Category Archives: Rant

Current Events

Now that #metoo happened and Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are going down. And that one comedian is going down too, and even he admits it…I mean, where to start?

9/10 women I know have been assaulted. 1/10 men I know, at least. When I worked in the social field I was required to report whenever an individual brought up a case of sexual abuse, and I did, only to be told on one occasion, “Oh yeah, she always says that but she’s lying.”

Is she? I mean why would she lie about something like that? The girl was so psychologically traumatized by the event she couldn’t escape it. She punched mirrors, and then was reprimanded for it. She spent hours in the bathroom crying. “She’s just trying to get attention,” my superiors told me.

Well for fuck’s sake, let’s give it to her.

What I didn’t say was: I punched mirrors too.

What I didn’t say was: you keep crying. You let it all out. It’s totally, 100% okay to be sad, and angry. It’s normal and healthy to feel that way and I’m glad your dealing with it. Oh yeah, and, FUCCCK HIMMM.

Regardless, the girl was hard to get through to. But I believed her. Why the hell not? What is the goddamn harm? Something’s hurting her, it’s clear. What really angered me was the way  the counselors  shut her down–no matter what did or didn’t happen. You don’t do that. YOU don’t KNOW that.

***

Uma Thurman, just this morning, was quoted on NPR. Angry, she said.

Angry.

She had always been afraid of revealing her anger and rage toward men. Those were her primary emotions.

Uma Thurman, coincidentally, is the actress who stars in Kill Bill and assumes revenge on a team of assassins, wielding a sword.

***
I have three essays on the topic that NPR is keeping, gracefully and rightfully, in the forefront. One essay I submitted two or three months ago, before #metoo, but it was declined. “Too short,” the editor told me. “It felt like it needed more of an ending,” she said.

I have read enough stories about publishing to know by now that I could potentially resubmit the same essay, new ending or not, and it would be more likely to be published. Timing. It’s half, or more, about the timing.

But I was smoking in the essay and I’m not smoking now so if I use that essay I would have to make that clear (take it out) and if I were already doing that, well I might as well change the ending.

But boy was I angry in that story.

***

Another story is called Stench. I wrote it in an attempt to just State The Facts and not skirt around the issue like I do in my poetry and in a good portion of my other writings. Sadly, the essay is far too revealing for my tastes.

I’d only publish it if someone paid me for it. Not much. Candy even.

***

In the final essay I braid one of my experiences with the experience of a girlfriend who was assaulted while travelling abroad and staying in a hostel. I also want to add to the story of another friend of mine who was flat out assaulted when some “friends” of hers drove around the block again and again refusing to drop her off until she performed a sexual act on one of them.

These were stories mentioned to me in passing. Nobody called me up and said “You’re not going to believe what happened to me!” No. Ha. That’s not the kind of world we live in. These stories are commonplace. Not that they should be. They are eventually told over tea and whispered in coffee shops and are rarely mentioned when men are in the house.

And they are just these sad little stories that  took us women farther  and farther from our bodies in a world where these very bodies are used against us in nearly every mainstream advertisement. “He won’t want to abuse you if you don’t look like this,” the world seems to tell us. Not fair. Not fair all around.

And they are not just sad little stories.

No, they are LARGE and ANGERED stories. Sword wielding stories, if we were to act like like barbaric men in the matter. But we only do that while playing dress-up and acting.  Because for the lot of history, we women have been civil.

And they are not just sad little stories just like Weinstein and Trump (!!) are not just dirty old men.

That’s what I was always told growing up: “Oh he’s just a dirty old man.”

I think we can all agree, it’s time to take “just” out of the sentence.

Oh, he’s a dirty old man.

Stay away from him.

Lock him up.

Fire him.

SHAME

him.

***

There is no synonym for pedophile.

 

 

 

October First, 17

We woke on a Monday to news of our nation’s
largest mass shooting in recent history
The numbers towering that of Pulse nightclub
and that one kindergarten class.
You know the one.
Blood on children’s books. Teachers diving to
save lives. Sick, twisted, white. He fell between the
cracks and rose up, armed and angry.

It took multiple people
and all of their fingers
and all of their toes
to measure the fatalities.
It took the fluid communication of
dozens of doctors and nurses,
shocked, exhausted,
and thundered
from their sleep
to confirm the heads
of the dead–all innocent people.

All reaching for enlightenment
in the way of music and rhythm
and bright lights in rocking and rolling
Las Vegas, Nevada.
Crimson blood on bouncing curls.
Women’s fancy hair-do’s, upright.
Women’s country-strong bodies, horizontal.
Else running, confused, mind-churning.
Women and children, elders and men,
dancing, swaying, shielding, ducking.
Mouths open in terror
Eyes going in all directions
The realization of the
heavy importance
of those you love.

I’m sorry’s.
I love you’s.
I don’t understand’s.
I do cherish you’s.
I’m thankful I was spared’s.
Trauma. Blood. Boots.
Question marks.

A glittering TRUMP emblazoned
in the background.
A name synonymous with
dollar signs. And one million
other things by this point,
depending precisely on who you ask.
In other news: a rock star died.
In my opinion: it matters little compared
with the loss of 59 lives, 500 wounded.

October 1, 17
The day 59 rock stars perished
before they really had the chance
to sing.

Cats

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I will never love again.

That’s how it feels.

First, she started peeing on the mat outside the litter box. Next, on my boyfriend’s pillow. Then she stopped sleeping in the bed with me. For three months or so, she “yowled” at night. Then, shortly after we got a puppy, she stopped doing that. We thought she was improving–but maybe she just didn’t have it in her to yowl anymore.

Fast forward to today. At 8 a.m., I drove to the new veterinary clinic in town, health record of Minnie the Mooch, DOB 2000, Breed Siamese, Sex F, Markings Blue Eyes, tucked into my purse; Minnie in her carrier–blue eyes glazing over, orifices excreting foul odor and liquids. Before we left the house, I told her “this is your home, baby girl, we love you so much. We love you so, so much.”

A beam of light was gathering on the hardwood floor, possibly her favorite thing ever, so I put the carrier there, opened it up, she lifted her face to the sun, and I cried. She looked at me concerned, not for her but for me. Because she was like that. Because that’s exactly what she was like.

At the vet, after we (the vet, Katie, and I) decided that euthanization was the appropriate route to take,  I tried to give her a treat I had brought, a greenie, but she wouldn’t take it. That affirmed how bad it had gotten. Just one week ago, I’d say “treat” and Minnie and the puppy would both come sit and receive their treat. Minnie got two treats, because I knew she was dying.

I set the greenie aside and rubbed behind her ears. I noticed all the blinds were closed in the clinic and I opened them up, the room was facing the east and sunlight filled the crematorium. Minnie lifted her head once again. She purred, if lightly.

“I love you Minnie, I love you Princess.”

I cried.

By now, I was waiting on the form to sign which authorized Katie to euthanize my cat.

Katie came in.

Minnie and I had spent the last hour together, so I felt that it was time. Plus, she was suffering–which was the whole point of the euthanization. Another gal, Jill, arrived too, to help hold her down.

“You don’t have to witness this if you don’t want to,” Katie told me.

“No, no. I want to be here. I want to give her lovin’.”

Katie and Jill nodded.

I stood in front of Minnie, got down at eye-level.

“I love you so much. I love you so so much.”

Pathetic.

I’d tried giving her one more greenie a few minutes earlier, while we were waiting, and she’d eaten it.  I didn’t manage to get the steamed milk from the pull-up coffee shop. Now that we were here, I just wanted it to be done with. Minnie had been shivering all morning, which was unlike her. It was eighty degrees out. Her body ran a gamut of issues, none of which I could afford to treat, if I am being honest.

One hundred and sixteen dollars  later, I was escorted out a side door. Jill carried Minnie’s body in a white cardboard box. White boxes are reserved for animals with the purest of souls, I imagined.

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In the summer of 1993 I was eight years old.

Our second favorite thing to do (second to swimming in the Smith River) was going to the Drive-In movies. Our second cousins ran the Drive-In, but we still popped our own popcorn, storing it in brown paper grocery sacks. Dad would buy us cokes and Red Vines when we got there. A lot of the time, he’d take as many kids as could fit in the camper of our pick-up truck. I was an only child, but the neighborhood kids, some of whom had 5 or 6 brothers and sisters, adopted me as a sibling and my Dad as a fill-in Dad. We never knew when we were going to the Drive-In and we rarely knew what was playing, but it didn’t matter. As soon as Dad said “Drive-In” we’d all be putting our long pants on, begging for popcorn, and gathering as many neighborhood kids as we could find.

One evening, I’d been helping the Philpott’s get their Drive-In supplies together–blankets, pillows, ninja-turtles. Sleeping bags were a thing and every kid owned one. I’d hoisted a sleeping bag up over my shoulder, like I’d seen my dad do with hay bales and bags of dog food. We needed to be at the Drive-In by dark, and the sun was already escaping behind the mountains.

I walked through the Philpott’s sliding glass door, perpetually dirty with handprints of boys; I couldn’t see as the sleeping bag was smothering my head. I just needed to make it down the few short steps off of the porch and into the bed of the truck.

Crunch.

Something crunched beneath my foot. I lifted my heel, I lifted the soft, but heavy, sleeping bag, craned my neck, and peeked behind me.

Beneath my heel lay an orange tabby kitten, writhing with pain.

The Philpott’s Mom was upon me immediately, not angry, just concerned.

“Go get your dad. Go get your dad. Go get your dad,” she told me.

The cat convulsed, its head seemed to be glued to the porch, while its small, bony body tried to get away but couldn’t.

Cut scene.

Open scene.

I am standing behind the trunk of a tree. My fingers are in my mouth–a nervous gesture–and I am horrified. The kitten is on a tree stump used as a chopping block, and my father is raising an ax to the sky. It’s been so little time since I stepped on the kitten that it isn’t even dark yet. I do not remember now if I “got my Dad” like Francine had asked me, or if somebody else did. One of the boys probably beat me to it, because that’s what boys are good for. They come in handy in times like this.

Blood.

End scene.

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My first love was named after our property manager, Kitty Rose. My father brought her home for me as a kitten not long after my mother left. To fill the void.

Dad taught me how to hold the cat, by cradling her bottom, not by holding her under her armpits. He told me that cats don’t like to be petted when they’re eating. We kept her food and water by the garage door.

By the time we moved to the mountains, Kitty Rose was my confidant. Kitty Rose is my best friend, I wrote in my dairy. Kitty Rose was also full grown and not spayed. It wasn’t long before she became impregnated.

“Your cats a slut,” one of my older, more in-the-know friends told me. “I saw her over at our house, and then I saw her at the neighbors house across the street.”

“No she’s not,” I defended her.

But from then on I kind of thought that she was. Kitty Rose was very pretty, with her full white collar and striped fur, and with the limited knowledge that I possessed, well I thought slut and pretty were synonymous. Or at least closely related.

I tried to push it out of my mind when, after Kitty Rose prematurely gave birth to a litter of kittens behind the tool shed, Dad told me he thought she’d eaten a couple of them.

Did not, did not, I told myself. I stored it with the very few things down in the basement of my mind which I just could not, would not accept about the world. I moved on. I kept my cat calendar fixed to the month with the cat that looked just like Kitty Rose. It was my birthday month, and the kitten sat in a pumpkin patch. If only life really were so simple.

At least one of Kitty Rose’s kittens survived. Dad named him “Junior Rose”. I was kind of peeved that Dad named the cat without me, but I had to give it to him–he always picked good names. Junior Rose had identical markings as Kitty Rose, but he was short-haired. He wasn’t nearly as sweet. He was a “wild cat,” Dad said, and  he only came around to eat and when he did he wouldn’t let you pet him, just scampered off into the trees.

I tried not to think too hard on why Kitty Rose didn’t run around with him or lick him or care for him. He was still young, though pretty big. Everyday Junior Rose got stronger and more independent until eventually we rarely saw him at all. Hardened as he was, physically and emotionally, we didn’t even think to bring him when we moved back to town. Junior Rose was his own thing. His mother’s abandonment had made sure of that. Though I truly believe she’d done her best.

1999.

The family is splitting up. Dad is going one way and I am going another. We aren’t sure who to blame it on but I am blaming the pastor of his new church. I toilet paper the pastor’s house in protest.

Kitty Rose is stuck in the middle. I am a teenager now, and she is no longer my best friend. My boyfriend is, because I am stupid. Stupid in that young kind of way. Not surprisingly, my boyfriend has no interest in hanging out with my cat, who now lives at my Aunt Julie’s house–a neutral location. Someone will come for her, Dad and I tell her separately, when things get sorted out.

Things do not get sorted out. In my absence, Kitty Rose wanders off into the woods behind the house and never returns.

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I guess I figured Minnie would do the same. Abandon me for a better life. Retire. Expire. You hear of people who say their cat slept under the porch or in the closet for a few days and then just died. In their sleep or while you were at work. Nice and easy. No ax.

I assumed that would be me. I was wrong. Never assume, how could I forget? It’s one of my favorite tenets.

Things got busy. She got worse. She is still eating and drinking, I kept saying. But then I noticed her food dish remaining fuller and fuller. Her water dish too. She stopped coming in to eat as much. She stopped coming in at all. She slept outside for 2 nights, but she didn’t die. She didn’t whimper either. Very quiet. Very still.

“I don’t know how to do this,” crept into my mind but I quickly stowed it down in the basement. I put my work boots on, kissed Minnie’s head, said she’ll either be fine or she’ll die when I’m gone. Nice and easy.

Bad got to worse in a matter of a weekend. By the time I recognized her agony, it was too late. It was then I realized, being the fighter  that she is, she wasn’t going anywhere easy.

“Baby girl,” I told her, “I love you so much. I love you so so much.”

More than words, I touched her. I petted her like I haven’t done in years. Maybe like that time she licked my tears away and I felt like I had a soul-companion. I held her close and stroked her, amazed.

Minnie, do you remember when you first came to my house? You were so curious, round, and loving.

And then there was when we lived on the outskirts of town, near where you lived with your family before me. You knew all the streets still, and you’d go and visit the neighbors. “Minnie! Minnie!” I would call and you’d come galloping down the road like a dog, the bell around your neck ringing, signaling your return. You were in your prime then.

Next we moved to Oregon. It was the biggest move of our life together, a huge shift for me. We whittled our belongings down to fit in one 2-door sports car–and we traveled for one month in California. Every house we stayed at, you were The Nice Cat. You didn’t pick  fights, you located the litter box, and when we stayed in hotels you peed in the bathtub drains.

In the redwoods you stalked a snake, but I picked you up before you could pounce.

When we got  to the ocean, I took you out to the sand. You didn’t love it, but I did. We didn’t stay long.

Everywhere you went you were loved. Everywhere you went you were love. You. Were. Love.

Minnie the Mooch
DOB 2000
Breed Siamese
Sex F
Markings Blue Eyes

My last love.

It hurts, it hurts. I want to tell someone.

It hurts, it hurts. She wanted to tell me.

Does anyone feel that the sky is falling? Some parts of the world are burning, other parts of the world are drowning. We are all turning to steam. A cat dies, a baby is born. You make a buck, you spend a buck. You get it together, you fall apart. You anchor to hope. “Hope’s just a word that maybe you said and maybe you heard, but that’s what you need man and you need it bad.” You quote Bob Dylan. You call a friend. You make something new when destruction surrounds you. You bury a pet and try to unearth her essence.

Yin

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All I know is new beginnings.

That’s what I told him in my latest attempt to avoid the possibility of heartache, like ever. It’s like, if I cut my own arm off it won’t hurt as bad. I will still be in control.

Everything is water and matter, water and matter. Work is matter, rest is water. He is matter, I am water. I am made of matter and water and my brains and my bones depend on its balance.

I run on land. I run away. But I am a water creature, a river rat, and a beach babe so I will make mistakes on land. My horoscope read water upon water upon water so watch out and before I even read part that I cried in the kitchen — more than usual, my tears hot in the soapy vat of dishwater. It was strange and not-common. I knew I was in the wrong because I couldn’t pinpoint, exactly, what was wrong. So I wished – slash – willed it away.

I went to the beach the following day. I thought of what I’d said, “all I know are new beginnings.” I’ll admit, I’ve known a lot of them…but I am water…and I am river…and I am a wave. Water is in a constant state of movement, whether it is flowing, seemingly stagnant, or percolating through the earth, through the matter. I am part of a whole as water. I need not run, because everywhere I go is with him. And everywhere I go is with you. Every new beginning is still part of the whole. Yin. Yang. Beginning. End. I come to understand this.

Mantra for the Sane

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In writing I worry
I have said too much,
too little
I capitalize on
the funny parts
the sick parts
the sad parts
the parts
half worth
anything
to anyone
(likely not)
I leave out how
my Dad religiously
kissed my forehead every
morning before school
or that friends
parents often
said “we can’t afford
to keep  feeding her”
which only made
my hungrier
my cousins
called me
“oinker”
I leave out
the parts where
I was a happy, jolly
normal kid playing
make-believe and house
I leave out the parts where
I do not go hungry
But I remember
the good times
when I do the dishes,
the innocent times
when I sweep the floor,
the carefree times
when I call for the dog,
“I wanted this”
I recall
“This is all I ever
wanted”
I write my past
I plot my future
“I’ll be the husband
and you’ll be the wife”
I remember saying
“I’ll go to the store now
to get the groceries”
It will be so much fun
It is all I ever wanted
It will be so much fun
I recall, hand swirling
in a vat of dishwater,
igniting the suds
It will be so much fun
to be grown
It is all I ever wanted

This becomes a mantra
for the sane

It will be so much fun
to be grown
It is all I ever wanted
I’ll go to the store now
to get the groceries
It will be so much fun

Farm Her: New Job, New Life

I work on a farm now, helping care for hundreds of chickens, plenty of pigs, a handful of sheep, a field of cows, and three goats that are up-for-grabs.

My boss, a young woman not much larger than I, is southern-girl-polite, patient with me as I learn the ropes, and incredibly tender with her livestock. She is teaching me how to use power tools, perform animal husbandry, and push a little past what I think I am physically capable of.

So much of what I thought I knew about the world is being called into question. Namely, what I am good for: sitting pretty? Moving things? Growing food? Personality traits and body parts have taken on a whole new meaning. I can’t fall back on pretty, no way, no how. I don’t even put on makeup before I start my day. (So, if you know me at all, you know that everything has changed.) The one thing I have going for me is that I don’t mind getting dirty.

What used to bother me so much about customer service was the shallowness, the trivialness. I have none of that now. My boss is stone-serious about what we do. Because what we do matters. Believe it or not, I’ve only had one or two jobs where that was the case (working for the National Park Service was one, working with incarcerated youth was another. My post office job, well that was somewhere on the border.)

Sure, I’m working a million-gazillion times harder than I ever did before (except for my time cutting down trees with CREC, whadddup!) but it’s a different kind of work. It isn’t so mentally exhausting (not nearly as mentally exhausting as writing!). I whip around on a four-wheeler all day from one task to another with nobody asking me to “smile more,” with nobody’s wonky energy to pick up and take home with me.

I’ve loved all my jobs (maybe that’s a stretch, I’ve had a lot of jobs) but I often regret that I haven’t stuck with one and, you know, Started Making The Big Bucks. But this job? This job is legitimately good for me. This job is wholesome. Educational. Amusing (those piglets!). Active. EMPOWERING. And don’t even get me started on Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From? (I’ll just say: whatever you’re paying for chicken, you’re not paying enough.)

I’ve been feeling like “farming found me” because although I did apply for this job, I also applied for about 10 different State Park jobs before getting turned down and, miraculously, getting a phone call from my new and lovely boss Jenni. And I’m glad I did get turned down by the parks because my exposure to nature at the farm is probably ten-fold what it would’ve been and I’m learning skill sets that will last a lifetime (I can’t believe I’ve made it to 31 without knowing some of these things!)

My values are being turned on their heads. Not all my values, but things like: what makes me a beautiful and valuable human being? What do I really contribute to this world? What does environmentalism really mean to me? And am I willing to act on those values? Where did that jerky come from? How was that animal treated? My former touching stones (shopping for clothes, getting dolled up, watching mindless movies) are eroding beneath me. It’s kind of scary, but exciting. This is just the start of something bigger, a drop in the bucket no doubt, but I am evolving and changing as a person and a woman and I am trying to get a foothold in this strange, brave, and REAL new world.

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Literally me. A photo Jenni snuck of me on one of my first days at work. She posted it on the farm’s Instagram account and titled it “Chicks putting out chicks” #farmher

Introversion (synonyms: introspection, self-absorbsion, timidness)

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photograph by Kirsten Lara Valenzuela \\ model Crystal Danielle Gasser

Introversion. You wonder if is innate or learned.  Is it because you were raised as an only child? Is it because of early childhood trauma or simply because the birds used to laugh at you outside your window? “Mocking” birds, you later learned. Is it because you were raised in a cabin, with just your father and a wood stove for company? What came first, the chicken or the egg? You remember pretending to be ill when childhood friends asked you to play. You felt you couldn’t tell them the truth: that you just wanted to be alone.You are on Facebook, see a meme: I’m staying inside, it’s too people-y out there, click Like.

It’s like this: as introverts we are inclined to work the night shift, in fire towers, on the homestead. We are willing to stop and look at the moon for a long period of time. We go on to ponder it and everything else within a moment that drags on for a night and the whole next day. We take security personally and are often the guardians of our homes. You go, I’ll stay here. We can almost sense the need to be in a tower somewhere. You always thought Rapunzel really had it made: that long golden hair, impassioned lover, and that bedroom all to herself with few visitors. Twenty four hours is almost not enough time to yourself, you’ve noticed. You could take weeks, a month, of solitude. You need it! You want to scream— as if the world should hand it to you. Your boyfriend leaves to Africa for three weeks and you were just getting used to the new routine when he comes home.

You read Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer and High Tide in Tucson.
You can feel someone coming from a mile away.
No one ever sneaks up on you, yet you are often startled.
You are “sensitive” and there’s no way around that. Ever.
You cannot date or live with other sensitive people.                                                                     ……Can’t one of you just go for a walk?

You take up writing.
You notice nuance everywhere.
You suck at wowing a room verbally.
You feel you are often interrupted or misunderstood.
You try to express yourself with as few words as possible.
You notice what everyone around you is doing, even feeling.
You’ve called in sick when really you just needed a “mental health day.”
You feel incredibly guilty, foolish, and weird for this.
You RSVP to parties then panic and not go.
Your one true desire is a full weekend at home.
You read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
You prefer the company of just 2-3 friends over dinner or lunch (preferred).
You are a powerhouse one-on-one.
You let few people in but to those you do you are loyal.
You prefer letter-writing as a means of staying connected.
You would never, ever do social things three days in a row.
You are well rested.
You have secrets.
You are sensual.
You like to be in bed.
(some boyfriends find this sexy,
others are appalled.)
You enjoy you.
You notice everybody
else seems to
need company.
You pity them.
You wonder
if you could
ever have a child,
if you should ever
have a child.
You prefer the
company of animals,
radio show hosts.
(But even they can
be too yappy.)