Thursday, November 13, 2014

In Which I Address the Notion that I am an Enabler

It has come to my attention that some readers might look at the previous dispatch from Menopausal Stoners World Headquarters and conclude that my man ABear, aka Pinko the Bear, is a freeloading boozer.  I can see how that would happen especially since pretty much everyone I know, besides Pinko, has remarked that it's unusual for a grown person to go for several weeks or months (depending on how you're counting) without thinking s/he needs a steady source of income.

Velvet mentioned it once back in April.  I asked him if he thought I was dumb enough to be some man's retirement plan, and he's never mentioned it again.  Some might speculate that Velvet's silence on this topic (and Gigi's too, for that matter) indicates that all my children DO think I'm dumb and/or gullible enough to bankrupt myself just to get laid, but let's remember that Velvet has stated unequivocally that my troubles with men were the natural consequence of me being a Klingon (Aspects of Mother, Stonerdate 11.29.10).  Velvet also remembers that I did fall for the grifting tactics of Gayle the Hillbilly Hustler, so I didn't get shitty with him.  He was right about Gayle all along, and I was pretty dumb in that instance (Gayle's Panties, Stonerdate 02.16.2008).

Velvet is perfectly content to go for months without a steady source of income.  Between me and Buzz Kill, Velvet has a very comfortable living situation, and he makes enough spending money to pay his own bar bills by working hard over the summer up at Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp.  Pinko works hard when he drives a taxi in Reno too - not in terms of physical labor, but he's up all night waiting in taxi lines at casinos and titty bars waiting to cart some drunk home.  We pretty much spent all the money he made over the summer on Burning Man, but we do have a hundred bucks in the Burning Man jar for next year.

I fully recognize that there are a number of similarities between Pinko and Velvet.  I'm willing to wager dollars to donuts that, like Velvet, Pinko is ADD as fuck.  Nobody has ever evaluated or diagnosed Pinko, but it looks to me like he's ADHD but not dyslexic like Velvet.  When Pinko was in school, kids like him were considered lazy behavior problems who didn't work up to their potential.  Behaviors were dismissed with, "Boys will be boys,"instead of seen as symptomatic.  If Buzz Kill and I had been hard-nosed authoritarians, we may have never had Velvet evaluated, educated ourselves about his neurological condition and punished organic behaviors which inevitably results in behavior disorders.  It all worked out for Velvet, however.  He's on the dean's list now that he's a history major and living at home with Cupcake by his side to manage and/or perform all of his administrative duties - and that includes laundry.  Cupcake lives with Buzz Kill too, and although they tend to do chores together, it's clear that from some perspectives, Velvet has a cakewalk.

From most perspectives, Pinko has cakewalked through his life too.  He loved being the first string DJ and entertainment director at that giant nightclub in Chicago.  He was so good at it that the owners trotted him out every time they were trying to sell another franchise in the flyovers.  He made piles of money, and although he did blow a lot of it up his nose, he also supported his brother for over 10 years.    Years ago, Pinko was working at a club in Dallas - back when MDMA was legal and they sold it over the bar for five bucks a hit.  He was doing well and bought a big house in Plano which he couldn't sell when he moved to Chicago on account of the market tanked. As it happened, the whole Bear family was living in Dallas back then, and Pinko's brother the ice skater had already been on disability for a long time and was living with their parents. There was an incident, and the ice skater found himself without a home, and since Pinko's house was standing empty, he naturally said his brother could live there.  He lived there about 10 years while Pinko paid the mortgage.  He could buy groceries with his disability and food stamps, so he was marginally fine without having to work.  He's back with his parents now in Reno, making a little money by teaching skating lessons when the seasonal rink is up.  But the point here is that Pinko took care of him because that's what families do.

Pinko could afford it because he was such a good DJ in Chicago that he was recruited by a competitor to open a club in Waikiki.  He was making almost a hundred thousand dollars a year to work four nights a week, so he could carry the house in Dallas, meet his own expenses and accumulate enough savings to support his own self in Hawaii for a long time after he finally quit the nightclub business.

It's easiest to explain that phase of his life by saying that he aged out of DJing, which is absolutely true.  It's more accurate, however, to say that he'd stretched adolescence as far as humanly possible and finally hit the wall, crashed and burned.  Cocaine might have been involved.  When he went back to work as a sober adult, playing popular music so that Twenty-Somethings could drink, dance and quite possibly hook up at the end of the night seemed meaningless and generally pathetic.  Hawaii still looked pretty good, though, and he lived in a garage apartment until his savings ran out.  The apartment looked out into the rainforest kind of like a treehouse.

Nearly fifteen years have passed, and now he's landed in my house - our house now - in historic Harlem.  It's not a bit like a treehouse, but we're happy in our little home.  Here's what it looks like out the front window on a snowy day:

Before I ever invited Pinko to visit me for that two month date last fall, I knew Pinko would be a lot like my apartment - a little fixer upper that needed a lot of TLC.  It's not like I didn't have concerns. Pinko had concerns too. There was a time when a lot of people had concerns about Velvet - like when he posted this photo of himself on Facebook when he was a second semester freshman up at Tree Hugger U and still acted like he thought college was something like an MTV movie:

By the time he was asked to leave Tree Hugger due to his perpetually dismal grades, some people believed he was fully on the road to becoming a major fuck up. That he spent his sixth semester as a freshman laying on the couch in his boxer shorts with a remote control in one hand and a PBR in the other was further proof to those with little faith. With a little time and plenty of support, Velvet found his way.  These days, he's been a great comfort to Buzz Kill who relies on Velvet to help with his mother, Vagina Dentata, now that she's on her last legs in the nursing home.  He's had a healthy relationship with Cupcake for six years and counting - which is more than many people twice his age can say.  Plus, he's an excellent head of Outdoor Living and Wilderness skills up at the camp where he has a small staff of counselors and teachers about 100 boys aged 9 - 14 how to live in the woods, build fires and shit.

Velvet may never set the world on fire in terms of having a lucrative, pretigeous career - which is what the rich side of his family thinks is required to be a "success" - but he's a kind and generous person who knows how to contribute to his family and his community even if he doesn't have a paying job most of the year.

Plenty of parents tell their children that going to school IS a job, but people rarely give activists credit for the energy and resources that they put into agitating, educating and organizing. Artists are in the same boat - expected to work full time at a boring, meaningless day job to finance their passion.  Unless they have a trust fund, that is, and then people call them dilettantes and posers.  When you're not conforming to social standards, you're subjected to contempt from many quarters - even the ones where you hope to find support.  I suppose misery loves company since people are always happy to tell stories about how they worked at soul killing jobs to pay the rent.

The thing is that neither Pinko nor Velvet (nor Cupcake) have to pay the rent.  And if the only hardship I'm facing as a result of Pinko's extended job search is less discretionary income for entertainment and shoes - I don't consider that a hardship.  In my view, I'm providing him with the time and space to settle into this next phase of his life - which is our life together - in a brand new, sometimes overwhelming place where he didn't know anyone except me.

Although well intentioned friends have suggested that I'm an enabler - of sluggery not of alcoholism since everyone knows that Pinko quit drinking regularly as part of his personal program to prevent diabetes - even my mother understands that moving to New York is a shock to the system.  It would have been great if Pinko found a job back in the spring, but there were too many moving pieces to our personal puzzle back then.  We have always been committed to this relationship; I wouldn't have put him on my health insurance if we weren't.  But we were both still cautious in the spring, each watching the other carefully for red flags other signs of potential trouble.  The fact is that when Pinko went back to Reno in July to drive a taxi until the Burn, it provided an organic pause in the relationship. If either of us had any doubts about being together, I could have easily shipped all his shit back to Reno.

The day we made up after that big fight on the Playa, we both let go of ancient fears about relationships that had prevented us from being 100% committed to each other 100% of the time.  He had lingering worries that I was crazy because of his experience with his certifiable first wife.  I had concerns about the substance abuse in his history and how that might undermine our life together.  With those fears behind us, it's like we successfully completed a trial period and were released from Relationship Probation. So when he came back to New York on September 15, we were both ready to begin our life together in earnest.

If I had insisted, Pinko would have gone out and begged some teenage shift manager to hire him as a barista, or signed on as a seasonal worker at Macy's, Old Navy or some other awful retail chain for minimum wage.  I vetoed that idea because I want him home with me until he finds a part-time job with regular hours in a pleasant environment.  He's in the process of finishing up the institutional requirements to get his chauffeur's license from the New York Taxi and Limo Commission, so if nothing turns up before Christmas, he'll drive when we get back from visiting my folks in Texas.

After Pinko moved to Reno from Hawaii, he worked in a major casino as a high limit slot manager, and when the bosses wanted him to spy on long-term employees in order to find reasons to fire them and replace them with low-wage workers, he quit that job.  Then he sold time shares until the company laid off 28,000 people in one day.  It's not like he is unwilling to have his soul sucked out of him like the rest of the middle managers and corporate cogs in America - or like he doesn't know how.  There's just no reason for him to do that.  Maybe that makes me an enabler, but from where I sit, Pinko is already a caring, empathetic, playful, compassionate, generous, attentive, observant, nurturing, altruistic, thoughtful, reasonable, sensuous, sensual, considerate, charitable, intelligent individual with a good sense of humor and the ability to make both cognitive and emotional connections.  Working fucked up hours at a shitty job isn't going to make him a better person.

While I don't see myself as an enabler, I am willing to accept that I'm indulgent where both Pinko and Velvet are concerned.  I want them both to be as content in this economic system as any of us can be - as content as I am in my own working life.  But I understand that friends and family worry about me sometimes.  I would like to assure my friends that my mother worries about me enough for everyone, and she has never been one to hold her tongue.  Anyone who has anything to say to me can relax in the knowledge that my mother has already said it.

Going over all this stuff in my head again, I've developed a theory that anyone who thinks Pinko needs to work at some random shitty job just so we can afford a few upgrades has bought into the predominant capitalist narrative that idea that we all must be wage slaves in order to have value.  As long as it is within my power, I'll be damned before I permit anyone I love - my son or my partner - to be another miserable wage slave exploited by corporate robber barons.  One day Velvet will have to go out into the world to seek his fortune, and for sure, Pinko needs to make some money because Burning Man doesn't pay for itself, and I want a new refrigerator.  But we'll do it our way, thank you very much, and we're going to resist the plutocracy that profits from endless war, ecocide and mass incarceration.

This weekend, Pinko (aka ABear) is going to the WWP National Conference.  Tomorrow, I'm going to an early childhood conference focusing on play.  If it's one thing The Owners (as George Carlin always called them) can't stand - it's the idea of creative, happy people solving problems together in a supportive, collaborative environment.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Red Wine, Rose Trees and Bank Balances

Periods of frustration and worry in the financial arena have occasionally disturbed our happy little world at Menopausal Stoners World Headquarters.  I'm pretty sure that almost everyone in these united states experiences occasional bouts of financial worry and frustration here at the end of empire - many of us experience it every single day.  That I experience it only occasionally is  a result of my highly developed ability to focus my attention in other directions.  However, on days when the bank balance is alarmingly low and the horizon looks equally as alarming, my attention can only focus on one inescapable fact:  Pinko needs to get a job.

Some days he thinks a lot about jobs, as a concept.  He's even sent out some resumes - or more accurately, I've emailed resumes and completed online applications for him a couple of times - and he's followed up with phone calls.  To be fair, getting a part-time job is not as easy as it sounds these days with nearly 400 applicants for a single job at Columbia University, for example, and even though he regularly cruises Craig's List, pickings are slim to dismal out there.

Well intentioned friends, and I count my mother among the well intentioned, generally point out that Pinko could easily take a shitty job until he finds something better.  That is a reasonable concept, particularly since my mother is simply concerned about (1) unnecessary pressure on me and (2) someone taking advantage of me.  She, and the other friends who have brought up the shitty job solution, have been very nice about the whole Pinko Needs a  Job thing, and it's not like the idea never crossed my mind especially when the bank account is approaching overdrawn.  I would just rather have a clean house, including freshly folded laundry, and a warm, cozy bear waiting for me when I come home at 3:30 from a long, tiring day at my cushy job.  I also like it when he meets me at work and we take long walks through the park, often going to the grocery store on the way home.  He carries the bags.  I love it.  And at the risk of shocking my mother, I love falling into bed with him when I get home even more.  Now that I think about it, Mother has already said that Pinko is a little old to be a boy toy.

In some ways, we've been having a honeymoon stay-cation here at HQ.  The only time I get thoroughly annoyed is when he drinks all the wine without me, particular the few nice bottles I was saving for a lovely dinner.  He'll guzzle red wine like there's no tomorrow, given the opportunity.  He's one of those people who can go without drinking for days and days - but once he starts, he's not stopping until the alcohol is all gone or he decides it's bedtime, which ever comes first.  He's typically very pleasant, if a little silly and sloppy, when he's been drinking wine or beer.  My main issue with this behavior is the impact it has on the bank account - and more philosophically, Marx himself never said Communism means PENolan buys the wine and Pinko the Bear drinks it all.  Noam Chomsky never said any such thing about Anarcho-syndacalism either, so from my perspective, Pinko the Bear needed to cut that shit out.

To his credit, Pinko the Bear did cut that shit out.  I also quit buying wine by the case, which has been my habit for the last several years any time the local wine store had a sale and mixed cases were 30% off with free delivery.  A case of wine could last me a couple of months even when I had people over for dinner.  With a bear in the house, those days are behind me.  I stopped buying Bulleit and Jameson's for him too because (1) it's expensive and (2) any time we've had some emotionally charged, crazy conversation that circles around for a couple of hours before it finally spirals into total despair - he's been drinking hard liquor.  I figured that shit needed to stop too, and it did stop until we got to Burning Man.

We arrived a few days early, when the playa was sparsely populated with work crews.  There was much work to be done, but there was plenty of time for relaxing too.  That night after dinner,  a campmate passed him a bottle a Jack Daniels. After he'd had three or four belts, had kicked over his drink and was starting to slur, I tried to hide the bottle from him.  He found it, and the situation deteriorated.  I removed myself and went back to the Big Foot* because I didn't want to interfere with his good time.  If other people found him annoying, it was their responsibility to tell him to STFU and go to bed.  Radical Self-Reliance and all that.

*Us in the Big Foot on the way to the burn.  Killbuck enhanced RV with photoshop artistry

The trouble started when Pinko threw open the door of the Big Foot and proceeded to Mansplain his intention to immediately unload the gear, presumably using a work light since it was well after mid-night although he left that part out.  He said, "I'm not going to put it here (pointing), and I'm not going to put it there (pointing)," and after a pause he continued, "I'm not going to put it here either (pointing somewhere else all together)."  I may have had an attitude when I asked the simple question, "So where are you going to put it?"  In any case, he reprimanded me for interrupting, and shit hit the fan.

I have heard repeatedly that engaging in an argument with someone who has been drinking never helps anything, and I tried my best to leave it all alone.  I really did.  But all that loud, pompous lecturing got to me. I finally took direct aim and fired, "You've already ruined your life once because of substances.  Are you ready to do that again?"  The situation deteriorated further, and anyone on the playa who had been wondering who was doing all the yelling got their answer when I hollered, "Oh Yeah?  Well FUCK YOU, ABear."

Shortly thereafter, he slammed the door and went off on his electric bike.  I was fully done for the night, so I locked him out.  I just needed a moment of peace to get myself together.  Sadly, as it happened, Pinko's certifiable first wife had locked him out for a couple of days once.  She's the same certifiable first wife who pulled a knife on him back when they were married years ago in Dallas.  Pinko called her brother and had her taken away that day and never saw her again.  He must have been so traumatized by the experience of being married to her that it triggered PTSD or something similar when I locked him out of the Big Foot on the playa.

He slept on the couch that night.  By the morning we had both simmered down, but my bags were packed.  When I first went to Burning Man to meet Pinko, I figured that the worst thing that could happen was that he'd be a first class ass and I'd have to fly off in a huff from the little airport. This year, I couldn't afford the airfare - so I figured I'd hitch a ride back to Reno with the guy who was scheduled to deliver the port-potty that afternoon.  I planned to take a hundred bucks from Pinko's wallet while I was at it.

The porta potty truck was supposed to be there around 4:00, and I was all ready to go by noon.  It seemed sensible to at least have a calm conversation with Pinko before I took his money and left his life forever, though, so I asked him if we could talk.  He listens well when he is sober and said very sincerely that he loved me more than he loves whiskey.  When I told the tale of this denouement to our campmates, who had obviously and most embarrassingly heard every single word ringing across the playa while we were fighting - the general consensus was that he must love me very much indeed because everybody knows how much he loves whiskey.

After that fateful night, Pinko has barely had a drop of hard liquor.  He still has red wine every now and then, but he's pretty much been off the sauce since last month when the doctor told him he was technically diabetic and needed to lose weight instantaneously.  He's really very determined and is can be fully committed to a course of action once he's put his mind to it.

These days, Pinko is committed to establishing himself as a dog walker.   After much deliberation, we've decided it's the perfect career for him.  He's great with dogs and still misses China, who had to be put down two summers ago.  I had been noticing him on Facebook for about a year when I saw something he'd written after coming home from the vet that day.  I've told this story before, and it's kind of corny, but even still, when I was listening to the song he posted when he was so sad and open about his vulnerability, Pinko the Bear became a real human to me instead of another opinionated lefty on Facebook.

In "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," Elton John sings about how rose trees never grow in New York City.  At the time, I reached out because I wanted to show him that I was a rose tree growing very nicely in New York City.  Now, it's his turn.

My man ABear with his best buddy China,
at the Bark Park near Diamond Head in Hawaii a little over 10 years ago

He'll be a great dog walker.  The best part is that while he's making the money for Burning Man and other upgrades, he'll still have time for communist stuff, afternoon snuggles and laundry.