Monday, December 31, 2018

The Externality Trap

I'm not sure if this will be my last blog post of 2018 or my first of 2019, but either way, it's a new beginning for me in terms of my outlook on the future. In 2019 (barring some intervening catastrophe, which I always secretly feel is around the corner) I'll be looking for kindness, reason, and allies in the repudiation of silence. I'll be looking to feel useful, safe, and valued in my work. And I'll be fighting for human rights and our constitutional norms while cursing about boob hairs and Twinkies on my blog. But mostly, I will be looking within myself for guidance on what to do (or not do) next. 

My mom texted me this:
Being resilient means using adversity to gain strength. That’s what you can do now. I know I’m right about this. Don’t let yourself feel defeated. That’s a form of surrendering to the enemy. Life has some nasty unfair turns. Don’t let external events define your sense of who you are.  
Sadly the world is fairly corrupt. The longer you live the more you learn from experience that this is true. And under Trump we are fighting to maintain even the most basic democratic norms, ones that we thought we could take for granted. This is a dark time and unfortunately you are directly experiencing the consequences of it. But you will overcome this adversity—you have what it takes to do that. So fight the thought that you are defeated.
Separately, she wrote that whatever successes I've had in my life have been because of who I am, and not any job I've had. She pointed out that just because someone else does something to me doesn't mean that anything about me has changed; and that's because a person's talents and motives reside within them.

That's the part that really stood out to me: The idea that we let external events define our sense of who we are, and we do it a lot. At least I do. Most of us seek some form of external validation driven by ego. Does this person find me attractive or want to date me? Will I receive this award or that? Will I get the credit I deserve? Will I win some contest or race? Will this person be mad at me if I say/don't say/do/don't do something?

And on and on, ad infinitum.

What my mom said resonated with me so much because I realize that I do a lot of this and it's unhealthy. I've done it with men and I've done it with work and I've done it with blog traffic and I've done it with activism. It's the idea that we are somehow reliant on an external force of some kind to determine our own happiness, and this traps us into ceding control of our self worth to another person or circumstance.

It's a more grownup version of a sign hanging in my son's second grade classroom that reads, "Rule #1: You are Responsible for Your Own Happiness." It's a great first rule of life in general.

I'm not too into New Year's resolutions. I think they're kind of corny and basic so I don't like to admit that I make them to myself every once in awhile. But I guess this is the year I am resolving to climb out of the externality trap and take responsibility for my own happiness once and for all.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The ‘I Have Been to Alaska a Lot’ Bro

Scene: Locker room area of Snowbowl Ski Area in Missoula or literally any public location West of the Mississippi when I'm wearing Xtra-Tufs.

I’ve Been to Alaska a Lot Bro: Hey I recognize those boots! You must be from Alaska!

Me: Yeah, I live in Ju—

IBTAALB: Ya know, I’ve been to Alaska before I worked on a fishing boat out of Nikiski for 16 consecutive seasons also my friend in Haines owns a heli-ski company do you know him?

Me: Well, probably n--

IBTAALB: His name is Hal Haines Hal that’s what they call him he's been there for like three decades also I was in Kenai I worked on another fishing boat it was the F/V Maria Jane have you heard of it?

Me: Huh not sure, that’s super int—

IBTAALB: So this friend of mine? We worked on a cabin one summer out of McCarthy and then I was a fishing guide on the Yentna do you know that river?

Me: Actually I had a-- 

IBTAALB: My friend was a bush pilot in the Brooks Range and was a caribou hunting guide you know that's what they call reindeer up there

Me: Wow, yeah, I mean you're literally Alaska Mansplaining the place where my kids were born but I meeean

IBTALLB: I actually was briefly in a degree program at UAF and then--

Me: *Walks away*

IBTALLB: *Still talking and trying to establish Alaska cred for literally no apparent reason whatsoever somehow?*

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Putting My Life Back Together

Wow you guys. Wowowowowowowow.

Not gonna lie, this was pretty much the shittiest three weeks of my life to date, which I guess all things considered is a good thing, as I have lots to be grateful for. Chief among them: healthy kids and spouse, family and friends who love me, and skills that I know will be well-used in new and nobler pursuits.

Still, being unceremoniously and illegally booted from an institution I've served with unblemished distinction for over a decade felt like an enormous betrayal and a loss, and it was. I lost my work family. I lost my community. I lost my sense of daily purpose and my intellectual outlet. I lost faith in the people and the institutions that I was naive enough to believe would protect me. I lost them at the hands of people who don't know me for reasons that have nothing to do with my work. And I'm not sure any of it will ever be repaired, and I know I will never be the same.

I've had moments this week when I expressed to friends that I wished I was dead. This is not to be confused with being suicidal. I would never in a million years commit suicide, because I would never do that to my kids. Also, I have way too much left to live for and to do on this earth. 

But I think it's important to be open and authentic and real about how upset I am, how wronged I feel, and how profoundly I am grieving. That is what my readers expect of me, and that is simply an honest reckoning. Feeling robbed of a part of your existence does make you want to die, because part of you has, in fact, been killed. I think it's okay to say that, even to the trolls who keep sending me links to unemployment insurance and the vindictive sadists who targeted me.

At the end of the day, though, my mom said it best. The real successes I have had are because of who I am, not because of a job. And I can't make everyone happy, but I know what's right and wrong, and I'm not afraid to say it, with four letter words or otherwise, because this is America and we have freedom of speech and the press for a reason. So I am putting this long chapter of my life in the rear view mirror and focusing on three things: (1) using my voice and my time in ways that feel authentic and meaningful to me; (2) moving on with my life and my career; and (3) making sure that what happened to me never happens to anyone else ever again.

You can stay tuned for all of that right here, because I'm not going anywhere.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

How Was This Normal?!

Ever since Trump was elected, I’ve had to ask myself almost every day whether “this” (whatever “this” happens to be that day is “normal”). For example:
  • Is it normal that the President is *actually* a white collar felon? Like for real? 
  • Is it normal that our government is warehousing teargassed children in cages and writing numbers on their arms to keep track of them? 
  • Is it normal that government actors across the country are emboldened to willingly violate the First Amendment with impunity like Kremlin goons? 
  • Is it normal for the President to be confused by an umbrella?
I guess so. I guess that’s what they call The New Normal™️ But say what you will about the new normal, the "old normal" was just as bad. Take the game "hangman" for example, the children's spelling game. Now it's "draw the cat" or something, but when I was a kid I didn't think twice about using a stick figure drawing of a public hanging to learn how to spell.

Remember this game? Here are the instructions, still available online.
One player chooses a secret word and the others try to guess it. Whenever the players guess a letter that is not in the secret word they get a strike that brings them closer to losing. To show this, the host draws a simple stick figure of a man being hung, adding a new part to the drawing with every wrong answer . . . The classic order is:
  • First wrong answer: Draw an upside-down "L." This is the post the man hangs from.
  • Second: Draw a small circle for the "head" underneath the horizontal line of the "L."
  • Third: Draw a line down from the bottom of the head for the "body."
  • Fourth: Draw one arm out from the middle of his body for the "arm."
  • Fifth: Draw the other arm.
  • Sixth: Draw one diagonal line from the bottom of the body for the first "leg."
  • Seventh: Draw the other leg.
  • Eighth: Connect the head to the post with a "noose." Once you draw the noose the players have lost the game.
"ONCE YOU DRAW THE NOOSE THE PLAYERS HAVE LOST THE GAME," YOU GUYS. Like this game was TOTALLY FUCKING NORMAL WHEN I WAS A KID. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!?! Like a children's game about capital punishment was considered HO HUM?! I'm pretty sure I had a pack of candy gum cigarettes that I chain-smoked whenever I won a game of hangman.

Man, those were the days.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Love Knows No Borders

Let's talk about empathy. Empathy, of course, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Sadly, empathy has been in very short supply in our national discourse at a time when we're being forced to ask ourselves what it really means to be an American in the first place.

Who are we, really, as a nation? At our core, we're a Republic founded by white slave-holding men on stolen indigenous land. That is a legacy we all live with, and that continues to reverberate today. But in the short 242 years of our nation's history, many of us have worked tirelessly to mold our country into something better and more perfect that that.

One manifestation of a more perfect union is America-made-refuge to people fleeing persecution and violence in other parts of the world. These are basic human rights: to live in safety, peace, and dignity. And to migrate elsewhere if those things cannot be achieved at home.

Every non-indigenous person in this country is an immigrant here. Every one of us has reaped the rewards of American constitutional democracy. The fact that the fabric of that democracy is being stretched thinner than ever is all the more reason to double-down on speaking up for what's right.

Like so many issues of our time, this is not a political issue. It's a human rights issue. The people of the migrant caravan are human beings who deserve a chance to knock at the door of this nation without being caged, tear-gassed, raped, or killed by the State, without having their children snatched from their arms, and without being vilified or dehumanized for political gain.

Our elected officials need to respond to this crisis in a humanitarian way. One that reflects empathy and honors human rights. They must acknowledge that the men, women, and children of the migrant caravan are human beings who are entitled to seek refuge here. They must end the militarization of our border and the detention and deportation of immigrants. They must end state-sanctioned violence against asylum-seekers. We have to start investing in our communities by keeping families together and holding them in hearts full of empathy. 

To do otherwise is to lose our humanity. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

You Have Permission to Sweat Woke Ammon Bundy

If we needed any more proof that we’re living in the Upside Down (hint: we don't), Woke Ammon Bundy™️ should shift that needle to “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

‘Member Ammon Bundy? It seems like so long ago now. Like a dream from another era. 

Cast your minds back to that one time a rag-tag posse of plaid-clad militia wingnuts rumbled up to a USFS cabin in rural Oregon, where they sat for three weeks, making tearful video testimonials about the Big Mean Gov’mint and ordering coffee and Little Debbie Snack Cakes from their adoring mouth-breathing acolytes. Eventually, the martyrs got bored and climbed back in their pickup trucks and drove home. And then some of them got arrested and almost went to prison. Or did go to prison. Or went to prison and had their conviction overturned. I don’t fucking know. I don't even care enough to Google it.

Point is, the Mick Jagger of the Redneck Rolling Stones was this hot AF bae named Ammon Bundy. He might even have been called "Militia Bae," for all I know, 'cause Ammon looks like the offspring of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain 2: Return to the Mountain. (True story: I went to summer camp with Jake for three years and wrote about that shit here HELLO BRUSH WITH FAME AND GREATNESS)

Even Ammon Bundy's name sounds like a character from a $7.00 bodice ripper: "Her full lips fell open as she watched Ammon Bundy's rippling chest muscles flex in the sun. As he rode his stallion bareback into the sunset, she wondered if she would ever see Ammon again, or cry out his name in a moment of ecstasy . . . "

Well now Ammon suddenly got woke! He "broke up" with Trump because of "anti-immigrant rhetoric." I guess Ammon realized that all his compatriots in the War Against Not Easily Available Doritos actually didn't care if brown toddlers got tear-gassed and locked up in cages indefinitely for seeking asylum in the "land of the free." He decided, I guess, that it was worth the loss of love he would suffer from "warmongers" to take the side of some families fleeing violence.

So this is my gift to you, my babes and dudes. I bring to you the tidings of joy of the season, which is permission to, at long last, put Ammon Bundy in your wank tank free of guilt. As POTUS would say:


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Permission to Scroll?

It's like "Permission to Engage" in the military. These are the three simple words that you need to ask before anyone hands you their phone to look at a particular picture. Folks of older generations, especially, are prone to the misconception that "here look at this photo of a barfing Jack-O-Lantern hahahahaha" is broad consent to begin scrolling with abandon through another person's camera roll until you randomly get to "27 year-old's rock hard abs and baby arm dick."

Like in this day and age, you can never be too careful. You could have a photo of "Individual-1" (a.k.a. single thick black cleavage hair") and its "Un-indicted Co-Conspirator" nipple hairs. You could have a picture of an ingrown toenail. Or your kid's tonsils or something. You really need to know AHEAD of time, before a bell is rung that can't be un-rung.

It all comes down to consent and permission. Like the Venn diagram of people who get "Me-Too'd" and people who scroll through people's camera rolls is one giant black circle. If a person lets you kiss them, that doesn't mean you automatically get to bang them. And if a person hands you their phone open to a photo of their toddler playing in the sand on Cape Cod, that doesn't mean you get to do a tour through the rest of their . . . um . . . MATERIAL.

So for fuck's sake. Next time you find yourself with another person's phone in your hands, remember those three little words: "Permission to Scroll."

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Oyster Evangelist

I took a break from a semi social-media hiatus to tweet about the Oyster Evangelist earlier, but I feel like this topic deserves a longer treatment, which I now have the time and inclination to give it.

There’s something about oysters (as a cuisine) that inspires intense feelings of love or disgust. And many (if not most) people who love oysters—Oyster Evangelists I call them—are deeply invested in converting repulsed defectors like me. I was thinking about this while in Seattle, where oysters are pushed aggressively on everyone; almost as aggressively as the Seahawks, but with less garish colors and noise.

Like people who love oysters really, REALLY love oysters. But that’s not good enough, you see. Oyster Evangelists are committed to making YOU love oysters too, and when you refuse, to low-key shame you for being unsophisticated enough to be revolted by oysters, and then to rinse and repeat this process of oyster proselytizing at every opportunity. 

It’s like a First World foodie version of Green Eggs and Ham: Would you could you with a lemon? I would not could not with a lemon. Would you could you baked or fried? I would not could not baked or fried. Would you could you with Tobasco? I would not could not with Tobasco. In Seattle? Not in Seattle. In Japan? Not in Japan. 

And so on.

Eating something that (arguably/at least to me) kind of looks, feels, tastes, and smells like part of the female anatomy served in its own exoskeleton when that is not my personal flavor/mouth feel preference is just ... a bit much? I don’t care if it’s fanned out on a bed of ice and came from a special rock or if Jacques Cousteau himself plucked it off that special rock. I don’t want to eat a slimy sea booger swimming in its own salty fish juice, m’kay? 

The only oyster cult I’m joining is Blue Oyster Cult, and let’s be honest they’re not even that great of a band.