Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.17 – The Jolly Roger

All right, Bosses. It’s like this. Once Upon a Time is rampant with faults. The writing is – how shall I say? – spotty at best. Character motivations change with the wind, it seems. And while some people cheer every new character who comes on board, I am of the mind this show doesn’t need any more characters. It needs to use those few who are great better.

However, it’s Regina-Emma interaction like that in The Jolly Roger that calls me back to the table when I am down to my very last fuck chip.

It comes in with a bang with Regina walking all up in the joint like she’s bangin’ someone’s daughter. She’s done a protection spell to protect her adopted brood – her Emmakins and the two idiots.

“As long as we’re in here,” she says. “We’re safe.”

This isn’t a particularly interesting, or noteworthy, line. Hold onto it, though. We’ll come back around.

So, Emma has decided she wants to master her magic so she and Regina can combine their essences once again in one of those ultimate magical displays they seem to enjoy so much together.

“If we teamed up,” Emma says. “If you taught me…”

“Now, why does this feel so familiar?” Regina responds. I’m guessing it was the dream Regina had the night before.

“I’m ready this time,” Emma says.

“Okay,” Regina responds with a little laugh and THAT. DAMN. HAIR.

Discussion, discussion and Regina wants Emma to really understand, “This is a way of life. You have to fully commit to it.”

“Not a problem,” Emma replies. At which point, we show a very worried Mama Snow White, who must just accept with a shrug, ‘Oh well, incest it is then.’

“Meet me at my vault in one hour,” Regina says, because she needs time to stop at home and pick up the chocolate syrup and the rings. Despite past behavior on the show, lesbian-Regina is really very monogamous and Emma did just agree to commitment.

Also, I’d like to stop right here and offer a bit of sincerest praise. The Snow-and-Charming-are-boring-grandparents bit is one of the most inspired things Once has done in a while. A bit of comic relief in the middle of everything is rather welcome, and it was surprisingly enjoyable to watch.

Now, on with the subtexty goodness.

Deep in Regina’s vault – *snicker* – Regina thinks she’s going to book-teach Emma, while Emma just wants to get her hands on things. *Double-snicker.*

Regina wants to know who’s watching Henry, and she’s loving Hook spending time with Henry about as much as she liked hearing about Walsh some episodes ago.

Emma says she trusts him – Hook, that is – because he brought her back to Storybrooke.

“Well, of course, he brought you back,” Regina mocks.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Oh come on, Emma.

“Seriously?” Regina responds for all of us. “You’re going to pretend everyone doesn’t see the yearning looks and doey eyes?”

“I don’t yearn,” Emma declares.

“Well, maybe…” Regina returns, “but he does.”

Don’t be coy. You know he’s hooked on you, Emma. <— Where WAS this line??

Anyway, Regina is over the discussion of said Hooker, and it’s onto the big magic lesson.

Emma is basically, ‘Words, bad,’ so Regina gives her all the hands-on she wants by putting her – poofy purple air – in the middle of a bridge and then proceeding to take that bridge out from under her.

“What in the hell are you doing?” Emma wants to know.

“Every time you’ve exhibited your power,” Regina tells her, “it’s been spurred by your instincts. So, today, we’re going to push those instincts until you master them.” And, also, I’m sort of pissed about Hook. “Save the bridge. Save yourself.”

Save the cheerleader, save the world. Gawd, remember how amazing that first half-season of Heroes was? What the hell happened there, huh?

So, bridge goes bye-bye beneath Emma’s feet, and Emma is left with her hands on some things just as she wanted. Ropes, which, while not exactly my choice location for Emma’s hands, does, in fact, fit the scene. Then, those ropes break and Emma falls, and just as Regina is coming to the terrible realization she done broked her own heart, Emma comes riding up on the coolest elevator ever.

She thinks Regina’s mad because she didn’t follow exact orders. Regina tells Emma she’s mad because she has been wasting such potential. We all know Regina isn’t mad about anything. She’s just working out that residual-snippiness of having almost killed her unintentional beloved.

Across town, Hook is confessing his undying love for Emma, before he finds Regina and Emma alone in the protected apartment. Detecting Hook’s lies, while Emma fails to, because her lie-detection is… eh, forget it… Regina gets Emma to demonstrate her hot-ass magicks by seeing between worlds.

Unfortunately, this attempt to prove Hook a rascally scoundrel backfires when the mirror shows things as Hook said they would be, and Regina is visibly irritated as Emma determines Hook an upstanding fella.

The return of the unCharmings (yay! for this quip) interrupts Regina’s desire to turn Hook into a garden gnome, and Regina is so cute making her excuses about why she’s concerned about Henry’s well-being, and Emma is so cute thinking Regina is so cute.

Then, it’s time for dinner at Granny’s.

Okay, let’s review.

I just put up a new protection spell. We’re safe in here.

Let’s leave.

We’re leaving too.

Who’s up for dinner out?

So, yeah.

Also, for anyone who found it incredibly romantic and heartbreaking, as the writers hoped you would, when Hook watched Emma longingly through the window of Granny’s from across the street with his monoscope as she dined, please remember, if someone does this in real life, he is a FUCKING STALKER.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.16 – It’s Not Easy Being Green

In my desperate attempt to catch up for the season, I shall be Once Upon a Timing for several days in a row. All necessary components, including myself, willing.

So, further catching up, let me just get right out in the open right now that I adore the word “wicked”. It has a lovely, specific meaning, and it’s one of those words that just feels right in your mouth because it sounds like exactly what it means. And this show has managed to make me so fucking tired of the word in just a few episodes, I’m ’bout to grab a shovel and bury it proper.

It’s the most grating when the dialogue sets up the entire scene just so the word can be shoved in like a damn shiv.

This isn’t the Wild West.

No, Dear, it’s the Wicked West.

I don’t care which West it is. I just hope somebody pulls out a pistol and shoots that word with a quickness.

So, onto the usual debate. “What did you do to this angry woman, Regina?” Which at least gives Regina one good quip – “Stick to the lasagna, Lady.” Then, she gets her feelings hurt and runs off, and gets her feelings hurt again by the fact that her Mommy loved her lost-and-found sister too, ’cause why not?

Then, shit starts to get real, as Regina, who has slowly built a relationship with Emma and Snow over the past two seasons, becoming a better person as a result, who has kept her secrets secret and her fears to herself, suffering alone and in silence the majority of the time, just flat out spills all to Robin Hood. Because he was there.

And, oh yeah, because she saw the tattoo that proved he was her soul mate. This is fantastic. Apparently, when you have been hurt again and again and again, when you have done horrible things and barricaded yourself from everyone else, when you have erected walls to hide your emotions, all you need to get over them is a whisper from a fairy and a tattoo. So, keep that in mind people who have endured great loss, suffered great pain, and been left to the world on your own for years.

This is so out-of-character and painfully forced, I don’t even forgive them when Emma says Regina is going to get help whether she wants it or not.

Then, Zelena tries to take Regina’s heart, but she doesn’t have it. Because she gave it to to Robin Hood to keep safe for her.

You are many things Once Upon a Time. Subtle, you are not.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.15 – Quiet Minds

You know… spoilers.

I’m just going to say it, this was a very confusing episode for me. Not because it had a shocking twist. Because as soon as Neal stumbled through the door of Gold’s shop, I felt like Spike in “The Weight of the World” <– Buffy reference.

Neal is Gold. Gold’s Neal. They’re one and the same… Is everyone here very stoned?

Anyway, that didn’t happen for a bit. Neal, however, is brought up early on (as missing, maybe, or maybe not missing), and Regina is all over changing the subject, as she always seems to be when Emma’s love interests are brought up.

Unable to cope with Neal’s shadow over her Emma-lust, Regina decides to go on a witch hunt. God, I don’t even forgive myself for that. Then, Emma says “Just be careful” and Regina gives a tiny smile, and damn if I don’t forgive.

This keeps our not-so-ambiguously gay duo apart for much of the episode. And – Oh look! – it’s Robin Hood, zinging an arrow past Regina’s head. At least she got to catch said arrow all ninja-like, which was pretty sexy. But then, into the cabin, and OMG! these two have totally had twenty minutes of screen time together and this moment of forced sexual tension and it’s so obvious they are meant to be. And this 15-year-old-boy-style macking isn’t at all sexual. I mean, they are man and woman soul mates. By its very nature, it’s real affection and destined and the truest of true, true love.

Cut to Emma, and Neal gets a big goodbye scene… again. Why, I wonder. It’s not like he’ll stay dead. And certainly not gone. Don’t worry Neal-ophites. He will be back to die a third drawn-out death.

Also, it’s pretty classic that the only person they don’t know in town is suddenly just BAM all up in their business, the only person who’s had a moment of doubt about it so far is Charming, and it lasted exactly long enough for him to be over it in time to take a drink from a stranger while bad tidings are afoot.

Club Storyville is Now Available

Five Things You Should Never Do

1 – Put your fingers in an electrical socket.

2 – Pee in the pool.

3 – Drink pool water, because chlorine and see #2.

4 – Cry over spilled milk.

5 – Release a book over a holiday weekend, because, apparently, it takes quite some time for it to appear for sale in the Kindle store when you do.

I cannot apologize enough for pushing back my release date, and then having the book appear a day later than promised. It has been a wild and crazy few weeks, but, still, I do not condone my tardiness and beg your forgiveness.

The book is out there now, for those who would like to check it out.

Club Storyville on Amazon

Club Storyville on Smashwords

Don’t forget, Smashwords offers a preview twice as long as the “Look inside” on Amazon, so it’s always worth a stop by that page even if you plan to buy on Kindle.

And, here’s the Author’s Note from Club Storyville, which gives a little insight into my very special bond with this story.

Author’s Note

Up until I was nine, I had my own brassy southern grandmother. After more than forty years in Southeastern Ohio, she still said “hoce” instead of “house,” “skoo” instead of “school.”

She was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1907, many years younger than her next youngest sibling. Her brother was a minor league baseball player, and she was a beauty, so that was a good time in her life and she enjoyed a long youth when most women didn’t. It was only when she moved to Richmond to “make her fortune,” as my dad put it, that she met my grandfather, and she didn’t give birth to my dad until 1947, not long after her forty-first birthday.

As a boy, my dad would go by train to visit my grandma’s family in Virginia. I inherited my love of trains from my dad, and my love of the South. We traveled southward a lot when I was growing up too – Virginia Beach, Charleston, Atlanta, Nashville. Forget the Mason-Dixon Line. I knew I was south enough when the kudzu started crawling over everything and every restaurant served sweet tea.

That said, this is not my story. It is the story of another time, of a different, more divided South. I believe the only way to write a story like this is to fully embrace it, both the good and the bad, so I have done my best to stay true to the attitudes of the time.

Club Storyville is only a story. Storyville, however, was a real place, a slice of American freedom open in New Orleans between 1897 and 1917. It has been my privilege to spend so much time there over the past few months.

Club Storyville – Coming April 18th, 2014

“There was a song in my grandmother’s head I never heard her sing.”

This is the first line of my upcoming novel, Club Storyville. For those of you who’ve read my other books, it may seem a bit of a departure.

I have a love-hate relationship with first-person. On one hand, many of my favorite books are written in first-person – Mirabilis, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Reader. The Bluest Eye is partly in first-person, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye. There is certainly nothing wrong with first-person perspective.

On the other hand, first-person done badly can often feel as if you’ve been sucked into someone’s personal fantasy.

Time shall tell, I guess, how my first-person is interpreted, because, with this particular novel, I could write it no other way. This is such a deeply personal story – not mine, Elizabeth’s – and this book is very close to my heart. It is chock-full of things toward which I am overly sentimental. Train travel. The south. Brassy southern grandmothers. Old cars.

And it’s peppered with things I spend a lot more time than I should thinking about. Like how the rules of society divide us. How the adopted morality of some impedes the happiness of others. How an open hand can change us for the better, and a closed hand can make us hard and hesitant.

Writing this novel has been extraordinarily difficult. It has been a long journey through our not-so-distant past, a journey during which I was repeatedly reminded dystopian worlds are not just the works of science fiction, that people have lived in them throughout history. Many still live in dystopian pockets today.

Writing this novel has also been extraordinarily blessed. Because when you immerse yourself in a time and circumstances that feel so bleak, you cannot help but find beauty.

A single red rose is positively striking against shades of gray.

Author’s Note: You might notice the slight change in the release date, from Tuesday, April 15th to Friday, April 18th. My partner had an unexpected ailment/appendectomy, and I’ve lost some days, so I’m giving myself a small extension to ensure a minimal amount of stress.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.14 – The Tower


The One in Which the Subtext Can Be Boiled Down to a Single Twitterism

Seeing as I watch Once Upon a Time for two reasons, there is nothing quite as painful in those opening moments than to hear that one of those reasons will be spending the duration of the episode apart, and the other will be back-burnered along with her shiny hair.

So, except for that brief, shining moment when Regina was all like, “Awww, Baby, you learned to lie,” The Tower was off to an ominous start.

But then… what’s this?

Why, it’s Regina in natural light, reacting in a rather strange manner upon learning that Emma received a marriage proposal while under the illusion of her false memories in New York and being all cute and motherly with Henry.

“Oh,” Regina is stunned by the information, and digs for further insight into this… Walsh, whose name, like those of all Emma’s past love interests, she simply cannot speak without a measure of disdain.

One could claim – and plenty will – that Regina was merely reacting to the fact that Henry could have been swept up in a nuclear family that didn’t include her. But, basically, it was #ThatAwkwardMoment when one is supposed to have no feelings about her former nemesis shacking up with a sock monkey, but sort of does.

Also, I do look forward to potential amusing shenanigans from my platonic Once ‘ship Gold and Regina. That smile on Regina’s face when she learned of Gold’s non-dead status was glorious.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.12 & 3.13 – New York City Serenade & Witch Hunt

Here’s what I can say about Once Upon a Time‘s spring return. I know exactly why I watch this show, and so long as Lana Parrilla keeps having that ultra-shiny Regina hair, and Emma and Regina have their moments, I will continue to watch it.

That said, I waited until Thursday of last week to watch the show’s return, and still felt like I watched it too soon. The only satisfaction I got at all out of New York City Serenade is knowing how many of those “million moms” tuning in – the ones who think the mere notion of Emma & Regina is “gross” and that they are obviously “two women who hate each other,” even after two and a half seasons that prove them wrong – were thinking, “Yeah, but he’s a sexy monkey,” regarding Emma’s newest loverboy primate and, “They have sooooooo much chemistry,” two seconds after Regina and Robin Hood met for the first time.

Cause you know… whatever.

Also, on a list of things not to do, drinking a strange substance right in front of a police station while standing with a man just sprung from the clink, probably not the best idea.

And, really? Human lie detector Emma Swan can’t tell when a flying monkey is trying to lock her up in matrimony just to keep her captive in New York?

So, onto Witch Hunt, which was far more watchable than New York City Serenade for two very important reasons. One, Emma and Regina interactivities, and, two, Regina’s hair being all down around her shoulders and Regina-ey.

It all starts with a crash as Regina sees Henry back in Storybrooke and gets slippy fingers on her mug. As Regina stands staring in shock and pain at her beloved little prince, Emma is up in a flash of apology and lesbionic yearning as she goes to Regina and tells her they need to talk.

Then, there’s that moment where Regina says, “He looked right through me,” in a pained voice. You know, in that very open, vulnerable way she has with everyone. And there’s the instantaneous teaming up, as Regina is prone to do, a show for the rabble, and a chemistry lesson in the mayor’s office.

For those who might have missed it, here are your crib notes.

Eager student Emma says, “What is chemistry like?”

Regina says, “Thank you.”

“What are you talking about?” Emma responds. “I seriously need to pass Chemistry 101.”

“I am giving you what you need,” Regina explains. “You see, I am thanking you for believing in me (again) when no one else did. I know that wasn’t easy for you.”

And, smile coming to Emma’s face, she starts to make the connection. “Sure it was,” she says. “Now, let’s go back and forth for some time about the deep understanding I have of your inner workings and how I know when you are inert and when you are about to combust, then we’ll smile at each other in a totally unintentional way.”

“Well, Dear,” Regina says. “It seems to me you have a perfect understanding of chemistry.”

“So, I pass?” Emma smirks.

“Oh, you more than pass,” Regina’s doting smile lingers on Emma. “You, Emma, are my star pupil.”

And scene.

Next up, it’s into Emma’s little yellow bug for some serious bondage bonding time, where Emma and Regina review the in-depth points of chemistry by Regina asking for details about Emma’s work and Emma trying to convince Regina to meet their son.

Which she does.

Because that’s just the kind of lesbian co-mommies they are.

10 Things I Learned (Verified) During the 2014 Academy Awards

I know, I know, award shows aren’t exactly the place to glean essential life lessons, but these aren’t exactly essential life lessons. They’re more like casual observations that have an element of something resembling something worth knowing.

So, here they are. The ten things I learned from this years Oscars, in order of increasing importance, and starting with the one that has already become a staple of popular culture. 

10 - Names one doesn’t know can be difficult. Learn them in advance. Memorize them. Say them out loud and often. Rubberband snap yourself if need be. Know the fucking name, Travolta.

On a side note: Idina recovered like a boss.

9 - Bill Murray has his moments. Even if he has been the most vocal holdout for Ghostbusters 3. And has a reputation as a prick. And even if I sort of believe the story I once read that he stole some dude’s pizza on a street in New York and ran off with it, shouting “No one will believe you!”

8 – Ellen makes such a great host because she humanizes people that seem otherwise untouchable. Some antics go on a wee bit long, but they get the job done.

And while her feel-good moments may not be a song and dance, they are certainly better than watching an unapologetically sexist opening number intended to remind every woman in the room they have one purpose.

7 - Bette Midler has officially stopped reaching for those high notes. But she is still Bette Midler.

6 - Hollywood will never grasp that a standard mic cannot withstand a Broadway voice at full throttle without some tweaking or distortion.

5 - Pharrell is really determined to make that look happen.

4 – Every time I see Christian Bale in the audience of an award show, I think “Is Russell Crowe really the biggest asshole in Hollywood?”

3 - Some actors know how to deal with a slow-running teleprompter. Some actors think a great movie with a great score will blow…

…your mind.

2 – Jared is not the most attractive Leto. He is not the least attractive Leto. He is not the middle Leto. All Letos are equally attractive. Ridiculously attractive.

1 – There is not a single part of me that can see a single part of Goldie Hawn and not want to watch Overboard.

A Human Being is Not a Belief

Gorgeous spring day. Santa Monica. A temperate 70 degrees. The sun warm, not hot.

You spot an ice cream shop, and, though you weren’t thinking about it an instant before, it’s like a sign from the universe. There are a lot of things that could make this rare day of relaxation better, but, until you see it, you don’t realize how butter pecan in a chocolate-dipped waffle cone is at the top of that list.

Go toward it, You. Seize that ice cream.

No, stop!

You hear the cry, but a second too late. Spinning around, you see the cable snap loose from a ride on the pier. The riders are safe. You, though, you are seriously in the path of destruction. Dodging, you manage to spare yourself the worst of it, but you still feel the thick steel cut through your leg just above your knee.

Down, you go. There is no way you can walk like that. Gaping wound all the way to the bone, you are fully dependent upon others, and there are plenty of people gathering around, most to gawk, but a few brave souls do come near. Having to avert their eyes from the meatfest that is your injury, though, no one is willing to do more than dial 9-1-1.

“Out of the way,” you hear someone shout. “Let me through.”

‘Oh, thank God,’ you think, ‘it’s a doctor.’

When, at last, the man clears the crowd, though, he is not the doctor of your dreams, but the doctor of your nightmares.

“What in the hell are you doing with those?” Your gaze blurs as you look from the thick leather belt in one of his hands to the hacksaw in the other.

“I’ve seen this before,” the man says. “Dirty metal. You’re lower leg is already infected. If it spreads to your upper body, you’ll die. I’m going to stop the blood flow and take the leg off.”

Obviously, this is not the news you’d like to hear.

“Are you a doctor?” you ask with dismay.

“I believe I am,” the man responds.

“Wait. You believe you are, or you are?”

“I believe I am,” he says again, and by then you’ve lost enough blood to put a halo around the wannabe butcher and he appears Heaven-sent indeed.

“Hey, pick him up,” another voice comes suddenly your way. “My cab’s in the parking lot. Let’s get him to the hospital.”

“Do you think I’ll die before we make it?” you ask the cab driver, woozily watching the blood gush from your leg.

“Listen, Man,” the cab driver kneels down beside you, “I have no idea, but I do know there are two hospitals less than thirty blocks from here and the faster we get you to my cab, the faster I can get you there.”

With just enough wits to decide your fate, you consider the man with the saw might actually be a doctor, even as everyone gathered around points you firmly in the direction of the cabdriver.

What do you do?

It’s All in the Verbage, And Language Belongs to the Majority in Charge

It’s amazing how easy it is to make an oppressor feel oppressed. Those who feel compelled to keep others down, to maintain some sort of superiority over others, have this intriguing brain quirk that causes them to think, if they are not actively oppressing others, they themselves are being oppressed.

Equality = Unfair

I can only assume this is based in fear, a ‘kill or be killed’ mentality they feel constantly, though there is no battle.

They say things like gays are getting “special rights” by getting the right to marry.

These people don’t, of course, feel they have been given “special rights” by having the right to marry, because, as they like to argue, gay people can marry people of the opposite sex too.

Even when you explain to these people that they, too, will gain the right to marry someone of the same sex if they so desire, they still can’t wrap their head around the concept of equality. In fact, they believe others getting the exact same rights they have infringes upon their rights, regardless of the fact nothing changes for them at all.

It’s such a bizarre way of thinking, such the polar opposite of logic, I don’t try to understand it.

Right now, in the U.S., in multiple states, these oppressors are trying to “protect freedom of religion,” which I think the majority of sensible, intelligent people, Christian and non-Christian alike, can agree is not under attack.

Why wouldn’t they put a positive spin on their bigotry, though? It has, after all, worked multiple times in the past.

There is a reason the word “feminism,” which has never been a negative thing, has such negative connotations, why it has become synonymous with “man-hating,” while the word “misogyny” gets a more neutral reading, though there is no arguing the definition of the term.

There is a reason anti-abortion activists grasp at “pro-life,” though it is utterly ridiculous, because no one is anti-life or pro-abortion, and the terms “anti-choice” or “anti-abortion” would more accurately describe their side of the abortion debate.

Oppressors go after people with all their firepower with the intent of debilitating a group’s ability to advance. Then, when the group returns fire, oppressors say they are under attack. Often, a group doesn’t even need to return fire. Just taking the weapons out of oppressors’ hands makes them feel threatened. 

Everyone is Entitled to an Opinion

Really? Is everyone?

Is the plumber entitled to debate the dentist over whether to extract someone’s tooth?

Is the dentist entitled to debate the plumber over whether it’s time to replace the pipes?

Is the person who comes at you with the hacksaw entitled to the opinion he is a doctor?

There is a difference between thinking you know something and knowing you know something, though, am I right?

I don’t know. Am I?

Mental illness can make you think you know, make you think you’re not joking. It can give you a deep-down, absolute, sincere belief that you are a surgeon. It can give you absolute certainty you can fly. But you’re not, and you can’t. You are mentally ill, and, if you get the chance to act on your belief, someone is going to die.

“I hate New York City.” I have heard more than one person proclaim this. “I hate New York.”


“The crime. The immigrants. All the rude people.”

“You’ve been there?”

“No. I don’t have to go to know I hate it.”

Well, no, you don’t have to go to New York. No one has to go anywhere he or she doesn’t want to go. If you haven’t been, though, your opinion has about as much value as a penny in Canada. Because, while you don’t have to go to New York, you do have to go to New York to know you hate it. You can think you hate it. You can believe you will hate it. But you cannot know without stepping foot onto its streets and putting in time there.

It is impossible.

Ignorance is Arrogance, and Arrogance is Knowing

The human race is a rather curious conundrum. The same person who believes he doesn’t know how to take out his own appendix or build his own house, that knows better than to even make a suggestion because his lack of knowledge is dangerous, will believe he knows what it is to be gay. Or another race. Or another religion.

A man who doesn’t know enough about his own car to determine what needs fixed without a diagnostic test, because he is not a mechanic, that does not know enough about the internal workings of his computer to fix it, that cannot begin to understand the universe without years spent staring into the cosmos, can believe he knows the way the world, which, in his own opinion was created by an infallible god, is supposed to work.

People who do not fully understand the physics of a slinky think they can fathom the biology and spirituality and life energy of we human beings, with our minds that think such complex thoughts, our souls that feel such deep emotions, and our junk DNA, which makes up the majority of each of us with a still not-entirely-identifiable purpose. 

Straight-line evolution. Creation. The big bang of human evolution. Alien intervention. The advent of meat into the human diet. No one even knows how we humans have become what we have become. All these theories have proponents, because no one actually knows.

Understanding things that are foreign to us requires an open mind. In minds too filled with knowing, there simply isn’t room for a deeper understanding of life’s mysteries. These minds cling to what little they know – as we all know little – convincing themselves anything beyond their comprehension is simply wrong. That their wisdom is absolute. That their opinion is morality.

A human being is not an opinion.

A human being is not a belief.

A human being is a human being.

When you come at people different than you, people you do not understand, you are not fighting belief system against belief system. You are throwing your belief system at real flesh and blood people. People who bleed. People who hurt. People who cry.

Humanity and humility have the same root, because both are of this Earth, not based in some magical realm beyond it. Whether you know there is a god or you know there is no god, it’s all the same. It is the human condition not to know things beyond our comprehension, and there is no greater form of ignorance or arrogance than absolute certainty you know the unknowable.

The only true learning humanity ever experiences is through communion with each other. That is why we keep moving forward, why we have become more integrated. Because, when we go beneath our differences, not only do we see the cliche that we all do, in fact, bleed red, but we have no choice but to realize the vast majority of us want the same things – love, security, hope, passion, good health, the possibility that tomorrow will be better than today.

If you cannot see the beauty in that, the better in that, if you choose to fight on the side of maintaining our differences, of keeping the “wrong people” out, because you know they are wrong and you are right, I pity you, because your knowing has corrupted your humanity.

Quick! A man who believes he’s a doctor, and you now believe is a doctor, wants to take your leg off with hacksaw next to the Santa Monica Pier, while a hundred people tell you to go with the cabdriver to the hospital.

Belief or humanity?

One man’s conviction he is your only salvation? Or one man’s admission he knows only what he knows, the way to the hospital where there are those with certain knowledge?

If you think you know that much, give the man your leg, I guess. As for me, I will let the hands of humanity lift me, have faith in those who know they don’t know. Because, even if they are wrong sometimes, their hands are softer than the teeth of a hacksaw and they give me a 50/50 chance to stand with them again one day.

I Went to Savannah and All I Got Was This Stupid Tea

We cultivate our own happiness, don’t we? That’s what all the self-help books say – tend to the happiness within one’s self – and it must be fairly decent advice, because, if I have learned anything from this life, it’s that happiness can never be found without.

Of course, there are things in life that do make us happy. I love to write, for instance, music, when I can withstand the emotions it evokes, that one sentence in a book that always makes me choke up no matter how many times I read it – I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you. – good theater, great coffee, going 90 on tight curves in a sports car, snarky cartoon characters, and exploring this world, whether by digging through sand to see what treasures I might find from the sea or visiting an unknown place.

When cultivating happiness, we must sow the seeds as one would plant any garden, with a gentle hand upon fertile soil, providing the space and moisture and sunlight that create the conditions in which life thrives. We must not gently scatter the seeds, provide just the right amount of water to avoid root rot, drop a cement slab over the top, and proclaim, “Go ahead, impress me. Get through that, Bitch.”

While I try my best most days to be a good gardener, I admit to dropping a block on occasion. Though I’ve gone through phases in life as both optimist and pessimist, I consider myself a realist overall. I can always imagine the worst, which is good for me, because it proves a rather effective technique in making me do things that have some element of fear.

‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ I’ll ask myself, and, as the answers pour in, I come to the realization there are few things in which the worst case scenario is torture or unending pain, which means there is really little in life not worth the risk. This doesn’t mean I risk as much as I should, or that I will ever find the courage to do all that I want to do, but it does allow me a certain freedom. When I tell someone I’ll be spending two months in Turkey and Jordan, for instance, and they suck in a sharp breath and respond, “Oh, be careful,” I am able to be sympathetic to their fear, instead of being burdened by my own.

Could something terrible happen to me in Turkey or Jordan? Of course. Or in Spain. Or wherever I end up in December. Something terrible could happen to me getting into my car tomorrow to drive to the grocery store. Some of those things, however, are considerably more rewarding.

As a realist, logic says I should seldom be disappointed. With the proper soil, temperature, water and sun exposure, a realist knows the plants will grow. It’s a scientifically-supported fact. A realist also knows there are a hundred factors in play in nature that dictate how quickly and abundantly a garden develops. She should be able to envision both the best and worst yields, and settle her expectations somewhere in the vicinity of average.

Now, here is where I acknowledge my inability to be a realist at some points in time. On occasion, I scatter my seeds, throw my arms toward the sun, and declare, “This harvest is going to feed the entire world.”

Then, I drop a block.

Get through that, Bitch.

The Squares of Savannah

I have long dreamt of Savannah. Until this past week, it was the last southern city I’d yearned to visit for many years, but hadn’t made it to yet. Being a mere five hours away, and with limited time remaining in the area, it was time to just do it, make the trip and my fantasy of Savannah come to life.

‘Don’t get your hopes up. It’s just any other small southern city,’ Realist Me thought.

‘This harvest is going to feed the entire world,’ Secret Over-Optimist Me believed.

‘Based upon known data,’ Science Geek Me hypothesized, ‘Savannah could be a hybrid of New Orleans and Charleston.’  If you’ve been to Charleston or New Orleans, you might recognize this as equivalent to saying, ‘Get through that, Bitch,’ because Charleston and New Orleans are, simply put, two extraordinary places in the United States.

Now, I don’t know if my expectations were what kept me from seeing Savannah as the beautiful city I’ve heard so much about, but I’m sure they didn’t help.

While there is certainly something distinctive in the way the city is laid out around its squares of greenery, though, those lovely spots are oases in a city that feels otherwise parched. The historic street along the Savannah River has the personality of a tacky boardwalk. Asian cuisine is more readily available than southern cuisine, so the places that do serve southern staples suffer from long waits and unjustified prices. There is no spirit that embraces you when you step onto the streets, saying, ‘This is our history, this is our collective experience, this is what it feels like to be of Savannah.’

Even standing in Forsyth Park in the dark of night with few other people lurking, the spirits were nowhere to be found. It was just an, admittedly beautiful, public park with exceptional foliage. Was it worth seeing? Yes, once by day and once by night, but there was no desire to linger there, to soak up the feel of the place.

On Tuesday, we left Savannah to be in Charleston by lunchtime, where we walked to the Hominy Grill and had boiled peanuts and fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, a giant biscuit, and pecan pie.

Then, we walked the streets, and history was everywhere. I could feel those spirits, that sense of place as the ocean tide made the waters of Charleston Harbor lap at the shore. There was ample seafood and southern cooking and barbecue.

Perhaps, I expected too much of Savannah, but perhaps, just perhaps, Savannah didn’t deliver on the promise of its reputation as a southern city. There is a difference between embracing history and culture, and exploiting it. One manipulates the garden, like a mad scientist, determined to turn the yellow rose red in an effort to enhance its desirability. The other says, ‘Welcome to our garden. These are our yellow roses. Aren’t they stunning?’

To be fair, though, the tea in Savannah was not stupid. The tea at Gallery Espresso was actually the best return on my travel investment.