X marks the spot

“Woe to that land that’s governed by a child.” (Richard III, act 2, sc.3, l.11.)

“I feel like I’m waiting on something that’s not going to happen.” (Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander)

“I hate that I’m still hoping.” (unknown)

I was searching for quotes about the insurrection of January 6th, about government, about politics, about hatred…and, as is my ADD-inspired routine, surfed from page to page, finding all manner of verse and theme. The lines above seem to reflect somewhat of a continuum of how my emotions have been trending over the past few days.

For the past four years, I’ve been alternately sad, mad, and terrified. I definitely felt there was a large room full of doubt about the results of the 2016 election, but I tried to keep an open mind. Like many others, I tried to put my disappointment into perspective, and rationalized there were limits built into our government that would not allow things to get as bad as I feared. The first time I remember abandoning that posture was shortly after the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, when his first action was to summon members of the new media to the White House for a tongue lashing. My first thoughts about this were…with everything going on in the country right now, with all of the campaign promises made, bitch-slapping the media is the first order of business? It felt as though the bitch-slap was more about “You made me angry, and now that I am in charge, I can make your life miserable, so I’m going to do that. And I’m going to like it. ”

The words “fake news” are now a part of the common lexicon, and had become a part of his brand during the campaign. That campaign must be regarded as one of the most contentious in history, and the resulting Presidential administration has maintained that form. All of the standard rules of propriety and civility, and one could argue respectability, were abandoned, and the modus operandi became one of truth assassination. While journalists have long been accused of bias and partiality, there was somewhat of an optimism that such defects were rare, and not the norm. The campaign for the 45th President destroyed that optimism with no holds barred, and that continues.

The ends of the campaign against truth, often manifested as denial of science and revisionist history, have brought our citizenry to an unyielding mistrust of leadership and authority. We have sought refuge in the familiar, in the similar, in the past. Many expressed their frustrations – I want to go back to when things were good, when I didn’t have to be afraid to go shopping, when I didn’t have to have an alarm system. Those sentiments are understandable. I don’t think anyone in America finds any of that unreasonable. The problem, though, is that a lot of that vision was never reality for everyone. Some of us were always afraid to go shopping, some of us always had to rely on some kind of alarm system (a dog, a gun, iron doors with multiple dead-bolts). Bringing us back to a time when “things were good” means bringing us back to a point in the past, and we don’t agree on that point in time. Is that when Blacks couldn’t vote? Is that when women couldn’t vote? Is that when homosexuality was considered a mental illness and gays and lesbians had no rights? Or maybe it was when non-white people were lynched and killed…just because they MIGHT do something wrong. Like whistling at a white woman, or protesting.

Many say yes, because those were times of lower crime rates, greater prosperity. I say, those were times when crime rates were lower for a smaller number of people, when prosperity extended to an even smaller niche. I say the euphoric recall of those times as better is a euphoric delusion that simply eliminates pieces of the whole picture. The picture is void of mob violence, riots, political corruption, inequity, and death; those horrid scenes have been photo-shopped out of the picture. But the spiritual and emotional residue of all remains, imprinted on our land, on our psyche, on our spirits. Woe to us, indeed.

Over these past tense, divisive, frightening years of the 45th Presidential administration, I’ve found myself sitting on the edge of my chair more often than not. While life was still happening outside of the political environment, I think all of us were forced to reflect on what defined “living in America”. Coming home to be surrounded by your stuff, your loved ones, your pets, your accomplishments began to clash with our common good. America began to look like a condominium, and half of the residents objected to joining the condo owners association. The common roof was leaking, the common green area was overgrown, and there was no money to resolve either issue. The residents who contributed to the owners association refused to pay for the repairs because the other residents had not contributed. What to do? What to do? Some of the non-participating residents attempted to have their own repairs done, with their own contractors and their own funds and their own plans.

This did not go well, because once the work began, they discovered the infrastructure that supported the entire building could not be isolated for only their benefit, and they had no choice but to depend on the “enemy” for access. The “enemy” refused to allow access, because the other side wasn’t paying and had behaved very badly. This made everyone angry, and the roof still leaked. Time passed, there was negotiation, but the two sides could not agree on how to navigate their impasse. The roof continued to leak, property was damaged in the individual units, mold and mildew formed, and some residents (very fine people on both sides) grew ill. And still, there was the impasse.

After several people died, and property value plummeted (following news coverage of the situation, which made them all feel silly), a new generation of residents came of age. Ignoring the protestations of the original residents, the current residents sat down at one of the few undamaged tables in the clubhouse, hammered out an agreement on how to fund the repairs, and the plans to do so, and shook hands. There was food. There was drink. There was music. And the next day, there was construction. In a week, the roof had been fully repaired. A month later, a hurricane roared through the city, and the new roof held stead, protecting them all. In their gratitude for having survived the hurricane with few ill effects, the condominium community erected a plaque to commemorate the story of the roof. It said “We’re couldn’t be under the same roof until we got over ourselves.”

For me, this is how some of my conflicts are resolved – i get sick and tired of being sick and tired. i learned a lot about that in recovery, that until i have lost enough, enough peace, enough sense of well being, even material things i will probably not feel motivated enough to change anything. it’s interesting how we have to lose something in order to gain something, or regain something. you have to give it away to keep it is another concept i was taught in recovery, that only by sharing what has been freely given to me will i be able to hold onto those gifts. i am wondering what should be given away to pry us out of these idealogical wars. perhaps we simply have not lost enough yet, and i do believe that’s a yet. it’s not a wish for loss, just a cyclic inevitability. loss always brings us to hone down what is important to us, to choose our battles. privilege doesn’t call us to reflect on much of what’s important, only to maintain our status quo, what is comfortable, what works for us. i say that not to judge, but merely to acknowledge the anatomy of movement. inertia is a real thing.

so. why do we still hope? i suppose that is part of the human condition, to hope, to imagine different circumstances. I still hope that we don’t have to fight, but I fear that is hard-wired into the human condition. Power is our currency, and the impoverished have no choice but to attempt a leveling of that resource, whether it be food, economics that enable acquisition of food, health, luxuries…we are always wanting something we do not have. The B-side is…we are constantly afraid of losing what we DO have. Somewhere along the way, our satisfaction was not enough, and happiness became rooted in having more than enough. Unfortunately, the system – the planet – continually sets about leveling itself, and we overestimate our ability to make that a fair fight. Mother Nature always wins, and we have no humility about our true place on this planet. Just because we can manipulate chemicals and geology does not mean that we should, and we find ourselves playing whack-a-mole with the effects caused by our effects to cause…effects. It’s just hubris at times.

I suppose I have more confidence than is due for humanity. Somewhere along the line, I realized that I maintain idealism at nearly all costs. This rarely works for me, and causes me a great deal of angst and constant see-sawing between hope and despair. I know what i see, I know what has occurred, and that evidence would seem to render little hope. A lecture I was attended online featured a speaker who said that he existed between history and hope, acknowledging what has occurred but still dreaming of something else. I guess that sums it up for me. i fear that if i consciously abandon hope, the outcome will be the same as a shark that ceases to swim,. Death of the entire being, as the water of Life no longer circulates around the gills, knowledge is no longer a current of growth and change. I believe I have made a conscious decision against that, as I did many years ago when I realized that I really did not want to end my own life. I romanticized that, because I was miserable and I wanted the pain sto end, but I did not want to actually commit suicide. I just didn’t know how else to express my extreme and inconsolable distress. I did seriously fantasize about the act, but always pulled up short of implementation. What is suicide changed nothing, and the misery remained? What if I was simply incorrect about life after death, if there was such a thing? Too much uncertainty for such a big step, so … here I remain, still hoping, still wondering what the hell this is all about.

I suppose we are all in the place we are supposed to be right now. That’s hard to swallow, when I look at the millions who are starving, dying miserably in their poverty, the millions suffering and dying in addiction and feeling as though life is simply too much to ask. I’ve heard that nothing happens in the world of the Divine by accident, but I’ve also heard that we create our own reality. Trying to wed those concepts is a work in progress for me, but right now I suppose I’m standing at the intersection of my concept of the Divine and my concept of self-determination, and i suppose that’s a big X on the ground in a lot of ways. But X marks the spot where i choose to believe that I don’t have to understand any of this, and that my only real surety is my spirit, my essence, my refusal to forego my morality, my knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. That is subjective, but when I am in a conscious connection with my concept of Divinity, that informs my morality in a deep;y spiritual way. Can I override that? Of course, but I choose not to. The discord deep within me is too great, too noisy, too distasteful. It is too great a price to pay. I have been disconnected from that deep connection before, and that was a time of the greatest misery and despair of my life, so I’m not willing to go there again. It’s not always easy, but it’s really very simple: sometimes you just have to hold on, with everything you’ve got, until the correct path becomes clear. And it will.

Rage

Some days I feel like this…smoldering under the surface, molten deep down. Waiting. Maintaining. Isolating. Waiting for what, i wonder. Waiting to escape the confines of the cauldron, waiting to erupt, waiting to experience the world? I don’t know. I wish I did.

All I know is that inches from that bubbling foundry of all that I can become, it’s relatively calm. Solid. Devoid of color, movement. But the calm is dangerous…get too close, and *poof* there’s a consequence. Nothing grows out here on the surface. The roiling mass beneath is constantly transforming, transmuting, transfiguring. I am ever in reconstruction, which is ever more frightening as the decades proceed.

What’s the point of all this, who will I be when the fire dies? Who am I while the fire rages? I am running through the forest on fire, and I am weary. If I come to rest, will I leave scorched earth or fertile ground? I don’t think either outcome is up to me, but still I fret, and still I’m very tired. Always running to stay one step ahead of the fire trucks, the brigade so intent on extinguishing me. I have grown weary of running, escaping from threats both real and imagined. Both real and unimaginable. Running in this state of fatigue causes the flames to billow, the lava to bubble still higher. Why should I need to run? Why are some of us prey for those who already have enough to eat?

It feels as though we are always running for our lives, yet we cannot live. We can only survive. The older I get, the less acceptable I find that reality. It’s difficult to envision any other way, any other existence. It’s difficult to dream. I’ve been told that dreams are frequently the first casualty of poverty. Usually, that refers to economic poverty, but I contend that it is actually poverty of the soul, spiritual hunger. Intellectual self-sufficiency is a by-product of this spiritual impoverishment, and i suppose that’s why my brain doesn’t shut down, doesn’t truly rest.

I feel less competent intellectually these days, maybe because I am doing more creative/right-brained activity…writing, playing my guitar, meditating. I feel like my right brain is far less work than needing to rely on my left brain. I did that for a number of years, but it was a challenge, and it was tiring. Truth be told, some days, I really didn’t care about solving the problem. That work intrigued me and interested me because it was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and gave me something to do with pretty pictures that were somehow in pieces for no good reason.

I’m no longer entertaining employment in the technical arena…it’s time has passed, and it no longer serves me. Doing this kind of contemplative writing is much more up my alley, far more rewarding. I still don’t know if i can make a living doing this sort of thing, but we’ll see. Right now, I’ve got food in the fridge, dog food in the dish, heat and lights and water, so today is a winner. I’ll deal with tomorrow…tomorrow.

Here we go, yo

It’s a dank and chilly day here. I have a heat pump in my apartment, so when the heat is on at a reasonable temperature (at least for me), it blows cool air. Feels like the air conditioner is on. If I turn up the thermostat, the air blows warm, but candles begin to melt and I’m afraid my eyebrows will spontaneously combust. I am very grateful to have heat, and the financial resources to pay for it, but damn. Oh, well – First World problem.

Just had a bizarre FaceBook comment-ation with somebody I don’t really know…commenting on a friend’s post about the insurrection. This person had responded with claims that all of the insurgents who broke windows and enacted in property destruction at the Capitol last Tuesday were BLM activists in disguise, and wearing masks so they would not be identified. Um, no. I usually don’t comment on everything like that, but this one brought stars to the inside of my eyelids. i just had to comment…and tried really hard to not be personally insulting, but…damn. Ignorant assertions that made absolutely no sense were being hurled, and this girl can only take so much. Just…damn.

On an entirely different subject, or maybe not, I am sort of wondering where my gumption has gone to these days. Still don’t wanna clean up this hell-hole apartment, still don’t wanna clean up my truck, still don’t wanna clean up me. There is enough crap in this apartment they may need to support the floor at some point, and i am not a hoarder. i just don’t throw away stuff when i should purge…but i don’t buy tons of useless crap, or duplicates of the useless crap i already have. Stuff i need to throw out is more old but usable clothing (i have a wardrobe for a family of 4 or 5, all my stuff but different sizes that correspond to weight gain and loss over the years), old electronics that are obsolete or no longer work, empty boxes (for the day i move, which has been pending for 20 years), old and worn shoes…stuff like that. Gumption was my mama’s word. I just looked up the definition for that, and it’s “shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness”. ok, i own that – shrewd, no. Spirited initiative…not really. Resourcefulness, spirited or otherwise…every once in a while. Just not lately.

I was listening to The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, and i think it’s how i operate –

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again


I feel like i’ve been fooled so many times it’s shameful. I trust people. I trust people when they say they love me, so these days I just don’t believe them unless they show me. I don’t expect them to show me anything, but unless I have evidence, I just don’t believe it. Betrayal is the flip side of trust, and I’m not playing that record any longer. People usually don’t understand that when i love them, it’s not a bite of the apple, it’s the whole fucking deal, seeds and skin and everything. And i bond with them, so when they hurt i hurt. Yeah, come to find out some of that is just codependence, but when i love them i really want to bond with them. In all honesty, though, i don’t quite know what that is supposed to look like. Because I have a dysfunctional view of it, I always feel that it should be a union without limits, without boundaries, but intellectually i know that is not healthy, or even possible. Unless i can be inside your skin with you, and we cease to be distinct entities, there are always boundaries of some kind. Because I am screwed up about it, I generally don’t set reasonable boundaries at all, so…anything deemed a capital R Relationship that involves me is, by definition, effed up. And I get hurt. I will usually want to hurt the other party, and punish them, but that is seldom how it turns out because…the second layer of the dysfunction is…i attract narcissists and borderline personalities like white on rice. i choose badly for myself. and it ends badly. so. as Mr. Miaggi (sp?) said in “Karate Kid”, “sometimes best defense is no be there”. so. i no be there any more. Y’all just go ahead and have fun. I’ll be over here, ready to pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday…and i get on my knees and pray i won’t get fooled again.

It occurs to me the root of my dilemma is that i don’t really understand what love is, and have always presumed there is some hierarchical model of it at play. Blood family love beats romantic love beats friendship love beats acquaintance love beats…like? I don’t know. My blood family was never a particularly demonstrative bunch, except when i was little my grandmother would hug and kiss on me a lot, and she always let me know how pleased she was with me (even when i was doing something not so pleasing). I knew she loved me, unconditionally, even though i didn’t know that’s what it was.

i knew my mother loved me, but that realization came later, in retrospect almost. I knew that i could count on her for providing what I needed – food, clothing, shelter, necessary expenses like tuition and field trips. Wants … i can’t say i never got what i wanted, but wants were generallyl considered luxuries and somehow immature for a child. (wtf?) She was sick when i was itty bitty, then kind of normal when i was in puberty, then everything (and i mean EVERYTHING) fell apart when my grandmother died. Her mother. MY GRANDMOTHER! i thought my grandmother WAS my mother when i was little because my mother had been down for the count, recuperating from two surgeries and then hepatitus (fortunately all in succession, not simultaneously). Much later, she would tell me that she had gone into shock on the operating table for one of those surgeries, and nearly died. So, she was pretty sick. I remember her being in bed in my grandmother’s house, and i had to be really quiet around her. It was just another bedroom in the house, but i would tiptoe past and try not to make a sound. that was kind of hard, since i was about 3 or 4, but i tried really hard. My grandmother made life tolerable, and fun. She taught me how to put together jigsaw puzzles and sing nursery rhymes and play with the dog and say my prayers.

Later, she taught me how to brush my hair and tie my shoes. She brought me to school, and picked me up. i went to kindergarten early (i think i was not quite 4, since my birthday is at the end of December) because my mommy was sick and my grandmother worked, so it was like day care. i was so immature and screwed up, even then, that i didn’t have the guts, or know how, to say i had to go to the bathroom. i distinctly remember one time (and i am sure it was more than one time) that i peed on the chair, and knew i had done wrong because, well, you just didn’t do that and it didn’t feel right, and of course there was a puddle left on the chair after i got up. i didn’t say a word, and told myself that nobody would notice or at least they wouldn’t know where it came from, but i felt like it i needed to keep an eye out for somebody to find out. i hoped that wasn’t going to happen, but i was nervous about it.

it was not a good feeling, and i remember it well. that pattern of “maybe nobody will notice and hopefully they won’t know it was me” has stayed with me for the rest of my life. these days, i try pretty hard to be aware of when i am wanting or feeling the need to revert to that extreme avoidance of the truth, and do something different. but the firing mechanism is still there, the wiring is still there. the guilt, the dishonesty, and the avoidance, avoidance, avoidance. i think some of how i have tried to circumvent that wiring is to simply not make mistakes. i hate making mistakes. it seems like a fate worse than death to me. unfortunately, i am SO imperfect that i get lots of practice recovering from my errors. damn this being human crap!

I’m not quite sure why my 4-year-old self needed to come forward at this point, but finding the root of a pattern that doesn’t serve me well is a pretty big deal. I don’t know how I got into the habit, the pattern, of not accepting love (and it was daunting to say that just now). I suppose there is some part of me, even then, that did not believe that someone could continue to love me in spite of me doing bad things, stupid things, things that might hurt them. How could someone love THAT? All i know is that it’s part of who i am to give love to other people, to want to be there for them. Maybe I expect something, I don’t know. I’m an extreme loyalist, so even when they behave abominably, I am still there, supporting them, telling them it’s OK.

I suppose the line is crossed at betrayal, though…when after all the loyalty, and the rejection is SO intentional as to be insulting, so blatantly cruel, as though i was not even a consideration, the eradication of my whole person, when the give and take has been reduced to starvation levels. when i feel that i have been made a fool of…that somewhere i am being laughed at…THEN it is beyond the pale, beyond redemption. there is usually so much water under the bridge at that point that i am drowning, and i am totally alone. and i am enraged. i am unapologetically and inconsolably enraged, to a white hot level of…impotence. there is nothing i can do, nothing that can repair this gaping hole in my heart, in my soul. i have no resources, i am missing a part of me, but i go on, as always, because i have to survive. but, you over there, stay the fuck away from me. i don’t want to breathe the air you breathe, hear your voice, see your face. you, and all the rest of you…stay. the. fuck. away. and don’t ask me if i still love you. that is none of your business any longer.

Really sad news

I won’t be able to sleep tonight for worrying about this guy. Tempted to make a Whole Foods run and drive up to his detention center with a care package.

Not.

Not talkin’ so big and bad now, is he? Being that nuts must make for some long days.

Rebels with a cause

Still reflecting on the events in D.C. on the Epiphany (Catholic roots are showing – sue me). January 6th, at least in Catholic tradition, is the day when three kings from the East (the Orient) made their way to visit the newly born Jesus Christ, still in the humble manger outside Bethlehem. They made an arduous journey from afar, and they came bringing precious gifts of reverence and good will – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They had followed the Star of Bethlehem, visible on December 25th, to that obscure barn on January 6th. According to legend, they bowed to the infant they recognized as the Messiah. So, that’s the Catholics. I’m not sure all of the Protestant sects are on that page. Where I come from, January 6th – King’s Day – is the beginning of the Mardi Gras season. It’s the first day you can get a King Cake, and begin your 40 days of debauchery and excess until Lent begins. But I digress.

Regardless of theological or cultural bases for the significance of January 6th, What happened on January 6 this year, at the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C., was definitely not a visit to honor a new Messiah. There was nothing social about this, not even distancing. A visit is generally not associated with violence, or rage. If someone armed breaks down your door and enters your home, that’s generally considered a home invasion. It’s a crime punishable by law all over the country. The events at the Capitol on January 6th more resembled a home invasion. By definition, when this kind of uninvited entry to a capitol is made, it’s defined as insurrection. Other words related to this inident have been thrown about, such as sedition, rebellion, protest, riot, demonstration

According to FindLaw (https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/rebellion-or-insurrection.html):

Rebellion and insurrection refer specifically to acts of violence against the state or its officers. This distinguishes the crime from sedition, which is the organized incitement to rebellion or civil disorder against the authority of the state. It also separates the crime from treason, which is the violation of allegiance owed to one’s country by betrayal or acting to aid the country’s enemies.

OK, good to know. Insurrection is associated with violence against the state, against the organized government (organized?). So, this is violent without question. I get it – they were pissed. A lot of Americans are pissed about one thing or another relative to government, the current state of affairs, life in America. We have a lot to be pissed about these days…pandemic, joblessness, crime, the economy, inflation, health care, education, taxes, price of a cup of coffee, cost of a Happy Meal. There is no shortage of provocation, but a dearth of solutions. A dearth of trust, good will, and earnest self-assessment concerning the sources of our dissatisfaction. So all of us are pissed. About some thing, some one, some place. Just. Pissed.

I have been angry before. It’s a normal emotion, but when there is unresolved anger that seems to have no outlet, and go on seemingly forever, it becomes rage. Rage is a horrible feeling, as though a hurricane is raging inside your skull with no eye in sight (the eye of the hurricane is a beautiful, yet short lived, period of calm). The feeling of being trapped is highly underrated, as is the inevitable and rapid descent to desperation. Desperation is not rational, and when animals feel trapped, they will do almost anything to escape. They will harm themselves – gnaw off their own limbs, mutilate themselves, kill. Death feels close, and the will to survive takes over.

I believe those who demonstrate the kind of desperation and the willingness to enact violence on January 6th are feeling trapped, if only by their own expectations of what their life experience should be. When you have come to expect a certain relative position in society, in the world, there is certainty, security. There is an illusion of control. When you see that relative position changing, when there is less and less that causes you to feel certain, secure, and in control you begin feeling trapped. When you feel that you’ve played by the rules you understood, but the outcome has not lived up to what was promised, you are angry. When the illusion degrades, and the picture continues to crumble through no fault of your own, one fears that life is coming to an end, that death is near. You feel trapped, and feel you will never be able to get free. And it’s not fair. There’s no solution. And so…desperation makes it possible to do whatever is necessary to survive. And I believe that is what emerged on January 6th. Desperation, fear of death on some level of identity, not excluding the physical. Fear breeds anger, anger escalates to rage, rage resolves to desperation. I understand this.

Where my understanding flails, however, is at the intersection of skin color and history. Africans and other ethnic minorities were drug over to this New Land, in chains, against their will, packed in the cargo holds of wooden boats like sardines. When they rebelled, they were beaten down and murdered in the most horrid ways possible in those days. Their rebellions and protests rarely escalated to the level of insurrection, often because they were put down so viciously. These were largely entreaties for fulfilment of the basic and inherent right to life and liberty. This was the birth of taking a knee, demonstrating the willingness and capacity for keeping your spine straight but acknowledging your inability to stand in your own power. That response is markedly different from insurrection, from the aggression of occupation or attack. Non-white people in this country have never felt they possessed sufficient power as a class to take on the state. The state and white supremacy oppression were generally contiguous, so…better to stay alive and live to see another day.

After slavery had been outlawed, we saw the kinds of violence and rampant terrorism that we associate with extremism. The KKK, the White Knights, tarring and feathering, lynchings KKK members were sometimes duly elected officials in state and local governments, and even served at federal levels. Everyone knew it, and it was acceptd if not encouraged. Blacks were stalked and hunted by ordinary citizens, on the simple expectation of wrong-doing. The law soon caught up to intention of discrimination, and we saw Black codes and Jim Crow laws replace the older slave codes. Non-white people had barely risen to the level of even second-class citizens, but remained in some kind of legal purgatory where punishment enforced an often unwritten code of white supremacy.

During the Civil Rights era in this country, descendants of slaves began to demand full status as citizens, and we saw the even more potent backlash. White citizens demanded, often violently, a return to “life as they knew it”…segregation now, segregation forever. It was just not right for the coloreds to drink from the same water fountains, use the same toilets, go to the same schools as white people. If God had meant for that to happen, well, it would be different (loosely translated, everyone would have been created white). Negroes were obviously inferior, and that is just the way it was. Whites said they were fighting for the good of the country, making things, well…white. And right. So there.

I suppose this is the Civil Rights era for white supremacists here. I’ve heard some of the extremists say they are having their rights denied, their liberty denied. They want their country back (THEIR country), and they want life as they have known it to return. They have had fun before, and this is not it. Carry me back to somewhere, where i didn’t have to worry, when life was good, when things were orderly and predictable and we all understood how this was supposed to work. And it did work as we expected. Except when a few people got out of hand…but we knew how to handle that, how to keep everyone in their place. Life was good.

Early in the pandemic response (or lack thereof, depending on your perspective), there were large crowds of white folks protesting, claiming their liberty was being denied. There were battle cries of “Liberate <state of your choice>!” I found it amusing to see large crowds of white people at beaches and resort areas, protesting and waving signs that said “Give us liberty!” Once shirtless male screamed that he had the right to go out and get a haircut, and the governor of his state was refusing to let him. Guess he never heard of hair clippers, or scissors and that bowl grandma used to clamp down over young boys’ heads back in the day. Alrighty, then. It’s not supposed to be rational, but that’s already been said. I would venture to say, however, that not being able to get a haircut pales in comparison to not being allowed to vote, but that’s just me. I’ve been told I’m a little radical, but whatever.

I’ve heard it said that when you’ve enjoyed privilege all your life, and suddenly find there are limitations on that, you’ll experience that as discrimination. When I was much younger, and more energetic, and people wrote off my bad behavior as the normal psychosis of youth, i felt powerful and mighty. As I aged, things changed, and I began having consequences for my actions because i was old enough to know better. DAMMIT! That’s not fair! So. My feeling on all of this … rebellion, a.k.a. insurrection, the feeling is real but the premise is false. Privilege is unearned, and therefore a false entitlement. We’ve just gotten used to it setting our social order. Like a caste. Just like a caste. We all participate in that caste, whether it’s conscious or not, but we do. There are a million ways that we all uphold it as status quo; it’s looks like privilege if you’re white, and it looks like internalized racism if you’re not. Either way, it’s about oppression, and denial of liberty, and denial of life in some cases. In all cases, it’s about denial of the pursuit of happiness, even if that’s what we believe we’re doing. I’m not sure any of us are truly happy, or at least not as happy as we might be if we didn’t have to constantly chase it, compete for it, fight for it, demand it. (And yes, i understand that we can individually take actions to be happy – we meditate and pontificate and visualize and stuff, but there are limits to all of that in today’s society, so as a collective…we’re not quite there)

When i see a huge crowd of people protesting in a state of rage and violence, I see a huge crowd of people in fear. In fear for all of the reasons discussed above – in fear of that life, as they know it, is going away. In fear the world as they know it going away. In fear that life is going to become more difficult, more hopeless, farther from happiness, less what they want it to be.

In all honesty, I can remember feeling that way, on more than one occasion. There was a deep grieving for all of my naive ideals and dreams that I learned to respect, and fully experience. When there is a refusal to accept life as it is, there is no room for going through a grieving of life as it was. That’s when I found myself caught between attempting to renegotiate the past and manipulate the future, but we’re not living. Living is only accomplished today, not yesterday, and not tomorrow. If I am feeling trapped, I am usually trapped by that – my refusal to accept life as it is. That is the source of my rage, I’m not raging about this moment, I’m raging about the moment before now that’s no longer here. Anger is one stage of grief, and the grieving process as described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross involves several stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). There are other theories about this, but this one is pretty commonly used. So, using that model, anger is early on in the process. I feel that as a nation, we’re hovering between denial (This…is not…happening.) and anger (This is NOT happening!!). The bomb is detonating in slow motion, things are destroyed incrementally, and we’re slowly burning. It’s painful to burn. Very, very painful.

In one of the more recent Star Trek spin-offs, there is a alien species that has bridged human and machine life, such that humans are inconvenient aspects of machines. The surviving humans have mechanical and technological implants that serve to maintain their connection to a network hub, referred to as “the collective”. Human functions have been reduced to a minimum, and humanity is virtually non-existent. Removal of the implants does not eradicate all of the mechanical attributes, and those survivors continually struggle for human experience such as emotional response and sense of purpose. I found it amusing that space craft for this species were square. Entirely linear. This comes to mind because I wonder if, as humans, are similarly finding that humanity is far too inconvenient, or at least inexpedient. I wonder if we’ve found that most of us are simply not worth the effort.

Government strives to resolve the intersection between the individual and the “collective”, the common good. As originally intended, government – and specifically democracy – tried to establish a contract between us, one that required us all to direct our efforts toward the survival of all (not simply the fittest). I suppose we believe that we’ve found ways to deal with fitness, establishing norms and expectations with rules to ensure compliance and “normalcy”. We’ve attempted to squelch natural diversity, because it’s very difficult to control. Control is where our species has found its safety and security, its expectation of survival. That’s more or less normal, until it’s not. When the survival instinct is established as a false equivalence to the ideological, survival becomes less about actual longevity and more about power over others. When our governance lives entirely in the “how” and not the “what”, we are on a power trip. A power trip really has no destination, and rarely ends well.

Look away, Dixieland!

Just gotta say…of all the images floating around from the January 6th debacle in at the U.S. Capitol, the one that brought up the most visceral response for me was…

Sickening. The symbols and icons parading around with these zombies were not lost on the Jewish community, either. Take a look at this, from Jewish Weekly… https://www.jweekly.com/2021/01/07/hate-on-display-a-guide-to-the-symbols-and-signs-on-display-at-the-capitol-insurrection/. They describe apparel and signage from Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis, among others. Hate was in rare form during this event, and I continue to assert that hate is the creed binding these folks together. Hate is the dog-whistle that brings them out, and hate is the language that has been spoken by the Head Cheeto and his GOP minions. THIS is the message that evokes such emotionalism and fear in traditionally marginalized citizens, and why the appropriate response is often silence. This is the messaging beneath the lack of response to the ongoing pandemic, and this is the messaging that has been apparent on so many occasions previously, from slavery to the Holocaust to Tuskegee to refusals to expand Medicaid. This is why people in marginalized communities are dying from COVID at rates disproportional to the general population. Yes, white people are dying, and any death is tragic when it seems unnecessary, or at least preventable. We have to acknowledge, however, that Black and Brown people are dying at greater rates, as they do consistently every day. That is unacceptable, and does not equate to valuing one life above another, based on skin color. So. The pandemic response has been mishandled at practically every level. Saying that Black and Brown communities have disparate impact within that poor response is just an underscore. That’s all. Underscoring a negative statement does not eradicate the original assertion, people – just points out it’s really even more worser and that is just being pointed out. Let’s not go to the “All Lives Matter” crap here, please – we already know that. Just consider the underscore a reminder. We obviously need one.

The beat goes on

When i wake up these days, i stumble to worship at the altar of the porcelain goddess. (There is some meditation involved in this ritual, and once or twice I have fallen asleep, but I digress). After this exercise, I travel the inestimably long path to the kitchen, where the blessed elixir of life awaits. Or at least it awaits my attempts to ready it…and feverishly, i do that. I throw the dog a treat so that i am allowed return passage to my sacred bedroom enclave to enact the daily morning ritual of the first sip of coffee. Ahhhhhhh.

So, having at least one eye open and pointed toward the laptop, i activate the digital TV app from my cable provider (which usually provokes me to utter newly created obscenities) and settle in for … this. Life is good. Truly, all things considered, it really is. Or at least, it could be so much worse. So. much. worse. So, for that, I remain grateful. As Abraham says…we remain blissfully, lovingly, and always in”…in the state of Gratitude. No matter what i say, no matter how much i kvetch.

Having a few more gulps of caffeine in my system, half-listening to CNN, my thoughts are channeled to current events (the State of Disarray these days). The latest video loop is the Capitol police officer who was pressed into a door by the advancing zombie apocalypse during the failed coup d’etat on January 6th. Not sure how many times in a given segment they’ll show this, or for how long, but … there it is. Again. “We must warn you, this is disturbing, and hard to watch.” But watch it we do, over and over and over again. I wonder if anyone has suggested they edit the spot to “We must warn you, this is disturbing, so we’re not going to keep making you watch it. You can find it on our website, or all over the internet, so you can watch it over and over and over at your leisure.” But, that won’t happen. We all learned how complicit the media – en masse – has been in the creation of demigods like the Orange Cheeto. Jerry Springer-type drama sells, and that is really their business – selling. They created him, and they need to answer for that. But that is another story. There are many “other” stories…fodder for the ages.

Anyhow, one of the latest things coming to me about this whole “insurrection”, as pundits are now calling it, is complicity. I just mused on the complicity of the media, but one step deeper into that and I’m faced with another level of their complicity. It’s not any one outlet, or pundit, not even Fox News (although they are exceptional). It’s the entire industry, even internationally. Continuing to broadcast incendiary speech from so-called leaders is irresponsible. Without an audience, a lot of this mess would have nowhere to go. Moreover, a narcissist thrives on the attention, and everyone (except the MAGA crowd) agreed that he is a clinical narcissist. So why allow him a stage? Again, it’s the sales business, they are selling ratings, advertising rates, and their own celebrity. I might be able to handle that if they wouldn’t feel so compelled to incessantly expand the repetitious coverage to include their own “analysis” and debate. They analyze, debate, discuss, opine and then have allegedly expert guests to do likewise, after repeating their own analysis, debate, discussion, opinion. Again. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. But, I suppose the strategy is that no matter when you tune in, you’ll get the message. Good plan. Infuriating, but I suppose it works for them.

The other point that comes to mind for this “sitchee-a-shun” is the lawmakers themselves. More than a couple voted in support of overturning the votes of the Electoral College electors in the Presidential election, and that was infuriating. They were all GOP members, if I am not mistaken, and had absolutely NO evidence of fraud, or improper procedure, or anything else. They were putting their party loyalty over the voices of the people who voted, and that is unacceptable. However, that’s become par for the course these days, but my larger rage is reserved for the half-dozen elected officials who participated in the fracas on January 6th. Some have been arrested, but several have been photographed and some proudly affirmed their participation. At least one had the good sense to resign his position, which is fine, but the realizing that representatives of the republic found it acceptable to lend their individual effort to effect an overthrow the government they are sworn to represent is … appalling. Nauseating. But here’s the issue for me – the widespread distrust of the democracy is based on these people, who have always been present. I don’t mistrust the Constitution, or the rule of law, I don’t trust those who are sworn to administer those institutional ideals. The problem is not with the idealogical bases, the problem is with WHO gets to interpret them. The problem is with the hypocrisy of those who are sworn to impartially administer our democratic ideology, and fail miserably, and frequently. Not only do they fail miserably, but intentionally.

In practice, democracy has turned into an unethical chess game, and the low-level pawns (that would be us) are protecting the King whether they want to or not. Speaking as a pawn (but a really good pawn), i might be able to accept that, since we pawns are supposed to be granted some choice in the selection of the King (who is not supposed to be a King, but I digress). But. For their part, the monarch is supposed to craft their action on our behalf, based on what is best for us. Not what is best for them. And therein lies the problem of having monarchy raise its ugly head after it was rejected centuries ago in this country. We are confused, because we don’t quite have a democracy, nor a monarchy, but some kind of bastardization of the two.

My thought is that we have devolved into a culture of outrage, that really doesn’t want to make its own decisions. To large degree, we’ve abdicated responsibility for the national interest to the monarcracy (my wordiom for democratic-appearing monarchy). Then we are outraged at their decisions. Then we watch the football game, or the baseball game, and we are outraged at those outcomes, but we have beer. and food. So it’s all good.

But it’s not all good. Until fairly recently, voter turnout has not been very high, particularly in the underserved populations. The distrust there is so high that often tailgating and season tickets seem the more reasonable path to having your voice heard. The only real solution would seem to be elevating the integrity of the electorate, but duly elected representatives of the republic have abandoned their integrity since ancient times. With power, comes temptation, and without character the corruption soon follows. The fools who blindly vote their partisan affiliation rather than represent their constituents have little character. They drink the mind- and conscience-numbing Kool-Aid regularly, lining up for a daily dose, chanting partisan platform like a mantra. So, that’s what produces legislators who believe it’s a great idea to throw their weight – physical and systemic – behind an effort to overthrow the government they have been elected to protect.

I suppose we are all faced with some crossroads where our values and goals meet. In her song “Crossroads”, Tracy Chapman says,

“Some say the devil be a mystical thing
I say the devil he a walking man
He a fool he a liar conjurer and a thief
He try to tell you what you want
Try to tell you what you need”

And that’s it. We don’t understand when diverting from our core values is happening. The carney reads us like a cartoon, knowing instinctively our deepest desires, what we’ve been wanting all our lives. The bling, the ring, the car, the job, the house, the respect. Whatever it is, we are easy to read, and so we are easily played. In the case of the Zombie Apocalypse, those folks have been told for over a century that Black and Brown people are ruining their country, and forcing them into lower levels of the economy. More importantly, Black and Brown people are the reason they’re having to work so hard, because our country has been giving those people a break, giving them all the stuff they have worked for. So, THAT is the lie they’re being told, and THAT is what they are fighting to get back. The problem is…it never was. It’s a lie. Despite their white skin, those folks with American flags painted on their faces and MAGA hats (or horns) on their heads were NEVER a part of the ruling class. Black and Brown people did not suddenly cast them from thrones. They may resemble who have been crowned as despots, but those folks are in a class alone. And that class is tainted, as far as I am concerned, because their generational status was obtained dishonestly. It was obtained by stealing the lands and treasures of others through genocide, war, theft. Ill-gotten gains. Ill-gotten gains cannot be respected, but when reparations are proposed, Zombies lose their minds. Again.

This is a long discussion, and even though I am talking to myself, I am going to have another cup of coffee and take a break. I don’t think what I’ve written is all that well organized, actually, so will try again in a bit. That is NOT a threat….

I don’t know, and neither do you

So, here we go. Or more accurately, here I go (what’s this “we” stuff?). People have been nudging me for years to start a blog…but i still don’t know exactly what a blog does, or how it’s different from me prattling on FaceBook or even Twitter. Yeah, I get the character limit thing in Twitter, and the weird and ever-changing algorithms on FaceBook, but that’s all entirely free. And reasonably effortless. Truth be told, I suppose one of the advantages of having my own blog is a sense of control, even if I’ve had to break down and fork over a few dollars to gain that. But, so be it. This is capitalism. No free lunches, you pay for what you get, all that. So…here I go.

I figure I know a little about a lot of things. I’m very curious, and enjoy discussing and opining on a great many things in my limited corner of the Universe. My writing skills are decent, and I love words, but my tragic flaw is … initial enthusiasm followed by a sudden stop. Very frustrating. But, that’s how I roll. Accordingly, I find it best to implement a solid frontal assault initially, and take what i can get on the follow-up (if any). Sporadic is my middle name, it seems.

I am conflicted, or at least vaguely unsettled, about doing this. I do not like to assert myself as having anything of value to offer, or to be perceived that I believe myself to be skilled or offering anything of value. To engage in honest humility, though, I have to accept that I am not the best, nor the worst, of writers and what you see is what you get. Additionally, some days are better than others, and so it goes.

I journal, and have since i was a kid. It’s always come pretty naturally to me. That will continue, I am sure, but blogging/posting offers me the opportunity to have witness, comparison, perspective. More public audience gives me a reactive community of practice relative not only to the craft of writing, but to thought and self-assessment. the psychological distance inherent in online work affords untold risk-taking opportunity, for better or worse.

Lately, i have been focused on topics surrounding justice and equity in this country. I am revoltingly fascinated with the current political environment, which is more partisan and hypocritical than I have ever seen it. Perhaps that is a function of my age, since it’s been fairly recently since I’ve paid such close attention to politics and how it shapes life in this country. Equity, or lack thereof, is a product of the political environment and the public policy it yields. Equity on the basis of race, color, gender, and sexual orientation most gets my dander up, because discrimination on those bases seems particularly nonsensical to me. What difference does it make to another person what skin color I bear, or who i love, or which reproductive system my body expresses? Prove to me that any of that alters your life in any fashion. Contending that it does affect anyone else is simply…nonsense.

I don’t know if i have very many goals for this blog, other than a chance to perhaps maintain some control of the audience (if any). FaceBook privacy settings are unreliable, at least in my opinion, so when I have rampaged through current events and posted that online, i have no earthly idea who reads that. I suspect that I may have been profiled by at least one potential employer, and if that is true, I am sure that’s not the only one. Ultimately, it’s not earth shattering if that has happened, because once again, I thrive on being reasonably transparent – what you see is what you get. I would never want to accept a job based on a false impression of who i am. Better you should know, and better i should know that if it made a difference to you i probably don’t want your job.

And another thing…

.

In my first post, I forgot to say why I named this “The Sound Hole”. The sound hole is the round hole on the front of a guitar that allows sound from the strings to be directed out into the air. I have one on the front of my face, too, and well, you get the point.

I forgot to say in the other post that music is an enormous part of my existence. My skill level is comfortably situated at dangerously mediocre. I have been playing acoustic guitar since i was in junior high, and that’s my favorite instrument to play (mainly because it’s very social, but also because i really like the sound). i also play the piano a little, and that’s the first thing i learned to play. The second thing I learned was the traditional flute; the piccolo came much later, as nearly afterthought. I’ve also dabbled with the mountain dulcimer and the mandolin, and the 5-string banjo. i’m barely competent on those, but i can make a joyful noise. I’m much more at home with the acoustic guitar, and lately i’ve gotten back to playing nearly every day, just for enjoyment. I must qualify that a bit to add that I’m most competent on the acoustic 6-string that I’ve had for a while – a Takamine small-body Santa Fe model, cutaway, that I enjoy. It has a good electronic pickup, which Takamine is noted for. I bought a Taylor low-end 12-string a couple of years ago, and naively believed it would be pretty simple to become comfortable on it. Nope. I’m still kind of struggling with it, although as with the dulcimer, mandolin, and banjo I can make a joyful noise. I enjoy the sound, though, so I’ll keep dabbling. I really love the sound of double-stringed instruments for some reason, so even if I’m not terribly fancy, the sound does me good. Oh, and I can play a 5-hole or 6-hole wooden flute, the Native American styled. I have a couple of those, but have not played them for a bit…screwed up really badly at a memorial service for a dear friend a couple of years ago, and have not touched it since. Ugh.

There’s a part of me that feels as though I should have pursued music lessons when i was much younger. I may have been able to develop well beyond the mediocre stage. I remember when i was about 8 or 10, I thought I wanted to play the flute in the symphony. It seemed as though it would be fun and exciting to travel all over the world playing, and see other cities and other people. (I dreamed big in those days.) One of my great aunts chuckled at that, and said that I wouldn’t be able to see much of any of those places I talked about, because I would be locked up in rooms practicing for the concerts; i would be hard at work. I can still hear the thud of that dream crashing to the floor. Oh, well.

Regardless of skill level, I love music. All kinds of music. I would say country is my least favorite genre, but I can get into some Montgomery Gentry or even Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash even. Johnny Cash is a fascinating character. He could cover anything. I actually have an MP3 of him covering “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode. Amazing. Anyhow, my iPod has that followed by James Taylor, followed by NWA and Eminem. I still enjoy the Indigo Girls, more the older stuff but really find their acoustic stuff of all eras sets off a resonance in me. Still listen to Janis Joplin and Patti Smith, who were my first female rock star she-roes. Joan Armatrading, Joan Jett, Joan Baez – full Joan power. I[m pretty partial to female voices, even in hip-hop (Lady of Rage and Heather B I can bounce with), but enjoy Michael McDonald’s voice, and old Motown Sound stuff, like The Temptations, and Stylistics, Tower of Power, all that. B.B. King was my guitar-playing tutor, even though he never knew that. I could go on and on and on about the many artists that I cannot live without, but…another time.

I also like classical music…orchestral, mostly. Opera, not so much but I can appreciate it. Musicals can be pretty cool…I am very partial to “Gypsy” since I can remember hanging around a college production of it when i was a kid and my mother was in graduate school. Miss Mazeppa was my big-time hero. Godspell was also a favorite of mine – i liked the music, and it was pretty creative and contemporary. These days, I’ve revived some of my affinity for musicals with “Hamilton”. I listen to that incessantly, and sing it (poorly) frequently.

I’ve never been much of a singer, and while i can carry simple tunes without dropping them, i have absolutely no vibrato to my voice. I am convinced that’s because i do have a lot of vibrato when i play the flute; the vocal chords are handled differently, i think. Regardless, i consider myself more of an instrumentalist than a singer, but some days i feel like making noise. Just for the hell of it. (See how that works, with the blog title and all that?)

And then, there’s the dog

I love dogs. More than people most days. I believe myself to be a dog in spirit, a canine who walks upright on two legs, has a driver’s license, and a credit card. Loyal to the extreme, subject to immediate and maximum emotional output, simple but complicated, hard to read, and often annoyingly loving. Needy. Prone to slobber and slobbiness. Sensitive and does not recover easily from hurt. Did i mention loyal to the max?

The current beast is called Nola (New Orleans LouisianA). She is a cuckoo Chihuahua mix. Whatever she is mixed with is as nuts a breed as the Chihuahua, because she is a total wacko character. She is about 15 pounds, very Chihuahua-faced and Chihuahua-colored, but with a curly tail. She is also a bit taller than the average Chihuahua, and she really doesn’t know quite what to do with her hind legs when she is lying down, but she manages. She barks. A lot. A whole lot. it’s a high-pitched bark, like she got the vocal chords of a smaller dog. She is willful and feisty, pees and poops in the apartment just after she comes in from the outdoors sometimes. Something didn’t go quite right with her initial upbringing, i think. That wasn’t my fault – I got her when she was almost a year old. She was a stray in Greensboro when she was an itty bitty puppy, although I’m not sure i believe that. She had some really bad habits already when i got her, so i think her foster family got her from somewhere else and found they couldn’t handle her. She is quite a handful, maybe two or three handfuls. And she has settled down quite a lot since i got her nearly five years (or more) ago.

If i could have reproduced, it would have been this lunatic. She has all of my personality attributes – oppositionally defiant, lot of mouth, talks big and bad but petrified if someone calls her bluff, sweet as pie to all strangers. People generally love her, even though she has bad manners and sometimes pees at their feet. As they say in these parts…bless her heart. But she is really a sweet little thing. We have quality time in the mornings, after she has rudely interrupted my sleep. When i was working, and needed to be awakened early, she was still under the covers and grumbled when i stirred. Now that i don’t need to be up early, she makes sure i see every sunrise. She will bark me awake if she has to.

Nola’s biggest flaw is that she is not house trained, and my attempts to remediate that have failed miserably. i think i have given up. We are both slobs, so no harm, no foul. I should really get the carpet replaced at this point, though, since it is the original from 20 years ago. Whatever. Maybe this summer or something. She’ll have more deposits to make on the carpet account before then.

This is the third dog I’ve had in this apartment. Ariel, the dog I brought with me from New Orleans, is still the best dog I’ve ever had. She was brilliant – i could let her go down the stairs form the third floor, and she would do all of her ‘business’ and then run back up the stairs to me. When she died, a big piece of me went with her. I still miss that dog. She was beautiful, a Sheltie mix, with that beautiful Lassie-like coat. She was playful and loved other dogs, and we socialized with other people and their dogs. I hope I treated her well, because i was not all in here the entire time i had her. She was a stray in New Orleans, and when i adopted her i told her that i would never give her up or give her away, and when it was time she would die with me. And she did. I make that promise to any dog I take on, even the current lunatic. The moron who led the training class Nola and I attended (and failed) told me that i should re-home her. I said i would think about it, but i had no intention of doing that, and i won’t. You don’t give up your kid because they’re a handful, or your parents because they get old. That woman was a crazy bitch, and she can just go clean up dog pee somewhere for all i care.

Anyhow, after Ariel died, i thought i would never get another pet. Never. It hurt too bad to lose her. It hurt almost that bad when i lost the one before her, and still I got another one. It took me nearly three years to even consider getting another dog after Ariel left, but one day it was just time, and then came Mia. Mia was about three when i adopted her, and she was also quite the little character. She was funny, and had no manners, either. She was about the same size as Nola, just different body type…not so tall, not so long. She was more terrier-type, furry, cute face and hair between her toes. She was house trained, and would pee on puppy pads. She also peed as soon as she got outside and onto grass, which was really nice in the rain. Nola…not so much. Mia got stomach cancer. She is the only dog i have had to actually put down. I promised her that i would not let her suffer, so when it became apparent that she was in pain, i refused to let it go on another second. Any extra time would not have benefited her, only me, so it was time to end it. It almost killed me to do that, but i did it. That lesson came in handy when my mother died, but that’s another story entirely.

So, on i go with Nola, who is who she is. Right now, she is trying to hint that she wants to go o-u-t-s-i-d-e. It’s very subtle. She just stood on the bottom part of my stomach and pressed her paws into that space between my belly button and my pubic bone, which hurts like a @%^!. very smooth, little dog. she is quite the little bully at times. i pushed her off, so now she is giving me the stink-eye from a couple of feet away.