Monday, May 30, 2011

Last Night at Camp

The last night of a long weekend at camp goes one of two ways: it's either uneventful because everyone is so beat from eating too much and splitting wood and standing in the sun or it's the greatest night of the weekend and all of us "kids" stay up late and have a blast.

Last night was the latter. The evening started with a wicked thunderstorm. My aunts & uncles were listening to the NASCAR race on the radio when a weather report broke in telling everyone to get to a stable structure. A stable structure is hard to come by at work. We all sleep in tents and campers. But we made due with what we had. The kids that were already in bed were woken up and brought into one of the two campins (a camper with a make-shift cabin built onto it). But us older "kids" decided to tough out the storm.

We stood under an awning and cracked jokes while we cracked open beers. A couple of us watched the storm come in on our smart phones so we knew it wasn't going to be too bad.

The storm passed and we moved from the awning to the amber glow of the bonfire. A friend of a couple of my cousins joined us around the fire. Needless to say, her first visit to camp would be a memorable one. I've mentioned before that we don't have running water at camp. Using the bathroom is tough enough in an outhouse, let alone getting sick.

It's never fun throwing up. It's worse if you have an audience. It's embarrassing. But when you mix cherry rum with Dr. Pepper, and with each drink there's less Dr. Pepper and more cherry rum, getting sick is pretty much inevitable. But at camp we're all family, even if you're not related, and there's plenty of people to hold your hair and rub your back or get you a water.

Just as the seven or eight of us were about to head into our respected tents and campers, another storm hit. One minute it was calm with a slight breeze, the next there was rain coming at us sideways. So suffice it to say we abandoned our plan to go to bed and we had more drinks and told more jokes and listened to more stories as Mother Nature tried to ruin our last night at camp.

A night like that is the sign of a great weekend at camp.
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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Late Night/Early Morning

It's eight in the morning and I'm trying my hardest to get this damn fire going. All I have to work with is a piece of cardboard, a ton of wet wood from trees taken down and split apart, & a small handful of dry treated wood scraps.

About four hours ago I was standing around a raging fire hanging out, BSing, and drinking many beers with my cousins. That makes two nights/mornings in a row that I stayed up past 3am. I actually feel fine despite the lack of sleep. I'll sleep when I'm dead as they say.

But that's not really the case with me. I usually can't survive on less that seven hours of sleep. I'm not a kid anymore. But for some reason, down here at camp, I don't seem to need as much sleep.

Let me rephrase that: I can function on much less sleep at camp than back home.

Maybe it's because we're up on top of a hill and the air is thinner. Maybe it's because this is my vacation and I don't want to miss anything. Or maybe I'm just fooling myself and by the time I get back to reality, I'll crash hard and make up all the sleep my body needs.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Morning at Camp

Beyobd the slught breeze I feel the warmth of a late-morning fire. Or maybe it's the sun that has finally shoved its way through the clouds. It's a perfect day at camp.

I can hear the kids running around and playing. Samantha is trying to be a sneaky bully to Madison and Mariah, but she's not as slick as she thinks and soon all three of the five year holds are crying. Alexandria & her boy friend are trying to have some alone time, but her step-father isn't having it. She starts to throw a tantrum but rethinks her actions, realizing that she still has over two days at camp.

Camp can be miserable for the teenagers if they get privileges taken away.

Journey comes trickling through my uncle's campin. (A combination of camper & cabin.) Last night by the fire both of my uncles had a radio duel: one would turn on country music, then the other would turn on Foreigner a little louder. Then the country western would get a bit louder. This went on for about an hour until my aunt yelled at both of them to turn it down. Some people actually go to sleep before midnight.

Prep work is about to begin on this evening's Surf & Turf dinner: home-made seafood pierigi and three racks of ribs. The ribs will be put in the smoker for a few hours and then finished on the grill. The pierogi will be boiled then cooked on a flat top with butter.

My view from here is trees and a bonfire and four-wheelers and bicycles and animal tracks and tents.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekend At Camp

I'm sitting in my cousin's living room watching VH1-Classic, waiting for him to get out of the shower. We're about an hour away from leaving for a camping weekend with most of our family.

We just call it camp. "When are we heading to camp?" "Who all's down at camp?" "Are yinz headin' t'camp this weekend?"

A few reasons my parents and brother don't spend much (or any) time at camp: No running water, no flushable toilets, and no electricity. (There is a generator, so the last one isn't ENTIRELY true.) These reasons are also the reasons why I think I'm adopted.

I love it down there. I work with my hands, I sit and relax, I sit and listen to stories, I tell stories of my own, we tell dirty jokes, and we eat REALLY well. This weekend's menu consists of ribs, smoked bacon-wrapped meatloaf, home-made seafood pierogis, deep-fried Cornish game hens, smoked brisket, and maybe possibly some corn.

It's nice to get away from everything if even just for a weekend. I wish I could leave this damn phone at home, but I can't. And I don't want to get into why. Again.

I'm going to try to blog every day this weekend. We'll see if I can stick to that.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Caffe Dreams

He still gets that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach when he drives or walks by the corner where the coffeehouse stands. Like an ex-girl friend he never got over. Even four years later he still misses that leaky steam wand. The only way he can spend any time at the caffe is if he’s drinking beer after beer. Although he now has a job that he spent years and years going to school for, he still misses being a barista. It was the one time he felt famous. He felt like people knew him. He felt important. He didn’t remember everyone’s name, but he knew their drink: Skinny latte for him, soy chai for her, large white mocha for them to split.

And although making drinks was his favorite part, it wasn’t the only thing loved. He met so many people. He connected with them. He felt like they came back and returned night after night to see him. Maybe it was the way he flirted with them at the register, or the way he put just enough foam on top of their latte, or the fact that he filled their wine glass up more than the other employees. And he loved the people he worked with.

Most of them. Except the one who caused him to lose his job. He doesn’t have any proof, but he knows it was her. She never really liked him. He made drinks better than her. He was loved more by the customers than her. He had more seniority than her. Who knows what the reason was, but she was the reason he lost his job. She was the reason he was dumped by the greatest job he ever had.

He loved going to work every day. How many people can say that? He even loved seeing the customers that talked too much or stayed too long or tipped too little. He loved the smart-ass know-it-alls. He loved the artsy folk. He loved the retired military muscle heads. He loved the slightly tipsy college students. He loved the homeless people who tried asking all of his customers for spare change.

Even the creepy, moldy, damp basement is a pleasant memory. He would go gown to get supplies or empty the bucket of dirty coffee drippings or turn the power back on after one too many people plugged their laptop into the outlets lined along the walls. The stairs were creaky and narrow and dark, so he had to hold on to the walls as he slowly walked down the steps. And on the way back up, with his hands full of bags of coffee beans and bottles of booze and paper cups, he would have to balance just right so he didn’t send himself and all of the supplies crashing to the soggy floor below.

He still, to this day, can’t go into a coffeehouse, any coffeehouse, because he knows the kids behind the counter don’t care as much about making drinks as he did. A macchiato does not come in a sixteen ounce cup with caramel and whipped cream. In its traditional form it is served in a small, shot glass or cup. A true macchiato is just a shot of espresso with a small dollop of foamed milk on top. And please, for the sake of all things holy, do not pronounce it expresso! He was such a coffee snob. If he mis-poured a shot of espresso, he would dump it out and start over. If he didn’t froth the milk perfectly, it would go down the drain.

Maybe part of the reason he stopped drinking coffee was because he no longer worked at the caffe. He tells everyone his doctor suggested it, which he did, but maybe that was just a coincidence. Needless to say coffee has not touched his lips in a long time. Needless to say he still wishes he was behind the coffee bar slinging drinks and making connections with the muscle heads and artsy folk and the know-it-alls and the slightly tipsy college students. And needless to say he still dreams about that drippy steam wand.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Electric Fence

The electric fence was always fascinating to Charlie. Maybe it was the power that such an innocent looking thing had. It was just a simple silver colored wire attached to wooden post after wooden post. It stretched the length of the farm, keeping the cows where they needed to stay. Maybe it was the fact that it was off-limits. “Don’t touch the fence,” he was told. “You’ll get hurt.” Charlie didn’t grow up in the country; he was a city-boy. Suburb-boy was a better definition. He never had any pets, let alone cows and chickens and pigs.

He looked up to his mother’s younger cousin. Ron was about ten years older than Charlie and he was still a kid at heart. He drank too much and he got in fights and he blew things up with firecrackers. Ron once made the mistake of setting his 22-guage against the fence as he relieved himself after one too many Budweisers. He stood there and laughed and talked with Charlie and didn’t notice that his stream hit the metal trigger of his gun until it was too late. Charlie had never heard a grown man scream that loud and that long in his life. Ron yelled for Charlie to go to the large group of cords and wires bundled together around a small transformer behind a stack of old tires and flip the large red switch from up to down.

The following year Charlie tagged along with his third cousin. Joey split his time between the farm and rural Pennsylvania and Virginia Beach. His family believed that working and living on the farm would get him to stop being the wild child he was becoming back home. This technique had been used on a few other family members in the past with poor results. Joey was no exception. He seemed to like having someone his age to hang out with, especially since Charlie was so eager to do whatever he asked. Joey and Charlie constantly tried to one-up each other by daring them to commit dangerous acts.

The most memorable dare involved the electric fence. Joey wanted to see who could hold on to it the longest. They stood behind the wine cellar, out of the view of their mothers and aunts and uncles in the farm house. The bull and the cows were all out to pasture, so there was no one within eye shot but the two of them. Joey insisted that Charlie went first. He told him to take both hands and grab on to the wire as long as he could, and Joey would count the seconds out loud. Anything less than thirty seconds and you were a girl. Anything less than thirty seconds and you were weak. Anything less than thirty seconds and you weren’t cool enough to hang out with.

Charlie took a breath and grabbed on to the fence as hard as he could. He remembered Ron getting his private electrocuted. He smelled the flesh of his palms burning. He listened as Joey slowly counted the seconds. Before the word “thirty” was out of Joey’s mouth Charlie let go and started rubbing his open hands on his shorts as Joey went around the building to see if anyone had come out of the house. Charlie’s eyes were welling up with tears, but he refused to cry. He showed Joey his hands: there was a bright red stripe across each of his palms. Charlie felt as though Joey had cheated by counting so slow, so he was determined to get Joey back. Joey licked his palms defiantly and grabbed hold before Charlie could give him to “go” sign. He smiled and acted like it was no big deal. Charlie counted as slow as he could without seeming like he was taking advantage of the dare. Suddenly their uncle Jack came strolling down the path between the tractor garage and the house. He startled them and started yelling at them, so Joey and Charlie took off running for the silo. When they got to the far side, out of the view of anyone, Charlie asked to see Joey’s hands. He refused. “I’ll show you later.”

Hours later, after everyone was finished with supper, Uncle Bill and Uncle Junior went out to round up the cows and put them back in the barn for the night. Junior and Bill had worked on the family farm since they were old enough to walk. They had both dropped out of school by third grade so they could spend more time helping their parents with the farming. This was the way it was back then. They knew the farm like the back of their hand. They knew the animals as if they were their children. So finding and corralling the cows wasn’t a problem. But finding the bull was. He had gotten loose somehow and was nowhere to be found. Junior saw the electric fence wasn’t working. Bill ran down to the barn and grabbed a handle to an old ax and went out into the field, on the far side. It was getting dark, and from the porch of the house it was hard enough to see Uncle Bill in his flannel shirt and green work pants, let alone a pitch black bull. Luckily Bill, who couldn’t read the newspaper enough to understand the headlines, was a natural at finding his bull. Within a half-hour the bull was back in the barn safe and sound. In the meantime, the mothers and aunts and uncles had come to the conclusion that Charlie and Joey were the cause of this whole mess.

They both denied the accusations up and down. They weren’t messing with the fence. Charlie explained that the fence was on when they were playing near it. To prove his case, he revealed to his mother his palms with the bright red stripes across the center of each. Everyone turned to Joey. His hands were shoved in his pockets and his face was slowly turning a bright shade of scarlet. He was caught. Joey’s mother ripped his hands from his pockets to expose perfect palms. No burn marks. No red lines. No evidence of any wrong doing.

This memory stuck in his brain for years and years. Charlie wracked his brain to figure out how Joey did not burn his palms. Was Charlie so much of a city-kid that his hands were too soft and more susceptible to the pain of the electric fence? Were Joey’s hands more rugged and callus-filled from working on the farm all those summers? Or maybe Joey, when he went to see if there was anyone looking after Charlie had completed his thirty seconds with the electrical fence, had simply flipped that big red switch from up to down.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Potential Exploration

The humidity hung like an invisible fog. Charlie stood on the porch of the old farm house taking it all in. The thickness of the air seemed to heighten his senses. He searched deep for the smells covered up by the manure. Manure was what he always smelled.

Years later his mind would race right back to this place, to this point in his life any time he smelled cows or pigs or their droppings. He could smell the freshly cut hay in the fields just past the dilapidated barn. He could smell the eggs and sausages being cooked in the kitchen just beyond the screen door behind him. He could smell gasoline and gunpowder and the mustiness of the wine cellar. All of these smells swirled together and as he closed his eyes taking one more big breath in through his nostrils, he promised himself that he would remember this forever.

He loved how comfortable he felt around all of these seemingly dangerous things. His mother always warned him to stay away from the tractor garage because it was full of tools and machinery that could be unsafe for a “city kid.” The electric fence that surrounded the two pastures the cows hung out in during the day was strictly off-limits as well. Charlie and his cousins loved to hang out next to the silo next to the barn. There was a large wooden bin next to it full of corncobs minus the corn. None of them really thought about why they liked hanging out there, but in all honesty it was probably because they weren’t allowed. The adults took turns yelling at the kids to get out of the cob bin.

Despite all of these apparently hazardous objects, Charlie still felt safe. Even his Uncle jack, who at one point came sauntering down to the cob bin to whip anyone caught in it with his belt, gave Charlie a sense of safety. He had come down to the family farm a few days early with his grandparents for the annual reunion. He loved that he had extra time at the farm even though there was no one his age there yet. It was like he had it all to himself. He didn’t know it at the time, but this would be one of the last years the family would gather at the family farm. And what the family didn’t realize was that moving away from the farm and leaving just Charlie’s two great-uncles there, it marked the beginning of the end of their family’s farm. Soon these two great men would be taken advantage of by a charlatan and everything that they—and their father and their father’s father— worked for would be taken out from under them.

But at this moment, on a muggy summer day in western Pennsylvania, none of those dreadful things were reality yet. The only thing that mattered in this moment was the expanse of land that Charlie had in front of him to explore.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I have had to deal with some stress and anxiety lately.

Some of it is normal, run-of-the-mill household stress: My car is acting up, there are bills to pay, my favorite television show is a repeat this week. This kind of stress I can (usually) deal with.

The other part of my anxiety comes from work. As most of you know, I just started my new job a few months ago. Part of the stress at my job comes from learning the ropes and learning the politics of the job and learning who to deal with and when. The other part of my work-related stress comes from the fact that I have found myself literally and figuratively caught between two people who work together but don't get along. I did not put myself in this situation, but was placed there. I do not like it, but it is evidently part of my job to deal with this in-fighting.

This post is not to talk about who did what and who said what. To be perfectly honest, I don't care. This post is my way of figuring out the best way to reduce stress.

What is the best way to "de-stress"?

I have heard that a regular exercise routine helps reduce stress. I wouldn't know. I don't have the energy to get up and work out or go running or lift weights. I don't like exercising, which either comes from my lack of energy or the fact that I'm overweight. I know what you're thinking. Maybe you'd have more energy and weigh less if you exercised. Yeah, and maybe if I washed my car more often it wouldn't break down as much.

Sometimes when I just want to remove myself from the stressful situation that is getting to me, I just grab a book and read. Of course this is just another way to escape stress temporarily. It doesn't end the anxiety. It doesn't remove the stress from my life. It just gets my mind off of it. And in my life, sometimes that's all I can ask for.

How do you reduce your stress? I've heard of some people who eat chocolate. High anxiety runs in my family. Many of my family members take pills to get rid of anxiety. Some people smoke cigarettes. The Golden Girls ate cheesecake. My cousin gets in the car and just drives and drives. Writing seems to help. In the time that it took me to write this post, I haven't felt as stressed out. Maybe purging the causes of my anxiety helps get rid of the anxiety all together. Or maybe it's just on the back burner.

I'll be perfectly honest-- when I get stressed or feel like my anxiety levels are high, I go and have go to the bar and have a few "pops." I don't get wasted, and I don't go to if I have to work or if I have other obligations, but if time permits, I'll have a drink or three. Maybe this isn't the best way to deal with stress. Maybe this doesn't get rid of stress. But it makes me feel better for a short while.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I have been seeing a lot of babies (with their mothers or fathers) out at the store or in the park or on television. I seem to see babies more in the spring. Or maybe I just notice them more in the spring? Most all of them suck on that rubber thing. Some call it a "nipple" which I always have a hard time saying. Others call it a "binky." But its scientific name is a pacifier.

People give these to babies when they cry too much or when they are hungry or thirsty. It literally pacifies them and appeases them so they start crying. I know this is not a new invention, but I guess it just clicked in my head what these were all about. And it got me to thinking...

Is there a grown-up version of this device?

Is there something that you could give a grown-up that would take their mind off of their hunger or off of their bad mood or off of the fact that they could use a drink? My first thought was beer, but then again, that's always my first thought. And you can't just drink a beer where ever and when ever you want. Then I thought about bubble gum. Can that pacify a person and make them forget they're hungry? Possibly. But I have never met a stick of gum that has gotten my mind off of my bad mood.

So now I'm throwing it out to you.
What are your thoughts on what a grown-up pacifier would be?

Give your answers in the comments section.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I Need To Do More

The last time I blogged was 05/11/11.

Four days ago.

I'm not happy about that. I need to make a schedule for myself so that I can do more.

I overheard someone this afternoon say that they needed someone to be their scholastic boss. Someone to tell him when to write and how much to write and what to read and where to apply and who to talk to. I just kept thinking that this guy needed to be his own boss.

I should follow my own advice.

Don't worry. I'll be better. Trust me.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dealing With Slackers

So I have finally finished a year of being a student. In two semesters I took a Literature class (American Novel before 1900), a Drawing class, a Sociology class (Juvenile Delinquency), and an Anthropology class (Magic, Culture & Religion). I enrolled in classes at BuffState for a couple reasons, but mostly because I was bored while I was unemployed.

Being both a teacher and a student for the past eight or nine months have been interesting to say the least. I've written in the past about how I have a hard time flipping the switch to go from teacher to student. That's because the teacher in me just wants to jump up and yell at my professor to deal with the slackers in class. But it's not like I only came across slackers in my classes at BuffState. I have them as students in my classes as well. So I've come up with ways I deal with slackers:

If a student doesn't want to come to a class they've enrolled in, then they shouldn't show up. Just stay at home or go hang out with your friends or go to the mall or wander around on the internet if you don't want to be in class. But if you do want to show up, then show up! Don't just be a body. Actively participate. Do the work. In my classes Classroom Participation is at the very least sixty percent of the final grade. So if you have something that's more important than my class, fine. I ain't mad at ya. But don't get angry when you end up with a failing or near failing mark at the end of the semester. 

I'm not going to chase you down for a paper or an assignment. If you don't turn it in when it's due, then you don't get credit. I'll accept it after the due date, but don't expect to get full credit for it. And as much as I appreciate and like class participation, my class is not a democracy. You can't just vote for the day the exam will be. I set the days and times for tests, quizzes, exams, due dates, etc. Not you. If you don't like it, come talk to me about it and we can maybe figure something out. But don't come to me with "I think you should push back the exam because I have too much to do." Grow up. You know ahead of time how much work you need to do for each of your classes.

A little something that many college students don't realize: Your professor expects you to do two hours of work outside of class for every hour of in-class work. For example, if you have a three credit class, you need to plan to do six hours of work (per week) for that class. That's nine hours of in and out of class work for that one class. So if you take eighteen credit hours, you should plan on doing fifty four hours of work per week. So if you have a job, you may want to cut back how many classes you're taking. Or how much you go to your job. Or maybe cut back on sleep. It's up to you.

Okay. I'll stop there.
I'm getting a little angry now, so I'm going to end this post now, before I write something really mean.

If you agree, disagree, or just completely hate what I've said, comments are welcome!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Plan?

I grew up in a very church-centered and Bible-oriented home. My mom was (& still is) very religious, I know anything and everything about what the Bible says about God, Jesus, the apostles, Moses, Jonah, and so on.

I grew up going to church at least three days a week.

That being said, while I was unemployed, I was told many times that God has a plan for me. I've heard this my entire life, but while I was depressed and frustrated and full of anxiety, I heard it a lot more.

There is an entire discussion here about free-will versus God's plan, but we can talk about that in another post.
My worry is this: what if I accidentally ignored God's plan for me? What if His plan didn't include me becoming a teacher? What if I was supposed This move to Baltimore when I was offered a job there five years ago? What if everything that has happened since then was not part of God's plan?

These are the thoughts that keep me up at night. I worry about this stuff. And the worst part is that I'm not really very religious. I don't go to church. I don't read the Bible. So why does this stress me out? It's too late for God's plan. I've missed my window of opportunity. Right?

So what is someone in my position supposed to do?

Just say "screw it" and drink more and eat food that's bad for me? Or maybe I should go back to church and see if God has another plan for me? Or maybe I should move to Baltimore?

Part of me would be happy if all this misery and depression and unhappiness is for a reason.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Memory of a Day Just Like Today

I have declared today Automatic Morrissey/The Smiths Day.

It's cold and overcast but the sun is trying its hardest to peek through the layers of grey clouds.
In other words, it's the perfect day to listen to The Smiths (or Morrissey).

When I was in high school one of my friends, Joe, used to pick me up for school. He was a couple years older than me and he had this rusty dirty white car full of mix tapes and sweaty baseball caps and empty packs of cigarettes. The only thing in his car that worked the way it was supposed to was the tape deck.

Every morning he would slow down just enough for me to hop in and he'd crack me a Miller High Life and pop in "The Queen is Dead" by The Smiths. We'd cruise around town tossing our empties out the window and feeling all melancholy. The first time I heard Morrissey's voice I was hooked. He was sad but angry. He was happy yet sarcastic. He was sexual but playing hard to get. We drove around until the last chords of side B had finished.

It seemed like every day that year it was grey and sunny.

Joe & I never kept in touch and I have no idea where he is now. I have no idea if he's alive or dead, married or divorced, gay or straight. And to be perfectly honest, I have no idea how we met. I think we met because we were dating the same girl. Maybe that happened later. Who knows.

But to this day I always have a spare copy of "The Queen is Dead" lying around.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Daydreaming of Warm Weather Activities

Daydreaming about what I'm going to do once the weather finally decides to get nice doesn't help the fact that it is cold and rainy outside right now. In May.

But it does help the time go by faster.

And since I have the shades closed on my classroom windows, I can't actually see if it's still raining outside. I can pretend it's sunny and warm. I can pretend I'm getting ready to go camping with my cousins and aunts and uncles. I can pretend I'm getting ready to make the drive to Rural Valley, Pennsylvania to visit my extended family for the reunions. I can pretend I am enjoying a cold beer on a sunny patio.

Those are the only three things I want to do this year, once the weather gets warmer. It would be even greater if the above mentioned patio was in Toronto, because damn I miss that city. I miss the people and the pubs and even the public transportation. Every time we go up there, we find one more reason why Toronto is so great. Most of the time in Toronto is spent walking, which is always a good thing. Most of the time it's walking to a patio or a restaurant or a market. Sometimes it's walking to a cool unheard of shop. Toronto in the summer is amazing:  People everywhere, street vendors and performers, open patios, even the random celebrity spotting takes place. But the problem is no matter how much I love Toronto, it's so bloody expensive to visit.

Going to the reunions and going camping is pretty inexpensive.

I pay for gas and beer and my share of food and that's it. The piece of land that my family has their sheds and trailers set up for camp is basically in the middle of nowhere, and I love it. It's just us and the animals. And we eat like kings and queens: meat on the grill or in the smoker, fresh veggies cooked over the fire... it's impossible to go hungry.  I love being surrounded by family. I may not seem like the type that enjoys having large family gatherings or whatever, but I do. I don't get to see my extended family as much as I'd like, so going to the reunions is always a treat for me. Plus, many of my mom's aunts and uncles are getting up in age, so I like to visit with them and listen to their stories and what-not, because you never know how much time they have left. We have two reunions: one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Many of my cousins don't understand why we have 2 if it's basically the same people that show up for both. (Technically it is two separate reunions. One for my grandmother's mother's side and one for my grandmother's father's side.)  My thought is: why drive all the way down there just for one meal? Some people drive between 6 and 12 hours to get to Rural Valley.  Many of them won't travel if it was just a four or five hour get-together.

And besides, it's family, why would anyone ever want to reduce the amount of time spent with grandmothers and great aunts and uncles and second and third cousins?

There is of course a hundred other things I would love to do this spring and summer, but I'd like to save some money and I'd like to work as much as I can. This past winter has been horrible in the cash-flow department.

So from my vantage point it looks like the sun is trying to peek through my blinds. Could that mean that writing this blog has changed the weather from lifeless to radiant?

Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes..!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

We Know Better Than You, or Ethnocentrism as Racism

As Americans, many of us believe that our way is the best way. After all, we DO live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. How could anything other than what we do be right? It's preposterous!

Maybe I'm not a good American, but it always turns my stomach a little when I hear the chant of "USA! USA! USA!" at a political rally or in rebuttal to something very "anti" American like attempting to speak your mind. I don't mind the chant at the Olympics, since everyone to cheering on their team/country, but then again, some Americans even take that a little too far.

If America happens to lose the hockey game, then it must be because Russia or Canada cheated or didn't get a penalty called against them. It couldn't possibly be because the US just got out played. AMERICA CAN'T WIN EVERYTHING.

And it's not just sporting events. Many Americans are under the assumption that if it's not American, it's not as good. When France decided to not participate in the war with Iraq, people started dumping French wine down the sewer. Many diners renamed French Fries "freedom fries" in protest. You couldn't order French Toast-- it was Freedom Toast now!

Forget the fact that there wouldn't even be a United States of America if it wasn't for France! And that little ol' statue that greets you as you arrive in Ellis Island? Yeah, the FRENCH built the Statue of Liberty and gave it to us as a gift.

A big thing that Americans seem to look down on is the Muslim woman's veil. For some reason this religious garb is looked at as a symbol of their oppression. Americans can't understand why a woman would purposely wear something like this. What many Americans don't know is that this garb is not a form of female oppression. The first people to veil themselves was the elite Greco-Roman woman. This occurred in B. C. Before there was a Islamic or Muslim religion. And the practice of veiling was not a form of oppression but a firm of secluding. If a woman was veiled in front of a man, it meant he was below her or unmarried. It was a protection for the woman. She didn't want to subject herself to his eyes.

But Americans see a woman in a veil and think she should just take it off.

"You're in America now. You don't have to wear that anymore!"

Many Feminist Middle Easterners wear the veil to show their strength. It is how they rebel. Not against Americans, but against those Muslims who are trying to be more "modern." Another Word For "modern" is "Western."

If I tell you that the only baseball team that matters is the Yankees, then I am also implying that you're wrong if you have a Red Sox hat on. That who you cheer for is wrong unless it's the New York Yankees. Now change "Yankees" and "Red Sox" to "American born" and "born outside America." What do we have?

It sounds like racism to be.

Part of what makes America great is the idea that people can be who they want and wear what they want and love who they want.

No matter what.
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