Friday, August 10, 2012

"Goodbye, Bigot"

Westboro Baptist Church.

I know God loves everybody, but this hatemongering group of zealots – led by Fred Phelps – is collectively just awful. WBC's website address includes "godhatesfags."

Yes, really.

I read a heartbreaking post on Give a Damn ( ) about a young man whose father disowned him – by letter – because the son is gay and father is a fundamentalist Christian. Father signed the letter "Goodbye, Dad."

Nothing funny about that.

But down in the responses I read a gem I just have to share here. One poster suggested the father should have signed the letter "Goodbye, Bigot" and another asked if that was the sequel to the children's book "Goodnight, Moon" (a much-loved favorite at our home). Fred Phelps and his terrible legacy were mentioned.

In response, here's what one poster eventually offered up as an appropriate tribute to Phelps at his future funeral:

Goodbye, Bigot

In the big funeral parlor, there was a bigot in a box.

And a protest sign saying, "God Hates Cocks."

And there were three ugly hags, railing against fags.

There was a big plate of cold cuts, and a ton of religious nuts.

And flowers, and cowards, and a touch of white power.

Goodbye, bigot.

Goodbye hate pouring like water from a spigot.

Goodbye Fred. Glad you're dead.

Goodbye picket lines, and goodbye signs.

Goodbye, nobody.

Goodbye, loon.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Can you see the real me?

This is Squirt, age 16.

As you can see, Squirt has blue-blond hair in the style of his musical hero, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. I know you're taking note of the DayGlo yellow sneakers, the odd symbol around his neck and the stud in his left earlobe.

Made any assumptions? (Sure you have.)

Now look at where he's standing: Beside Johnny Cash's grave. And his tee shirt? Bears the logo of his dad's employer. Notice that happy smile.

Confused yet?

Squirt has heard some form of the following a dozen times in the past few weeks: "What do your parents think of that hair? What do your parents think of that earring? What do your parents think of those shoes? What do your parents think of that (fill in the blank)?"

If I were him, I'd have lost my temper by now. Fortunately, he's shrugged it off like his sweet nature dictates.

That's right. I said "sweet nature."

Are you surprised? (You shouldn't be.)

Squirt is smiling because he's two days into a road trip with his dad, who took a detour so the two of them could visit Johnny Cash's gravesite. Because Billie Joe Armstrong is not Squirt's only musical hero.

He's wearing that tee shirt because he worked hard as Dad's assistant/apprentice during the trip's project hours. Dad earned a comp day. The shirt was Squirt's pay.

I bought Squirt's shoes for him. I also dyed his hair and pierced his ear. He didn't pester or beg, didn't threaten or bully. He approached, we discussed and I agreed and/or obliged, with Dad's blessing.

Squirt's odd necklace is a gift from a friend, an Aborigine symbol for friendship she got last summer during her once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia and New Zealand. He treasures the necklace, just as he treasures his friend, whom he's known since babyhood.

You're right: Squirt loves loud punk music, loves to play guitar. In fact, his Governor's Honors Program Communicative Arts application essay was about the effect of a generation's music on its ability to express itself. In response to a judge's question, he rattled off five bands he likes – Green Day, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Foo Fighters and Blink 182 – and discussed his theory on how modern American punk music originated from British Invasion and American folk influences.

Johnny Cash was a punk, Squirt told them. He never did quite what you expected.

The first homeschooler nominated for GHP in our county, Squirt looked and carried himself well during the GHP interview process in his dress shoes, khakis, button-down shirt and argyle sweater vest. 

His blue hair set off his eyes very nicely.

How are your assumptions holding up? (Wait. There's more.)

Squirt's a rabble-rouser, all right. I mean, just look at him.

He passionately objects to a law in our state that prevents newly licensed drivers from transporting underage passengers from outside their immediate families. Squirt – who scored a 92 percent on his practical driving exam, aced the written portions of his driver's education class tests and earned high praise from both of his instructors – is not legally able to drive a friend to a site where they both wish to do much-needed volunteer work.

"It punishes those of us who are TRYING to do the right thing, just because some other people were stupid," he grouses, resentful of the hoops he has to jump through. (The anarchy-loving little whiner!)

If you knew that my son works for his uncle at a non-profit for pay three days a week but volunteers a fourth day and in off hours at the same non-profit, would you notice Squirt's hair?

If you knew he scraped together a $1,000 down payment on a truck so he can make deliveries and pickups for that non-profit, or that he forgave a customer's delivery charge because "I was just about to fill up, so why should I charge you for something I was gonna do anyway?"or that he makes those truck payments himself out of his monthly pay – would you care what color Squirt's shoes are or what kind of necklace he wears or whether his ear is pierced?

If you knew he once voluntarily left a get-together with his friends to take care of his sister – home alone and running a fever – or that he encourages his little brother to use the bottom bunk in his room when it storms (in case he's frightened), would you care what kind of music Squirt prefers?

Geddy (Dad) and I have met some amazing young people in the past couple of years and consider ourselves blessed to have them in our lives. As their "youth sponsors" or "mentors" or just as their friends (or honorary mom and dad), we know we have benefited from their wisdom and insight perhaps even more than we would have older friends' or relatives' advice.

We are lucky to have learned – before we damaged our relationships with our own children beyond repair – that assuming the worst about people is the one sure way we can make them angry and out of control.

I recently interviewed an amazing middle school principal who talked about investing in her students by showing them respect, by meeting them wherever they are comfortable and successful and working from there.

Couldn't help considering the soul-nurturing benefits our young folks – my wonderful, imperfect, goofy, beautiful punk-ass boy included  – would reap if we just tried her way once in awhile.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Pure self-indulgence, but insomnia currently is cranked to 11 so I'm up for providing my biographer – or eulogist – some tidbits.

1. Not only do I read the ends of books first, I also read movie spoilers. I am afraid I might lose my sight. Or die.

2. In many ways, ADHD is like a super power. But I'd love to experience life without it for one week. For seven days, I would not talk too much or too loudly. I would be on time for everything without calendar reminders or alarms. I would have good spatial awareness and never trip or run into anything, and I would sleep all night. I would not find everyday chores like cleaning the kitchen or laundry intimidating. And I would leave the daily handsful of pills designed to help my brain function "normally" in seven neat little piles on my nightstand.

3. Squish told me she was going to play "The Fighter" by Gym Class Heroes at my funeral, and we had a lovely, small, tender moment. Squirt, Squish and Squonk decided I would have made a really good cop -- just like my favorite TV character of all time, the misanthropic Mary Shannon from "In Plain Sight." I may be a defective freak, but I also work harder than hell at being an authentic person. Now I know there are at least three people in the world who have seen me at my worst but still can find something about me to admire.

4. I've long been on the quest for a meek and quiet spirit, but I have come to understand God loves the badasses just as much as the gentle folk. He also is quite fond of defective freaks and people who don't play well with others. But his very favorites, I believe, are those of us who feel like we're always a joke or two behind the rest of the world.

5. I dream about my walk-off moment. I still want to be a rock star, to take that shortcut where some long-hidden, unsuspected talent or act of heroism propels me into folk legend. No eventual becoming of a person of substance, no waiting to be Velveteen Rabbit Real. An outstretched arm, the sure point of an index finger, the perfect crack of a ball exactly on the bat's sweet spot ... no need to watch and wonder. Just turn away as the ball clears the fence exactly where you knew it would, and listen to the doubters pucker up.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Breaking news

I never became friends with anyone because s/he is straight. I am not going to end a friendship with anyone because s/he is gay.

Friday, November 4, 2011

iTunes: It doesn't suck, Pete

Pete Townshend got into the Halloween spirit Monday, calling iTunes a "digital vampire."

Not only does Pete think the (legal) digital download giant sucks, but apparently our Rock Legend thinks we fans are thieves as well.

"Why can't music lovers just pay for music rather than steal it?" he asked during a lecture in London.

Geez, Pete. If I send you a $20 bill, would you give me a break from the near-constant playlist of Who songs on car commercials and crime shows?

Seriously, I love The Who. I was privileged enough to see them live a couple of times before John Entwistle died. Watched Pete windmill and listened to Roger Daltrey sing the impossible while I stared at his Adonis-like profile.

Unfortunately, Pete has become a Republican of the rock world: He gots his, but he desperately needs to stay relevant. Without some incendiary sound byte, would anyone pay attention to his delivery of the "first John Peel Lecture?" Doubtful.

Pete has written some amazing songs, true. But he needs to check that monster ego and remember that every chord he ever played, every note he ever matched to a lyric, has been played many times before. He didn't invent music and he wouldn't exist as a Rock Legend if it weren't for his supporters, whom he now accuses of stealing his music.

In time, every song Pete Townshend ever wrote will exist in the public domain. It would be a shame if his incredible musical legacy were tainted by his disdain for iTunes and, evidently, his fans.

I support songwriters, and I believe in copyright laws and protection of intellectual property. What I don't support is the uber-wealthy elite's compulsion to own all that is beautiful.

Music belongs to everyone, Pete. Your attitude is what really sucks.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The stuff of poetry

My husband's story of how the for-no-reason gift came about was nearly as delightful as the gift itself.

"I ducked into the bookstore on the square," he said. "You know, the one with all the vintage books? I scanned the shelf and it just jumped out at me."

"It" is a 1931 copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. (He also scored a tiny volume of 20th century American poetry, publication year 1944.)

We're not big gifts people, he and I. Maybe we convinced ourselves of that in leaner times, or maybe it was the impersonal nature of a few of his gifts. Either way, it was easier to say I didn't want anything than to pretend pearls -- even a very beautiful strand -- were the very thing a tee-shirt-wearing, socially retarded, at-home homeschooling mom like me always wanted, all my life.

Like many a couple before us, we are in transition. To draw on the vernacular, it's time to make it or break it.

So, we're making it.

It's clumsy and awkward sometimes and angry and sullen sometimes, and always, always we're in survival mode. But there are flashes of brilliance.

Enter my husband, with Walt Whitman and a story to boot.

I greatly enjoy the earthy writings of Whitman, Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. I read Leaves of Grass aloud to my unborn firstborn, then joked when he arrived five weeks prematurely that he just couldn't wait to see the world about which Whitman so beautifully wrote.

That $11 worth of dusty books could be a fearsome weapon against the enemies of our family -- apathy, inattention, distraction, fear, anger, ignorance -- is a mind-blowing concept. That Our Hero's spontaneous few minutes of effort on his wife's behalf could banish all uneasiness about Our Heroine's place in the heart of her Forever-Love, a miracle.

Now that's the stuff of poetry!

My husband "took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." (Frost) My husband "knows my face." (Tolkein) He remembers, and sees her in "all that we can be, not what we are." (John Denver)

"That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning, yet long untaught I did not hear,
But now the chorus I hear and am elated..." (Whitman)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Come up to the lab and see what's on the slab

I enjoy "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

I've seen it a couple of times in movie houses and a couple of times at home, and I own the DVD. I confess, the only audience-participation line I know is "Eddie, get your ass off the table!" and I'm not exactly sure where to yell it. I don't want to dress as Magenta for Halloween and as much as I like Tim Curry, his performance in lingerie disturbs me, primarily because he's so much prettier than I.

Still, it's a lot of fun.

As a not-at-all avid play-goer, I was looking forward to my town's fall community theater production of RHPS, thinking I may actually be persuaded to get off my behind and do one of those things that sounds fun, for once.

And then a video of the R-rated production's rehearsal made its way into the hands of the city manager, then the mayor. All politics aside, this man claims to know this town well enough to shut down the play, presumably to protect us from ourselves.

At last count, more than 600 people had "liked" a Facebook page supporting the production. Perhaps, mere weeks before its scheduled opening, RHPS can find another local venue. Perhaps not.

I am neither callow nor retarded. I do not need one more person who never has met me but claims to know me -- because I fit a particular demographic, perhaps? -- using his perceived political, religious, financial, educational or moral superiority to make my entertainment choices for me.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." (Robert Heinlein, The Man Who Sold the Moon)

Rock on, Rocky Horror!