Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Redneck Feminism

Last night was a dream come true for a redneck feminist documentary freak like me. The evening started out with a movie about Gloria Steinem on HBO. All those clips of women marching and protesting during the early seventies brought back memories of my own budding feminism during my pre-school years. I was four or five when I first recall parroting back some of the slogans I heard on TV. My mom had gone into Houchens to pick up a few groceries and left me in the car with my dad and brother. I don’t remember what the conversation was about but when I piped up and said women could do anything men could do they just laughed and laughed. I think I may have even gotten patted on the head. Attitudes about a woman’s role in rural Kentucky circa 1971 were closer to 1961 attitudes in the more liberal areas of the country. That’s what made the next documentary so refreshing to see.

I don’t think the women in Harlan County USA considered themselves feminists but the actions they took during the miner’s strike that started in June of 1972 showed that they could more than hold their own with any man. When Lois Scott whips that gun out of her bra, you know she’s more than capable of using it. Yes, they were standing by their men, but it was a fight for their family’s very survival. That’s what’s so sad about the women’s movement from that era. Somehow they got the reputation of being a bunch of man-hating, anti-family lesbians and that scared away a lot of strong women who otherwise might have been sympathetic to the cause. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened during the seventies if more redneck women had been involved with the movement.

The final film of the night, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, is heavy on the redneck but the feminism angle is a little more problematic. It focuses on the female members of the White clan, a violent, drug-using family who gained national renown for the mountain dancing prowess of patriarch D. Ray and his son Jesco. In some ways these women are the flip side of Harlan County USA. Instead of fighting the coal companies, they’ve taken the crazy check and dropped out of law-abiding society all together. When Kirk tells the story about the night she stabbed her boyfriend for sleeping with her cousin, it makes you realize that, contrary to all the rhetoric spouted early on about how women’s equality would make the world more peaceful, violence isn’t gender-specific. I'm not sure what this all says about the state of feminism today but I guess it does prove my point from 40 years ago. Women really can do anything men can, good or bad.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

I was shocked that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik actually voiced what I and a lot of other Arizonans have been thinking for a long time during his press conference after the massacre in Tucson on Saturday. Watching health care town hall meetings degenerate into violence, citizens bringing guns to presidential events and hearing about the death threats and vandalized offices of our elected officials it seemed like only a matter of time before someone came along and took all the violent rhetoric spewing from the extreme right literally.

Sadly, their reaction to this general statement asking everyone to tone down the hate speech wasn’t shocking at all. The sheriff didn’t identify any person or group by name but evidently they know who they are because the attacks against Dupnik and others who even dared to contemplate that violent rhetoric might have contributed to a mentally disturbed young man thinking it was okay to commit murder started almost immediately. Rather than even stop for one second and consider the consequences their words might have had, they went straight to blaming the left for even bringing up the subject.

Mark Meckler, one of the tea party leaders said, "To see the left exploit this for political advantage -- some people have no conscience. It's genuinely revolting...I think it sinks to the level of evil." Uh, excuse me, but the only way the left could “exploit” this for political advantage was if they weren't the ones participating in the vitriol. The right has Sharron Angle suggesting 2nd Amendment remedies, Glenn Beck joking about poisoning Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin setting her gun sights on fellow politicians. The left has what... Keith Olbermann electing the world's worst person? There's just no comparison. And ironically, Olbermann's the only one who apologized for anything he may have said to incite violence.

Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck had a little e-mail love fest that he felt the need to publicize on his radio show. Beck starts out by saying “Sarah, peace is always the answer” and then goes on to urge her to look into protection because an attack on Sarah Palin could bring the republic down. Sarah replies, "I hate violence, I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence. Thanks for all you do to send the message of truth and love and God as the answer." Please! Give me a break. This sounds more Lennon and Ono than Beck and Palin to me.

But in my view, Rush Limbaugh deserves the world's worst designation. He threw everything but the kitchen sink at his detractors in an attempt to deflect attention away from the hate he wallows in every day and what bothers me the most is that he actually had the gall to blame Jared Lee Loughner's parents for this atrocity. I can only imagine what kind of hell this poor couple's already been through trying to deal with their son's illness and to have some mean-spirited radio host who has no idea that it's virtually impossible to have someone involuntarily detained until AFTER they've committed a violent act attack them is beyond despicable.

I never expected all the right wing hatemongers to suddenly join together in a big group hug and start singing kumbaya by the campfire but I was hoping that at least one person might consider changing his or her ways. I just never imagined that one person would be Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. According to the Huffington Post website Ailes said, "I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don't have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that." I can't believe I'm actually typing this but I agree Mr. Ailes, I agree.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You're A Mean One, Mr. Mitch

You're a mean one, Mister Mitch
You really are a heel,
You're holding Congress hostage for a sleazy tax break deal, Mister Mitch,
You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel!

You're a monster, Mister Mitch,
Your heart's an empty hole,
You'll let unemployed go hungry just to save the rich man's dole, Mister Mitch,
I wouldn't touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!

You're a vile one, Mister Mitch,
You have termites in your smile,
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mister Mitch,
Given a choice between the two of you I'd take the ... seasick crocodile!

You nauseate me, Mister Mitch,
With a nauseous super "naus",
You'll sacrifice the workers to enrich their crooked boss, Mister Mitch,
You're a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich, with arsenic sauce!

You're a foul one, Mister Mitch,
You're a nasty wasty skunk,
You'll bail out your Wall Street cronies but let the common man stay sunk, Mister Mitch,
The three words that describe you are as follows, and I quote, "Stink, Stank, Stunk!"

You're a rotter, Mister Mitch,
You're the king of sinful sots,
You'll take health care from the needy but give business lots and lots, Mister Mitch,
Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We're #180!

The Bourbon Chase is a 200 mile twelve man team relay race that begins in Clermont, Kentucky and ends in downtown Lexington. I started my first leg around lunchtime on October 22nd and limped the last few yards to the finish line with my team, Southern Discomfort, around dusk on October 23rd... And I haven't run since. Hell, I've barely been able to walk. It's just been in the last couple of days that I stopped looking like a candidate for hip replacement surgery. I'm still up in the air about whether this race was a once in a lifetime thing or not but I do know that it was an experience I'll never forget or regret.

I had no idea what was in store for me when we pulled into the packed Jim Beam parking lot that morning to start the race. It was still a little chilly when we walked up to the area around the starting line where we grabbed up freebies and got our Bourbon Trail passports stamped at the first of six distilleries we would pass along our way. My sister, Susan, started us off. Since this was her longest leg, Susan was sure that she would be coming in late so we all took our time walking from the van to the exchange point. As it turned out, my nephew, Damon, barely made it for the handoff and that made me nervous. Waiting to take the slap-on wristband from him at the next stop, I was feeling like that man who ran by me and puked beside a tree. The only other person in their forties on my team had just breezed through her first seven miles. How bad was that going to make me look if I didn't run my lousy 3.9 in the eleven minute mile pace I promised?

During my first run I wore some kind of gadget on my wrist that my sister let me use to see what kind of pace I was running. After glancing down a few times and seeing it yo-yo back and forth between eight and sixteen minutes, I decided it was a little too late for me to become a real athlete. I just tried to run in the same weird way I did before work back in Tucson. It worked pretty well until I got to Heaven Hill, not the distillery, the actual hill. The running screeched to a halt and after trudging to the top Damon tried to make me feel better by saying a lot of people walked it. Only I knew that if that pit bull straining at his chain in somebody's yard on the outskirts of Bardstown hadn't gotten me moving a little faster, I never would have come in when I was expected. After passing off to our captain, Ben, I had a short sneezing fit from whatever allergens were in the air and then we were back on the road headed to the next rendezvous.

Ben handed off to Andy, the last minute powerhouse in our van. With only a week's notice, he took over for an injured teammate and ended up being one of the fastest people we had. I wish a training diet of cigarettes, alcohol, and Krispy Kreme donuts worked for me, but I'm not in my twenties anymore. Dustin, a former center for the Murray State football team, finished off for van #1 and then van #2 took over. That gave us time to have the first real meal of the day at O'Charley's in Danville. Then it was on to a little rest in Perryville... Or so I thought. Dustin, Susan and I were all stretched out in the three back seats when the first musket or cannon or whatever the hell it was went off. And every time I would almost fall asleep another runner would come in and it would go off again. Dustin gave some pretty graphic descriptions of where he was going to stick those muskets but ultimately we gave up on sleep and braved the cold to watch our last runner from van #2, Rocco, hand off to Susan.

Susan said the night run was her hardest but it turned out to be my fastest. I regretted wearing my jacket at the end but I think it contributed to me making good time. When I originally decided to keep it on my thinking was that I could just take it off and tie it around my waist when I got hot but I didn't figure in the fact that I would have a reflective vest over the top that would eat up way too much time trying to remove. Between the unzipped jacket sliding down my arms and the headlamp resting on my nose, I was so damned uncomfortable that I was willing to do anything to make it back to the van, even run. I almost added a few extra miles to my 4.5 mile leg when I came to the first fork in the road and had no idea where to go. Luckily, I could see the lights of some runners up ahead so I guessed correctly that they had a better sense of direction than me. I got so excited when I saw the 1 mile left marker that I didn't notice the grass had turned to asphalt and came dangerously close to doing a face plant, but I managed to recover and with the strange rustlings in the woods spurring me on, I made it to the exchange point. That's when all the energy left my body and didn't return for at least a week.

I couldn't think of anything but our other teammates who were sleeping in the two motel rooms we had reserved for the race. We finally made it there sometime early Saturday morning and even though I changed and got in bed in record time, I still only slept about 2 1/2 hours at the most. At least we had it better than the guys since it was only me, Susan and our co-pilot, Janet. She's the sister of Mr. Bryan, our driver and my junior high band teacher. He said to call him Ron but I have a hard time even typing his name that way, much less saying it out loud. I have to give them props though because if you gave me a choice between running the hardest leg in the Bourbon Chase and trying to parallel park some big-ass van on the side of the road, I'd choose running every time. It was freezing when we got to Four Roses Distillery for Susan's last leg of the race and I didn't even have the energy to hobble down and see her start. They had various stands set up, including an old fashioned photo booth, but all I was interested in was some nice hot coffee. Well, I was really interested in a country ham biscuit too but the thought of it coming up in the middle of my next run kept me from acting on that particular desire. I probably should have passed on the coffee as well because while I was waiting for Damon to start his last run I had to use one of the port-o-potties in the middle of the Anderson County High School parking lot...And it wasn't number one.

I really had nothing left to give when I started my last and only medium rated 3.9 mile leg. I did manage to at least run up the first hill but that was only because I had to do it when I was leaving the crowd at the Wild Turkey parking lot. As soon as I turned the corner the walking began. Thankfully, the section I'd been dreading most came up fairly early. I'm not a real shot in the ass about heights and crossing a little two-lane bridge over the Kentucky River that runs parallel to what was once the highest railroad bridge in America was not my idea of a good time. But actually, it didn't turn out too bad. They had police posted at each side and they only let one car at a time come through so I never had to stop and pin myself up against the guardrail. I even slowed down to admire the view when I was safely on the other side. And the views were great but the slog was brutal. I didn't even attempt to run up the numerous hills and on the flat parts I only half-assed tried to do some creepy old lady powerwalk I'd seen somebody do at a race in Tucson. That left going down for picking up speed. I'm just glad no one had a camera to capture me pinwheeling down those hills like some crazed five year old. This was my only really rural run and I'd forgotten what often happens on two lane country roads. Animals and cars collide. My last count was 3 dead possums, a snake, a crow, some unidentifiable fluffy object and the distinct smell of dead skunk, although I never saw the carcass. Even though I limped across the railroad tracks to make my final hand-off a few minutes over time, overall I think I made my 11 minute mile.

Being in van #1 had a distinct advantage because once Dustin finished at Woodford Reserve we were able to check into our hotels and take long hot showers before the party began in downtown Lexington. I wore that stupid plastic wristband through the whole race just so I could do the free bourbon tasting at the end and once I had some chili and a Kentucky Ale aged in whiskey barrels I was too tired to even use it. We made our final run across the finish line, hurriedly got our medals and posed for a quick picture before they shoved us out of the way to make room for the next team. I limped around for another hour or two but the party was pretty much over for me. It was kind of sad thinking that I'd probably never get a chance to see grown men running around rural Kentucky wearing superman speedos or grass skirts and coconuts ever again. The Dickel Me Elmo van had made its final run.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pain Pain Go Away

I have a newfound respect for people who live with chronic pain. For over three weeks I’ve been dealing with constant foot/leg pain and cramps and last Sunday I pretty much reached my breaking point. I got maybe two hours sleep and it felt like I was going insane. I couldn’t get into the doctor’s office until Tuesday so I resorted to bumming a few pain pills from a friend just so I could get a little rest. They didn’t totally alleviate the aching and foot twitches but at least I got a little rest, even though I still had to sleep in my tennis shoes.

Wearing shoes 24 hours a day was a little trick I learned when I was getting radiation treatments last year and had constant foot cramps without the aching leg pain. My feet still twitch but at least they don’t fold up like a sandwich and leave this agnostic writhing in the floor and praying to God to make it stop. I couldn’t even take off my shoes long enough shower and let me tell you, there’s nothing sexier than a woman wearing nothing but sneakers leaning under the shower head trying to wash her hair and get a little sponge bath in. Obviously I’m not very good at conveying how painful this really is because the nurse practitioner gave me a referral to a neurologist who couldn’t fit me in until August and a blood work order to take to Sonora Quest Labs. I felt like some kind of junkie calling back that afternoon and begging for anything that would give me some relief.

They agreed to give me a muscle relaxant but unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, they called it in to Walgreens not CVS like I asked. I wasn’t able to get a ride to the pharmacy until after business hours so I didn’t find out about the mix-up until the next day. I tried taking a few more of the pills I had at home but they didn’t make a dent in the pain so Tuesday ended being pretty much a repeat of Sunday. I got the prescription filled and my blood work done on Wednesday and even though I had to take double the prescribed dosage, I was able to get a little sleep. I got up Thursday determined to go back to work but I only made it till about 1:30. If my friends Brandy and Michele hadn’t stepped in then and raised some hell for me, I’m afraid I would be at the emergency room right now instead of typing this post.

They got me in to see the doctor the next day and went with me to make sure she understood just how debilitating the pain really was. I came out of that office with pills for nerve pain and anxiety, an appointment with the neurologist on Monday and the results of my blood test that the receptionist said they didn’t have when I called. So for all you people who keep insisting that I just need to eat more bananas, my potassium level is just fine. In fact, everything came back good. She even said my sugar and cholesterol levels were great. Unfortunately, that leaves Tamoxifen side effects or nerve damage as the cause of my agony. Yesterday I quit the Tamoxifen and took my first dose of Neurontin for my nerve pain. It didn’t last long, but this morning I was able to take my first real shower of the month and drive to the grocery before the aching and twitching returned. Even though I may have my doubts, I’m still willing to pray to God/Allah/The Earth Goddess/Buddha or whoever if it will make the neurologist be able to give me some relief before I leave on my Adventure Bus hiking vacation in a few weeks.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Who Gives a Shit About Global Warming?

Fine, go ahead and think that global warming is some kind of left-wing conspiracy. At this point, it doesn’t really matter. The evidence that proves continuing to rely on oil and coal for our energy needs is unsustainable is being broadcast on cable and the internet every day. Sure, ecological catastrophes like the BP Gulf Coast oil spill have been happening in places like Nigeria for years but Americans are a NIMBY kind of people and until it affects our oysters on the half shell or Redneck Riviera getaways we could give a shit less. We may put up with poisoned environments in places like Appalachia or Brownsville, Texas but by god, not where we have our vacation home!

I’m not saying we should all give away our cars and start using only solar and wind energy tomorrow but Jesus Christ, can we at least acknowledge that something needs to be done? Monsanto is feeding our citizens food stuff that is rapidly becoming something one step up from soylent green, Massey Energy is lopping off our mountain tops and dumping them into our streams and BP Oil has managed to destroy the fishing and tourism industries in the Gulf Coast for years to come. And that’s not even mentioning the dead plants, animals and people that these toxic industries leave in their wake. How the fuck is this cost effective? And I know that nuclear energy is touted as the new green solution but I don’t buy it. Just like the BP disaster, all it takes is one perfect storm of human fuckups to turn a large part of our country into a vast wasteland.

The President’s Cancer Panel finally admitted that we’re being bombarded with cancer-causing chemicals every day and the industries that we rely on for our energy needs are a big part of the problem. When I was growing up, they taught me that America was the leader of the free world. Well all right, lead! Bite the bullet and fund the programs and research that will bring our country back to being number one in things like life expectancy, educational level attained, and environmental beauty. It reminds me of that study where the kids were offered one marshmallow right away or two if they could wait 15 or 20 minutes. Finding alternative energy sources may cost a little more in the short term, but in the long run, your children and grandchildren will have a lot bigger marshmallow to share.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Okay, I don’t remember the first Earth Day in 1970 but the crying Indian that was introduced in a Keep America Beautiful PSA on Earth Day in 1971 ranks right up there with the Sugar Pops Bear and Charlie the Tuna as an iconic image from my childhood. I grew up in the cave region of Kentucky so you could drive down any country road back then and find the landscape dotted with trash-filled sinkholes as you casually chucked your Burger Chef leftovers out of the open car window.

My ideal Saturday in 1971 was early morning cartoons, a Grape Nehi, and some pickle dog (pickled bologna) at Mrs. Jones' general store and then driving around the back roads all afternoon “dumping”. We didn't actually dump anything but we'd stop at every sinkhole trash heap along the way to look for some valuable collectible. For me, that was a one-legged Ken or a car steering wheel. For my mom and my aunt, it was a soda bottle or an Avon decanter. You don't see that kind of blatant disregard for the earth much anymore but that's not to say that there isn't room for improvement.

Forty years ago we had lakes that caught on fire and now we have mountains being cut off at the throat. I usually lean towards the pessimist’s view but I have to admit that Americans back then were able to change their mindset about the benefits of not pitching trash in their own backyard so maybe there’s still hope that we’ll be able to pull our heads out of the sand in regards to global warming and the carte blanche we’ve given large corporations to rape our mountains and streams. Or... Maybe not. Per the supreme court, corporations are just plain folks too. Narcissistic, homicidal, sociopathic folks perhaps, but people nonetheless.