Crap Shoot is just another/better word for miscellaneous. Here will go entries that do not fall neatly into the categories represented by the other pages.
- You Don’t Say (9/19/2017)
By Narcissa Lyons
I had a conversation with a friend the other day about a topic that has long puzzled me, and I’ve got few answers here today. It’s no secret people like to talk, and a rather large portion of those people like to talk about themselves. It is human, and often it is not daunting, can be entertaining and funny, give oneself material for thoughts later about just how weird we all are. I won’t focus on talking about yourself, because in the end I don’t know all the reasons for it. I know why I do it, although I think I am good at limiting it. One could argue my writing is a direct contradiction of that, but writing ain’t talking and it’s easier for anyone to anonymously stop reading than to walk away from a conversation. But since I said I wasn’t going to talk about that, I’ll move on.
People feel pressure to talk, to not let too many moments go by in silence. I’ve been part of those conversations and gotten so caught up in marveling at the situation that I lose the thread of the words being spoken to me. Which is not exactly convenient if you’re then asked “don’t you think so?” Conveying information is important, and relating observations is fun, but there is also something very deep and soulful about sharing silence. I won’t think you a fool because you’re saying nothing, and there is in fact communication going on when there is nothing audible other than the wind through the trees, the vibration of tires on tar below you, the chatter of others in the area, countless interesting backgrounds. And in that shared communication there is the growth of that respective relationship, regardless of who it is. You can exchange a glance, possibly a smile or a raised eyebrow, but you don’t have to. Whatever happens, as they say, happens. I am not saying that to break that silence would be sinful, because if something needs to be said, then something needs to be said, but a lot of the time it just doesn’t.
What I don’t understand is how this pressure came about, and I say pressure because that’s all logic will give me. I sat at a bar the other day having lunch and when you do that you automatically overhear conversations, particularly when on your own. Two gentlemen were together, and from the content of their discussion it was apparent they were friends, decided detective me. It was not all unpleasant, but honestly, I did not understand why most of it was important enough to be said. What, I wondered, would be so abominable about finishing tuna on rye without mentioning a gift certificate one received a year ago to a different restaurant or when to cover the pool? If they would have been husband and wife the pool cover might have made sense, but that was not the case. One man told the other about talking to his wife about it. Is that a conversation? I may be coming off as harsh, but I am trying to be scientific, get to the origin of the necessity to fill what has apparently come to be sensed as a void, when all lack of words is, is quietness or quieter. I have heard of some that practice hours or even a day of silence, but I am not being that extreme (if that is even extreme). These men were not from that group of people. It’s possible that they saw each other rarely enough so that they felt they needed to say as much as they could while they were together whether it was impactful or not, but I don’t think so.
Not speaking is not equated to being a bore, although I grant you that’s a tougher line to sell at a party. When a person talks about someone else being the “life of the party”, they are never referring to a verbally shy person, and often the success of a party is gaged on just how raucous it is. Muted conversations and many exchanged understanding smiles don’t a rave review make. But a party is an exception, as is a work function….although here too, why is silence so ungolden? At a work function, someone will take it upon themselves to keep a conversation going even if it means raising painfully mundane topics, to which then people must work hard to keep the appropriate expression on their faces so that they are perceived as listening and entertained. I suppose this could be looked at as an art form in its own right, and other silent communication takes place between the employees that are not speaking. Those kinds of exchanged looks, what-have-you, are worth a million bucks because the people in question are trying to convey a lot of content with only their eyes so as to remain undiscovered by the conversationalist. The various nuances around the table can amount to something astonishingly fun, cracker barrel lunacy.
Do animals do this? Will two wrens tweet to each other about the twigs used to build their nests or that it’s a tough time of year to find bugs? Or dolphins. No, I think dolphins most definitely do not have useless conversations. I think they are spending too much time being graceful and beautiful that staying around to commiserate would dampen the joy. I take that back. I just looked at some pictures of them and was reminded of just how chatty they can be. In fact, when my eldest son was a baby he made sounds like a dolphin so we called him “Flipper” for a while. That animals are like us in that regard is comforting, and I suppose we are social beings, so talking, at least for many, is a requirement even to the point of what might be deemed excess by others. We are typically seeking knowledge and talking is part of that, even if sometimes it’s more imparting than absorption. Some like to talk, some sit back and take it all in, toss in a word or two to keep things lively, and some? Well some just natter. And while nattering is shallower than this particular writer likes, it is still hearty fuel for thought, and fills a need. I think I’ll return to that establishment this week and see what those gentlemen are up to. Maybe even comment on the salt and pepper shakers.
- The Issue of Life II (8/8/2017)
By Narcissa Lyons
This is the second of a two part article, though at the writing of part one (see The Issue of Life ) I did not realize it would have a follow up . I write this today because I was reminded by a friend about a week ago of how I have shifted on my approach to the “Black Lives Matter” statement. My position on the movement itself has never changed. I believe in the non-violent version of it strongly, sympathize with the fact that black people have lived through the unthinkable and since the days of slavery have still been getting a very raw deal. Even though racism is far better than it was, say, in 1950, it is possibly worse now than it was in, say, 1995.
That could easily be wrong. I am going by the constant onslaught of material telling me how bad racial relations are, not with statistics and actual interviews with those in or out of the theoretical trenches. Maybe I am too rosy eyed, but I believe we wouldn’t look too bad, or at least less primitive than our society is portrayed. Far from perfect, but not slit-your-wrists despicable. Like all news terrible, negative, disgusting, the media sends it out to us surrounded in fireworks, jewels and sirens, any grabbing imagery that elicits horrified gasps from the reader/watcher. Everything else is muted, back paged, stated in a softer and quicker cadence on the news. Good news is a gaping yawn. You can almost see the ho hum in the reporters’ eyes as they quietly drone it out. So I don’t actually know that racism is worse now than it was, but if in fact it is worse, the perpetuation of glamorized violence on both sides of the race battle by the media is at fault. The vast majority of white people, indignant at being called racists when so many believe things are starting to calm down, will be resentful and express the thought that the movement is exaggerated, that no one points out how many white people are unjustly killed, that no matter how unjust a killing, the slaying of men in uniform is never justified. The black population, seeing what seems to be ever increasing bias towards people of color, more senseless shootings, gets angrier and more likely to erupt. The fire burns ever brighter with this frenzied kindling. The media incites, and then has even more material to write about, racing each other to the scene of mayhem they helped conjure up, and then hypocritically pretend they are dismayed.
That media explanation was actually besides my main point, but they piss me off. What I had a problem with in the beginning of the movement was the statement behind it: “Black Lives Matter”. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. I had an issue with what it implied, and I considered it a very bad way to convey what is an important message because it could (and resoundingly did) promote an anti-Black Lives Matter feeling for what ends up being a simple and unfortunate reason, but one that should have been addressed from the very beginning. I inferred with that statement, and there are many who still do, that the accent was on the word “black” as in BLACK lives matter. No single representative of the movement or cause ever said otherwise or said anything at all for that matter, so it is no wonder that many of us heard it that way. And then we were like, well of course black lives matter, but shit, what about the rest of us? Don’t we matter? And so it began. It’s only three words, but if the wrong word is stressed, the wrong assumption will be made by many. I realized about 8 months ago that what is meant is Black Lives MATTER. It was like a smack in the face, the sudden realization. “Oh”, I am pretty sure I said out loud. That’s another thing altogether, is not confrontational, is telling us “You know what? You cannot treat us like this, cannot randomly for no reason pull us over, question even the way we walk down the street, kill us when we are not armed—our lives matter – just like everyone else who you are not persecuting. Why would you treat us any differently?”
Am I saying that “matter” should have been underlined or all CAPS? Well paint me the child, but yes and yes and YES. In something as dynamite sensitive as this issue, as these anthem words, they need to be understood by everyone, not just the marchers, movement leaders and followers, but every single soul because that could have made it (still can) a much more far reaching and successful cause. There would have been no anti-movement because there would never have been the misunderstanding that black people only care about themselves, that all others have had their turn, can be brushed aside, whatever the hell people like me assumed with BLACK lives matter.
This is my call to those still opposed to the Black Lives Matter campaign to take a look again at what is trying to be achieved, and to rethink the line. It’s a very old message, the need of which to repeat is saddening, maddening–the pure, simple, understandable and too long ungranted wish for equality. Not just equality in law, paperwork, PC discussions, but in fact. To walk down the street or drive in one’s own car without being a natural suspect–not just to authorities but everyone, even fellow African Americans at times. I don’t know that we can ever really get there–and racism comes from both sides, but a step in the right direction is the acknowledgement by the non black population that things are rather fucked up and we all need to work together to fix it. This does not get done by anti-Black Lives Matter protests or idiotic rhetoric bitching about the fact that the news isn’t broadcasting enough when innocent white people are shot down. As I pointed out, the media are not our friends, and in fact serve to divide us, set us firmly against any kind of relationship that is harmonious.
The sanctity of human life is a given, and yes all of our lives matter, but the government and authorities, the work force, the masses of the rest of us need to know that all is comprised of American Indian, Asian, Black, Indian, White, and so on and so forth, and then all the beautiful bundles that are born as mixtures of this color palette. If real equality is reached, then all of us get what most of us want – a more generous portion of peace, and the deserved comfort we’ll feel in who we have become.
- Wagging Fingers (7/10/2017)
By Narcissa Lyons
I live in Massachusetts but have driven to the usual states one does when wanting to get away, get to the beach, the hills, nature and all that. Vermont. Connecticut. Maine. New Hampshire. A few others. I used to think it was just our fine lecturing state that wagged its fingers at their drivers, but I have seen it all over. Anyone reading and from a friendlier state, let me know since it would be refreshing and comforting to know there are less admonishing parts of the country. I am referring of course to the digital signs that only occasionally have something useful posted (i.e. traffic info., road conditions, etc.).
I’ve noticed that lecturing is not uncommon in many people, that instead of a casual debate, a person of a differing opinion forgets their position is just that and takes to lecturing which nearly always comes off as “I’m superior to you and your ways of thinking”. I think this slant on things and opinions is running rampant in every day life now, and man is it tiring. Comes to mind the line “Why is everyone always picking on me?” It’s just that we’re always being told what to do, how to do it and when to do it and most vocally when NOT to do it. As if having reached adulthood ages ago does not mean we know what we are doing so we need to be reminded. In an obnoxious fashion if at all possible.
So the signage problem. I drive by these warnings “you better not do this” and “you certainly better not do that….” Most of the time it is something condescending that we all already know and it is all written in a sermonizing fashion. I wish I knew who came up with all this stuff. “Click it or ticket” is a gem. “Drive sober or get pulled over”, another classic. My absolute favorite is a sign posting a warning to teens not to text and drive. The very sign is a text meant to distract us and tell us the obvious, so that is not only uncool, but also largely idiotic. I am not saying that I need to see flowery statements like “have a brilliant day” or “hope you win the lottery today”, but leave the thing blank if there is nothing important to advise. Tell drivers only when it is relevant because otherwise it is a disservice to us in addition to being just plain annoying. I was driving back from Connecticut the other day and I could not even finish reading the sign. It started off by letting me know that “This year 146 deaths due to….” but I could not finish reading it since it was small print and trying any harder to finish reading it would have jeopardized my driving more than I had already done by bothering to read it in the first place. It is not clear to me who has the authority to create the distracting words and who then approves them, but these are not smart people. Nor, that I can imagine, would they be any fun at a party. The funny thing is, I can see this person, or set of persons, sitting back proudly after creating something like “click it or ticket”. “Boy, Tom, you are a clever one”. Sheesh, it’s bothersome.
This sort of whining/lecturing is related to the guilty until proven innocent mentality, the suspicious of motives, the everyone is a policeman. I suppose we’ve put ourselves here, given the outrageous amount of crime and atrocities in the world, but in areas where we can mellow out, we really should. People should meditate more, yell less, bicker never, and remember that life is too short to bitch about things that are already known. I am fully aware fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts but every summer we get bombarded with this reminder and that “penalty of jail or a fine” is sure to happen if we are caught with any. And if someone is crossing into New Hampshire to go buy those lovely sky lighters are they really going to turn around and pout their way back home after the warning they just read? Me thinks not. Actually, it’d make many more resolute and possibly giddier with excitement at pulling off the firecracker caper.
The theme continues on social media, with oodles of links citing just how awful we are as people. We are racists, we are conservative nut jobs, we are left wing idiots, we are dumber than most, we are killing the planet and we don’t care that we are killing the planet, we are animal abusers, we are raising our children in appalling ways, we are hedonistic, materialistic, narcissistic, over-indulging sycophants who don’t care enough about other people and helping out our fellow man . Once in a while there is a story about a do-good, a Samaritan, but rarely, and even many of those become of less positive import because it is high-lighted just how rare the altruistic human being is. I don’t know what to believe anymore, I just know I feel like shouting LEAVE ME A LONE. We are not that bad. We CAN’T be. I think I’ve changed my mind though on the leaving the signs blank if there is no traffic information to convey. Maybe I wouldn’t mind seeing something like “you deserve to smile at yourself”, or “how about this weather we’re having?” or “nice job on obeying the speed limit”. That one actually might even serve as a speed deterrent AND a complement.
I am not delusional. I know there is rot in the masses, but I am not part of that nor are most of the people with whom I work or socialize. Nor, I still hope and believe, are most of the souls traveling to and from places. We don’t want to be assumed fools or evil law breakers etcetera just for the hell of it or just because there is no roadwork about which to warn us. And for the love of Sanity–if this must continue, dear state powers that be, hire some better writers.
- The Heaven of H20 (4/21/2017)
By Narcissa Lyons
A casual drink of water started one hell of a thought path, but I may think of water more often than most. Is my conclusion anyway. It’s true we need it for our very existence and much of the world is sadly thirsty, but the many sensual aspects of water evoke exceptional memories and promise others to come. Maybe this hits me now because we are about to be deluged with cold rain this weekend and the past days have been grim, miserly of the sun. But there is a summery future with warmer falling water.
Warm rain falling on you, preferably heavy and many droplets as you walk or trot barefoot over cement or low cut grass is an exhilaration, and the initial scent of that wettened cement is so beautiful it could make me cry. Moments of sheer joy in life are rare. I don’t mean happiness; I mean real and utter joy. But that is one of them and it is profound, much more so because it is fleeting and you know that when you’re in it. The sensation of water on skin, of it dampening then thoroughly soaking you is intense, and maybe you open your mouth so some of the sky’s liquid slakes a thirst you did not have until just that moment. It gathers quickly and rivulets its way across everything. And the audio of this kind of beauty can be heard when you are falling asleep or having to rise. Much harder to rise on a day it’s pattering outside, just coaxing you quietly to stay under your sheets and blankets. “Rest as we wash and trickle down your windows. Rest as we rhythmically drench your house and dreams.”
And then there’s the pleasure of looking at it, bodies of water, sparkling streams through quiet woods or wherever they may flow, offering up the chance to watch its peaceful running fluid and listen to the meandering path it makes. The ocean. The vast, powerful, glorious ocean with all its blasé might. Forgetting the entire other world that lies within it, the ebb and flow of tides and the surge of large waves smashing against many greeting surfaces, and it’s just a little hard to understand. There is so much of it, and it is careless, ignores us, is grand and acts like every bit the earth taker it is. That is a force hard not to respect, and the ocean is Mother Nature’s second cousin, not just a subject of her fickle personality. The ocean on its own can wreak havoc without necessarily being tempestuous. And as I noted, it doesn’t care a whit.
The partial engulfing of one’s body by water is healing. It clears the head while it calms the soul. Dive into a soothing pool with a bastardly hangover, sit and splash around, and you begin to feel sanity return, pain subside, fogginess to clarity. This can also eventually lead to beckoning back the poison that sent you seeking medicinal waters in the first place, but it fixes the body and the mind in the meantime. There are wave pools all over the world, and we used an expression for this type of curing since we were in Hungary (my sisters and cousins) and felt the need to visit the famous Gellért Hotel and Spa for just this reason after yet another heavy night of dancing and associated ingredients. “Na” (pronounced and stressed this way for this particular situation)—this is clearly not easy to translate but I’ll give it a whirl. It can mean a few things, and context is everything, but for that situation it boiled down to “well there it is then, perfect”. I’m getting away from it, but that wave pool held more magic than just the Turkish baths for which it’s famous.
And we have skinny dipping, one of life’s coolest luxuries. On an innocent side, water directly surrounding you, every pore, every follicle, is delicious freedom, physically and spiritually, and all ways in between. A bath doesn’t count even if it’s soothing because you can’t go anywhere, but to swim so naturally without material hiding Adam-Eve parts brings childhood into adulthood and into sometimes angst-ridden teen-hood. It’s always associated with laughter and sometimes stifled giggles if you’re tress-passing or pool-jumping, borrowing your neighbors’ if they are sleeping or away. It’s secretive, stealthy and chuck-full of promise, all this creeping around. Less innocent skinny-dipping, a little more thrilling, a little more hush hush, well it’s great stuff. Night waters have a special attraction, and the sudden wish to keep everything below the surface other than one’s face, while not missing glee, elicits a slyer smile. Mixed company. Someone coming too quickly to check out the splashing sounds. I was sixteen and had one of my best friends over along with two boys—her boyfriend and his unfathomably good-looking friend, and somehow we decided to strip down and jump our naked bodies into the pool. It was surrounded by trees and it was deep, dark night, and after jumping in I remember things changing in the whispery, watery silence to something I knew would become more than just skinny dipping. There are no gory details to impart and that would belong in the erotica section anyway, but it was sensate-electric, engulfed in water but warm, beating skin against warm, beating skin. It was only a short lived fantastic few minutes because we heard my mother come clip-clopping into our arena, thankfully giving us time enough to get close to the pool walls. “Is that you dear?”. Yes, we’re just swimming, be in in a while. Miraculously she went back inside, and I think she believed innocent behavior, but I’d like to think she knew better and decided to leave. Forgive the mind stray on something less precisely water, but the magic fluid and the time of year must be sending me listing.
It would be negligent if I didn’t mention the hazards of water, because people drown all the time. The same envelopment that creates a peace within us can also be an envelopment gently taking us down to the bottom as our eyes watch the surface recede even as our breathing is over until we then float, no life within us. Learn how to swim, and if you don’t, stay away from the water. About 10 years ago two men went fishing in a row boat on Ball Pond in Connecticut, the pond near which I grew up. The boat tipped over and they both drowned about ten feet from shore because they did not know how to swim. To say this is perplexing is an understatement. Learn how to swim, even if you are an adult who had the misfortune of having parents that didn’t get that lesson out of the way first thing. It will at least fifty-fold your pleasures in life and take away one very large but reasonable fear. But for fuck’s sake if you don’t know how to swim don’t get on a boat with another non-swimmer. At least not without a life jacket tightly fastened.
We had our own small pond in our back yard when I was little next to which stood a ramshackle duck house amid cascading willows, and I stood there and watched what I thought at the time was fantastic and strange, and in retrospect still think the same but without the strange. We had our whole family over, crazy aunts and uncles, and all of them had decided to get on the raft we had (maybe 5′ x 5′) and paddle around the lake. This meant they were standing next to each other like sardines, the raft dipping into the lake on trading corners as they tried to keep its balance. A massive rainstorm swept in. Just like that. It was pouring to the extent it was hard to see, and they were caught in it, but they didn’t head for the shores like I thought they would, they just all started laughing and staying put, a few jumping in and eeking like children, the rain continuing to pelt down on them and leave large rippling marks in the lake as it did. It was so loud. I was mesmerized. The torrents were as short-lived as they were intense, but everyone was exhilarated and smiling as they reached the shore. That’s the nature of nature and the nature of water. Peace and joy and outright fun.
- Ode to the Silent Fight (3/14/2017)
By Narcissa Lyons
I went to work this past Wednesday and one of my workmates asked me what I was doing there. “Here I was thinking it was typical to show up if you wanted a pay check”. And I was then educated that last Wednesday was Women’s day. That taking it off was what we were to do. To mark the importance of who we are, what some of us have done in past years to better our cause, et cetera. I will preface the rest of this article by letting you know, emphatically, that women are crucial to this world, and really its survival. We keep it going, bar nothing. It isn’t obvious but we run this show, or most of it anyway. Could we do a better job? Yes. But we are working on it and it is one big ass world with myriad and endless problems.
Since that is our mission, to keep the globe mobile, to keep the family in stride, to keep humanity, well, humanity, then that is what we must continue to do–without taking time off just for being female, thereby thwarting our efforts for 24 hours. In case you haven’t looked around at the state of things lately, we cannot spare that kind of time. We should not seek glory or recognition for how we were born into this world. I heard some teachers took the day off. TEACHERS. That taking a day off because you’re a chick is somehow more important than educating our youth. How is our missing a day proving our value rather than proving our silliness in needing that kind of short fame? Ruling the world is difficult, and slightly more so when it is done with the discretion we have thus far employed by necessity or by preference, but that is exactly how we have been successful. It may seem trite and a little white-gloved-hand-over-the-mouth demure, but this is what has been helping us gain ground. It has been easy to present the slighter side, to sooth the tired husband, to let some shit go. But here we are. We have stood by our men and let them man the helm (so to speak) because they are mostly good at what they do and because we can influence positively. Why oh why do we all need a pat on the back? We are not 10.
The fact that my workmate said what he said about me taking the day off with a smile, the rest of the male crew softly chuckling with him, and the fact that many other women rolled their eyes with me when this day was referenced …..is telling. When you balk about something that does not need to be balked about you will not be taken seriously. When you differentiate the entire gender from the gender you believe has wronged you (or the male dominated government, whatever), you are invalidating most of your cause. There are women in this world who have real problems, large populations actually, and thankfully there are causes and groups out there trying to address these problems, but feeling unrecognized and complaining about it enough to have a freaking day dedicated to us is just humiliating. What is happening?
Easy answer. We have fallen off some ridiculous cliff. We are living in a section of the world where things are actually fairly OK for females (no, not perfect), and have become so spoiled that we demand importance be noted, and don’t you forget us. Of course we are important, and of course we are vital, and of course we must fight the good fight, but I want to go back to fighting it intelligently and with dignity. With subtlety. For shit’s sake, we know better. This is not simplicity, but taking the day off to prove women are valuable is flinch inducing, and a not-so-dainty step backwards. Until recently, we have handled the imbalance with nobility and wisdom. I don’t know about you, but I know exactly what is what. We are all that. But don’t give me a day off or tip your hat just because. Thankfully, there are plenty of us out there that still wield the theoretical sword silently, and it is understood we are respected by both/all sexes, albeit it that such people are of the intelligent variety. I’ll not soon be asked for my vote on this, but I move to return to that nobility and doing what we are good at–furthering the agenda not just of women, but of humankind at large. And that is a full time gig.