Culture Clash

While I was attending our local community college, I struck up a friendship with a kid in our Physics class. Hassan was Moroccan, about 20 years old, and had a wonderful sense of humor. He looked like any American kid, behaved like one and without his slight accent, you’d think he was born in Ohio or something.

So one day Hassan and I were hanging out in the corridor outside the classrooms, when two girls sat down next to us and started chatting away in some foreign language. They were, in a word, exquisite (in a trashy-Kardashian kind of way) — dark, expressive eyes, long black hair beautifully styled, fashionable clothes and expensive shoes. They looked more as though they were about to go out on a date than attend class.

Anyway, at some point a Muslim guy walked past us — Muslim, because he was wearing that silly skullcap thing and the white shift over long trousers. He looked at the girls, said something in Arabic to Hassan, and walked off.

Hassan bent over double with laughter, and when I asked him what the guy had said, he replied, “Persian whores.”

And there you have it, in a nutshell. Three recent immigrants (Hassan and the girls) who’d come here and assimilated (a little too much in the case of the girls, but still), and one asshole who’d brought over his 11th-century culture and would never assimilate.

And if you think for one minute that he’d inflict some Islamic-style caning on those two pretty girls if he could, you’d be perfectly correct. I saw it in his eyes.

 


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Election Interference

No, not Russia, but Mexico has interfered in U.S. elections for decades. Thus says the Diplomad, and he should know:

Is there foreign interference in our elections? You bet. 

The biggest offender? Not Russia, but Mexico. Mexican officials publicly called on Mexicans in the US to oppose Trump; Mexico’s over fifty–yes, fifty–consulates in the US (here) are hot beds of political activity and activism. Millions of illegal and legal aliens largely from Mexico and Central America vote, yes vote. We need to have an in-depth investigation into Mexico’s interference in our elections, an interference that goes well beyond revealing embarrassing DNC texts.

His ideas for punishing Mexico are excellent, but you’ll have to read the whole piece.


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A Reason To Live

(Before I go any further, I want to beg my Loyal Readers not to read anything more into my words than what they actually state. This is a philosophical discussion, written in as dispassionate a manner as I can manage given the circumstances.)

It seems to be a fact of life that when one spouse of an elderly couple dies, it’s not long before the other dies too. I haven’t looked up any actual stats for this — it’s purely an observation — but it seems that if it’s the wife that goes first, it doesn’t take long before the widower follows. It seems especially true if the couple is truly elderly — say, in their 70s or 80s, and I believe that spousal deaths “days after” (and sometimes even “hours after”) are almost a given once a couple has reached their 90s together.

I know exactly how they feel.

What I’ve figured out, speaking just for myself, is that once one is older, the death of a spouse takes away a large reason for the survivor to stay alive. The kids are grown, have left the house and are getting on with their own lives. (Which is exactly as it should be. Nobody should be held to their parents so tightly in adulthood that they can’t follow their own lives’ dreams and ambitions.)

It’s not just the lack of companionship following a spouse’s death. It’s that a large part of living involves being there for someone, to help them, care for them and (if you’re a man) protect them or (if a woman) feed them. (I speak here of a traditional couple, where roles are clearly defined and assumed with willingness and even joy. I have no idea how “modern” couples function, nor do I wish to follow that tangent here.) Once that part of the relationship has ended, what’s left is… not much. In my case, I can cook for myself, clothe myself, defend myself and generally look after myself and my needs. But so what? I’ve always been able to do all that. What a relationship means is that you can do all that, not just for yourself but for someone close to you — and it’s not a duty or obligation; it’s a pleasure to do it, to share it, and to give all that to someone you love.

And it gets worse the longer a couple has been together. In my case, The Mrs. and I were together for over twenty years, and I mean “together” in its most elemental sense: other than the (very) occasional business trip where we were forced to be apart, we were together — and I mean in the same home office, living room, bed or even on the same couch — pretty much all the time. That’s how much we enjoyed each other’s company, conversation and intimacy. If I went to the supermarket, I hurried home as soon as I was done, and if she was out of the house for whatever reason, she’d race home as well. In later years, we were inseparable, as much by choice as (towards the end of her life) by necessity, and let me stress this as strongly as I can: it was never — never — an imposition for either of us. There were no “craft rooms” or “man caves” in our home; if she needed to do some work on her sewing machine, I’d go and sit close to her, or she’d bring the machine and stuff into the family room and work there. The only time we ever declared apartheid was when I wanted to watch a Formula 1 Grand Prix race or a Chelsea football match because the noise drove her scatty, and I’d go watch it in the bedroom. (And get back to where she was, in the living room, library or kitchen the minute the event was done.)

And here’s the problem. That intimacy, that pleasure in each other’s company was forged over many, many years. I’m now in my early sixties, and probably won’t have another twenty years to forge that relationship with another human being, even if I wanted to — and right now, even setting aside my still-active mourning and pain, I don’t want to. There is a feeling of not exactly pointlessness, but of, I don’t know, maybe despair at what life holds for me in the few years remaining to me on this planet.

Of course, I have several very good, very close male friends who are not only supporting me during this shitty period of my life, but have promised to help me achieve the (very few) activities that remain on my bucket list (a topic for another time). But I’m a man, and as much as I enjoy the company of men — and I do, very much — it’s nevertheless true that male companionship is by its very nature episodic and finite: trips to the range, drive trips, hunting trips, cheery conversation over pints of beer (or pints of gin) at the pub, and so on. All of those are wonderful, and I look forward to them with great anticipation and participate in them with considerable enjoyment; but at the end of the day (or evening), I still have to go home to an empty house, an empty living room, and an empty bed. Those are the Empty Times, and they’re lousy.

This is not, by the way, a cry for female companionship. It’s just that, as an old-fashioned man, I miss the intimacy of female companionship — but at the same time, I know that the odds of me ever finding same again are depressingly slim.

I suspect that most older men feel the same way I do, deep inside, and especially so if they’ve been blessed with the same kind of relationship as I was over the past couple of decades. I can’t even begin to think of what George and Barbara Bush mean to each other, after a relationship which has lasted over seventy (!) years. What I do know is that if “Bar” dies before GHWB does, he will follow soon after. That’s not a gloomy prediction: it’s an observation based on many similar circumstances of men like him.

When you reach that stage of your life, the question any man is going to ask himself is: what’s the point of it all? Why carry on?

Hence the title of this piece, and here’s the thing. To give just a few examples, captains of industry, successful and driven politicians or endlessly-creative men do have something to keep them going: their businesses, their idealism, their creativity, whatever. They have a reason to live. But they are the exception. Most men who have lived ordinary lives (such as I) don’t have any of that to keep them going, and they die of loneliness, of a broken heart, or of just plain despair.

I need a reason to live, and other than from my writing (which, admittedly, is a strong one), at the moment it’s hard to find that reason, that purpose. As I said at the top, this is not a cri de coeur or warning of a suicidal impulse — I’m a lot stronger than that, so don’t worry. And maybe this is all just a part of mourning and dealing with the loss of a loved one; I don’t know because I’ve never been here before. I’ll probably get past this mood because I generally do — I am an even-tempered man not susceptible to mood swings; but as much as I know that “this too, will pass”, it sucks all the same. And I’ll be really honest: many artists and writers find that pain is a catalyst for their creativity, but for me, it’s hard to be creative at a time like this. It’s easier to write a blog, which is reactionary writing and commentary, than to find the impulse to pen a new novel or short story.

I understand the appeal of religion, now, to people of my age and circumstance. It must be so comforting to feel the presence of some greater power that will soothe the torture of existence, or an afterlife which promises reunion with the love of one’s life. Sadly, I still can’t go for that, despite the temptation, because it’s just not realistic.

Reality is where I live, and right now, reality is pretty fucking bleak. There’s a very good reason I chose Max Bolotov’s The Setting Sun as the header of this new blog.


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Thanks, Obama, You Bastard

Everyone seems to have been overcome with joy that the reign of Emperor Urkel saw this massive growth in gun sales, with x jillion FBI checks per month, lines outside gun shows or whatever.  Ruger and S&W share prices grew substantially, gun dealers couldn’t get enough guns into stock quickly enough, yadda yadda yadda.

Well excuse me for peeing on everybody’s parade here, but quite frankly, the downside of everybody suddenly wanting a gun is that the prices of the damn things have climbed into the stratosphere — at a gun show recently, I saw a Century Arms something-clone selling for $1100 (!). I mean, a Century Arms rifle for more than a grand? I nearly passed out. There are no good deals at gun shows anymore. The only guns which aren’t selling at firstborn-demanding prices seem to be double-barreled shotguns, and that’s because I guess they aren’t sexy enough for the New Buyers. Not that it matters much: a new AyA No.2 Round Action side-by-side now runs for about what it cost ten years ago ($7,900), i.e. they’re still expensive.

Don’t even get me started on the complete disappearance of rimfire ammo: .22 Long Rifle, when you could get it, was approaching 10 cents a round for crappy Bosnian stuff, and .22 Win Mag still costs about as much per round as practice .45 ACP. Thank gawd that I had a few thousand (okay, twenty-odd thousand) rounds of .22 LR and .22 WM squirreled away in Ye Olde Ammoe Locquer, or else I’d have got really angry.

I remember once suggesting the “seven-cent solution” (a .22 bullet in the back of the skull) for some politician, Teddy Kennedy most likely, and being chided by a Reader that I shouldn’t waste my expensive .22 ammo on that dirtbag. Boy, how ironic is that now when bulk Aguila, which I used to feed to my dog as a treat, now costs well over 10 cents per round.

And prices aren’t going down anytime soon, either. I see that .22 LR is at least being manufactured again, which has eased the availability thereof a bit; but my favorite CCI Mini-Mag is still unaffordable. Ugh. I need to stop now before I bust something. I’d shoot up my TV in disgust, but the ammo costs more to replace than the Sony.


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Back To School — An Introduction

After the end of my old blog, The Mrs. decreed that before her health got too bad, she wanted to fulfill her lifelong dream and go live in France for a few years. Of course, our finances would not allow us to do that — Paris is obscenely expensive in terms of apartment rental, not to mention all the other stuff — so she came up with a Grand Plan.

“You’ll just have to work there to support us.”

“Doing what?”

“Teach. At an American school or something.” (Grand Plans, by definition, are somewhat vague on details.)

“But I can’t get a teaching job without a university degree.”

“So get one.”

Therefore at age 55, it was back to school for Kim, with (in the Bard’s words): “shining morning face, creeping like a snail unwillingly to school”. One and a half years at community college to get the “core” courses (what I thought would have been covered in high school, silly me), followed by one and a half years to get my B.A. (I took on a per-semester course load which would have made John Milton weep, and took every summer class I could).

Anyway, to make a very long story not quite so long, at age 58 I graduated summa cum laude from University of North Texas with a B.A. (History, Modern Western Europe emphasis).

During my last semester at UNT I started looking at American schools first in Paris, then elsewhere in France as a backup. (I speak both French and German more or less fluently, but The Mrs. didn’t like the idea of living in Germany even though it would have been a lot easier to find a gig at a U.S. military base.)

Then Connie’s health went over a cliff. First, her back collapsed completely, necessitating several spinal operations which didn’t help, but reduced her height from 6’1″ to 5’11”. Mobility was going to be an issue, so a ground-floor apartment in Paris was going to be the only option.

And then came cancer: Stage 4 ovarian, with a 95% mortality rate. At that point, a move out of the country was clearly impossible.

I’m not going to dwell on the latter, for reasons I’m sure you understand. What I am going to talk about, in the months that follow, are my experiences at an institute of hire learning [sic] and my encounters with academia. If you think of me as that “Connecticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur”, only with a very bad attitude, you won’t be far wrong.

Oh, and lest anyone’s still curious about my finances and the need for a GoFundMe appeal, allow me to add just two words: student loans. The tuition at Collin College was paid in cash; the tuition at UNT was not.


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