On the culture shock of Wharton, Texas & some of its subsequent charms

writing

At first arrival, I’ll confess I thought I might not be able to enjoy myself in Wharton. However over the last couple of days Wharton has grown on me just a little bit. It has its dubious charm. In Wharton, Texas I am looked upon as skinny. Repeatedly and much to my jubilation people have asked if I am a model. Whilst I battle the bulge in Scottsdale and Los Angeles, here I could stand to gain a few. This has definitely played a part in my recently improved opinion of the town. 😀

Disclaimer: It is always hard to speak critically or even just observationally about anything from the vantage point of privilege. Automatically shadows of snobbishness, conceit or arrogance are cast on the narrative. I do not think that I am better than anyone because of the advantages afforded to me in life. The place from which my opinions stem is not one of disparagement or disregard, I am aware of the difficulties faced by these areas, aware of why things are as they are, I do not discount the individuals when I speak in generalities, or underestimate the value of their characters and souls.

Although I realize that many areas in the U.S are much like Wharton, and it is by far not the worst or the most rural; to me, it presents with a real culture shock. This experience is akin to that of a person from a developed country visiting a third world country. I cannot help but be slapped in the face by first hand awareness of how different people can be, how varied their priorities, their tastes, their standards of living and ambitions.

Lululemon and Starbucks do not govern the lives of people in Wharton, but neither does what could be conventionally described as “good taste”, moderation, aesthetics, nutrition, fitness, health, education or dental care…etc. To me the lifestyle led by most here is starkly different from what I know. But admittedly, I had lived a somewhat insulated life, without having much need to ever leave my primary comfort zones. Where I thought there was an economic gap between south and north Scottsdale, I think there is a planet gap between Scottsdale and Wharton. Everything from the pace to the motivations of life here is different. In Wharton people seem to either work very hard or barely at all. Farming and fracking are the things putting bread on the tables of a vast majority, as is every fast food franchise known to man. Few here have heard of such luxuries as Trader Joes, Wholefoods,Tofu…. Organic, yoga or Crossfit are not terms widely used or understood. Ordering coffee at the single coffee shop in town is a strange and somewhat frustrating experience, it’s almost as if although we speak the same language we cannot reach an understanding. I realize this is because people here do not alter their orders and do not express arbitrary preparation preferences, like people in LA are accustomed to doing. It is not a realm for the pampered or the particular. I have done my part thus far in giving LA girls a decidedly bad name.

There is no shortage of plump cows, languidly parked under shady trees and in fields, living their lives beneath the Texas sky on God’s green earth. As all animals should. Such sights feel to my heart like hugs. People are extremely nice, kind, polite, they appear to be quite united in their communal humanity. This is the advantage of a small town, without a great socio economic discrepancy. Considerations of wealth, ambition, vanity, competition, city stress, do not afflict these people or divide them in the ways that they do in other areas. It is a simpler world that I think breeds a kinder folk. As far as I can tell racial tensions don’t prevail here, people seem to live on equal footing, healthily intermixed. I can’t be sure, but from my limited observations, humans are less divided by race in this small town than in many other liberal, more cosmopolitan areas on the west coast, which is ironic. On the west coast although equality is a highly esteemed and hailed aspiration, it is not necessarily as much of a reality as it appears to me to be in Wharton. Again I think this is because socio economically everyone is in a somewhat same boat here. They occupy their small world together, they farm the same land, frack the same ground and drink the same beer in the only bar in town.

P.S. Lena, is the little Polo pony I got to ride on the 30000 acre ranch which is home to the Polo farm, and it was a truly beautiful thing. Not only is the scenery expansive and robust, but I have arrived at the conclusion that Polo ponies are perhaps the most fun to ride of all equine athletes. They are alert, very forward, have excellent endurance and listen very closely to their riders.

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I am in the middle of NOWHERE…Starbucks is 28 miles away :O

writing

I have a few things worthy of reporting. Right this moment I am perched uncomfortably in an aisle seat of a US Airways plane. I paid 37$ extra dollars to change into this seat while checking in, as the seat that had been assigned to me was in the very tail of the plane. Tails of planes don’t bode well for me, uncontrollable nausea leads to rampant vomiting which leads to awkwardness between me and those hapless few seated near me. But now, in my +37$ seat in the very front of the plane, I am pissed, because the plane is half empty. I could have used my will and my legs to move into it free of charge. This is bullshit, Us Airways. I am done with you. *Shakes fist in air.

So where am I going? I am going to Houston, or rather Wharton, Texas! I had never been to Texas, but I just read that Houston is something like the first major U.S. city to have an openly gay & female mayor. A double whammy. That’s darn amazing to my thinking, and in Texas? Who could have imagined such a thing was possible? Progressive, inclusive thinking and a democratic election process based on merit, free from bigotry and sexism is like my catnip. So even though I have also been told that Houston is an utter shithole filled to the brim with pollution and strip clubs, I am very excited to visit this shining example of the modern age. First thing I discovered while peeing, that Houstoneans are quite a wordy bunch, where paper is lacking they see not an obstacle, but an opportunity. photo 3 copy

I love airports. I love them for a few reasons, but mostly because the people watching is superb. A complete spectrum of humanity is dished up in all of its glorious variety. If ever Aliens needed a good sampling of the human species they could just abduct the contents of one airport and be done with it.

I take airporting very seriously, I spend a dubious amount of time trying to figure out what to wear to the airport and doing something to my hair so that it falls just so atop my head. Most of the times allI can come up with are pajamas and unkempt pixie buns, but whatever I decide on has to fit the mood just right. It’s not so much a vanity thing, as an exercise in disguise. Alas, I am not at all happy with my outfit today. The airplane is very chilly, at least I am glad to be wearing long sleeves, as is my custom. One important rule of airport fashion is to wear things that offer full coverage to skin, as you simply don’t want to be touching anything here. Trust me.

Now for a little racism. 😛 Originally, before everyone dispersed evenly across the half empty plane, I sat in a row with two gentlemen. One very Asian and elderly, quite like Mr. Miyagi, the other very Mexican and somewhat surly.photo 2

The Mexican man is wearing a slightly ornate, pinstriped dress shirt; extra tight, dark navy jeans and a hand tooled brown belt to match his brown, alligator skin, sharp nosed shoes. He has on Prada sunglasses and a Louis Vuitton carry on, the checkered kind not the monogram. He keeps looking at me slyly but obviously, it’s not the slickest operation I’d ever been subjected to. I imagine in Mexico he is quite the stud, the ladies must get slayed by the barrel full.

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Both have some appearance of FOBishness, and I am not saying this derogatorily, it’s just an observation. To my surprise and thorough amusement, when the Asian man finally spoke to me, I discovered that his is the tongue exactly like that of my Californian compatriots, every bit of his diction and cadence smacked of a Malibu surfer dude. It made my brain giggle uncontrollably. A few minutes later the Mexican man had occasion to utter a few words as well, he needed to use the lavatory, and once again I blinked confusedly as he sounded like my college English lit professor. Perhaps I should quit racially profiling….naaah that’d be no fun. I love surprises. America, the land of so many and so varying, I love thee.

I am ready for this plane to land, I am almost entirely out of sustenance. So far I had eaten 2 bags of chips, a rather hearty sandwich, a bag of M&Ms,one of those hummus snack packs, some grapes and some pretzels. I have Bugles left and Sprees. I am starting to get weird looks from everyone who has me in their sights. I am a bored plane eater. Sorry. Jeesh. Shameful plane behavior, like gratuitous overeating is part of the airporting experience. A part I love.

Back to where I am going. I am going to Wharton to hang out & ride ponies with my friend Radikah at a Polo farm which is currently employing her. Wharton is a very small town as far as I understand, and now that I am driving my little rental car over to it, I have realized that it is 1.5 hours away from Houston and literally in the middle of nowhere! First thing I did was I Googled the nearest Starbucks. T’is 28 miles away, ladies and gents. That noise you just heard piercing the atmosphere, was my screaming. Although Raddy has extended her hospitality to me, I can’t stay with people ever, I can’t even share a hotel room due to my social issues, of which I have plenty. So I booked a motel room in Wharton 2 miles away from the Polo club. It’s one of the fancier options, as far as I could tell, from the overwhelming list of 3 in total. And walking into the lobby, I am not disappointed. Splendor, thy name is Country Hearth Inn.photo 4 copy

I have no plans except to enjoy some nature, to ride crazy Polo ponies to my heart’s content, embarrass myself trying to play Polo, partake in various tomfoolery with Raddy, on and off horse back, & of course try not to melt from excessive humidity that everyone talks about….excessively. I will be reporting every bit of my impressions on here. It’s going to be AWESOME. 😀

P.S. Right as I arrived a foal was born. It was equal part beautiful and disgusting.

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On Hell & other people…

humor, miscellaneous

…in heaven’s clothing. It’s 100 F.

Riding out and amongst people is not exactly a private or modest endeavor. I always shelf my misanthropy for the Greenbelt park, because I am not an asshole. I realize that a giant horse galloping through a people park is a glorious sight, I wave at gawkers, slow down for children and say hello to everyone who says hello, with a big smile.

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But even at this, my most social, most pleasant, I am reminded of how icky people are.

1) There was the requisite dumbass who honked his truck horn, just for the shits and giggles of startling me & spooking my horse. Little did he know we’ve seen it all & are well acquainted with his special & commonly inbred subspecies of human.

2) Whilst quietly walking along the narrow area of the park where only a bikepath offers passage, a jogging prune ran past us & uttered “this is a jogging path”, giving me a decidedly dirty look. To which I said “then keep on jogging”. She stopped whipped around and glared at us intending to make a scene “what was that?”… There was no reason for me to engage further, so we walked on and away, I heard her squawk a few more words at my back. How do you instruct a middle aged woman in the ways of amiability. It’s a losing proposition, can’t force a soul into an old hag. What’s especially ironic is that it’s more a bike path than a jogging path. In short, she can eat horse poo and die. Let’s hope she hadn’t had occasion to procreate, lest my future children have to live amongst her children. 😛 😀

3) Then of course there are these people, shockingly always adults, who will both chase me on foot and pull over in their cars to take video with their phones?! This one is tough, a part of me wonders if, like a celebrity, I have forfeited the right to privacy by climbing on a wildebeest and riding her in civilian areas? Obviously I am not the subject of their awe, she is, and i can’t blame them. Still, we are not a public circus, I am a human being, albeit attached to a horse…and i have the same reaction to people disregarding my humanity & privacy as i would were i on foot. Imagine, you’re jogging, and some guy starts pacing next to you with his camera phone unabashedly extended into your face. It’s kind of infuriating. Thank the god i am not a movie star or a rock star, as i would surely be serving a life sentence behind bars for assaulting some hapless paparazzo. 😛 Conflicted as this situation makes me, I direct all my energy into not letting my middle finger pop up in profane indignation...I don’t want to ruin their video. That’s the kind of person I am. A NICE person, a beacon of hope in a rude, cold world. 😛

Just to clarify when people ask if they can take a picture I usually say yes, but turn away. Like members of some native american tribes, i subscribe to the notion that a poorly angled or otherwise unflattering photograph can steal my soul. 😛

Alas, can I really complain about anything when kisses are so readily received & tolerated.

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On Tattoos

advice, art, miscellaneous

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I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that 99.99% of tattoos I see make my eyes hurt. People, overwhelmingly, have terrible taste and a real nonchalant attitude about getting inked. Having taste and aesthetic standards in a tasteless world is almost a burden I tell ya. A daily struggle really, especially when you live in the white trash capital of all the places you’d ever been to, Arizona.
Here are some basic tips on getting a tattoo that doesn’t assault my aesthetic sensibilities. Please read carefully and commit to memory. Together we’ll make the world a better place!

1) Don’t just plop by the first parlor and pick shit out of a book, have some self respect, dig down for something with some real meaning, even if butterflies & sunshine are just your fave thing ever.
2) Not all tattooists are created equal, real tattoo artists specialize in different genres and have different strengths, they do not take in every and any Job, they refer.
2.5) You get what you pay for! A skilled professional charges 100$-200$ an hour and comes with a wait list. Sure it’s steep, but getting a tattoo is like growing a new limb, it will be a part of you forever, or at least until you come to your senses and leave Billy Bob for greener pastures.
3) Dark solid colored designs with lots of red WILL make you look like you have syphilis or a flesh eating disease, so think twice, for reference see Jenna Jameson circa 2014.
4) Please NOT the face, one day you might not want to be a gangster.
5) NOT the belly button, that’s just gross
6) Tribal tats..really? Still?! Gag
7) Mostly leg and calf tattoos on women just look bad.
8) This one might be too obvious, but worth the mention, no symbols in foreign languages, unless of course said symbol is in your mother tongue, still this might be a forever ruined proposition.

Tattoos are serious business. They can endow you with beauty; make you interesting; make you a banality & a cliche; completely misdirect people from who you really are; or just make you ugly. Much like clothes, except you cant just take them off.

Chapter 5: When things got weird

writing

Ch 5

             It was impossible not to stare at them. A small girl of nine or ten with her right hand firmly planted on the back of a mangy skeletal hound was slowly crossing the street. The dog was enormous, almost as tall as the child and, judging from appearance, in a truly pitiful state of health. It was thin and gaunt, with ribs prominently displayed through paper-thin layer of ashy skin and a sharply protruding spine beneath patches of strange grey fur. It was either very old, very sick or both. On the contrary the little girl brimmed with health. Her skin was pink, almost peachy; wispy auburn hair covered her shoulders in a cascade of curls, she moved her tiny feet pointing her toes, like a little dancer. Even from a distance I could see her bright eyes shining like tiny ambers from beneath long thick eyelashes. The duo had such a peculiar quality to them that even I, in my state of heightened self-involvement, forgot myself for a minute, stopped and marveled at them making their way to my side of the street. When they came closer I was surprised to discover two things, the dog was even uglier and more handicapped than I had imagined, both of its eyes were glossed over with a thick white film, and the beautiful little girl walking by its side was, in reality, an even more beautiful boy. The animal was obviously blind, and the boy’s hand was moving it along. He was a “guide boy” I thought, an ironic reversal of roles between a human and his dog. Having cast off all considerations for that social convention, which since early childhood instructs us not to stare, I stood there, watching them approach. They were like something out of a fairy tale or from another time, so out of place on this otherwise unremarkable Los Angeles block.

When they were about half way across the street I realized that the little boy seemed just as interested in me as I was in him. Unapologetically staring back into my face he floated towards me, right up to the point when there was no more than 3 feet of pavement left between us, at which time he stopped and shifted his eyes to the shopping bag in my hand. A bottle of cheap Vodka, prominently displayed itself against its transparent plastic containment. If it didn’t occur to me to feel self-conscious right then, the words that proceeded to come out of his tiny pink mouth turned me scarlet red.

“Drink much?” Was all he said, but those two words spoken in that little girl voice made all the blood in my body rush straight to my face.

“What?” I thought It had to have been a misunderstanding, I must have misheard him.

But he just stood there, unabashedly staring me down. It was an uncomfortable, unexpected turn of events. This child managed to go from an enchanting little fairy tale prince to an obnoxious little shit in as much time as it took him to blurt out those two words. I could tell that I really didn’t have a choice but to extricate myself from this situation. Whether he said what I thought he said, or not, getting into it with a little kid in the middle of the street wasn’t going to help matters. I had enough sense left in me to just walk away. Completely dumbfounded, I stiffly turned on my heels and started walking in the apposite direction from whence he came.

“Surreal, completely surreal” I mumbled to myself.

Despite best efforts to free my mind from the echo of that condescending little voice, it seemed to have stuck to me, as unnerving in its residual state as it was when I first heard it. But if that wasn’t enough, the bizarre duo itself turned out to have been just as persistent. When quite some time later I heard footsteps nearby and looked over my shoulder, I saw them trailing behind me, about 30 feet away. Agitated by the discovery I quickened my stride and in a few minutes checked for them again, the distance between us had not increased. Were they intentionally keeping pace? I wasn’t in any kind of a mood to be haunted by some snotty little asshole and his ugly stray. I stopped abruptly, whipped around and glared straight at them.

“Listen, Lord Fauntleroy, where are you parents? What do you think you are doing? Where are your parents?” I shouted, the sound of my own voice surprised me, it was incredibly high, like a shrill. His reaction was not at all what I expected either. Instead of looking intimidated or scared, like a child ought to look when faced with an angry, spitting adult, this boy let out the most wholehearted and boisterous laugh. He laughed! At me?

“Parents? Ha Ha Ha! Where are your parents? Do they know what you’ve been up to? Anyways, other people have business this way too, you really ought to do something about the paranoia.”

He sounded nothing like a 10 year old, and nothing like a stranger. I blinked stupidly fast, hoping that added eye lubrication would assist me in clarifying this entire conundrum, maybe I knew him from somewhere, or maybe he wasn’t a child at all but some kind of a little person. Still in front of me stood a strange small boy and a large ugly dog, and his angelic appearance did not match his insolent tongue. I found myself in exactly the same situation I was in the first time around with only one mature course of action-to leave. So once again I turned around and walked on. But he wasn’t done with me.

“And Charly, you ought to hurry, it’s about to rain.”

My eyes widened to the point of a facial spasm. The last time I felt frightened like that I was 7, my sister had put on a scary clown mask with long sharp teeth and jumped out from under my bed as I was climbing into it. I remember feeling then just like I did now, convinced that she was something otherworldly, I had taken off running out of my room screaming for help. When I heard my name, spoken so nonchalantly in that little voice by that little stranger, my feet reacted, running away with me as fast as they could, just like I did when I was 7. Thankfully I wasn’t far from my hotel so my new pace allowed me to reach it within a couple of minutes. Ducking in under its awning I stopped and leaned on the gilded front doors, trying to catch my breath. Finally I dared to look back for the first time since I set off sprinting like a mad woman. To my relief the street behind me was empty; there was no trace of the runt or his dog. I squinted and stuck my head out into the street, trying to peer out further than my sight would allow, a drop of water fell on my face, I wiped it off with the back of my hand, but one more drop fell in its place, the next thing I knew rain was pouring from the sky. As predicted.

Chapter 9..or..The chapter that tripped me up

writing

“Who is it?” I asked surveying the treeline.

“Not sure, usually we get some stalking rights, a little time to check things out, haunt if you will, but this one is an unscheduled drop in.”

“Were you watching me long?”

“Since you got off that plane.”

“That’s a long time, that’s days!” I exclaimed, surprised at the idea that as I was getting off of the plane, blissfully ignorant, this pair had me in their sights.

“It’s not the longest we had, but it’s nice for us you know, technically we are working, but really it’s more of a loitering situation…in which we eat hot dogs and milkshakes, no such thing in this place.” He motioned around himself with his tiny doll like hand.

“So do you know anything at all about this person?” I really wanted to understand what and whom to expect.

“He won’t be like you, he is an “intentional” He looked at me meaningfully “It’s going to be a rocky arrival.”

“They call it suicide, Dog” chimed in Peotr.

“But it’s a man?” I wanted to keep the conversation on track, before it veered off on another of their bickering tangents.

“Yes, what’s with all the questions, give it a rest will you.” The kid waved me off like an annoying fly, but over the days I had gotten used to his lack of patience and bouts of moodyness, so it didn’t discourage me. I had more questions, I redirected them more specifically at the dog. The animal had become as common to me as a tree, I hardly noticed his uglyness anymore, and the fact that he functioned more like a grouchy uncle than a dog had ceased to rattle me.

“Dog, can you please add anything.”

“We rarely have more than one charge at a time, it has happenned exactly two times so far, but nothing in this realm happens by accident, there must be a reason they want you to meet, there is a lot of pain with this one, a lot….but lets just wait and see.” This channel of information was closed as well now. It was as if in the hours before the arrival of this mysterious person, the dog and the child had gone into a trance, they hardly stirred at all come sun down and sat motionless, staring into open space. A warm wind started to blow some time after we stopped talking, it lifted a web of leaves off the ground, but curiously rather than getting blown away, they swirled around and above us in what appeared to be a kind of halo. Heat picked up shortly after, followed by an intensifying humidity. Within a few hours the climate had changed drasically. Becoming unbearably hot and humid, it closely resembled a sauna or a steam room or Florida. Breathing in that hot, dense air, I could taste the granules of salt landing on my tongue. An opaque wall of dust and leaves formed around us, drowning out much of the light, still my companions remained calm. I tried again for an explanation.

“Is this normal?” But my words died as soon as they exited my mouth, the space around us was no longer conducive to the circulation of sound. It was quite like being under water. Stubbornly, I raised my voice and yelled out as loudly as my physiology permitted. My words floated slowly but steadily, reaching my companions with a palpable delay.

“Not really, this is unusually bad, I had not seen this sort of thing……..” Dog paused and glanced at Peotr as if not sure whether he should continue “….. since Peotr’s arrival.”

“Does this mean anything?”

“Anguish I think, usually the weather phenomenon is a reflection of the one it carries with it …..” Mumbled Peotr under his breath, and even though I couldnt hear his voice, I heard him.

Thunder cut through like a giant slapping enormous palms together right on top of our heads. In a moment everything went quiet and all the wetness in the atmosphere seemed to have been pulled together to form a giant floating sphere of liquid. It hovered above our heads menacingly. I sat paralyzed with my head thrown back, watching it complete awe. The sphere floated off slightly to the north and suddenly, like a balloon pricked with a needle, it exploded. Its contents came crashing into the earth with a resounding boom. When the dust settled, I found my surroundings had gone back to completely normal, if you don’t count the newly formed lake just off to the right. It was lovely and still, its glossy surface bared no evidence its tumultuous creation. It resembled very much the lake I woke up next to just a few days earlier.

“Wow.” I exclaimed.

“Shhhhh.” Peotr put his hand to my mouth and whispered.

“Be quiet, it’s harder with men, they punch at their fears, it’s important we tread softly”

I undetstood. It made sense that while women maybe ran or screamed or swooned upon discovering themselves in a strange wilderness with an eerie child and a talking dog, men just started swinging. So there we were, sitting about forty feet away from the lake, in open sight, waiting. We didn’t have to wait long, within minutes we heard coughing and spitting, a figure of a man limned itself on the other side of the water, he was crawling out of the lake on all fours. When he had finally made it to dry land, he tried to get up, but his legs shook, giving in at the knees. He collapsed onto his side groaning.

“Oh, good, he seems very impaired, this is the best kind, you two already have something in common Charlie” snickered Peotr, getting up off the ground. I looked at Dog questioningly, as I had come to do whenever the child was dispensing information in his typically snide, cryptic fashion.

“It’s common amongst drinkers to arrive here significantly weakened.” offered Dog

“Alcohol is the only substance which can travel here in your blood “

Peotr began making his way around the giant puddle towards the man, who was still scattered on the ground, groaning. We followed. When we walked up to him, I expected a scene, a panic, screaming, maybe running, but to my surprise none of those things happened. He sat up, holding his head in his arms with his elbows perched into his knees, and surveyed us from under his brow. He seemed indifferent. Peotr extended the water flask to him. The man took it without a word and drank greedily until there was nothing left. When the man was done with the flask he let it drop to the ground. Peotr flinched and broke the silence.

“Oh come on, seriously, what happened to common courtesy, hand the flask back.”

The man stared at him for a second with tired bloodshot eyes, as if he couldn’t quite grasp the meaning of what was said, then picked up the flask and handed it over to the child.

“Sorry.”

There was another period of silence interrupted only by the scratching noises of Peotr trying vigorously to clean the sand off of his flask. I took the moment to examine the stranger. He was a man in his mid thirties, medium height, he had that strong stocky build which often lends itself as an advantage to shorter males, compensating for lack of stature. He had an open face with a pronounced jaw line. Half of him was covered in a thick layer of wet sand, the rest of him was just wet, still there was a boyish handsomeness to him. I was embarrassed to have noticed.

Having finally cleaned off his flask, Peotr broke the silence, evidently he was still quite irritated.

“No, you are not dead, yet…no this is not hell…blah blah blah”

The man continued to stare at us indifferently, oddly the expression on his face did not change much when Dog finally decided to interject.

“Stop, vermin, go sulk somewhere if you can’t do your duties properly.” Thusly scolded, Peotr glared at us, then turned around sharply and stomped away into the bushes, with all the conviction due a pouting child.”

The dog spoke to the man much as he had spoken to me earlier. Our guest started to come to, I caught him glancing over at me questioningly, as if looking for comfirmation that indeed there was a dog talking to him. I nodded lightly, realizing, that in a way I was the only thing there, that wasn’t somewhat absurd or unreal. He took in the information remarkably well. I thought it was commendable that he stayed so composed in the wake of such jarring news, but later I realized it was more of an indication of how down he was, rather than how adaptable. I always found sadness could be akin to madness, it seemed that he was a perfect example of a man so profoundly hurting, that he was capable of accepting everything and cared about nothing. Nothing could surprise him, impress him or bother him. Having made his introductory speech, Dog turned around and following in Peotr’s footsteps, disappearing into a bush. The stranger and I were left alone for the moment.

I sat down next to him.

“I don’t know what to say, that could be helpful” I exhaled…..”I dont know much about any of this, until now I thought this was all a hallucination, it still very well might be….”

He maintained silence. I got back up, reasoning that maybe he would benefit from a bit of quiet, but as I made a step away he stopped me.

“Last thing I remember was driving, I think I am dead?”

“I don’t know, the way Dog said it we are not dead, we are in between.”

Again silence.

“Last thing I remember was drinking a lot and taking some pills.” I shrugged. He said nothing.

“You wanted to die?” It wasn’t really a question, more of assertion, he said it with some relief it seemed.

“No, I can’t say that..but I think I almost did, by accident…I just wanted to forget. You wanted to die?”

“I do.” He said it in the present tense.

“Why?”

He shook his head like it didn’t matter, with resignation. His eyes turned up to me, they were a clear blue, almost translucent, tears were brimming on the edges of his eyelids, ready to overflow their confinement. I knew the answer. I could feel it. Grief.

Our companions had reemerged from the bushes and walked back over to us. Peotr tapped at the top of his right wrist with the fingers of his left hand, as if he had a watch there.

“We have to go” He said.

Unquestioningly, the man rose from the ground, and without bothering to shake the sand off, started walking behind the boy. His head hung low.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Aries.” He didn’t ask mine, so I volunteered.

“I am Charlie.”

On Vegetarians & Meateaters

advice, writing

Why Vegetarians want to eat Meateaters..or..Vegetarians are crazy & Meateaters are stupid

Yesterday, another blogger popped into the comment section of my blog after having read the “About me” (where I casually mention that I don’t eat animals), and tried to pull me into a debate on the subject of vegetarianism. I personally hate this debate (not to suggest that it isn’t a debate worth having). I don’t try to convert anyone, because  in some ways I have given up on man kind, in other ways I don’t believe that such conversion is even possible. Still, there I was being goaded into an a discussion. There is a marked flippancy with which meateaters usually start this debate and it is annoying as hell to me. Not to say there isn’t a righteous indignation with which vegetarians approach it, that can be frustrating for meateaters.

I do see both sides, as in some ways I exist on both sides, but I think that vegetarians have it harder. The reason it is especially vexing for them to partake in this argument is that their opinions on the matter stem out of true conviction, to their core the suffering of animals disturbs them, they see the injustice and move against the status quo in order to incite change. If nothing else their is a noble cause. Meateaters however are just arguing to argue, and are only as invested in the issue as their dietary proclivities go, additionally they are in the unchallenged majority. They eat animals because of a life long habit & because they taste darn good on the grill, moral considerations do not inform their eating habits. All in all the levels of emotional and intellectual investment when it comes to this subject are starkly disproportionate between meat eaters and non-meat eaters. Which is why this debate is always ripe with an off-putting righteousness emanating from the vegetarian side and an annoying flippancy/disinformation spewing out of the meat eating side.

The three main reasons the vegetarian debate is an exhausting one for me are:

  1. I am not THAT informed. I know that entering a battle without proper weaponry and armor can do your cause  more harm than good. I wouldn’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of a false victory simply because I came unarmed and in my bathrobe, this would only cement their erroneous carnivorous convictions.
  2. What’s the point, when the mental block erected in the heads of most meateaters on this subject is almost entirely impenetrable by argument, no matter how empirically sound the data. Why? Because the culture of meat eating and use of animal products is as much a part of us as is religion or family. We are indoctrinated into it nearly since birth. To recognize that history as a problem, to reject it, is both dispossessing and divesting, it would require a sort of rebirth. 
  3. I love meat, I am the most struggling vegetarian of them all.

As Item # 3 states, I am one of the most reluctant, tortured vegetarians I know. I LOVE meat. I am a foodie. Before I evolved into a rather bad Vegetarian this year, I had spent many years contemplating the glaring wrongs of the meat industry. I worked on building the connection inside myself between those wrongs and the meat on my plate, and it hasn’t been easy. I knew that to break years of habit and dietary preferences I had to incite a change of heart and mind within myself. During those years I was not able to move myself beyond contemplation and to take action for change, I had my steak and ate it too, with a side of guilt. But what it really comes down to is self discipline and attrition. Recognizing the undeniable truth even if it hurts, even if it means depriving one self of a way of life, to be replaced by another.I feel I had to sacrifice a part of myself in order to make room for growth and what is right. What makes it so hard, is that what we eat is not merely about what we enjoy or what’s available; eating is often about culture and family, it’s about tradition and a connection to the past. Our food choices are closely intertwined with our sense of personal identity, and trying to change them can feel like a kind of self annihilation, loss and even disenfranchisement.

In my effort towards a vegetarian lifestyle, I had to push past my mental blocks by treating meat eating as a routine to be replaced with a ritual of abstaining. My greatest obstacle has been in that I LOVE MEAT, and am unable to make an emotional connection between animal suffering and a hot dog. I am like Dexter i abstain via routine, because otherwise I always just want to eat the hot dog. When it is in the freezer or in the skillet I don’t see the grisly death of its source animal at all, I just get hungry.

HUNTING

In fact as a vegetarian, you think I’d abhor hunting, but I don’t. I used to abhor it when i still ate meat and refused to acknowledge my own part in the rise and expansion of factory farming.  Not to say that I support hunting now, but a clean, quick death is a blessing to an animal, in comparison to how Tyson fills grocery store shelves with dead flesh. I now feel that the Animal loving community’s vitriol towards those who hunt is somewhat misguided and not necessarily rational, unless it is stemming from devout vegans. If we are condemning hunters, as morally bankrupt and cruel, then logically speaking we would have to extend this condemnation to every single person who shops for meat at a grocery store. Just because your average house wife doesn’t actively prey on animals in the wild, doesn’t mean that her impact on factory farmed animals is not equally as(or more) damaging. There is no doubt in fact that anyone who contributes to factory farming by shopping for meat at the grocery store is in fact supporting an industry of unmatched and abhorrent cruelty, one which far exceeds the violence of hunting in the wild. Every time we buy hotdogs, bacon etc, we fund a widespread culture of animal breeding for lifelong abuse, anguish and death.

First I’d like to offer the simplest explanation of why I think it is wrong to consume meat in the year 2014. In truth, as i indicated, my issue isn’t even meat eating, it’s the meat farming. It’s the treatment of animals raised or procured for food. It’s the apathy. In a word*, it’s FACTORY FARMING.The human capacity for torture, mistreatment and brutality of living things is hard to comprehend, the capacity to pretend like it’s not what’s happening is even harder to fathom. We read in horror about crimes committed in say, Africa, by people against people. We wonder how they can do such horrendous things as dismemberment of children, disembowelments, grisly maiming. How can they not feel compassion, take pity? Have they not hearts, no souls. Yet, around here, boiling lobsters alive, living creatures with long life spans and intricate social systems, is a completely common practice by decent, even animal loving folks?  How can someone see a creature struggle and writhe in a scolding pot, scrambling to get out, and not take pity I wonder, not feel like crying? We find it unconsciounable that in the middle ages people were often boiled alive, they would be slowly lowered into the cauldron by a rope. That wasn’t an uncommon form of execution or torture. It seems unconscionable now, like something out of a horror movie. Can you see the hypocrisy? That’s what really blows my mind. We are all no better than those rogues chopping up children in the less “civilized” corners of the world or the ancient people of the middle ages, in fact we are worse. For all our education, for all our purview of history and science, abundance of resources, ingenuity and claims on morality, we still can’t muster the obvious compassion due a boiling lobster or a factory farmed pig.

FACTORY FARMING at a glace

  • 97% of the 10 billion animals produced for food are tortured and killed each year are farm animals
  • In this country, roughly 29 million pounds of antibiotics — about 80 percent of the nation’s antibiotics use in total — are added to animal feed every year, mainly to speed livestock growth.
  • A typical supermarket chicken today contains more than twice the fat, and about a third less protein than 40 years ago.                                                                                                                
  • Sows are kept pregnant the entirety of their miserable lifespan in gestation crates – or sow stalls which confine a sow during her 114 day pregnancy and then the next and then the next. It is so small that she cannot even turn around, she is often chained to the ground as not to try and get up…her entire life.
  • Pigs, sheep and other animals have their tails docked (cut off) with a pair of pliers, without any anesthesia.
  • Pigs are often still alive, when being dropped into boiling water intended to clean/ soften their skin before butchering.
  • On average, to produce 1kg of animal protein requires nearly 6kg of protein in the form of feed grains.
  • Around 30% of the nitrogen that pollutes water in the EU and US is from livestock, more than 70% in China.
  • Male chicks are ground up alive

Don’t get me started on veal or foie gras.

Anyways, as I said, this list goes on and on, it is terrifying not only because of the glaringly barbaric treatment of animals, but also because of the crippling effects intensive farming has on the environment. In the end, it won’t be an atomic bomb that blows up the world, it will be intensive animal farming. Most people are blissfully oblivious of the horrors & impacts of animal farming. When there is an undercover video floating around Youtube or Facebook about Tyson Farms, they turn away, as not to get themselves too upset, as not to have their day ruined by disturbing images, then they trot over to the store and buy themselves a Tyson roast. This is willful ignorance and it is wrong. But blocking out the argument for vegetarianism is an infinitely easier than otherwise. It is a lot easier than living with the knowledge of where hotdogs really come from, what goes into them and the guilt associated with the brutality in which we have participated every time we chowed down on a juicy burger.

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I don’t need statistics to know that factory farming is wrong, I know it viscerally, I feel it in my gut and and in my bones. If you feel compelled to protect a dog from an abuser, then you shouldn’t partake in the abuse of other, no less valiant or innocent beings. When I was 8, I heard stories of boys torturing frogs, they disturbed me deeply, I remember crying; when I was 10 I saw boys swinging a crab on a string and smashing him into the pavement, I pushed one of them off the dock, before getting punched by his friend (yes boys are the general source of all evil it would seem). It’s not the eating of flesh that disturbs me, it’s the suffering generated and endured in the process.

Meat eaters like to say that it’s a personal choice. Well of course it is, what isn’t a personal choice really? Kicking puppies and punching old ladies would also be personal choices. It being a personal choice doesn’t mean that it’s the right choice, the moral choice or even a choice equally as good as any other. Obviously a choice which in some way supports an industry of abuse is inferior to a choice which does not. At which point do we hold ourselves accountable? Maybe never, but if it’s never, then at least we, as meat eaters, should have some humility, acknowledge this reality versus argue against it.

Meateaters, don’t be flippant towards vegetarianism. I am not judging or perching myself above anyone, there is a broad spectrum of morality and I am not at the top of it at all. But I AM aware of my place on that spectrum, and I don’t wave off those who set an example of doing/being better. I do plenty wrong myself, my couches are leather, my shoes are leather, my car seats are leather, I am aware, I hope I can become a better person with time. Awareness is a necessary first step, if we are ever to make moves towards change, and every little move counts. It is not what it is, we should aspire to better. The platitude does not fit…

Now a quick summation of the annoying, clichéd arguments I hear all the time from the very flippant stupid meateaters who cheerfully accost me asserting that they could just never give up their pepperoni pizza.

1) If I wasn’t meant to eat it, I wouldn’t have canine teeth.

Answer: Most animals have canine teeth, herbivores and carnivores alike, and the most ferocious canine teeth actually belong to herbivores. One of such examples is the hippo, another is the guerilla…the list goes on.

Additionally, we are built for all kinds of violence, our capacity for causing harm has nothing to do with whether or not it is right.

pygmy_hippo_mouth  

2) A chick I knew became a vegetarian, lost all her hair and nearly died.

 Answer: A steak loving guy I knew had a major coronary incident at 38 and nearly died. Oh yea and he had gout. The fact is leading government and public health organizations worldwide agree that humans do not in fact require animal products to maintain optimal health! One can eat poorly and cause harm to their health whatever their dietary culture.

American Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, the U.S.’s oldest, largest and foremost authority on diet and nutrition, also recognized that humans have no inherent biological or nutritional need for animals products: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

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 3) My body craves meat, I am a man, I can’t ignore it.

 Answer: http://www.veganbodybuilding.com.There is a slew of top fitness athletes who partake in the vegan lifestyle, so that’s just nonsense. Vegan protein powders alone would completely eliminate your needs for the consumption of dead flesh. Your body has a habit, so does your mind, which is where the cravings come from, and if you wanted to break the habit you could, just as I am trying to do, not because it is easy or feels natural, but because it’s right.

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In conclusion, there is so much more that gets thrown around to defend the eating of meat, and it might have worked 300 years ago, but in the age of information, science and factory farming it simply doesn’t fly. And it’s all fine really, because regrettably the human race is not ready, just like we weren’t ready to recognize that black people are people and not slaves, objects or property until the 19th century. Just like we didn’t want to know about the Holocaust, allowing it to annihilate nearly 20 million lives of men, women and children, before the world decided to look up and take notice. Just like we thought homosexuals were mentally ill, disturbed, unequal or depraved until 2020. Today, we are still committing so many atrocities against each other, that animals don’t stand a chance…yet. But one day, if we hadn’t blown ourselves up, we’ll look on this age just as we look on the age of slavery or the Holocaust, with shame and horror. I am just trying to get ahead of the shame. 

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