conversational coercions

In a recent conversation about my lack of faith, I was struck to silence over the following sentence that a friend wrote to me: “One Day [God] will remove the scales from your eyes and the veil from your mind.”

Remove the scales from my eyes?

Gross.

There’s a veil over my mind?

What scales distort my vision? What veil covers my mind?

Because I don’t believe I’ve got something covering my vision?

I’m lost by these words. I want to be civil. I want to have a conversation. But trumping someone with, “You’re so blind that you can’t see the thing you literally cannot see” is clearly not the way to win one’s heart.

I get it. But people don’t realize how mean this is. How hateful and patronizing.

If anything, it’s an example of how to push away someone you claim to love.

When believers people say these kinds of things it works oppositionally to the intent. It reminds me of all the things I don’t say to people.

What if I reacted by saying, “I hope that the scales over your eyes are removed and you can see that there’s no reason to believe in God.” It’s just not a cool thing to say.

Why can’t people be okay with the person we are? I can’t coerce someone who doesn’t like a movie or a musician to like a movie or musician. That doesn’t bother me. I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

The words believers often use are confounded by their version of love. It’s not love to tell someone they’re wrong for disbelieving something that literally cannot be verified. You can swear to me that the king is wearing new clothes, but if he’s naked, he’s naked.

There’s no reason to believe. Absolutely not one. I’ve had this conversation with how many people and how many people have failed to provide one good reason? All of them.

What I write here are my thoughts on my walk away from that kind of mindset. My goal is not to convince others to be like me. But to provide a space that allows others who do a place to find another perspective similar to their own.

Someone who claims to pray should pray. It’s a practice of their faith or perspective.

However, that same person shouldn’t be upset that I don’t find any value in it.

I haven’t yet responded to the person who told me this. There’s nothing I can say that would benefit the conversation. Or maybe there is.

It has deflated me, though. It’s maddening. The way Christians hurt others is a different breed of beast.

People wonder why people who have left faith get angry. And this is why. It’s because people hide behind a version of love so odious that it ends up stinging the recipient.

There’s really nothing we can say to calls toward invisible beings puppeteering our lives.

And yet here we are.

It’s been one of those weeks

Over the weekend, we got an email from our landlord in Chicago. He wrote, “We’re having a few companies stop by to give quotes to replace the sidewalk that leads up to the front door. Don’t be surprised if you look out and there are strange men wandering around the yard.”

We live on the second floor of a coach house on Humboldt Boulevard. If you’ve never been to Chicago, you might not be aware of these glorious neighborhoods throughout the city. Think of it as a symmetric burger. The bun is mansions, brown or gray stones, or apartments. The lettuce is a one-way street to access housing. The Rouille is green space dappled with trees where you’ll find any number of people sitting on blankets, reading a book, enjoying the sun, watching the day go by, walking their dogs or playing catch. The meat is the four-laned thoroughfare. Cars at all hours.

Living on this kind of street buffers the inhabitants from the speeding traffic. It allows for greenspace in an otherwise cement jungle.

In a coach house, you feel even more distanced from city life. We have a gigantic front yard, something unheard of in the city. Usually you get four or five steps and then you’re at the front door. For us, it’s 30 or more yards from our gate to our front door. There’s a wall of green shrubs that tower midway between the street and our windows. If you wanted to, you’d think you were in a suburb.

On the second floor, our apartment has a sunporch where we work facing the boulevard. We can see passersby in the green spaces and on the sidewalk.

During the pandemic, our yard was the Melrose Place of Chicago. Lots of our neighbors would descend there to chill over a glass of wine, a grilled meal, a fire in a fire pit, a projected movie or sitting around telling stories. It was our yard people were in when we could hear chants of Black Lives Matters, booms from the riots, and any number of police sirens. It was our yard everyone was in when Biden was announced as the 46th president of the United States.

With the wall of shrubs, it feels private and safe.

We have all kinds of seating, a grill that’s not locked down, bikes in a nook unlocked as well. There are garden tools and a shelf of nicknacks.

It’s a yard where you might see birds, squirrels and the most unwelcome of all neighbors, rats.

One time I fell asleep outside in the middle of the pandemic. When I stirred, it was around 2 a.m. I looked around, stretched, rubbed my eyes and I got up. I went to throw something away before heading upstairs. When I opened the trash, no less than six rats stared right back at me like, “the fuck you doin?”

And that, dear reader, is why our landlord sent that email about the path. There are rats so entrenched in the areas under the path, that removing the existing path, dropping Vietnam-level napalm missiles before rapidly covering it back up is the only answer to the infestation.

Into the back of my mind, I repeated the message from our landlord, “Don’t be surprised if you see strange men wandering around the yard.”

The driveway to our house is where we park. On the street, though, there’s parallel parking. It’s where we get a lot of delivery trucks to slip into for a quick box drop off to let cars slip by on our one-way. Or the occasional Uber pickup with their lights blinking. Or it’s a space that creates a desert-level mirage for weary drivers searching for parking late at night.

This past Sunday morning was particularly stressful as it was the day we were going to celebrate the life of a dear family member who passed away recently. We were a large part of the celebration, and we needed to arrive a couple hours early to help with flowers and a photo montage we created.

It was also a day when someone decided to park in our drive and block us from being able to get out. We have a “Do not Park” sign on the gate. It says, You will be towed. But weary drivers seeing the mirage of a parking spot without a fire hydrant don’t care about signs. All they care about is getting their weary heads on their weary pillows to shut their drunk eyes. Ha.

On Sunday morning, I came out with a yoga mat to meet our neighbor who has been giving us free, private yoga lessons. I saw the car and rolled my eyes. I went out, took a picture of it, but thought, “Surely, this person knows they parked in our drive and they will come out first a.m. and move their car.”

That didn’t happen.

When a spot opened behind the car, I noticed that I could slip out behind the vehicle if I was careful. So I got my keys, maneuvered off the curb and parallel parked. If we were late to the funeral, my wife would have to plan my life celebration, if you know what I mean.

By around 11, the car was still there, so I called 911 and got them ticketed. In the middle of the day, my neighbor sent a picture of the car getting towed.

It was the first time since we hung the Towing sign that it actually worked. We danced the Tow Truck Shuffle.

There’s this reoccurring feeling, though, a guilt let’s call it, about getting someone towed. I wrote their story in my mind. The driver desperately wanted to get home for the night. They spotted the openin and parked. Perhaps they were down on their luck. The pandemic hit them hard, and not only were they ticketed $75, their car was impounded. Perhaps they didn’t realize to look for their car on Sunday or Monday, but finally on Tuesday. That’s the price of the tow and two nights impounding, which is easily over $500. So for the simple mistake of a late Saturday night with a $100 price tag, this poor schmo was taxed another $600 or more bucks.

So much for a night out.

See: guilt.

Our week itself was a lot of photo editing, some errands and exercise. We share the same gate as the apartments to the north of our place. The time I was at my desk, I didn’t notice any strange men in the yard. I saw my neighbors to the north come and go. I saw the downstairs neighbors leave for work and come home. I noticed other neighbors to the south with their dogs or leaving with their bikes.

On Monday while out with our two dogs, I noticed my bike, which was not locked down, was not leaning against the tree where I left it. It was lying down on the ground. I thought little of it. But I did know it wouldn’t arrive at that spot by wind or something natural.

Then, on Tuesday, I saw a strange man walk into the yard. My back straightened in my chair. Then I stood up. He was wandering toward the front door. His left arm crossed over his stomach, kind of like cerebral palsy, stiffened and the thumb tucked as if he was in a perpetual state of making a bird-shaped shadow on a wall. He wasn’t looking at the sidewalk, taking notes … he was examining my unlocked bike leaning against a tree.

I raced down the stairs, burst from the door and yelled, “GET. THE FUCK. OUT OF MY YARD!!!”

The man turned. He wore a dirty thrift store suit over a faded red sweater. The suit hung on his frame like he rapidly lost 50 pounds. He looked toward me, but not at me, stunned by my shouting. “Uh, uh .. oh oh oh kay” he managed to get out.

“I’m going to call the cops! … I called the cops … GET THE FUCK OUT!”

He wandered down the sidewalk muttering something or another. My brain was in full adrenaline mode. There was a voice yelling at myself that that was the dumbest thing ever. What if the guy were violent, had a gun or a knife? Then there was guilt and shame for using the word fuck as many times as I did. Or then it was, “Why didn’t I wait for him at the gate as he rolled my bike toward me with my phone raised recording him. Then I blocked him in, called 911, and watched his dumbass stuck in the back of a cop car.

But my response was my response. And it raised the blood pressure of a neighbor on the second floor who came out and asked, “Everything okay?”

I shook from the adrenaline and told her some random dude waltzed in the yard and was handling my bike ready to ride off when I stopped him. I ended up locking up my bike, moving some garden clippers inside that might be used to break into our house and went back inside to settle down.

That night, I dreamed about the trespasser. There were meandering thoughts of “forgiving my trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

And then my eyes opened wide and I thought, “My cart is gone.”

My cart was a rock-and roller cart that lots of photographers and musicians use to transport their gear. It folds up. You can attach parts to make it a portable desk. It’s been in the yard a lot as we’ve been busy with shoots. And it’s a pain in the ass to store inside. Like I said, we feel too comfortable leaving valuables in the yard.

I knew, without getting up to look, that this trespasser was returning to the yard. This wasn’t his first time in our yard. He had come in for the bike on Monday. Started taking it, but then saw the cart. He dropped the bike where he was, and grabbed the other valuable object on wheels, because, I imagine, his gnarly hand wasn’t going help him escape as easily with a bike. He needed both hands to maneuver it. But the cart! The cart was a one-handed theft.

So off he went. On Tuesday morning, he woke up, checked his to-do list, and at the top was, “Go back to the cart yard and take that bike.”

I woke up Wednesday morning, went out to check for the cart, and I was right.

Trespasser 1. Jeremy 1. Cart O.

On Friday, we needed that cart for a full day job. I opened my laptop to see if I could get a replacement delivered by Thursday, but that wasn’t an option. I remembered we live around the corner from a camera store, which is a near-extinct species of retailer in the world. I walked up there, and recalled that they also rent gear. So I rented a cart from them. Crisis avoided.

I called my homie Jaime on the way back to tell him what happened. And he immediately pointed at the homeless guy who lives under the viaduct an 1/8th of a mile south of our house. “He may not have taken it, but you know he’s been getting a lot of ‘friends’ who wander up and down our street. They probably saw your bike from the road.”

I hung up with him and I walked down to that homeless guy’s camping spot. He wasn’t home, so I felt free to move about the cabin. I grabbed the image above while there.

I’ve talked to the guy a couple times. His name is Juan. I can’t remember his nickname. But he has one. This one time I stopped, he was very friendly. “What church are you from?” he asked me.

“I’m not from a church.” I said.

“Oh, usually people from churches stop and bring me food, some canned, and I can heat it on that.” He pointed toward a little area with a grill. He uses stuff he finds to fuel it.

“People aren’t that nice to me, otherwise,” he started to say. “I haven’t done anything to anybody.”

“People are mean,” I said.

He’s been living there about a year. He’s got a bed, shelves, seating area for entertaining with rugs to warm up the ambiance, a cooking area, and a few piles of metal and objects. Recently, he acquired a large, battery powered boom box and the guy and his friends blast it on Fridays over a can of bubbly or two.

I didn’t see my cart.

But while I was standing there, I heard cars on Humboldt Boulevard slamming on their breaks and intermittent sounds of something hitting the pavement. I looked up and watched little white balls floating over from on top of the viaduct. Gravity pulled them down to the street where they were splatting on the concrete.

Eggs.

My brain finally put it together. Up on the viaduct is a 5 mile stretch of walking path. Kids bought eggs and were lobbing them at cars during rush hour.

I dialed 911 for the second time in a week. “911. What’s your emergency?”

“I’m standing at the 606 on Humboldt Boulevard, and I’m watching three or four kids toss eggs at cars.”

The man told me the police were on their way. I went home. And finished my day.

On Friday morning, my first alarm went off at 4:20 a.m. I groggily shuffled to the coffee maker, pre-loaded with ground beans and water, pushed the button to on. I woke Tina at 4:31, because her alarm didn’t go off. I brought her coffee. We dressed, fed the dogs and headed to our photo shoot to get sunrise shots around the Tribune Tower building.

We finished the job, were home by 3:30. We let the dogs out. Tina dropped me at the camera store to return the rented cart. And I walked home while she ran to the grocery store for dinner.

On my way back to our apartment, I passed a homeless looking dude on a bike. I spotted a rat cross over the curb and dart into someone’s yard. And a delivery truck pulled out from the space in front of our driveway.

“I love living in Chicago,” I whispered to myself.

“Love it.”

I’m old enough to remember the great Seat Belt Wars

Once cash penalties and insurance issues became a thing, it sucked all the holdouts on board.

I remember getting in an accident soon after seatbelts were implemented. My mom was driving. She proudly told everyone, “If it weren’t for the seatbelts, it could have ended very differently.”

I wonder how many people said something similar then, but would say something disparaging now about masks.

Politics have taken control of these simply non-political matters. If libraries, Interstate highway systems, dire departments, etc were announced today, that same population of non-maskers would scream “SOCIALISM!!!”

That day the Editor-at-Large of Breitbart posted a pro-vaccine op-ed and that liberals were the propagandists convincing right-wingers to avoid the vaccine

This is rich.

Breitbart’s own John Nolte – a guy so incredibly ungifted at the mental acrobatics for spinning views before face planting every time – posted an op-ed blaming the liberals for feeding right-wingers the narrative to avoid the vaccine so that they can kill off the opposition and win future elections.

Breitbart.

Breit fucking Bart.

Not a bright bulb in the bunch.

And yet now they’re trying to scramble to preserve their readership, because they’re watching readers drop like flies.

The comments are hilariously attacking Nolte as if they do not recognize him to be the author of all the fanfare of adoration on almost every other thing he posts. It shows they don’t know their own prey, and they’ll eat just about anything that moves with a tinge of what they perceive as politically oppositional.

From the op-ed:

Do you want to know why I think Howard Stern is going full-monster with his mockery of three fellow human beings who died of the coronavirus? Because leftists like Stern and CNNLOL and Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and Anthony Fauci are deliberately looking to manipulate Trump supporters into not getting vaccinated.

Nothing else makes sense to me.

Nothing else makes sense to you, John? Really? Not Heir Trump slamming masks, disregarding his own staff, getting covid himself, getting vaccinated?

This part looks like it was written by a liberal (hahahaha):

Right now, a countless number of Trump supporters believe they are owning the left by refusing to take a life-saving vaccine — a vaccine, by the way, everyone on the left has taken. Oh, and so has Trump.

Now think about this…

On this very day, about 1,000 people in the U.S. will die of the China Flu. How many of those lives could’ve been saved had they been vaccinated? Is it 998?

Is it 778?

Is it 229?

Does it matter?

And if the left is all vaccinated and we’re not, who’s winning?

So there you have it. This isn’t a conspiracy after all. People are dying, And the people who are dying are denying the vaccine and its efficacy.

They’re pushing horse paste, hydrocloriquine, vitamin C and prayer.

Of all the worthless approaches.

The answer to the prayer is sitting in a vial at your local drug store waiting for an arm to go in and save you.

Get SAVED, everybody.

See the light.

Have your body reborn with new ways to fight this deadly beast.

Or eat paste and pray.

I’ll leave with this:

The push for mandates is another ploy to get us to dig in and not do what’s best for ourselves because no one wants to feel like they’re caving to a mandate.

Final note: How many of you were aware the CDC believes that 99.5 percent of those dying are unvaccinated? I bet not many of you. So why would the metric that is the most convincing one not be all over the place? Once you learn that 99.5 percent of deaths are unvaccinated, it cuts through all the muck. That number is startling, an eye-opener… Forget cases, forget mandates, forget masks, and Howard Stern… When you learn that almost everyone dying is unvaccinated, that’s a come to Jesus moment.

I could be wrong.

Maybe the left isn’t that evil and sly.

But when I think of the unvaccinated lying there dying, being told by their doctor, “Sorry, there’s nothing more we can do to get enough oxygen to your lungs,” I don’t laugh. My heart breaks for that person. Imagine lying there dying thinking that all you had to do was get the Trump Vaccine.

Even if this isn’t the left’s plan, who’s owning who?

Well, look who just got pissed off

I don’t think I’ve commented directly on the Texas law obstructing women from abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, nor the ridiculous idea that Texans can report their neighbors, friends and Uber drivers and become eligible to sue said people for $10k.

But this fucking article here, this is what’s going to make me scream.

Because I was ground up and spit from years of abstinence education.

Years.

And it fucked me the fuck up.

And I’m a dude.

This whole idea that abstinence is going to remedy abortions in Texas or anywhere is ri-fucking-diculous.

I fully point toward abstinence education as a major contributing factor to my later-in-life marriage and subsequent lateness to fertility. And while I’ve grown past it, I still look back at it with great horror, hate, disdain and affliction.

Abstinence isn’t a “biblical” value. It’s a cultural one. As is all the fucking sex sins. They’re all made up to fuck the brains of American children to have a completely un-realistic view of the world and their places in it.

They’re all designed to make religious zealots think they’re making their Jesus smile.

And all those teachers who taught me that abstinence was godly and that sexual sins would literally kill me sit back today, if they’re still alive, and revel in the idea that they were somehow heroes to children and teenagers. Erstwhile they sent these poor minds into the collective shitter.

All for the imaginary thought picture that they made a deity they cannot see smile.

This is fucked up.

Fucked.

And these dumb men who push their views on girls, all to make their version of an invisible dude smile, will never cease to piss me off.

I wish it pissed you off.

This whole argument from Republicans/Libertarians about how they don’t want to take experimental vaccines or ones associated with fetal cell research, they’re all bonkers. And they probably think science is better if one attempts to keep a dick out of their daughters’ vaginas.

Meanwhile, rape, incest, and good old fashioned lust and sexual desire enter the scenarios that these assholes sitting behind desks cannot fathom nor understand.

Go Fuck Yourselves, Texas.

Go fuck yourself, Jonathan Mitchell.

And anyone pushing this abstinence cures abortion narrative.

Fuck you every which way.

Space-Time Continuum vs. Answered Prayer

There are some truths that are truer than others.

One is that if you lose something that you knew you had last week, order a replacement on Amazon, and you’ll find the thing you lost within 2 to 24 hours. If it’s not found in that time frame, you’ll find it within 24 hours of its delivery.

Another one is: nobody gives a shit about your dreams.

Any sentence that opens with, “I had a dream last night,” renders immediate disinterest and the potential listener turns the little sign on his or her door to, “Do Not Disturb.”

Continue reading “Space-Time Continuum vs. Answered Prayer”

“The Texas Switch”

The Texas Switch is a technique used in cinematography, VFX, and stunts where a character does an incredible or elaborate stunt that invisibly transitions from lead actor to stunt performer through clever staging and camera movement. 

This will still go way over their heads … but let’s try presenting the math …

California: Elder claims voter fraud in an election that hasn’t yet happened

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Demoralize. Demonize. Defraud. Diminish. Destroy.

Usher in a dictator.

Pathetic.

The open up your ammo box in response to imaginary fraud is perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever read.