Bag the Flag

This morning South Carolina took down the Confederate flag that has flown outside its statehouse for decades.  I’ve been amazed and delighted at how quickly this has come about.

But I have a confession to make:  I once bought a Confederate flag license plate for my then-boyfriend.  Who also often sported a t-shirt that was emblazoned with an airbrushed Confederate flag and the words “Lynnyrd Skynnyrd” written above it (Yes, “Lynyrd Skynyrd” was misspelled–the risk you take when you get a t-shirt made at a festival called “Hoedown Days,” I guess).  I don’t think either of us considers ourselves racist, and it’s not like my ex and I were a couple of rednecks.  He wrote poetry and listened to opera; I read literary classics and didn’t eat meat.  Neither of us had a dog named Bocephus (although I did briefly own a pick-up truck).  In short, he and I may have been intelligent, but we were also ignorant.

I guess at the time, the flag represented to him what many others have claimed of late in their defense of keeping the flag flying:  It’s a symbol of simpler times, heritage, rebellion, standing up for your beliefs. . .all good stuff, no doubt, but when those things are tied to slavery, repression, violence, and a hundred other horrible things, there’s a big problem.  I can’t image what it must be like to be an African-American and see that flag on a shirt or a license plate or a statehouse.  My own experience with it was pretty much limited to seeing it every Friday night on The Dukes of Hazzard.  I’m ashamed to admit that I never really thought too much about what it means to someone of color.

I grew up in Kentucky, which is kind of like the South Lite.  Head further down I-65, and you’ll find more catfish and grits, more humidity and kudzu, and, unfortunately, more rebel flags and racism.  Or, I guess, more overt racism.  It’s here to be sure, but it’s usually not all hanging out there for everyone to see, like a Confederate flag flapping in the wind in front of a state capital.  It’s not something folks here really talk about much.

My upbringing in regards to race was often very confusing.  I got angry whenever my grandfather used the “N Word” or when my uncle would jokingly tell someone at Christmas dinner to “come in here and eat with the white folks.”  But I was also stunned when I was about four-years-old and saw an inter-racial couple at church, not because they were together, but because I had never seen an African-American there before.  Until that day, I thought the church I attended was just for white people.  As a high school cheerleader, my mother once walked out of a restaurant (and had her peers follow her) when a basketball player was refused service because he wasn’t white.  But I still felt uneasy when a black classmate stopped by my house one afternoon because I worried my parents wouldn’t approve.  In first grade, I had a bookmark that said, “Be Skin Color Blind.”  But in college I bought a confederate flag license plate.

I’m pretty sure my experience isn’t all that different than a lot of people’s.  While it’s easy to spot and condemn obvious bigotry, this kind of subtlety and silence can be just as damaging.  Let’s stop sending mixed messages about race.  Let’s stop avoiding the subject.  Let’s stop flying that fucking flag.

Confederate Flag

Here’s Where the Story Ends

Edited to add:  There are no spoilers in this; however, the links below do contain spoilers.

With the Mad Men finale on Sunday, we’ll learn what Don Draper’s fate will be.  But I already know how it will end.  Sort of.  At least according to my dreams.

If they are correct, there are three possible outcomes for our protagonist:

  1. Don reveals that he wants to live as a woman. In the final scene, he is wearing a fuchsia dress with a pussy bow, a long, black wig on his head.  He’s sitting at a fancy vanity table putting the finishing touches on his make-up.  He admires his look in the mirror and then flashes that Don Draper smile we all know and love, only this time it is framed with the perfect shade of Belle Jolie lipstick.  Perhaps we’ll see Don again on Transparent.
  1. Don visits an antiques store and realizes his true calling. The owner wants to retire, but his son doesn’t want to take over the family business.  Don experiences a moment of clarity, and in the last minutes of the series, we see him as the new proprietor, smiling and happy has he assists an older, wealthy lady with her questions about a Chippendale secretary.
  1. Don finds his true love. Before the credits roll, Don is asleep in a bed with a dark-haired woman whose face we cannot see.  As the first light of dawn saturates the room, bathing them in ethereal light, Don turns over on his back, a tangle of white bed linens falls to the side, revealing his nakedness.  It will mark the first time AMC has allowed full-frontal nudity on its network.  Don—and the entire female viewing audience—let out a contented, satisfied sigh.

Or maybe he’s D.B. CooperOr he’ll fall (or jump) out of a windowOr die with Pete in a plane crash.

How do you think Don’s story will end?

 

It's anybody's guess.

It’s anybody’s guess.

 

T.S. Eliot was wrong

There is a saying that goes something like this:  “How you spend your New Year’s Eve will be how you spend the new year.”  Our furnace died a sudden, squawking, smelly death two hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve and left us in the cold for nearly 48 hours.   It was clearly a harbinger of things to come.

Since then, we’ve had to replace not only the furnace but also our kitchen faucet , hot water heater, and my son’s glasses.  2015 is still a newborn and already I’ve gotten a jury summons,  our dryer is giving me the F22 code of doom,  the sun hasn’t made an appearance around here for pretty much the last two weeks, and today the stomach bug that’s been so popular among all the kids chose my son as its next victim (the timing of which is of course just peachy—the kids’ grandmother is supposed to come for a weekend-long visit tomorrow, by which time the rest of us no doubt will be upchucking).  This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the year, I’m afraid.

I’m hoping it’s just January being its usual asshole self, though.  Some of you may remember last January, which brought a plague of lice and a crazy number of snow days down upon us.  When I was a kid, January once ushered in a deadly blizzard, and then later, when I was in grad school, an epic snow storm that brought most of my part of the state to a complete standstill.   I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Fidel Castro, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin all came to power in the month of January.  And guess during which month the Gulf War began, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, and Gandhi was assassinated?  In fact, one of the few times January ever got its shit together was 11 years ago when my daughter was born.  Of course, it had to be a dick about it and force us to drive to the hospital in an ice storm.

April is the cruellest month?  I have my doubts.

Happy Flippin' New Year

Happy Flippin’ New Year

 

Mint condition

You know how some people can’t stand cilantro and say that it tastes like soap? There’s actually a reason for that (you can read about it here). I, however, love cilantro. It’s right up there in my “Best Herbs” Top 5, coming in at number 2 behind basil. What’s at the dead bottom of my list is mint. Just like some people feel like they’re dining on Dove body wash when they eat cilantro, I feel like I’m chowing down on a tube of Colgate when I eat mint. Zest to them; Crest to me.

When I reveal this to people, I am always met with a combination of incredulity and pity. “Not even Thin Mints?!” they ask. I gather Thin Mints are the pinnacle of minty goodness. I wouldn’t know. To me, it’s like eating a chocolate cookie doused with copious amounts of mouthwash.

I have no idea if there’s a scientific reason for this. I suspect there’s perhaps a genetic component, though, because my mom hates mint, too. Or maybe it’s just that we’re both weird.

What food do you hate that everyone else likes?

Me, that's who.

Me, that’s who.

 

I don’t have a clever title for this one

Because I have written about my depression before, I felt like I should say something about Robin Williams’ death. Honestly, though, I feel bombarded by all the media surrounding him right now, and it’s kind of left me in a sad, emotional, weird place. I think writing about it will only trigger my own depression.

I will say, though, that I am angry at people like Rush Limbaugh, Shepard Smith, and random Facebook posters who believe Williams was unhappy because of his political views or that he was a coward or that the only cure for depression is to accept Jesus Christ. I wrote about this very thing a few months ago and you can read it here.

If you are struggling with depression, please reach out. Even though depression will tell you that no one cares or you are not worth saving or this is just the way things are, don’t believe it. Text a friend, contact your therapist (or find a therapist), go to this website to chat with someone who can help, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you know someone you suspect is depressed, check on them. It may seem intrusive or awkward, but I guarantee they will be grateful for your concern.

I’ll leave you with this because I think we could all do with a few minutes of happy right now:

C’mon, get happy

My therapist recently suggested that I create a playlist of songs that make me happy so that I could listen to it when I’m feeling anxious or depressed. She asked me to think about music I like. The first artist that came to mind was Neko Case. But with lyrics like “My true love died in a dirty old pan of oil/That did run from a block/Of a Falcon Sedan 1969” and “Carved your name across three counties/Ground it in with bloody hides/Their broken necks will line the ditch,” her songs are maybe not the best example of happy music. So I thought a bit more and came up with Aimee Mann (“Life just kind of empties out/Less a deluge than a drought”). Nope. Sleater-Kinney (“My falling shape will draw a line/Between the blue of sea and sky”). Uh-uh. Clearly, these are not artists known for their catalog of feel-good ditties.

When I couldn’t come up with anything that I was willing to say out loud, my therapist told me that a lot of her clients liked show tunes, which made me wonder if she treated a lot of gay men but didn’t give me anything to work with. I’m just not a fan of musicals. Finally, I told her I liked the Beastie Boys. I don’t think she knew what to make of that, and I suspect she wrote in her notes, “Shannon is so depressed and/or unintelligent she can’t even recognize happy music.”

On the drive home, I tried to think of songs rather than bands. I considered and quickly rejected a whole slew of songs, the most uplifting of which was “Ode to Billie Joe.” I don’t know if I was just confusing “good songs” with “happy songs” or if my taste in music is an indication of severe depression.

When I got home, I Googled “Feel good music,” and got songs like “Walking on Sunshine,” “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and, of course, the ubiquitous “Happy.” Sorry, but that’s just not my groove. I looked at my iPod to see if I had any music that didn’t involve death, destruction, or despair. The Beatles. Okay, that works. They Might Be Giants. Of course. Barenaked Ladies. Now we’re getting somewhere!

I was finally able to come up with a playlist of songs that are perhaps not as peppy as “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” but they make me happy. Here’s a little sample of what’s on my playlist, which I had intended to share on Spotify, but because I’m technologically impaired I cannot figure the hell out how to make happen. I’ll keep working on that, but in the meantime, tell me: What songs make you happy?

 

Returning home with an empty cat carrier

Our cat died this week. She was 16, so this wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it was still one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. Our veterinarian is Irish, so when she said things to us like, “Your cat likely has cancer” and “We need to think about euthanasia,” the words, spoken in her lovely accent, sounded almost pleasant. The reality was anything but.

Bill, my son, and I went to the vet to say our good-byes (Posey had been there overnight receiving IV fluids, a treatment we sought when we still had hope that she might recover). My daughter didn’t want to go. We held our sweet old lady kitty, loving on her and listening to her purr feebly.   The vet told us to let her know when we were ready. I’m never going to be ready, I thought, wondering if there would be some zen-like moment when I would just know. There wasn’t. We just had to get on with it. The vet tech gave her a shot of muscle relaxer, and afterwards I held her on a blanket on my lap. She went limp, like a kitty protestor being arrested at a pro-catnip rally. The vet sat beside me and administered the anesthesia. Within just a few moments, she was gone. I expected there to be some sort of different energy in the room, some sort of change in the atmosphere, but I didn’t even realize she was dead until the vet checked her heartbeat and told me there wasn’t one. The vet put her arm around me and gave me a hug. “You can stay with her as long as you like. Just put her on the exam table when you’re ready to leave.” The idea of “putting” my baby somewhere—like she was a bag of groceries or a gift at a birthday party—made me feel angry. I know the vet didn’t mean it that way; if Posey was still alive and she had said that, I would have thought nothing of it.

Although no one told me that this would happen, I expected that when she passed, her eyes would close, but they didn’t. This disturbed me. How could she be gone if her eyes were still open? I tried to close them, but they wouldn’t shut, which disturbed me even more. By the time I laid her on the table, they had turned from their vivid, clear green to a dark, murky shade, like the color that develops in the water you use to rinse out a paintbrush between watercolors. It was awful and sad and final.

Afterwards, as we walked up the stairs to our house, a monarch butterfly fluttered by, swooping and gliding around us before flying away. I hadn’t seen one in years, and while I don’t believe that this butterfly was somehow embodying Posey’s spirit or that it was a sign from her that she’d crossed the Rainbow Bridge, it was somehow reassuring. I don’t believe that she’s in heaven or that she’s watching over us or that she was reunited with our other cat, Abby, who died almost exactly a year ago. In fact, seeing as they barely tolerated each other’s presence here on earth, they would both be really pissed if they had to spend eternity together.

I keep telling myself we did the right thing. On Cheers, Sam Malone once said something like, “You know you’re doing the right thing if it sucks really bad.” Oh, how this sucks.

Today I am missing my girl, but trying to be positive by thinking of all the things I can do now that I haven’t been able to during the 16 years we had a cat in the house. I can finally put houseplants anywhere I want and not worry that she will munch on them. I can hold the front door open without fear that she will run out into the street. I can use my laptop without her trying to sit on it. There are no more litter boxes to scoop, no more cat puke to clean up, no more cat hair to vacuum up. Somehow, though, these are cold comforts.

Little known fact:  Posey was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America

Little known fact: Posey was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America