Various Lies

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In which I feel a nagging sense of unease and shame

"Hey what's tramadol?" He asked, trying to show me his uncreased prescription and medication notes.
"I don't know," I stammered, and tried to walk around him.
"Please, what's tramadol?"
"I really don't know, I'm sorry." I said. "Good luck though."

Even as I walked away, I knew the name 'tramadol' was familiar - it was either an anti-emetic, or a pain reliever. And like most people in the US I had a computer in my pocket, with unfettered, high speed internet access. It would have taken just seconds to look the name up and tell him. But I didn't.

I walked away, making excuses to myself and then I found myself making excuses for these excuses.


My campus sits in the downtown area of a large, relatively poor Southern city. I was walking back to my office from the Children's Hospital on the other side of campus. Separating these two areas is a large hospital with a Level I trauma center and ER. It isn't the most salubrious place around, and panhandlers and vulnerable people end to congregate around the area, like so many helpless zombies in a cheap horror flick. I get panhandled all the time for smokes and change; it's a fact of life here and you learn to deal with it (the tourists don't, but then they don't usually visit this neighborhood unless they've been shot or run over).


His medication notes were uncreased, and the prescription stapled to them hadn't been bent back, as it might have been if someone had taken the time to read the notes. But medication notes aren't written for people who likely have at most a fourth grade reading comprehension level. His doctor hadn't taken the time to explain what the medication was, or what it did, and he saw me, in a suit, walking by the hospital with appropriate looking name tags and ID card, and made the assumption (both correctly and incorrectly) that I was a doctor.


It may have been a ruse to panhandle me for smokes or change. Or he might have been one of the more vulnerable innocents who gather in the shadows of the buildings and it could have got frightening or worse very quickly. It's safer to walk away. I keep telling myself that. But I keep asking myself the same question, and it makes me feel sick because I can't immediately answer it:

Would you have still kept on walking if he'd have been white?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Setting the Stage

This is a preamble.

I moved to the US from Europe 15 years ago. In fact, this month marks the 15th anniversary, although I forget the actual date. And I only stayed for 6 weeks before going back to wait on my visa, so I guess the real-real move date was November 26th 1998. But it was in August 1998 that I moved with my fiance and got her settled in her new job, and helped put our new apartment together, and discovered the wonders of shopping malls that have everything, and supermarkets with vast and varied selection, and public transport that, even at it's best, was pitiful and allowed for a welcome sense of superiority. It was utterly overwhelming, and wonderful, and breathtaking, and vast and the sky seemed to go on forever and there was a sense of untapped promise and youth, even in the woods and hills of central Pennsylvania.

After the novelty wore off there was sudden, massive culture shock, and with that came rebellion. Everything was wrong for a while, and everyone was annoying and the warmth and openness was suddenly cloying and mawkish. The summers too hot, the winters too cold (who gets frostbite waiting for the bus?!). I grew out of that with the help of a Canadian friend who steered me back on track with a firm hand and the admonishment, "You chose to move here. You can't go on hating on everything. Learn to love the differences or just go home."

He was right, I grew up and life has moved on and me with it. I came here a staunch liberal democrat, a confirmed pacifist and a lifelong Royalist. I was English middle-class to the bone and fiercely proud of my rights and understanding of my place in the world. After all, anyone with any sense knew that God was an Englishman. How times have changed. I'm now a right-leaning libertarian, a staunch republican (not Republican, fuck those guys), and atheist.

I moved here knowing frighteningly little about the US. If I'd've moved to Spain, or Brazil, or anywhere needing me to learn another language I would have taken the time to also learn about the culture and social mores of my new country. But for the US (and I assume the same would be true for Canada or Australia (or even New Zealand)), I didn't have to learn a language, and so made no effort to learn the culture. In the last 15 years I've learned a lot. My republicanism stems from my understanding of the struggles the Founding Fathers went through, the horrors of the Rebellion (the second British civil war it should be known as). I've learned about, and grown to love the Constitution and The Bill of Rights. I love them as both a moral ideal and a physical document espousing truths that were far ahead of their time.

I've got my Green Card, and my carry-permit, and in two years I'll likely have Citizenship. Is America perfect? Hell no. The current (and former) Administration are a shower of lying, murderous wankers, sitting on top of the most inept attempt at buy-your-own-politics the West has seen in a long time. And I don't think it's going to change fast, or soon. But, I do believe that change comes from the people and as soon as I can exercise my right to vote I intend to start helping make change locally and see what I can work to accomplish. Because that's what it means to be an American.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

So here I am once more

In the playground of the broken hearts,
One more experience, one more entry in a diary, self-penned.
Yet another emotional suicide 
Overdosed on sentiment and pride.
Too late to say I love you,
Too late to re-stage the play,
Abandoning the relics in my playground of yesterday,

Fish wrote that for another thought a lifetime away from here. It feels appropriate in a maudlin fashion.

Today my child was born. Emotional day, long time coming. 9 months is a lifetime and more and second time around it's more, in every way. 2 lives now depend on me; 3 with my wife's dependence upon me. More and more with reciprocal and recursive need, dependence. Now add family. Now add The Bloodline.

All my life was the bloodline. Something about us, we, me and it never ended even when Ancestry-dot-com showed we were mutts in our mother's line (but what interesting mutts! There was money, and a European aristocrat in almost-living-memory. If almost living is a military minded family who thinks in terms of how the Hanoverian changed our relationship with Europe for the better (We Won the War(s) after all)).

I act the role in classic style 
Of a martyr carved with twisted smile
To bleed the lyric for this song 
To write the rites to right my wrongs 
An epitaph to a broken dream
To exercise this silent scream
A scream that's born from sorrow

And here I am so worn from the hoped for grandeur that I always wanted because it's all ever I wanted because it's all I ever knew. Too much fantasy, too much fiction, and suddenly a father of two. A son and a daughter. A name to continue (and secretly, far more importantly, a real bloodline to continue  Her mitochondrial genome far outweighs our meagre contribution. The Jews are half right. She is the bloodline, but he the heir. Let the Patriarchy run strong.))

The fool escaped from paradise 
Will look over his shoulder and cry
Sit and chew on daffodils and struggle to answer "Why?" 
As you grow up and leave the playground 
Where you kissed your prince and found your frog
Remember the jester that showed you tears, the script for tears

I'm home alone. The Heir is with his grandmother. The mother alone. All is as it should be and largely beyond my immediate control.

There was a dead fly in a glass when I got home tonight. I emptied the glass and it flew away. It wasn't dead, it was just drunk.