Tag Archives: stories

A Life Reflection — Back by Popular Request (the Obama Campaign and a Voluntaryism-ist)

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Apparently I am more enjoyable when writing about myself than anything else. Awesome. So I can just be a huge narcissist and people will read it up. (Get it? Like, instead of “eat it up?” Ha…ha…ha…).

Ok. There are so many things I could write about. Like, I worked for the Obama campaign in Colorado. I could write about that. Except I can’t really remember what happened. It’s just a blur of 90-or-so-hour weeks filled with calling people I didn’t know on the phone and having the same conversations over and over again. Not to suggest that I didn’t enjoy the repetition of conversations about whether Obama was ahead or behind in the polls, except, well, I didn’t.

I ate a lot of ramen. And a weird assortment of vegetables and one or two homemade pies provided by volunteers (no, I was not in the routine of baking anything given that I basically fell into bed every night). I lived with people who were wonderful Democratic supporters and we were all communal and familial and it was nice, if exhausting.

And about halfway through, they even gave me my own office — cool, right? My red county voted 40% for Obama, which was significantly better than predicted. Oh, rural folk, you are close to my heart.

In any case, it was an exciting deal. I like organizing things and having precise instructions. But it makes me wonder if I will ever have a long-term position in my life. Because most of what I’ve done thus far (professionally or in volunteer work) is bit-sized, small chunks of bigger projects.

Just now I was trying to think of the right parallel word for professionally in terms of volunteer work and it reminded me of a strange anarchist type person that I met in a pizza shop while I was registering voters. Of course, he and his brethren insisted they were voting for Gary Johnson, and by the end of the conversation he ended up sending me a link to the definition of the philosophy of “voluntaryism” that suggests all forms of human association in groups should be voluntary. It’s not a concept I’m completely at odds with, but then I also sort of think it’s a child’s philosophy (i.e. we should never have to do anything we don’t want to do), and I think there are real benefits to growing up (i.e. responsibility for one’s actions, making contributions to public goods even when we don’t really want to, etc). Granted, I have not read extensively about voluntaryism. But Wikipedia offers a offers a peak at it that only too clearly suggests it’s not much for social welfare. I’m pretty big on social welfare, social responsibility, that sort of thing.

What I’m really trying to show you is what my job was like, every day. When you start walking up to random people, registering them to vote, or trying to get them to actually follow through and vote, you open yourself up to all sorts of exposure to their ideas and world view. Sometimes they’re nice/thoughtful/grateful. Sometimes they’re opinionated/angry/confused. Almost always, if they open the door to having a conversation with you (literally or figuratively), people want to tell you what they think. And that is both interesting and occasionally mind-numbing.

If nothing else, I learned a great deal about things like voluntaryism, and I heard a great many personal stories about felons voting rights, veterans’ disabilities, shut-ins’ lives, oxygen tanks, illegal immigration, health care reform, Obama’s desire to alter the American flag, adoption, and religion.

So maybe I remember a few things.

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To write long or short?

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Facing another writing dilemma.

I have some stories to work on. They’re short — the right number of words for your average modern-day short story.

And then there’s this novel that has decided to creep up on me and out of me. Sure, that’s what writers say, right? That stories just sort of show up and determine their own arc and line, etc. Unfortunately, I think I might be one of those writers. I just don’t always know what’s going to come out of my hands when I start. And then you can misplace ideas just when you need them, or I can — if I talk out an idea for too long it goes and hides under the metaphorical couch and waits until I move all the furniture to surface again. The problem being that now I am writing but it may or may not be useful and I need it to be useful because I have to write my dissertation.

Short stories? Novel that has no end in sight? This is not really the sort of dilemma I like to have.

Grandma Ranch

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Today is my Grandma Ranch’s birthday. I am so lucky to have her. I wrote this poem for a class last year. I don’t know that she would remember the stories in the same way — they change when they’re retold, don’t they? In any case, thanks for being such a powerful person, Grandma; I love you. Happy birthday.

Going Home

I have been in the kitchen
where my grandmother turned
with a frying pan in hand
to face Italian mafia men
and Detroit cops
who bought hunting advice
and guns at the same shop
ended up at the same ranch
and nearly had a knife fight
there, in the kitchen.

I have stood on the ground
where my grandfather’s mother
homesteaded, left behind
a wood frame in tall grass
that stayed on falling down
for years into my childhood
until the year a fire consumed
180,000 acres of Montana around our ranch
and the land up Trout Creek.

I have passed the one-room schoolhouse
where another grandmother taught the ranching children
who walked all the miles
even in winter
back and forth
and I know the story of the one
so cold when he arrived
that my grandmother had to run warm
water and rub and rub
to thaw his blue black fingers.

And I am proud
although the nobility of it
escapes me sometimes
when I notice everything has remained the same.
These women are only remembered
by their daughters.

I am tired of wisdom in resignation.

The funniest thing that happened in Edinburgh

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I need to tell this story because when I told it to my cousin he laughed really hard and it became a slightly-strange inside joke during my weekend visit. And it’s pretty funny, objectively speaking. Because obviously humor is objective.

When my wolf pack visited, I was really happy about it — having established the rule about no ruffies. They arrived in Edinburgh and we started with a pub, got classy for a minute in a jazz bar, and then subtracted all the classiness we’d accrued by moving on to a “club” called the Hive that featured, among other impressive attributes, a lot of 16-year-olds. We paid the cover like it was no big deal and went right in because why wouldn’t we go to a rave with teenagers? And we danced to music that alternates between the utterly recognizable “Mambo No. 5” (because it came out in 1999 — yes, that is when I listened to pop obsessively) and things that are apparently popular now, like maybe “Wild Ones” by Flo Rida featuring Sia. (Un)fortunately I’m really not up on the pop scene anymore. Although I’m feeling Sia, so maybe I’m still cool.

Ok, but that was a digression. We dance. It’s fun. We go up to a stage to stash our coats on it because, well, coat checking — who does that? And then something crazy happens. We’re walking back to a central location in a little train (as required when traversing crowds in a group) and some child pinches my ass.

Maybe you don’t think this is crazy.

But I’m extremely sheltered and found it traumatizing. Or maybe that’s not exactly the word. I was upset. I may have been angry. Do peeps know I’m a little bit into feminism? Well, I felt I should let this person know that pinching my ass was unacceptable, but it took me a about three seconds to get to that conclusion because I really was a little shocked.

As the anger materialized, I considered options, and turned, but found myself pulled along through the crowd so that I could hardly reach the kid, let alone grab his t-shirt and say something really smart in his face like they do in the movies. Let’s be honest, I have no idea what I would have said. I mean — I can fume, but I don’t know how to fight or anything and my defenses might be vaguely laughable in situations like these.

But I had to take action! So I reached back through the crowd and flicked the dude in the side of the face. Flicking is good, right? Solid decision?

I wasn’t sure I’d made good contact, though, so I tried to push through and really get him, but this is the moment when one of the wolf pack saw me looking pissed and reaching through the crowd kind of like a crazy person.

So he also took action, thinking, I’m sure, that I was about to pick a fight with teenagers, that I might be actually about to hit a teenager, and that he should stop me. Which is reasonable, but I was really mad because what I had done was absurdly funny and also because I tend to assume that everyone should know what I’m thinking and intending at all times — especially my friends — such that I was upset he didn’t read my mind and know that I was only flicking. We had to fight about it a little bit, but I can understand why friends should not let friends beat up pathetic ass-pinchers.

However, flicking is and should continue to be allowed. It’s like the international symbol for “you’re annoying.”

A Wordless Lime

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Today, I am at a loss.

There are things I need to write. For example, I have two essays, for unrelated purposes, and I should definitely be working on a story. If only stories came out of me like poems. Then again, if I had to turn them in such that others were required to read them, I am sure they would not flow out so easily. As it is, anyone reading my poetry is doing so by choice, which makes me feel less self-conscious, I think, and maybe less self-important, too.

One of the essays is very important, and very short, but I am afraid to commit myself to a particular topic and thereby cast out other options, other important arguments and ideas. And I know so little — how can I write something that will show both my awareness of my tiny knowledge and also demonstrate that my brain is interesting and dedicated to learning?

It is a very open-ended essay. I would rather write a poem.

I probably need to call my mother.