Thursday, August 23, 2012

The men by the road

When you get to Indianapolis for GenCon you are sent to a "marshaling yard". Since the docks can't fit everyone at once, you are sent to a warehouse district nearby to wait your turn. Its a gravel lot with a porta-john and not much else. When there's room at the docks, they call you and you can drive over.

As I left the lot to make my way to the convention center  I was worried about all manner of things. Were we on a good spot? Did I have enough stock? Did I forget something? Would our new minion work out? All of this stuff buzzes around. You can't help it. As I pulled out of the lot I took a side street that ran between a warehouse and a small river, and there, carved out of the weeds and brush, was a small tent city.

It hadn't been there before. But there it was. There were signs it had been there some time. Months maybe. The tents were well worn. So were the men in them. A mixture of white and black, young and old. Living in Wellington I haven't seem homeless people in quite a while. It was a shock I suppose.

There are panhandlers on the streets of Indy. A dozen or so around the convention center. I haven't given any money to them the last two years. I wondered as I drove past the tent city, why that was. I generally don't think that homeless people are lazy or unworthy of help or charity. I guess I just assumed the ones by the convention center were the pros. I've read about some panhandlers who make thousands per year. Then there are the slackers. The disheveled youth sitting near coffee shops with their dogs endlessly smoking and hanging out. There's no way to know if they are truly homeless or just apathetic.

I thought I might take a closer look at the faces on the streets after we finished for the day. But every place to eat is jam packed in the city and we drove back to our motel a few miles away. It was the same story the next day, and the next. By the fourth day I was so tired from working. We finished the day and started teardown. They turn off the AC so it gets hot pretty quick. We pull apart our booths and pack away our stock.  Eventually I have to head off to the marshaling yard to wait my turn at the docks. It's a long wait. I check my email, make a lost of shit that has to get done by the end of the week. After an hour I get the green light to go.

As I pull out of the lot I pass the tent city again. It's filling up. I had somehow managed to avoid the homeless outside the convention hall, but that didn't mean they had disappeared. They never disappear. They just get forgotten.

Monday, July 23, 2012

If I had one, I'd send it back...

With the Boy Scouts of America deciding to double down on their decision to exclude gays from scouting there has been a notable backlash, culminating with some Eagle Scouts returning their badges, which is a pretty big thing for them, considering how hard it is go earn that award.

I never made Eagle Scout, far from it. I never wanted to be a Scout at all, let alone an Eagle Scout. Yet somehow as a young man I found myself drafted into the Boy Scouts. That's right, drafted.

When I was in Jr. High my grades were not what one would call "stellar". I was having a hard time for a number of reasons. My parents decided to send to to another school to get help, rather than see me fail a grade. When I arrived, my class was getting ready to head off on a camping trip. We would be canoeing 50 miles down the Mohican river.

This would be a challenge for any young person who wasn't much of an outdoors type. Now lets add in a group of emotionally, developmentally and behaviorally maladjusted kids. Some of these kids had serious problems. And yet we were expected to, as a group,  plan, purchase supplies, pack, unpack, canoe, make camp and cook for a 1 week trip. Needless to say, the trip did not go particularly smoothly. 2 kids smuggled along booze, one brought a gun. Several canoes flipped and got swamped. There were a few fights.

When it was done, I was told we had earned a '50 miler award'.

"From who?"  I asked.

"From the Boy Scouts" our teacher replied.

"I never joined the Boy Scouts."

"You did when you joined this school." he answered.''

And there it was. I had somehow joined the Scouts.

We did the trip again later, as well as camped in a log cabin in February. On another camping trip half the kids got ill from bad food or water. One time while building a bridge a saw popped out of the groove and cut my thumb wide open, necessitating stitches.  I never saw that 50 miler badge, or any other badge. We had no uniforms, not even a beret. The school had no money for that and some of the kids came from poor neighborhoods.

But a weird thing happened amongst all the misery. We worked as a team. Make no mistake, we didn't want to, but we had to. We learned, we overcame challenges. We dealt with other, even if we disliked - even hated each other sometimes.

Unlike the men giving back their medals, I do not claim that Scouting made me the successful man I am today. But it did teach me a lot. And I believe it can have a positive affect on young peoples lives. At a time when 'playing' now consists of sitting in front on a computer for hours on end we need to get kids outside and physically active. In this age where so much interaction is carried on through "social media" we need kids to learn how to get along face-to-face in groups. Positive adult roll models always seem in short supply. We cannot protect our children by insulating them from the world and pretending people with different skin color, religious beliefs or sexuality don't exist. The rest of society is moving past this kind of bigotry. Young people already know gay people and see no reason they should be excluded from enjoying the same rights everyone else does. Our own military no longer discriminates against openly gay members.

Yes, the BSA is a private group and they are allowed to have whatever policies they want. But with attendance down 20% since 1999 I would think they would be interested in doing everything they can to get people involved with scouting. There are signs that change may yet come. I hope it does. If not the BSA will likely go the way of the Dodo. It will exclude itself out of existence.  Which would be a damn shame.

Maybe if enough people, especially Scouts past and present, let the BSA know their feelings on the matter we will see some change. So consider my few badges and awards returned (even though I never got them) until such time as the BSA welcomes everyone into scouting.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Truth is cooler than fiction

A few months ago I read about a letter a former slave supposedly sent his former master in the South. Is was amazing but didn't seem quite right. It was almost too good to be true. But after a lot of research it appears to be true.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"And just like that, he was gone..."

Tomorrow begins a new adventure to:

Africa, the Dark Continent.

 There can be no doubt that this is a schmaltzy line, but I don't care.Africa is a dramatic place. This trip represents a big leap for me. I would not dare to say that I have become jaded by travelling. But with age and experience I am a little more comfortable heading off to strange new places. I've come to see how people are usually pretty nice to other people no matter where you go. But Africa is different.  Charming will not keep you from being eaten in Africa.

I suppose that is why this trip will be so different. There won't be a lot of people to interact with at all. The group we are with will be very small. There are no ancient ruins or medieval architecture to explore. It is a place that has remained quite wild and untamed. It is a place of great political upheaval. It is a place where diseases unknown to us here run rampant still, killing tens of thousands. It is a land of crushing poverty and excessive greed as well as unspeakable beauty.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

I technically did nothing...

and yet I am very tired. A literal stack of projects meets my gaze everywhere I look. My desk, in the garage, in the shop.

But today I ignored almost all of it. With the onset of an early spring Bag End has begun its annual growth spurt. All manner of vegetation, some friendly, some hostile, have begin to race for the sky. I have been on the mower it seems, every 20 minutes or so trying to keep the verge in check. But that always leaves the rough edges as it were. So yesterday and today was trimming day.

 With weed wacker and loping sheers I wandered the countryside. In my wake are piles of  limbs, weeds and thorn bushes. If there is a comfortable weed wacker I have never seen it. But when its done... ah.. well that makes it worth it.

I should have knuckled under and kept my nose to the grindstone. So much to do. Ren faire coming up. Repacking, organizing, restocking. And yet I feel not one whit of guilt for spending the day outside. I am covered in millions of little gobbets of green gore and scratches but I came by them honestly. I'm tired but I think it the best kind of tired.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Well THAT'S a first...

So there I was, cruising along on Facebook when BAM, suddenly there's a picture of looks like a dead baby. Wow. Pretty goddamn graphic. Along with the image in a short note about how a friend had miscarried a child at about that age and they had mourned. Then there was the obligatory "Please share if you want  to stop abortion".

The image had just been posted and there were no comments. I looked at the name and it wasn't very familiar. I think it was someone I had just friend-ed through mutual acquaintanceship. Suddenly the following image came to mind:

So I cracked my knuckles and fired off a reply. It touched on several subjects such as how making abortion illegal would not stop abortion, only make it more dangerous (and thus risking lives).  I mentioned that many people do not want a child or don't have the resources to raise a child, which might mean that are pretty miserable for most of their lives.  I  also touched on the hypocrisy of wanting to send doctors who perform abortions to jail, while saying that the mother should not (this is a common belief of abortion opponents).

I also discussed how my mother had been involved with public health in the suburbs of Michigan, where abortion (and sex ed) was widely reviled yet these same mothers would bring their own daughters for the procedure.

Because all abortion is wrong, except for their abortion.

I posted my rant and then want off to eat dinner. When I came back I was surprised to see no replies to the post. There was a message from the woman who posted it. She said she removed the post because "facebook should be for happy things".

I sighed. Yes, it was nice that the picture was gone. But she seemed to miss what I was doing. Facebook doesn't have to be only for "happy things". It's a place for all kinds of things. Good and bad. In the past year friends have posted about relationships beginning and ending. Great joy and great sadness. Health scares, injuries, business ups and downs.  It's been a slug fest of vastly differing opinions on many different subjects. And that's what I like.

I wrote back and told her that while I disagreed with her position, she shouldn't be afraid to express it. There's a saying that people should discuss religion or politics at parties. I could not disagree more.  I don't go to as many parties as I used to. So I don't get to engage in debate as much.That's a shame because they can be a blast (just make sure  everyone keeps it civil and you hide the knives) Luckily Facebook is there, in all it's glory. From pictures of kittens to vocal Christians. From  freethinkers to gun lovers. All of it blurted out in one place, like a big noisy party. A party where people keep poking you and asking you for shit to make their farm better).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A long string of crazy

Watching the Republican candidates on tv is getting to be an exercise futility. There are no new ideas, only the same bleating about taxes and regulation. None of the candidates hold my interest at all. Ron Paul, the only one with some sane ideas, is overshadowed by his crazy ideas about getting rid of the EPA and going back to the gold standard. Oy.

The great thing about it is that Americans are starting to see these guys a little more clearer now. And what do we see? Another batch of rich white guys. Seriously, Mitt Romney is worth 200 million. How can a man this rich say he understands the working class, the "average Joe". He comes from money, and he has tons of money. He gives some of his money to charity. I respect that. It's the Mormon church, I respect that less. So he's a rich guy with magic underwear.

Newt? Good god that man is repugnant. He is the ugly American. He is loud and unashamed of anything he says (or does). Hey, people get divorced. Ok. Sometimes more than once. But the stories about his behavior during these divorces? Remember McCain? He was a charmer too. Comes back from Nam to a wife who is no longer pretty and its off to the rodeo to find a new trophy wife.

These guys just give me the creeps.

I don;t think Obama is perfect. There are many things he has done that go against the grain of a progressive. Guantanamo still open? The NDAA? Cracking down on medical marijuana? But he's also make a lot of good moves.

With no real third party I believe I'll be voting to Obama again. Now all  have to do is survive the camaign season and the elections.  That should be fun.