stupid people, true crime

Wacko women with weapons…

Good morning, all. It’s been about 43 hours since I got Moderna shot number two. So far, I’m still doing better with it than Bill did. All I’ve suffered is sore arms. Yes, plural. I got my first shot in my left arm and the second one in the right. I had more of a reaction on the left side with the first shot. I got soreness and redness and a big blotch that is mostly faded now, but still slightly visible. The right side is sore today, though not as sore as yesterday. Weirdly enough, my left arm was also sore where the injection was, but isn’t sore today. Now, I have the red blotch on the right side, a little swelling, and what feels like a slightly enlarged lymph node. But I’ve had no issues with fever, headache, or exhaustion. I think it’s interesting how different people respond to the COVID-19 vaccine. Bill was laid out for a day when he had his second shot. He had a fever, soreness, headaches, and exhaustion.

Now, on to today’s topic, wacko women with weapons. Yesterday, I read a frightening story about a 24 year old mother in Houston, Texas who decided to shoot her small caliber pistol at someone’s escaped Boxer puppy, a six month old pooch named Bruno. Angelia Mia Vargas has been charged with deadly conduct – discharge of firearm. Her five year old son is currently in the hospital in stable condition. Why? Because instead of successfully shooting the puppy on Saturday, Vargas fired her weapon three times and one of the bullets ricocheted off of the pavement and into her son’s abdomen.

At the time of the shooting, Vargas, her son, and another family member were riding their bikes. Bruno, an adorable Boxer puppy, slipped out of his home when his owner cracked open the door, thinking his brother was there. The dog’s owner followed the puppy outside to the front yard, where Vargas and her family members were passing on their bikes. Bruno evidently never even left his yard when Vargas opened fire. The dog’s leg was grazed by a bullet, but the most damage was done to Vargas’ own son, who now has to live with the fact that his own mother is responsible for the permanent scar on his stomach. The entire incident was captured on the dog owner’s ring camera. Vargas fired the weapon across a public roadway, in the direction of two houses.

I watched the above video about the case and am pretty flabbergasted that the dog’s owner is so calm. If it were me, I would be absolutely livid, and you bet your ass I would be demanding to know what the fuck Vargas was doing firing a weapon in a neighborhood like that. Why was she trying to shoot a puppy, especially when he was in his own yard? Why was she carrying a loaded weapon while riding a bike with her child? There’s just so much wrong with this situation, I just can’t wrap my head around it. The dog’s owner says that Vargas didn’t even seem to aim; she just pulled out the gun and started shooting.

I used to live near San Antonio, Texas. We lived there for a year before we moved back to Germany in 2014. During that time, our dog Zane escaped the backyard, because the pool guy neglected to close the gate. It happened to be my birthday, too. Bill and I went after Zane and he ran into some guy’s yard. I asked the guy to grab his collar– Zane was super friendly and sweet. The guy just shrugged and walked away like an asshole. Fortunately, we were able to catch Zane when he got distracted by some bushes and wandered into an area where we could corner him. I guess I can be glad that at least our former asshole neighbor didn’t pull out a gun and shoot Zane.

By contrast, when we lived in our last German village, Arran once got out and several people in the neighborhood helped Bill catch him. And not a single one of them was packing heat!

Stories like these make me not want to move back to the States. There are too many wackos with weapons there, and too many of them have an itchy trigger finger that can lead to unexpected injury or death to innocent people. Hopefully, Vargas’ son will recover with no serious permanent effects to his health… and I hope child protective services does a thorough investigation of his mother, who seems to have a screw loose.

When we do move back to the USA, I think we will avoid Texas, especially since Governor Greg Abbott plans to sign a law that would allow Texas residents to carry firearms without a permit, background check, or special training. At the same time, he’s also signed a law that forbids women to have abortions after six weeks’ gestation. The obsession some people have for having total access to guns seems pretty opposite to having respect for human life. I guess Abbott would rather kids die when they are fully developed and conscious of what’s happening to them.

The dog’s owner was issued a citation for not having the dog on a leash.

true crime, videos

What went down at Chipotle the other day…

Yesterday, I read about a white Michigan couple who were basically bullbaited in the parking lot at Chipotle Grill. By now, you’ve probably seen the scary pictures and video involving Jillian Wuestenberg, 32, and Eric Wuestenberg, 42, both of whom were arrested on Wednesday of this week because Ms. Wuestenberg aimed a handgun at a black woman and her daughters. When I saw the headlines, I inwardly sighed to myself, because it looked like yet another example of middle-aged white women behaving badly toward people of color.

I have never made it a secret that I don’t like call out culture, nor do I think it’s right to ruin people’s lives over what they say and do in altercations on the street. I will grant that a lot of the time, the altercations that get filmed and disseminated do make the “almost always” middle-aged white women look bad. However, that’s just a sliver of a person’s life, and I don’t think it’s right for the public, 99.9% of whom were not there to see the incident themselves, to play judge, jury, and executioner for other people’s lives. They almost never have all of the necessary facts to make such a judgment, and it’s almost always colored by their own opinions.

The longer I live in Germany, the more I appreciate that over here, you have the right to be forgotten. In fact, here, the names and identities of criminals are largely protected. They don’t publish the full names of people in trouble with the law, and when they take photos, their faces are usually covered. Privacy is very important. While I can understand the satisfaction many people feel when people are “outed” for behaving badly, I also think people should have the right to redeem themselves. And I especially think that should happen in this case of egregious baiting that led to people getting fired and being arrested.

In the uncensored video, we hear a very upset black woman yelling at a white woman, Jillian Wuestenberg. Apparently, Ms. Wuestenberg bumped into Takelia Hill’s daughter and didn’t apologize. That part of the incident wasn’t recorded, so we have to take them at their word that’s what happened. Hill claims that Ms. Wuestenberg not only didn’t apologize, but she “cursed” out her teenaged daughter. If that happened, it shouldn’t have. Ms. Wuestenberg should have simply said “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me” and moved on with her day. That would have been the polite thing to do. However, people bump into people all the time, and they aren’t always polite. Most reasonable people simply go ahead with their day, even if there isn’t an apology when someone does something rude. That is clearly not what happened in this situation.

Evidently, because Ms. Wuestenberg didn’t apologize to Ms. Hill’s satisfaction, she deserved a hostile confrontation in a parking lot. We can see and hear Takelia Hill loudly and and aggressively confronting this couple over the slight. It’s plain to me in this video that this couple repeatedly tried to get out of the situation and deescalate it. At 1:12, I even heard Jillian Wuestenberg repeatedly say, “I care about you.” to Ms. Hill, and she also apologized that Hill had evidently experienced an incident that has made her feel “like that”. But Hill continues to verbally harass her, doesn’t lower her voice, back away, or calm down, so Jillian also says, “You can’t go around calling white people racist.” Why she didn’t just roll up her window at that point and drive away, I don’t know.

Jillian’s husband, Eric Wuestenberg, eventually tries to intervene. Hill then threatens Eric, saying she’ll “beat [his] white ass, too”. He responds by asking Hill who the fuck they think they are, which I can hardly fault him for doing, given the extremely hostile tone of everyone involved in this ridiculous incident. The confrontation continues to worsen, with both women yelling at each other. I’m reminded of animals who are attacked and harassed to the point of snapping. The couple tries to leave the parking lot, but Hill gets behind their vehicle and hits it with her hand.

And that’s when Jillian Wuestenberg took the unfortunate next step, which was to get out of her car, scream at Ms. Hill, advance toward her, pull out a handgun, and aim it at Hill, who doesn’t sound at all like she’s frightened. I hear Ms. Hill’s daughters screaming in fear, and I can see on Jillian Wuestenberg’s face that she’s scared and angry. She’s probably humiliated and furious, and it looks like she might also be pregnant, which could have affected her behavior. I do not at all condone Jillian Wuestenberg’s use of a handgun in this incident. She is clearly guilty of a crime. Watching it unfold as someone who is not involved, I can easily think of other things she could have done instead of pulling out a gun. I think it would have been much better if she’d simply rolled up her window and sat in the car to wait for the cops to arrive, since the parties called the police on each other.

However, I also don’t think Takelia Hill is at all innocent in this fiasco. She deliberately provoked the Wuestenbergs into reacting by screaming in their faces, threatening them, and striking their car. And while I understand that black people have historically and repeatedly been harassed and arrested and provoked, too, this is not the way to make that problem go away. Two wrongs don’t make a right. There’s no reason why this situation should have gotten to the point of people getting arrested and losing employment. I get that people are tense and angry right now, for a lot of reasons. But the jails don’t need more people in them. The court system doesn’t need more cases to try. And someone really could have gotten hurt or even killed over a mundane thing that happens to people every day. There’s no reason why this situation had to escalate to verbal abuse and threats with a firearm.

Jillian Wuestenberg and her husband were legally permitted to carry the weapons they had, although they had to give them up after they were arrested and charged with felonious assault. Mr. Wuestenberg was fired from his job at Oakland University. All they wanted was some food from Chipotle! What a shame it is that they had to literally run into people who seem hellbent on creating a situation that grants them fifteen minutes of fame. This is yet another endorsement for staying the fuck at home!

What I found even more disturbing, though, besides the awful comments from people who clearly didn’t watch the whole, unedited video, was that the Wuestenbergs have already been doxed. Just a simple Google search turns up a Web site where their private information has been made public. In fact, they even include passwords for the couple’s email accounts. The reason given?

Reasoning : Aiming a gun at blacks for no fucking reason justice they shall serve

How in the hell is that LEGAL? That site should be taken down and the people running it should be sued! Watch the video. Was pulling out a gun an overreaction? Yes, it was. But it was a long time coming and certainly not without provocation. I wouldn’t say she pulled out the gun for “no fucking reason”. Jillian Wuestenberg probably did feel threatened and may have been on the verge of an anxiety attack at that point. I’m sure her fight or flight response was fully engaged.

We have a court system for a reason, folks. It’s not for the public to be the judge, jury, and executioner of everyday citizens who bump into each other and don’t apologize. I think the charges against this couple should either be reduced or dropped. I also think Takelia Hill should be brought up on charges for harassment. She’s at least as much to blame as the Wuestenbergs for the fact that this happened. And it’s not like the police don’t have better things to be doing with their time than breaking up these kinds of squabbles.


Things I’ve “learned” from Americans about life in Germany…

This week, two different people in the United States have informed me about what life is like in Germany. Both of these people are ardent Trump supporters. One lives in North Carolina and the other lives in Texas. One is a man, and the other is a woman. From my brief social media interactions with these two people, this is what I’ve “learned”…

  1. Most Germans aren’t allowed to own guns because of Hitler.
  2. Only rich Germans can own guns.
  3. Germans are envious of Americans because we can own guns.
  4. Not only can’t Germans own guns, but neither can Brazilians.

When questioned about these ideas, the man who shared them wrote this:

I’m going on what citizens of Germany are telling me. I also have friends from Brazil I have taught to shoot guns & are not allowed to own in Brazil. The highest crime rate cities such as Chicago have the strictest gun laws. It does not add up. My wife runs a gun range & has some very interesting stories from people from other countries that are very glad to be in our great country.

…look up info on any site other than Wikipedia & you will find the same information unless it’s like Joe Biden said ” we must believe truth over facts ” lol

I’m talking to two guys from Brazil that have only been here two years. I think I believe them over something on internet.

Since I am a real person who lives in Germany, I decided to interject. Germans can own guns. It’s just not as easy for them to own them as it is the average American. They have to pay a lot, and prove that they are both sane and know what they’re doing. Consequently, there’s a lot less violent crime here. But the gentleman from North Carolina wasn’t moved. He wrote this:

I like to hear from real people and not something you read on internet. How many innocent people are killed by knife or other weapons? When I was working in Mexico I had some friends there tell me only the cartel and police had guns. The common working people were not allowed ownership. The crime rate was still bad in a lot of areas. I was told from another guy from Germany that there were a lot of Muslim extremest flooding into Europe?

Um… I am a real person. I freakin’ live here. But apparently, to this guy, I’m just “something you read on internet” [sic]. Are there Muslims here? Yes… and I’ve actually seen a lot more in Wiesbaden than I did in Stuttgart. But they don’t bother me, so I don’t bother them. Most of them are not extremists. And knives can be deadly, but it’s a lot harder to kill a dozen people in minutes with knives. Incidentally, knives are also restricted here. So I wrote back to the guy and explained as much. He didn’t respond, which was wise of him.

Here are a few more things I learned:

  • 5. Muslims are overrunning the cities.
  • 6. We can’t get medical care and doctors deny our treatments.
  • 7. Crime is rampant.
  • 8. Liberals are “anti-American”.

The woman I “met” yesterday wasn’t as wise, and she and I had a brief online row until I decidedly it was pointless to continue the conversation. She says liberals are “anti-American”. She laments socialism as a non-viable way to run a country, but I saw little evidence that she knows what socialism is. In fact, I think she may have confused it with communism, which is a common error among Americans.

What’s very unfortunate to me, though, is that those who comment on socialism and communism are typically not even old enough to remember the Soviet Union or the Eastern Bloc, and most of them have never done any reading on the subject or even traveled outside of the United States. They tend to parrot what they hear others say, even if someone who is actually living the reality tries to tell them differently. The “others” they are listening to tend to be political pundits, friends, family members, and others who are spouting off stuff from a narrow perspective and limited lens. I don’t think it’s wrong to listen to other people’s opinions, but it’s probably best to balance those opinions with facts and comments from people who have actual experience.

According to this Texas resident, Germany is loaded with Muslims who are taking over all the cities and infesting them with crime. She claims no one can get medical care, and no one feels safe here. These revelations came after I explained that I like living in Germany, where healthcare is affordable and I don’t worry about being shot when I go shopping or attend a concert. These were her comments about what life is like in Germany these days… I copied and pasted, with no edits.

WOW. You are the only person in Germany that I know that feels safe. Muslims overrun the cities. Crime has skyrocketed. You probably can’t even get in to see that Dr and they have the right to deny your treatments. But true – there is not medical debt. 

I am genuinely happy that YOU are happy where you are. But again, those are YOUR opinions and YOUR experiences. 

I am SO thankful to have a former pussy grabber in office. His crimes are less than many before him and after him. We don’t need a lying politician in office. We need a business man that can’t be bought. 🇺🇸💪🏼

PS Socialism does work. Never has. Never will. It is not the governments job to care for me. It’s mine.

Who is this chick hanging out with in Dallas who has experienced all of this? I’ve been in Germany for five years. So far, I’ve marveled at the quality and affordability of medical and veterinary care we’ve accessed here. It’s true that dental care is expensive, but it’s top quality. And we have never had problems getting appointments, nor have we had a doctor deny care.

Is there crime? Yes, of course. But it’s not typically violent crime of the scale that has become commonplace in the United States. And I have seen no evidence of Muslims overrunning the cities, either. They are more visible in some areas, but as long as they aren’t breaking the law, I don’t see why their religious beliefs should concern me. I may not agree with what they believe, just like I don’t like Mormonism, but as long as they’re peaceful, I feel like we should live and let live.

I will admit that my response to this lady was a bit snarky because, frankly, she pissed me off. These were my comments.

Umm… no, I am not the only one who feels safe. That is nonsense.  😀 Are there Muslims here? Yes, there are. But they do not “overrun” the cities. On the contrary, most of them are perfectly decent people. Is there crime here? Yes, of course.  But the crime here doesn’t result in multiple innocent people being killed. As for medical care, it’s excellent and affordable. You clearly have no idea what you’re writing about. Too bad.

As for MY opinions and MY experiences, I feel quite free to share them, since A. is my friend, too. Freedom of expression and opinion is a very American value, or have you forgotten? At least when I write about Europe, I write from a place of personal experience rather than reading too much right wing propaganda.  

And I think it’s very sad that you like having a rapist in the White House… that’s all I’m going to say about that. Your standards are clearly very low.

So she came back with this.

Thats what I’m trying to communicate with you. That your neighbors are having difference experiences than you are. 

I’m so glad you are sharing them! I never asked you not to! I’m not writing from a place of propaganda. Do you know me and my experiences? 

Awkward. Hope you didn’t vote for Bill Clinton!! 😳

(They always trot out Bill Clinton when they assume that, just because I think Trump is a scumbag, I am also a Clinton fan. News flash– I’m NOT. Although I think both Clintons are way more competent and appropriate White House occupants than Trump could ever be.)

Actually, I did not vote for either of the Clintons, not that it’s any of your business. My neighbors are Germans. They seem pretty happy with life over here.

Most of the Americans I know are also pretty content over here, too. You are writing from your ass.

But she wasn’t going to give up telling me how life is in Germany. So she wrote this:

And now we have reverted to name calling. Alright! Thanks for the “intellectual conversation!”

Where did I namecall? I wrote that she was writing from her ass and didn’t know what she was writing of, because it’s very clear that she doesn’t have personal experience to back up her opinions. There is a difference between calling someone a derogatory name and criticizing an action. I didn’t call her a name. I criticized her for sharing other people’s uninformed opinions as facts. She responded by making a snarky crack about “intellectual conversation”. Well, it takes two to tango, right?

Then she came back and made a comment about how I don’t speak for Germany. So I wrote this:

But you wrote that I was the only person you know who feels safe in Germany. I am telling you that I know a lot of people who feel safe here. How is that “speaking for Germany”? I don’t speak for anyone but myself. You are the second person this week who has told me how things are in other countries when it’s clear that you don’t have any personal experience. Even if I only listed my husband as someone else who feels safe in Germany, that would still be more than one person, right?  

I like living here. I feel fortunate to be here. Doesn’t mean I don’t love America, but living in other countries has given me a new perspective and changed my mind about a lot of things. And truly, I don’t worry about being shot when I go shopping or attend a concert. I don’t worry about going bankrupt if I need healthcare. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good… even if there are a lot of Muslims here. They’ve never bothered me, so I don’t bother them.

At this point, other people were glomming onto the conversation, most of whom are even more liberal than I am. Truth be told, I don’t think I am that liberal. I am for having someone run the country who isn’t solely about alienating our allies and enriching himself. I don’t care if it’s a Republican, a Democrat, or a third party, as long as he or she is competent and cares about other people. A friend who works with people from Europe basically backed up my comments, so I closed with this:

As for sex offenders in the White House, I think it’s wrong. I didn’t support either of the Clintons. I don’t support Trump. I would like to see us elect someone who could get a security clearance if they were a “normal” person instead of a reality show star/celebrity who has no experience and cares only about himself. Trump never should have been allowed to run. He is a disaster, in my opinion, of course. Anyway… I will let A’s other friends continue with this. I’ve got to go wash my hair.

Washing one’s hair is code for, “I’m out of this unproductive conversation. I’ve got pubic hair that needs to be frosted.” Frosting my bush is about as productive as trying to have a conversation with a Trump supporter. I get that he’s the Republican incumbent and people feel like they need to support him, but for Christ’s sake, he truly doesn’t give a flying fuck about you. He doesn’t. He doesn’t even care about his wife. He raped the first one and cheated on numbers one and two. And it’s plain that Melania can barely stand to be near him. Half the population is female; why aren’t females more concerned that an admitted sex offender who brags about grabbing women by their private parts is occupying our White House? There wasn’t another person in the United States available who could serve as the president and keep his hands to himself?

But our Kool-Aid drinking fan who doesn’t want to hear about my real life experiences IN GERMANY had to have the last word… So here it is:

I dont think you are reading my posts. I said YOU DONT SPEAK FOR GERMANY and I DONT SPEAK FOR AMERICA. There are millions of people in both places with different opinions than ours. So. No. I didn’t tell you how things are in that country. I said that there are other people who don’t have the same thoughts you do. 

You ARE the only person I have spoken with that feels safe in Germany. Many of my friends have moved to America to escape Germany. That doesn’t mean I am trying to belittle your experience. We are BOTH pointing out the same thing – that different people have different opinions and experiences in the same countries. 🙈

AGAIN – I am very glad that you feel happy and safe!! I feel happy and safe in America. That doesn’t me me wrong and you right. That makes me an individual with the right to express my own experiences.

(Notice that as she crows about her “right to express [her] own experiences”, she insults and “shouts” at those who try to express theirs. I also think she missed my point entirely, but I have a low melting point when it comes to strangers on the Internet who have tunnel vision. I’m not spending all day trying to convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced. It’s a waste of time.)

Here’s a tip. When people type in all caps at me, I stop reading. There is no need to shout. Ditto for those who use multiple exclamation points, especially when they can’t spell, form actual sentences, or use proper punctuation. Resorting to all caps and multiple exclamation points is rude, and a poor communication style. Throughout the thread, this lady was constantly complaining about people responding to her as if she is “an idiot” (her word, not mine). Respectful communication is a two way street. Don’t want me to think you’re an idiot? Don’t respond to me like one.

I would not be surprised if she’s heard from one or two right wingers who honestly didn’t like Germany. My guess is that they are military folks who wanted their Sunday football, Sunday shopping, and right to carry their weapons in public. I know there are servicemembers who hate living in Europe because they can’t have free access to their guns at all times without cutting through a lot of expensive red tape. I also know wives of servicemembers who don’t feel safe because they can’t carry their guns with them to the Lidl. In America, I can see why someone would want to pack heat in public, but it’s simply unnecessary here.

I would rather live in a place where I don’t have to worry about some lunatic spraying crowds with gunfire simply because he’s mad at the world. I like living in a country where I don’t have to worry about going bankrupt when I get sick, and I don’t have to avoid seeking justice because I can’t afford to hire a lawyer. I like being in a place where hard working, intelligent students can go to university without being saddled with onerous debts that take the rest of their lives to pay off.

I think we should have some safety nets for people who fall on hard times and need temporary help… or permanent help, if the situation calls for it. Not everyone has family and friends to lend a hand. We make a big deal about suicide and abortion prevention, but we don’t make it easy for people to choose life when they are faced with extremely tough choices. I think we should provide more for people who are in trouble and need help. I think it’s worth paying more in taxes to get those things, although I think affordable healthcare is a much more pressing issue than affordable higher education is. If those aren’t American values, I think they should be… and I say that as an American who, at least for now, still has the right to freedom of expression and opinion.

I think Germans and people from other countries can teach Americans a whole hell of a lot. The arrogance and ignorance of some of my countrymen is astounding, embarrassing, and profoundly tragic. This lady was slightly more articulate than the man from North Carolina was, but neither of them seems to understand that if Donald Trump weren’t a celebrity billionaire who bought off the Republican party, he could not have so much have gotten a low level security clearance. And yet we trust him with the codes to our nuclear weapons. It’s astonishing how truly blind some people can be.


The “twelve gauge surprise”…

An old James Taylor song popped into my head this morning. I discovered it in the early 90s, when I really got into James Taylor’s music. It was on his 1985 album, That’s Why I’m Here. The song is called “Mona”, and if you don’t see the crude little drawing of the pig that appears on the album’s cover art, you might not realize this song isn’t about homicide. If you’re used to James Taylor’s gentle lyrics and soothing vocals, you might really be taken by surprise by this quirky song. It really goes against James’s usual comforting, consoling sounds and messages of solace.

A fan pleads with James Taylor to play “Mona” at a concert. It had been many years and he mostly gets it right… I’m actually kind of comforted that James had to pull this one out of his ass. “Mona” is obviously a long forgotten problem.

“Mona”, of course, is not a person, but a pig. The story goes that James was gifted a pet pig who got too big to keep, and too “damned old” to eat. So James was forced to present her with a “twelve gauge surprise”. Or, at least that’s how the song goes. I don’t know if he actually did kill the pig, or if she even existed. For all I know, “Mona” is a metaphor for life’s problems. It’s just kind of a goofy song that was in my head this morning, reminding me of the twisted, dark, and ultimately, oddly funny things that come up in life.

I believe the album, That’s Why I’m Here, had a dedication to Bill W. in it, as well. Bill W., for your edification, is Bill Wilson, the man who founded Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s no secret that James Taylor was a notorious drug addict back in the day. He got sober when he was 36 years old, which was around the time he was making That’s Why I’m Here. I’m sure he needed some comic relief when he made this album, since much of it consists of heartfelt songs about serious subjects and soothing covers. This was about the time James really started to turn into an adult contemporary artist, rather than a folkie. His sound, and his life, were changing.

The studio version of “Mona”, slickly produced and everything…

Anyway, I was thinking of “Mona” this morning. I don’t think it was necessarily because Bill and I just had to put Zane to sleep, either, because our feelings for Zane are much greater than the glib mood James displays as he sings this silly eulogy to Mona, the pig. It probably has more to do with another recurrent situation that has been plaguing us lately, and what we plan to do to finally address it.

I think about James contemplating what to do about that expensive, nuisance pig in his life. It probably troubled him for awhile, but then he resolved to take decisive action. He did the deed, and though he regrets having to do it and will miss Mona’s company, he’s ultimately okay with his choice and realizes that life will go on. The shock and awe will pass, and things will go back to normal. In fact, things will be better than before, because that pest, Mona, will be a funny, fond memory instead of a greedy burden. Maybe Mona really was a pig… but I kind of wonder if maybe she was a symbol of his drug and alcohol addiction, too. Hey, I earned a degree in English. I might as well use it somewhere, right?

James Taylor was inspired to write the song, “That’s Why I’m Here” after the death of his friend, comedian John Belushi, in 1982. Belushi, also a famous drug addict, had once told Taylor that he was worried about him because of his uncontrolled drug use. But Taylor didn’t die of an overdose; Belushi did. That seemed to be the wake up call James needed to get his shit together. Besides being a serious drug abuser back in the day, James also suffered from depression. He’d spent time in a psychiatric hospital– even graduated high school when he was a patient at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. It was probably an even bigger challenge for him than it was for most to take on his appetite for substances. However, although it was tough and no doubt, unpleasant, James resolved to take action and do better.

“John’s gone, found dead, he dies high, he’s brown bread. Later said to have drowned in his bed. After the laughter, the wave of dread, it hits us like a ton of lead.”

Now, almost 35 years later, James still loves his life’s vocation. We had the privilege of seeing him perform in Dublin last summer, along with Bonnie Raitt and Paul Simon. It was a six hour show that left me Charley horses, due to the extremely cramped seating. But man, what a show… and what an inspiration. He’s on his third marriage, but it’s lasted seventeen years and produced two sons who are almost grown up. I think his wife, Kim, is the love of his life, and I can see how much he loves his work every time I watch him perform live. His face is an expression of sheer joy. That’s the kind of life everyone should aspire to have– doing what brings joy, satisfaction, and perhaps, material gain.

I know James Taylor’s journey to sobriety wasn’t necessarily comfortable. He had to do the work to move beyond his drug addiction and mature into the man he was destined to be. He had to slay a “pesky pig” who was draining his time and resources. So he pulled out his “twelve gauge surprise”, bravely pushed aside his doubts, manned up, did the work, and moved on to a better life. Is it a perfect life? No… no one has a perfect life. James Taylor is a flawed being, like we all are. He’s made mistakes, and his life isn’t flawless just because he quit drinking and drugging. But it’s no doubt better than it was. And that’s because James got brave, took a stand, and changed his way of living for the better. He finally addressed and overcame a problem that was holding him back, hitting him over and over again.

Overcoming addiction didn’t mean that James Taylor didn’t have other challenges. He lost his 46 year old brother, Alex, in 1993. Alex died of a massive heart attack after having consumed an entire fifth of vodka in one sitting. The day Alex died was James’s 45th birthday. I’ll bet James wanted to drink that day… or use drugs, or do something to ease the pain of losing his big brother, who was reportedly every bit as musically talented as James is. But he pushed through it and kept making amazing music, despite still running into stumbling blocks that might have stopped or even killed a different man.

A song for Alex Taylor… named “Alice” in this memorial.

In 1997, James released his incredibly healing album, Hourglass, which happened to come out just as I was finishing my Peace Corps service in Armenia. I was profoundly depressed at the time and wouldn’t get help for another year. But when I listen to that album, which I’ve read James had made after seriously contemplating retirement, I always feel comforted. It’s a work borne out of tragedies… his brother’s death, his father’s death, and, perhaps, the death of his second marriage to Kathryn Walker. And yet, some of the music on that album is just nourishment for my soul. It’s helped me get through some very hard times.

Hourglass also reminds me of France, since that’s where I bought my copy. I was in Tours, with my older sister. I’d been on vacation for a month after my Peace Corps service… scared of the future, exhausted, walking on eggshells, and still very depressed and anxious. The music store where I bought Hourglass didn’t sell cassettes, but I only had a cassette player. CD players were still rare and extremely expensive in Armenia when I was there, and although I’d owned one for years in the States, I didn’t have one in Armenia. I carried an old school Walkman with me everywhere in Armenia, and bought tons of bootleg cassettes there, some of which were of amazing albums from the 70s I hadn’t yet been exposed to in our land of plenty. Now, I wonder how long it would have taken me to be exposed to that music if I had never gone to Armenia, where there are amazing musicians and artists, but not all of the modern conveniences we enjoy in America and western Europe.

I remember being very distressed that I couldn’t listen to Taylor’s latest back then, due to my inferior technology. I had heard some of Hourglass on VOA Europe, and knew I would like it. Alas, it had to wait until I was home… and that was probably when I needed to listen to it the most. 1997-1999 were very, very hard years for me. I might not have survived them, had I not been brave enough to seek help and do some hard work. In that case, the “twelve gauge surprise” was psychotherapy and antidepressants, which changed my life irrevocably for the better. It wasn’t easy. It cost time and money and required me to talk about some very difficult things with professionals. But ultimately, I prevailed, and life is, mostly, better. At least I don’t contemplate suicide nearly as often as I used to.

I don’t own a twelve gauge shotgun. If I did, I doubt I would use it to dispatch a pesky pig who has gotten too old, fat, and burdensome for me. That’s not really my way. I save such drastic, final solutions for when a situation is truly a lost cause. I also prefer much cleaner, more humane methods of slaying the Monas who get too damned big and old to care for. But still, the idea of the “twelve gauge surprise” in the old song, “Mona”, really speaks to me today.

So… to all the Monas in my life, enjoy being dirty, greedy, noisy, and stinky while you still can. I’ve got a figurative “twelve gauge surprise” waiting for you.