Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blast From the Past: FREE P.R.E.S.S. # 2

My contribution to Women's Empowerment,
the Spring 1992 edition (issue # 2)
of Free P.R.E.S.S.!
(P.R.E.S.S. stood for "Progressive Resource
for Encouragement in Stressful Situations", by the way!)

Cover featured were friend Kim (in the logo--an ever-changing
personal photo,)  friend Susan (in shadow at bottom,)
and a picture from the March on Washington in center
(photo by friend Esther Castro.)

Included were recommendations of media
centered on women (including TV, film, music,
comics) and more, as well as cartoons,
articles, editorials and the usual slant!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blast From the Past: FREE P.R.E.S.S. # 6

Oh how the times haven't changed a bit!

This issue cover featured an expose' on the job
scam that companies have been running for some time now;
advertising active hiring when in fact they
don't have a single position available.

(Folks like to keep a large number of resume's on
file for quota making, replacements, etc. but most job seekers
won't waste time if you're just 'accepting apps.')

Also in the article; sex discrimination in hiring
practices. (As in, jobs improperly designated as being
exclusively for women!) Oh, those silly Southerners!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Self-defense is not a crime

The most key skill one can possess is the ability to defend oneself.
Though we no longer reside in the wilderness or savage tribes, man
is still a mercenary creature. There are always threats of varied sorts
vying to destroy us or take what is ours. Unfortunately, as the
importance of society in general has been promoted, man's vital
protection skills have been outlawed and lost. Morality, as well
as a lazy sedentary lifestyle, is guilty of incapacitating people's
natural defensive capabilities and territorial nature. The previously
innate self-preservation skills have disappeared.

The need to retrain citizens in the way of self-defense is crucial;
not just physical strength and fitness, but emotional and psycho-
logical spiritedness, too. Many modern men and women are casual
and passive in their daily lives. They have been brainwashed by
religion, workplaces, and government to be demure and calm at
the expense of their own sense of self. People are conditioned to
accept bad situations, rude people, and violations of their boundaries.
Citizens are expected to 'grin and bear it,' for the power of the
individual has been subdued.

When someone becomes reliant on someone or something
outside themselves, they give away power. A man should
not be concerned with the restriction of laws or interference
of the police when defending his home, his things, his honor,
or his life. If a family member is maimed or killed due to
negligence or cruelty of a stranger, what is the repercussion?
The stranger may get some jail time, but the man is simply
expected to go on as if nothing happened. There is no means
of returning a life or a limb. There is no justice once an act is
committed. (This example speaks to the situation of a poor
man without influence, obviously. There are different rules for
different people in this classist culture; yet another reason
people must take care of protecting themselves.)

People will respect a person only to the extent that that person
demands respect. They will take advantage of an individual to
whatever extent they are capable. Even ‘simple’ name-calling
that goes unanswered gives bullies an invitation to further
disrespect a passive person. And small incidents build into
larger ones all the time. Insults devalue a person and set the
stage for submissiveness to build. This is still a world of ‘kill
or be killed,’ even though the pretense is that civility and
societal laws prevail.

The ability to defend one’s self may be a secondary skill; the
initial need might be that people must be taught to have greater
self-respect (the more butch cousin of the much-promoted
'self-esteem’ of the last 20 years.) But the end results of being
actively capable of protecting oneself and belongings may
become necessary before a strong sense of self is intact.
So, this is a case of needing to put the cart before the horse.
With the increase of economic instability and social unrest in
this last year, the possibility of being robbed, overlooked, or
hurt increases all the time. Human beings need to adapt a more
proactive response to potential violence or violations besides
thinking they are safe in their little corner of the world. Wishful
thinking won’t cut it when the eviction notice or the home
invader comes.

People need to know that everything from 'unsatisfactory
customer service' to 'illegal wars fought with their tax dollars'
is not something they must begrudgingly accept. Each time
one allows another to step on one's toes, a precedent is set;
the smaller battles are cumulative in effect. When someone is
dismissive or disrespectful, they must be confronted. When a
person in a position of authority takes advantage of you, a line
must be drawn. When another person invades an individual's
space or threatens them, the individual must be willing to speak
up and defend themselves.
The first step in learning to protect oneself is to recognize
the existing problem of passive acceptance. The only difference
between someone who is a victim and someone who is a victor
is willingness. We are trained in schools, jobs, families, and
churches to be submissive; standing up to all manner of threats
is a skill which must be learned. A first step in altering the
existing problem is to seek out classes or books to learn
what is needed. Martial arts, boxing, and other physical
self-defense courses are available most anywhere. There
are also books and self-help classes to become more assertive
and even aggressive in work, personal, and financial relationships.
Sometimes one has to learn to release old relationships, as even
friends and family can be contaminants restraining one from
achieving a better self. Some people are sick enough to prefer
a friend’s failure so they can continue to feel good about themselves,
or keep the status quo. The reach of cutthroat thinking is far indeed.

The need to properly and confidently defend oneself is the
greatest ability a person can have. Unfortunately, it is a lost
art that has to be learned (or at least reawakened.) Without
the ability to defend self, people in all areas of a person’s life
will take advantage of them. No one else can be expected to
defend us adequately or fully, and it is therefore our right and
responsibility that we train ourselves in this area of expertise.
Once one recognizes how fragile life is and how easily it may
be diminished or extinguished, the reality of defending oneself
is seen as imperative. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is still in play, even
in the Land of Plenty.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Tweezers Versus a Telephone Pole" essay

Every beleaguered story mainstay has to have one thing to remain
a relevant and exciting fixture of an adventure series; an adversary.

From as early as I can remember, I was plagued with several foils
in bad standing at any given time. Yes, life counts as an adventure

One particularly dastardly piece of work took the form of Mrs. Ellen
Witkowski, a New England transplant to sunny Florida where she
took up teaching at a prestigious all-boys private school, the Academy
of the Holy Names.

Ellen, an old school theatrical bitch with a permanent scowl and a
sneer that would shatter glass, was not at all afraid to show her
favoritism among the students. She was an elitist sow who
showered praise and affection on the rich students, and alternately
ignored, penalized, or was contemptuous of the less affluent students
(of which I was one.)

Needless to say, when a woman past her prime resorts to screaming
matches with adolescent boys, it's not pretty. Regularly, she would
make snide remarks about boys' intellect, their lack of pristine clothing,
or their lack of worldly knowledge (You know; significant shit like what
a Cartier is, or what Bergdorf's world events stuff.)
She was a text book snob, a braggart, and a bully.

I dreamed nightly of slapping the taste out of her mouth and beating
her senseless (short fight,) and occasionally forayed into just
what my alibi would be when her body was discovered in a shallow
grave at the dairy farm near our house, the cops scratching heads
as they pondered aloud "What we just cain't figury is why some
uppity Yankee would have been way out here'ins this country side
of the county? Y'all have any ideas about that?" Whoopsies.

We had standoffs on an hourly basis; she knew what buttons to push,
and I kept my insubordination just this side of insurrection...mostly.
It was a moot point, though, because this was the 7th grade, and I
had long since mastered both parents' handwriting style so as to
effectively forge any responses to notes home, progress reports,
disciplinary forms, and the like. She only thought I was scared of her.

(And lest you think I had an ally, when I wasn't being terrorized at
home, they were training me to be a punching bag for others. Both
parents instructing me to avoid trouble, never talk back--even if the
other person was wrong--and to allow my ass to get kicked if it
came to it. My parents looked at me as their Golden Ticket, and
they wanted no problems at this oh-so-important school they had
sacrificed to get me in. No matter the quality of life or the long-term
side-effects; be a doormat so we can have a Presidential son!)

If I were to be bullied or teased in her classroom, she would allow
it to go on and on in interminably. When I finally had my fill and
responded, all Hell broke loose.

(I imagine not much has changed from this incident nearly 30 years
ago to the current bullying problem in schools where a double-standard
invariably permeates.) I was hit and stabbed with pencils at one point
and she laughed, but when I placed gum on The Jew's pants (hey,
that's how stupid 12 year-olds refer to one another--sorry!) it was an
act of unforgivable terrorism. Never mind that he routinely pointed
out that he could buy my entire wardrobe with what he spent on the
average nightly dinner.

I had a hatred for that woman that was dangerous. And one day, the
firestorm. A boy was teasing me on the playground, calling me "Fag."
Now, I knew at the time I was, but I was terrified of anyone else
knowing, so my macho defenses kicked in. I chased and grabbed and
ripped shirt and whooped ass. Then Witkowski came to the window
of her classroom and called for us.

When we came, huffing and puffing, she very belligerently told us we
were both sitting out PE and getting classroom punishment as well.
Andy Boyer lied and said I attacked him unprovoked. She gave her
trademark sneer and said to him disgustedly--as markedly foul a look
as ever I have seen--"I heard what you said to him, and if I was him,
I'd have beaten you for saying such a horrible thing, too." That gut kick
of soulful disrespect from an authority figure. Didn't matter I didn't
respect her; I was so vulnerable on a deep emotional level in regards
to my sexuality and my worth as a human being, this sucker-punched
me. My homophobia was 'justified' for many years by such seemingly
insignificant comments that haunted and lingered.
Yup; that was confirmation. Being gay was the 'worst' thing imaginable.

We continued to go round and round, and I wish I could say I worked
things out or progressed past my hatred of her. or even that I under-
stood her. When she was my homeroom teacher the next year, she
gave all of us personalized posters for our graduation from her class
and the school. Mine was the "Serenity Prayer." You know..."accept
the things I cannot change." It only further enraged me as I saw it as
a slap in the face to the inevitability of corrupt people running things
and injustice prevailing. Maybe, too, it was something more she saw
in me.

But who's to say. My view of her was rather entrenched by the more
prominent experiences. I'm not sure I'd be open to more depth in her
if it were true.

Middle school isn't for sissies, and time has not proven any more forgiving
of my chief foil, WitCowSki, aka The Head Bitch In Charge.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"One Man's Brain Rot; Another man's Life saver" essay

In my insanity-fest household, escapism was a prized commodity.

I had an entire arsenal of trivial pursuits and mindless interests
from early on.

 And, since my parents guiltily spent every spare dime on
gifts (a doubly dubious divide between guilt over their usual
treatment of me and their own shame over such impoverished
upbringings,) I cleaned up in the swag department!

I was a comic book fiend; those four-color enterprises that
were always viewed as the red-headed stepchild, and now
have come to prominence as more of the cool uncle who
has all the latest gadgets. (Make no mistake; back then it
was Nerd City, though!)

 There was nothing better than the perfect microcosm of
comics, where everything made sense--no matter how outlandish
the explanation--and inclusion was a regular part of the mix.
Freaks and geeks were the good guys, and good won out.

I marveled at my early exposure to multiculturalism and just
how right that felt; the Legion had a different kid from every
planet, including every color of the rainbow!! I liked the friendships
and camaraderie (that I would know from no other source,)
and the sense of endless excitement and fantasy that was
available within those pages. The continuity of those stories,
the established canon and personalities and histories, it was
oh-so-significant for an adopted kid who knew nothing of where
he came from.

 Music was huge for me as an outlet; I would play LPs on the
stereo at full blast, only later learning that kid's rooms aren't
soundproof and not all neighbors are drunken lushes who
stay passed out. I belted out some of the cheesiest Donna
Summer, Pat Benatar, Linda Ronstadt, Kim Carnes, Bonnie
Tyler, and other divas' greatest hits like a pro, losing myself
in the pulsating music and the words. Sometimes they were
schmaltzy love-broken fool songs, which I equated with my
heartbreak of loneliness and powerlessness, and sometimes
they were defiant ass-kicking "Ain't nobody gonna settle me
down" numbers that fueled my sense of outrage and injustice.

My juices got flowing with the aggressive eroticism of wrestling,
and it was a strange sensation to know that the Briscoe Brothers
lived right down the road from me, as did good ole Dusty Rhodes.
There was something about the visceral, combative sport that
engaged me. The spectacular lack of clothing didn't hurt things
either, but mostly it was the power struggle that triggered such
an emotional response.

I also had a heaping helping of stirrings from such impressionable
sights as a red Speedo-clad Robert Conrad on "Battle of the
Network Stars" and Jim Palmer's infamous Jockey ads in every
single magazine published in the late 1970s and early 1980s!

My appetite for sexual imagery was insatiable, and I memorized
every soap opera's cast list to get an idea on when some hunk
might go shirtless. I think the suppression of feelings leads to the
intensification of feelings.

I had every toy ever made, especially those related to the
comics and super hero TV shows, which were pervasive in that
era. I had no playmates, so I enacted all my own storylines with
a cast of dozens. If a character didn't have a produced figure,
I bought a discount bin Fischer Price action figure or Pocket
Heroes figure and painted, glued, and accessorized until I had
that figure in my collection. Broken toothpicks super glued onto
the back of plastic hands make for excellent Wolverine claws,
in case you ever need to know. (Yes, I am totally Redneck Gypsy
Recyclable Boy.)

 And TV and movies were a drug for me; they had everything!
Drama! Intense emotion and crazy dialogue! Interesting people
and finite problems! And perhaps greatest of all was that back then,
justice was typically served up on a regular basis. Good and bad was
absolute, and wrongs were righted. That was key for me.
All of it was all representing somewhere that wasn't where I was;
I could imagine that escape was possible.

The visual stimuli, the verbal stimuli, the ability to zone out of
my less-than-stellar reality...and people said what they were
really thinking, or you could at least see what they were thinking
when the doors were closed! That was huge for me, growing
up in a house of secrecy and duplicity.

Literature taught me language and insights and that there
were others in the world like me--"Catcher in the Rye", "To Kill
a Mockingbird", "The Great Gatsby", "The Outsiders" and more--
and allowed me to understand a little more of life as if I had
actually lived it among my peers.

As an isolated kid, all these entertainments formed one very valid
purpose; befriending me. This inanimate objects and works
of art provided me with reassurance and fun and connection
where there would have otherwise been none. In a tiny
southern town where you're an odd duck the equivalent of
Boo Radley (which they actually called me in high school,)
there are limits on what you can do. Unless you believe otherwise.

Although I now understand the inevitability of interaction, and
on occasion the value of it, I still cherish my oldest friends
that gave me an outlet and a lifeline through some of my rockiest
years. Let others mock and squawk, and let the accusations of
'social wallflower' commence; I love all my pass times!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Occupying Hope; Trials of the REAL 99%" essay

("Even in darkness, light filters through."
model; Susan)

Having lost my last regular and meaningful job some three years ago
under a shroud of questionable circumstances, I have flittered from
part-time job to seasonal job to one-day gigs ever since. It has been
an incredible battle to keep afloat, to stay caught up, and to just plain
maintain basic life needs.

This is just a bit of that story. Chances are, increasingly, you may know
someone who is going through similar circumstances. And maybe we can
share with one another that we're all doing our best...letting down our
guard and pretenses.

I was denied my due unemployment monies because my employer lied
under oath at the hearing and blackmailed my former coworker to do
the same. "Silly wabbit; morals are for kids!" I failed to win my appeal,
and thus had a 2 year hole in employment, since obviously this was not
someone I could place on my resume'.

I'm in a small town now, and a pariah because of my outspokenness.
Getting work is hard here anyway, without the right last name
or being part of the right crowd, but throw being labeled a 'trouble-
maker' into the mix and you've pretty well nailed that coffin shut.
"Him was that'un that was aught thar supportin' O-BOMBA!!!! Sweet
merciful baby Jesus, you cain't hires hiyum!"

My work history has a lot of self-employment that, while legit, is
hard to prove to someone when you're not from 'aound here.' I have
done lots of the kind of work that 'anyone' can do (wait staff, clerical,
janitorial,) so with the job market such as it is, a lot of the jobs I
qualify for are filled. I'm unable to return to school due to a screw-up
with financial aid. I have certain health get the picture.

I started my own businesses to try and drum up monies. Yard
work, jack-of-all-trades, a hauling business, writing papers and
providing tutoring for students, blogging, doing seminars, doing
massage work, substitute teaching; all have helped keep me in my
trailer, but not much else.

I no longer have phone service (land line or cellular,) I have no home
internet, I have no cable or satellite (which works well since I sold
my TV and VCR to pay for bills.) I have sold every single item of value
in my home save for the refrigerator and washer and dryer. Yes, I sold
my stove. I have some furniture (not much) that was retrieved from
roadside or donated. I have clothes that were given by a kind woman
who's husband had passed, and also from a local agency.

I get food stamps, and that is all I am eligible for. I get food from a
food pantry at the church. I have not been to the doctor in 2 years.
No dentist since 2005. No eye doctor since before 2000. I cut my
own hair. I have no frivolous expenditures, save for one meal out
that I allow myself once a month (about $ 6) and one lottery ticket
once a month just to keep the flames of hope and dreams alive.
(It's kind of magical to carry it in my pocket and not check the
winning numbers; the feeling of imaging I have won and don't know
it is exhilarating!)

I have no bank account, my credit is shot, I have no cash, I have sold
all my stocks and holdings, my vehicle is on its last leg, and I don't
have the money to move, yet there's no work available here.
I have a 20 year old van that is paid for, and keeping it gassed and
insured has been my Number One priority even before rent. Because
if something happens, I can stay in that van, but I cannot give up my
freedom, mobility and independence. It's already isolated enough with
living alone and having no ability to communicate with the outside
world from my home. Being unemployed with no prospects makes that
isolation so much the more intense.

I cannot afford to go to mental health services as I should, but the
available services in this region are so unprofessional and lacking that
it may be for the best. I have not had my medication in several years.

I wonder sometimes if I will ever get to a point where I can rise back up;
to attain any of the position or comfort that I once knew. I worry and I fear,
though I know both are worthless endeavors. I do the best I know how,
and it apparently is not sufficient. It seems I am on a forever downward
spiral, and the not knowing is terrifying.

Many have done more with less. This is about people coming to terms
with radical changes. It can be done; it's the wrapping our minds around
the shift that shocks us.
I struggle daily with existential conflict; am I predestined to be poor?
Is my plight avoidable through supernatural intervention or through
earthly labors alone? Am I to endure this for a season and then be
rewarded for my patience and efforts? Is this as good as it gets?

I do wonder; whether a wage for work is fair, if when there is no
work to be had, there is no wage to be given. That seems pretty
clearly to indicate that in the scheme of things, my life and worth
have price tags attached to them. And I guarantee that no one else
sees mine as being valued at the same market rate I would give it.

It's a helpless feeling, to be at what feels like the end of a rope. But
then i remember that no one writes my story but me; no one can
assess me or dismiss me or overlook me unless I allow it. No matter
I am a pauper or a millionaire, I have all the heart and soul and strength
I muster; that is my determination, and can be altered by no other.
I no longer place my interest or dependence on externals. I am learning
self-sufficiency and confidence and boldness. It's something that should
have been started long ago, if I believe in 'shoulds' any more. But I can
only deal with what is.

I say all of this by way of explanation, and then to add; it's all going to be fine.
Because I choose to not lie down. I choose to not be defeated by any
circumstances. There's a favorite quote of mine; "Happiness is Choice,
not Chance."

I know I am a man, a human being; a Shakespeare-inspired, Elephant Man
quote-shouting man, dammit, and I will not be denied or easily pushed
aside. I have fight, I have spirit, I have will. For as long as I breathe, I
have as much of these components as I wish, for they are every bit as
limitless and real as doubt and dread and impatience.

I keep trying new things, keep asking around, keep weighing options.
I keep exercising. I keep my mind and body active. I work at staying upbeat.
I look my best all the time. I keep my head high and speak loud and proud.
I take interest in others and things that go on in the world. I have animals
I care for. I have creative outlets. I will not give up; this fght takes active,
constant work to keep despair from overtaking me. That is my job now.

It's a long dark night for a lot of poor souls that didn't see it coming. Doesn't
matter if bad decisions or poor planning or injustice delivered us here;
we're here. We have to change gears and step into the now, knowing
that everything we need is within. And whatever comes, we have the strength
to persevere.

There's a little story I like; it goes like this. The caterpillar cried out in
despair, "It's the end of the world! Everything is over." The butterfly cried
out in excitement; "It's the beginning of life! Everything is fresh and new!"
I try and remember that; life is all about transformations. It's not in how or
when or even what happens; it's what we do with it that makes the difference.

Robert Sayre II