Now! Now! Now! or Three years high and rising

What this post is really about is the third annual Rising Tide Conference in New Orleans, set to happen this weekend.

But first I want to talk about a dream I had last week, most of which was forgotten the instant I woke up. The part I do remember has stuck with me ever since, and yes, it is related to Rising Tide, so bear with me.

Ashley Morris was in that dream, the part I remember. I say he was in the dream to emphasize that it was not a dream about Ashley. In the spirit of “a vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend,” let me just say up front:  I never met Ashley, and I intend no misappropriation or trivialization of his memory.  The extent to which I knew him, compared to that of others who knew, loved,  worked and fought alongside, him was fairly slight. It centered around a shared obsession that we two and a few others blogged about for an all too brief bit of time. As it happened, that brief bit of time was at the very end of Ashley’s life, which amplified my experience of knowing him.  In that Internet relationship way of valid but skewed immediacy, our friendship was 5 miles deep and about 3 feet wide.

That said, that slice, that appetizer, of Ashley, was enough to get me hooked. It was strong-tasting stuff, Ashley was nothing if not intense. It was evident even from a distance.  A good man with a big heart and a lot of righteous zeal, and not a little bit of anger at the ready to smite the fucking fuckmook fuckers who betrayed anyone and anything to which he was devoted; he was all that, and a little twisted.

And now that he’s gone, he remains, for me anyway, a symbol. I have one of those iconic pictures of him (taken by his brother-in-arms Ray Shea) tacked on the wall in my office.

Who Dat, originally uploaded by Ray in New Orleans.

I put it up there during a bad patch.  I had to fight my share of fuckmooks this year. It sucked and it earned me no popularity points but I was right, I knew it, and I persevered and ultimately won my tiny little war. That photo, in a little “power corner” with some other totemic objects and images, helped me keep my focus.

The picture also always reminded me of something or someone…I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, then one day I realized what it was. The pose, the striped shirt!  It was Artie. The Strongest Man in the World! from that long-gone gem, The Adventures of Pete and Pete. A more (or less) ordinary looking guy, kind of a spaz really, that just happened to be a superhero, Artie was on the lookout to protect kids everywhere with his odd assortment of superhuman powers. He once helped Pete beat up the Atlantic Ocean, revenge for allowing summer to end.

And that’s what Ashley remains for me, a bit of a legend, an ordinary superhero, a motivator to fight the good fight, to remember that people do have the power, we can be heroes, a call to action.  Which brings me to the dream.

It was one of those tedious dreams full of seemingly pointless details, things I had been worried about in waking life,  which in the dream seemed critically important and loaded with portent, but tedious and neverending at the same time, sort of like a loop of worrying. Then I looked out my window and saw a man in my back yard.  I walked out onto the porch and recognized Ashley. In the dream, I knew he was dead, I assumed he was a ghost, but he looked pretty damned corporeal. He was holding something in his arms, clear in the dream but I can’t remember what it was.  Maybe a child, or a cat or dog?   I ran down the steps toward him, to give him a hug.  As I got closer, from out of nowhere, in the way dream action can happen,  he pulled out a shovel. One of those big square flat ones, for shoveling snow, or manure.  I remember wondering in the slowmotion climax of the dream…just maybe, since he was a ghost, maybe that shovel he was swinging wasn’t really real.

It was.  And he hit me in the face with it.

There wasn’t an iota of real violence or aggression implied, even in the dream.  It was very cartoonlike, ala Coyote and Roadrunner. Or Tom and Jerry. Complete with sound effects.

Then, I woke up.  Entirely appropriate because that’s what I take Ashley’s appearance in the dream to be:  a wake up call.  My subconscious’ way of saying, “Whatever all this is supposed to mean, fuck it. This stuff isn’t what’s important.  Wake the fuck up!”

There’s a Buddhist story about a rich, vain woman seeking enlightenment. She tries all the usual shortcuts, then eventually someone tells her about the inevitable old guru on the top of the mountain. She clambers and climbs up the mountain in her finery and finds herself standing in front a wise old woman.  She begs the old crone for the key to enlightenment.  “Are you sure?” the old woman asked. Of course, the seeker vigorously assures her, she is ready to receive enlightenment.  The crone shrugs, then instantly turns into a screeching demon, shrieking, “Now! Now! Now!”  She chases the terrified pilgrim down the mountain, hollering, “Now! Now! Now!” every step of the way.  The point being that true enlightenment is always right in front of us. Right now is where we can start. Right now, in this minute, there’s much to do.

Which brings me back to Rising Tide.  Katrina hit the Gulf Coast three years ago. To most people going about their lives, sitting in front of their televisions, worrying about their own stuff, the disaster was over after a few weeks, when the water finally went down, when the news cameras left.  In New Orleans, Katrina is still right now. Even after the changes that three years have brought, right now is a disaster. Entire communities disappeared. Families torn apart, spread all over the country. Schools, housing, crime, corruption, failure of government. The levees. The fucking levees, inadequate before, being rebuilt at great cost, still inadequate.

There is much to do now, and when tomorrow and next month, and next year are now, in New Orleans there will still be much to do, and there will still be people in New Orleans doing it. Mostly all by themselves. Ordinary superheroes, like Ashley was, getting up every day and facing now. Some of them are part of the   amazing NOLA blogging community.

Rising Tide started in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding of the city when a small group of New Orleans, La.-based bloggers decided to expand their on-line advocacy for the rebirth of New Orleans into a public event.

Easier said than done, but they did it.  And this year, they’re doing it again. Without Ashley this time —  I’ve heard through the grapevine that his absence has been keenly felt.

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’re interested in Internet community, the netroots, online activism. That’s what Rising Tide is about. So, in Ashley’s honor, in his memory, if you haven’t thought much about New Orleans lately, please allow the NOLA bloggers to hit you in the face with a big cartoon shovel.

We will come together to dispel myths, promote facts, share personal testimonies, highlight progress and regress, discuss recovery ideas, and promote sound policies at all levels. We aim to be a “real life” demonstration of internet activism as we continue to recover from a massive failure of government on all levels

Especially if you’re not in New Orleans, pay attention to what happens there this weekend, what comes after that.  Watch the videos, bookmark the blog, drop them some cash, go get John Barry’s book, get familiar with the NOLA blogroll. They are on the front lines, hitting the world in the face with their shovels, trying to make it wake up and see that things are not over down in New Orleans.

You’re not going to get this stuff from Anderson Cooper, folks. This is happening right now. Three years high and rising.

Friday morning rehab video: more dibby dabby!

No, not that kind of rehab!

Something to brighten up good neighbor PoliticalCat, whose bloggin’ hand’s been all stove up this week. Let’s hope it’s better by Caturday.

Tuesday Hippie Hour: That’s the way it always goes

Probably the longest running steady gig ever in Austin was Toni Price’s Tuesday Hippie Hour at the Continental. It was legendary. For 15 years, the sultry Miss Toni, along with the best band in town, did her thing, then she up and left us. Someone asked why she was moving to California:

“Because it’s got an ocean,” she told a curious fan at her final Continental show, a twinkle in her eye. “When y’all get one, I’ll come back.”

Listening to Toni on the iPod this morning, been thinking about Hippie Hour all day. Only fitting, since it is Tuesday. Thanks for the memories, darlin’.  We’ll keep working on that ocean.

Maddowgasm!

Rachel gets her show

Squeeeeeeeee!

Just in time for the closing rush of the presidential election, MSNBC is shaking up its prime-time programming lineup, removing the long-time host –- and one-time general manager of the network — Dan Abrams from his 9 p.m. program and replacing him with Rachel Maddow, who has emerged as a favored political commentator for the all-news cable channel.


Photo by by Ashton Worthington

Span? It’s more of a dangling suspension bridge actually….

As mentioned previously, there’s a new virgoblog comin’ round the bend. Really, it’s rolling down the track. Its arrival is imminent.

Why do I suddenly have the theme from Petticoat Junction in my head?

Anyway, something I spend a big slice of my life dealing with, but have hardly ever blogged about before, will be getting more attention in the the new joint:  Productivity.  Life hacking. Getting stuff done.

Why, you say?  Because it’s become a bit of obsession over the past couple of years.

But why, you say? Because it had to.

But why… jesus christ, you are annoying!  Because!  Had I not learned new ways to do stuff, I’d be on the street livinging in a refigerator box.  Actually, I doubt I’d be able to afford a box that big. I’d probably just have a couple of shoe boxes to keep my feet dry.

Don’t say it.  Because of the way my brain is.  (clinical term: How I roll) Because of the nature of what I am required to do in order to make a living wage. (clinical term: Surviving)  Because of the nature of what(s) I simply cannot help but do because I enjoy it/them and it/they bring(s) deeper meaning to my existence. (clinical term: Thriving) Because of all those things and their intermingled relationships with each other, as well as with the time/space continuum, I need special tools. The extent to which I have survived, even thrived a bit, is due to my learning how to put these tools and techniques to use. Without a doubt, I have a lot left to learn.

But.   No, I don’t think they are all just gimmicks, I’m not in a cult,  and no, I can’t do what I do without help. YMMV. LLAP.

But. Okay, yes. Maybe they are just crutches.  But, seriously, have you been reading my blog? What part of “Virgotex’s brain is a wandering flock of circular-thinking mountain goats hopping from crag to crag to …. DEEeeep crevaaaaaaaassssse” don’t you understand?

To whit, some thoughts on Time and Attention by Sensei Merlin Mann.

[clearspring_widget title=”Widget” wid=”489ac6a52e1be2a8″ pid=”48aaf7e95cbb210f” width=”450″ height=”410″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

Friday barely made it through juke: What I thought it was it isn’t

Why we keep fighting, Reason #4,561

Via Feministing, an anonymous reader, who happens to be a pharmacist at an unidentified Wal-Mart, brings up a behind-the-pharmacy-counter horror story.

Here’s a bit of background: We have a male pharmacist who works at our store and he is a fundamentalist, Conservative (yes, with a capital ‘C’) Christian. We have 2 female pharmacists and our former manager was male. All of the pharmacy techs at our store are women, ranging in age from 25 to 45, most married/divorced with children.

When Plan B went over the counter a couple of years ago, the Conservative pharmacist brought in a couple of things he had found on ‘pro-life’ websites that said Plan B was an abortifacient. He had talked to our manager at the time about his feelings on the matter and the fact that he didn’t want to dispense Plan B, citing his religious beliefs.

Okay, you say, we’ve heard this story. Guy’s a fruitcake zealot.  One at every pharmacy, right?  Is he the only person behind the counter?  Why, as a matter of fact, he is not.  None of the other pharmacy employees, all women, had a problem with dispensing Plan B.

And neither did the store manager.

And as some of you may already know, Wal-Mart has an official policy for this situation:

Wal-Mart’s official policy, however, is that even if no one in the pharmacy wants to sell Plan B, we have to have it stocked on the shelf.

So, what’s the problem? Emphasis below, mine.

The manager did not have a problem selling it, but he thought that the best thing to do would be to not stock it at all, that way the Conservative pharmacist wouldn’t be put in a situation where he felt compromised.

The women in the pharmacy, despite our political and/or religious beliefs, all agreed that we had no problem selling it, if for no other reason than the fact that there may be a girl or woman who needs Plan B because she has been raped. But this one particular pharmacist has blocked it. We are not allowed to order it, and if some does come in our order from the warehouse, he immediately arranges for it to be sent back to the warehouse. If someone calls asking for Plan B, we’re supposed to say that we’ve run out of stock. Im ashamed to admit that I have told people this, but I do always refer them to one of the many other pharmacies in town (there are literally about 30 others, ranging from small independents to large chains, some that are open 24-hours) that definitely carry it. We had a woman bring in a prescription for her 16-year-old daughter for Plan B, and we had to tell her to go to another pharmacy.

<…>

I also wanted to say that it’s not just Plan B that pharmacists will refuse to fill/dispense. There have been 2 specific occasions that I can recall where women have brought in prescriptions for Cytotec (misoprostol) and a pain pill, which is often used when women have had a miscarriage to pass any tissue that may be left. This pharmacist immediately began to question the doctor’s prescription and whether it was being used to cause an abortion.

As truly odious as that last bit is, I still think the real villain in this piece is the manager.  Guy violates a company-wide policy, changes the supply situation, instructs employees to lie, and refuses a vital service to deserving customers.

All this to accommodate one pharmacist w/ a personal religious issue.

Oh, and, in the why-am-I-not-surprised department,

This pharmacist apparently has NO problem dispensing birth control or Viagra/Cialis/Levitra, however.

“All we have to lay on the line”

Consider this a prelude to my Wednesday guest post at First Draft tomorrow.

There are few people on earth I admire more than the small woman in this video. A warrior, growing frailer each year though she may be, Adrienne Rich’s poetry has been, and likely will continue to be, a powerful guiding force for generations (and those yet to come) of women, men, activists, risk takers. Rich read this poem of hers, Transparencies, at a ceremony last year where she and others were honored for being risk takers.

Risk, safety, fear, injury, and courage- of, and by, words and bodies.  This is what’s on my mind. Seeya tomorrow.

Sunday morning comin’ down juke: what I’d give

My always trustworthy musical magicman Freddy gave me Rock n Roll Pony a couple of years ago, and as usual, it took me a while to get into it. As usual, he was right. Gina Villalobos grows on you. Luckily fer slowpokes like me, well for everyone, she did another album, too: Miles Away.

Wednesday First Draft post

First of my Wednesday posts at First Draft is up:  Obama in support of GLBTQ adoption, McCain not so much.