Thoughts on Reprisal and stuff

Recently, I finished watching a series on Hulu called “Reprisal.”  It would take too long to explain what it is, but I will sum it up as best as I can.  Doris used to be called Catherine Harlow, and before she became a chef, she was the little sister of the head of a dangerous gang of folks known as the Brawlers.  They dragged her behind a truck and left her for dead and somehow, she survived, because of reasons.  So, Doris, is on a mission of revenge, akin to the Count of Monte Cristo, in which she gets help from a number of different people to infiltrate the Brawlers as well as start a gang war with the Ghouls, while she pulls the strings.

Doris is a massively flawed character and winds up misjudging or screwing up a lot.

But, the reason you watch Reprisal is because of the aesthetic.  It is a rockabilly-fueled world that could exist in some strange alternative-history world.  It is the bastard child of a Tarantino flick (right up to the Red Apple cigarettes) and a David Lynch multiverse.  Throw in some Sons of Anarchy and pretty much this is the world these people inhabit.  Instead of motorcycles, you’ve got rat-rods, glorious fuel guzzling oxidized bodied early model American cars which would make George Miller blush.  You won’t see a Japanese car or anything built after 1983 in the show either.  Just about the newest technology anyone has is a flip phone.

One episode encapsulates exactly why this is not the USA we all know.  It begins with a WW2/Korean War type newsreel about a war over “The Archipelago”.  Nothing much is mentioned about it other than a lot of veterans carry the scars of horrendous fighting and everyone seems to get really silent whenever it is brought up.  This seems to be this world’s Vietnam or even your pick of Gulf War/Afghanistan wars.

The world is such an interesting blend of old and new that I found it mesmerizing.  A group of errand boys known as the 3 River Phoenixes cruise up and down a vast highway known as The River, collecting money for the gang as well as profits from Bang-A-Rangs, which are sorta like the Titty-Twister roadhouse from the Robert Rodriguez movie, “From Dusk Til Dawn.”  The strippers are burlesque girls who pack sub-machine guns and the whole thing could be out of an old grindhouse movie in the 70s.

I was hooked pretty quickly.  The world-building was fascinating. The characters are all endowed with plenty of hubris and there is a magical-realistic element to it that pulls the story along.  The story of Doris/Catherine could be right out of Isabella Allende or Dumas.

I enjoyed the hell out of it.

That being said, I can see that it will be a show that falls victim to a lot of this Wokeness going around.  Because I liked the show, I tried to learn more about it.  The voices of other writers who might be enjoying it the same as I am.  There’s not a lot out there, really.  But the reviews that I have read got my eyes rolling.  What was worse than that were the comments.

One writer complained that the women dress like pinups or flappers and the men dress like they are going bowling.  Only one character “bridges the gap with gender neutrality.”  Fuck.  Really?  We’ve got to bring this up in literally every conversation now?  Other commenters said the Femme Fatale trope was dead and it was 2019 and they just need to let it go.

Well, let’s just write everything by a committee and literally just beat the life out of anything that doesn’t fit someone’s delicate sensibilities.

I guess they missed the whole “noir” part of the show.  The fact that this show has been infused with the vibe of the world 40 or 50 years ago, if not longer.  A world where femme fatales, tough guys, Star-crossed lovers, fast cars, exploitation, and gritty dirt-under-your-nails stories were what people saw in the drive-ins.  It’s a callback to a generation that has just about breathed its last.  Smothered in its bed by obnoxious, disobedient children with stupid haircuts, being offended, and for a surprisingly short time on this Earth, perhaps the most-documented generation of people, who have probably accomplished the least in the history of the world.

This show won’t last, because people don’t want fun. Or they have entirely too much say in what someone else might consider fun.  Why does everyone wear vintage clothes on the show?  How come you never see a Honda or Toyota?  What’s with River Phoenix’s name getting thrown out there?  Who the hell knows!?  Sometimes a writer ought to just be able to create something because it is fun, or cool, or silly.  Not everything has to be a fucking cinematic masterpiece or propaganda tool.

When did we all have to take everything so seriously?  Having morality thrust upon us in the guise of “equity and representation” is as dishonest as the Hays Code of the 20th Century, which demonized the nipple, limited kissing to no longer than three seconds, and damned anyone to hell who used “curse words.”  Ironically enough, not showing sex in movies probably didn’t slow down any of the fucking that was going on, because we still have people.  All this was done at a time when men were watching their buddies get blown to pieces on beaches all over the world.  This is how you go from Louise Brooks to Doris Day in less than a generation.

Today, you can’t smoke, you can’t drink out of a garden hose, you can’t disagree with a little Swedish girl who got to chide the United Nations over an ideology.  Anyone who doesn’t agree with you is a fascist. Or shamed as an “Incel.” Comedians can’t make jokes anymore, and anyone not in the Club can be completely ostracized for voicing their opinions, because the Woke are the gatekeepers. I saw it plenty of times when I used to write fiction for SF/Fantasy magazines. And the moral/intellectual superiority of so many people who buy into this shit just leaves me baffled.  The White Knights of Wokedom.  Little do they know, but they are next on the barbecue once it gets to them.

There is a divide in this country.  Rural/Uban.  Left/Right.  Conservative/Liberal.  Boomer/Millennial. But no one should confuse any of these with Right/Wrong.  I think the reason there is so much contention is rather than just let people live their lives, just like this show, someone always thinks they know better and have any license to speak for them.

I have worked in Higher Ed for over 20 years.  I have seen it evolve from Marxist bullshit they used to jam down our throats in literature class (when it wasn’t Freudian interpretation) and now I have seen it just compound itself into what it is today. A room full of people jabbering in their own echo-chamber about social justice and privilege, when they themselves are enjoying these privileges.  I wonder if a day will come when people start to throw their mortar boards into the reflecting pool like some sort of last gesture of rejecting Thulsa Doom’s Cult of Academia because the whole thing has just gotten completely ridiculous.

I’m not angry.  I’m just disappointed.

This is how we get a game show host in the White House and a woman who literally appropriated a culture to pay for college as the opposing candidate.  The whole world is nothing more than a bunch of competing Children’s Crusades.  What in the actual hell?

 

2019. Not exactly like Blade Runner

What a year this was.

Each year, I think about many of the events that have formed my life during the last celestial swing around the sun.  At home, I have a bulletin board on the wall where the kid(s) and I post mementos from our adventures.  Ticket stubs, birthday invitations, wristbands, postcards, etc.  Sometimes it is drawings my son has made or even jury duty summonses.

We start off each year with a blank board and a bunch of thumbtacks and at the end of the year, the whole thing is covered with souvenirs. I also tend to write about my experiences, though this year, I have been keeping up with them as they happen on this blog as well as Gettingoutmore.org.

Here is a list of highlights and low points that comprised 2019.  I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…

I started off the New Year horribly certain about the path my “relationship” at the time had taken.  I had been ghosted.  It’s not a nice feeling, and it speaks very much to the character of the person doing the ghosting. When you get a 2am response to a Happy New Year text you sent at midnight, and have no idea where they are, this is an indication to give the hell up.

This time last year, I had bronchitis, depression, and I was struggling to make ends meet because my child support had doubled at the end of October.

In January, the “relationship” officially ended.  Anywhere between four and six months after the real end had begun.  I read several books on Boundaries, Dating, emotional pain, stress, co-dependency, and over the next several months, those words percolated and allowed me to be much more functional and sure of myself.  Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them.

I took a roadtrip with my cousin to take him to Tuscon to be a ranch hand.  The trip was 16 hours one way.  We started off in -5 degree temperatures and at the destination it was 45 degrees and rainy.  Unfortunately his employer turned out to be an ex-beauty queen psycho bitch who was using him for slave labor. I’m not exaggerating. He has since escaped (by literally jumping a fence and hitchhiking the hell out of there).  Glad he is off to better places now!

On the way home from Tuscon, I decided to work towards my goal of travel writing, which has been an interesting and yes, fulfilling experience.  I talked with some friends and family about it while walking around downtown Santa Fe at night.  Most of them tried to discourage me from doing it.  That’s not something you hear about much.  hahaha!

I booked tickets for the UK in May as well as an AirBnB.  I had grand plans for where I would go and what I would see.  Then the State took over half of my tax return because of the aforementioned child support increase.  Undaunted, I trimmed back some of my plans.

I took several road trips, dealt with an HR nightmare at work over a review from a supervisor who just flat out doesn’t like me, and enjoyed time with my son.  My insomnia waned.  My depression thawed.  I weathered a series of layoffs at the day job. I reconnected with an old friend at the end of 2018 and we parted ways once again midway through this year.  In other words people come into your life and they leave.  It’s just part of it.

I took my son to church, and afterwards, decided I didn’t want to go anymore.  My faith wasn’t shaken really.  I just don’t believe that God lives in a building.

I went to the UK and had an amazing experience.  It was my first international solo trip.  I have been doing solo trips around the state for years.  The learning curve was sharp and steep, but at the end of my ten day trip, I got a handle on everything and affirmed my desire to travel write.  The first day I landed, I had no idea what I was doing.  At the end of my trip, I was giving directions to Austrian tourists on how to get around in London.  I met myself and let go of a lot of crap.  I was happy with being by myself.  Content for maybe the first time in my life.

I spent the next month writing about it.

At the last minute, I bought a ticket to the 1940s Ball and made new friends and enjoyed the experience without the trepidation I had the year before by myself.  I met my girlfriend at Rick’s Cafe, at the end of World War II.  She appears in many of my adventures and I couldn’t be happier.  Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, I am glad she walked into mine.

My son had a lot of fun with Cub Scouts and we experienced winter camping…in June.  We hit Renaissance Festival again, this time with company.  It’s always a great sight to see someone’s face light up when they walk out of that changing room in a new costume for the first time. ❤

Trips to the grandparents, lots of hiking, bike rides, summer camp, video games, cigars on the back porch, road trips and carousels, Fuzzy’s Tacos, nervously meeting the parents for the first time, people watching, sad choices watching, T-Fury shirts, fire-pits and wine, innumerable stops at Dutch Bros. and so many points in-between filled my summer and fall months. The end of the year was met with a feature article in the UNC student newspaper from a fan of my travel blog.  I picked up a couple copies to include in the box which holds the contents of the bulletin board.  I reconnected with one of my best friends from childhood after 20 years.  It was like we hadn’t seen each other in just a few weeks.  As Dre would say, “we dippin’ again.”

My birthday was a wonderful experience, unfortunately because of some asbestos abatement done by a fly-by-night crew in the building at work, it turned into pneumonia, which I fought all September. Happy 44th.  As a result, I got behind on writing, work, and life.  But today, I am healthy again.  In mind, body, and spirit.  Things continue to grow and opportunities to write keep coming. I’m working on the novel still, but lately I am more focused on this.

Money is tight, work generally sucks, but for the most part, I am happy.  I sleep well.  I am grateful.  And for the first time in maybe my adult life, I am sure of myself.  Confident.  Ready to take on the rest of my days.

 

 

Taking the wind out of your sails

Abuse

Anyone familiar with an unhealthy/abusive relationship will notice these indications.  Walking on eggshells, not being able to do anything right, rewards/gifts after an attack, and that feeling when you aren’t in “trouble” that things are okay and manageable just because nobody is yelling.  You go through that yo-yo feeling that just a few days before was just wanting to hit the ground running and never looking back to “I guess this isn’t so bad.”

Here’s the thing.  If you were married to or dating someone who made you feel this way, your therapist would tell you to run like hell.  So would your mom, your best friend, your pastor, your second grade teacher, and anyone else who gave a damn about you.  But it isn’t them.  It’s your job.  Or more specifically, your supervisor.  I have heard this so many times.  And we even raise our children to have good boundaries with family and relationships–or try to anyway–but when it comes to an employer, it seems like those rules don’t apply.

You can’t confide in your coworkers either, because everything you say will just get funneled back to those who already hate you and are making your life hell.

Stress

It’s perfectly natural to endure a lot of mental abuse for a paycheck; at least that’s what we are taught.  To have little to no boundaries or standards as long as someone is giving you money.  This is infuriating.  But think of it this way.  In the US, we spend around 1/3 of our adult lives sleeping, and 1/3 working.  In many cases our family, our leisure time, and the moments that keep us sane every day are not really the focus.  We work to live.  We live to work.  Or at least we are expected to.

We never really expect to be “happy.”  That’s what beer and vacations are for.

Stress is one of the biggest killers of people.  From the diabetes, heart disease, cortisol saturated moments of anxiety we experience everyday, to self medication such as drug abuse or alcoholism, to prescribed drug abuse so many of us experience all the time.  Sitting is the new smoking, I have heard.

So many health problems arise from sitting.  Prostate cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, blood clots, etc.  But the moment you stand up to take a walk, rather than sacrifice your 15 minute breaks for the privilege of sitting behind a desk all day, you get the side eye.  You get bad reviews for not being a team player.  You are accused of “not having enough to keep you busy” throughout the day.

The Status Quo

If you tell a lot of people about this, they will say, “Well, that’s just real life.  I don’t know what you are complaining about!”

Friday was awful.  In the middle of the day, I was left with a feeling that I could do no right at my job.  I’ve been working my ass off in an office that jabbering gossip and shopping online is the norm.  I don’t participate in this.  I put in my headphones to drown out the constant noise and interruptions.  I get my job done.  And in the last three years, I haven’t gotten a single good review.

By the time I get home, my creativity is diminished.  My levels of stress from anticipating conflict, from not playing “Mother May I?” for anything I do at the job, and then having any little detail saved up over the months to use against me in my review makes me second guess everything.  I’m walking on eggshells because nothing I say or do is ever right.  But more days than not, I’m the only one actually doing anything.  I have such anxiety over just standing up and taking a walk.  Getting up to take a piss.

Never good enough

I got written up for not taking on another task, even though I have already had my workload increased by taking on a co-worker’s tasks.  There will be no compensation, even though I’ve worked at this place for 13 years without a merit increase or any kind of promotion.  Even though the job is getting done at the utmost efficiency, it’s never good enough. And it’s not like they are giving out more time to do all of this stuff. Much less paying OT.

Jeez, I thought I already got divorced from a clinical narcissist, but here I am, all over again. And the result is that I feel like I am being dragged back to feeling like the man I was–the man I grew to hate–all those years ago.  The man who was congratulated for getting out.  But this same man can’t talk about this with most of his friends or family, because it’s the job, and this is how we are expected to be treated at work.

Haunted

I went home feeling like total shit.  Haunted by this feeling I couldn’t shake.  This anger that was coming back, which I had put behind me when I got a divorce.  But here it is again.  I thought, “I need to do something better. Because this place is killing me.”

But, as with any codependent/abusive relationship, I am reminded that I’m not good enough to deserve any better.  Even the other day, when my travel-blog, and my story was featured on the campus newspaper, someone in the office said, “Why are you in the paper?” as though my accomplishments, compared to theirs weren’t notable.

So, all weekend I thought.  And those thoughts turned to plans.  And those plans once again became motivation.

Opportunity

Mike Rowe made a video.  It was a speech for a college which said Don’t Follow Your Dreams; Follow Opportunity.  It’s a call to young people who might need to hear a differing viewpoint about life.  About how you might have a dream, but without any aptitude or talent for it, it might not be your gig.  He is a proponent of not necessarily following the higher ed/college path to success, because let’s face it; any of us who still believe that probably either work in higher ed and rely on that lie so that new suckers who are born every minute take out massive amounts of student loans.  Or they think the stork brings babies to mommies and daddies.  College works for some, but not all.  The trades work for some and not all as well.  But after over 20 years in the workforce, I can safely say that college has not really prepared me for much.

Other than there are a lot of people in colleges who think their degree means they are better people or harder workers than “less educated” people.  There is a lot of entitlement here.  And a lot of arrogance.

I have a knack for putting words together and conveying ideas to other people.  Sometimes, this talent is a curse, to use the cliche.  To process thoughts, I write about them.  I didn’t learn this in college.  I used it to get through college.  And once I got out, I started off exactly where I would have without a four year degree, other than being able to say I have a BA.

You’re Fired (Up!)

This weekend, I got fired up about writing again.  About querying magazines, about putting my plan to become a full-time writer into effect.  I am already very successful in writing copy for companies, but that only helps pay the bills.  I need to get to the next level.  I was ready.

Then, I got to work this morning and felt all the wind leave my sails.  The supervisor even gave me a nifty little Christmas present, because ’tis the season.  It reminded me of those years of abuse with the sweet talking after a completely dehumanizing fight, which was supposed to make everything okay.  It made me sick to my stomach.  But nobody was yelling, so maybe I can put up with this for a few more years.  Maybe I won’t get the bad review in a few months I completely expect to get.  Maybe one day, things will change and everything will be okay again?

This and every other lie I told myself when I was surviving a marriage that nearly killed me.

This weekend, it was just about all my wonderful girlfriend and I talked about.  She listened and we put our heads together on a lot of things.  I’m fired up again.  I have ideas.  I can query magazines.  I can ignore the contempt and push ahead, because the first step in keeping you down by any abuser is to let your crush yourself with your own doubt.

It’s hard to tell people about these things.  Even my closest friends and family.  “You can’t just quit! Ten years will fly past! What about your pension? What about money? Etc. etc.” It’s like they are saying “Your hobbies are cute and all, but don’t quit your day job.” As if I didn’t have enough of these doubts swirling around my head.

If this was a relationship, they would have offered to help me move. Instead, they are handing me a piece of steak and telling me “Sorry about that busted lip.  Maybe a plate fell out of the cabinet?”

I think of all the times I have seen people mourn the loss of a loved one.  They always talk about what they did for a living in some reverential way.  Even if that was what killed them.  How many funerals give praise to the thing that murdered their loved one, I wonder.

Just suppose I can make a go of this?  Suppose I can use my talents and follow opportunity, like Mike Rowe says?  Rather than just feel like this is all I deserve. My career is at a dead end.  Not only will I never advance further than where I am, I am in the process of being attacked on a daily basis, and my reputation in my job is being smeared.  Suppose I find validation through my own actions, rather than some sadistic person who wants to take the wind out of my sails?

Anything is possible.