held every Wednesday night at a large Methodist church near the College of William and Mary.  I looked forward to attending the meetings because most of the people who regularly showed up were nice folks and it was helpful to talk with them.  One of the guys in it actually hooked me up with the therapist who helped me get over depression.  Because he had issues with depression and ADD, this guy knew all the shrinks in the Williamsburg area and said Dr. Coe was the best.  I have long since lost touch with the guy who recommended Dr. Coe, but Dr. Coe is now my friend rather than my shrink.  At the very least, I will always be grateful to ACOA for that connection.  

There was a guy named Peter who used to attend the ACOA meetings.  Peter lived in Surry, which is a community not far from Williamsburg, but in order to get there efficiently, he had to take a ferry across the James River.  He was a swarthy guy with dark curly hair and luminous hazel-brown eyes.  I don’t know what his ethnicity was, but I would guess he was of Italian or Greek descent.  Perhaps he had gypsy blood.  He wasn’t bad looking, but my initial impressions of him were not positive. 

I didn’t like Peter.  He used to make fun of me and harass me during the meetings.  I didn’t think he liked me; but in retrospect, he must have thought I was somewhat attractive.  His way of showing his “attraction” was to be annoying, snarky, and critical.  One time, he looked in the front seat of my car at some books I had picked up at the library.  One of the books I had borrowed was called Sex For Dummies.  He thought that was funny and felt the need to make rude comments about it.

After awhile, he either became less obnoxious or I got used to him.  For awhile, I didn’t dislike him as much as I had.  I even started bantering with him.  Though he had a lot of baggage owing to being raised by an alcoholic, he would tell us interesting stories about his plans to build a house out of straw.  Eventually, he hooked up with some woman and they had a baby girl, though they never got married.  I remember one night, they came to the restaurant where I was working and had dessert on the terrace.  I think I even waited on them.

In August 1999, I went to grad school.  I came back home for fall break.  A male friend of mine from college was in Williamsburg for a teacher’s conference, so we made plans to get together.  It was a Wednesday night, which was also the night of ACOA meetings.  I decided to stop by and see old friends I knew from that group, then meet my old college friend at his hotel room. 

Well, it turned out that night, ACOA was cancelled.  Since I no longer lived in the area, I didn’t know.  Peter also didn’t get the message.  He showed up at the church and we sat around and talked for awhile.  He made a comment about how “good” I was looking.  I had lost a lot of weight working at a restaurant in Williamsburg and hadn’t yet had time to regain it at school.  He asked me if I wanted to go see his baby. 

In retrospect, I should have said no.  My friend was waiting for me and, honestly, I didn’t even like Peter that much.  But we were getting along and, for whatever reason, I was curious about his baby.  I guess I also didn’t want to be rude.  He and his girlfriend had broken up, but she allowed him liberal visitation.  He called her and said he was coming over to see the baby and she agreed.

I stupidly let Peter drive me in his truck rather than following him in my own car.  We went to the ex girlfriend’s house and saw the baby.  The ex girlfriend was noticeably tense and seemed upset with Peter.  I seem to remember her telling him he was a jerk.  I paid little mind to it.  The baby was really cute and I was entertained by watching Peter thrill her by holding her up high and twirling her around.  The baby seemed to enjoy Peter’s roller coaster moves and responded by smiling and laughing.  She had Peter’s eyes and coloring.  She has probably grown up to be very exotic looking.

After our visit with the baby, we got back in Peter’s truck.  We were chatting casually.  I was telling him about school.  I expected him to take me back to the church.  He headed for the Parkway instead.  I told him I needed to get back because my friend was waiting for me.  He said he thought maybe I could blow off my friend.  I insisted that I wanted to get back.  He said he wanted to “hold me” for awhile.       

Suddenly, my brain was crystal clear.  I somehow managed to stay cool as I insisted that he take me back to the church so I could get my car and go.  I reiterated that my friend was expecting me and would call the police if I didn’t show up.  Now, in truth, I doubt my friend would have called the cops.  He probably would have worried, but ultimately might have thought I had simply stood him up.  However, he also knew I wasn’t the kind of person to stand people up, especially him.  He was one of my best friends. 

I sternly informed Peter that if I didn’t show up for our appointment, my friend would be looking for me.  All Peter knew was that my friend was a guy.  He may have even figured my friend could beat the shit out of him.

Peter argued with me, then started lecturing me about how I let other people control me.  What was the harm in blowing off my old friend and having a little fun with him in his truck?  I thought that was a pretty rich comment, since I had made it clear that I didn’t want to be with him in the way he was suggesting.  Indeed, it was obvious he was upset because I wasn’t allowing him to control me.  Fortunately, my tone of voice convinced Peter that he needed to do what I said.  He finally took me back to my car and I will never forget the overwhelming sense of relief I felt when I was no longer in his truck with him.  I swear, I felt like I was about to shit my pants.  I was petrified.

I remember being polite to Peter as we said goodbye.  Then I went to see my friend.  I was really shaken up and upset.  We tried to go out, but I was too freaked out to enjoy the evening.  Later, I was really pissed off.  I have mentioned before that I have never been much of a dater and I don’t generally attract abusive people.  Most of the guys who have liked me are nice to a fault.  Peter didn’t like me.  He saw me as someone he could talk into fucking him.  He was a colossal asshole.

Not long after that incident, I visited friends at the restaurant where I had once worked.  I was pretty shocked when I saw Peter on the waitstaff.  He didn’t last long, though.  He came over to say hi to me.  I am sure he could see it written all over my face how much I despised him for what he tried to do.  Perhaps he didn’t have any criminal intentions toward me, but he showed extreme disrespect.  And it’s that experience, not the Parkway murders, that makes me think less of the pretty 23 mile drive.  I haven’t been to another ACOA meeting since. 

I wonder if Peter’s ex girlfriend continued to be so liberal about letting him visit their baby.  That girl is now a teenager.  Hopefully, Peter wasn’t a terrible father to her and my instincts about him were wrong.  I can’t help but feel sorry for his ex girlfriend, though.  I would hate to have a child with a man like Peter.  Clearly, he was aptly named, too.  

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complaints, condescending twatbags, nostalgia

The home of the Whopper…

This morning, I woke up at about 3:45am. For once, it wasn’t because of Arran. I think my body has simply gotten used to being up in the wee hours of the morning. Also, I ran out of Advil PM. It’s probably good that I don’t have any Advil PM, since my body could probably use a break from it. Once I started moving around, it was time to drop my morning deuce, which totally woke me up. So here I sit, at about 5:30am on a day when my biggest plans involve vacuuming the house (a chore I HATE). I could be sleeping, but I can’t sleep. I’m all bright eyed and bushy tailed. By noon, I’ll need a nap. That’s my usual mode these days.

I spent last night watching movies from around 1980– specifically, Little Darlings, Meatballs (from 1979), and Private Benjamin. I couldn’t help thinking that those movies are now about 41 years old. I remember when they were in the theaters. Yeah, I was a little kid at the time, but I have a long memory and I had cable TV. I downloaded so many movies yesterday, which I tend to do when I’m super bored. Boy, was life in the early 80s blissful, even if we did constantly worry about nuclear war with the former Soviet Union.

I’ve been bored as hell since Bill has been away. And now it looks like he’ll be back tomorrow, as originally planned. So I have one more night to watch shitty movies and have potato chips for dinner. Yesterday, I had a burger for lunch, but I was forced to use a German hamburger brioche (and seriously, they can and DO do better than this…)

Where’s the beef?

You have to be a certain age to get the above joke. In the mid 80s, the Wendy’s fast food chain had a very popular ad campaign and their slogan was “Where’s the beef?” The commercials starred Clara Pellar, who went on to appear in the film, Moving Violations, a movie I thought was funny when I was 12. It was so funny to me, I saw it twice in the theater with the neighborhood pervert, who used to show me porn and told me his groin was “The home of the Whopper”. “Home of the Whopper” was the slogan for Burger King when I was a kid. It was on the facade of every restaurant. But when I think of it, I’m reminded of our neighbor, who had stacks of men’s magazines that he didn’t mind sharing with the little blonde girls who lived next door (I wasn’t the only one, or even the first).

My burger yesterday brought back memories of this ad in sharp relief. The burger was kind of small, but the main issue was the humongous bun. Like I said, this isn’t necessarily typical of German hamburger buns. Our local Rewe has another kind that is much better– better than the American buns and Bubba Burgers at the commissary that our German neighbor covets.

I had the burger for lunch because there’s not much else in the house and I can’t be bothered to go to the grocery store. I wasn’t in the mood to eat the leftover chili I made over the weekend. Bill is more of a chili fan than I am, though I’m better at making it than he is. I made it over the weekend because we had all the stuff for it and it’s easy. I put it on the stove and let it cook for a few hours. No muss, no fuss. I’ll probably have more of it today.

I woke up this morning and started reading the daily news. I stumbled across a couple of news articles that aggravated me. The comments were even more annoying. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that people get on my nerves for a lot of reasons. One thing that really irritates me are people who are free with their opinions, but their opinions are only based on headlines and not actual content. So many people react to headlines without reading first. And then I waste time reading their outrage about something that was covered in the article and it would have spared them (and us) the irritation if they had simply taken a minute to read– even if all they read were comments by people who did take the time to read the article before popping off with uninformed opinions.

Another thing that vexes me are people who feel the need to opine with eloquence, yet haven’t taken the time to learn proper vocabulary. I can’t tell you how many times someone has reacted with outrage that someone’s “flaunting” the COVID-19 rules. The word they should be using is “flout”. And, you know, I get it… a year ago, when COVID-19 was a new nightmare for us all, most people had little reason to use a word like “flout”. We didn’t have rules like wearing face masks and social distancing and all of the rest of the shit we’ve had to deal with over the past twelve months. And truthfully, the words flaunt and flout are fairly similar, both in spelling and meaning.

BUT– it’s been a year… and one would think that anyone with a computer and Internet access could take a moment to consult an online dictionary. Here’s an interesting discussion of the difference between “flaunt” and “flout” according to Merriam-Webster. While you will probably find that flaunt and flout are similar in meaning and the dictionaries will even say so, there is a difference in the meanings of these two words. When you’re “flaunting” something, you’re showing off without any regard for what others think. Whenever I think of the word “flaunt”, I’m reminded, of all things, of an episode of the 80s era sitcom Gimme a Break, when the nerdy character Julie Kaminsky gets all dolled up in an effort to join her prettier sister’s sorority. She takes off her glasses, puts on a sexy dress, makes up her face, and prances around… and says, “I’ve got it, and I’m going to flaunt it.” (11:00 in the below video)

If you’ve got it, flaunt it, Julie. Atta girl.

To “flout”, means to ignore convention, disdain the rules, and show contempt for regulations. From the above article I linked:

“…if you decide that you just don’t care what people think, and that you are going to use flaunt to mean “treat with disdain for convention” you are flouting that prescribed usage; if you do care to observe the distinction, and make sure that everyone knows that you know what it is by using flaunt and flout all the time, then you would be flaunting your knowledge of a usage prescription.”

And while most native English speakers will understand you if you say, “That idiot on the plane who refused to wear a mask was flaunting the rules,” many educated people will silently disdain you for incorrect usage. If they’re already on edge and really cranky and irritable, like I am, they might even write a derisive blog post. Merriam-Webster’s excellent article adds,

“…although we include the recent sense of flaunt, this does not mean that we are suggesting you use it in such a fashion, and most copy editors, usage guides, and grammatically inclined pickers of nits would judge you for doing so. Some of them might even snigger. We never would do such a thing. But we might raise our eyebrows, make a quick note on a citation slip, and record your usage as evidence.”

They would never do such a thing, but I certainly would. That’s because all of the virtue signaling busybodies are annoying the fuck out of me, and I don’t even meet them in real life. I stay home most of the time, and rarely encounter other humans, so no one gets the chance to chastise, confront, or challenge me for my habits. Instead, I just run into them online in the comment sections, where people suggest jailing anti-maskers for LIFE on attempted murder charges. I think that’s taking things a bit far, don’t you? I mean, what’s next? Bringing back drawing and quartering? Shooting rule breakers in the head? Exiling them to Siberia or some penal colony in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?

It’s nonsense, and I’d really like for these people to just fuck off. I mean, I get that people are frustrated and angry. It sucks when you do your part to follow the rules and other people “flout” them. I will also agree that freaking out on an airplane is bad behavior that needs to be addressed. But I am also tired of people who have tunnel vision when it comes to other people’s opinions and can’t have a reasonable discussion without folding their arms, thug like, and suggesting that people who resist, or even just state that they hate, wearing face masks ought to be beheaded or something.

In my neighborhood, no one wears a face mask unless they’re about to get on the bus or go into a shop. People are mostly belligerently cooperative here. I mean, many people do hate the fucking face masks and they don’t pretend not to. I suspect that as soon as someone in charge says we don’t have to wear them anymore, the Germans will be discarding them with much gusto. In fact, I regularly see them discarded on the ground when I take my walks. There are rule breakers in hyper-anal-retentive Germany, too (hyper-anal, except when it comes to the nude spas… which I really miss. 😉 ) But they do cooperate, and wear the fucking things when they are required, for the most part.

I actually like that attitude. Germans get that there are rules and they understand why the rules exist. But they don’t have to like them, and they (with some exceptions) don’t try to shove them down other people’s throats. Here, there is a spirit of community, and people do things more for the common good– for the most part, anyway (unless they are my ex landlady). But you don’t see too many chirpy people preaching about how the masks work or showing off their Google School of Public Health knowledge while they berate the anti-mask “flaunters”. Here, cops will write tickets for the rule “flouters”. Or, at least that’s what I’ve heard. I don’t go into public unless I’m forced. I don’t hear or read too many speeches about how face masks work, even online. It helps not to speak German.

I keep getting ads from the airlines and cruise lines, trying to entice me back on board for a trip somewhere exotic. Sure, they want butts in seats or in staterooms, paying fares and revving up the economy. But you know what? I hate wearing face masks. Flying was a big enough pain in the ass before the face masks were ever a thing. Now we have people saying we ought to wear two masks, and so many folks are bragging about how they’ve been doing that all along. And I just think that as long as the face mask rule is in effect, I won’t fly (or cruise) unless I must. Like, if we have to move back to the States or elsewhere and flying or sailing is our only option, okay. I’ll put on a mask and get through it. But I am lucky enough to live in a place where we can drive to a lot of interesting locales. We also have a nice new Volvo that can get us there. That’s what we’ll do, because frankly, I don’t want to pay money to have to deal with the rule “flouters”, anal retentive law enforcement, travel officials, or other overbearing folks who think rule breakers should be disemboweled or something, and masks on planes are here to stay forever.

You may think it’s just fine if I don’t travel on public transportation. I would even agree with you. But I guarantee you that if enough people feel the way I do, something will have to be done to make flying safe without forcing people to wear masks. Otherwise, business will suffer, and we can’t have that. I don’t want to spend money to sit on a plane with flight attendants and other passengers acting like hall monitors, watching everything everybody else is doing with Gestapo like attention to detail. I’d rather stay home, and out of any altercations.

I keep reading about how many people won’t fly unless the masks are vigorously enforced. But it also goes the other way. There are also many people out there who won’t fly as long as the masks are required. In my case, I figure that if the masks are necessary, it’s probably not that safe to use public transportation anyway, at least for non-essential travel. If I’m in my own car, not only do I not have to deal with other people’s bullshit, but I also am the master of my domain. And I don’t have to share arm rests, endure dirty looks (except from other drivers), smell other people’s farts, or have some busybody scrutinize how well my face mask is fitted or the quality of it, like people scrutinize other people’s kids in their car seats.

Let me just add, as I close this post, that I don’t tend to post these thoughts on social media. Why? Because invariably, someone who thinks they’re smarter and more evolved than I am will try to tell me how life is. They won’t actually read or listen to my thoughts on this issue. Instead, they’ll cross their arms, close their minds, and call me “childish” or “foolish” or explain how masks protect everyone else from my cooties (Yes, I KNOW!) I don’t need to read or hear that shit again!

I’m thinking about the future, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing to do. Otherwise, I might consider how much I’m hating the present and decide it’s really no longer worth the effort of hanging around here. I have to have hope that this situation will improve sometime… and to me, that means not having to wear a fucking face mask or having some twerp getting in my face about what I should or should NOT be doing or wearing in public, when being maskless was just fine only thirteen months ago and had been fine for my entire life up until March 2020.

For the time being, I will simply do my best to stay out of the way… and perhaps find other things to read. And it may take a long time until I come out of exile, since Germany’s Astra Zeneca vaccine roll out is like a really bad case of constipation and I am at the bottom of the priority list on the Army posts for a Moderna vaccine. At this rate, maybe I’ll get the shot by Christmas.

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