Monday, November 20, 2006

More than just a difference of opinion

I had an eye opening and pretty distressing conversation this past Wednesday which has been bothering ever since in many ways. A direct consequence of this conversation is that it is 1:30am Monday and I am still up. This is because I just finished watching a hilarious one hour comedy routine by Alec Mapa which I downloaded from iTunes. Mapa is a cute Filipino gay comedian who had a special a few months ago on the gay cable channel Logo. Now that Logo shows are available on iTunes I can indulge these sorts of desires. The reason I am doing this before the ass crack of dawn is that I need to feel good about being queer, something that has been surprisingly challenging for me in the last few days.

If you have been reading B.S. for long or you know me well at all (and let’s be honest, how many people fall into the first category but not the second?) then you know that I have serious neck issues. Since the last ordeal of my initial shamanic cycle however, I have been being pushed pretty hard to do a number of things, including getting in better shape. Witness that today Fireheart and I traveled back to WMNF to scout out areas to take people camping (with more success than last time). As part of this process, the doctor from the pain clinic strongly encouraged me to pursue physical therapy to rebuild muscle strength in a controlled and supervised manner.

The town where I live has a physical therapy facility a short distance from my house. It looks more than a little bit sketchy from the outside; it is in a large converted house along with a Laundromat and a liquor store. I decided to go inside a few weeks ago and check it out though. Inside the facility is surprisingly nice and the primary therapist and her staff seemed competent in what they do. Also, while my overall medical situation is complex, rebuilding muscle strength isn’t exactly rocket science when it comes to physical therapy.

There was only one problem as I saw it. The therapist really digs herself some Jesus. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that she really digs herself some God, lots of literature about faith and support from God as part of wellness and “messages” from God on the wall. You’ve seen the sorts of things that I mean: “This is God; I’ll be handling your life today, so just relax and let me do the driving.” I wish I was making that up.

However, I am really not someone to criticize someone having faith as a central part of their life. As a business owner I would hope that potential clients not hold my paganism against me if the subject came up. Of course my spirituality isn’t a part of my life that is obvious to my clients, but then I can see that physical therapy is a field where whatever it takes to give folks a feeling of support is useful. I decided to give the physical therapist a shot. Plus, having to go three times a week it is nice being able to get there in less than ten minutes.

I have almost nothing to complain about (other than her not being at all comfortable with my tics) with regards to her competence or demeanor. However, Wednesday we got into a conversation, after my treatment I should note, regarding beliefs. I should note here that part of my spooky shtick as a shaman is to make people look outside of their mental box. Because of that, it is also essential that I force myself to do the same thing. However, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a mental box quite like this one.

We had a very civil conversation. We each agreed that there were areas that we could agree on (some surprising) and areas where we simply didn’t agree. The civility of it was part of the problem for me. I keep feeling like some sort of traitor, or like I am ashamed of my life (which I am not). I look back on our conversation and I keep wondering what message I sent by remaining so calm and reasonable. I know that getting angry; blowing up, or leaping across the counter and tearing out her tongue would only have weakened my position, and that of folks like me who she might encounter in the future.

There were two areas of strong disagreement between us. The first was public religious expression. She strongly believes that the Supreme Court has overstepped themselves with the separation of church and state, big shock there. She is in favor of such things as Christian prayers in public schools (officially that is, we’re talking over the intercom or at assemblies, not bible clubs) on the grounds that it is protected by freedom of speech. She doesn’t believe that non-Christians should have to participate, but they can’t tell a Christian school official or group that they can’t. This is what I was talking about in the post on September, 15th where I said that this is the sort of thing that leads to society breaking down. I had a friend in college who went to a high school in Brooklyn that had just about 10,000 students in it. How many religions and sects were represented in that school? How much of the school day would be taken up if each one got even five minutes each morning to say a prayer over the intercom?

On the other hand, she sees nothing wrong with pagan students wearing pentacles to school. I told her about this debate around the woman trying to get a pentacle for her soldier husband’s grave and the VA fighting her. The therapist thought that that was completely unreasonable on the part of the Veterans Administration.

Predictably the other area of complete disagreement was on the matter of GLBT people (or “homosexuals” she wouldn’t call us anything else). Here is where I was completely blown away. All the hateful crazy sounding shit you hear the evangelical pundits talking about on TV (in between getting blow jobs and meth from gay hookers apparently), she fully and honestly believes. What’s more, she is of the strong opinion that her right to say so is protected by the freedom of religion and speech in any circumstances. While this is a point I agree with as a rule, she takes it to what I feel is an unreasonable extent.

For instant, she is opposed to inclusion of sexual orientation or expression in public school anti-discrimination rules. From her way of thinking, telling her children that they can’t call a gay student a “fag” or tell them any time they want that the student it “evil” or “disgusting” is a violation of her children’s freedom of religious expression.

There were many things in our conversation that made me ill. The most egregious though is this: she firmly believes that “homosexuals” only adopt or have children as a means to “perpetuate the lifestyle.” I tried to press her on the point that adoption and rearing children is an expensive and challenging process. While she agrees that that is the case, she believes that we are willing to accept that as a way to “breed” more queers. Obviously she won’t concede that gays can rear healthy children. Although she acknowledges that there is little evidence those children of GLBT people are more likely to be queer themselves, she points out that they are “more tolerant of the lifestyle.” A point I had to concede. However, the problem is that from her way of thinking this is proof that those children are damaged, which I of course do not agree to. Just conceding that children of gays tend to be more tolerant of gays (not always, my niece hates lesbians because her mom is one) made me feel sick. Not because I don’t think it is true, but because we disagree on such a fundamental point as whether that indicates irreparable mental damage.

Her argument against gay marriage is of course the “save the children” one. She feels that a child can’t grow up healthy without exposure to the opposite sex from said child’s parent(s). I guess that she believes that gays hate the opposite sex and don’t associate with them. I did manage to get her to agree that if gay adoption is banned on the grounds that a child needs both a mother and a father than adoption by single people should also be forbidden.

I could go on with this recounting, but I won’t. You don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to go over it again. Although I have to throw out there that she believes that gays have only been around since the late fifties.

What amazed me was how crappy I felt about myself afterward. I don’t agree with most of her positions, but just agreeing with the points of commonality we had made me feel dirty inside. It realize it sounds crazy, but I honestly wasn’t comfortable being around someone who had such hatred for who I am without a weapon close at hand. Not that I think for a moment that I am in physical danger from this woman, who is very sweet and caring if you are just interacting with her. But this way of thinking just seems so fucking dangerous to people like me.

In the face of such conviction, I have repeatedly found myself feeling bad about being queer. It is totally irrational and I know that. But at the same time, she is just so sure and so completely unable to change that I keep catching myself feeling guilty for something that isn’t true. It just seems so mother fucking hopeless when there can be such a complete and total failure of exchange of ideas. I know that gays don’t have a secret plan to destroy the fabric of society for the purpose of having violent sodomy with underage school boys in the rotunda of the capitol building free of consequences. At the same time, she knows that gays are a protected class of contagious mental defectives just chomping a the bit to contaminate her children with the idea that “homosexuality” is ok so her kids will turn away from Jesus and take up drugs and ass fucking.

I know what the Boss Lady says, namely that our society is cruising for some bad shit. As I think I have mentioned, most of her preparations for us are aimed at have plans for the event of “civil unrest.” I also know that I am paranoid to some extent. I was raised in a Jewish in the 1980’s and 90’s. Mine was just about the last generation who had an opportunity to interact with many WWII holocaust survivors. The most critical point drilled into my head as a young boy and then a young man was this: never ever believe that it “can’t happen here.” It always can. That point was closely followed by: Don’t wait to get out when shit starts to really go bad. Thousands of years of repeated attempts at extermination have instilled a healthy awareness among many Jews that their neighbors can turn on them in a heartbeat if they are told to by the right person in the right way. It is a lesson that both the pagan and GLBT demographics might want to take to heart.

My final point on that note, when I explained about the bastard neighbor of ours who shot up Summerwind’s little Toyota when we lived in Vermont she said “well, you have to expect things like that to happen sometimes.” Maybe that sentiment merely reflected a cynicism about the twists of fate. But from context I feel she was being pretty clear that while the response was perhaps over the top, we had to acknowledge that people weren’t always going to respond well to the presence of “people like us.” The problem from where I sit is that I feel some compulsion to agree with her.

Now the debate is whether I continue to see her for physical therapy. Thus far her personal beliefs have not intruded in my treatment. However, I feel uncomfortable knowing how she feels about me and mine, even if it is never addressed again. I am going to physical therapy today and I’ll see how I feel, but I’d love people’s input on that question.

(final note, I apologize if this post is a bit rambling, I had to take morphine tonight but I really wanted to get this post done)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Camping Out (without the bent wrist or showtunes)

Since the last ordeal and the conclusion of shaman sickness (although not of ordeals, I’m already getting info on the next four) the Lady, and of course Var too, has started seriously pushing me in several directions. Some of these are making me realize how much longer the shaman sickness ran than I had thought. I think that the real start of all this can be traced to me breaking my neck. For fear that they might answer I have elected not to ask the Bosses if my injury was in part their doing or if they merely took advantage. Given that the break in my neck was a direct result of surprising, I imagine that the worsening of my tics would have played a role in the initiation of shaman sickness no matter what.

This bring us to tonight’s topic, camping. Not in the “ShowtunesShaman” sense of the word though. Rather I refer to going outdoors and hiking and sleeping and the like. Being outside, especially in the woods or by/on the sea is incredibly important to those of us in the Clan of the Sacred Lands. I won’t go into too many details, but I will say that it is essential to our spooky. Prior to my injury there were a good number of physical activities that were central to our magic and spirituality. The change in our magical focus after my injury was probably essential to my becoming a shaman and now that am not as single mindedly fixated on surviving the process, She is pushing us all to find a balance between what we are now and what we were. This is necessary for us to fill the role She needs of us, as well as for Fire and Summer to develop the ways they need to.

Hiking in the woods was the most frequent of those outdoor activities. Regular walks in the woods were central to our way of life. By our I primarily mean Fireheart and I, as Summer came along after I was injured, his experiences were somewhat less intense in that way. In addition to hiking, Fire and I were also quite interested in backpacking. That is: hiking through the woods, stopping for the night to camp, and then hiking on further. Our best trip wasn’t quite a typical backpacking trip, but we spent a week out on the Appalachian Trail where it passes through Massachusetts camped out in a lean-to and doing day hikes. This isn’t really allowed, but since it was Dec 30 to Jan 4 no one really cared.

Now it is looking like we may be doing a not inconsiderable bit of backpacking this winter. We already have several plans coming together and the Lady has made it clear that this is to be a priority. Some of that is certainly because She wants us to have our gear and skills together in case the need arises to be away from civilization for a bit. We are not planning or expecting anything, but there are growing indications that what is politely called “civil unrest” is a circumstance that many of us would do well to have plans in the event of.

This brings us to my problem. We live in a state which makes a great deal of money off of outdoors tourism. The northern part of New Hampshire is made up largely of White MountainNational Forest, which runs into several large forests in Maine. We can drive just over an hour north and enter into a largely unbroken stretch of forest land covering multiple states and larger than some countries in area. Not to mention that Vermont to the west is mostly forest land as well, as is much of upstate New York to the west of that. Aside from WMNF to our north, there are several state forests closer to us. The second most hiked mountain in the world is five towns to our south. One would think that I would have no difficulty finding areas where one can camp.

I know this because I did think so. Unfortunately it is not true. Many forest areas only permit camping at designated shelters on certain trails, which is not a problem if you can only find out which ones. Some forests allow camping unless otherwise noted; believe it or not this has not proved to be better for me. The issue is this: how does one find out where one can hike and camp on trails or at trailside shelters. Most of the readily available hiking books profile day hikes, since that is a much larger market. And the internet, ha!

I don’t know if this is new or not. Around 2000, the last time I was seriously backpacking to any degree I was not nearly as internet savvy as I am now (which still isn’t all that much). I could find news and pictures of men’s genitals pretty readily and that was mostly what I did. When one searches camping today one finds information on campgrounds. This is very different. Campgrounds are places where one drives and pitches a tent, or more often apparently, lives in the vehicle which got you there.

What we do at Cauldron Farm for multi-day events is camping in the campground sort of way. It sure isn’t anything like what I am looking for info on. Even searching for “backpacking” somehow led me repeatedly to either private or state-run campgrounds. The reason is simple, money. There isn’t much money to be had from backpackers. Although at White Mountain National Forest, many of the trailside shelters are not cheap (a caretaker collects the money), if there is a charge they are often quite nice shelters; and there is usually the option to go past a certain distance away and find a spot to pitch a tent.

Unlike some folks I am not going to make a value judgment on people taking RV’s to or renting cabins at campsites. I figure that there isn’t a lot of point in spending a whole day in an RV or cabin and since these are mostly families, at some point this means kids are getting some fresh air and maybe some exercise. In a perfect universe they are also learning some appreciation of nature.

I freely admit that both hiking and backpacking are strange hobbies. “I know! Let’s go walk really far. Let’s do it over often difficult terrain. And to cap it off, let’s do it with fifty or so pounds of crap on our back so we can stay out and do it some more without having to go stay in a Motel6 or something else with a bed or toilet.” In further fairness, I should say that I really like the trailside shelters that have nearby outhouses or compost toilets. I’ll probably try to stay near those sorts for as many trips this year as possible, especially given that it’ll be winter.

Just don’t tell me about your “camping trip” that involved staying in constant reach of a gas stove, shower, and satellite TV. I’m not even really interested in the idea of staying in a tent at a campsite, but it is a lot closer to what I am interested in than a cabin or RV. My way isn’t necessarily better, just different and I’d like it to be recognized as such. If nothing else, it would make it a lot easier to find info about places to go from the internet.

And no, I refuse to believe that being interested in being near something with a seat and a roof for doing my business when the wind chill is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit is the start of a slippery slope down to watching “Project Runway” from an RV at a “campsite.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sorry all I had no idea that would happen

So fuck. Blogger had been getting more and more obnoxious about wanting us all to switch to the new Blogger Beta, which I finally did. Unfortunately it appears that when it happened some sort of really stupid glitch sent the whole damn blog over again to people who get it fed on LiveJournal. I guess it is better that it happen now, since eventually everyone will have to switch to Beta and at least BarkingShaman isn't very old.

Really really sorry. Hope I haven't screwed anyone up.

Wintersong Tashlin

To bend a rule…

I haven’t had a BS post in longer than I like, and this isn’t going to be much of a makeup. Things have been spiraling out of control in my life pretty badly these last few weeks, which is why I haven’t posted much. I made a pretty hard and fast rule that I wasn’t going to use BarkingShaman to bitch about my life and I intend to stick to that. However, since this is my blog I’ll just say that the foremost issue right now is that my family’s financial situation has really started to become pretty dire. At our current rate we may have to stop living together with one year. Part of that is because the move to New Hampshire upset our delicately balanced finances and more importantly undid a year of work building up my company, which is now largely without clients (means your special rocks might be ready sooner G). The reason we moved is largely private, but I will say that it didn’t have much to do with the spooky, but wasn’t exactly all of our idea either. Nor, unfortunately was the alternative acceptable.

More on topic for BS I will say that in the past few weeks my Tourette has become much more significant, as has the Lady’s active role in our lives. Also, I haven’t slept more than four or five hours in a night in several weeks (not counting times I’ve used medication, comas don’t count). Yep, like that’s a marvelous combination for trying to get your mundane life together. Tomorrow I’ll have a real BarkingShaman post for you.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ummm, crap

So I just noticed some spelling errors in the description of my blog at the top of the page. This is embarrassing and has been fixed. I also have been going back and re-editing some of my previous post (most recently "springtime for Hitler and Night Rider" and "apparently I'm a neo-Nazi racist skin head") for flow and in rare cases for spelling errors. To be perfectly honest, I am often writing these things at hours when everyone else in my house and probably my town are asleep. I will make an effort to have fewer juvenile errors in the future. Thanks for reading anyway.

-Wintersong Tashlin

Monday, November 06, 2006

It’s Springtime for Hitler and Night Rider?

I sat down at my computer this evening to write a commentary on a point raised in a recent issue of The Advocate, the national GLBT news magazine. Although I canceled my subscription a while back, I recently spent some hard earned money on a copy that had an article in it I wanted to read. I was going to have some things to say about that article. However, I lost the magazine and had to go read the article online (which, if I had known you could do I never would have spent my money on an otherwise crappy magazine). My commentary will have to wait a few days though.

The Advocate’s website has a section of recent news of interest to the gay community and a headline there drove all other thoughts from my head.

Hasselhoff to play gay in Las Vegas run of The Producers (now I’m a link, Winter finally read the rest of the Blogger Help files)

How can you resist that? I feel the urge to buy plane tickets welling up inside of me. It should be noted that I was a huge “Knight Rider” fan when I was a kid. Recently through the magic of iTunes I have been able to download episodes of the classic show to my computer, where I have come to the conclusion that “Knight Rider” may not have been the worst TV show in history but surely can give “The Flying Nun” a run for its money. It takes “Knight Rider” to really bring home what quality broadcasting was represented by “The A Team.”

And frankly a significant percentage of “Knight Rider’s” suck can be heaped on the acting talents of one David Hasselhoff. Almost all of the remainder can be laid at the feet of the hair, makeup, and wardrobe departments (writing, what writing?). Michael Knight surely was one of the only male action(y) leads in TV history to sport a hair style which fabulously blended that of Farrah Fawcett and Garth Brooks. Today I watched an episode on my computer in which Michael Knight is at one point shown wearing a tight (oh, so tight) shirt that was probably supposed to be red but instead showed up more like a rich fuchsia. He had on tight brown pants, a black leather jacket, a belt with a buckle that would do an ancient Roman soldier proud, and bright red boots (with significant heel). I have a welding mask with poorer coverage than the character’s aviator sunglasses.

I realize that some of this can be attributed to the post-disco hangover represented by the early 1980’s, but only some. All in all, this was one fabulously horrible show. The “Green Acres” if you will of early 80’s action television.

I know that Mr. Hasselhoff’s next endeavor, “Baywatch” was a big hit, but that is only a testament to the man’s ability to pick a show. Young boys watched “Knight Rider” for the cool car, and later went on to be “Baywatch” fans again for reasons owing nothing to David Hasselhoff’s talents. Obviously, I was not in the latter group. Later he went on to be a pretty successful singer in Europe, although I have only seen footage of him performing at the fall of the Berlin Wall. I first saw that on an episode of VH1's I love the 80's, and if you choose to follow the youtube link provided, make sure you watch long enough to get to his jacket lighting up. Or if you are smart you will cut your internet connection with your teeth first.

Maybe I am not doing the man justice, but I just can’t imagine him in the role of Roger DeBris, who sings the song “keep it gay” that I alluded to in my last post. On the other hand I can picture KITT in my head at this very moment belting out “Sunrise, Sunset” in the next revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” so maybe my imagination is not the most trustworthy.