Tuesday, May 31, 2016

You're Welcome

I got a "friend request" yesterday on Facebook. She's a good person and I like her a lot, and I "friended" her. The first post I saw from her was something "thanking" GIs for their service and I thought, oh, fuck, yeah.

Memorial Day.

And I thought; y'know, I reeeeeeally need to be nicer when people "thank me" for being a GI.

I have a problem with that.

For one thing, I didn't do it for anyone other than my own selfish reasons. I certainly didn't do it for anyone's thanks. I did it for my own fucking entertainment and adventure, had a rollicking good time doing it (peacetime soldiering is kind of like that, if you subtract the chickenshit, the boredom, and the bursts of outright fucking goatscrewlicious fucktardry), was well paid in the process, and my time in the Army had about as much to do with your "liberty" and "freedom" as an extra in the Vivid Video production of Backside To The Future has with the Virgin of Guadalupe.

It's not easy keeping my piehole shut when someone "thanks" me for running around on the government's tab. The sort of reflexive soldier-tongue-bathing that has become customary in the Second Imperial era of the United States kinda gets up my wick.

It's just meaningless words, for one thing, like the "bless you!" after a sneeze, but it's not just the meaningless words. It's that most of the people thanking me - those I know, anyway - do little or nothing to actually thank those men and women whose service has left them damaged, as service in war tends to do. They don't help in VA hospitals, or help out homeless veterans, or seek to comfort the widow and the orphan or bury the dead or succor the living.

They don't try and learn anything about those who have died; who they were, why they served or where they were killed and why.

Don't get me wrong. They're lovely people. They just have other things to be and do and the actual effort to find out who these people were and why they were where they were when they died would be asking a lot of their busy lives.

But they want to "thank" someone without doing all that hard work.

So it's a combination of irritation at the emptiness of the gesture...and irritation at the sense that the person making the gesture is making it instead of doing the hard work to make it less empty.

I want to snarl something like "Don't thank me...I didn't fucking do it for you!" and then I feel like a shitheel for wanting to say that. These aren't bad people. They just don't...know. And I'm not sure I know what to do, either about them, or about the way I think about them

But I have a suggestion.

If you see a guy or gal with a service stripe - however you know they've served, and in whatever capacity - first thing; buy 'em a drink and drink to their continued survival. They're making it, day by day, and goddamn if that doesn't deserve a toast, regardless of whether they fought like Chesty Puller or never did anything but shoveled shit in Alabama.

Here's to us. Who's like us? Damn few, and they're all dead.

Drop around the local VA and see if there's anything you can help with.

Read a newspaper. Hell, read two. Check out a couple of websites - make sure you get a good variety of political opinion - and read up on the places where your country might send your friend, or your neighbor's kid, or the guy at the bus stop to fight, possibly kill, or die.

If you read all that stuff and come to the conclusion that it'd be stupid, bone-stupid, preternaturally box-of-rocks fucking-shoveling-water stupid to send any of those people to fight, possibly kill, or die in those places because of the immense likelihood that their fighting, killing, and dying will do nothing more than fuck up a place that's already fucked up fifteen ways...do something about that:

- Vote against the douchenozzles that try and stampede you and your neighbors into sending those Americans to those places. Refuse to be "terrorized" by nonsense about Islamic headcutters driving their pickups across the Atlantic Ocean to hide under your bed. That'd be stupid. If you want to thank me for my service? Don't be stupid.

- Find out if your Congressperson or Senator has voted for wars and rumors of wars...and at the same time cut funding for the VA, or for things like PTSD treatments, counseling, or military pensions. Find out if they're part of the MICC - the "Military/Industrial/Congressional Complex" that votes funding for ridiculously expensive weaponry or bloated military budgets without inquiring what all this tax money is going for (audit the defense budget? Why, yes, that's an excellent idea...)

- Vote against anyone who tells you that spying and snooping and warrantless searches and "national security letters" are crucial for "defending America". If you believe that what you end up with isn't "America"; at least, not the one the Founders and Framers had in mind.

Run for school board. Defend a banned book. Stand up for things like free speech, even if you don't like what's being said...hell, especially if you don't like what's being said. Insist on things like the freedom from people who want you to write their religion into law, even if it's your religion and you'd like it to be the law. Hell, especially if it's your religion. Church and state, remember..? That tree suit didn't have a cross or a crescent or a wheel on it, and our belt buckle didn't read Gott mit uns. Those were the fucking bad guys. Want to thank me for my service? Thank me by not being a fucking bad guy.

All this stuff is hard, I know. But, hey...you wanted to "thank me" for my service. That service was a lot of things...but it wasn't easy.

So "thanking me" should mean more than just meaningless words. It should mean taking some responsibility for serving your country, too...in all the ways I've talked about. That's not easy, but being a citizen of a republic shouldn't be any easier than being one of its soldiers, and that means you - and I - still have lots of work to do; after all, the reward for work well done is...more work. Right?

You're welcome.

(And, as always on the day-after-this-least-beloved-of-all-holidays (I was busy kid-wrangling yesterday and didn't get to the computer, so today is my Memorial Day post, sorry...): this.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Something Berning

I waited until the last minute to throw my ballot envelope in the drop box at the Goodwill down on North Lombard.

Partially because I could. Oregon makes it dead easy to be a lazy voter. You don't have to actually go anywhere or do anything other than open your ballot, fill in the little bubbles (or write in "I.P. Freely" if you don't feel like voting for any of the many unopposed candidates on the damn thing), then lick it closed and dump it back in the mail. Or, if like me you're too goddamn cheap to stick a postage stamp on it, toss it in one of the big blue-and-white democracy dumpsters dotted around the city.

But partially because I just really couldn't get too excited about Exercising the Franchise.

I tried to work up some enthusiasm for this year's election. There were fifteen - fifteen! - candidates for mayor of Portland including someone who was identified on the ballot sheet as "The Ack".


There were a couple of tax proposals - a gas tax and a boost to the property tax for our historical society - that I wanted to pass.

The ballot was remarkably free from the sorts of loony sonsofbitches I complained about back in 2013. Which is good, don't get me wrong. But which isn't really very exciting.

And there was the Democratic primary.

Early on in the process I went to one of the Sanders' get-togethers. I call it that because that was really all it was; there was nobody from the Sanders campaign staff there, and no real organizers from the local party apparatus. There was at that time no physical Sanders campaign office in Portland; indeed, the Portland office finally opened weeks after the one in Eugene, apparently due to a lack of college students or something.

I like Sanders' platform of economic equity and geopolitical caution, so I thought I might see if there was anything I could do to help. I put my name down on the volunteer list, and waited.

And waited...and waited.

Finally the Sanders campaign contacted me. To see if I wanted to...phone people in Iowa.

That was the theme of the following several months. The Oregon Sanders campaign came looking for people to go on a road trip to Ohio, or to call voters in Arizona, or to mail fliers to South Carolina. Nobody bothered to see if the guy with the bad temper and the sore hip and the limited non-working free time wanted to campaign in his own state.

Until, finally, they did. By which time, I'd had a chance to meet and talk to people like this...
"...if Sanders does not win the nomination. Will the supporters he’s energized show up for Clinton?

Ditlefsen said she’s hasn’t made up her mind yet. “I don’t even want to say that I would consider Donald Trump,” she said. Rather, she said, a Trump win could somehow advance Sanders’ agenda. “Possibly if Donald Trump was elected, maybe he gets impeached for doing some crazy thing. And maybe not,” Ditlefsen said. “Maybe we just realize after four years that we need to jump into this political revolution.”
...and I'm sorry. These people are goddamn fools.

Handing the United States to a real estate shyster and his petty fascisti won't "advance Sanders' agenda" of income equality and financial regulation, and only a political mouthbreather would think so. But I kept hearing a LOT of this bullshit from Sanders' people here. "Crooked Hillary" and how superdelegates were an Illuminati-confirmed scheme to steal the nomination. "Bernie-or-Bust"; how a true populist revolutionary would never, never stoop to compromising with Wall Street Hillary's corporatist agenda.

I wanted to hear Sanders' talk more about his ideas for his administration's energy policy, his foreign policy, his fiscal policy. I wanted to hear how he'd govern faced with a Congress filled with shit-flinging Republican monkeys whose entire agenda consists of Lurvin' Jesus, Lickin' Guns, and Hittin' Homos.

I didn't.

Instead I kept hearing the same thing this guy did:
"All candidates repeat themselves. But this one seemed truly engaged only by his economic message. When he discussed other subjects — racial inequality, foreign policy, the environment — he seemed to many to be going through the motions for a few minutes until he could return to his billionaire-bashing theme. A Washington wag (some said it was Vice President Joe Biden) said, “Every sentence in a Bernie Sanders speech is a noun, a verb, ‘Wall Street.’”
and I wasn't impressed. I ended up deeply unimpressed with Sanders.

A lot of Oregonians disagree with me. More than half Felt the Bern, and Sanders took the majority of Oregon Democratic delegates.

(I pause to note that Il Douche swept the state, which merely reiterates what I've told you before; Oregon is caricatured as "Portlandia", land of the hipster, but is in fact two deeply different places. The "blue" parts are damn blue. But the "red" parts a blood-red. There are few GOoPers as goopy as the Oregon shitkicker variety, whether from the deepest hinterlands of Malheur County to the wanna-be-hinterlands outside Oregon City.)

The Oregon primaries are over. My gal Sarah Iannarone came in a fairly distant third in the mayoral race. At least the gas tax and the OHS levy passed. And now we have a whole summer to look forward to hearing about...

Donald Trump's penis.

Fucking hell. Just kill me now.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Get Hip!


You probably know - I complained about it enough - that my right hip went very decidedly bad on me about this time last year.

It'd been coming apart for some time before that; I'd lost about 1/4" to 3/8" off my right leg starting back in about 2011. It was sore, and a little awkward. I went to a couple of orthopods who told me that I'd be getting a new hip...but that if I could hold off longer that I'd be happier with the long-term results.

So I did. And the leg seemed to stop deteriorating; I managed with minimal discomfort and the same shoe lifts I got from the physical therapist in 2011 for about four years.

Then, last winter, the leg really started to go to hell. Painfully, to begin with. It HURT. And I began to really lose bone in the hip joint; by early summer I was an inch shorter on the right side than the left, and was wearing a real no-shit cripple shoe on my right foot just to be able to walk at all. And walking was fiendishly painful. I have a fairly high pain tolerance, and by mid-autumn I was pushing right to the extreme edge of that limit.

I was ready by November to get the damn thing parted out and replaced. But that's when The World's Best Health Care SystemTM kicked in. Because I hadn't worked for my current company a full year (never mind that I'd worked for the sonsofbitches damn near four years in my earlier incarnation...) I wasn't covered by the disability insurance policy. AND I would lose my health coverage, period, if I couldn't work 20 hours a week.

So I put off the surgery until March.

On March 1 I went under the knife.

I don't really know what the surgeon did and, frankly, I don't want to know. The entire notion of being opened up like a beef carcass, my femur cut off at the proximal joint, drilled out, and a metal rod slammed into it is faintly sickening. And the surgeon's assistant, questioned afterwards, described an interior hellscape of floating bone chips and towering arthritic spires that had to be picked out or ground off, respectively. I was a mess inside which seems to have gone a long way to explaining how painful the thing was. I had lost a lot of blood in the OR, and my blood pressure remained low for another day or so.

To kill the pain of this flensing I received a spinal anesthetic. This is not a "block", as I had assumed - similar to the epidural that is common for knee surgery or caesarian section - but a general anesthetic delivered through the spine. And it works, delightfully. I awoke Tuesday afternoon in very little pain. I couldn't feel my legs, but, then, hey...there's always tradeoffs, right..?

That happy condition lasted until about Tuesday evening as the spinal began to wear off. I began to take the pain medication - oxycodone, "hillbilly heroin" - at low doses. Not ideal, but...manageable. The OT and PT people got me up and walking, frailly, but walking. The hip hurt, but...differently. This wasn't the deep, grinding pain of the disintegrating joint but post-op pain of sliced and sewn-together muscles.
Wednesday afternoon I was released, and hobbled on my walker down to the main door of Good Samaritan and my Bride in the Subaru.

Getting into and out of a low vehicle when you've had a hip replacement is ridiculously balletic. First you have to lay the seat back far down so you don't have to bend at the waist. Turn backwards to the door. Stick your new hip-leg out and lower yourself down, leaning back until you're almost supine, your legs sticking out the door like a dead mobster in a videogame. Then you scoot far up the seatback - to clear your feet from the front of the doorframe - and swing them inside. Then you slide forward, and if you want you can put the seatback up a bit.

Then you have to do that all backwards to get out. I did, and tottered up the steps, into the house, and into bed.

And that night, the pain came.

The nighttime hours between Wednesday and Thursday might have possibly been the worst of the entire business. I went from 5mg every three hours to 10 to 15; by midnight I was lying awake, unable to find a comfortable position to lie, begging the clock to move to the next time I could take another painkiller. I've been in pain at various times in my life, but that was about as bad as I've ever hurt.

And by Thursday afternoon the pain was, largely, gone.

Not that it was gone-gone. I still hurt when I get up after sitting a long time; the joint stiffens up and I have to hop and limp a couple of steps to loosen it up. But by the weekend I had gone from the walker to a cane. After a month I dropped the cane and haven't needed it since.

I still have, and will always have, a deep gouge in my right hip.

Now I am ten weeks post-op. I have some lingering soreness. As I said; I can't sit for long without stiffening up. But the overall pain and discomfort level is far, far below what I was living with just three months ago. My legs are nearly the same length; I have a half-inch lift in my right leg and always will - until my left leg goes bad and I have to have THAT hip replaced...

I won't pretend that I'm happy about all this. I shouldn't have to have had this hip replaced at all; I'm not sure what happened, whether it was just bad luck or bad genetics or misuse - I did abuse the hell out of my legs when I was younger - or a combination of all the above. But I shouldn't have to have aftermarket parts in my goddamn hip and I'm sure as hell not pleased that I do.


Given that I don't have a choice, the alternatives could be worse. I am free of the constant nagging-to-screaming-out-loud pain I have lived with for nearly five years. I can walk straight again, and hopefully soon dispense with the last of the "precautions" which prevent me from, for example, tying my right shoelaces.

Call no man happy until he is dead. But...I am a happier man than I was back in February, and, perhaps, that is enough. For now.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Jukebox: Transgender Toilet Trauma Edition

Soundtrack for today's post:

(from Suzanne Vega's brilliant "99.9F" album...)

So I'm a little baffled. I haven't paid enough attention to the usual wingnut suspects to "get" their argument for spending time and money worrying about the junk of who's using the public bogs. Part of this is the whole nutroll of how it seems like "conservative" politics seems to have been boiled down, like last week's roast chicken carcass, to a hot, steaming mess of Lurvin' Jesus, Lickin' Guns, and Hatin' Faggots.

So I'm not sure whether these jokers have the screaming fantods about a guy in a dress using the ladies' room, or a gal in Carhartts sitting down in the guy's stall because it's a potty thing or just simple, straight-up hatin' on people who aren't conventionally gendered.

Thing is...who worries about this?

When I hit the head at, say, Civic Stadium during a Timbers match I'm a LOT more concerned that the drunk guy next to me at the trough is gonna miss the target and wet my shoes down...or that the guy in front of me in the stall line had spicy Chicken Vindaloo for lunch.

What the possibly-not-born-a-dude in the next stall is sitting on? NOT on my radar.

And, seriously, WTF? How is that a "problem"?


I kinda get it if this is really just about politics and rilin' up The Base. Show a red-blooded Republican a picture of a homo and watch him or her get spun up like the little girl in The Exorcist when the priest shows up. They can't help it, so I can kinda see how a GOP "strategist" might think that hammering on the predatory homos in the public pissers might work as a "get-out-the-vote" kind of thing.

But...still. It seems to me like the whole "scary-crossdressing-homos-are-lurking-in-your-potty" meme as a fearmongering tactic is some pretty weak and oddball stuff to try and get votes on. Like I said; who seriously worries about that shit? You'd have to spend a lot of time on alt/transgender/toiletrape to even believe that was a thing.

That, or be stupider than a fucking bag of hammers.

Because as an electoral lie/tactic? Seems to rely on waaayyyyy too much on your targets being hooked on transgender toilet rape porn AND dumber than a fucking bag of hammers.


Maybe not.