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  • 08/11/15--05:58: Bags are Packed, Ready to Go
  • Hey y'all! I'm up early this morning, all excited because I fly to Oregon today. It was just about a month ago that I wrote the blog that started this whole thing. I could not have done it without your support, because I did not have much support on the ground here. People were mad at me for leaving. It was difficult. But as Elsa sings in the great film Frozen,"Its funny how some distance makes everything seem small. And the fears that once controlled me can't get to me at all. It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through. No right, no wrong, no rules for me....I'm free..."

    It will shock you to discover, I am sure, that I am a flawed human being with all sorts of foibles and quirks, character flaws and so forth. There have been times over the past month when I was seized by fear and doubt. But I remembered Shackleton, going on in the face of certain destruction with a smile, and I heard him whisper to me from last-century Antarctica, "Never give up..." and so I kept going, pinched nerve and all. I had a plan that I had worked out with advice from my elders, so I trusted that plan and followed it, and now everything has been taken care of and this evening I will be going to bed on the left coast.

    My revolution starts now. And the hard work starts now as well, finding a home and a job and a circle of friends in Eugene. This will be difficult and require much effort from me in ways that are not always comfortable for me, like being social and making small talk with lots of strangers. Filling out dozens of job applications with the same information and making eye contact with managers while offering a firm handshake. Looking at houses and apartments and trying to read potential housemates in a ten-minute meeting.

    It will also be fun and exciting and twenty degrees cooler than South Carolina. I remember how the fog hangs low on the cedars. I remember the quality  of light and the way the air smelled. I look forward to getting to know my new home.

    The way I've been feeling the past few days reminds me of when I first started skydiving. It's such a sensory overload when they open the door of the plane ten thousand feet up and you feel the wind and the cold rushing through and it just seems impossible that you might jump out. Laughable. But there you are, booted foot on the step, gloved hands on the strut, outside the plane and away, even though the whole time part of your mind is screaming NO NO NO NO NO. You're terrified, but you go on in spite of the fear. That is how we do as human beings. It's amazing, really, that we can ignore our instincts that way and leap into the unknown even if mortal peril seems certain. It is how progress happens.

    So send me your vibrations of lovingkindness, your prayers and meditations and kindly thoughts. They will be my parachute as I exit the plane of Columbia for the madly rushing sensory overload of Eugene. Here we go!

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  • 08/19/15--15:11: Finding Myself in Oregon
  • I have now been in Oregon for a week, and it is completely amazing! I arrived last Tuesday and was met at the airport by my Air BnB host, Annemarie, who whisked me off to a comfortable room. It is just beautiful here, with blue skies and warm temperatures, but I keep hearing the natives comment on the smoke in the air. I can see it too, when I look at the distant horizon, a brownish layer in the air. It's the wildfires all over the Northwest. When I lived in Oregon years ago, I kept remarking on how green everything was. Now, the Emerald City is more yellow and brown. Some of this is because it's August, and soon the rains will begin and things will get greener. But the drought makes itself felt here in an obvious way. The wildfires are getting close.

    It's like a different country here compared to South Carolina. In the South, when I see a person who is sporting some visual cue of a progressive mindset in their clothing, accessories, or body modification, I am cheered. I have a feeling of, "There goes another of my tribe." I feel safer, just a bit. I think this is a very human thing; although we value our uniqueness, we also want to feel included. Here in Eugene, nearly everyone I see looks like a member of my tribe. My tribe includes alt folks of many, many stripes, spots, and plaids; all of the denizens of the Island of Misfit Toys and their families, friends, and allies. So many people are flying a freak flag of one subculture or another, it has the effect of making everybody look familiar to me. Add to that the West Coast habit of cheerful greetings to strangers and I feel right at home here, very welcomed.

    I really enjoyed Saturday Market! I was entirely blown away, became overwhelmed, and had to back off and observe for a while with a delicious cucumber juice. I cannot believe they do this every week! It's the most amazing craft fair and farmer's market ever. It's like a giant Grateful Dead concert venue parking lot, but with more vegetables and old people. It was incredibly crowded. I will have to strategically attend very early to avoid the chaos. All of the beautiful handcrafted things made me brainstorm about what I could someday make and sell. While there, I ran into the Bernie people and exchanged contact info with them. Apparently there are a few more people involved here than back in SC.

    I rented a temporary room from a gentleman named Charlie who owns several rental properties. He's a world traveler who enjoys exotic destinations on the cheap. Now that he has Obamacare, there's no need for him to hold down a regular job for the health insurance. He can work when he needs to and travel as much as he likes. Thanks, Democrats!

    I've been learning my way around town and making new friends. One challenge that I have is a pinched nerve in my neck. Thanks to the lovely Kossacks, I was able to seek medical attention for this, because the pain is excruciating and debilitating. Because I can't straighten my neck, interacting with strangers is awkward. When I meet a new person, I have to explain my scrunched-up posture right away. The doctor said that yes, it is really bad, maybe a ruptured disc, and I need an MRI right away, and until then, DO NOT ride a bicycle, or do anything bumpy, and rest it and ice it and BE VERY CAREFUL. So I am trying to follow those directions while still doing the footwork toward finding a permanent home, a temporary job, and eventually a professional job. I have already applied for Oregon Health Plan, and that's about all I can do toward getting an MRI. In the meantime, I am gaining valuable experience that will help me to understand people who live with chronic pain. It is frustrating, however, that I'm not able to get out there and see things and meet people as much as I'd like.

    In my job search, I am leaning toward agencies that work with the poorest of the poor. Now that I have all this personal experience in living in abject poverty, I want to put it to use to help people. There are several agencies here that I'm interested in who are tackling various aspects of homelessness. They seem to post multiple openings pretty regularly, which is good because I've had luck in the past with just letting an agency know I want to work there and will start anywhere they have a space. I'm applying for everything I'm qualified for, though. It's been a long time since I worked in my field and I'm not picky. There seem to be many entry-level mental health openings though, which makes me optimistic. And the minimum wage is two dollars higher here, while rents are a little less, so I'm hopeful. The neck thing is causing delays though, and I am trying not to stress about it, but I do.

    Thank you to everyone who supported my move! I am comfortable and safe, and things are proceeding pretty much on schedule, although I feel thwarted by my neck problem. But when is life ever easy? My spirits are good, although I feel unsettled, I think I am coping pretty well with lots of support from my friends. I am really happy to be here! I will keep you all posted as I stumble along the road of happy destiny!

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    Hi, I’m lonely and desperate! The age I’ve listed is a lie, by the way, but since you’re lying about your age too, consider it self-defense. My height, that’s the truth, but I’m using a neutral-sounding adjective to indicate that I’m fat, although I’m going to tell you that I’m on a diet and get plenty of exercise. In actuality I hate stairs and avoid the outdoors like the plague. But I’m going to pretend to like whatever you like, so you won’t figure that out for a couple of months. That’s okay, because you’re going to be pretending you’re not actually kind of a selfish dick during that same time period. The picture I send you, like yours, will be several years old and feature me during a rare attractive period. You might as well just ignore it. From my personal history, I’m looking for a man with pretty severe emotional issues, like maybe someone who is so insecure he will need my constant attention and ego boosts. Get pissed if I don’t text back within five minutes, that sort of thing. He should be absolutely unequal to me intellectually, and devoted to something I consider a waste of time, like NASCAR or drug dealing. Bonus points for some nefarious scheme of low-key non-physical abuse, or psycho ex-girlfriends he still contacts daily. I’m going to say I can’t wait to meet you, but put you off and even cancel a few times. Since we have nothing in common, our conversation will consist of superficial flirting. On our date, you will spend the time entirely preoccupied with getting laid, since you haven’t gotten any in over a year. I will wear something uncomfortable that makes me fidget, increasing my anxiety until I become just a little hysterical. Both of us will be so distracted by the chaos inside our heads that we learn absolutely nothing about each other, yet we will persist and enter an awkward, tension-filled alliance for the apparent purpose of joyless, mechanical sex (for which you undoubtedly need Viagra and an hour of vigorous attention from me.) After a couple of months, our veneer of kindness and empathy will have deteriorated and all we’ll do is bicker, until one of us gets sick of it and storms off. Then we’ll spend three months complaining to our friends about how horrible the other person was, then forget about it and start dating someone else.

    Have a nice weekend.

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    Mr. Robot
    Black Mirror
    Two television shows portraying a dystopian near future have recently come to my attention as being thought-provoking, well-done, and critical of the status quo. Yet the two shows are very different in tone and appearance.

    In Mr. Robot, a quirky young computer genius named Elliot copes with the tedium and life stressors of the modern corporate world. But his abilities have drawn special interest, and he's being drawn into an alternate world of resistance. Black Mirror is a British anthology series; each episode stands alone like a short movie, but they all depict possible futures marked by advanced technology.

    Black Mirror has the Hitchcockian feel of psychological suspense, tinged with a dark hilarity that feels almost out of control. In the pilot episode, Britain's most popular princess is being brutalized by a vicious kidnapper who demands that the Prime Minister have sex with a pig on national television. It sounds like the set-up to a bad joke, but as the clock ticks down and options run out, tension mounts both within the government and on the streets. It's like somebody is sitting next to you and blowing up a balloon very, very slowly. Filled with rotting fecal matter.

    Another episode follows a couple through a dinner party as their relationship dissolves in a future where all memories are preserved on an implant called a grain. Memories can be played back to settle an argument, to get feedback on a performance, or, problematically, used as porn. The hostility palpably cranks up between the two as they interact in a series of increasingly spare and linear interiors, until the inevitable violence erupts.

    Black Mirror has a polished feel. The future is touchscreen video perfect. Characters inhabit spaces that are controlled and man-made. The sense of artificiality is heightened by within-story advertising that looks and sounds creepily familiar. People seem less than organic in these spaces; less than human, blank, vapid. It's a kind of death within an ongoing human life. I guess this is not your show if you like things to be uplifting and hopeful. But if you're a fan of science fiction or black humor and the post-apocalypse is your jam, you'll find Black Mirror both thought-provoking and satisfactorily disturbing.

    Elliot's world in Mr. Robot is a more familiar one. He lives in a crappy city apartment and rides a dirty subway to his shitty corporate cube farm job, where his boss nags him about the dress code and his coworkers annoy him with pointless small talk. The people around him are all pretty much messed-up in one banal way or another. Elliot narrates directly to the camera, which he calls his "invisible friend." His mental health and addiction issues are immediately apparent. Here's the unreliable narrator in all his misleading glory.

    Elliot doesn't have a lot of dialogue outside his narration, but Rami Malek is so expressive with his face and body language that viewers feel as if they are inside Elliot's head. However, that's not always a sane or happy place to be. Much of the show takes place at night; it's literally a dark show. Christian Slater is in it. That's how dark it is. There are not enough synonyms for sarcastic in the English language to describe Christian Slater on-screen.

    This show is blatantly anti-capitalist. Mr. Robot enlists Elliot to help save the world by eliminating everybody's debt through the simple means of wiping out all of the pertinent data. (I am told this is not actually possible as described in the show, to keep us all from doing that. Very important for national security.) His best friend suffers with student loan debt she can't pay, and both their parents were killed by industrial pollution when they were kids. Elliot even has to wear shirts with collars to work. Obviously he has reasons to be angry at The Man, here called Evil Corp.

    As a person with Asperger's I identify strongly with Elliot, although that's never mentioned. His way of showing affection is kind of weird--he hacks into everyone's various data files and learns all about their lives, sometimes turning in a pervert, sometimes doing somebody a favor. His self-talk is eerily similar to mine, as are his non-standard social interactions. Yet it's obvious, to me at least, that Elliot loves his friends and cares deeply about what happens to them. He isn't cold at all, just more detached that most people are used to. It doesn't mean a connection is not there.

    Black Mirror is easily available on Netflix, but Mr. Robot is a USA show, so you might have to pirate it, but that will be really quick as there are thousands of seeders. If you plan to watch Mr. Robot, do yourself a favor and don't Google it. Spoilers are rife.

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    Not evil. Just confused.
    We get so angry at the individuals who act out right-wing talking points in their lives like Kim Davis. It's been making me uncomfortable and I've figured out why: they've been hoodwinked, bamboozled, and are acting on inaccurate information that they believe to be true because it came from a trusted source: a news network. It's not their fault.

    I'm not old enough to be sure, but I've gotten the impression that in the long-ago, journalists were expected to tell the truth. If they lied or made an error, they were expected to correct it. Now there is an entire news network anchoring a vast system of deliberate misinformation. And people are paying the price.

    Mike Halstead, police chief in Surf City, North Carolina, has been forced to resign after posting a lengthy Facebook rant on why Black Lives Matter is a hate group and cops should shoot first, ask questions later.

    When a black thug is killed by the police they are all over it as is Mr. Barack Obama. However when a police officer white, black or any race is murdered for doing his job the media is short with it’s reporting or not at all. When a white person is killed by a black officer you hear nothing. Has our so called President spoke publicly about these murders of police officers by blacks, HELL NO he has not. I have instructed my officers to be vigilant, if threatened take appropriate action. If that means shoot a thug, then do it and answer for it while you are still alive not dead. Law Enforcement is fed up with this murderous society who want to take out those who protect and serve.
    That's just a sample. It goes on and on. He lost his job for it, which seems appropriate, but this keeps happening. People believe the propaganda, act on it, and are then entirely puzzled when they get in trouble. They don't understand why, because in their minds these are simple, proven facts. They saw it on the news, after all. It's not Bill O'Reilly sitting in jail or facing unemployability, it's his victims.
    I want to thank you all for your support. I was forced to retire or be terminated. I had to beg for a 60 day severance to feed my family. That was the thanks I got from those I thought were family, I was thrown under the bus for expressing my 1st amendment rights and speaking the truth and concerns for law enforcement.
    He doesn't understand what he did wrong, because he believed what the media told him about the War on Cops, just like many keep acting on their belief in the War on Christians. Neither of these things are true, but Fox News keeps repeating the lies as if repetition can make them true, which works great on people who don't know how to evaluate information.

    Why is this allowed to go on, unfettered? Why doesn't Fox News have a label that says, "For entertainment purposes only"? There seem to be no standards for journalism these days, as we've seen with the fawning 24/7 Trumpnothingburger coverage. When a politician lies on camera, why doesn't anyone pull out their phone and say, "Let me google that for you"? How do we destroy the transmitter that is keeping our neighbors in thrall to evil? Could someone explain this to me like I'm five?

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    Chris Hedges gave a speech yesterday at a Green Party event in California. I find it so relevant and important that I hope everyone will head over to Truthdig and read it. Here's an appetizer:
    A bankrupt liberal class, holding up values it does nothing to defend, discredits itself as well as the purported liberal values of a civil democracy as it is swept aside, along with those values. In this moment, a political, economic or natural disaster—in short a crisis—will ignite unrest, lead to instability and see the state carry out draconian forms of repression to maintain “order.” This is what lies ahead.

    We will, as Friedrich Engels wrote, make a transition to either socialism or barbarism. If we do not dismantle global capitalism we will descend into the Hobbesian chaos of failed states, mass migrations—which we are already witnessing—and endless war. Populations, especially in the global South, will endure misery and high mortality rates caused by collapsing ecosystems and infrastructures on a scale not seen since perhaps the black plague. There can be no accommodation with global capitalism. We will overthrow this system or be crushed by it. And at this moment of crisis we need to remind ourselves what being a socialist means and what it does not mean.

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  • 09/23/15--14:02: Half of America is Poor
  • How can we help you?
    As I'm reading about poverty, I keep seeing a figure of about 45 million people counted in the American poor. That's the number of people under the poverty line, as determined by the federal government. The way they come up with that figure has been entirely discredited, and recently a supplemental poverty measure was introduced, moving the figure closer to 50 million, which is a much smaller slice of American society than seems to be suffering and needing help. Still, there are complaints that there are actually fewer poor people than that, because of the value of the benefits they receive from our inadequate social safety net. So how many Americans really are living in poverty? I think the answer is about half. The entire American median income, around $50,000, is nearly consumed by the necessary American expenditures. Therefore, half of America lives in poverty or in near-poverty conditions of scarcity. Of course, if you are a person of color, it is much worse. American net worth went from $12 trillion to $77 trillion over twenty-five years. But the median African-American income went down during that same period! Unconscionable! When you see "45 million" or hear "15%" in poverty, that seems like a small slice. However, the scope of the problem is much, much larger. Many of the people are suffering, but they smile and smile, they do their jobs, and they mostly, sincerely want you to have a great day.

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    President Obama visited with federal prisoners last Thursday. He talked with six inmates during filming of a Vice special on criminal justice reform that airs Sunday on HBO.
    The visit was the first by any sitting president to a federal corrections facility, and came amid a week of actions and events highlighting the inequities of a system that he said disproportionately affects minority communities and is costing taxpayers too much, while rehabilitation rates for prisoners remain too low.
    Obama told reporters the men he met were not that different from himself.
    When they describe their youth and their childhood, these are young people who made mistakes that aren't that different from the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made. The difference is, they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.
    I can't wait to see this special. There's something really amazing about watching this clip of our sitting president speak so warmly and show so much empathy with people our society has condemned as worthless. I consider our criminal justice system to be far beyond broken, so it's important that President Obama is focusing attention on this issue, not by making a big speech to people in suits, but by sitting down and learning about the lives of the people who are affected.

    The GOP has been trying for thirty years to convince us all that voting Republican is the Christian thing to do, and many Americans believe it. But their policies are so far away from being Christlike, I wonder why more people haven't noticed. In the Bible, Jesus says there will be a quiz in Heaven about how you treat the poor:

    For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me. Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you? And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
    These Republican politicians are obviously not following Jesus Christ, and I don't understand how they get away with pretending that they are.

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    As you may know, I've been zoning in on a focus for my poverty book. I'm still in the middle of an ambitious immersion journalism project wherein I've been living in abject poverty for almost ten years. It's so authentic. I've been researching poverty academically for a year, I'm ready to go. What I want to do is give a voice to the very poor. There are a LOT of homeless people here in Eugene, and they are from all over. They are very diverse in age and background (and level of sanity.) I've been hanging out with them, just chatting, since I got here. I want their stories to be told. What if I...

    What if I passed out numerous notebooks and asked people to write a few pages of their story and then pass the notebook to someone else? I just got a job doing political polling downtown right by the bus station, which is where I've been kicking it with my homeless friends, so I'm going to be around there a lot. People could just hand me their pages, or maybe I could put a collection folder at the library? The library is right there too and everyone goes in there every day. Also, I could set up an email that's really easy to remember, because some people have internet access, like our homeless Kossack brothers and sisters.

    Okay, maybe I could make up an info sheet and laminate it to both covers of the notebook, and tie a string with a pen, and put the whole thing in a zip bag. I could also just pass out the info sheet if I don't have enough notebooks. Remember, I don't buy new things, but the thrift stores are full of old half-used notebooks. The info sheet could have some writing prompts like, "What's your typical day like?" and "What do you wish the American people knew about your life?"

    Then I could collect them, post them here, eventually publish them, and learn a lot about our homeless brothers and sisters in the process. This is where my superpower comes into play: I read about five times faster than a normal human. People's handwriting might be a challenge, but not insurmountable. Also, I have found that sharing my story makes me more mentally healthy. Maybe it would be the same for the folks who participated in my project.

    Does this seem like a workable and worthy project? Do you think I would get enough pages to work with? Is there anything unethical I'm not seeing, or am I failing to be compassionate in any way? Thanks as always for your invaluable attention, care and advice. This community keeps me strong!

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  • 10/06/15--09:18: My New Political Polling Job
  • Now that I'm a pollster, it's incomprehensible to me that the data I'm producing is actually useful to anyone. We almost always call land lines, which a lot of people don't even have anymore. Eighty percent of the time there's no answer, and when it is answered, the person on the other end doesn't want to talk to me. Usually they just hang up, but some people are kind enough to understand I am human, and I need to be loved, so they make an excuse. Don't tell me you're in the middle of dinner if what you mean is don't call back, because I will definitely call back. So the people who actually take the survey are a tiny fraction of America.

    Unsurprisingly, calling red states is different from calling blue states. People in Texas are meaner, more suspicious,and much more likely to be angry at me personally, but in Maine they speak to me kindly, even if I am bothering them, and they don't accuse me of nefarious motives. Red Staters are paranoid, y'all. They are scared of everything. They are absolutely sure that everyone they encounter is trying to screw them over in some way. They idle at outrage.

    I've talked to about 90% Republicans, and it is very, very sad. They hate Obama, but they don't know why. When I attempt to probe and clarify, they aren't able to come up with anything specific. Further attempts to elicit information are interpreted as attacks, and they become defensive and angry. Democrats, on the other hand, are able to name a policy or program they oppose when talking about their Republican senator.

    I haven't talked to any Democrats about why they are supporting their presidential candidate, but I've talked to a bunch of Republicans, and they're all over the map. None of them has chosen Trump, thank God. Nobody's picked Jeb! either. They can't tell you why they support their candidate with anything specific. They use vague, emotional language like "honorable" and "strong moral values." Several people have told me Ben Carson is smart and reasonable.

    One thing they all agree on is that poor people don't deserve help. They will go on and on about this, the welfare, the food stamps, the beer and cigarettes. They will complain that the poor have it easy and that there are too many homeless people stinking up the sidewalks in the same breath. The hatred and anger they direct at poor people is staggering. Often they mention that poor people from other places are coming to their nice town for handouts and screwing everything up. They believe the poor don't want to work, and are actively seeking a lifestyle of freeloading, and that this makes them evil. It's scary to hear.

    Of course I'm not allowed to refute any of this, and I can't ask the questions that I want to ask that might help me to understand why so many Americans are this way. Is it new? Has it changed? Has the American public always been so resentful and seething and bitter? These are not rhetorical questions. I want to know. I feel bad for these people, actually. They have the shittiest mental health of any group in America, being both delusional and filled with rage. Aren't we morally obligated to help them in some way? They are obviously in distress and not in their right minds. They need help.

    In spite of all this, I like the job for now. Since no one wants to talk to me, nearly all my time is spent listening to answering machines and hang-ups while I read, write, text my friends, or do crafts. It's AWESOME. I might make a chain-mail cape. Thanks for reading!

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    So grateful, and ready to give back!
    Yesterday I woke up with a scratchy throat and cough. If I had still been in South Carolina, there wouldn't have been anything I could do about it. I would have had to go to work sick, at a grocery story, mind you, and possibly infect my coworkers and customers. In Oregon, however, I called in sick. The minimum wage is so much higher here, and the work is so plentiful at my job (thanks, Donald Trump) that it was no problem. I was much worse today, so I called in sick again. Back in the South, I could not have done that; I'd have gotten fired! Here, I do need a doctor's note, but that's no problem, because I have Oregon Health Plan. Peace Health Medical Group, my provider, even provides an urgent care clinic for the weekends, which has a location quite near my home. I just walked over there, waited a bit, spoke with a very nice doctor who listened to my lungs and tut-tutted warmly, went into Fred Meyer and got my medication, and came home. I know that sounds like a very normal thing to do when one is sick, but for me, it's a freaking miracle. I feel so lucky to have this very, very simple care for my health. I mean, I kind of feel crappy because I have bronchitis, but I can rest easy with the proper medication, knowing that nobody at my job is mad at me, and that I can go back when I feel better. I don't have to work or else starve, because I have food stamps. I can also have healthy food to eat, fresh fruits and vegetables. This week, I will see my primary doctor for the first time, and hopefully get ahead of my health problems, repair the damage that's been done, and start living a full, healthy , active life again.

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    The tiny house I'm saving up for
    Hey y'all, having left the South, things have changed. Most importantly, I have health care! It's pretty good except for the long waits. I have a pinched nerve that turned out to result from two ruptured discs in my neck. The physical therapist examined me and worked me over but seemed to despair of being able to do anything at all with my neck. "There's no stretch at all," he said worriedly. He was very kind and definitely wanted to help me but could offer only ameliorative pain therapy, which made me cry, y'all. It really did. It was just so nice to be in a clean, well-appointed medical office instead of a shabby free clinic, as if one could ever get into a free clinic, and have a medical professional take care of my injury with concern and professional hands. I have to see a neurosurgeon because my neck, it is FUBAR. Every med person I see keeps asking me if I was in a car wreck. No, I was not. My friend asked me, "Do you think it could be the headbanging in high school? What about the skydiving? Any caving injuries you recall?" I have no idea. Maybe I stressed myself so hard I created a blunt force trauma musculo-skeletal injury. That is pretty impressive fucking stress, I have to say. It had been building a long, long time, and if I had stayed in South Carolina, why, I really think I would be homeless by now or maybe even dead. It was that serious, for me to get out. I am so grateful to everyone who helped make it happen.

    I don't see the neurosurgeon, who will hopefully only do some sort of shot in my neck, I'm trying to not worry about that part, until the day before Thanksgiving! Quite a wait, but it is free, so I'm not complaining. I also saw my primary doc who prescribed me all the meds I'm used to having, plus prednisone that I am afraid to take because insomnia is the first listed side effect. Then I went over to my local evil corporate big-box store pharmacy and they just handed me all my meds. For free.

    In South Carolina I was paying several hundred dollars a month for my medications, and that was just the psych meds. I didn't even have a primary doc and had to do a lot of footwork just to keep myself in blood pressure meds. You would think they would be handing out blood pressure medication for free in South Carolina since it is one of the fattest states and probably has lots of high blood pressure. Also, a little cheap medication now can prevent a very expensive twenty or thirty year stay in an assisted living facility after I have a stroke, not to mention the emotional cost to my friends and family, and the societal loss of the benefit I would have been to my community, had I been healthy. It's unconscionable, and I don't see how the leadership of the red states can sit in church on Sunday without squirming under the gaze of the stained-glass Christ.

    Even if health care was the only benefit that would be great, but I'm also making $10.25 an hour doing basically nothing, that is, political polling surveys, which I enjoy doing anyway, if I ever get someone willing to take a survey, which very rarely happens. (Yes, we are hiring.) While listening to answering machines and beginning my spiel so people can hang up on me, I read, make notes for my book about poverty, write, write letters, text my friends and family, and do crafts. I make jewelry, prep sewing projects and now, flower crowns. I only use upcycled materials, of course. These things I will sell when I have enough to make a craft-show display. I'll probably move on to a third and fourth project, depending on how long it takes me to get a counseling job.

    The great thing about not having to worry about having health insurance is that people can take any job they like and work as little as pleases them, spending time with children or aging parents or doing art or activism and still have health care, as long as they don't mind living simply. As we know, this is good for the economy (we don't really need everyone to work), and I think, good for the soul. In generally the vibe is just more positive here. People are happier. They make more at their jobs, even if the jobs suck, and they can spend more at places where other people have jobs. It's just a big job creation machine that never stops working, because the more people you have, the more stuff and food and services and day care and haircuts they need, and that just makes MORE JOBS! It's beautiful!

    I have been applying for counseling jobs and going to interviews and have focused on one place in particular that serves homeless kids, and I think they will hire me, but the wheels of bureaucracy grind exceedingly slow. It's going to be great to be working with disadvantaged young people again. I can hardly wait.

    I am also making friends with the homeless people I see every day, trying to understand what their lives are live and reach out to them. I see the cops hassle them, like they have anywhere to go or anything to do with their time. I see professionals walk by them like they're invisible. I sit down with them, and I become invisible too! It's a weird feeling. You should try it! Just go up to some homeless peeps, it helps if you have cigarettes to share, and ask if you can sit with them. I bet they will welcome you. Don't ask stupid questions like, "So, how did you become homeless?" Ask their name and where they're from, ask how their day is going. (I recommend you avoid the more mentally unstable ones at first.) They are regular human beings, and they need to be loved! Just like anyone else does. It's great if you donate food and clothes, or write checks or go to benefits, or volunteer. Please, though, just look a homeless brother or sister in the eye today and smile. Say, "How are you doing today?" And then listen to whatever they tell you. Then say, "I hope you have a good day. Be safe out there! See you later!" Introduce yourself, they're you're neighbors, for God's sake. Please. Just see them.

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    I started working at a political polling firm on 10/2/15. On my application I indicated that I had a disability, and on the first day I went to the HR person to tell her about my Asperger's syndrome. I was pleasantly surprised that she knew what it was. I asked for more flexibility with breaks and lunches and she said that would be fine. I warned her about what happens when I "go aspie" and that it's best at those times to let me go outside so I can do my meditation practice for a few minutes and return to equilibrium. She said that was fine too, and that she would share the info as appropriate. She asked for documentation and I told her I wasn't seeing my PCP until the 15th but I would request it then. She said fine.

    I've been having pain from a pinched nerve for about three months. The wheels of medicine turn very slowly. I finally had an MRI on October 2, but didn't hear the results til the next week or so. I have two ruptured discs in my neck that are basically crushing all the nerves in my left arm anytime i lift my chin off my chest. It's very, very painful and distressing, but I still worked as much as I could, and when I couldn't, I had a doctor's excuse. But I really need to be working! I have a Master's degree but it takes 3-6 months to get a professional job. I've had several interviews though, and I know where I want to work--the homeless youth shelter--so I was happy to work at this place until I found a job that was a good fit with my professional skills. I discussed this at the interview and she said that was fine. During my first week, several supervisors complimented me on my skills. When I got my first paycheck, I was surprised to discover I was in the top 5% of performers and thus got $10.25 an hour. That's a three-dollar raise from South Carolina.  Also, I enjoyed the work and was good at it. All was well, except I couldn't sit at my desk in a position that was comfortable for my neck, arm, and shoulder. So I went to HR again and explained the situation. She said I could bring something in to help or use what was in the office. I told her I wanted to sit with my feet in a second chair. She said that wasn't possible because it would block the aisles and that's a fire hazard. I told her I would look around the office and figure something out.

    I tried a stool under my desk, but that didn't work because my knees needed to be higher. There was no way to put my knees under my desk. Now, the cubette farm is always at least a third full because their number of employees changes with the election season, but my neck should be fixed, or I'll have a new job, within six weeks. So I figured out if I sat in a corner, facing into the corner, with my feet on a second chair and my keyboard on my lap, monitor positioned where I could see it, that worked perfect, I was as comfortable as possible. It would require the desk beside me be unoccupied, but usually half the desks are unoccupied, so I figured, sorted, and went to see HR.

    HR was not in her office but the Boss was. I'd heard the Boss was hell on wheels etc but never had a problem with her. I waited my turn, sat in the chair in front of her desk, and began to explain the situation, what HR had said, what I'd tried, and so forth, but she very quickly began to scream at me that what I was saying was not possible, that we would have to buy a lot of new fancy equipment, and so forth. I was puzzled, it was as if she wasn't even listening to the particulars of what I was saying, and she was getting angrier and angrier. It seemed so strange that a professional manager, who employs multiple autistic people, would be talking to me like this, so I asked her if she knew I had Asperger's and she said yes. I pointed out my top-performer status and she had a sarcastic comment for that. I should add that she was yelling at the top of her lungs, other people were in and out of her office, and there were plenty of people hanging out right outside the open door, hearing everything. By this point they were mouthing "WTF?" at each other and a bit of a crowd had gathered. I again attempted to explain that all I needed was one empty desk next to me and one extra chair and to sit in a corner, and she exploded, screaming, "THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU! YOU JUST WANT TO SIT BY YOURSELF SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO INTERACT WITH ANYONE!"

    If you yourself don't have a mental illness or love someone who does, this might not sound so terrible a thing to yell at someone, but it is just about the most horrible thing you can yell at me, give my particular history of undiagnosed Asperger's. I lost it. I went Aspie, I'm unclear on what followed, I know I tried to hide because that's what I do, I'm shaking now writing about it. EVERYBODY WORKING THERE SAW ME HAVE THIS HUMILIATING FREAKOUT. Somehow I got out of there and outside and after I spent several minutes getting control of my breathing, shaking, etc, I called my friend who is disabled and has dealt with a lot of this stuff. He told me go back upstairs, tell them you are a disabled person and you believe your rights have been violated, so you're going home, and then leave. So I did that. It was really hard to do because I was sort of having an extended moderately functional panic attack, which is how I spent much of my childhood.

    I left and I found two elderly unhoused gentlemen right there and sat with them, because I couldn't walk. They were very kind and listened to me cry and commiserated and cussed out my boss for me and made up terrible things they would do to her, given the chance, until I was okay to walk to the bus stop. Went home to bed.

    The next day, still shaking and crying, I called the Center for Disability Rights, the Bureau of Labor and Something, and a couple of lawyers, and corporate HR. Everybody listened to the story and said they'd call me back. Corporate HR called me back and wanted the story again, said they'd call back again. All this time I'm shaking and crying. The the Boss called me, just as sweet as potato pie, wanting to know when it would be a good time for us to meet to plan the accommodations they were going to provide for my temporary disability. I told her I was expecting to hear from HR and she said this is that call, and I told her I didn't want to talk to her and to have HR call me back. Hasn't happened. The thing is, I can't go back to that place and work there after that experience. I don't want my job back. I want the Boss to pay for abusing an autistic person, so she never does it again, and I want the company to pay because they continued to employ her even though her foul temper was well-known.

    The Disability Rights people are sending me some sort of intake packet, and the Bureau of Labor and Whatever has a similar snail-mail process, and the first lawyer I called said they are just too busy to take it, but keep trying other lawyers, so I called another lawyer, and told the story AGAIN, with the whole shaking and crying AGAIN, just like I am shaking and crying RIGHT NOW. But haven't heard back from that call either.

    I saw my doctor the day after because I was a mess, and talked to my counselor on the phone. I'm still pretty freaked out about it and don't really want to go in there to get my last check Monday. And now I have to find a job again, which means more lags in the money flow. I've been making stuff like crazy but this is Eugene. Handcrafts are everywhere, and busking doesn't work here either. So I'm pretty worried about the short term, although not the long term, because that feels secure to me now. I will get a counseling job, and I will have a safe place to live, and I will have a life that's fulfilling and interesting and full of love. Already, even with all this SHIT, I still feel better off here, I'm still happier that I was in South Carolina. So the mission was a success!

    I'm hoping to get some advice on what my next steps should be. I don't really want to win a big settlement or whatever, but I want that woman and the company that hired her to know that you can't abuse autistic people like that. When properly supported, we can be great employees and really good at our jobs. We have a right to be involved in the workforce and to feel productive and support ourselves through our own labor like everyone else. We shouldn't have to worry that work will be a dangerous place for us. I've never been active in the mentally-ill rights stuff, but now I see why it's so important. I will bounce back eventually. Someone else might be literally destroyed and never work again. Who knows, maybe I'll have a fear of call centers now! Thanks for reading, y'all. Any advice is appreciated because I have no idea what to do next.

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    Like every good-hearted American, the events of the past few weeks and months have been increasingly discouraging and depressing for me. All of the videos, some of which I can’t first I tried to watch them all. I wanted to bear witness. But it was too much. I watch the moms and families, listen to them talk about their loved one, bear witness to that instead of the violence. It is heartbreaking. Maybe because of my autism, I’ve always felt the pain of all humanity. Maybe everyone can feel humanity’s pain and they can ignore it. I don’t know, I’ve only ever been me, and since I was a little kid I was deeply, deeply concerned about the state of civilization. It’s gotten louder. The population has doubled during my lifetime; if it seems more crowded to you over-40’s, that’s because it is. But it has also gotten louder because when I was a kid, there weren’t stores filled with cheap imported goods made under unthinkable conditions that are for all intents and purposes modern slavery. But I digress. 

    I was trying to explain the situation to my Brazilian friend. I told him that my people, white Americans, especially white Southern Americans, do not understand that black people are human. We of a certain age were mostly raised to believe in offensive, subhuman stereotypes about our neighbors and schoolmates. Most of us figured it out when we started school, but there are still a lot of white people, I am ashamed to say, who hold these views. This leads my people to unfortunately devalue the lives of our black brothers and sisters, even when they don’t understand that they’re doing it. It’s like pointing out water to a fish. Therefore, we have to remind them that black lives matter too, just as much as white lives. It is so very hard for my people to learn this, that is has to be repeated over and over.

    What I can’t get my head around is that this has been happening all along. It took a while to really sink in. The violence isn’t new, it’s the citizen journalists who are new. The videos are new. The deaths have been happening all along. And black people have been trying to tell white America for years that this was happening, and have been frustrated in their efforts. We wouldn’t listen. We ignored it, and enabled it, and tacitly approved it. How many people have died while we were turning away? It is unthinkable, for me. I am ashamed of the color of my skin right now. And I’m amazed that black Americans have been so patient, so determined, so relatively nonviolent in their response to the oppression. My brothers and sisters, I am in awe. And I am woke.

    Maybe there should be a #WhiteMindsCanChange movement. It’s going to be hard to change white attitudes; it permeates our culture so thoroughly. I believe that enlightened white people have a duty to whitesplain this to any unreconstructed racist they encounter. (Do not attempt if subject is armed.) This racism, it’s a white problem and white people are going to have to solve it. We can’t expect the black community to fix it; we built it. And besides, they have other stuff to do. Like grieve, and comfort one another.

    As we all know, racist attitudes are now getting worse because that, that THING is making it seem normal and OK to be a flaming asshole racist. Even the young are affected, and I had so hoped it would die out. We are all one human family, and we need to pull together, because we have several dangerous situations we need to address. We don’t have time to argue with idiots anymore.

    If you are a person of color, I want to offer you my apology. In the past there have been times when I let someone’s racism slide because it was easier. I am so sorry. I am so sorry that you’ve had to teach your children to be afraid. I am so sorry that it took us seeing it with our own eyes before we would believe you. I hope now we can find the political will to seriously change the system.

    It feels so...nothing, what I can offer. It’s so inadequate, yet what adequate remedy can we offer a mother who has lost her child to a police officer’s bullet? Nothing. If it was me, I’d be out of my mind with grief. I’m so sick of the hate. I’m sorry that my apology is so meaningless and insubstantial. My stupid, silly white guilt doesn’t help anyone. I just feel so sad for everyone right now. All I can offer is that I am even more determined to change the world, and if I have to piss off tons of white rednecks to do it, that’s ok.

    Thanks for listening.

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    I was distressed to hear that The Nightly Show was cancelled. I think Larry Wilmore is smart and funny, the rest of the crew is talented each in their own way, and I found the show welcoming in that the cast was so diverse, and spoke frankly about racism. I had taken to watching it first, when I watch the news. Maybe it was a little rough, some of the jokes a little unpolished, but nothing that couldn’t have been tweaked. I was wondering how Larry would handle it, and it broke my heart when I watched him face the camera, after the audience went nuts in support, to comment. He said, “Well. How was YOUR day?” Everybody busted out laughing. A lot of people were mad about the n-word thing, which he didn’t mention on his show at the time, but explored last night in a hilarious bit with Mike Yard and Rory Albanese, in my favorite bit, Pardon the Integration.  Monday’s episode was a good show, warm-hearted and sad. They always looked like they were having so much fun working together. I am really going to miss them.

    So. We know that the right wing has a lot of media outlets; the noise machine, or echo chamber, is the wool that’s been pulled over the eyes of America, and it hasn’t just affected the people who watch it. When Fox News and the rest of their ilk demonize poor people, and black people, and women, it becomes the water we swim in. It affects everyone. The right wing has an entire “news” channel, as well as entire industries manufacturing American doubt in science, in facts, in the very idea of knowledge, churning out wingnut propaganda at a horrifying pace. And it has worked. Oh, it worked like gangbusters. Watch The Brainwashing of My Dad if you haven’t seen it. The right wing noise machine has taken us into a very dark place: Donald Trump, con man. The right wing noise machine is like a vaccination against truth, it never shuts up,and it just might destroy us.

    All progressives really have in the way of broadcasting our message to the general population are a few websites, like this one, and a few political comedy shows. Very few political comedy shows. Comedy Central said Larry got cancelled because of ratings, you know, those Nielsen boxes? Right, I’ve never seen one either, because beginning in the late nineties a lot of people quit watching TV and started watching the Internet, instead. It’s like doing political polling on landlines. Younger people don’t have landlines, and they don’t watch cable TV. They don’t listen to NPR either. But they’ve been watching The Daily Show, The Nightly Show, The Colbert Report, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and other kinds of liberal media online. From the commercials, it’s starting to look like Boomers are the only people watching TV, no offense.

    Until yesterday, I had no idea that Larry Wilmore and Stephen Colbert were on TV at the same time. I haven’t watched TV since about 1997. Like millions of other people, I watch what I think of as “the news” in the morning: last night’s political comedy shows. I also read a lot online, but many younger people get all their news from political comedy, which they watch online, and they wind up better informed that any Fox viewer. The Nightly Show was the only show I know of looking at the USA from the minority perspective, and that always makes some white people nervous. There were certainly other (fixable) problems with the show, but being opposite Colbert kind of doomed Larry and friends to failure ratings-wise, didn’t it? Why pull the show right before the election? It’s insulting.

    I think these shows and other web content are so important. They are basically the only outlet the left wing has to reach the young, the undecided and the sadly ignorant. Each one is precious, and I think we should support all of them, and raise a ruckus when we lose one. What The Nightly Show was trying to do is not easy but so important, to tackle head-on the racism that is so obviously prevalent throughout our culture: the racist water in which we swim. The toxic, deadly, dangerous water in which we swim, which was produced by the right wing. And now, extra poisonous with bonus Donald Trump! It has never been so important to amplify these voices in any way we can, just as enthusiastically as we flushed Rush. So when Larry gets a new show, which I’m sure he will, try and support him! Even if you like Stephen Colbert better. Black voices matter.

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    I can’t look at new stories. There doesn’t seem to be any hope anywhere. Even Colbert’s reaction didn’t help. Half the country hates me as a woman. America just elected an abusive, bullying sexual predator. As a rape and abuse survivor...just sobbing. It’s a punch in the face to every disabled American, every American of color, every American woman, every little girl. I work with domestic violence offenders. My job is to challenge male entitlement. That seems impossible now. The idea of going to work tonight and sitting in a room for several hours as the only woman with dozens of abusive men fills me with dread and horror. Maybe I should call in sick. Maybe I could just have today to grieve? I’m afraid to tell my boss why because maybe he voted for the rapist. I just don’t know what to do. I’m having a low-grade panic attack that just goes on and on.

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    What if the Republicans impeach Trump and Mike Pence becomes President? This is a man who has said that gay people should be imprisoned. While Trump seems to be getting in the Republicans’ way, Pence would go along with whatever evil they wish to perpetrate, because he’s one of them. He was a right-wing talk radio personality. IT MIGHT BE WORSE.

    Maybe this has been their plan all along. Maybe it will arise as the most logical way to deal with a President who makes ideologically improper statements and promises things the GOP has no interest in delivering, like “insurance for everybody.” It’s certainly something Congress could hold above his head. Democrats would go right along, because Trump.

    Then there’s the Russia thing. At least Pence is not a Russian time bomb. He might not start a nuclear war, but he’ll do everything he can to take away our health care. This is a tricky situation. I wish we had more of the facts.

    I know that every time someone suggests that people like Trump, someone else points out his low approval rating. And there are certainly people with voter’s remorse. But 62,000,000 people voted for him. They are all around us. I’m afraid to bring it up with anyone, and I LIVE IN OREGON. It’s not unanimous that Trump sucks. He has his fan base.

    It’s difficult to think about having to fight Trump’s impeachment. Please tell me Pence would be somehow less destructive, because I kind of like watching the Republicans in Congress scurry around trying to shape their interpretation of whatever Trump just tweeted into support for their America-destroying policies.

    This is a chaotic situation, with a lot of complicated variables, and the potential for real harm to people. I try to have a positive outlook—protesting is fun, we’ll have lots of opportunity for that. But it is a thin gruel and not satisfying. I wish someone would tell me it’s not as bad as I think. Please. Tell me it’s not.

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    I just finished watching the first episode of the new season of United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell. It was a pretty shitty news day, and I’m in a pretty shitty space. But Mr. Bell has completely turned my viewpoint around by showing me beautiful, happy diverse people working together with hope and courage and laughter. He also went to NPI and interviewed Richard Spencer, which was very brave. I don’t think the interview could have been handled any better, and it was eye-opening. It’s a comedy show technically, but I thought it was brilliant and thought-provoking. I can’t wait to read his new book. I am going to let CNN know how much I appreciate seeing a Black man in his own show, being who he is, and spreading joy through the world. Thanks, Kamau.

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    My 40” by 90” painted white cardboard is ready. Now I can’t decide what to paint on it! It’s going up on I-5 in Eugene on an overpass near the mall, kinda in Springfield, which is Trump country. Please help me decide! Thank you so much!

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  • 09/03/17--07:48: My First Freeway Sign
  • When I first read FreewayBlogger’s posts, I was intrigued. The stuff he does looks so cool! And way more people read it than read our blogs here (no offense, my fellow Kossacks, but we’re preaching to the choir here.) I wasn’t sure at first I’d be able to post signs. I’m no rock-climber anymore, but as my back started to heal, I started looking for an overhead projector during my regular thrifting activities. No luck. Then FWB announced the Labor Day collective action, and that was what I needed to get me in gear. I found a box. I stopped by the Habitat for Humanity store and got white paint, and I scored a gallon of black porch floor paint on clearance at the hardware store. It’s thick and glossy and looks really cool on a sign. I taped and painted, asked you guys what my sign should say, and the winner is shown above. I was born in a house with Klan rags in the attic, and although that time had passed for my generation, I wrote (small) on the back of my sign: “I repudiate the sins of my ancestors, their racism and bigotry. It ends with me.” So if anyone wants to know why it’s up there, they can read it for themselves. I used a yardstick and a pencil to sketch out the lettering. I bound the edges in white duct tape and reinforced the attachment points, which now had eight layers of duct tape. I drilled through that with a leather awl and attached my hardware.

    I picked out a pedestrian overpass a few miles away because I felt safer with that, although I figured it would get taken down quicker. Then when I returned home, exiting the freeway half a mile from my house, I realized I had an overpass right there. Perfect!

    I decided to deploy my sign at dawn. I put my boots on. Then I went down to the overpass, parked my car, removed my folded up sign, walked onto the overpass, unfolded it, and hung it up. Carabiners work great. Don’t use quick links even if you get a package deal on 3 carabiners and 3 quick links. I’m going to go online and purchase a large quantity of carabiners. It took about a minute to hang, but if I’d had all snap links I could have done it in fifteen seconds. Nobody drove by while I was out there.

    Then I came home, feeling like I’d gotten away with a jewel heist. It looks great up there and all the people currently being evacuated from the wildfires will drive right under it. I was going to go back to bed but I’m too excited. Now I can’t wait to make more signs! I’m sure the local bike shops will be happy to give me their cardboard, white house paint is super cheap at the thrift store, and I still have a gallon of excellent black paint. The only thing I need is a projector. Digital projectors are getting really cheap so I’ll look for one of those on craigslist. There are lots of places on I-5 right here that would look better with a nice political sign. I’m so excited! Thank you, Freeway Blogger, for showing me The Way.

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