Category Archives: Essays

Missing This

In 1995, the British pop duo Everything But the Girl released “Missing”, a song that would become their greatest hit.  Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt paired up 40 years ago to create EBTG.  They found their title in the slogan of a store in their home town of Hull that promised to sell shoppers “everything but the girl”.  I feel they’re one of the most underrated musical acts of recent decades.  There was once a time – before the internet – when people could vanish from our lives and we relied on music like this to fill the void.  Music always seems to fill the void of whatever or whomever we’re missing.

My old friend, Paul Landin, had discovered EBTG in the late 1980s and became instantly fascinated with them.  He was especially enamored with Thorn.  I know he traveled to England at least twice in the 1980s, but I don’t know if he ever saw EBTG in concert there or anywhere.  Paul died in April after a year-long battle with liver cancer.  Shortly after his death, a mutual friend, Mike*, sent a Tweet to Tracey Thorn advising her that “one of her biggest fans” had passed away.  Paul and Mike had met at New York University in the early 1990s where they both studied filmmaking and found they had a mutual love of EBTG.  They couldn’t have been more different: Paul, a Mexican-American born and raised in Texas and Mike, a traditional “WASP” from upstate New York.

A few days after Paul’s death Mike told me he’d dreamed of our old friend.  “It might have been the edible I had last night,” he said via text, “but I felt his presence sitting across from me in the living room.  He was smiling and he said don’t worry, everything is going to be okay.”  Still, Mike lamented, he feels Paul had been cheated out of fulfilling his dreams of being a successful filmmaker/screenwriter.

Paul and I had a strange friendship; almost a love/hate type of interaction.  I supposed that was because we were so much alike in many respects.  Our fathers grew up together in East Dallas.  Paul and I even attended the same parochial grade school in the 1970s (I vaguely remember him) and were altar boys at the accompanying Catholic church.  We shared a love of good food and good cinema.  As fraught as our friendship could be at times, I still miss him and his quirky nature.

Tracey Thorn’s reply to Mike* back in April

I miss a lot of aspects of my life.  But isn’t that what happens to us as we get older?  With more years behind than ahead of us, we sort through the intricacies and chaos of our lives and wonder how we managed to make it this far.

I miss the gatherings my parents and I used to have at this house.  There often wasn’t a particular reason.  Third Saturday of the month?  Good enough!  Family, friends and neighbors would convene upon this simple home and have the best time imaginable.  We had food – real food!  Not just chips and dips.  People often brought dishes out of courtesy, but everyone knew they could actually have a meal.  Ours became the fun house; where people could gather and always feel they were loved and appreciated.

I miss Sunday lunches with my parents.  It was always a special occasion – even when I moved back here in 2007.  We talked about anything and everything.  Like music, food helps people bond.

I miss the 1990s and the excitement of heading into a new century and a new millennium.  In some ways I miss the apartment I moved into in May of 1991; a relatively small one bedroom/one bath abode.  For the first time in my life, I was truly on my own.  I miss happy hours with colleagues at the bank where I worked in Dallas at the time.  I still relish the period from 1996 to the spring of 2001, when most everything in my life seemed to go right.  I know I can never go back (past perfect is only possible in grammar), but I wish I could recapture that feeling of freedom and happiness.  I miss my blue and white lava lamp.

I miss the German shepherd, Josh, my parents and I had from 1973 to 1985.  When we moved to this house in suburban Dallas in 1972, my parents had promised they’d get me a dog.  Somehow I’d become enamored with German shepherds.  My mother had a phobia of big dogs.  As a child in México City, she’d seen a man attacked by a Doberman.  But she swallowed her fears for my sake.  Early on I noticed his eyes seemed to be tri-colored: mostly yellow-gold, but also green and blue.  We didn’t realize how big he was, until we brought him inside the house.  We would bring him in during the torrid Texas summers and (in his later years) during the occasional harsh winters.  Putting him to sleep on Easter Saturday 1985 was one of the most traumatic experiences we ever endured.  It’s not that we expected him to live forever, of course; we just never prepared ourselves for the end.

I miss my last dog, a miniature schnauzer I adopted from a former friend and roommate and named Wolfgang.  I loved the sound of his breathing at night, as he slept.  It remains one of the most soothing sounds I’ve ever heard in my life.  My parents also fell in love with him, after I moved back here in 2007.  My father especially developed a deeply personal relationship with Wolfgang.  I realized how strong that connection was on the day my father died in June of 2016, when the lights flickered, and Wolfgang ambled down the hall.  He stood before my parents’ closed bedroom door and turned to me.  I knew my father was gone.  Wolfgang died less than five months after my father did.  I still maintain my father returned and got him.

I miss my father, George De La Garza, Sr.  I love and miss my mother and everyone I’ve ever known and lost, but I miss my father the most.  We had a unique bond that couldn’t be matched by anything or anyone.  In my worst moments, I often wish he’d come back to get me.  But then, all the plans I’ve made for myself wouldn’t come to fruition.  And when I call to him and get no response, I realize it’s just not my time.  I know.  We could communicate without words.

My father and me, Christmas Eve 1992

So I continue and recollect the best moments of my past years and look forward to what I have left.  Still, I’m always missing someone or something.

We all miss someone or something from our lives.  Who or what do you miss?

*Name changed.

Image: Aeviternitas

3 Comments

Filed under Essays

Next!

“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.”

Martin Niemöller

We’re still in shock here in the U.S.  In just a matter of weeks, the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court undid decade’s worth of progressive social reforms.  The reversal of Roe vs. Wade last month garnered the most attention, but they didn’t stop with that.

In Vega vs. Tekoh, the High Court ruled that a violation of Miranda rights doesn’t provide a basis for civil damages.  The original Miranda vs. Arizona decision ensured people accused of criminal behavior have the right to legal counsel and to remain silent in the face of police interrogation.  Miranda was decided in line with the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which had already established certain guidelines for addressing criminal procedures.  The Vega ruling now ensures that law enforcement can act with impunity.  I suspect it’s a response to the vitriolic reactions to high-profile police killings over the past…well, several decades; the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests and all that.  In Vega, the SCOTUS majority noted that, if the original Miranda court intended to create a constitutional right versus a prophylactic rule, it would have definitively declared that immediately upon deciding Miranda.  The 1966 Court knew how to use its words, the current Court essentially declared, and those words used were not “constitutional right.”  See how verbiage can be twisted so easily by academics?

In West Virginia vs. the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Court undercut the latter’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.  SCOTUS agreed with Republican-led states and energy companies that the 1970 Clean Air Act gave the EPA too much power over carbon emissions.  The decision was also a strike back against the 2015 Clean Power Plan – an Obama-era policy that targeted adverse climate change.  To environmentalists, it wasn’t surprising that energy conglomerates were adamant in reversing the CPP, as well as the CAA.  But the West Virginia ruling falls in line with the belief of conservatives that climate change is a hoax.  That’s why energy companies overwhelmingly support Republican candidates.  I have to note West Virginia is a top coal producer.  It also ranks as one of the poorest states in the union.

In his statement regarding the Dobbs ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the Court should revisit other high-profile rulings, including Griswold vs. Connecticut, which declared the legal usage of contraceptives; Lawrence vs. Texas, which struck down anti-sodomy laws; and Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage.  Curiously, he didn’t call for a review of Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, which declared that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional or Loving vs. Virginia, which legalized interracial marriage.  I guess this is because overturning these decisions would impact Thomas, a Negro married to a White chick.  It’s amazing how some people have no problems enacting laws that wouldn’t affect them personally.

In the 1983 film “The Star Chamber”, Michael Douglas portrays a relatively young judge who becomes engaged with a group of other jurists who find the legal system has gone awry in favor of criminals and decide to enact vigilante justice to right those perceived wrongs.  They hire assassins to kill certain criminals who have escaped incarceration.  The movie is replete with scenes where highly articulate lawyers help defendants get out of trouble.  In one early scene, Hal Holbrook’s character tells Douglas, “Someone has hidden justice inside the law.”  It’s an attempt to justify the group’s brutal actions.

That’s how I often view the legal system.  Charismatic lawyers prancing around even the most heinous of crimes with carefully-crafted verbiage; a kind of Tolkien-style language only they understand, but something the rest of us have to deal with toiling away in the trenches of reality.  I certainly don’t recommend assassination as a viable resolution to our nation’s political ills.  That’s where the treasured right of voting comes into play.  People need to take their voting rights seriously and understand the significance of not voting.  We’ve seen the fruits of voter apathy in my home state of Texas.  In recent years, the right to vote has come under fire from conservatives.  As with many other rights, this isn’t a surprise.  Conservatives have always tried to suppress voting.  You know…the way totalitarian regimes like Russia have.  I’ve noted more than once that the (fair and legitimate) elections of Barack Obama prompted (mostly White) conservatives to launch their assault on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  During their convention last month, the Texas Republican Party called for repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which guarantees the right to vote regardless of race.  They did this because…well, because that’s what conservatives do – at least here in the U.S.  They were quick to abolish fascism in Europe during World War II, but weren’t so eager to do the same at home.

With this in mind, I wonder if many conservative queers who voted for the likes of George W. Bush and Ted Cruz are satisfied with their decisions.  Along with many mainstream right-wingers, some are ecstatic that Roe was overturned.  But now, I hate to see their reactions at the thought of reversing Lawrence or Obergefell.  But the neo-Nazi clowns who have targeted the so-called “liberal agenda” for years are coming for their faggot asses next!  I just hope they’ll be happy sitting in their designer closets polishing their Ronald Reagan Glee Club pins.

If anyone in the U.S. believes democracy is functioning just perfectly and nothing is wrong, they need to consider this: five of the current justices on the Supreme Court were chosen by presidents who did NOT win the popular vote.  George W. Bush didn’t really win the 2000 presidential election and he barely won the 2004 election; yet he was able to appoint two justices – Samuel Alito and John Roberts.  Donald Trump certainly didn’t win the 2016 presidential election (perhaps the most corrupt in U.S. history), but he was able to appoint three justices to the Court: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney-Barrett.  Gorsuch’s selection came because Republicans refused to grant President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, the decency of a hearing upon the death of Antonin Scalia in 2016; claiming it was an election year and the next president should choose the nominee.  However, Barrett’s nomination came after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2020.  The same band of Republicans who denied Garland a hearing rammed through Barrett’s confirmation without hesitation.

I don’t know if most Americans fully comprehend the significance of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe.  It could lead to much worse.  But this is what happens when people don’t bother to vote in even the most mundane of elections.  Liberals seem especially reticent to take local races seriously.  I can only recommend everyone concerned about our democracy to make that concerted effort to vote.  I understand how many people feel their votes don’t count, particularly after the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections and all the corruption involved in both.

Yet, democracy is not a natural form of governing.  Humanity is more likely to construct an oligarchy-style system.  In worse case settings, totalitarianism can take root, as it almost did with Donald Trump in the White House.  People need to be wary of the current U.S. Supreme Court and its fascist leanings, disguised as social conservatism.  (Then again, fascism and conservatism are pretty much the same ideology.)

It’s starting with the Roe reversal.  Unless we place more moderates into public office, it will only get worse.

Bottom image: Michael de Adder

3 Comments

Filed under Essays

Roe Back

“Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Abortion-rights and anti-abortion demonstrators gather outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

It has been one dream of conservatives for decades: overturning Roe vs. Wade.  The landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision guaranteed women the right to abortion, in accordance with the 9th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Now that goal has been achieved: earlier today, June 24, the Court has overturned Roe; thus gutting nearly a half century of reproductive freedom for women in the U.S.

It’s a stunning move and it’s left abortion supporters shell-shocked.  It doesn’t seem to matter that the majority of Americans support abortion to some extent.  Six justices on the Supreme Court have decided they don’t like the concept of abortion, so no woman should have access to it and no one should help a woman burdened with a crisis pregnancy.  It is the first time in U.S. history that a constitutional right has been granted and then rescinded.

Social and religious conservatives are ecstatic about this decision.  Although the Roe decision startled many people in 1973, the ruling didn’t really become an issue until the 1980s; when the evangelical Christian movement started to make its intrusive presence known.  They saw the election of Ronald Reagan as assurance that abortion would be outlawed in the U.S.

At least 26 states were ready to outlaw abortion under most circumstances, should Roe be overturned.  Now that it has, they are moving towards the annihilation.  Last year the legislature in my home state of Texas passed the so-called “Heartbeat Act”, which bans abortion after 6 weeks (before many women know they’re pregnant) and only allows it in cases where the mother’s life is endangered.  That means rape and incest victims will be forced to carry their pregnancies to term.  Any woman (or girl) who obtains an abortion and/or anyone who assists in that procedure could face up to $10,000 in statutory damages and face prison time.  Noticeably it doesn’t say anything about prosecuting men who rape women or girls.

The overturning of Roe perhaps will be one of Donald Trump’s greatest legacies, aside from his dismal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.  But it won’t so much be his legacy as it will be that of right-wing extremists – the people who loudly proclaim to cherish personal liberty and freedom, but in practice, mean it only for themselves.  Everyone else’s personal liberty – that is, people who aren’t exactly like them – is somehow subjective.

Abortion opponents are now presenting – as they always have – what they consider viable solutions to the dilemma of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies; quick fixes that are ridiculously quaint and utopian.  They recommend creating a society where every child comes into the world loved and respected; that women always have a safe and effective way to carry out their undesired pregnancies.  It’s tantamount to beauty pageant contestants expressing their wish for the blind to see and the lame to walk.  It’s wonderfully idealistic, yet extraordinarily delusional.  Such answers to some of life’s most complex issues are typical of the conservative mindset: simple and unencumbered.  That’s why I always say my brain is too big to be conservative.

In the 49 years since Roe was passed, it’s estimated that some 60 million abortions have taken place in the United States.  Abortion adversaries groan that it means some 60 million children never got a chance to grow up and have fulfilling lives.  But millions of children have come into the world under the best of circumstances and have never lived fulfilling lives.  The future is always uncertain, and occasionally things go awry in families.

It’s also possible that those estimated 60 million children could have been subjected to abuse and neglect.  Children who come into the world unwanted often end up being unloved.  I have to wonder if abortion opponents are going to dish out any additional cash to help support all those children.  It’s easy for them to lounge in their ivory towers – the way religious leaders often do – and bestow well wishes upon troubled souls.  Good intentions don’t pay diaper and formula bills; they don’t provide housing and education; they don’t deal with the daily angst of raising children.  They’re glossy words that lack substance, unless solid and concrete action is taken to make those lives better.

Liberals and moderates are already concerned that other Supreme Court decisions are at risk, such as Griswold and Lawrence.  Even Brown and Loving may come under similar attack.  As part of his decision to overturn Roe, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” referring to decisions on contraception, sodomy and same-sex marriage respectively.

Remember, the original Roe decision developed under the auspices of the right to privacy and equal protection under the law.  Those are essential and undeniable features of a truly democratic society.  Stripping any particular group of basic human rights isn’t a sign of a moral culture, as many social conservatives would have us believe.  It’s more emblematic of a totalitarian world; a universe where a handful of people have blessed themselves with the power to decide what is and what is not appropriate for everyone else.

If abortion opponents think this Dobbs decision will end abortion in the United States once and forever, they are mistaken.  After the initial shock has worn off (which is already happening), people will begin to fight back and find ways around it.  Whether right-wing extremists like it or not, abortion will happen.  There will always be women who find themselves in very difficult situations and feel they must end a pregnancy.  It’s been happening for centuries and it will continue happening, even though a band of self-righteous elitists demand otherwise.

Just wait for it.  They’ve awoken a giant.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

No Change

I could tell just from my parents’ facial expressions this was bad.  The gallery of people (mostly older men) in similar-looking attire reeked of authority.  For me, all of 9- and 10-years-old, the joy of our first color TV set in this newly-built suburban Dallas home dampened with the drone of voices in that crowd on the screen.  Coupled with my parents’ own head-shaking, I got the sense something was very wrong.  I had no idea.  This was my first exposure to the American political system.  They were the Watergate hearings.

This week marks 50 years since the notorious break-in at the Watergate Office Complex in Washington, D.C., by a gang of misfits operating under the orders of the president of the United States.  Richard Nixon had become so emboldened by his 1968 win that he dared to envision a world where he either had no enemies or enemies that were easily squashed.  He had narrowly lost the 1960 presidential race to John F. Kennedy and then lost a 1962 bid for the California governorship.  Thus, winning the presidency created an authoritarian desire in him to hold onto power at any cost.  He would do anything to ensure he won a second term – which he did, in one of the biggest election landslides in U.S. history.

As recollections of those events abound, the nation is currently encased in more political intrigue.  The January 6 hearings have been underway for a week now, and there’s no telling how long they will last.

In some ways, the events of January 6, 2021 are similar to Watergate.  Both were set off by presidents who wanted desperately to hold onto power and ended up disgracing themselves.  History is still building Donald Trump’s legacy, but at least Nixon legitimately won both of his terms in office.

Trump’s 2016 “win”, on the other hand, was a fluke – a blatant act of fraud in a profession where character often doesn’t really matter.  And, like Nixon, he would do anything to ensure he would serve a second term as U.S. president; the leader of a nation that has long held itself as a beacon of true democracy and freedom.  When the results of the 2020 presidential election began arriving, it became clear Trump was not the winner.  But, as now know, he and his equally maniacal supporters would not accept the results.  Trump had stated months earlier that he would only acknowledged the outcome if he won.  That was the egoist in him talking.  It was also the oligarch in him; a reality TV star who gleefully terminated people in front of cameras, just as he’d surely done during his own professional life.

For decades, many have said we need a businessman in the White House.  Well…we got on with Trump – although we’re now aware he’s not as successful as he claimed to be.  But, with his extreme wealth, he could afford to be brutally honest – a virtue that appealed to the angry (mostly White) masses; a group that had tired of diversity and inclusion and suddenly wanted to claim the victim mantel in the 21st century.

The businessman model failed with the Trump presidency.  In at least one other manner, Nixon resembles Trump.  He never truly admitted wrongdoing.  Just a few years after he left office, Nixon gave a series of carefully-crafted interviews with journalist David Frost, in which he defended his actions; reiterating that, “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal”.

Trump sees nothing wrong with the events of January 6, 2021.  From his pathetic vantage point, he did nothing wrong.  Even as the hearings proceed, he still insists he’s a victim of a rigged election system.  I’m sure Al Gore and Hillary Clinton would love to have a word with him about rigged elections.

Facing certain impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives, Nixon resigned the presidency in August of 1974 – the first and (to date) only American president ever to achieve that ignominious feat.  After an impassioned speech to his staff, he boarded the Marine 1 helicopter and left the White House grounds.  There was no gunfire; no bombings; no bloodshed.  The Nixons were dragged from their home and strung up in public, like Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu.  It wasn’t a Castro-type coup we’ve often seen in developing nations.

The events of January 6, 2021 were calamitous – and bloody.  Never has the U.S. Capitol been invaded and overrun by angry citizens.  That’s something that shouldn’t happen here; again, that’s a developing nation type of fiasco.  I’ve seen it on television and read about it in print – an oppressed people storming their national capitol to demand regime change.  We’ve seen it occur in Central America and the Philippines.  It happened across Eastern Europe, as the Soviet Union collapsed.

As the Watergate hearings proceeded throughout 1973 and ’74, more and more information came to light pointing to Nixon as the instigator of the entire mess.  The break-in wasn’t – as one individual dubbed it – a “third-rate burglary”.  The scandal was larger and deeper than anyone had imagined.  When the nefarious arrows finally began pointing back to Nixon, he resigned.  His reputation, along with that of many of his henchmen, disintegrated.  Their political careers were permanently ruined.

The January 6 hearings are almost theatrical.  There is no secret about what happened and who was responsible.  We know Trump urged his followers to “take back” the country and undermine the democratic process.  We know he demanded election officials in a number of states to find votes that would push him into a win.  We know he expected his Vice-President, Mike Pence, not to certify the 2020 election, as was his official duty.  And, to ingratiate the true horror of that day into our minds, video surveillance has been presented to the January 6 Committee showing the moment Pence had to be evacuated from the Capitol floor, as the rioters encroached.  Nixon demanded some people be silenced.  But, as far as we know, he never actually insisted they be murdered.

Everyone who runs for public office has to be somewhat egotistical; at the very least super-confident in themselves and what they have to offer.  They put themselves into the public arena and risk everything.  But egotism reaches dangerous proportions when the individual comes to believe they are better than everyone else and can do no wrong.  It’s nowhere more alarming than in politics where people who win elections are empowered to make decisions that impact the lives of millions.

In looking at Watergate and January 6, it’s amazing how fragile the democratic process remains.  It’s stunning how little seems to have changed.  It’s even more upsetting to think some people still see nothing wrong with any of it.

Image: Robert Pryor

3 Comments

Filed under Essays

Wolfgang at 20

Wolfgang, then Docker, at just a few months old in 2002.

When I saw that little ball of gray fur crawling around Tom’s* bare chest, I didn’t know what to think.  After he’d lost his older dog just a few days earlier, I honestly didn’t expect him to jump back into pet ownership mode.  My friendship with Tom soured by the end of that year, 2002, as his health apparently started to wane.  I never knew if he was being honest about that, but we had to part ways in January of 2003.  He left me with some $700 in debt.  But he also left me with the new puppy, a miniature schnauzer he named Docker.  I had grown attached to him since that day in August, when I first saw him.  We had agreed I’d take custody of him.  I renamed him Wolfgang.

If Wolfgang was still alive, today would be his 20th birthday.  He passed away in October of 2016, following a months-long battle with heart trouble.  But I maintain my father came out from the Great Beyond and snagged him.

By the end of 2002, Tom had decided he needed to return to his family home in far Northeast Texas to recuperate from whatever ailments were plaguing.  He had wanted to put up the puppy for sale, since he knew he couldn’t care for him.  I looked at that tiny ball of gray fur one evening, and his large dark brown eyes told me we belonged together.  I had started a new job with an engineering company in November 2002 and when I arrived home from work that Friday evening in January 2003, Wolfgang came bouncing out of Tom’s empty bedroom.  The dog was truly mine.

And I was concerned, almost frightened.  I wasn’t accustomed to having a dog around.  I hadn’t had an animal since 1985, when my parents and I put down our sick German shepherd, Josh.  We could never bring ourselves to get another dog again.  I’d seen so many residents of that apartment complex with small dogs and longed to have one of my own.  Now, here – I was an almost accidental pet owner.

We had a rough start.  I wasn’t used to dogs anymore.  I forgot, for example, that animal babies are like human babies in that they can’t control their bladders or bowels.  So I’d get mad at Wolfgang for messing on the floor.  And instantly regretted it.  He’s just a dog, I’d remind myself.

And that’s what I came to love and appreciate about him – he was a dog.  I eventually realized how comforting he could be; simply caressing his downy ears soothed whatever tensions had flooded my body and mind.  Any pet owner can empathize with me.  When I lived alone, his rambunctious greetings were an end-of-day highlight.  After I’d take him out for a brief walk and changed his water, we’d return to the apartment, where I’d strip down to my underwear and roll around on the floor with him.  His claw marks on my arms and back could testify to that.  But I also understood I was pretty much all he had.  I had my small collection of friends and my coworkers, but he spent most of his time alone.  Thus, I strongly considered getting another dog.  Dogs are pack animals and generally prefer the company of other canines.  I’d also come to feel that – in my 40s by this point – I didn’t need to be around other people.

I grew so attached to Wolfgang I considered him my child; an adopted child, but a kid nonetheless.  My love and devotion were so intense I seriously considered getting him a social security number to register him as a dependent.  I also realized something else: he was the meanest little critter on four legs I’d ever known in my life!

Any concept I had about small dogs being little more than adorable playthings was shattered with Wolfgang.  He was almost fearless.  The name I’d bestowed upon him truly fit his boisterous personality.  At most he weighed about 26 pounds (18 kg), but I know he viewed himself as the same size as that German shepherd.  Strangely he had a voice to match.  People who heard, but didn’t see him, thought Wolfgang was a monstrous canine.  Every vocalization that came out of him was loud – even his yawns!  You know you’re loud when someone can hear your yawns in the next room.

By 2007, my father’s health had started to decline.  He and my mother were in their late 70s.  That fall I made the decision to move back in with them; into this house where I had grown up.  It was a difficult time, as I’m such an introvert and was used to living alone.  I enjoy my privacy and personal space.  But it turned out to be for the best.

Shortly after moving in, I underwent foot surgery.  I placed Wolfgang in a room next to my bedroom and behind a dog gate.  As attached as he was to me, I knew he’d want to accost me in his usual manner when I returned from the hospital.  But hobbling in on crutches would have me too vulnerable.  After I got settled into bed, I told my parents to let Wolfgang come into the room.  Once he entered he slammed his front paws into the side of the bed, as if trying to ensure I was alright, before turning to my parents and unleashing a vociferous round of barks and growls.  His lips were pulled back as far as they could go; something dog owners know is a troubling sign.  I’d never seen him so angry.  But I knew that was also a gesture of how much he cared about me.

As time progressed, I became more ensconced in this house, and Wolfgang grew into a central figure in the lives of me and my parents.  That little dog somehow unified the household.  No matter the issue, he always brought things into focus.  My father developed a special bond with him; announcing Wolfgang was all the therapy he needed.  Indeed, as he’d already done with me, Wolfgang provided a heartening degree of therapeutic consolation.

In early 2016, Wolfgang began experiencing strange – and frightening – seizure-like episodes.  He’d struggle to breathe, as he’d squirm on the floor.  The vet diagnosed him with a heart murmur and placed him on medication, which stopped the seizures.

Shortly afterwards, my father’s health took a turn for the worst and he was hospitalized in May of that year.  He had suffered from gastrointestinal illnesses for his entire adult life and had major abdominal surgery in January 2008.  He was relatively fine for a few years, before he started getting sick again.

By Memorial Day weekend 2016, I told his doctors it was time for him to come home.  My father had said repeatedly he wanted to die in this house; the home he and my mother had worked so hard to get and keep.  And I wanted to honor that wish.

Over the next two weeks, Wolfgang would wander into my parents’ bedroom and start to climb onto the bed on my father’s side.  In his weakened state, I saw my father lift his left hand up and stroke Wolfgang’s head.  And both would sigh.

On Monday, June 6, 2016, I had sat down to watch the local noon news.  Wolfgang lay quietly beside the coffee table.  Then the lights flickered, and I felt a strange drop in air pressure.  I noticed Wolfgang lift his head and turn to his left.  He then rose slowly and sauntered down the hall; he stopped in front of my parents’ closed bedroom door and looked at me.  I knew then my father was gone.

Throughout that summer and into the fall of that year, Wolfgang’s behavior changed.  He became more subdued and less rambunctious – something I attributed to his age.  But I noticed he’d often look off into the distance and occasionally wander into my parents’ empty bedroom.  And stare.  I’d stare at him, knowing he was seeing my father.  In the last couple of years before his death, my father would run his fingers through Wolfgang’s fur and tell him “we’re going to go together.”  A secret, I realized – one he was relaying quietly to the dog, yet loud enough for me to hear.  In my father’s formal obituary in the “Dallas Morning News”, I mentioned Wolfgang – describing him as a canine “grandson”.

During the last weekend in October 2016, Wolfgang became especially lethargic – and cantankerous.  I became annoyed with him, but reminded myself again he was just a dog.  Then, by Wednesday morning, I realized I had to take him to the vet; he was critical.  As I rushed to the office less than two miles away, I begged him to stay with me; that I loved him more than most anyone else.  But it was too late.  The doctor couldn’t save him.  I leaned over him and whispered again that I loved him and to go with his “granddad”, my father.  The vet receptionist stood in the room with us and was already tearing up.

Then she looked up and seemed to sniff the air.  “What’s that?”

I smelled it, too.  It was the scent of Chaps – my father’s favorite cologne.

As tough as it was dealing with the deaths of my father and Wolfgang within a five month period, I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about either in the following years.  My mother’s health continued to worsen, as her descent into dementia intensified.  She finally passed away in June of 2020.

In the years since, I’ve realized how lonely it is without a dog.  I miss my parents, but I also miss Wolfgang.  During some down moments, I often see shadows of a small figure trotting down the hallway and think I need to limit my alcohol intake.  But I’ve also seen that tiny character in my dreams; virtual somnambulations I know are messages from my father.  Animals, it seems, are conduits for hope and love.

In the 1970s and 80s, Josh provided a unique brand of emotional support for various levels of my anxiety – from childhood into young adulthood.  Losing him traumatized me more than I could imagine at the time and ranks as one of the worst events of my life.  Losing Wolfgang wasn’t nearly as traumatic, since I knew he was old and suffering health problems that come with age.  When he turned 10 in 2012, I told my parents we needed to start preparing ourselves for his death.  We hadn’t done the same with Josh.

Wolfgang in December 2010

Stupid animals!  They wrap our hearts around them, make us fall in love with them – and then go off and die.  But they leave that stamp on our souls that we can never eliminate.  But who would?

A generation ago people grieved the loss of pets in solitude.  Yet we now view animals with a greater sense of appreciation.  Wolfgang’s veterinarian cremated him and returned the ashes to me in a small wooden box that I now keep on the same dresser my parents used.  A photo of him hangs beneath a photo of my father and me at a family Christmas gathering in the 1990s.  Another photo of him sits between my parents’ urns on the fireplace hearth.  A photo of Josh sits off to the left, looking towards all of them.

Happy 20th Birthday, Wolfgang!

This box now sits on my dresser amidst photos of other deceased loved ones.

*Name changed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

Total Madness

Children flee Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 2022.

They’re like recurring allergies – they just keep hitting over and over.  But we have a bevy of cures for allergies.  We don’t seem to have many for the sickening epidemic of mass shootings in the U.S.

As of this day, the U.S. has experienced over 250 mass shootings in 2022 – more than the number of days thus far in the year.  A mass shooting is defined as an event where four or more individuals are shot, not including the actual assailant.

Two recent massacres – 10 people in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and 21 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas – have garnered considerable attention.  The Buffalo calamity was racially-motivated, and the Uvalde event was the worst school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, ConnecticutBetween the Buffalo and Uvalde episodes, the U.S. experienced 14 other mass shootings.  Let that sink into your brain for a few minutes.

The gun issue has always been sensitive and controversial.  Hardline gun rights advocates have consistently placed the value of their sacred firearms over the right of people to live peacefully and happily.  Even more aggravating is a recent survey where 44% of Republican voters say mass shootings are one price we have to pay for living in a free society.  Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.  Ironically, many of these people consider themselves pro-life.

On the other side, far left gun control proponents want to eliminate all firearms for private citizens; believing that – in this violent, imperfect world – we only need herbal tea and kind words to solve every crisis.  These are the same people who get so emotional it’s almost painfully embarrassing to watch them recount their ordeals.  I understand these are horrific events, but the time for tears and anguish has already passed.

And that’s what I want to communicate to liberals.  Stop crying!  It’s time to get mad, stand up and yell back at these idiotic gun nuts whose only resolution to firearm blood baths is another weapon and a few thoughts and prayers.  Thoughts and prayers serve as little more than toilet paper for the carnage.

In the immediate aftermath of both Buffalo and Uvalde, as more talk of gun violence and gun control arose, we heard the usual cadre of right-wing loudmouths more worried (as always) that the rights of “law-abiding gun owners” could be desecrated.

Spare me the narrow-minded anxiety!

People have more of a right to live than anyone has a right to own a gun.  And no, they aren’t equally significant.  But conservatives campaigning for public office consistently point out one characteristic: they are pro-Second Amendment.  I see these ads every election cycle, especially here in Texas.  They always skip over the First Amendment, which ensures free speech and peaceable assembly and guarantees the right to vote.  Again, the twisted priorities of the conservative mindset.

Last year, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed several pieces of legislation into law that declared the state to be a “Second Amendment sanctuary”, I wasn’t shocked.  But I was angry.  This is the same governor who oversaw blatant attacks on the right to vote by dismissing the reality of gerrymandering in the state and allowing for partisan poll watchers.  In older days, partisan poll watchers across the South carried guns and would deliberately intimidate (mostly non-White) voters.  Conservatives steadily bemoan the myth of rampant voter fraud, while ignoring the very real pandemic of gun violence.

For the first anniversary of the 1999 Columbine school massacre, a national news network interviewed several of those first responders.  One man stated that he was particularly upset that the perpetrators (two teenage boys) had included girls among their victims.  He said could understand them shooting boys, “but they shot girls, too.”  I literally stopped when I heard him say that.  Aside from the shock value of the verbiage, that he could differentiate between the genders of the victims and therefore categorize his horror level proved how complacent people in this country have become towards violence.  It certainly was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.

The outrage continued in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, when the U.S. Senate held a hearing on gun violence in the nation and the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre sat with a scowl on his face and became defensively hostile with every question lobbed at him.  And, as usual, liberals wept, while conservatives grunted.  And then…nothing.  Nothing happened.  No new legislation to address gun violence; no new funding for mental health counseling…nothing.  With that, it seemed the gun violence debate in the United States ended.  We’d accepted the murder of helpless children and thus, nothing more could be done.

At this point, I really don’t hold out much hope for any kind of movement on the legislative front.  Politics has gotten in the way of public service.  So, what’s new?

I remain as tired of the crying from liberals as I am of the concern for gun owner rights from conservatives.  If only the latter group understood the extent of the damage caused by bullet wounds, then perhaps they’d rethink their commitment to ensuring gun rights over human rights.  It’s time for we progressives to get mad and shout down the right-wing extremists who proudly pose with their firearms for family holiday photos the way most normal-minded folks pose with their children and pets, armed with little more than smiles.  The saccharine responses from the horrified won’t result in any considerable change.  They’ll just fade into the morass of national traumas.

Then we’ll have another mass shooting – in a school or some public venue.  And the cycle of tears and excuses will begin all over again.

3 Comments

Filed under Essays

Gone

Paul in New York City, Memorial Day weekend 1997

In 1983, when I was 19 years old, I visited a doctor for some long-forgotten reason.  Before then I had noticed a slight leftward tilt in my torso, even when I stood perfectly straight.  As a gymnast, perfect form was essential.  It still is for that matter.  When I mentioned it to the doctor, he said, “Oh, that’s scoliosis.”  In my naiveté, he might as well have said, ‘You have terminal cancer and have about six months to live.’  I honestly knew nothing about scoliosis, so after he left the room, I began contemplating my 19 years on Earth and what kind of mark I’d made on my loved ones.  I took it that seriously.

When the doctor returned after a few moments, I inquired further, and he explained in greater detail what scoliosis is and what causes it.  My anxiety came across as mere curiosity.  I had learned to act and – as a typical male – hide my emotions.  If the bastard only knew how terrified I was…

One of my long-time friends, Paul, died on April 9 after a year-long battle with liver cancer.  He was 55.  I’d written about him previously.  Paul and I had known each other for some 35 years.  We actually attended the same parochial grade school in Dallas and were altar boys at the same Catholic Church.  Our fathers had grown up together in East Dallas in the 1930s and 40s.  Like me, Paul had a strong dedication to family.  We had so much in common, yet differed on many levels.  We often dined together, and during one meal a few years ago, he asked why I still hung around him.  I couldn’t really answer him.  In some respects, he had an elitist mentality; in part, I think, because of his years living in New York and his trips to Europe.  We had something of a love/hate relationship.  We’d have a dispute over some issue and would be estranged from each other for weeks and sometimes months.

Aside from good food, one love we shared was cinema.  Among our favorite films was the campy 1962 classic “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”.  The movie is like a steak cooked rare – an acquired taste.  We often jokingly referred to ourselves as ‘Blanche’ and ‘Baby Jane’, the dueling sisters of the story enmeshed in an unbreakable union of alcohol, bitter memories and dated outfits.  Yes, I know that sounds gay, but bear with me.  We watched a slew of films over the years and afterwards, critiqued them like an amateur Siskel and Ebert duo over cocktails.

Like me, Paul desired a career in the motion picture field.  In the mid-1980s, I studied filmmaking at the University of North Texas.  In 1991, Paul moved to New York to study the same at New York University.  He earned his degree three years later and remained in New York; trying to secure his place in one of the most fickle industries in one of the toughest cities in the world.  He finally decided to move back to Dallas in 1996 whereupon we began hanging out together again.

The friendship connection extended to our respective families.  I’d come to know his parents, and he had come to know mine.  We experienced each other’s struggles with family, friends, romance and work – you know, the usual stuff of life.  When he lived in a tiny apartment, he had Christmas parties every year, with plenty of food and beverages.  As much as it cost him, he told me, the gatherings made him happy.  And it made others happy.  They were simple times, but they were good.

I’ve written before about losing a close friend to AIDS in 1993 and how I got sick with hepatitis at the same time; how that prevented me from attending his funeral; how that made me feel I had betrayed his mother at the last moment by abandoning them – like so many of her son’s so-called friends had done.  I noted how the bonds of friendship are tested during the worst times of our lives.  I’m proud to say I’ve often been that ‘True’ friend and equally happy to say I have ‘True’ friends among my inner circle.

Paul and I had a dispute at the end of 2020.  The source?  A “New York Times” editorial about the unexpected support Donald Trump received from Hispanics in Texas.  I expressed surprise, but Paul (who had grown increasingly conservative) said it made perfect sense to him.  A short time later he learned he had liver cancer.  As 2021 progressed, his health worsened, and our mutual desire to reconnect increased.  We were old friends, after all, getting to be old men.  Or as I like to call it – the tail end of middle age.  A news editorial shouldn’t be a permanent barrier to good memories.

When Paul’s sister called me that Saturday night to inform me of his death, she asked, “Are you sitting down?”

“Is he gone?” I replied.

I already knew the answer.

One of my last text messages with Paul

I’ve been going through a lot personally in recent months.  Paul’s demise only adds to it.  There’s nothing like the death of a relative or close friend to put our lives into perspective; to understand what is truly important and valuable.

The funeral was this past Wednesday, the 20th.  Beneath a cloudy sky, I stood beside a mutual and much younger friend who was doing everything not to burst out crying.  I wrapped an arm around him and told him these moments are what make life so hard.  We have to deal with the deaths of people we know and love – family, friends, coworkers.  It’s what allows people to survive and reach a certain age.  Paul buried both his parents, a beloved aunt, his older brother and two nephews.  For whatever reason, his time here had ended.

Another mutual friend told me shortly after he’d learned of Paul’s death that he had dreamed of him.  “I didn’t know if it was the edible I’d eaten earlier,” he added.  But he said Paul told him he was happy now; he felt good and was safe.

I have to admit that – as bad as I’ve been feeling lately – I bore some envy of Paul.  He was no longer suffering.  All his pain had gone.  He didn’t have to worry about credit card bills, taking out the trash – or wondering if he was going to wake up the next day.  He also won’t get to live out his dreams of being a screenwriter.

When each of my parents died, I told people my only consolation was that they were no longer suffering from physical agonies.  But they had lived long lives and they’d achieved the best they could, given their circumstances.

I suppose Paul had done the same in his 55 years.

Living our best lives is all we should do with whatever time we have.

2 Comments

Filed under Essays

Brats

It was the slap seen around the world.  During the single most awkward moment at this past Sunday’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ annual Oscar ceremony, actor Will Smith got so mad when presenter Chris Rock made cheap comment at the appearance of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, that he stormed the stage and literally smacked him across the face.  Rock – a comic already known for his abrasive sense of humor – was about to present the award for Best Feature Length Documentary, when he started his usual routine of picking on some of his fellow celebrities – including the Smiths who were seated in the front row.

In recent years Jada has been suffering from alopecia, so she sat beside her husband with her bald head.  In an industry that puts so much emphasis on looks, with most everyone – especially women – trying to out-coiffure and out-style one another, Jada appeared defiant and comfortable with her new-found condition.  If not comfortable, at least accepting.  When Rock turned to her and said, “G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” he was referencing the 1997 movie “G.I. Jane” about a fictional first female Navy SEAL candidate, where actress Demi Moore portrayed the title character and even shaved her head as part of her method-style acting.  If you watch the moment, it’s obvious Will got the joke and started to laugh.  But his wife rolls her eyes, as if she was suddenly offended.  At that point, Will snapped and practically ambushed Rock, then proceeded to curse him out once back at his seat.

The audience gasps are audibly apparent, and the mood suddenly darkened.  What many in the theatre and global audience thought was a staged incident turned out to be brutally real.  Will Smith really slapped Chris Rock across the face!  Rock – in his usual comedic, show-must-go-on persona – seemed to brush off the incident and continued with his presentation.

Things seemed to get more awkward when – some 35 minutes later – Smith won the Best Actor award.

But the response has been insane and surreal.  Social media (of course) blew up with Smith defenders and critics, as memes mocking the fiasco exploded across the cyber universe.  The incident made national news, and late night talk show hosts have had fun with it.

The Oscar ceremonies have dealt with plenty of controversy over the decades.  A kerfuffle arose over Hattie McDaniel’s Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in “Gone with the Wind”.  She was the first African-American to be nominated for and to win an Oscar in any category.  Just as many eyebrows were raised when “Midnight Cowboy” became the first (and to date, only) X-rated film to win a Best Picture Oscar.  George C. Scott created a tiff when he refused to accept his 1970 Best Actor Oscar for “Patton”.  One of the biggest fiascos arose two years later, when Marlon Brando didn’t appear at the Oscar ceremonies to receive his Best Actor award for “The Godfather”.  Protesting the treatment of Native Americans, he sent a would-be actress attired in Indian headdress to speak for him.  The audience booed her as she exited the stage.  The following year saw another unexpected moment, when a male streaker pranced across the stage behind David Niven.

Over the past several days, just about everyone has an opinion about the Rock-Smith flap.  Ricky Gervais tweeted a clip from his popular TV show “The Office” that pokes fun at alopecia.  Like Rock, Gervais is known for his unbridled humor.  If everyone who got offended by his jokes took a swing at him, a coroner would have to identify him by whatever little pulp of his flesh remained.  Comedian Kathy Griffin – definitely no stranger to controversy – worried openly that Will Smith’s actions could pose a danger to everyone in her profession, if the incident goes unchecked.

It has to be noted that Smith apologized to the Academy during his acceptance speech, but waited until the next day to apologize to Rock.  Jada has now opined and called for a “season of healing” – whatever that’s supposed to mean.  These latter two statements naturally came out on social media.

The matter took a more serious turn when the Academy’s Board of Governors decided to convene and discuss possible actions against Smith, including stripping him of his award. That has never happened in the institute’s history. If bad behavior on or off stage is reason to rescind someone’s Oscar, then the majority of recipients would be award-less.

The show’s producer, Will Packer, now confirms that Academy officials asked Will Smith to leave the Dolby Theatre, but he refused.  Moreover, Los Angeles police (who are always present for such a large-scale event) entered the chaos and said they could arrest Smith.  After all, it was felony assault.  Packer says he deferred to Rock who refused to demand Smith be arrested.  Now, this about this for a moment.  How many of you believe you could bitch-slap someone in a public forum and then be given the option of vacating the premises?

One unique irony of the incident is that, just last week, Jada posted a TikTok video stating she doesn’t give “two craps” what people think of her now and how she looks.  So what happened at Sunday night’s event?  She suddenly got offended?  Or is that woman’s prerogative to change her mind suddenly manifest itself?

I couldn’t care less.  One egotistical celebrity attacking another egotistical celebrity because his feelings were hurt amidst a pack of overrated zealots gathered to bloviate how wonderful they all are doesn’t bother me.  Will Smith’s actions shouldn’t surprise anyone.  After all, he’s a rapper at heart, so violence and vulgarity are in his blood.  Neither he nor his wife are exactly class acts.

Jada admitted a few years ago that she had strayed from their union on more than one occasion.  She confessed to having entanglements – meaning she fucked around.  But Hollywood is like Washington, D.C.: if you want loyalty, get a dog.

Understand one thing: Jada is suffering from alopecia – not cancer!  She’s losing her hair – not her life!  Considering that thousands of our military personnel from returned from Afghanistan and Iraq without limbs – if they didn’t come home in body bags – and what’s happening now in Ukraine, it’s really tough for me to feel sorry for an over-hyped actress who has an image problem.

Jada is a selfish, egotistical wench who went from empowered to pissed off in a nanosecond.  And her husband felt into her trap as he let himself get sucked into the proverbial chivalrous role of male protector; a man willing to become violent to uphold the dignity of his woman.  In this case, a woman who had already disrespected him by entangling with other people and then playing the victim when someone made a joke about her hair.  Spare me the drama!

Of all the antics I’ve seen at the Oscar festivities, I have NEVER seen anyone physically assault another person!  This is truly a first.

The show produced a few other unique firsts.  “CODA” became the first film with a majority physically challenged cast to win the Best Picture Oscar.  Troy Kotsur became the first deaf man to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, while Ariana DeBose became the first queer woman of color to win Best Supporting Actress.  (Curiously, DeBose won the same award for the same role that Rita Moreno won 60 years ago.  They’re the only two Hispanic actresses to win acting Oscars – something that annoys me more than a fight over hair follicles.)

On Friday, April 1, Smith declared that he will resign from the Academy.  But the damage is already done.

The Rock-Smith incident will forever be sealed into the memory of the American public.  No one who saw it – either as it played out or later – will ever forget it.  Will Smith will forever be known as the guy who struck someone on live television in front of a global audience.  His award does not overshadow what he did to Chris Rock; what he did to Chris Rock will overshadow his award.  No matter what he says or does now, he will never be able to escape that.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

Finis

There are a number of things that terrify people: spiders, darkness, getting stranded on a desolate road in East Texas.  But, in this modern age, one thing horrifies people more than seeing another Starbucks pop up in the neighborhood – your computer crashing.  For decades we’ve been led to believe technology is our mechanical savior; it will make our lives easier and more productive at all times.  And, to some extent, that’s true.

But when that dreaded “Blue Screen of Death” materializes, it’s worse than learning you need to shop again for homeowner’s insurance.  That’s what happened to me recently, when my 11-year-old desktop PC apparently decided it had enough of me and my cyber antics and took its own life.  It explains why I didn’t post anything last weekend.  I try to be consistent.  Of course, I tried to be consistent in pursuing my adult film career some 20 years ago – but obviously nobody had faith in my sexy technical writer persona.

Anyway…the old bastard died (the PC), and I was stranded.  Fortunately, I still had my father’s desktop PC, and a long-time neighbor/friend helped me yank out the hard drive from mine and showed me how to install it temporarily into this other one.  I still wasn’t able to pull any of my old data off of it, but I’m glad I back everything up onto a zip drive once a month.

So not all was lost.

All of my writings were on that zip drive, which – I guess to any writer – is one of those lifesaving moments.  Kind of like realizing there is at least one place that still sells your favorite wine.

And a writer without their collection of stories is like…well, a porn star without lube!

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

Neuro-Excited

As The Chief continues his technical writing pursuits, I periodically encounter some odd elements.

In the email below, for example, the recruiter either wasn’t familiar with the English language or they tried to be inspirational.  But yeah!  There are few things more exciting than looking for a job!  I mean what reasonable person doesn’t enjoy the rigor of composing a perfect correspondence to a potential employer – especially if they’re desperate to find a job.

Then there’s this beauty below.  While applying for another tech writing job last December, I had to complete a section which asked a question I’d never seen before.

‘Do you identify as neurodivergent.’

Neurodivergent?!  I actually had to look that up – and was offended they’d made such an inquiry.

For years companies have been taking people’s fingerprints and making copies of their driver’s licenses.  I never had a problem with that and always acquiesced.  It was just part of the hiring process.

I’ve also undergone drug screenings, which entail urinating into a plastic cup.  I still find that more intrusive than anything and – after my last such screening a few years ago – vowed never to do it again.  In that incident I inadvertently starting washing my hands after stepping out of the room, which I didn’t know was forbidden.  I’d already handed the cup to the gloved associate who had been standing immediately outside.  When she practically hollered at me for reaching towards the sink, one of her colleagues (they were both female) passed by and made some chicken-shit comment about men not being able to follow instructions.  They began laughing to which I promptly responded, “Excuse you!”  That seemed to upset them, but I will not be disrespected.  Imagine if male associates had said something similar to a woman.

Now some employers are asking for proof of COVID vaccinations.  And exactly what type of shot I received!  And from where!  That’s when I stop being conciliatory.  I simply told one recruiter ‘NO’.  I would not tell them exactly what type of anti-COVID vaccine I received, much less provide a copy of the card displaying my personal data.  If it’s a remote position, who really cares if I’m vaccinated?!  I received both shots, each of which made me ill.

Understand I’m not some right-wing extremist or a Canadian truck driver.  I think the COVID hysteria has reached a crescendo.

But neurodivergent?!  That’s a new one, which I find as intrusive as the cup thing.

Several years ago a human resources associate with the energy company where I worked asked if I’d had personality disputes with coworkers.

“Come on now,” I replied.  “You’ve been around long enough to know, when you gather different people from different backgrounds in one location to work together, inevitably there’ll be some conflict.”

My elaborate answer seemed to surprise her.  I surmise she was accustomed to hearing something like, ‘Oh never!’  Or, ‘Of course not.  I get along with everybody.  I’m a people person.’

But she had to concede I was right.  A company never knows what they’re going to get when they hire someone new.

Neurodivergent?!

This moment came a few months after I’d had a heated text discussion with a long-time acquaintance who lives in California.  He was involved with two younger men – a couple he’d met on a dating site.  He described one of them as somewhat anti-social, adding that the guy’s mental aptitude fell along the autism spectrum.  He went further, though, declaring that people who aren’t good in dealing with other people are borderline autistic.

It stunned me.  I’ve never been good in dealing with other people.  My parents could never understand why I had such a tough time making friends.  But no one had ever deemed me autistic.  To me autism is just one step above mental retardation.  My California acquaintance tried to assure me he wasn’t insinuating I’m mentally retarded, but I remain unconvinced.  He doesn’t really know me.  We’ve never even met.  So I found his cyber-assessment of me as autistic insulting.

I answered no to the “neurodivergent” inquiry, but I wished there had been another option: ‘Who gives a shit!’

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays