The Reality Divide

This has been brought up by my friend Lisa, and I think I have to address it in depth, especially now. And this is something that I really don’t think I can avoid addressing.

Money, they say, is the root of all evil. I think that in light of the most recent events, we can bravely say that that’s the case. But what money also does is gives someone a peace of mind that people without it – or without a sense of financial stability – can never acquire. What that peace of mind does, in turn, is create a bubble that insulates from the very harsh and very demanding realities of the real world.

In other words… the richer they get, the less clue they have about the world outside their bubble as the money reinforces it. And then they try and “advise” people on how to get to where they are.

You know the tropes: “Work hard and you’ll get anywhere!” “I can do X and Y and so can anyone else!” And, my favorite, “Just start a business!”

But for one major, major flaw: all of them, to a T, ignore the simple fact that not everyone has the same opportunity as they have.

This is the first harsh reality that people of means either willfully disregard or are blithely unaware of. Equal opportunity is a nice idea, but ultimately, it’s not at all what reality is, and whether or not you like it, money is always, always the determining factor. If a person might come from any money at all – a house that’s owned and not rented is still equity and a financial foundation that people who rent just simply do not have – they already have a leg up. If they had a parent who used whatever savings they had in order to set up a college fund, there’s a major leg up, considering the rising costs of tuition. But these things do matter, and right now, in the era of rising costs and a growing chasm of inequality, they matter a whole lot more than the people who are better off even consider.

“You can just start a business!” sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Except the part where businesses require startup capital. As in, money you put out to vendors, suppliers, distributors, etc. up front, before you start making any actual income from your venture. And oh, need I remind you that landlords and utility companies really don’t like getting things like “exposure” or “I have to wait to make some money off my new business” in lieu of money.

This is why I have a huge problem with people who push entrepreneurship as a grand panacea to all financial ills. They don’t understand the very simple concept of entrepreneurship: you can’t make money without first spending money. And if someone, say, doesn’t really have any money to invest in a new venture – with no guarantees of it succeeding, no matter what the prosperity gospel might push – then what good, exactly, is entrepreneurship to them?

Again. Landlords need to be paid. Utility bills need paying. Tell me please, when was the last time that there was any bill paid with “exposure”?

I didn’t think so.

Those who do not have means are very keenly aware of these realities. Or, let’s call them what they really are: responsibilities. Because that’s what life is: it’s a connected chain of responsibilities. And money, or lack of it, definitely reorganizes those responsibilities.

And I’ll say it plainly: people who have any financial backing other than zero have very little grasp of the reality of these responsibilities, or of the real world. Sorry, but not sorry.

Imagine this scenario. You have a friend, and you know your friend’s parents are sending her money regularly. Her bills are always paid – that’s if she even has to write the checks herself. The friend doesn’t have to worry about how to make a living, and you two often have great outings, and great times. But – you have to work. Sometimes you get a project and you get long hours. “But can’t it wait?” your friend will ask when calling you for an impromptu night out midweek.

“No. I have a deadline.”

“But can’t you put off that deadline?”

“No, because I need this job.”

“But maybe you can start a business? It might take a while to get exposure, though, but you can start a business and then you wouldn’t need to work such long hours.”

“I have bills.”

This conversation, or something like it, takes place every day, and kids of parents who don’t have money have to actually explain to their peers, whose parents basically finance their lifestyle, that no, it’s not possible to start a business when one is 1) in debt with student loans, 2) without savings or any sort of capital to put into that new business and 2) with bills to pay.

Because – not joking – some people just do not understand just how severe those responsibilities are, simply because they don’t have them for themselves.

Seriously. We are in our thirties right now. I don’t think we should have to explain the concept of responsibilities and commitments to people, but because our more-moneyed peers can’t

It’s a reality disconnect that we have so far seen play out in the past few months. Look at every. single. legislation that was aimed against people who are struggling. Student loan protections have been rolled back, because screw college grads whose first jobs barely pay a room’s rent. Wage debates are still ongoing because some people who are in legislature – nearly all of them people with serious money – just can’t grasp that a wage is supposed to be something that people can reasonably survive on. And let’s not forget the colossal waste of money that “drug testing for welfare” has turned out to be. Spend over three million dollars to catch one person, as what happened in FL. It does nothing at all to make people less poor, but gee, “they just need to work harder”.

I’ve tried bringing this up before, and I’ve heard some gems, most of which along the lines of “You’re just jealous! Work a little harder and you’ll have some money, so stop complaining.”

Bullshit. And few things are more offensive than anyone even remotely implying laziness on people who are already working. As a lot of people on public assistance actually are, because gee, you probably forgot that costs of living have more than doubled while wages remained stagnant, which makes for a very fun mathematic disparity when you add some things and subtract others.

I work two jobs, if you consider my photography venture is every bit as much work as my Day Job. You want to tell me to work harder, then I suggest you be the one to cut me a pretty hefty check. Please note that assholes are nearly always charged a fee on top of their usual fee for my services, and this is not negotiable. You want to act like a jerk? Open your wallet.

Here’s what a lot of people fail to understand too: no one is jealous of rich people.

I know, I know. Hard to believe, especially considering that there’s not a single poor person who hasn’t once wondered what they’d do with a little extra cash. But really… those of us who have managed to get to some sort of stability after coming up from nothing – or less than nothing, if student debt counts –  and even those of us who are not so fortunate are not at all jealous of people with money.

In fact, rich people, we feel very little towards you at all. Except for one thing, and it’ll surprise you:

Pity.

And here’s why: who are you and what will you do when the money runs out?

All that entrepreneurship won’t last forever – assuming there’s even capital or savings to start a business and/or keep it running. No one has the energy to keep a hustle going 24-7, with or without employees. Money always runs out, especially wealth you inherit, and double on top of that for money that someone other than you has earned that either you spent or someone else has been spending on you. What if your spouse decides that they had enough of supporting you and get up and leave? What if you have a health catastrophe that basically wipes out everything you’ve got? What if someone else’s entrepreneurship turns out to be a gigantic Ponzi scheme and all that money you put up, maybe even your whole life savings, for their business is gone with no hope of getting it back? Then what will you do with yourself?

My guess, if you’re wealthy, that’s your personal götterdämmerung. Look it up if you want to know what it means. But if you don’t want to look it up, I’ll tell you in plain English what it means: you’re finished.

Let’s be very frank about the realities of the world: at the end of the day, it’s all about the ways in which you are useful to other people. It’s about your real-life skills – be it knowing how to balance a checkbook, run an office, be a listener, or perform a surgery – and whether or not your skills are up to date. And maybe it’s just me, but I find that people who come from inherited wealth, who do nothing with themselves, and who voluntarily disconnected themselves from the reality of the world are pretty much useless.

When parents say that they want to “give their children everything we’ve never had”, I want to scream in frustration. Every time that this is done, the parents are robbing their own kids of the necessary skills of empathy, perseverance, and fully appreciating the value of what’s around them, whether a dollar or another person. Not a single one of these skills, which in this vile obstacle course that we call a world right now are pretty much essential for qualifying as a decent human being, ever come without the following three things: 1) struggle, 2) disappointment, and 3) pain.

Nothing positive can ever be fully appreciated without some seriously heavy negative to put it in perspective. That’s just a fact of life.

So when parents set their kids up to never have to struggle, they’re actually giving them a huge, massive handicap in the real world. By ensuring their kids won’t have to struggle, the parents are making sure that their kid never has to deal with reality. A losing proposition, because reality has a very, very funny away of catching up.

Ultimately, those of us who do have to struggle have very little mercy for those  who don’t. Simply because struggle teaches a certain set of survival skills that the wealthier side will never know, and when chips are thrown down and it’s down to what you’re capable of, money doesn’t really match skill. Never has and never will.

The only thing that is really apt to grind my gears is having to actually teach our peers – and too often, our elders – the very basic parts of life such as compassion, responsibilities, and priorities. The fact that these things have to be explained – is the real part that grinds on a lot of people. Not just me – anyone who’s ever had to struggle, anyone who’s ever had to work like a dog for any financial security, we are all sick and tired of having to explain to people how things are and what they are. This shouldn’t have to happen. If people’s money removes compassion from the equation, then I’m sorry, but what good is the person, overall, as a human being? Sorry, but not at all sorry to posit that question. If someone’s compassion, understanding, empathy, etc. are removed by a few thousands of dollars, what good is the person, on a basic human level? What use is a human being who can be easily bought into not being human on a basic level?

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the answer to that.

K.G.

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Looks like I do have to say it…

So. There’s a FB post going around right now, in regards to mental health awareness. Post goes like this:

“How often do you sit at home and wish someone would ring you and suggest, well anything rather than these 4 walls? How many of you have had a night out planned, or arranged coffee with friends and suddenly “these 4 walls” seem the only safe haven because it’s the only place you don’t have to pretend you are ok, so you cancel. Or when you are invited out you tell them how terribly sorry you are but you’re already booked up that weekend, when you are actually just really busy holding it together in your safe box. And so the first problem starts, all by itself , people stop asking you and the isolation that at first wasn’t true becomes your only truth.
Please don’t give up on your friends, ring them, go round, even when they don’t want you too, because they really do they just don’t know how to say it. Everyone says: “If you need anything, don’t hesitate, I’ll be there for you”
I’m going to make a bet, without being pessimistic, that out of my Facebook friends that less than 5 will take the time to put this on their wall to help raise awareness of and for those who have mental health difficulties. You just have to copy it from my wall and paste it to yours (hold down on this post and you will be given the option to copy… then go to your status and hold down to paste).
Please write “done” under my comments when you do! I’ve done this for a friend for Mental Health Awareness!!”

Now, I’ve studied psych on college level since I was 14. And that post is some BS.

It makes the incredibly wrong, and a fairly insulting, presumption that anyone who wants or needs solitude absolutely must have a mental illness and requires a constant series of check-ins from anyone who thinks themselves a good friend.

Allow me to explain, from experience and from having to deal with this issue repeatedly in multiple iterations:

Not everyone who requires solitude has a mental illness, and when you’re calling constantly, you’re actually being extremely intrusive and you’re exacerbating the issue that they may have, which is that everyone constantly wants something from them, and you’re deliberately ignoring that they actually need some time and some place where they can be on their own, themselves, which your constant phone calls and “check-ins” will hinder. 

Here’s another point that people either ignore or don’t want to accept:

If someone wanted your help, they would ask for it. Stop being a Well-Meaning Wilma and stop trying to constantly fix things and people. You’re not being helpful; you’re being rude, intrusive, and annoying.

I really can’t believe I have to explain this, but apparently I have to. Because people really need to be told this.

We do not need constant contact in order to stay friends. Simply, we don’t. If your idea of friendship depends on constant contact, I suggest revisiting the definition.

I can attest that there are extremely few people for whom I’d pick up the phone, and even then, they know not to call me without there being an emergency, and they ask if they can call before calling me. Why? Because I am actually doing things! I’m probably reading, or ironing, or cleaning, or just spending a bit of time with Mom. Or I might be eating dinner. Or hey – maybe it’s tax season and I’m working long hours! I have actual things I’m doing, and a phone call makes me stop everything I’m doing to focus on the conversation. Because I believe wholly that if a person is talking to me, I owe them the very basic courtesy of listening actively. When someone writes me an email, I treat it the same way: I read and actively read what the person is saying. Same thing in a chat. It’s basic common courtesy.

But according to this sharebait, which borders on asinine in its presumptiousness, I need “checking up on” and someone to call me to “break me out of the four walls”. HELL No! These four walls are my sanctuary and saving grace. You wouldn’t want to see me without me having my alone time, trust me. It’s for your own good.

I live in the busiest city in the world, and work in a fairly stressful career track. I am surrounded by people effectively every. waking. moment. of every day. Being alone is my self-care! It is my mental health awareness. Because when I’m inside my four walls, I can detox, I can do things on my time and on my terms.

And I am certain 100% in the knowledge that I am not alone in this perception.

Come on. I really should not have to explain that the number one component of mental health is having boundaries! I shouldn’t have to explain that having established personal space is essential, absolutely completely essential, to mental well-being. But considering that this sharebait is going around, it seems that I have to make it clear.

Look, people. We have lives. We have families. We have jobs that don’t always cut out at 5pm, or when the shift ends. We have actual busy lives and calling just to “check in” because you’re spoonfed the idea that  alone = lonely = mentally ill is very rude, to put it nicely. It’s intrusive. It’s not helpful.

Before you begin trying to “fix”or to “help” or to “check up on” someone, try this extremely novel idea of accepting them the way they are. Try also this interesting concept that maybe they don’t need fixing. And also, just consider, ask yourself, what are they saying that I’m not listening to? Because there’s a pretty good chance they already told you what they think about it, and you simply didn’t listen, or you deliberately ignored it because you thought that your perception was more important.

I had to tell a friend of mine repeatedly that I am a text-first person. I cannot tell you how many calls I had after telling her that, which went, “I’m just checking up on you, I know you’re stressed” – honey. STOP!!!!! If you know I’m stressed, and if you know me well – and she does know me well – and you know I am around people every day, then why would you knowingly cut into time that I have made clear, repeatedly, that I need for myself? Granted yes, she couldn’t always text. I get that. I will grant that. And of all the phone calls, I purposely didn’t pick up maybe two, for that reason: I do consider the opposite side. But… please have some regard for the person you’re calling. I said to her repeatedly: I’m around people all day, I need to be alone. I need space. I need to relax. And the phone calls that began with “I’m sorry, I feel like a bad friend for not checking in on you” – no. You’re not being a bad friend because you’re not checking in on me. But you certainly aren’t a very good friend if you repeatedly ignore me telling you what I do need, which is not to be around or talking to people after a certain point!

And in 2015, I had to contend with someone who wouldn’t even so much as send a Facebook PM and yet track my every move online for almost a year. Maybe one comment over that time, but more than enough IP hits. And the reasoning that I was given for that is “She’s just trying to be your friend!”

For. Fuck’s. Sake. That is not trying to be a friend, that’s borderline stalking.

Look. I know social media is an odd landscape to navigate, but the basic rules of social decorum apply. The first rule is if you’re trying to be someone’s friend, then start by respecting the person that they are as opposed to outright ignoring it for your own perceptions. If you have someone like myself, who is busy, who has a life, who values communication but sets store on personal space and boundaries, wouldn’t you, I don’t know… just write a message to that person to establish some sort of a rapport? Let them tell you what they want/need/expect from a friend? I am a very open person; I have no problem letting people know what I am like and what I expect from the people around me. It’s really not that difficult.

If you write a message, I answer it, guaranteed. And maybe 15% of that will be an answer you won’t like. But if you call me and it’s not an emergency, and you didn’t ask if you could call, you’re fast on your way to my shit list.

The one thing that I absolutely can’t stand, which the above FB sharebait conveniently ignores?

I cannot stand it when people invade my personal space and don’t respect the boundaries that I have set. “Just trying to be your friend” is bullshit. If you were trying to be my friend, you’d actually pay attention to the person that I am.

I especially love the bit about “go round even if they don’t want you to.” NO. NO NO NO NO. DO NOT DO THAT. Because that’s the fastest way to get your dumb ass arrested for trespassing. I would love for some fool to try and come over to my house… number one, I made sure next to no one knows my home address for this exact reason, and number two, I would so dearly love to hear the sound their arse will make when it makes contact with the concrete sidewalk, after I punt them off my front step. You think I wouldn’t do that? You think that just because you come to someone’s front door to “check up on them” they’re obligated to let you in? Dear gods, people, please check yourself before you wreck yourself, or before someone else does.

People… seriously. Personal space and common courtesy are not a hard concept to wrap your head around. It doesn’t mean someone must have a “mental illness”. It means they like their goddamned space and have certain standards. And if you think something is wrong with them for enforcing this, it says a lot more about you.

Here’s what the people who are on the receiving end of the Well-Meaning Wilmas and the “just checking in on you” and the “just trying to be your friend” really want to say to you, that I’m putting into words right now, because apparently no one else would:

You’re not being helpful.

You’re not trying to be a friend.

You are being intrusive, and you’re making the person you’re intruding upon uncomfortable, and you need to back the fuck off.

And when you get the boot for this, please point the finger squarely at yourself for not listening to them in the first place.

You can’t force this shit. Seriously. If you want to be someone’s friend, first accept the person as is, and then respect that. Converse on their terms, and not on yours. Show some very basic respect for the people that they are, if you want to earn any respect yourself. And never, ever, EVER try to be the Fix-it Fred. Just do not.

Leave. People. Alone. Because that’s what they really need. If they want to get in touch with you, they will call you themselves.

Really, it’s not a difficult concept to grasp.

K.G.

 

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Capital Jazz XI Cruise is Coming Together

And I have to ask you guys: bear with them.

Just today, I saw the announcement: India.Arie, Will Downing, and Jeffrey Osborne are on board.

YES. Already I’m happy. Will Downing’s voice is one pure buttery dream of a baritone, and he has a great lyrical style. I’ve been a massive India.Arie fan ever since she released Video, and cannot wait to have my camera live and ready for that particular show. Jeffrey O is a crowd-pleaser, always has been.

But here’s why else I’m happy: this means the back-end stuff of the cruise is coming together.

I won’t remind people of what happened last year. But here’s what I will say: they are doing exactly what we said, back then, we wanted them to do. Bear with them and let them.

We said, as one collective fanbase: Do not let last year repeat itself. And I said, on this very blog: nine good years, vs. one questionable one. Stats are in their favor. They will make things work.

And that’s precisely what’s happening here.

Last year, when we all got the apology email, there was a mention that Capital Jazz will have its own reservation system, so that the mess last year wouldn’t repeat. We knew then it was going to take work, because 1. system has to be created, and 2. made compatible with Norwegian’s system, and 3. tested. As one of the commenters on this blog mentioned last year, the systems have to be tested prior to launch, and this is where i”m in the firmest agreement. A huge part of last year’s to-do was because Norwegian was unprepared for the demand of the charter attendees. Now they will be prepared.

I also said back then: CapJazz rolls with the punches and tries to set things right.

And this is precisely what they’re doing.

I’m a cautious optimist, but I also am aware of my own slight bias coming from my longtime love of the production. Nonetheless, the point stands: they’re doing precisely what we have asked them to do. They’re doing precisely what we expected them to do in terms of setting things right. And they’re doing exactly that.

I’m definitely not a patient person, but so far, this is a start. And already, if India.Arie is on board, I will enjoy the cruise no matter what.
(Okay, the mojito bar and oysters help!)

K.G.

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Godspeed, and a word of caution

Right now, buses and planes are flying to DC from the world over, full of women who are marching on Washington, DC. Protests of the inauguration and the coming administration have already started.

Already, mixed reports are coming in.

First of all, I wish the protesters Godspeed, if they are religious, and good luck, if they are not. Many, many people whom I know are marching today, and it is hugely important to me, and the country, that they keep marching. No one ever got anything accomplished by staying still; in my case, the pen is mightier than the sword; my best protests are done with this blog and my writing.

I would like to give you a warning, though, if you are protesting:

Beware of professional agitators.

James O’Keefe has already done his part to infiltrate protests in the past. We have seen his work with Occupy Wall Street, and with BLM. Without fail, every time, he’s got someone stirring the pot, and the entire movement then has to shoulder the blame for the actions of someone who, let’s face it, didn’t belong there in the first place.

DCist offers a look into that too.

Really, not a new tactic. How is this different from the CIA sending a spook to scope out a foreign country’s diplomatic and social vibe and start engineering things from the inside? Not at all different, just on a lower level. Same shit, different playbook.

My DC marchers, I would like to ask you to be very careful, and videotape the shit out of the agitators.

This is what you watch for:

  • Masked, white male
  • Too riled up, too over-energetic, taking it out on the surrounding protesters too
  • Dressed all in black, covered mouth
  • Much angrier than everyone else around him
  • Begins trashing property on the popular spots on the march route almost immediately.

If you see anyone like that, someone who’s too “into” the protest, then you’re probably seeing a professional agitator.

There’s also a good chance that you’ll find undercover cops in the march too. This is not accidental. BLM protests have been incited to violence by plainclothes before. And as a result, BLM faced media excoriation when the actual protesters actually outed the plainclothes as the agitators.

I will give you this piece of advice: Unless you are sure that the agitator next to you isn’t a plainclothes cop, do. not. make. any. attempt. to restrain or subdue him. It’s not worth you getting hurt and there’s a very high possibility he may press charges; unless you’re a lawyer or have a lawyer, or even if not, do not risk it.

Doubly so if you suspect someone is a plainclothes. Not useful earning yourself an arrest for assaulting a police officer even if said police officer is an agitator with the express job of discrediting the protest.

If you check out any recent protest videos, it’s always someone masked, 99% of the time it’ll also be someone white, and always someone who’s a little more violent and angry than everyone else around him. Trust your gut: if something’s not right, it almost certainly is not.

And because our phones do transmit signal on a regular basis, if you want to make yourself untrackable, this is useful.

Share this post far and wide. Yeah, I have an IP tracker on this blog, but 1) I don’t share the IPs, and 2) it’s been installed for my safety, and I will extend that safety to others. Share, read, and please stay safe.

K.G.

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Saying Goodbye to a President

This is probably one of the harder posts that I would write on this blog, if you consider the contexts of the present time, and when Pres. Obama has come to the office in 2008.

To see him get elected was surreal. In so so so many ways. This was a point in history that I am, every day, glad I’ve witnessed.

What I’m not glad for was the almost immediate eruption of the racist backlash. Everything from burning in effigy to some truly sickening slurs hurled at his family.

But nonetheless… he had a scandal-free presidency. He and Michelle have a relationship that, honestly, should be every couple’s goal. And, though he spoke that she never asked for the office of First Lady, and it is true, I do think that Michelle knew what she was getting into when she had seen him embark on his journey as a politician.

He did recover the economy. Ignore the spin doctors on television and look at the constant, consistent job growth in his entire presidency. Look at the fact that 401Ks recovered to where they were pre-Bush recession. Look at portfolios growing. Look at Dow Jones growth the past eight years. The proof is there, it’s quantifiable.

But the people who are right now cheering the incoming administration and saying how they had to “put up” with Obama are demonstrating nothing else but the fact that they can’t tolerate that a black man has done a great job.

What’s happening right now is little more than a whitelash. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see the reactions throughout American history. After the abolition of slavery. After the Civil War. After the Reconstruction. After Civil Rights. After women’s rights. Each time there was any sort of human rights progress, history saw an immediate backlash. Jim Crow. Voter suppression. Segregation. So on and so forth. This right now… is more of the same.

Deny it all you want, but you can’t unring the bell of history, and once shit’s on the Internet, it. is. forever. So when you think no one will remember the posts you made calling the President NObama, or whatever else you called him? You’d be amazed how long a computer’s memory can be.

The past eight years were formative for me as a voter and as a member of the workforce. At the time that the Obama campaign for the White House began in 2007, I was a college graduate, inundated ten ways from Sunday with student loan debt, no prospects, no direction, and an administrative position in my first firm. And what I wanted, at a bare minimum, was a job that could afford to pay bills that aren’t just the student loan, to be able to afford my own place, to… live. Just live. I have graduated college thinking of the suicides of the LGBT students – one of which happened in my freshman year – and wanted more of them to stay alive; they were great kids with immeasurable talent, and hated by the people who were supposed to loved them; they all deserved a lot better. I am vehemently childfree, and the idea that I may have been forced into childbirth due to birth control failure and having no other options has been a consistent fear – one that I, ironically, resolved because Sarah Palin has been selected as McCain’s running-mate. I knew what I cared about – and from the beginning of Obama’s campaign, I looked at him, and I said, “He probably cares about the same things I do… and he’s going to win this thing.”

My predictions are not infallible. I thought Hillary was going to win this; I’m sure a lot of people did. But I also purposely skipped the debates to avoid Trump’s face and voice; I find both repugnant. Be my personal feelings what they may, I should’ve taken in mind that he’s a salesman first. Underestimating the sales pitch was a huge, crucial mistake in my assessment. He pitches a good game, he knows how to appeal to people, and – I’ve said this before – he has a quintessentially typical predator’s intelligence: he knows how to isolate their weaknesses and hone in on them instinctively. Never once did I think he was stupid. Woefully, dangerously ignorant and blithe about it, certainly. But stupid? No, no. And my underestimation of this was why I pegged this election result wrongly.

This only teaches me to account for all factors, not just the obvious ones, before I make a call.

But when I saw Obama against McCain in debates, I knew he had it. He spoke confidently, eloquently, with the conviction of someone who has been through the same hard times as the people asking the questions in the town-halls. He’s had to struggle in his life, and had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. And he accomplished it, and it showed most that he never once forgot the journey he had taken to get there.

I was glad to see, over the past eight years, that he had proven my expectations right in a lot of ways. He had to toe a line that kept shifting every day, and balance a very delicate shifting load that is global relations in a changing and evolving world. We have all of us grown with him, and to have his term to conclusion feels, in a sense, like graduating college all over again.

Except, unlike when he had first come to the White House, I’m no longer at the threshold of the world with the possibilities ahead, however scant, and wanting prospects. I carved out an unlikely career path – hell, two, all considered – and I kept living by the simple mantra of do whatever makes your soul smile. I can’t say it’s all been roses – it hasn’t – but it taught me what I needed to know and taught me what was important. Obama’s presidency was an example that hard work and sharp brains count for a whole lot, and that yes, it is possible to do great things, even if the rest of the world sees you as “the other.”

Now that he’s on his way out the door, and tomorrow we begin four years that are, at the absolute kindest word I can use, unpredictable, I feel like I’m looking for direction again, in a sense. So much of what has happened under Pres. Obama is now in jeopardy. So it makes me wonder: what will happen next?

Despite the apprehension, anxiety, outright fear – which I rarely, if ever, feel – I look at President Obama’s accomplishments with pride. I look at the growth of Sasha and Malia while in the White House and I see two brilliant young women, with a brilliant future ahead of them. I see a family – and a President who was a husband and a dad before he was ever a politician, and I know that, no matter how disagreeable the people around him were, he still treated us as a family.

I am more than a little saddened at watching him leave the White House. But I also look forward to seeing Barack H. Obama, Esquire. Don’t forget: both he and Michelle are attorneys, educated as attorneys, and likely more than qualified to have their own practice, or to pursue a living in the field of law. Let’s not forget that President William H. Taft was a Supreme Court justice as well. And I don’t think that someone like Pres. Obama is content unless he’s in a position to help others.

While there are things to mourn, there may yet be things to celebrate.

Now… let’s see what we can do.

Kat G.

Posted in The Usual

Some thoughts on this year

I don’t think I even need to do much talking about 2016 except for thank fuck it’s over and done.

On one hand, I’ve seen a lot of people arguing how it’s really not that relevant anyway and it’s not changing anything – I beg to differ. It’s all about the mindset, and while I don’t buy into the “think up your own reality” a la Rhonda Byrne and The Secret, I am very much a supporter of the thought that at least 1/2 of the possibility of success depends on the attitude a person has in approaching the goal. And hope counts for a lot!! of things.

You can’t expect humans to not be human. Hope, cycle, ritual, and motivation are all very human things. So seriously, can you just please STFU about how “it won’t make a difference because calendar and whatever”? Seriously. STFU. It may not matter to you, but to a lot more people, it does.

My friend Andrew brought up a question: What’s worse, false hope or no hope at all? The answer is thus: having no hope is infinitely worse because it drains the person to a hollow shell. False hope, however false it is, is still a motivator. No hope has the polar opposite effect.

Motivation is something we are going to need.

In 2016, we lost a lot of our favorite cultural icons. Carrie Fisher, whom we knew best as Princess Leia, and her mom, Debbie Reynolds, whom every child who has ever seen Charlotte’s Web will recognize by voice, died within a day of one another. And Prince. David Bowie. And Alan Rickman, our beloved Alan Rickman. And on and on… and it was a deeply wounding experience. Like it as not, we will always mourn our icons, because they helped us learn more about ourselves as people and about the world through their art. But they have left us, and left us with…

…well, having to face a President Donald Trump.

These words were typed with the worst contempt I can feel towards a person. This election has been a prime illustration of the child being put in charge of the nursery. The metaphor is even more apt if you consider that his Twitter tirades all show the basic manners and maturity of a toddler; if you think any part of what he’s doing is “presidential”, then I question your own maturity. Sorry and not sorry.

Unless Congress’s Hail Mary attempt today pays off, we’re looking at having this lousy excuse for a human being sworn in on January 20th, and ladies and gents, that motivation I was talking about? This is where we are going to need it. Because unless we are ready for a long and exhaustive battle, there’s no telling just what sort of damage we are going to have to undo down the line.

Already, they’re talking about repealing the ACA and in the same breath, defunding PP (more on that later). Already also, the coal miners who now have insurance thanks to ACA for their pre-existing black lung are now waking up and realizing that hey, the “Obamacare” they were brainwashed to hate is actually something they benefit from! They’re all going to be kicked off their insurance! So now they’re all gung-ho against it because it never once occurred to them that the ACA that they benefit from and Obamacare are the same damn law.

Mitch McConnell deserves a new title: chief hypocrite. After years of proudly blocking every Supreme Court nominee that Pres. Obama put up for approval, he actually turned around and said that the American people wouldn’t stand for such obstruction as the Democrats blocking the GOP nominees. I guess McConnell has no idea where hypocrisy or irony are in the dictionary, never mind being completely unaware that his picture is next to both as an example.

Yes, it’s a false hope that Trump will be ousted, even though constitutionally, there’s ample grounds for his impeachment  already. But it’s hope enough to motivate everyone to fight back against this bullshit excuse of an “administration”.

What amuses me, and by “amuse” I mean “dishearten”, is the talk about the how the Dems and the liberals need to be more “understanding”. Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong some more. The liberals already understand the rural white America. It’s rural white America that insists on clinging to the middle of the 20th Century when the world at large is well past ready to dive into the 21st.  We know what motivates them to feel as they do – they do not want to even stop to think about changing where they are. Their rules and laws are rigid to the point of where there are more than a few similarities with cult mentality.

The “coastal elites”, or basically, anyone who either got out of the rural white America or left the mentality of rural white America, already see and understand it. What we are seeing is an entire swathe of the country not seeing the forest through the trees. They don’t embrace any change even though that change just might give them what they really need: employment, education, independence. If it means they cling to their glory days, people are prepared to bury their heads and play the ostrich, grossly unaware – or unwilling to acknowledge – that their arses are still exposed, and in a much better position for reality to kick it.

The real problem, honestly, is education – or better yet, lack thereof, and lack of people being taught to think critically. This is what we get when we encourage children to pick on the nerdy kids at recess – and to note, not punishing them does count as encouragement. This is the direct result of people using intelligence as an insult, or as a demerit. I’ve heard, often, the question of “Why do I have to learn algebra if I’m never going to use it?” – because it teaches you to think, if you actually pay attention to the material. There’s a reason it’s taught in schools since the dawn of math education, and if one is just not able to grasp the material, or the concept behind the material, how’s it the fault of the material itself? Algebra, like critical thinking, didn’t do anything to the person who’s unable to grasp either of the two.

After a certain point, the understanding and the compassion just plain run out, and we all collectively say, “You made the bed, now go lie down in it”. That’s more or less where I am right now. That’s where a lot of us are right now in regards to politics and in regards to everyone who’s voted for this guy and is slowly waking up to the reality that they’ve gotten conned. You’ve done it – and you’ve done it to yourselves. You’ve shot yourself with the foot, and only now are realizing that you’ve packed buckshot in that instead of a measly little nine-mil. The problem is, you’re taking the rest of the people around you as you go crashing to the floor, and that right there I have a problem with. If you make a decision, etc. – that’s fine. What’s not fine is when your choices have an effect on the innocent bystanders. And unlike whatever you believe, no, you don’t get to escape the “I told you so” when your choices backfire on you after people warned you it would. Action = consequence.

Just right now, as I’m writing this post, guess who’s really paying for the Mexican wall: the US taxpayer. The rich still get a tax cut. The rest of us pay up, regardless of whether or not we can afford to. And we all knew it was going to go that way – but who listened to us?

As we’re heading into this year, I can’t say it’s going to be all rosy. We entered this year just relieved that the Grim Reaper put the scythe away for a moment. But now that the mourning reprieve is over, we have to stand up, square our shoulders, tip up our chins, and go to battle. This isn’t the time to get complacent.

Personally speaking – I am glad for the new year to be here, because it gives me the opportunity to take a deep breath, reassess, and prioritize. And there’s ample room for new adventures, which means that I can, once again, consider a trip outside the country. Mallorca is calling. Maybe Algarve – for the jazz festivals. Hell, maybe even Rio de Janeiro because why. the. hell. not.

It’s a personal thing for me; there’s a saying I’ve grown up with that I’ve shared here a few times: how you start a year is how you’ll live it. I started it with music and telling the previous year to firmly fuck itself with a double NY Salute. I’d like to think that, if not as great as some recent years have been (prior to 2015-16), I would at least have a half decent turn at this one.

At least I may grow some basil this summer. Tasty bruschetta.

K.G.

Posted in The Usual

Two more weeks…

I will admit, last year I did not think that I would have a worse year than 2015.

Dear gods, when will I ever learn? Do not tempt Murphy’s Law, it will give you everything you ask for, and add interest on top.

Yeah, I had a worse year than 2015, but in retrospect, it was still an important year. All political BS aside, it was a learning experience, and some of the biggest lessons I learned were how to take responsibility for my own part in certain things – a work in progress – and how to draw a line on what I tolerate in my life.

If anything, there’s a lot of things to be said for the art of drawing boundaries, and sometimes, there’s something like a national election that reaffirms what your boundaries are.

I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a liberal, and nor will I hide any part of it. And this is not going to be the time where I opine on the current election results; done that already. But the fact is, this election taught me what sort of behavior I tolerate in my life and was only one in a series of reminders to get a lot firmer about what I let slide, why, and from whom.

And frankly, I’ve gotten way too lax about allowing people to get away with shit, and not just in terms of politics. I’ve allowed too many people to walk over me, and have almost ended up $1,200 in the hole at the start of summer because someone thought it’s A-OK to take advantage of someone’s generosity and then turn around to shit all over their efforts.

Look, I’m one of the nicest people out there. Really. For all the acerbic NYC bitchiness that I have, if you come to me and tell me you need help – get out of a bad situation, not sure what a contract says, have a doctor/person who doesn’t want to listen – I’ll help you. I’ll ask people who can refer me to someone in the position to help, or pull a favor if someone owes me one. However: do not ever turn around and try to accuse me of shit because of it. This is the real world; information and resources do not come from a vacuum. Either you find it yourself, or – like in a LOT of situations – you go to someone who can.

One of the main lessons out of this year, and that particular little fiasco, was this: don’t let others’ lack of regard of your skills in any way diminish your value for having those skills.

I’m not going to stop helping people if they ask. That would be completely contrary to everything I stand for. Yes, under any other circumstances, this would have made me say “screw this shit, I will not help anyone again, ever” – but that’s just not me. And considering the way that the current climate is, it’s kind of extra important to be able to provide support to people.

But I also won’t stand for ingratitude and I will certainly not stand for being used in any iteration. Already, I give too much of myself away in terms of support, resources, knowledge, time, energy, talents, etc. And last time I checked, I can’t pour from an empty cup; if you want to benefit from association with me, then please at least let me refill the cup once in a while. Rest, solitude, music, travel, real friendships with real conversations, support, exchanges of ideas, learning, etc. – that’s my recharge. And my definition of friendship is a bit different than most people’s; loyalty and communication are two things I set a huge store by.

Yes, this year was ridiculously bad. In retrospect, and keeping with the adage of how your year starts is how it flows, I should’ve realized that it was going to be bad when we lost Alan Rickman. Collectively, we artistic types – and HP fans – knew we were in for a hard year with 2016. Myself, I entered the year grieving and with a keen awareness that I would have more losses coming – precisely what happened. But I can’t say it was all a waste if there’s any sort of lesson out of it.

As far as lessons go, taking responsibility for myself, drawing boundaries and standing up for myself are certainly beneficial refresher courses.

Two more weeks of this particular stretch of the calendar… and then maybe we can breathe easier.

Stay focused, friends.

K.G.

Posted in The Usual