The On-Purpose Tourist

Some of these I took, some of these, my dad did. The “butt plug of justice” is from The International Spy Museum. The concept of the spy museum is pretty cool. You pick out an alias and are asked questions at different checkpoints to see how much you remember about what you’ve been told. Out of 15 questions, I missed one… but I don’t know which one. All it said was that I’d raised a little suspicion, but it wasn’t enough to keep me and I’d accomplished the mission.

My cover was an 18-year-old boy named Colin Walker (whom I picked because I thought, “why not?”), an art student from Brosely, England. I was flying into Ankara for two weeks on “vacation,” but really to meet my contact and get a microdot out of the country by asking him about the view from the Eastern Tower. I didn’t know that they were just going to be questions on a computer screen, so like a jackass I tried to figure out an English accent on my way ’round the exhibits, tried to figure out mannerisms, etc.

There was quite a lot of fiction and reality- spy gear from discarded CIA/KGB/Mossad/FBI/Nazi/etc. use and an extensive Bond collection. There were also great videos throughout the place of former CIA/FBI operatives talking about their most “Bond” moments, because of course what you see in the movies is punched up for entertainment and not necessarily just information-gathering… but still, there are plenty of operatives that do dangerous/crazy shit that makes the hairs on your arm stand up. I don’t want to tell you what they are because then if you go to the museum, you’ll already know what happens!

My dad and I went from there to Madame Toussad’s, where I saw some very interesting “people…….”

Today, we went on a tour of National Cathedral after worship this morning, but I hardly remember anything except singing with my dad.

Waiting for Lanagan…

…except in this play, I know he shows up.

I’m really excited that my dad chose to spend part of his “summer vacation” with me, and I’m hoping it happens with my mom and dad more often now that they’re both retired and both love DC as much as I do.

I will never forget our first trip here together, when I was eight. I think I’ve said this before, but the trip started off with a bang because my mom gave me a copy of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8 for the plane, and when we landed, I learned that DC was a walking city. I don’t think I’d ever walked more in my life up to that point, and one experience I will never forget is wearing a peppermint dress, white pantyhose, and kid-sized white Mary Janes and how much it hurt walking from the Metro to the White House. For the uninitiated, Mary Janes are chunky heels made of leather and hatred.

My favorite, as I’m sure it is for all kids, was the Air and Space museum. Living in Houston, you grow up imbued with the idea that everyone can become an astronaut. As you can probably tell, I did not. I didn’t, however, think that I wouldn’t. Not at that age, anyway.

My sister and I both love space. For the longest time, she wore a James Avery space shuttle charm around her neck, and I was not surprised that when her car arrived in Maryland for me to drive, there was a NASA sticker in the back window. We both have been to Johnson Space Center many times, and I have two favorite experiences of it. The first is that when I was in 7th grade, I went to a math and science magnet school (even though I’m good at neither… it’s a long story) and we did a flight simulation. The second is that Kathleen’s father was the assistant CFO at JSC, and he took us on a tour of the place that not many people get to see… although my sister has also gotten the full treatment having worked in the Mayor’s office.

(As an aside, one of Ralph’s (former father-in-law) favorite jokes was that he started at JSC as a junior in college and retired at 65 and I-45 was under construction the entire time… not sure that’s a joke, really.)

So, walking through the Air and Space museum is amazing no matter how many times I go, although I haven’t been at all since I’ve been here this time around. I’ve branched out. Now my favorites are the National Portrait Gallery and the Zoo, when it’s not too hot. Although what’s really funny about the Zoo is that the entire time Kathleen and I lived here, the panda enclosure was closed. Then, when I got here this time, it was closed again, so I still haven’t seen the pandas as an adult, even though I believe it is open now. One of my favorite kid memories, though, is seeing Ling Ling and Sing Sing… at least, I think that was their names. It’s been 30 years now and I am too lazy to look it up. The new panda is named Shu-Mai or something like that (kidding- the panda is not a shrimp dumpling).

The animals I can never get over are the giraffes. I don’t know why, but they fascinate me. Maybe it’s because I’m short, so they seem even more majestic. Who knows? Anyway, I could watch them for hours if given the time… just not when it’s over 90 degrees outside. Neither of us want to be outside in that heat. That’s the thing about the Zoo. If you go in the dead of summer, most of the animals aren’t stupid. They’re either hiding in the shade or in the A/C. The elephant enclosure can be walked through on the A/C side, but my aversion to bad smells keeps me from walking through it, because I am deathly afraid of throwing up in public… a very real possibility when there is dung involved.

Because of the air conditioning, I love the reptile house. I am not a big snake fan, but air conditioning and I are tight. Although if I had to pick a favorite, I like the albino ones. There’s something about their pure, pearl white that speaks to me… and reptile skin is all beautiful, even through my fear. I love the bright colors, even the deep browns and blacks of the pythons.

Speaking of which, I read an article about a woman who slept every night with her python and took him to the vet when he stopped eating and they told her “that’s because he’s preparing to eat you.” People are way weirder than animals at the Zoo. Write it down.

Switching topics entirely, the Facebook “Memories” section made me laugh today at one of my own jokes from last year. “It’s summer in Maryland, which makes me feel like a teenager… in that my face is broken out and I read magazines a lot.” I’m funny when I want to be.

And on that note, I am going to drink coffee and continue waiting for my dad. It’s a good day to be a Lanagan.

Real Time

As I have gotten further and further away from the Argo situation, I have realized just how bad technology sucks. This is not a slam against either of us, because for a time, writing to each other over the internet was good and healing for both of us… in fact, right up until it wasn’t. I learned so much from that experience that now, when I meet people online, I want to get together immediately. I do not want people to only know my writer personality, because I want people to see the real me instead of the face I present to the world… and it’s easy to craft a narrative rather than creating friendship in real time… because that’s what I do. I craft narratives just as easily in letters as in blog entries, without even realizing I’m doing it. It comes from the Southern storyteller in me, not from a place of malice, but from a place of connection with beautiful words… especially when people write beautiful words in return.

But that also leads to not being able to see actions/reactions in real time, which is often much longer than letters would take to reveal even a fraction of myself. I am not scared of revealing who I am over text, and terrified of meeting people in real life. Meeting new people is my step out of my comfort zone, because I tend to stutter and stammer my way through the awkwardness of not being able to “think in longhand,” and reach for my delete key. One of the blessings of having been married to Dana is that she was spectacular at running interference in these situations, often making it more comfortable for me to relax and open up. She has always been more outgoing than me, because as I’ve aged I’ve gotten more insular and introverted. But I will talk and laugh and joke when given “an opening.”

Now that we’re divorced, I find myself running my own interference, and I’m not as bad at is as I thought I might be. When I saw Danni & Autumn for the first time, there was a connection that immediately felt like we’d known each other for a long time. It was the same with Scales, because we opened up to each other on our first outing, and it only got better from there. She and the Colonel have been traveling a lot, so I haven’t gotten to see them nearly as much as I’d like, but they are hysterical and I can’t wait to see them next time.

13731009_10154182377940272_6218272071690099898_oAlternatively, going to the party for Pri-Diddy & Elena was wonderfully bittersweet. They’ve moved their transition to living in Colombia up to October, and have signed a six-month lease, because they figure that’s enough time to see if they really like it there. I am sure there will be a lot of Skyping involved, because it will allow me to see where they really live instead of just wondering. Plus, I was comforted by the fact that when I looked for deals on Kayak, flying to Bogata is not that expensive. $300 for an international flight is not bad at all, especially if I have a layover in Houston long enough to meet my family for lunch.

I just told them I wanted to eat my way across Bogata. They were good with that. 🙂

However, Skyping just isn’t the same as being able to reach out and hug Pri-Diddy, those healing moments between friends… and at the same time, I am banking on the fact that living in Colombia won’t last forever, and I will still be here when they get back… because of course I will. DC is home, and again, it should have been all along. I wouldn’t have met Dana unless our paths had crossed here, but I believe in a fate that would have made it happen had our relationship truly meant to be.

In fact, when Dana came to DC for her birthday, it was pride weekend, and I asked Dana if she wanted to come with Pri-Diddy and Elena and me. Originally, she said “yes.” But then she changed her mind, and it gutted me. But that’s what happens when you break up. Gutting happens.

13731010_10154182377950272_7234450546978864631_oIt was strange marching without her, but comforting to have my friends around me. As Prianka said at the time, “look around. This is all for you.” I was in a very bad place, and it lifted me up in ways I’ll never forget.

It gave me the strength to want to get out of my comfort zone, to branch out and meet new people so that I had a solid base of friends here that was more than just the few people I interacted with from work at ExxonMobil. Outside of work, I just didn’t have much of a safety net, because I had a partner. We spent most of our time alone, a big factor in wanting to move away from DC in the first place, because I’d met Diane’s friends and I really liked them. I went for a visit and Diane said, “you look really happy here. Maybe you should look for a job.” So I did. Integrating was easy because of Bridgeport and the people I’d met over the years of visiting Diane & Susan. But as it turned out, they only liked being around me in small doses, and moving there was a different proposition entirely.

I realized I’d made a mistake in not trying to create the support system in DC I’m creating now when it was 2002. When I thought of DC, the first descriptive adjective was “awe.” My favorite drive in the free world was from my house into the city, because I started at the Pentagon and as I got closer to the city on 395, all the monuments presented themselves to me at once. Getting stuck in traffic was just an excuse to sit there and gawk at true majesty.

Living on the Maryland side, I can’t see all of that as I am driving in, but it means something to me that the easiest way to get from my house into the city is 16th… as if I could just arrive at Pennsylvania and wave.

Plus, the best part of living in DC over Portland is that people actually want to come and visit me. My dad arrives this weekend, and we are trying to think of spectacular things to do.

On Saturday, we are touristing all day- The Spy Museum, The Newseum, Madame Tussaud’s, and ending up at the Reagan building for a Capitol Steps show. I love being a tourist in my own city. It’s like, my favorite thing ever.

But again, the spectacular just doesn’t matter. It will be nice to see his face in real time.

Because as I have learned, that means so much more than an e-mail.

Sermon for Proper 12, Year C: BAM! BAM! BAM!

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Jesus was tired and a bit burned out on Judaism… not because of his lack of faith, but because of his exhaustion on the focus given to the law. For him, knowing God was not an endless repetition of facts, but a feeling of connectedness that would not and did not stand up to judicial scrutiny. For Jesus, it was enough that you tried. It was enough that you kept going. It was enough that you recognized your own sin and if you walked away from it, that it would mean more than anything a trial would have proven. Jesus knew something that other Jews did not; there would never be a time in which you could legislate someone into perfection. People are going to do what they’re going to do, and if they choose to walk in darkness, that’s an “up to them sort of thing.” Jesus never advocated punishment, but an invitation to rehabilitation.

The main thought that runs through all of Jesus’ parables is simple: if you invest in yourself, you will reap the rewards. He believed that if you started walking in light, you would want to continue, and that would be the path to enlightenment rather than continually harping on someone’s sins until they wanted to be right with God because someone else wanted them to be instead of claiming promise for themselves.

Changing for someone else is short-lived, while making your own changes last a lifetime. In short, in order to get peace, you have to want it… and wanting it makes all the difference. It is why I believe that most people drop out of conservative denominations. Fear-based theology just isn’t working for them anymore. Shame is a terrible thing, and conservative theology only reinforces it. In conservative theology, there is only a comfort zone about thisbig, and if you stray from it, you are destined for an eternity of burning in hell. It is legislating morality using the same tactics that the orthodox Jews used before them.

It is an ideology that I do not understand, because Jesus freed us from Talmudic law, choosing to forgive sin rather than berate it based on some infraction or another, because it does not endear people to you, but allows them to hide in their shame… it’s just “easier” that way. There is no path shorter to internal conflict than stuffing down your sins and trying to run away from them. Where people think it’s easier is that they don’t have to talk about them, don’t want to talk about them, want to keep sin locked away in a box without realizing that they are internally poisoning themselves… because eventually, the box leaks. What we have done and left undone comes out subconsciously in the way we treat people. We do not like ourselves for it, so why should anyone else?

Our ability to receive love is stepped on, even if we are capable of giving it.

Our ability to see magnificence is marred by our own troubled pasts.

What would it mean to let go? What would it mean to acknowledge our flaws and failures so that they did not continue to dog us in the night? What would it mean to our collective self-esteem if we were continually able to forgive ourselves for our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?

Forgiveness is not a one-time thing, but a never-ending proposition in our humanness. Thinking of hell as a very real place and hoping not to go there is different than recognizing fallibility, because once you process it, you have walked through it rather than skipping over, because the skipping over is the hell part. Why worry about eventual hell rather than abating the hell that’s already here?

When I was five, I lived in Galveston, Texas, where my dad was the associate pastor of Moody Memorial UMC. The parsonage was on Pine St., and I quickly made friends with the kids on my street… including Amber Cantini, one of the most persistent people I have ever met in my life, which is saying something, since I was in kindergarten at the time. Every day, she would walk up to our house, and knock so loud that the neighbors could have heard it. Just “BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM!!!” until somebody came to the door. God forbid we weren’t home, because she’d just keep at it. Amber learned at an early age what Jesus was trying to tell us in today’s parable… knock and the door shall be opened unto you… but I think the severity of Amber’s knock would still have thrown Jesus for a loop.

Today’s gospel focuses on hospitality.

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, `Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

The setup for this story is that it was not unusual for travelers to arrive in the middle of the night, because it was easier to move in the shadows while the Middle Eastern sun was not beating down on their backs… and in that culture, hospitality meant everything. Travelers had shown up after the day’s bread had been eaten, and when people show up, you don’t just give them a loaf of bread. You give them a full spread… not to do so was an embarrassment. The man going to his friend’s house and knocking like Amber Cantini was deeply rooted in fear. In desperation, he kept at it until he’d woken up the whole house and the friend finally relented.

At face value, the moral of the story might be “annoy people until you get what you want.” But as we take a deeper look, the man’s friend took care of him and didn’t allow him to be embarrassed because once he was “woke,” he understood the problem… even if he was initially aggravated.

Pachelbel’s Canon in D is playing in my head as I think about the next verses:

So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

It is one of the few verses in which I have memorized in paraphrase, because the classic song fits into the aforementioned Canon:

Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And his righteousness.
Knock and the door will be opened unto you
Allelu, Alleluia….

I used to sit at my mother’s piano and play that mashup for hours, because it’s one of the only things I know how to play… but if I was only going to learn one thing, is it not a good one?

People by nature are not mind-readers, and you’ll never get anything you want from them by wishing. In order to get something, you have to ask… and sometimes repeatedly. However, it is on us to decide whether we are asking the right questions. If you need something from someone, is it a path to darkness or to light? Are you the type friend that will answer the door when you are called to serve? That last question may be the difference between a “yes” and a “no.” It is our job to know when the balance of power in a relationship is off or not… whether we are asking something of someone that we ourselves would not do for them.

It is the point of the Lord’s prayer to turn us outward, so that when we knock, we are not saying, “take care of me, because this is all about my needs.” Jesus does not specifically talk about reciprocity in this parable, but living in community requires it. I would like to think that reciprocity is an extrapolation… that when you’re the one with the bread woken in the middle of the night, you will have the ability to understand the problem and give equally, even if you are initially annoyed.

The law cannot cover brotherly love, nor will it ever. You cannot force someone to take care of you when you need it, even when you know you would take care of them if the tables were turned. Because in that moment, your friend may not know that. It is stepping out on a ledge to trust that if someone comes to you for help, you can also go to them… that they will remember the kindness you extended and reciprocate.

However, it is our ability to forgive ourselves when we ignore the world’s ills and try to do better that counts. The will to keep going is the “it gets better” campaign of our lives, and that is all that Jesus requires.

We fall. We get up. We learn. We fall again. We get up. We learn.

It’s an ongoing resurrection, whether you can see it or not.


Power Lunch and Komodo Dragon

I took a caffeine pill at 0700, but I also took two Benedryl to put me to sleep last night, so I got a large cup of coffee as soon as I got to SBUX this morning. The Komodo Dragon is one of my favorites, and since I got here by 7:20, it was the freshest of the fresh. I can’t remember the last time a cup of coffee did so much to improve my mood, because when I walked in, I got exactly what I wanted. My choice of power lunch is a protein box, a bag of chickpeas blown up to look like Cheetos, a banana, and a large bottle of water. Not bad for $8.00 I had to have something for breakfast, so the banana was gone in .3 seconds, but I’m saving the rest for when my stomach starts growling and I won’t have to leave for lunch. As I have said before, Fridays and Mondays are my busiest days. I am sure that I could make time to leave the office, but it is inconvenient at best. I might make a 7-11 run because I need gas, and a Big Gulp never hurt anybody. Besides, I have a 7-11 app where I get every 7th cup free. Coffee, Slurpees,™; and sodas all count, and I am one away from a free one. My only beef with the Slurpee is that they don’t make one that’s Diet Coke only. It has regular cherry Slurpee in it for flavor. It’s delicious, but I don’t *do* sugar, especially since it’s working. I am burning fat in all the right places. I only wish that Starbucks would come up with a version of Bulletproof coffee so I could buy one here instead of making it in the mornings. It’s not that I can’t; I would just prefer to write here.

I can’t imagine how good Komodo dragon would taste with grass-fed butter and coconut oil. I think it would be off-the-chain, but no one asked me. They just can’t call it Bulletproof coffee, because that’s an actual company in which the knockoff recipe leaked. The company started with a guy who was hiking in the snowy mountains (perhaps Everest, I can’t remember) and the indigenous people gave him tea with yak’s milk and butter. He noticed immediately the difference in his energy and his ability to burn fat with fat. For me, this is not a diet, but a lifestyle change. I have also given up alcohol, unless it’s a “treat yo’self” day, like a party, because all I can think of when I put a beer in my hand is just how much sugar I’m consuming. Especially with microbrews, it tastes like drinking a loaf of bread.

My brain is changing a little bit every day, and so is my body. It makes me feel really good about myself, something I desperately need. I don’t think I realized how much nutrition was a part of brain health until I made the choice to find out.

I don’t much like talking about food on my blog, because in a way, it’s kind of boring. But it’s also what’s going on in my life, so you’re stuck with it… and I am certain that there are people reading that are glad my mental health is improving so drastically. I don’t even get rattled when people disagree with me politically, because even though I am passionate about politics, I’m not so passionate that I can’t tolerate other people’s views. I can see how not being able to own an AK-47 seems like an infringement on freedom, even though I don’t agree with it. I am much more the type of person that likes to go shooting and rent firearms rather than keep them in my home, because studies have shown that you are way more likely to shoot yourself than someone else… or your kids are smart enough to find the keys to your gun safe and shoot themselves, which I believe is even worse than shooting yourself, because losing a child is so painful there’s not even a word for it.

And God forbid if your child shoots someone else’s. More children have been killed by firearms this year than we’ve lost Amerians to terrorists. But fear is a powerful motivator, and if you think terrorists are out to get you personally, you’re going to have a different opinion on guns than someone who believes that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind… and I do.

My beef is not with former military and civilians who are willing to invest in extensive training classes. The reality for untrained gun owners is that it is far more likely that in a burglary, they’ll miss, and the burglar will find a way to wrest the gun from them and the homeowner will be shot with his own firearm.

As someone wit monocular vision, I can’t hit the broad side of a barn, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the smell of spent rounds… but again, renting is not the same as owning. Plus, I was taught to shoot by two former soldiers, which made all the difference in learning gun safety. The one with which I had the most fun was a Chinese plastic 12-gauge, because it was light enough that I could actually lift it. Shooting Volfe’s .308 was a lesson in kickback. My shoulder was purple for a week…. but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a TON of fun.

But at the end of the day, the soldiers took their guns home, and I was able to have a great day on the range without the temptation to buy my own. I could not defend myself with a gun, because again, I’m not that good a shot, and buckshot inside a house is…. unadvisable.

It doesn’t seem like a tear-worthy moment, but Diana Gabaldon twisted my heart to bits when she mentioned that Captain McKenzie had monocular vision as well. It helps to close one eye, but even that doesn’t solve the problem entirely.

Interestingly enough, a soldier just walked into Starbucks, so I got up from my table and went up to her and said, “thank you for your service.” I think she must have needed to hear it, because her eyes got wet… and that’s exactly why I do it. Sometimes soldiers go a long time without hearing “thank you,” and you never know if you’re the one who’s said it at a time when things are going to hell in a handbasket for them. For soldiers, you never know if they’re safe in a desk job in Washington, or whether they’re about to leave for a clusterfucked shitshow… or whether they’ve just returned from one.

The fire alarm is going off in the Starbucks right now, and it is loud and annoying, the smell of smoke pervasive, but I think it was just a sandwich that caught on fire or something, because there’s no evidence that the entire store is about to break down. If there was, I’d already be out of here. I’m just tuning out the noise, trying to concentrate on what I need to say today. The employees have opened the door to let some fresh air in, and they’re not evacuating everyone, which I take to mean that it’s just like when you’re cooking at home and the fire alarm doesn’t know the difference between a house fire and accidentally burning a dish.

Ok. Now I’m out. When you’ve run out of things to say, stop talking. Plus, I need to get away from the noise. It’s starting to cut through my thought process. I thought I could tune it out, but it’s been going off for about seven minutes now. I have just enough time to go get gas before I have to be at the office, anyway.

See you on the flip side.

Tall Cappucino & Short Brain Chemicals

I’d been without Lexapro for two days because I had to wait for a refill request from my doctor, and I couldn’t order it early because my insurance wouldn’t cover it. I should have paid for two pills out of pocket, but I didn’t think of that. The last time this happened, the pharmacist just sold me four pills and subtracted it from the number of pills on the refill request. It’s amazing the number of things I forget. I think it’s the amount of medication I need to keep my brain chemicals from wigging the fuck out. But I would rather be forgetful than crazy, like when my Lamictal made me so nauseous I felt like I’d been pregnant for four years. My line about that was that I’d rather be sick to my stomach than crazy. Same software, different case.

I’m starting to feel better as things are righting themselves, and because of the Klonopin, it wasn’t like I was spinning out of control with physical side effects. When you drop Lexapro completely, it gives you something comparable to withdrawal from alcohol or illegal drugs. Your body just can’t handle it. You get headaches and sweats and it feels like the world is upside down. However, the Klonopin allowed for a soft landing, and I am on my way to my version of normal, whatever THAT is.

I’m glad I was able to get my medication straightened out this weekend, because Pri Diddy and Elena have decided to move to Colombia in October, and travel until then. I am so happy for them, and I cannot even. It’s a mixed bag of emotions, because I know they’ll eventually come back, but having Pri Diddy in my city for the first time in our long friendship has been a comfort of gargantuan proportion. Luckily, Skype from computer to computer is free (calling regular phones costs money). So we could talk every day if we wanted, but the contact comfort will be gone. There is so much to be said for hugs and cheek kisses and sititng in the living room together. They’re having a goodbye party, and I am glad that I will not be tempted to cry all the way through it, because the other thing that having short brain chemicals makes you is incredibly weepy, to the point of crying at commercials even when they’re not that touching. In fact, they’d normally be stupid, but you can’t help the tears that fall.

And don’t even get me started on YouTube videos of veterans coming home. That shit is ugly cry on a silver platter. I also can’t listen to The Moth for the exact same reason. If I have my headphones in, I will cry in a Starbucks, a Safeway, pretty much anywhere that would be totally embarrassing.

In other news, I am doing good on my diet of low sugar. I feel heavier, but not in a bad way. More like just solid in my own skin. I weigh the same, but I feel completely different. I don’t feel like I’m going to blow away on the wind, because my muscles feel stronger than they have in a long time, and I am building up the chutzpah to start exercising. Exercising is a mixed bag, because whether you’re running outside or in a gym, there are people that will talk to you as you’re sweating. Please, God, no. Running and lifting weights are a solitary activity, designed to take me away from excruciating small talk. But you pass people on the trail, you jog next to others because there’s no empty treadmill next to you, etc. I need to be alone with my thoughts while mobile, because the endorphins create new neural pathways that lift me out of where I’ve been and into where I’m going… dreaming forward has never been my strong suit, but it will be. I know it. I want the past to fade so that I don’t have to think about it, and the only way it will is being more excited about the future than trying to figure out the past. There is nothing good about that if you’re stuck except the willingness to walk into your own demons and make friends with them in order to create changed behavior… to know why you’ve been the way you’ve been, instead of boxing feelings that will kill you if you don’t let them out.

I found out that Hawkeye is moving to Germany on Sunday. She didn’t say where, but there are plenty of Air Force bases there. I know she’ll be at one of them, and it makes me happy because it’s not the Middle East. I will miss getting to know her, but at the same time, I won’t worry about her, either. She’ll just be a part of my life that also fades into the background.

I want to worry about the things that justifiably make me cry, rather than the things that are so unimportant that they are not worthy of my energy. Police brutality is at the top of my list, because while I support police, I do not support racial inequality within the system. It’s a rock and a hard place to feel both, but I am capable of holding that cognitive dissonance in my brain for years, because who doesn’t? It’s the same with the military. I support boots on the ground, but I am also aware of the “friendly fire” that pervades the culture between male and female soldiers. I cannot support rapists, but I can support the military as a whole… but the major problem with that “friendly fire” is that so many cases go unreported because of fear of retaliation. There’s no easy solution for that, either… but it is one worth solving, just as the difference between good cops and bad ones.

I tend to wish that these problems could just be solved immediately, but the issues are too complex for it to happen. The only way I can help is to get involved, to care in ways that most people don’t. Voting is part of it, but so is showing up. Too few people are involved in local politics when they have a much more direct effect on your life than the president ever will. Knowing who runs your city and county is so much more important, and that’s the Thomas Jefferson coming out in me. He was so passionate about local leaders, and I cannot help but follow his example, praying on the words and the spaces that my community will evolve into something we can all be proud of, because we’ve done the work.



Today I got a direct FB message from Jeffrey Thames asking me to come to the town hall meeting at the Silver Spring Civic Center. I was running a few minutes late because of an accident on 450, but I got to hear most everything… and I was worried. Tempers did not run especially high, but it was an intense discussion on race and the police. People were asked to grade the force from A to F, and predictably, the whites rated it higher than the people of color… because the people of color had stories to back up their grades. There was only one white woman that stood up and gave them a D, saying that she’d personally witnessed three white undercover cops trying to pull down a black man’s pants in broad daylight, and she was pretty sure the Fourth Amendment didn’t cover that.

She called the police department and got no reply. She called internal affairs, where they told her it would be kicked back to the police department… and asked why they are allowed to investigate themselves. The police chief was visibly shaken, because if there was something he expected to hear, that wasn’t it.

Additionally, there was someone I couldn’t see that was obviously black by the intonations in their voice. At first, I thought it was a young boy, because they said that their life’s dream was to become a police officer, even joining the 14-20 year old Explorer’s Program, until they were held by the police, given bruises and a bloody lip, and only saved by her white mother (she’d been adopted from Haiti), who happened to be standing nearby. It was then that she said she was a woman, and my whole perspective changed. I struggled to see her, wanted even more to touch her arm or her hand in solidarity. I didn’t get either chance. I just listened.

Her white mother got an apology… she never did. She also never said whether the cop who hit her was male or female, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that a cop hit her at all was an abuse of power, especially since she wasn’t guilty of anything. After her mother came up to the police, all of the sudden, the charges were dropped. Not only can I not imagine being punched by a cop, I can’t imagine watching my child get punched in front of me. By this time, there were tears streaming down my face, and I was fighting not to go into “the ugly cry.”

It was all just so sad, with plenty of mothers in the crowd who got up and asked why they had to teach their children how to act in front of the police. The chief’s response was nothing short of victim-shaming. I wish I’d taken out my keyboard when I got there, because I type fast enough that I could have recorded the whole thing and I would have had his exact words on record. They are lost to me now, but it was basically that it was up to the black and brown people to prove their innocence rather than white cops becoming more racially sensitive. As one woman eloquently stated, “America’s biggest sin (slavery) has become America’s greatest lie.” She talked about a ’50s congressman who said that black people were an inferior and dependent race… and that policemen should be required to read everything they can about slavery and Jim Crow, specifically Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

It was required reading in tenth grade at HSPVA, and I burned through it in about an hour and a half, then read it again. She was right; education begets prevention… as well as, as other people suggested, better personality tests that look for racism when applying to the academy.

Because the saying is not “it’s only a few bad apples.” The saying is “one bad apple spoils the bunch.” There’s no way to make policing perfect, but if you see a black man as intimidating and a white man as inherently innocent, there’s going to be issues.

Going to be? It’s happening right now.

Millions of years ago, Africa birthed me. There is no such thing as race. We just like to pretend there is. There is no one on earth that wasn’t “born” in Africa. Our skin just got lighter the further we walked away from it.

Our skin got lighter, and our sin got darker.

For instance, there are still slave owners on our money. I can’t imagine taking George Washington off of the one dollar bill, and I also can’t imagine being black and the sickening knowing of just how many slaves worked on his plantation… and he is just an example when there are many.

The biggest lie in American politics is that we couldn’t have formed the US without abolishing slavery as it was happening. There are no clauses in “all men are created equal.”

And yet, even today, there are…. we just don’t write them down.