Language Matters

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Governor pat McCrory (R-NC) was addressing the media about the massive flooding when his words grabbed my attention.

The areas affected are in neighborhoods of mostly poor. Those people in the shelters are in greatest need.

This is paraphrased. I was on my weekly visit to the laundromat. The fact that I rode my bike to do my laundry not at the machines provided by landlord in the converted house 3rd floor walk up apartment defines my status right now. Cost/benefit analysis involving my time.  If I lived in North Carolina I’d be One of Those People. The wealthy built on the higher ground to escape the lowland humidity. The workers built close to the water. They could walk to work. Cheap land. That pattern established in Colonial times, defines social standing in the South. Resources. Small houses in neighborhood ravaged by the Mortgage crisis. Years of struggle to survive, wiped out by nature’s fury. No flood insurance. They won’t bounce back in a few years. Daily reality just became disaster in the truest sense. socioeconomic status created a concentration of Those People. in the same way gated communities have.

Language matters. Word usage expresses deep subconsciously held basic beliefs or personality. Learned in a family setting. The dinner table. Little mice with big ears. Children soak in their surrounding without the critical thinking skills to fill in the gaps. Relay on magical thinking to make sense of it all. How can you ask a question without the basic mental framework to shape the concepts that they lack from experience? Then ask the God like presence dominating their young lives? Disapproval or the butt of casual conversations but adults.

The trades are dominated by families. Builders are grouped by family connections. The Mohawk Indians of up state New York once dominate the high steel Iron workers. Those men working thousands of feet up in the clouds. Hard dangerous work. Wall street old money kids become lawyers, bankers and other good paying white collar positions. what were the class of folks They listened to? It is a class thing. Add divisive politics and it all becomes a toxic mix even the most educated fall prey to. Separation is the name of the game. Never forget the modern Southern Republican are children and grandchildren of the Conservative Southern yellow dog Jim Crow Democrats that voted for Reagan. Nixon’s Southern Strategy writ large by the Moral Majority Evangelical  Christians. Midwest transplants were and are cut from the same cloth.

Those people are Takers. The 48% who vote Democrat. Voter ID laws anyone? The poor working class in a Right to Work state. Federal block grant money for the poor is used for anything but in a no income tax state.

I’m not saying the Governor is a bad man in the vein of the Alt Right. He is a product of a culture where these basic beliefs are the bedrock of everything. Everything. Culture is a continuum that will evolve over generations. New technology insures an infusions of different people into closed groups. Urban centers have always been at odds with the Rural population. Freethinking children leave communities they no longer feel a part of. Pat McRory is a Republican governor in a Republican super majority state.

Those people deserve our pity. Our basic Christian charity. A very American trait in times of disaster. It become business has usual after. A study showed that mixed Class marriage the upper could easily go down. but the lower had trouble understanding the upper. Budgets? Long term plans? Uninterrupted college? Not paying this bill because of an emergency. Borrowing from family members? Not going happen.

Considering the people most affected by the floods lost everything, voting will be last thing on their mind. Those People. Class and Culture matter. Language is the expression of this. Ask Those People how they feel about being second class barely considered citizens of their state? Guarantee the answer won’t be in polite Southernese. We, I’m one of Those People, have had to make hard choices. We don’t have the luxury of choice in where we live. Or work. Too many obligations for small percentage options.

Final thought. Being born and raised in Texas, I have an understanding of my generation. The same one overwhelming voting for Trump. The South, Texas in particular,  is a great place to be from and never return to. We all find our place. The balance of compromises that we can live with. Politics. Friends. Family. Language matters. Class matters. Money and resources matters. Politics matter.


The Teenage years met Reality.

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My teenage kids had the Come to Jesus meeting conducted by Mom this afternoon. It was also mine. Ten years since the split. Two years from walking into the homeless shelter. Two month since my car has been parked due to mechanic issues. That one fact separated me from everyone else in the shelter. What all this adds up to is I’m unable to help her. In any tangible way. a single mom working two jobs. A highly educated teacher needing to work two jobs.

There types of pain no one wants to face head on. Chunks? No problem. The Buddha talks about working through the pain to achieve wisdom. Great words. The actual doing, not so much. That I was listening from the doorway in many ways was worse. Being in the room would make me part of something. A united front. My kids got the full brunt of the unrelenting catalog of actions have consequences.  The end of a long relationship or marriage has such a recounting. Brutal is too kind a word.

Listening had me facing the totality of my situation. 53. Separated. On good terms but still separated. Physically and emotionally unable to applying skills achieved while working. In government subsidizing house. On food stamps. In a region filled with too many men like myself competing for the same part-time jobs. And knowing the rules are written to punish any drive to reclaim my old full-time status. Once I fell down the rabbit hole, all my energy has been to find a stable floor. Not trying to climb back up.

For someone who once lived on the corner of Pain and Despair, today cut deeper than the bone. Thinking there’s difference between an old life and new reality is wrong. I’m still pulling a continuation of all past decisions. A new outlook or thinking doesn’t kill the older self’s accountability for actions or consequences. Whether the reason seemed right at the time. Standing in the doorway I was a visitor in a world both familiar and foreign. Not fully part of either. The rules changed years ago. Rules and boundaries absent in my marriage now mark those out of bounds areas I so often rushed into.

My children are fully immersed in the modern connected world. An echo chamber of illusions that steal time from the real world of chores. The games are based on a psychology the majority don’t understand or recognize. At one point it got to be too much. Being outside on a bright beautiful Michigan fall day is a jarring experience. Underneath the surface of the pleasant tree lined streets, I’m sure the same conversation has happened. In some houses it never has. Little things matter in decoding how they act. The question of did they hear the underlying love or just the fury of the disappointment is one all parents struggle with. The good ones at least.

Staying for a visit didn’t feel right. Everyone’s emotions were too raw. Writing about the same day is just as difficult. But necessary. Part of my processing. Before leaving i talked to my son. At 14 expecting him to be the Man of the House is too much. I told him to do the best he could. Mistakes are part of life. Apologize. Make it right. Learn from them. Try not to repeat them. Things my father was incapable of passing on.

Raising semi well adjusted kids today is hard. There’s little I can do for Jayme at this moment. Being a good Dad in those small parts of my kids life is one. To their mom, we became the people we were meant to be. That those people weren’t happy together doesn’t take away from the amazing Mom and person you always have been. I’ll leave it there.


Hope is a delicate mindset.

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I have written about my friend with MS before.  The 2 1/2 years waiting for disability is over. Sort of. All the support received over the time of Dirt Poor has magically disappeared. No co-pays on the multiple medications. Doctors visits with the regular ER crisis in between. Most caused by the stress of having nothing. Now are all on him. He didn’t write the rules that punish him for having an chronic conditions. One that caused him to lose of everything society considers being a productive member. .

I want you to think about this. Knowing you won’t be around to see your kids graduate high school. Get married. No Father/Daughter dance to that special song. All those shared joys when the adult child gets the joys and hardship of being the Parent. And knowing he won’t be around. Or if he lingers. I’ll let you finish the sentence. The human animal flees pain. However temporary. Alcohol. Gaming. Sex. Drugs. Religion. Something to blunt the sharp rocks at the end of the fall.

A very American way of thinking. It will all work out. Always has. But not right now. Rising above the low spots is a function of long term planning. A survival tool available to those with resources. A family trait of stability. Searching for the hidden horizon. Sorry to say that people who suffer from depression or chronic debilitating illness don’t have that luxury. Our lives have gone off the rails. Fundamental brain chemistry has shifted. Cortisone floods the system. In a continuous state, the structures of the reality creating brain adapt. Normal becomes seeing an endless horizon over a flat landscape. One which hides the holes covered by thin mats of hope.

My brass ring has been smack in the middle of some very large ones. No amount of effort will put it in my reach.  Down the deep dark hole. Again. All the effort climbing out is the same others put into moving forward. Medication allowed me to sublet the shallow gopher hole I called home for decades. A bucket list item has been to learn Spanish. My mind understands Quantum Mechanics. Mutual exclusive. Another foreign language should be Long term thinking.

One of the first casualty to falling into poverty is hope. A flower not a weed. Flowers can have deep roots in the right soil. Soil that has been cared for over time. Protected when young. Tended with love. Those of you who are eternally optimistic think depressed people need to work harder. We think you’re has crazy as we are. In a different way. One that makes our life harder. Not better or easier. ‘You’re broken. We’re not.”  Work Harder. Unfortunately bubbly personalities follow the American script of a better tomorrow.

And these folks elect lawmakers who are fully immersed in the belief that a person dying with a chronic disease is the same as the very small percentage trying to scam the system. Two and a half years. Then penalized his win by taking away benefits. Ask a lottery winner what it’s like to go from poor to RICH. Trump is a product of losing hope. Hillary is living in the reflection of a past where hope was strong. My friend and I simply find ways to manage the constant dull ache of living. Hope is a dangerous way. One false step. Worse off than before.


Reflections on my Labor day

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Living at the northernmost end of the GM highway has some downsides. For those out of staters, The Big Three and all their suppliers are clustered along the concrete ribbon of I-75. The factory of the 1937 sit down strike where the UAW came to power, was one of the first torn down by GM. A forgotten place. No plaque. No sacred place for rally the troops. All of this explains the reverence Labor Day retains. The rest of the country uses the long weekend in malls or shops going full tilt in a back to school shopping orgy. Smaller cities, mine include, shut down. That is reason for this post the day after.

Economics drive all of this. In a city divided by a river, two cultures emerged. Eastsiders have the Lumber Baron mansions. A large patch of land filled with grand homes that fade by economic means into small cottages. Nestled inside are small neighborhood shopping districts.  The West side was industrial. Small neighborhood of working class homes. All pre WWII. Good wages meant they were owned. Not rented. Both connected by the web of sidewalks. Daily forced interaction of people living their day to day lives. Communities.

Post war. Cars and concrete destroyed sidewalks. The rise of malls. Labor was still king here. Cities awash with union wages. Labor Day parades were bigger than the Christmas ones. No more. Summer tourism has surpassed factories as the big money driver. Bay City is a gateway to the vast Northern Michigan wilderness. Around which is hung the jeweled necklace of lakeside towns. Sleepy towns built by the influence of Union retirees and workers escaping the humanity killing factories. Places that are now too expensive to have enough workers for the restaurants and shops for all those living there. Labor day is the last gasp of summer money. Six months of service economy money doesn’t stretch. Multiple seasonal jobs. The New Reality.

A bit of history. Service sector jobs surpassed the farming in the 1910s. Surpassed the Manufacturing sector in the 1960/70s. Non union positions generally filled by women entering the workforce for the first time. Even today, some of the highest paid jobs are Skilled Trades. CNC operators. Millwrights. Heavy industrial certified trades. Mostly working in well lite climate controlled environments. Computers Hate dirty hot shops. There are more positions than skilled workers to fill them. Unions allowed themselves to be demonized the Free Market Republicans.

Labor Day 2016 in Bay City was quiet. The mass crowds of shoppers stayed on the other side of the river. Big Box retailers run by workers lucky to have an almost full time position  where Labor Day is notable day for different reasons. Crowds of harried shoppers taking it out on the nameless employee in front of them. Somebody they won’t see in their neighborhood.

I’ll take the unfilled hours where boredom reigns over that. My lack of driving need is an anomaly in this consumer mad world. Also a perceived defect. One I’ll own. In full measure. My last job was in a windowless metal building. Feeding machine that cost more than I would ever make in wages. My soul was whittled away with each measure of raw material feed into the machine.  Never underestimate the discipline needed to willing walk through a door into your personal hell. One you rationalize every way possible. The joke about Bay City is there’s a bar and church on every corner. Places that relieve personal pain in different ways.

View from the Bottom of the food chain

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“The smallest prison in the world is the 8 inches between your ears.”                                      Vietnam POW asked about how he survived.

The two things that separated me from the rest of the men in the shelter was being a Vet and having a car. Being a Vet meant a room with three others indoctrinated in the military culture. If you or your family aren’t military, the weight of the last sentence is lost on you.  Walking or the bus were options for me. Try this. One day leave your car parked then use a bus to get somewhere.  Simple becomes very hard. Remember that first taste of freedom a bike allowed? Heady. Fast. Scary. No parents. Friends only.  Age or responsibility slowly erode the time. When was the last time you rode your bike? America is built for cars.

Delayed repairs became immediate ones. When the mechanic’s first words are, “Have you thought about getting another car?” The world shifted under my feet. I’m in that majority group of Americans where a sudden emergency will led directly to crisis. That extra credit card offer doesn’t get thrown away. Family loans. Hey do know anyone who can do the work for ___$.  With kids back in school living close with the ex, being car less doesn’t help. Anything. At. All.

The subtle stress of being on government programs is a daily burden. The oppressive heat in a converted attic apartment  doesn’t help. Or the fact bright sunny days aren’t good for my moods. Those were manageable. The possibility of seeing my kids kept things stable. Freedom to fit their schedule. $800 might has well be $10,000. Rebuilding my life at 53 sucks. Knowing tech and society has no role for me double down.  It still easier being poor in a poor region. Part time jobs are the norm. So is having two. Or three. All by the closed connections of friends and family.

Why don’t you move? Cost of living comes to mind. It takes money to move. First and last months rent. Public transportation? Answering the question, how are you doing? gets honesty not fluff. I awoke up. Starting low some days is easier. Then it’s where? The South? Been there, done that. They balance their budget by NOT using money for social support services. Finally, I’m lazy. All the effort expended to get out of bed or leave my apartment, leaves little for anything else.

This blog is the only form of therapy open to me. The struggle to find the words is a diversion from the world inside my head.  That’s all. thanks for reading. Can’t promise regular posts.

Being a Friend….

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My friend is dying. MS is robbing him of life. It’s the first time I have faced the death on such a personal level.  There is nothing I can do but watch. Late night calls for rides to the ER have become common. The doctors ask what he needs. They have no clue. Specialists are few and really good ones book appointments months out. Late night companionship to escape the depression and isolation are something I understand. Intimately. His guide through the darkness.

Time doesn’t matter when you find a friend. Eighteen months ago we met in a homeless shelter. Both of our lives had hit rock bottom for different reasons. Circumstances that radically changed how we saw the world around us. Relationships with those closest changed. My friend has young children. Divorce and work made it hard to be there for those milestones parents cherish. We are both economically redundant in a changed economy. Growing older is a daily mediation on legacy.  There will be no great buildings or memorials.  That was never to be. Being a good Dad. Striving to become a decent human being. Living an ethical life every moment.  Those are worthy goals. A luxury he will never have.

Two years of waiting for his disability hearing has finally happened. His lawyer is confident. Now they  have up to 40 days to finalize the decision. Can you wash dishes? When we met he weighed 160 pounds. Walking wasn’t a problem. Mentally still sharp. Now he’s 140 and struggling. Walking is slow shuffle at times. Exhaustion hammers him at odd times.  It’s hard watch.

His family is working their way through denial. Everything won’t be better. That’s what his father wants. One of their children will die an unpleasant death. And they have to watch. So will I. It is something our modern society has become isolated from. Modern medicine can cure everything. The reality isn’t so neat or tidy. Considering I started writing this 2 month ago. Have come back to it many times since. Staring it the screen wondering if I could find the words.

My friend is dying. There’s nothing I can do but be a witness. The Jewish faith believes that  as long has one person remembers your name, you still live is what I’ll do.


Built in America,

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House and dog sitting for the 4th. Binge watching the few shows worthy of expensive cable. Road racing yesterday. Classic car builds today.  Guys working in metal. Using their hands to turn what they see in their mind into works of street art. Skills that built the nation we celebrate tonight with fireworks. By others who mastered a set of skills used to amaze the child in all of us. I’m thinking the popularity this genre is watching men at work.

Let’s face it, an idea puts in motion a series of actions we will never see the end of. Sense of accomplishment? Start to finish? A tangible result? Sure a project gets done. Then you go looking for the next one.  It’s not like driving a car you fixed. Or watching the kids play on the tree house you built. I know that feeling. The primal satisfaction of leaving a legacy in the world. The wealthy can put their name of buildings. The rest of us patch drywall. Small victories.

College has been sold has the only route to the good life. 2008 exposed the fragility of that. Then there’s those whose intelligence or creativity is expressed through manipulating materials in 3d space. In a my youth, it was luck or family history that directed you into a career path. An ill fit for many. Technology expanded the possibilities. Still very much of the family and neighborhood but exposure to the wider world can become a way out. Or a life absent of dread that is work.

Don’t get me wrong. Work is still work. 80% of it is drudgery. Parts of the day to push through. No very satisfying. Then there are those days. Wow. The goal is increasing the wow. If that means needing a shower at the end of the day rather then after the gym, OK. The world has enough lawyers. The critical need is in the skilled trades. Computer controlled machines need climate controlled clean environments. Plus knowing complex math and programming. Not the old pictures of endless rivers of men entering the maw of sprawling manufacturing plants. One last thought. America still out manufactures the rest of the world combined. Fewer men and women outproducing the world in a global economy.

Have a happy 4th.

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