Conversations with Crazy

21 Jul

I was walking to my bus stop and I noticed a homeless guy sitting on the sidewalk, waving his hands, like he was dancing to his own tune. Then I got closer and the crazy began.

I try to give eye contact with most homeless folks, simply because it gives the minimum of decency. I see that you exist. He pointed to his wrist, so I thought, “oh, he wants to know the time.” So I tell him the time, he shakes his head, so I take off my headphones, and proceeds to tell me how foreign intelligence agencies are omnipresent and destroying Arizona.

Now the difference between a conspiracy theory and a crazy person is all in the cadence. A conspiracy theorist will stay on topic, explaining in a step by step way that microchips are getting smaller and smaller, that they are able to put them on smaller things, and they’re cheaper. So they can put them on anything, so the COVID-19 was an excuse to get people to use more hand sanitizer, which has tracking chips, and now the government has chips on all of us.

This guy started on foreign intelligence, then switched to tracking, then switched to being a good Christian, but believing in freedom of religion… And that point, my bus arrived, and I was able to apologize and leave this conversation that was going no where.

I used to think it must be fun being crazy… You can dress how you want, dance and shout, and people give you wide berth. On the train, I’ve noticed at least once a week one of my fellow passengers can’t stop moving. Not just walking or pacing, no… Jerking and dancing around. It’s unsettling.

Which made me think… Imagine if I couldn’t stop moving. Something in me makes it impossible for me to sit down. Maybe it’s nerve damage, maybe it’s a belief that the chairs are full of disease, maybe I’ve taken so many drugs that I can’t sit still for more than five seconds. What a hell that would be. If I literally thought that foreign agencies were after me, and that it was up to me to stop them, yeah… I wouldn’t be able to sleep in the same place every night. I couldn’t stay in the same place every hour!

I have great sympathy for the homeless, but I’m not blind to the fact that many of these are on drugs or mentally ill. We should fund mental illness treatment far more than do. You can’t help someone who believes that aliens from Zardoz are trying to kidnap him. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to stop taking his drug. That’s where we need to focus our help.

But I could be wrong… What do you think? Is our freedom of religion under threat from Zardoz? Let me know in the comments below!

The Great Resignation

18 Jun

I got a letter from LinkedIn saying, “Experts are predicting a ‘Great Resignation’ due to people wanting to move on and try something new.” Considering I’m ahead of the curve, I found this rather interesting, and it shows how resistant people are to taking away their “rights.”

I could go on about the collapse of commercial real estate, or newly remote workers fleeing expensive areas like San Francisco and New York City, but I’m more interested in the resistance to “returning to normal.” I’ll use my new job. One of the reasons I specifically took this job was because after three years working remotely, I desperately wanted a desk. (You can read more about my decision, it’s more complicated.) When the COVID hit over a year ago, my co-workers told me how sad they were that they had to work from home–this was such a radical change from their normal existence. Now that they’re shifting back to the office, there’s a massive push back from my co-workers about returning to their desks.

At the same time, my boss’ boss is doubling down on “You have to be at your desk!” She is resistant to having her employees continuing to work all the time from home. Even with the resistance that is obvious from her phrasing, she’s still insisting 2 days minimum for most, 3 days for admins. Why? Who knows?! Considering our company has a healthy history of people shifting departments, not to mention losing and hiring folks, why would you risk losing a ton of employees by being stricter about remote work?

My main thought is that she’s lonely. She’s tired of being in a mostly empty cube farm, her assistant not being there, and having to do all her meetings online. What’s the point of going into her office if she’s the only one there? So why not force everyone to come back. But the problem is that once something is granted to a person, they consider a right, and they get very angry if it’s taken away.

When the rules change at work, people start updating their resumes. People get comfortable in their ways. When I was first told back in… oh, 2007, “Marcus, you’re going to work from home starting next week.” I was shocked. But I found the joy of flexible work. At that time, the boss realized that most of his trainers were frequently in classes, or shifting around, and thought… “Gee, I can convince my bosses that we can save money if don’t have dedicated cubes.” And he was right. So for five years, I enjoyed the choice of either working from home, riding down to work, or riding out to wherever and working from there. I got to really love the bike trail and my cellular internet adapter (sorry, I can’t think of the actual name), finding myself working outside near the mounds of Fort Ancient, Ohio.

Then one day, my department got subsumed by Information Services, and the word came from on high. No more flexible work, you need to be in your cubicle, none of this adjustable schedule. I decided to shift jobs within my company, and when that wasn’t an option, I became a traveling consultant, and I’ve gained a measure of flexibility ever since. Even with my 5-day-a-week cube life back in place, I still have a great boss which allows me to be flexible when the needs of my life require me to be elsewhere.

I think that’s why I agree that the Great Resignation is about to happen. Some people may want to keep working from home, they may not, but everyone agrees they want the flexibility to choose. When your boss realizes, “Why are we paying for this office space if no one’s using it?” and insists you use it… those that want to keep working from home will seek out the TONS of jobs that are now remote. And that’s what my boss’ boss doesn’t realize; give people flexibility and you will have happy workers. Play the “because I’m the boss card,” you will lose them.

But I could be wrong–what do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then check out one of my books and give me the flexibility to make more. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

Secular Sainthood

10 Jun

If the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, then our spiritual icons must appear in ad space. In an America where people are less spiritual, and more ignorant of their own history, something has to take its place–therefore we have secular saints.

This is nothing new–in fact, there’s a term for it–“civil religion.” In a young country such as ourselves (and 300 years is pretty young), America had to invent a whole mythology and founding fathers to lionize and exalt. Since the best example of a working republic was Rome’s, our national buildings emulate Roman design consciously. Without a state church, we had to take away most of the direct religious connections, and appealed to unifying concepts (such as the Ten Commandments).

The recent change in our civil religion has been who we choose to venerate. Since we learned that our founding fathers were just flawed white men whose beliefs do not match our modern sensibilities, there has been a push to eliminate the old gods in favor of the new. In this case, Valley Metro in Phoenix has pushed to have a local artist create these beautiful pictures of 19 historical women to honor Women’s History Month.

Okay, let me get off my soapbox briefly to say, “These pictures are really good.” We should celebrate the founding mothers as well as the fathers. It was a little harder to be a big splash as a woman two hundred years ago, so our examples are far more recent. Now I’m going to take my fairness hat back off and ask, “Don’t these pictures look a LOT like Orthodox Christian icons?”

There’s a flower around their head (cough, cough… halo), one of them is holding an paint wheel like a cross or a book, and they all stare down at you like they owe you something. Like saints, these women are to be venerated; their lives are examples of how we should behave. Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Harriet Tubman… women who broke traditional standards and succeeded. We made sure to throw in as many ethnicities as possible, regardless of how much it makes sense. For example, Jumko Tabei, the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Seriously? Or take Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first African American to graduate from an American school of nursing. Who cares! You could have used Elizabeth Blackwell, first female American doctor, but we already hit our limit of pale skinned women.

What I wonder is how long these new secular saints will last before they are replaced. How long will Madam C. J. Walker last as “the first Black woman millionaire in America” before her belief in self-reliance and her relationship with the wealthy overwhelm her ethnic status? How long will Judy Garland’s role as a gay icon last when people stop watching The Wizard of Oz? The problem with creating new gods is that they don’t have a tradition to support them when the next generation comes along. But maybe that’s the point–new gods for a new generation, nothing stable, everything politically correct? Maybe I’m being hyper-critical about a bunch of urban art. Let me know in the comments below! Then if you want some more ephemeral art, check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too expensive to support the arts, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

End of Watch

7 Jun

I’ve never been to a police memorial before–and I’m not sure this qualifies–but I got to attend the barbeque benefit for a fallen officer recently. It was an interesting experience and gave me a look into a world that I rarely step into.

Now that I work for the government. we get a lot more notices of what’s going on around “our fair city.” On Memorial Day, Officer Ginarro New of the Phoenix Police Department was hit by a driver running a red light at a high rate of speed. Bam. Dead at 27, after serving in the military, and two years as a police officer.

Not what I was expecting–certainly what you are expecting. The police union decided to host a fundraiser at their building, which as it turned out, was within walking distance of my workplace. First thing that struck me as unusual was that the fundraiser was being held from 10 am to 10 pm. It only struck me later was that was to be open to police officers whose shifts would overlap those times.

I got there around 2 pm (because my shift is set a little later so I can drop off my kids in the AM) to see a fire truck hanging a giant American flag and a digital billboard, and folks grilling away happily and collecting donations for the family. The place was packed. There were plenty of cops there–I was expecting that–a couple of firemen, but there was lots of families. Big kids, small kids, moms… even some folks I didn’t expect. Apparently I sat right behind the grieving family.

The actual food and drink was available in… what could have only been a garage originally, but was now a storage place / workout area / general storage area. Obviously it was a cooler place out of the sun. I walked right in and there were two lines of people waiting for food. Apparently the demand was so great that the grill couldn’t keep up with the number of burgers and franks the guests wanted!

However, eventually everyone got fed, it was a nice atmosphere. Everyone was friendly and glad to be helping out. It’s something I hadn’t seen in a while. However, I could just be out of touch–what do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

That’s All, Folks!

3 Jun

I’ve been blogging every day for about a year now and my life has changed considerably since then. I’ve also felt like I’ve written on every topic can I imagine. So as I’m finding myself repeating the same thing for my daily post, it’s time to say goodbye.

I originally started this website to get more exposure to my books… and I have, but nowhere near enough to justify it. I realized that if I really want to continue down this social media exposure path, I have to dedicate a lot more time to it… and I don’t really want to.

Thank you for all those people who follow me. I’m sure I’ll continue to blog, but much more irregularly, and focus on my actual writing. When I publish another book, I’ll be happy to let you know.

Cheers,
Marcus

Is There Something Wrong with your Shoes?

2 Jun

My kids are allergic to their shoes. I’m not sure why, but for whatever reason, my kids will take off their shoes at every… single… opportunity. What is it about footwear that they find so confining?

It’s the strangest thing. Running outside? No, we’ll go barefoot. Go out to the parking lot, why bother putting on shoes on steaming hot tarmac? In the car for more than five minutes, take the shoes off, you’re not going anywhere.

I usually blame it on our weather. Here in Arizona, it rarely gets below 50 F during the day, so you can be relatively comfortable without socks or footwear. I certainly had never worn sandals on a regular basis until I came here–it simply didn’t feel comfortable for me. Now? If I’m going to go out in the summer, wearing close toe sandals makes the trip so much more comfortable.

It rarely rains (we have summer and winter monsoons, but rarely any other time) so there’s little need to keep your feet dry. I’d blame it on the grass in the front, since if we had lots of sharp rocks, biting bugs, and cactus they’d be more conscious. Then they run out into the parking lot without shoes, so… that’s not all of it.

Despite the fact that my wife has set aside shoe racks, getting them to actually put their shoes away is impossible. There is a general disdain for shoes. Even when they know they have to bring them along, my son will still say, “I’ll put them on in the car.” It’s a coin flip whether he actually will before we reach our destination.

Maybe if we had a mud room, it would be better, because then all that footwear could just hang out there. But meanwhile, us parents wonder when they’ll figure out they need to wear shoes! (sigh) Do you have this problem? Let me know in the comments below! Then check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

In this moment of remembrance…

1 Jun

Memorial Day has always a special day for me–not just because I’m a Navy brat–but because this was always a big event for me growing up. Doubly so since we didn’t have a ceremony last year, so I had to make sure to get out and celebrate the moment.

In my hometown, Memorial Day involved a whole parade. Since I was in band in middle and high school, we were always marching in the parade, playing roughly the same songs they had done for the past couple decades. In fact, the middle school band had done the same cadence for so long, the high school drummers decided to copy it at the end of the parade, which was freaking hilarious. There was veterans on floats, older veterans in classic cars, and other floats with people lining the streets from downtown out to the ceremony. Then there was a prayer, some speeches, and then two trumpeters played Taps and the Legion honor guard did a 21-gun salute.

Once I moved to the big city, it was a lot harder to find something similar. There’s not always a parade, if there’s a ceremony, it’s harder to find, and you had to struggle to get there. The one in Mesa is really good… but I couldn’t be sure they were actually having it this year. So I went to the one in South Phoenix–and as tends to be my experience–always get lost and arrive five minutes late. But I got there, put on my garrison cap (it’s the same as the American Legion hats, but light blue for the Sons of the AL, which I’m a member of), and sat in the back. Because May 31st is the beginning of Arizona summer, we got to sit under shade, which with a 100-degree heat, is kinda necessary.

There were prayers, speeches, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, singing the national anthem and God Bless America… what I’ve come to expect for an event. It’s moving, it’s part of the ceremony. There were two things different which really amazed me. One was the rifle-and-helmet memorial; which I had seen the image of many times, but never actually seen performed.

When someone takes a rifle and stabs it into the ground near you (bayonet first), it make an impression. Then placing the boots, hanging the dog tags, and then places the helmet on top. Then came the second unexpected thing; the flyover. There were four antique planes that flew above us, and as they came, they performed the missing man formation–where one of the planes pulls up to symbolize the pilot who is no longer with us. Very cool.

Then I went home, and after some kerfuffle, went to my Legion Post to celebrate. It was a great time hanging with my drinking buddies, met a few more, and watched John Wick 2 on the TV while I drank and smoke. But even there, we had a moment of silence at 3 pm, to remember those who had left. Simple, but very moving.

So it wasn’t my hometown experience, but I’ve found joy in hanging with veterans on this day, and enjoying myself. Do you have a similar story? Is there a national holiday that you find more moving than others? Let me know in the comments below! Then if you’ve got time, check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

“I Gotta Have My Tunes!”

31 May

Attending a fancy birthday party recently, I was amused that everyone was inside… away from the DJ blasting in the backyard. If you wanted the music, then why are you avoiding it?

For me, someone with ADHD, I’ve come to accept the world is too loud for me, but most people don’t notice. At my favorite bar, I remember one of the regulars noticed the jukebox had stopped, and she called out, “I gotta have my tunes!” She proceeded to throw money in the machine, but then continued her conversation. I was thinking–how did she not notice that it was harder to talk with the music on?!

My main theory is that “it’s not a party without music;” that they’ve been conditioned to equaling having fun with playing music. However, it could be something simpler; it could just be “I need something in the background.” Then maybe most people’s volume levels are set higher than mine.

The common excuse did restaurants having their music too loud is “nothing attracts the crowd like the crowd.” People are loud, so if the music’s loud, more people will come. But people might be less inclined to come back.

I could be completely off base here… What do you think? Is there another reason people need their tunes? Let me know in the comments below!

Generational Conditioning

30 May

Activists like to throw around terms such as “generational poverty” and “lack of access to X,” but when they quote that, they tend to forget that the communities themselves will keep their members from “progress.”

I’ve heard this called the “anthill theory” and the idea is that when one ant climbs to the top of the anthill, the other ants will grab him and try to drag them down. This is not a conscious effort–this is the natural consequence of poorer communities having different values than the richer ones.

I grew up middle class, but it was in a small rural town, so you couldn’t afford to be snobby. My friends crossed all different borders. I had poor friends, rich friends, Catholics, Protestants, Dutch, Non-Dutch (including Hispanic), so you would constantly interact with people of all backgrounds (although admittedly, mostly white). College (through grants and loans) became an opportunity available to all of my graduating high school class, but naturally, some chose not to take that path for a variety of reasons, but many simply didn’t want to leave Morrison. And half my class never came back; mind you, a quarter only moved to somewhere in the same region, but those who wanted to leave, did.

Why do I mention this? Because there aren’t a lot of jobs in Morrison; staying (or even coming back) means accepting a low income, limited dating pool, and less things available. On the flip side, it’s cheaper, and more importantly, it’s where your family lives. If family is important to you, because it provides an emotional and physical support network, then you live where your family does.

If you wanted to advance your career, but stay close to home, your option was either Sauk Valley Community College or commute to the Quad Cities (an hour away) where there were a couple options. Where I live now, my wife teaches many local kids, but she frequently has to deal with students who say, “I work 40 hours a week and pull a full course load.” Why would you put yourself through such torture? Because your family needs the money… and your scholarship mandates a full course load to get the funding.

I was blessed with a family that didn’t need me to bring in a paycheck; then again, they didn’t have a paycheck prior to this, so… it’s a choice. Improve the lives of your siblings or… don’t. Then again, my family also broke up when I went to college (mom died, stepdad got remarried), so I had a lot less incentive to return home. I could afford to move overseas and take jobs around the country because being close to my family wasn’t my main concern.

You have to move to where the money is, and if that isn’t where your family lives, you don’t get the money. If you don’t live near a grocery store, you either get on the bus and travel to one, or you depend on the convenience store within walking distance. Yeah, it sucks, but when you choose that I want to live near my extended family, there are consequences. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My kids don’t have grandparents… at least not ones who care about them. I haven’t talked to my siblings in decades and my wife’s cut herself off from hers. We’ve paid for our family distance.

Man, this got dark fast. As always, if I’m not considering something important, let me know in the comments below! But if you like my writing, check out one of my books! However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Not Today, Satan!

29 May

So I’m walking into work and I pass a guy with a t-shirt that loudly proclaimed, “Not Today Satan!” That got me thinking two things: 1) That sentence needs a comma and 2) isn’t blaming Satan for the evil in the world a bit of a cop out?

Satan as a concept seems almost sacrilegious. If I want to be pretentious, I’d say it’s Manichaean or dualist; it has a Zoroastrian flair to it. The idea of an equal and opposite power to God weakens the power of the Almighty. The Christian and Islamic traditions would say that Satan/Shaitain is far weaker. but why would God allow a force of evil to exist in the world?

Satan is named explicitly in the Gospels and the Letters of the New Testament, as well as the Quran, but when it’s mentioned in the Tanakh (Old Testament), Satan is “the snake” (Genesis 2) or “the adversary.” (Job 1) Job was the first written of the Biblical texts; the language is far more archaic than the Torah or certainly any of the Histories or Prophets. Anyway, in that book:

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

12 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

Job 1: 6-12 (KJV)

Satan is simply one of the angels (although the text uses “sons of God”); not only is he welcomed at the heavenly court, he’s listened to. He sounds a lot like God’s “no man” in his entourage. God needs someone to point out the flaws in the plan. But this sets up the purpose of devils in scripture. Devils never attack you directly, they whisper in your ear. They suggest. Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert, suggests a whole bunch of things, and as a good Jewish boy, he can quote scriptural reasons back at him… never directly touches him. Heck, even God “hardens the heart of Pharaoh” (Exodus 8:19) but God didn’t force the man to make that decision, just suggested it.

Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) divides everything into the Sitra D’Kedushah (the side of holiness) or Sitra Achra (the side of impurity). I frequently hear the Sitra Achra defined as the “evil intention.” It’s easy to imagine your dark side as a “still small voice” whispering dark thoughts into your ear. But I think that’s too easy; the pure and the impure exist within all of us.

So the fault does not lie in Satan, but in ourselves; if it helps you to believe there is a devil on your shoulder, but it convinces you to do the right thing, is that so wrong? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

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