Tarzan of the Valley

•June 25, 2020 • Leave a Comment
Sandow Birk, 2005. Orange Line rapid busway, Tampa Station. “

The remains of a mylar balloon fluttered in the landscaping along the bike path.

Won’t somebody think of the turtles?!” I thought, as I always do, whenever I see a discarded balloon. Ever since we went on a whale-watching trip and the guide explained how balloons end up in the water systems where they look like jellyfish to the turtles. Who eat them. And die. Terrible deaths.

Won’t somebody think of the turtles, indeed.

I was nearing the midpoint of my run: an intersection where the bike path runs alongside the Tarzana bus stop for the metro line. So, thinking of the turtles, I picked up the dead balloon and carried it across the busway to the trash bin.

The bus stops along this bus route are… characters. The Tarzana stop, for instance, is paved with a zebra-print design. Another stop includes the curiously, incomplete statement “To get to the other side” like a punchline without a joke.

A low retaining panel delineated the edge of the platform and a placard caught my eye. Small, and densely worded, I doubt I would have ever noticed it if I’d been hustling to catch a bus, so I cast an eye over it while I caught my breath. It detailed the history of “Tarzan of the Apes”, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs: a pencil sharpener salesman from Chicago who took up writing fiction because he thought he could do better than the stories he was reading in pulp magazines.

“Tarzan of the Apes” took off, of course, spawning other books and movies: making Burroughs enough money from the royalties to buy a fancypants ranch in Encino with enough extra land that it could be developed for housing. Which turned into a community. Which got a post office. Which dubbed itself “Tarzana”. The rest is history.

Oh yes, and if you’re bored while you wait for the bus at the Tarzana station you can read the full text of “Tarzan of the Apes” off the retaining wall where every page is replicated in proportional size.

The more you know…


•June 24, 2020 • 5 Comments

So, it turns out that if I want to motivate myself to sit down and write, all I have to do is tell myself that I’m not allowed to log into social media until I do so. So, today was a remarkably productive day.

I just finished reading “The Lesser Dead” by Christopher Buehlman, which was an entertaining and enjoyable read if you like vampire stories with a certain amount of grit and gore. Finishing this book marks another landmark: it was the last of my library books, checked out just before the start of the quarantine. I’m a little embarrassed that it took me so long to complete them all, but it was quite a stack.

I just received a phone call a few days ago notifying me that I could pick up some new holds soon by appointment, so the timing is just about perfect. In the meantime, I received a copy of “Assata” the autobiography of Assata Shakur for a new book club that I’m looking forward to cracking open.

Mostly, though, today was just about grinding forward on a number of projects that had stalled in recent weeks. It felt good to make progress, but there isn’t much to show for it yet. That’s okay, though, not everything has to be results.

Center Line

•June 23, 2020 • 7 Comments

I don’t think I actually gave this meme a second thought when I posted it. I saw the image, it resonated, so I hit “Share” without even bothering to comment on it. I liked it’s generalized philosophy of “quit fighting over sides and move forward”. It was posted in between an article entitled “Never Forget, Rock N Roll was Invented By A Queer Black Woman” and an image of a needlework project reading “If you see someone falling behind, walk beside them. If you see someone being ignored, find a way to include them. Always remind people of their worth. One small act could mean the world to them.”

So, clearly I was not trying to make the world’s most vehement political statement.

Still, I woke up the next morning to find comments from several friends taking umbrage with my post, particularly criticizing it for it’s centrist stance.

“Right: Black people and immigrants and gays need to be exterminated. There, I fixed it.” Said one.

“When you’re moving “forward” there is no center, it’s relative. you have to make a CHOICE. The “Middle” is stagnation and submission.” Said another.

This was all hitting me before I’d even put my contacts in, so I felt my defenses go up before I even really had a chance to turn my brain on. I felt… attacked. Or, at least, I suddenly felt myself take up a defensive position, dig a moat, plant a minefield, arm the battlements and put snipers in every tower. And these were, and are, people that I consider friends and generally align with on most political matters. If I was getting this defensive over comments from people I generally agree with and respect, no wonder we’re so divided as a country.

I batted responses back and forth for most of the morning, doing my best to put some thought into what it was about the responses that was bothering me and why I had made the post in the first place. And now that the adrenaline has died down and I no longer feel like I’m beseiged by Vandals and Visigoths, I’m actually glad that these individuals challenged me and forced me to articulate my point of view on the subject.

There is an attitude nowadays, particularly from the left, that to be a centrist is to be a vile collaborator with those extremist-right elements reveling in white supremacy, fascism, and preparing for Civil War II Electric Boogaloo. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” says Edmund Burke. Centrists, in this case, being the do-nothing-good-men.

I can see where they’re coming from: if you’re not prepared to stand against something, what do you stand for and so on. It’s a dilemma I’ve run my mind across quite a lot in These Times. There’s really no part of me that agrees with the conservative stance: I’m quite solidly left of center in my actual ideals, but I still consider myself a centrist. Why? Was I just too cowardly to take a real stand? Was I letting evil triumph by doing nothing just because I was in a position of privilege to do so? Was I trying to “hippie my way out of Nazis” as my friend so pithily stated?

“To say that the only way to make progress is through extremism is problematic.” I replied. The nicest way I could think of saying “Ain’t Nobody But Nobody Gonna Tells Me How To Think!” It’s one of the biggest problems that I have with the far left: the attitude that anything less than rabid, wholehearted, woke, all-accepting, aggressive promotion of the party line is unacceptable. Anybody that tells me that I need to toe a party line in spite of my own conscience throws up a red flag in my mind.

So, if not through extremism, how could I still justify my moderate stance as “still being progress”? I found myself thinking about the big, peaceful protests still happening in cities all around the country going largely un-remarked now that there was no longer any rioting and looting to bring the cameras. I found myself thinking about conservative Supreme Court justices upholding LGTBQIA rights and Dreamer statuses in spite of party lines. I found myself thinking about my own, right-leaning parents whom I respect greatly for their ability to give me insight into their points of view because, like me, they are close enough to center that we can communicate and actually listen to one another. I found myself thinking about local elections that deal with things like fixing roads and funding libraries and parks- things that everybody needs but nobody waves a flag about.

Mostly, what I came to realize, is that being a centrist is not a philosophy of ideals, it is a philosophy of practicality. It is the nuts-and-bolts attitude of trying to fix what needs fixing and build what needs building on an every day, human level. It is finding ways to grind away at the world’s big problems from the underside: making the hungry less hungry, making the desperate less desperate, making the lonely less lonely. And learning to not become so defensive about my opinions that I can’t change them if I find they are unworthy of my best self.

Mistakes Were Made

•June 22, 2020 • Leave a Comment

We ran out of eggs so we decided to try using almond butter as a substitute in our pancakes.

This was a mistake.

First of all, it didn’t work: I presumed something sticky like almond butter would help bind the batter together. And it did- so much so that it was too thick to pour. And when we softened it up a bit with milk and spread it in a pan, it still refused to bind and just turned into grainy, burnt, hot mush.

We gave up. The Curmudgeonly Lion had a few slices of pizza for breakfast, left over from the night before, whilst I- being a tightwad – thought it would be a shame to throw out so much almond-butter-batter. After all: the only reason they tell you not to eat uncooked batter is because of the eggs. And there were no eggs. That was kind of the point.

I splopped the rest of the batter into a mug and microwaved it, figuring that I could treat it like a high protein porridge.

This was a mistake.

Or, rather, a severe miscalculation. There wasn’t all that much batter, volume wise- it barely filled the mug halfway. But MAN did it hit my stomach like a sack of wet cement. By the time I finished, I was pretty sure I would never need to eat again. Ever. For as long as I lived. They talk about “stick to your ribs” meals? Well, this was what they meant.

So, that was breakfast.

Afterwards, the Curmudgeonly Lion went grocery shopping leaving me alone in the house for a few hours. Since it was the solstice, I got the bright idea of opening up all the windows and burning some sage.

This was a mistake.

It seemed like a good idea at the time: you know- cleansing. A good time to dust my flat surfaces and clean the cobwebs off the rafters and, while I was at it, shoo away any bad juju that might be lurking.

Well, if there was any bad juju, it was all lurking inside me, because by the time I was done I was broken out in cold sweats and nauseated as a kid on a carousel. I put the burnt sage outside and went to have a lie down.

This was pretty much the repeating pattern of my day yesterday. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess.

Crow Dream

•June 19, 2020 • 3 Comments

In my dream, I am running along my usual route: a stretch of bike path near my home. I see two crows on the ground- they seem to be a pair; one is slightly on top of the other. It is close to the place where, in waking life, I’d found crow feathers (two crow feathers on two separate days). As I got closer, I wondered if they would be giving me another feather, and as I approached, sure enough, one of them produced a feather for me. (I can’t remember if they gave it to me or left it for me on the ground). I picked it up and continued on my way.

Then I woke up.

It was a gray morning and I really didn’t want to get out of bed. “Dysania” is the word for having trouble getting out of bed and I had dysania in the worst way. But I did eventually drag myself upright and head out the door for a run.

I was running along my usual route- a stretch of bike path near my home, when I saw a crow. It was a different stretch of bike path than my dream, and the crow (raven? It had a beard) was overhead on the power lines instead of the ground, but it still threw me back to my dream. I blew kisses towards it, as I usually do, wondering faintly whether it would be giving me a feather.

No sooner did this thought cross my mind than the crow (raven?) in question shed a feather. I watched in disbelief as it floated down through the air (floats like a feather indeed) as I approached. I worried for a moment that it would land on the wrong side of the fence where I wouldn’t be able to reach it, but as it got lower it drifted effortlessly through the wire to where I could pluck it out of the air.

I brought it home. I still have it. I’m not sure if I should be amazed or creeped out by the whole experience. And I still don’t know what it means, if it means anything, but I feel somehow reassured.

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