About nice, friendly white supremacists…

I’m of several minds about the controversial New York Times piece on the friendly neighborhood white nationalist racist prick. I recognize that the article did go a long way toward “normalizing” his behavior, though I think it stopped short of being an apologia. That said, I also believe that there is some validity in demonstrating that racist nutjobs can be your neighbors and can seem like “nice people” until you learn what they really stand for. And I think there is a significant part of the population that doesn’t realize this.

I’ve written about Oleene before. She lived right across the street from me and seemed to many people to be a very nice lady, a good Christian, and the kind of person you’d want watching your kids during the day. But as one of the kids she watched, I realized that she was not a nice lady at all. She was horrible. She said things about people of color that make my skin crawl to this day; these were awful, hateful, and — in retrospect — violent things. She was a despicable human being and, despite having known her since childhood, I couldn’t make myself attend her funeral when she died. I used to try to excuse her, but by the time she died, I didn’t feel any sense of loss at all.

But yeah, she seemed like a sweet little Christian lady until she started talking about anyone who was different from her. And ultimately, it wasn’t just people of different races or ethnicities. Not surprisingly, I never quite fit the mold of what she thought a boy should be interested in. I wanted to read and draw and use my imagination and learn things. She constantly pushed me to go outside, pick up a ball, and act like the other boys and stop being so “silly.” She minimized and ridiculed everything that mattered to me. She made me think there was something wrong with me, and I grew to hate her for it. As I’ve also said before, Oleene and the “moral” evangelical hypocrites at Vandalia Christian School are two of the main factors in my transformation from Bible-toting child to atheist adult. Suffice to say, none of these folks provided me with a model that was in any way “Christlike” no something I could imagine dedicating my life to.

The point here, though, is that she just seemed to blend in with the neighborhood, and I don’t think anyone ever really exposed her or called her on her bullshit (except maybe me, when I hit my rebellious years). She was an evil, hateful person who wrapped her nastiness in a cute wrapper of Christian belief and Southern sweetness. And she’s not alone. In fact, there are a lot of her around. And they, like Tony Hovater, need to be exposed. The Times may not have done so in the best way possible. Someone should.

Pigs and pumpkins

I went to the fair for the first time since 2010. We saw the giant pumpkins and the pigs and the assorted cakes that were already past their prime and starting to look a little worse for the wear. We marveled at the “most effective use of a gourd” winner. Many of the youngsters’ art projects had a very encouraging urban feel to them. I made wry comments as we walked past the Republican party booth and the “right to life” booth (which was, of course, staffed only by men) and I had Methodist hot dogs and cobbler. I somehow too no pictures. My “date” won a ribbon for a dress she made. It was nice.

Canada Saturday for the annual Thanksgiving trip. There may or may not be updates from the road here and/or on the various Twitter accounts.

It was thirty years ago today…

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So it was thirty years ago tonight that the legendary Pterodactyl Club in Charlotte opened. Damn.

That was also the night that I felt I really started making friends in Charlotte after a long and lonely first winter there. I ran into an acquaintance I’d known in Myrtle Beach at the opening and she introduced me to a whole new crowd that quickly became my crowd.

I miss that old run-down steakhouse on Freedom Drive. I saw some great bands there (everything from the Flaming Lips to They Might Be Giants to Iggy Pop, among others) plus the DJ nights were a very welcome alternative to the never-ending cycle of annoying disco and drag at the queer bar a few blocks down the street. As someone who even then really didn’t love gay clubs–and especially hated the shitty music one was forced to endure in them–this was a pretty important spot for me. it was also a passably good place to pick up boys of a sort who were also not as annoying as the ones at the queer bar.

Side note: The grand opening flyer I scanned so a friend could put it on his blog a few years ago must be the only remaining copy in the universe, based on how often I’ve seen it floating around the web.

The Pterodactyl is now a grassy field in a rapidly gentrifying area. At least there’s not an artisanal grits and okra bar there yet…

Random thoughts (mostly) unrelated to April Fool’s Day

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Yesterday had more texture. Today is a bright, sunny spring day in North Carolina, which means, of course, that I do not particularly wish to leave the house because of the bright (and the pollen). So I’m taking care of things at home. And creating bullet points:

  • A month or so in, I ask again why I never used Plex before. It’s pretty wonderful, especially with my new router. Having everything I own from porn to film noir to home video on every device in the house rocks.
  • Credit Karma Tax. Love it. It was quick and painless, helped along by the fact that I no longer have itemized deductions since I no longer have a mortgage. If I hadn’t had a few thousand dollars in one-time freelance income for a consulting project I did, my taxes would have taken all of five minutes. And no fucking TurboTax fees and add-ons.
  • Anyone have a good commercial VPN provider recommendation? I’d been thinking of going with one for quite a while and in light of recent events I’m pretty sure I will.
  • For the record, it’s kind of discouraging realizing that your home state is more concerned with college basketball than with your basic civil rights.
  • Lovely. North by Northwest is having one of those TCM limited screening things, and i’ll be crammed into an airplane for both dates.
  • Best April Fool gag this year from NPR.
  • I’ll be in Albuquerque next week. That’s just not something one gets to say all that often.

Yum

In view of the damage recently done to Greensboro’s favorite ice cream and hot dog joint by a really bad driver (and the damage done to the English language by people who insist on calling it “Yum Yum’s” rather than “Yum Yum”), I think we’re due for another oldie from the Otherstream archives tonight.

For the record, Yum Yum Better Ice Cream was not established in 1906 by ice cream visionary Hieronimus T. Yum Yum, as some people in Greensboro apparently believe. It was established by a man named Aydelette, who decided not to name it after himself, thus eliminating the need for an apostrophe.

There. I needed to get that out of my system. Now I can start thinking about important things again. Like banana ice cream and hot dogs…

Love isn’t…

I’d think this was pretty cool, but:

  • I’m no longer in my 40s.
  • I no longer live in Winston-Salem.
  • I’m so very not looking for love.

That said, it ties in with something I was thinking about this morning. I could never love anyone who:

  • Makes a line of cars wait while he backs his monster SUV into a small space in the parking garage.
  • Shoots video using his phone in the vertical (portrait) mode.
  • Could ever justify supporting the Trump regime for any reason whatsoever.
  • Does not understand when to use “your” rather than “you’re” or vice versa.
  • Owns no books.
  • Thinks he has the right to listen to the Eagles (or Nickelback, or Twenty One Pilots) in my presence.

I think this will be enough bullet lists for one Wednesday.

Reading is good

For the record, by “reading” I mean “reading more than just the inflammatory headline and then sharing it to display your sense of moral outrage and to ‘prove’ your point.”

I came along at a particularly lucky time in American history. Despite the fact that i grew up in a small-to-medium city in a moderate-to-conservative region, I always had access to good reading material and usually took advantage of that fact. It’s what helped me survive my teen years and make it to my senior year in high school (1982), which was the point where I realized for the first time that I could successfully invent the person I wanted to be and that I deserved better than the losers I’d been hanging around with up to that point. By the semester I graduated, I’d finally seen that it was OK to be smart and to have friends who were smart too.

A decade or so later, when Borders and Barnes & Noble became major retail forces, to criticize the way these chain bookstores were destroying local, independent stores. I was very conflicted about this because I remembered growing up in a place that didn’t really even have viable independent stores that sold the kind of books i wanted to be reading. Most of the independent stores around here were either religious in nature or were of the “books and stationery” variety, which meant that they sold primarily inconsequential and uncontroversial titles.

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(Waldenbooks, Thomas Hawk, CC BY-NC 2.0)

In fact, it was the Waldenbooks branch at the mall where I found books about cities and about subcultures, and (gasp) books and magazines that told me it was OK to be the homosexual I was…ahem…practicing to be. Without the big chain store and its broader perspective, there’s no telling how long I would have had to wait to read messages that challenged the everyday bullshit of the early Reagan-era South. It’s all well and good to criticize the chain bookstores when you live in a big city located in a region with options. The chain were the only option here at the time, and I’d argue that stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble were extremely important in providing this function for the generation who came along in the pre-Internet 1990s.

Of course, the library was important as well. In the early 1980s, the Greensboro Public Library had a surprisingly large collection of titles from among the “gay liberation” classics of the early 1970s. When I look back at them now, I find a lot of this stuff sort of cringeworthy (though many of these books presented a much more open-minded and diverse notion of what a gay person could be than much pf the “gay culture” crap that followed) but it was precisely what I needed to be reading at the time. It goes without saying where this love for the library took me, although it was a rather long and circuitous route.

Reading (and realizing that doing so was a good thing) was also what prompted me to seek out used book stores like the original Browsery, which was on the second floor of a dumpy building near UNCG and only seemed to be open at night, and newsstands like the International in Charlotte, tucked away in the back of a mall hidden in an apartment complex off Providence Road. It was harder to find the things you needed then, but it was not impossible…assuming you cared enough to bother.

I’m sort of babbling and don’t really have much of a point here, I guess, other than to reiterate that I was luckier than a lot of people my age and older who grew up in less urban and bookish areas. My parents did not read a lot of books but did read a lot of everything else, so they were good role models. Being in a sort of college town (though not a college-dominated town) also helped. Having access, though, and the desire to seek things out, was the key.

There’s a lot of access now too, which is amazing and wonderful, but I wish there were more propensity to filter out the crap and be selective in a world with a major signal-to-noise deficit.

Still alive…

I’ve just been saying more on Twitter than anywhere else because I’ve been really busy. A lot going on at work, plus I made a weekend run to Baltimore a few weeks ago.

And I’ve been spending a lot of my free time working on Groceteria, both on research and on the site itself. It feels really good actually having the time and inclination to do that again. I didn’t realize quite how much Id been missing it. I’ve been doing things here and there over the past couple of years, particularly for the past six months or so, but my activity level is way up now. And it really helped keep my mind occupied this weekend while all the shit was happening in Orlando…all of which just gets weirder and weirder.

And speaking of surreal: Der Fuhrer is in town tomorrow night. I’ve already planned ahead so I can avoid leaving the house till all the buildings stop burning and the street fights end.

Sigh. Should’ve emigrated when I had the chance…

NC GOP vs. urban

My “angry activist” side has mellowed considerably over the past twenty years or so, but this makes me boiling mad. And it makes me even angrier that so few people seem to realize all the implications of what’s happening here.

For those of you who don’t see what the “bathroom ordnance” means to you:

Let’s be clear about what’s really going on. It’s not about “bathroom etiquette” nor is it even specifically about LGBT rights (though it would be evil enough if it WERE about either of these two things). It’s about a gerrymandered state legislature telling the cities of North Carolina that even though they are responsible for basically all the population and economic growth in the state, they are unfit to govern themselves in a very wide range of areas. And if they step out of line, the legislature will make life miserable for them. 

Cities in North Carolina (and their residents) are basically being punished for being insufficiently deferential to the party in power. HB2 is the next logical step after the Charlotte airport controversy, the Greensboro redistricting controversy, the sales tax grab, and any number of smaller initiatives designed to minimize the impact of cities in an increasingly urban state. Urban growth, of course, also means “urban values” which may not be compatible with “traditional North Carolina Republican values.” Therefore, urban growth and economic development it brings are viewed as threats.

If you live in an urban area, this nasty brand of politics will affect you sooner or later, regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Most of these legislators couldn’t care less about who uses which bathroom. Like so many other non-issues in the past century or so, it’s merely a convenient distraction. Stay focused. Don’t fall for it.

Pardon me for sharing what is essentially another Facebook rant. I will try to avoid additional sermons over the weekend. I cannot promise this, however. Like I said, I’m really mad. And I’m also really sad that a state I love is letting something like this happen.

The obsession with bathrooms

Conservatives have been using public restrooms as a ridiculous tool for building opposition to progressive legislation at least since the dawn of the civil rights movement. Potty panic was first used to scare while people who were afraid to pee next to black people. Later, the threat of “unisex bathrooms” was used to help defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.

And now, North Carolina has passed legislation that is ostensibly based on making sure that people use the appropriate restroom based on their “biological sex.”

But it ain’t about bathrooms. Not by a long shot.

In addition to the bathroom regulations, which are a small part of the package, the ironically named Equal Access to Public Accommodations Act will:

  • Prohibit cities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances that do not match the state law, which excludes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as protections based on veteran status, etc.
  • Impede or eliminate the right to sue based on discrimination categories that still are protected.
  • Supersede any local regulations on hiring contractors that do not mirror state law.
  • Prohibit any local ordinance that would raise the local minimum wage (of which, to date, there have been exactly…none).

See what they did with that last one? Not sure how it fits into all this? No, neither is anyone else.

Once again, this is not about the fucking bathrooms. The sponsors of this legislation couldn’t care less about the bathrooms, but they know that their base will, by and large, not take the time to pay attention to what the law is really about.

This is a power grab passed in the dark of night by a rural, conservative legislature that, thanks to gerrymandering, no longer reflects the increasingly urban, moderate population of the state. it’s the next logical step by a legislature that has usurped local authority in setting city council districts, attempted a hostile takeover of a major urban airport, and engaged in unconstitutional redistricting.

We’re engaged in a war here.

#WeAreNotThis