May 12, 2013

May 12

At the Derby Club in Ventura last Saturday for the Kentucky Derby I heard one may say loudly, “I LOVE AMERICA!” He was making his way to the window where people collect their earnings; he must have won. A grateful immigrant. I love it! Amidst all the America bashing (some of it is by me), it’s so, so, so, so, so wonderful to hear someone who really loves and appreciates all this country has to offer and to hear him be so up-front and vocal about it. Call me a romantic fool, I don’t care.

I know the US is guilty of viciousness, brutality, and massive deception. And why? To fuel OUR NEEDS AND DESIRES. WE are the USA.

At the same time, I know that the US is not only capable of but actively pursuing totally GREAT goals. The US serves the poor in many ways; the US helps those who need help (in many ways); the US tries to do good in the world. “The US” is us; WE are the United States, people.

And when the virtuous, well-intentioned acts of the US government are accompanied (as they always are everywhere [thanks to human nature and the nature of capitalism]) by greed and corruption, it does not erase the positive intentions and actions by the people and by the government of the United States.

I support change. I consider myself a critic of the US and a member of the non-violent, artistic  counter-cultural movement (that has always been part) of the US. I know that non-violent criticism, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech are integral, essential parts of the United States. I am not a political conservative; I am not part of any organized religion; and I do not support any anti-US movements.

I am a liberated woman who has raised three-and-a-half children (my grandson Sam is the “half” because I helped to raise him for 5 years). I raised my children to respect themselves, to search for their own paths in a culture that (like most cultures) is filled with people who are content to follow the status quo. I taught my children, by example, to respect the basic norms, values and beliefs of a culture (the US) that fervently believes in individual rights.

I adamantly believe that cynicism on an individual or mass level is a BAD THING.

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Wikipedia:

Cynicism is an attitude or state of mind characterized by a general distrust of others’ apparent motives or ambitions, or a general lack of faith or hope in the human race or in individuals with desires, hopes, opinions, or personal tastes that a cynic perceives as unrealistic or inappropriate, therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. It is a form of jaded negativity, and other times, realistic criticism or skepticism.

The term originally derives from the ancient Greek philosophers called the Cynics who rejected all conventions, whether of religion, manners, housing, dress, or decency, advocating the pursuit of virtue in accordance with a simple and unmaterialistic way of life. attitude or state of mind characterized by a general distrust of others’ apparent motives or ambitions, or a general lack of faith or hope in the human race or in individuals with desires, hopes, opinions, or personal tastes that a cynic perceives as unrealistic or inappropriate, therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. It is a form of jaded negativity, and other times, realistic criticism or skepticism.

The term originally derives from the ancient Greek philosophers called the Cynics who rejected all conventions, whether of religion, manners, housing, dress, or decency, advocating the pursuit of virtue in accordance with a simple and unmaterialistic way of life.

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When I am camping (as I have been doing for the past two months in Ojai), I am in bed (and often asleep) by 6 or 7 pm. When I am living in houses (as I do when I Couchsurf), I have different hours every day, and it’s definitely not to-bed-by-7 pm. Interesting.

A Couchsurfer in Valdez, Alaska told me he still has 8-12 FEET of snow in his yard now! He says it will be melted by July. Yipes!

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CSers emerge from the crowd so beautifully. Like, I’ll be out somewhere waiting for my CS host, and suddenly, there they are, a person like no other, smiling and welcoming me. Someone willing to take in a stranger. Someone willing to take a chance.

I have passed the stage of being so grateful that I didn’t see all I brought to my CS hosts. Now, as I say in my profile, I think it’s an “equal exchange” between surfers (like me; tourists are a different thing) and hosts.

I stress this “equal exchange” in my profile for two reasons. First, I have had some hosts who think they are doing us poor surfers a favor; they see themselves as GIVING and Couchsurfers as TAKING. This host ego-trip can’t continue. Maybe tourists will put up with it, but I won’t.

Second, because I have realized how much we surfers DO bring to our hosts, especially those of us who are, like me, on the road almost full-time and don’t have a conventional home. We live unusual, creative lives, and we are willing to share these with our lucky hosts. We bring the romance and the daily grind of the road to hosts; we remind them of their past (or future) travels. We interrupt their  often dreary, boring, repetitive ruts and, in effect, say: “Let’s go!” Because we are ON-THE-GO. We can’t help but bring new, positive energy into hosts’ homes.

I acknowledge as well the marvelous generosity of my hosts. I should be so open and accommodating to strangers! Maybe someday I will learn the fine art of hosting.

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I am, I realize, afraid of and afraid in cities. It’s most noticeable when I wake up in the morning. The sounds are so different from the sounds out in the woods. Cars and people rushing places. That’s fine, it’s great; it’s just different from what I grew up with in a quiet suburb with woods across the street. I played in the woods and fields around us. And what I have consistently sought out as an adult, for peace and relaxation, have been peaceful, bucolic, country places.

To deal with cities in a pleasant way, I am asking myself: what foci do I have that I can indulge in cities? What interests do I have that cities can satisfy? Cafes and restaurants; local music; areas where young, poor artists live (these sections are always jumping and jiving); nature within the city (eg. birds; botanical gardens, zoos [horrible places, but the animals do live there; why not visit them and say hi?]). Today, I’ll google some stats on Long Beach: population, crime/police, weather, unusual facts (every place has some), etc.

This morning, I did some stretches and a little yoga (inspired by Bonita, a housemate here at Carla’s); a bit of meditation; and blogging (now). Later, I plan to listen to Cajun and Zydeco music for two hours on WWOZ New Orleans (live, streaming radio; 10 am to noon), have Bonita help me with a head-stand (she loves yoga), meet my CS host, Carla (she was busy yesterday until almost midnight) and hang out with her a little.

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It’s Mothers’ Day! Seth and Noelle are bringing Myles home from the hospital today. (I’m not sure why Noelle and Myles stayed in hospital for three days; no straight answer from Seth [who sounds extremely tired on the phone].) Anya’s giving me $50 for Being Her Mom.

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Yesterday was a long, but pleasant day of travelling. My cell phone alarm woke me up in Chuck’s yard at 4:30 AM. I packed up my  wet tent (tons of dew at the ocean) and sleeping bag, and I walked to the bus stop. The first local bus of the day (Saturday) came at 5:24, and I told the driver I was trying to catch a Greyhound at the Oxnard Transit Station at 6:40 AM.

I had bought my ticket online ahead of time, and I printed it out. Four seats were left on the Greyhound heading to L.A., and four of us were waiting in Oxnard to board it. The bus was full of sleepy people who had gotten on at 1 am in San Francisco. After a pleasant three-hour layover in L.A., it was a short half hour ride to Long Beach.

I got to a little park near Carla’s apartment and lay down on the grass with a “pina colada” soft drink and a bottle of rum I had bought at a nearby package store. Took a little nap when the rum kicked in. Walked to Carla’s and Bonita buzzed me in. Had to get off the street by then so I was lucky she was home. Tom, another CSer and housemate, came home and told me to eat whatever I wanted and make myself at home. It’s the rare host who will say, “Eat whatever you want.”

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If there were no New Orleans where would all the wild people go? Where would they live? Where would they gather? Can uptight, repressive cultures ban/forbid and eliminate such people? Is this a form of genocide?

Unless you have been to New Orleans (this means YOU [if you haven’t been there, GO NOW!]), you don’t know what the fuck I am talking about.

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Here’s a favorite part of mine from the Dec. 2012 Psychology Today article by David DiSalvo “10 Reasons Why Some People Love What They Do” (Reason #10):

10. They never, ever limit their vision to serve the interests of petty competition.

Stephen Covey famously said (paraphrasing), highly effective people don’t see the “pie” as having a limited number of pieces. Instead, they see a pie with pieces enough for everyone, and it doesn’t bother them to watch others get their slice.

While we cannot escape the fact that we live in a competitive culture—or that we are a competitive species, just like every other species on this planet—there’s quite a difference between healthy embodiment of competition, and petty pursuit of selfish ends.

People who love what they do are competitive. They wouldn’t be able to reach their goals if they weren’t. But they don’t invest their time and energy in scheming and undermining; they don’t try to deny the other guy his piece of pie just because that means there’s one less to consume.

Loving what you do—no matter how competitive you have to be to attain your goals—does not require stepping on others to get there.

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Something strange and inexplicable has happened: I no longer feel like a social outsider. How did this happen? Perhaps, thanks to Couchsurfing and my online presence (blogging, Facebook, etc.) I have found my groups, my people, friends. And I am really expressing myself now in ways I didn’t know I was able or free to do before. I felt that if I was really myself, people wouldn’t accept or like me. I’ve discovered that isn’t true. I just needed to find the people who WOULD accept me as I am.

I think I often ask the forbidden questions. I voice the unthinkable thoughts. I see things in unusual, unique ways. I disturb people. I rattle the gates at the doors of status quo, conventional thinking.

I posted this on Facebook today:

A society that encourages women to carry around bigger and bigger bags of fat on their chests (breasts) in order to please the dominant (i.e., more violent) sex is exactly like societies that demanded foot-binding for women. Let’s call it what it is: a physical-handicap intended to limit and control women. The national obsession with breasts is not only a form of control that negatively affects women, it also controls the minds of many men. Brain-washing is never cool. Let’s remove the blinders, shall we?

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Breasts are not sex objects in all cultures. Because they are sex objects in the US, we women have to cover them up (a restriction and a limitation).

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In some homes I visit on my travels, I feel a strong sense of what I can only identify as desperation (as thought the people there are chained against their wills). I always stuff myself with food in these homes. Is this because I was raised in a home like this (and Mom and I did eat a lot of sweet foods that she made, usually in the evenings (the worst time for heavy food). Did  we eat like this to satisfy longings that couldn’t be satisfied any other way?

My mom was desperately unhappy. She had agreed to a late-in-life (by the standards of her day) marriage; Mom was about 30 when she married Dad. They adopted me five years later (Mom was not able to bear a child [it could have been Dad who was sterile; they may have lied to me to “protect” Dad’s self-image).

Mom was, in the manner of the day, forced to not work; she stayed home to give the Dad status: a man who could support his family on his earnings alone was admired in the 1940s and 50s. All her vitality became sapped over the years. She grew into a depressed, misunderstood, unhappy woman.

When I went off to college, Mom was intensely jealous. The irony of it was that without her help (with my schoolwork and with Dad [who didn’t think that in 1963 girls needed to go to college]), I would NEVER have gotten to college. I have a high IQ (147: not a genius, but high enough), and I excelled in college, especially in writing and critical thinking in the social sciences (sociology and psychology). I persevered over 40 years and through eleven colleges to get my degree in 2001.

I effectively left Mom and Dad behind when I went off to college. Neither of them went to college. Mom went to “business school” after high school (or maybe she went to a business high school), and Dad only went to eighth grade in Berlin. Once I began learning new stuff, Mom and Dad were out of my life. My interests and their narrow view of people and life kept us separated for the rest of their lives.

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