Picture A Day

Preservation Hall Brass Band, New Orleans, Feb 2017

This is from a time that, when I remember it, shakes me down to my very core. You might say I should never look. But healing doesn’t happen without discomfort. A lot of healing doesn’t happen without a lot of pain. This I was taught over the last few years, and it’s completely true. So, this is an image from a perfect moment, one of thousands of perfect moments for which I can only be grateful.

The above was a comment I attached to that picture, in an alternate single-use Facebook page. After a few minutes of thought, I removed it. Words like that aren’t needed in my little one-picture-a-day page.

I had an old alternate account and decided to revamp it for posting some of the zillion pictures I take. They’re all public. You don’t need to join Facebook to see them. I invite you to go look. facebook.com/sly.glance/

Aah, fuck. Never mind that. Public only means you don’t have to be friends. You still need a FB account. Goddammit.

Anyway, the picture itself has nothing to do with the words. The words came from looking at the photos that picture came from. After almost four years I still love the woman I was with, and am apparently still IN love with the woman as she was when I met her almost ten years ago. I don’t know what if any of that original woman still exists. We both grew a ton so probably not much. But the feelings, even about someone so very imperfect, someone who brought me a lot of pain in addition to the good love brings, remained enough to render me emotionally unavailable for anyone else. My last lady friend understood that, having a similar history, and was able to love me through that, but still … Still I have a tendency to look back on my mistakes and imagine a redesign. But you can’t do that, you can only learn.

But through reflection I discovered something. It’s been remarked upon that I live in the past a little too much. I’ve tried to redesign it all my life. Imagined, as if in some science fiction story, going back to some specific time to inhabit the body in time and place that I had back then, and make wiser or at least more fun decisions. Everyone has that fantasy. But between that and my interest in history it’s been suggested I overdo it. Being the analytical type, I wondered why that might be. And I remembered that when I was small, under ten, my father’s second wife observed me and later told me that she often saw amongst my doodlings phrases such as, If Jimmy hadn’t died everything would be all right. The death of my parents’ firstborn that took place when I was one year old had a profound effect on everything after, as did my parents’ divorce that it led to. Ripple effects, they can be huge. My father’s second wife opined that this doodling was a result of my family never discussing it, recognizing it, dealing with it. The universal belief was that it was best to not talk about it at all. The kids are young. They won’t remember him. They’ll be better off. Unsurprisingly, that attitude had an effect opposite to that intended.

My theory is that I taught myself to redesign the past, to live in it in some sense, at a very young age. Because I was surrounded by the consequences of Jimmy’s death without any discussion or attempt to move past them, that past remained in mind all the time. All the time I was internally aware of what made me different (everyone has something that made them different, this was mine), i.e. I had a brother that died, and my parents were divorced. More than anything else, I wished with fervor that Jimmy had never got cancer. If he hadn’t died, everything would be all right.

After sixty years, habits are hard to break. Seeing the pictures from the trip this one was from, I wound up in a pretty bad place for a little bit. But I had to be. Ignoring, shoving aside, not dealing does not work. Neither does going back and wishing I’d known to do this or not do that, but it’s a hard habit to break.

Side story. A few months ago I had a sudden urge to text a friend I hadn’t seen in a year or two. She was a Burning Man / circus act / DJ’s assistant sort (and a nurse) who was very beautiful and dressed in a sort of feathery post-apocalyptic boudoir style that was beyond fetching, and when in a safe space much preferred to go topless, which in turn inspired her guests, which made her parties kinda enjoyable — but all that is a digression to distract me from my point. I texted her out of the blue, and she replied that she guessed I’d heard what happened. I had not. What happened? Her son died. Just two days before, her high school aged son was killed in an off-roading accident.

Was it a coincidence that I reached out to her at that time, and not a month later or a month before? I don’t know, but this fucked me up. The boy had a little brother, and my thoughts kept turning to him. They had a big ad hoc memorial grow outside their house, and I went over after buying some special paper and pens and gave them notes I had written. I made sure to write one for the younger brother, because he will live with this his entire life and not everyone will recognize it. In fact, my note to her was possibly about him. And he knew his brother — I never knew mine. It’s going to be rough.

All these things are connected. Anyway, for vague reasons nothing to do with brothers, I about lost it when the band played St. James Infirmary. That’s always been a very affecting song for me, couldn’t say why.

Fire, Hill, Wine, Bus

I was doodling around when a friend posted his family needed help with their evac from the Caldor Fire. This fire is burning up some steep forest country about a half hour from here up Highway 50, and a lot of that country is inhabited. It’s not too far away for a commute to Sacramento. We all have friends who are standing by, cars full of whatever they grabbed, waiting to know if they still have houses.

When I saw the message I jumped up, got the location deets, threw gloves and flashlights into the car, and jammed on up the hill. Highway 50 keeps going up the hill until you land at Lake Tahoe, but I only went as far as El Dorado. Got there and found out they just needed some trucks unloaded. And all they needed unloaded were cases of wine.

Turned out this friend of mine, his family owns a winery. It might or might not be in the path of the fire — these things change continually — and they were rescuing inventory. So we unloaded pickup trucks and stacked it all in their dining room. Kind of anticlimactic.

I guess the barrels can’t be moved so easily and if the fire turns towards them, they’ll lose four or five years of work. But they weren’t wrought up about it. You can’t be. Some gallows humor and shrugs are all you need, really.

Besides, they just bought a house in Italy. They must be doing all right. And the spread I saw was one of those foothills homesteads with acres of oaks and dry grass rolling over the hills, jackrabbits and coyotes leaping about, black new driveways that wind between the rock outcroppings, drought-resistant plants tastefully arrayed everywhere, garden lights that come on at sundown, and a house that wasn’t large but had a good mixture of elegance in the living quarters and countless tools in the triple garage. There was a time I aspired to such a place. I’m more of a city dweller now but thirty years ago my wife and I thought about snagging some acreage up there and building on it. I always wanted a back porch from where I could do some shooting.

So, how is it you can know a guy for several years, and not know his family owns a winery? He’s just a regular guy, you know. Has a job and a fiancé, a house a couple suburbs over from mine, and used to be a DJ with a converted school bus he’d set up in some desert-like environment with big speakers and colored lights and underdressed girls dancing on the roof. You know, the usual thing. But a winery. That’s not the usual.

Or is it? Maybe out here it is the usual. I know another guy, also in our local weird desert-thing community. He and his brother started a winery and they seem to be doing all right too. They’re not even forty. Maybe they too have family in the biz. I wouldn’t know and if they do, their social media says nothing about it. Nothing but grape-picking parties, vat and barrel installation, tasting room construction, like that. Someone has some good credit.

Not to mention a veteran of my long-term favorite band, Tower of Power, bought him a winery too. It’s in the Delta. Forget those fancy wineries in Sonoma and Napa and Monterey and all near the coast. Out here we got Delta wineries and Foothills wineries. I don’t know enough to understand the differences, but I’m sure they’re vast. The soils and other conditions are completely different in every way. But both produce good product. Anyway, his winery is hosting a concert for said band later this month. I got me a ticket today and I’m super excited. Nothing like funk and soul from the East Bay, and the world’s tightest horn section. (I’ve been a fan since I was 12 AND was a jazz horn player during their heyday, so lay off with the eye rolling.)

I spent more time on the drive up and back than I did unloading trucks. I got a beer out of it. Good enough. Glad they’re safe.


Next day. At the top I was thinking of Grizzly Flats, where a few people I knew at the corporation made their homes. Yesterday a good deal of it was destroyed. A guy I’ve known for almost thirty years and who has raised a large family there over most of them got his family out. Eventually he will get to go see if there’s anything else to save.

Friday Thirteen

I went to the trouble to write something for Facebook, but it’s too long for anyone there to read it, so I’ll put it here

.* * *

Friday the 13th! Trump Reinstatement Day! Forget all that. What matters is August 13th is Left Hander’s Day!

https://www.lefthandersday.com/

Moving past the many obvious reasons why left-handers are a blessing of nature, you might wonder if being left-handed has ever been a problem for me. And no, I am not a narcissist for assuming that you wonder. You just do. In truth, as a left-hander I am naturally adaptive to all situations. I only have two things to talk about today. Fabric scissors and ballpoint pens.

I bought fabric scissors yesterday. As you know they are very specialized tools. When I set out to use it, I discovered that in my excitement I had purchased RIGHT-handed scissors. Not sure how that happened, but alas. Of course I was able to use them without a problem (see “adaptive” above). Presently I will go get the proper tool. Meanwhile if any righties ever visit and need to alter an article of clothing (something that I really don’t think should be unusual in my house) I have them covered.

Ballpoint pens are another subject. I have only recently learned of the subject’s great importance. As it happens. the ancient Greeks established pen and ink writing as proceeding from left to right. Since that time, a privileged majority has enjoyed the luxury of writing without smudging the ink. As a bonus, they can see what they have just written. All my life I have thought this unimportant because I really don’t need to see what I have just written and ballpoint pens generally don’t smudge.

But.

They don’t last very long either. A good pen is absolutely necessary if you are going to write with it. Ideally, it should write smoothly and not skip and should last more than six days. Ballpoint pens do none of these things and until recently I thought that was just the way ballpoint pens were. I thought, damn, the Earth must be filling up with discarded ballpoint pens by now.

Not necessarily.

When right-handers write, they need only draw the pen lightly across the writing medium, the ink gracefully rolling out over the tiny ball, functioning neatly and writerly until the cartridge has gone dry. Not so for left-handers. There is no other way than to push them into the paper. This wreaks havoc not just because the unfortunate ball is constantly being pressed up into its containment structure, but minuscule particles of paper that have been gouged out by this tiny inky plow are Jammed up in there as well, handicapping proper operation as chunks of concrete handicap a tomato picker. No machine can last long under these extreme conditions. Left-associated pens fill the discard bins unto overflowing. Precious resources are lost to the disproportionate need of the minority population for functional writing instruments. Ad sinistram est abdicavit.

Yeah, so I got a pen that’s supposedly good for lefties. I am not too hopeful. Meanwhile, have a happy Friday the 13th! It’s on a Friday this time, so (with appropriate caution) have an extra libation.

People II

My cousins came up from Arizona for visits here and there and met my mom and I at Selland’s for lunch. While Mom and I were in line and the cousins stayed behind to keep the flies out of our tea, I saw a woman at a table who looked familiar. I kept stealing glances. She was a large pretty woman with bright orange-red hair. Then I saw her stealing glances at me. As our place in line drew closer we met eyes and then “I thought I knew you!” and all that. We chatted a minute and I saw her glance at Mom but I didn’t make introductions. When we were further down in line I leaned over and told my mother, “I feel I was a little rude back there, but I couldn’t remember her name. All I remembered was her burlesque name.” She thought that amusing.

I was terribly unfair regarding the blonde lady when talking about my pool. Everything I said was about me, obviously, and nothing to do with her. She came over Sunday and brought her dog and some salmon sausages. I made a salad and grilled the sausages and the three of us splashed around in the pool. It was a good afternoon and it was terrifically egotistical of me to speculate about weird underlying energies.

A few weeks ago I went to a bar for a small birthday gathering for a friend who’s absolutely hilarious in the ways only a combat veteran can be. Two tours in Iraq with the Marines tweaked his personality in ways that are always unimaginable until you discover them, and then not really surprising. He was also taught to box by his father, who believed in not pulling any punches (and he’s teaching his own son the same way). So you know that when he is serious about telling someone not to do what they are fixing to do (this is usually in the context of their behavior towards women) … I’ll just say I’ll never hear about the ones who didn’t listen.

There was a lady at that party I hadn’t seen in several years. Turned out she had taken her Reiki / massage / spiritual counseling business to Baton Rouge and just come back home. I told her about my companion who moved out of my house to live in Mt. Shasta, and that she had discovered Mt. Shasta wasn’t really the place she needed to be and was moving back down south. This lady could relate: She also knew that Mt. Shasta, a central vortex of spiritual energy seekers the world round, is chock full of egocentric practitioners who charge too much and are jealous and stab each other in the back with regularity. You’d think it was an arts community. It was interesting though that she said there was one person in Mt. Shasta whom she really trusts. He was a Native American elder whom my erstwhile companion also knows and trusts, and whose father my mother knew back in her sweat lodge days a generation ago. I am perturbed, however. I was curious to know if he was mentioned on the web, so I looked and learned that Walking Eagle is a term often used to describe a bird so full of shit it can no longer fly. Now I don’t know if thousands of white people who cross oceans to come to the Root Chakra of the World, raise their vibrations, and connect with the Earth Mother have been completely bamboozled. Hard to imagine, but it’s possible.

Said erstwhile companion has moved temporarily to a town she spent years in prior to coming to Sacramento (where we met). Winters CA is an interesting place. The downtown is the usual assortment of 1880s brick piles with arched doors and windows that have been rescued from decay and transformed into attractive bars and restaurants. It’s down Putah Creek from the dam my grandfather had a hand in getting built in the 1950s (that’s how he met Governor, later Judge, Warren) that Lake Berryessa backs up to — my mother remembers going to rodeos in the town of Monticello before it was flooded. Putah Creek is the Green River of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song. The town is pretty much owned by the three largest farming families in the area. There’s a bodega on the main street with a back room where the local Mexican coke dealers hang out and have been for years. The chief among them is also the chief local foreman and keeps the workers and the farmers happily working together. It seems to be an arrangement that is satisfactory to the bigtime farmers, hence the police pretty much leave them alone. Needless to say all of that is well beneath the surface, but I know secondhand there are uncomfortable ways to get some hints.

Since the little engineering company I work for is on a super slowdown, not for covid but because the owner spends his summers at various wildfires managing emergency radio systems for the various agencies, I’ve taken a survival job. It turns out that delivering food and drink all over the county for Uber is kind of fun and it pays a lot better too. About a third per hour as in my engineering career, but it does the trick now. Pays better because I can have all the hours I want while the emergency upfit / offgrid retrofit gig has been hampered by what I’m going to call a too-passive management style. Interactions are positive at both ends, I see neighborhoods all across the economic spectrum that I never normally pass through, I can stream any music I like all day, and the time passes pretty well. It’ll get monotonous eventually, and wintertime is bound to be a pain in the ass, but it’s good for now.

People

I texted my brother that it was good to see him and to have a safe trip home. I knew better. But I wanted to send that message and I did not want to actually call. To be honest my brother has an energy I have a limited tolerance for, and I didn’t care enough about sending that message to actually call. So I texted. Even though I knew the history of texts between us consists entirely of messages I sent before I remembered he won’t see them. The only reason he won’t see them is he doesn’t bother to look at incoming texts. His phone gets them; he doesn’t look at them. Upshot: No message from me. See you next time.

It’s only right to acknowledge that that “energy” is just triggering reminders of the sort of person I used to be. My brother, our father, and I were all of a type and as I grew up, out, and away I tried harder and harder to be someone else, someone less sophisticated and less risk-averse and less polite and less overwhelmingly intellectual and less tentative and so on. I largely succeeded, and I don’t like going back to being a Berkeley teenager, even if it is by now an imagined construct. So the upshot is this problem is entirely mine and not his and all he’s done is given me an opportunity to look at something I don’t like about myself so I can work on it. I oughta send him a goddam thank you card.

I recently attended an online seminar on building your career as a creative independent. It was sponsored by a local DIY space. I’m not a member but I knew another attendee. She said she knew someone at that DIY space who was swamped by work doing engineering-type stuff for other creatives, and offered to see if he was interested in sending some of that to me or working with me. A day later I was told he was not receptive. A day after that, it occurred to me it was probably this one guy whom I know wouldn’t work with me. Three years ago we were on the same project and long story short he took the artist in charge to small claims court and my testimony was not complimentary of his work. But the fact I had to redo all his work so we could get the job done wasn’t relevant to the case. She intended to pay him regardless — a contract is a contract — but was struggling to pay rent so put it off and that wouldn’t do so he sued. That wasn’t relevant either. Anyway, three years later and no, he doesn’t want me around.

Except that it turns out the person who wasn’t receptive wasn’t him anyway. Some other guy I’ve never heard of. So all that talk about being disliked and not desirable to work with for reasons I can sort of call out as bullshit turned out to be the actual bullshit. Some guy just wants to complain about his workload and not get any help. That’s not my problem. My problem is hearing half the story and concocting it into some other story in which I play the victim. Not, you know, a victim something bad has happened to, I mean a victim in the sense (we all do this) of thinking something happens because it happens TO us and not instead the truth that it happens either outside of our actual lives entirely, or FOR us so we can learn something. I oughta send him a goddam thank you card.

I went to a little “event” yesterday (partay!) that included a number of folks in my local burnery/artsy community whom I haven’t seen in a year or two. I wanted to go in order to get out and see people and not just to escape my brother. It was held at a gay bar where I’ve been to lots of parties (those places will let anyone in) whose sun-baked yard has a little swimming pool (I ain’t getting into that, no sir) and was all Pride-themed and that. One of the few people my age was a lady I hadn’t seen in a while. There’s a been a low-level sort of sexual tension between us for the past decade. I was never available. Now I am but I don’t really want to be. We laughed a lot for having senses of humor that naturally coincide. She’s an attractive blonde, too. But when the conversation steered itself from hot weather to my newly cleaned pool, she shifted towards, he-e-ey, maybe I could come use your pool soon. I was of course all gracious-host about it but in hindsight, uh, no, uh-oh. That sounds dangerous. I have always found it easy to get into a relationship I didn’t intend to and hard to get myself out again.

Her evident interest sets off little alarms that I can’t really identify; and that might be entirely imagined. For all I know she’d be horrified that I had any such thoughts. Can’t friends just have dinner and a swim? Of course they can. But no; I can see her pushing that romance button, and I know other women whom I can see NOT pushing that button. It’s all intuition hence unreliable — or is it? Sometimes intuition is all we really have. Not inviting her over aligns with my intuition — unless she ONLY wants to have sex — but no, wait, I’m not down with that anymore — but why not — but intuition — but gah dammit. I should be grateful for all this stirring up of my shit around sex and relationships and send her a goddam thank you card.

For the past couple years I’ve had a job of sorts with a small company where we upfit mobile police and fire command centers and the like. We decided to branch out into off-grid RVs. It’s similar work, adding various electrical and electronic enhancements to RVs, just that the private ones get solar panels and refrigerators while the public ones get server racks and extending camera masts (etc … lots of etc). But lately it’s become apparent to me that this new venture is not likely to succeed. There’s too much passivity in the management style. They badly need a project manager and don’t seem to be interested in having one. Don’t need one for the government work because that’s all pushed at us by agencies that know us by reputation and have budgets, and we just push the jobs through one at a time. A retail customer type situation requires a lot more internal drive, I think. I don’t see it happening. And no, I’m not going to install a new personality and become that person. Instead I’m trying to figure out more income streams. It’s a hell of a challenge, because I spent my life in corporate and now I have to be a multi-faceted contractor of some kind (see seminar paragraph above). I should be grateful for this passive push in my rightful direction and send them a goddam thank you card.

I took a Facebook break this morning and found that a young woman with whom I was acquainted perhaps six, seven years ago just died. She was a real beauty and a bright star all around. She was a highly-paid lobbyist (this is the capital, after all) and a Burner and did all the things party chicks with high incomes do. But then at some point she shut the wild times down, got married at the Sikh Temple, had a baby some time in the past year; and now this. I am aware that it’s a mistake to allow my empath self to take in the expressions of grief all in her feed but that’s a hard thing to shield yourself from. She was an absolute beauty, one of those South Asians your heart stops for, with dark shapely eyes and a broad smile, a high level of competence and professionalism as reflected in her career path, full of so much life and joy and fearlessness … and goddam. Just that. God damn..

In Defiance of Doom

I don’t wish to post anything of a political nature on Facebook. That’s not what it’s for. It’s for family news and party schedules and pictures of puppies and kittens.

But I got a laugh today with the below-shared article. Out in the various forums (such as that small part of Facebook that hasn’t read the memo about politics) I hear all the time what a shithole California is becoming, with our anti-business policies and homelessness boom and human waste on the streets of San Francisco, not to mention droughts and wildfires and earthquakes and such bellwethers of doom as the near-total loss of the coastal kelp forests (that’s a real thing, and scary). Yep, they say, you people are fucked. California’s time is over. We’re gone sit back and watch you die.

Yeah, well. Published today:

California Defies Doom With No. 1 U.S. Economy

Sure, it’s a little bit of a puff piece, but the data is real.

Not that it’s helping me any. But I have my own problems that have nothing to do with economies in flux. I’m just putting this out there because … um. Well, for one thing, if that rare political post on Facebook from someone back east claims again that the Golden State is well and truly doomed, I’ve saved the link. Yeah, that’s why I’m posting it.

Misalignment

In my world, everyone has continued their momentum, from opposition to 45 through support of all the movements the so-called conservatives hate, to now supporting some liberal initiatives I cannot support. I just took a poll about voting and I suspect my opposition to both same-day and automatic registration suddenly kicks me out of the liberal mainstream. Not that I ever wanted to be in it. It just goes to show rank stupidity is not limited to the RINO Party fka GOP.

Burning About the Flag

I took an early morning walk around the neighborhood. This time I looked at American flags.

I’ve noticed over the years that most people who feel patriotic enough to fly the American flag don’t know or don’t care to know how to do it. I don’t think they care.

A house around the back side of my block has a yard or front porch decoration with a flag on it. The flag is vertical. But the flag is hung wrong vertically. You don’t take the flag and just turn it 90° down. You flip it around so that the canton (where the stars are) remains in the upper left corner.

Often I see them flying it at night without a spotlight on it. I confess I did that the night of Memorial Day because I forgot to take it down. But there are people who never even think of it. They just keep it up, night and day.

Who knows, maybe I’ll put a spotlight with a daylight sensor on the roof aimed towards where my flag flies. It can be on a cord that I plug in and unplug, or even a switch if I want to go to the trouble. Then whenever I fly the flag and forget to take it down at the end of the day, it has a spotlight on it overnight. Or heck, then I can just leave it up for the weekend.

I’ve also seen flags left out in the rain. Those stupid motherfuckers. Few things fry my grits like a house with a weather-faded stars and stripes hanged by some stupid jackass who pretends to love his country, That he merely forgot about it is too charitable an explanation.

All this leads to a thought about the First Amendment. I agree that to burn the flag is a protected form of expression. But I would have a problem with protest taking the form of dragging that flag along the ground, through the mud, soiling it. That, to me, is not an appropriate expression of free speech. Maybe it is protected. No one should get arrested for it. But it ain’t right. Why not? Well, when you have a flag to dispose of, you either take it to a responsible organization such as the local VFW or Boy Scout troupe. Otherwise, you burn it. Burning it is acceptable. Dragging it through the mud is not. That’s a level of disrespect warranted by no protest however serious the purpose. That being said, it’s obvious that if somebody wants to truly protest and get my attention, they will drag it through the mud. I recognize that. But that won’t help their cause.

Why does this liberal West Coast city dweller care so much about flag etiquette? Because I love my country. Unlike those scum who invaded the U.S. Capitol flying the Stars and Stripes yet doing nothing about the traitorous bastard who carried the Star and Bars, I love my country and what it represents. Unlike more than half Republicans who claim to doubt the election … You get the idea. (I don’t think many of them actually believe that anyway, they’re just being sheep for the poll taker, as a childish means of expressing their wish the election had gone differently.)

I’m pretty done with false patriots these days. Not just the herds of conspiracy believers, Those small-time numbskulls who fly the flag wrong too, I don’t care how mild their politics.

Not Posting So Much

Never was but I occasionally wanted my blog to be a Thing. However …

The interactive side of the Internet has worn thin on me of late. This is good because it means I have shifted my attention in more productive and positive directions. I don’t really care about Facebook conversations like I used to, though I still check in because I’ve become good at ignoring and/or not attracting negativity and dumbshittery and some real gems do emerge once that mud is scraped away. I scroll Instagram but it’s mostly just to be in a daze for a few minutes and occasionally comment on some pithy thing one of my few remaining beautiful woman friends says so they think I’m not just an old creep but a smart old creep. Blogging seems to me a misuse of writerly energy because I’m actually making progress on my book and dare I say it, building momentum. Indeed, while I sit here blathering this I could, you might say should, be working on that instead.

Bu-u-ut I’m a dilettante. I’m interested in and good at a lot of things, while I’m committed to and really good at none. I’m better at dilettanting when I don’t use up precious time blogging or what have you. Oh gawd, now that I’ve started I have lots to say about the what-have-you. Now that I’ve started I could sit here and blather all day. Good thing it’s a pretty day out and I have to change the motor oil in my Jeep.

By Zeus

Kerim Bey: “I’ve had a particularly fascinating life. Would you like to hear about it?”

Benz (muffled): No.

Kerim Bey: “You would?”

A conversation, whose context has since drifted away. Memory of an image. A search, high and low, for that image. Discovery. Download. Here it is.

This picture cracks me the hell up.

An hour or two into 2016. I appear to be having thoughts. I probably am, but this particular nymph was beyond reach and I had my own Hera anyway.

I have decidedly mixed feelings about the past, as do we all. Epically unwise decisions with unanticipated repercussions that continue to echo real-time. The trick is to stop giving them my attention. Hard to do.

Whatever the story behind this instant in time, it clearly was not in and of itself an unwise decision.

How I Unfriended 4.7% of my FB People

I never actually decided to quit Facebook. I only decided to improve my life, and talking about quitting Facebook was a part of doing that. What I really decided to do was stay away from most of it and continue to enjoy the parts that work.

Part of this included thinning out my people list. There seems a lot of deadwood, and some people are just too annoying.

At the top of the unfriending to-do list was a certain personality I have struggled with for twenty years across various platforms. I have struggled rather than simplified because of many seemingly different reasons, but they boil down to an instinct that we are in fact friends and not just contacts, and that his relentless unpleasantness towards me arises from a combination of his (or our) unresolved personal pain and some traits we unexpectedly have in common. Whenever I thought, ok, that’s enough, I’m unfriending this motherfucker once and for all, something inexplicable would stay my hand.

Loyalty, perhaps, A desire to avoid looking weak. A desire, above all, to somehow find the words that will inspire some self-reflection that in turn leads him to be less of a damn bully. The bullying doesn’t harm me, obviously. I stand my ground perfectly fine. I just always end up reflecting on how miserable he is and that no one has ever inspired him to do something about it. And yes, I see quite clearly how arrogant this all looks of me. But while nothing I’ve said about him doesn’t apply also to me, I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about him.

Some days ago I thought about posting something — whatever it was now doesn’t matter, I didn’t do it, but it was a really fuckin’ good article in the WSJ — and very soon I imagined what this particular individual would have to say about it. This led down a bit of a rat-hole of imagined disagreements and deflections that while imagined are born of experience. This in turn ruined my mood for the morning (I’m a moody motherfucker, in case that needs mentioning, though I almost always climb out of it when there are other humans around). This, in turn, led me to think about not bothering to post. And that, quite naturally, led me to think, well, if the existence of one person is going to affect my decision to post something, then it’s time to get rid of that person.

The next step was to resolve that a) I won’t unfriend during a controversy because then I’m just reacting to that controversy and b) while I’m at it let me get rid of a bunch of other people too. I set an arbitrary goal of one hundred.

SO (deep breath) I found out how to download my friends list in HTML, pasted the browser view into Excel, found that the format of listing the date they were friended under each name instead of next to it made the list unsortable, pasted it instead into Word, found a way to replace the carriage return between each name and date with a tab, exported that to a text file (perhaps unnecessarily but I like to make sure only the ASCII is carried over), imported that into Excel such that the tabs would delimit a new column, used various simple formulae to convert the Facebook date format into something Excel can use since sorting by date friended can be more useful than by name, created columns with which I could categorize each individual by what part of my life they were mostly in, used filtering to view only each of those in turn, and marked in an additional column where people were candidates for deletion. I also used COUNTIF() to count up the marks in each category because, of course, who wouldn’t. I intended to put each person in just one category though several could properly exist in more than one. I’m not sure I did that part right because the sum of the numbers shown below disagrees with my friend count per FB but eh whatev.

I looked at every single person and marked every one I could. My informal goal was to shitcan 100 people. At the end of this exercise I had identified 23. 23 represented 4.7% of my friends list. “What the fuck?” I said with some expression. But I had done my due diligence and any further ejections would require too much thought and time so 23 it was.

I happily went through my Unfriend list, spacing people along the way. These were folks who either are not a part of my life or are just annoying in some way. “A part of my life” is loosely defined, thus the remainders include a lot of Burners whom I never see these days but might again, and for reasons that defied the moment’s thought each one deserved if they deserved even that, most of them wound up staying. I think there was only one I know personally rather than as some peripheral party-meet, and he went because he always makes fart jokes and is 4x to 5x the age you have to be in my opinion to predictably make fart jokes.

OK, so 23 names. I got through 22 and guess who was the last one? And I stopped. The same old reluctance took over. We’re actual friends, in some way. We’re not randos or acquainted just through some common interest. Known each other a long time. I felt, again, that I was betraying myself in some way to scrape him out. I allowed myself some time to ponder.

In truth, he never acts like a friend. I only hear from him when he has some often-scathing critique of my opinions or my means of forming them. When I finally get through the exchange enough to clarify why my opinion is correct, or at least valid, he goes silent. Never once has he indicated a willingness to listen or to learn or to at least accept that from my perspective my view is valid. None of that. And I thought, well, aren’t I cutting ties here? Not just to him but to all toxic individuals (I dare say he may be the last toxic person left in my life), not to mention people such as my artist former partner, who is not toxic but still needs to be further away (I waffle on that, long story, duh). Point is I’m cutting ties these days. No more negative hangers on.

So, out he went too.

Twenty-three down, four hundred sixty eight to go. Well, no, I’ll always keep at least the 31 in Column C above.

Wasn’t this interesting? Thank you for your persistence.