Friday, May 22, 2015

I Failed At Keeping Sweet This Morning

It happens.  And when it does, I usually figure it out sometime around the five minute mark after everything is over. I was in my driveway, dressed in borderline hilarious mismatched layers over pajamas in a mad dash to get the trash to the road in  case the garbage men.  I got everything bagged and situated and was walking over to pick up the free bi-weekly paper when I saw my neighbor across the street.

"Morning!" I said, cheerfully and at the same time edging back up to my front door because pajamas, being an introvert, Niklas Lidstrom might wake up and start barking...pick one, any reason would do.

As I picked up my paper, he reached down and got his in his driveway and held it out to me.

"Oh, no thanks," I said, "Got my own right here.  (Polite refusal number one.)

"Do you want a paper?" he asked.

"Thanks, but I've got this one." (Polite refusal number two, while really starting to wonder if he's kidding.)

"Here's the paper," he said as he crossed the street to hand it to me.

"Thank you. No. I have the paper from my own driveway." I started to walk back to my house. (Still counting? That polite, but firm refusal number three.)

"You don't want this paper?"

"No. Thank you. I have a paper." (Refusal number four.)

"Well, he said, you could throw it away, then."

He walked to the end of my driveway and held out the paper. At that point, I just looked at him. He started to drop it into my trash bin. We have a rule in my burb that all trash has to be bagged or it will be refused. I know that paper would end up a sodden mess in the bottom of my almost too tall for me bin or it would b e thrown down in my driveway.

"My bags are already closed."

He didn't seem to want to open up my garbage bag to add his paper and turned and walked back to his house.

I went into the house, confused and a little irritated by the exchange. One of my close guyfriends, Dale was waiting to chat online. I told him what happened.

"That's why you're single," he was kidding. I hope.

"I thought it was because all of male friends are gay."

As we discussed the situation, it started to make sense. He knew I had a paper and he really wasn't trying to give me reading matter. I was supposed to pick up his nonverbal cue that it was my place to dispose of his paper. And my repeated refusals?  They didn't count because keeping sweet meant I was supposed to do as he asked. In the way of the world in Nashville, Tennessee, he was entitled. Moving in a world that is almost completely peopled by artists and writers, I had forgotten how the rest of society thinks.

I didn't say this to Dale, but it also gave me an idea of what pretty women go through. No matter how many times I said no, my neighbor felt entitled to me knowing what he wanted and giving it to him. Who hasn't heard an attractive friend -of either gender, really- talk about encounter with people who behaved like they were owed attention? While this situation was nowhere as intense as the demands for romantic connection that some of my friends have dealt with, I have to say I now understand it beyond the level of abstract concept.

So I failed at keeping sweet and throwing away his paper for him, not out of cussedness, but because I missed the cues. Even if I had understood what was going on, I still would have done to the same thing.  To steal a turn of phrase from The Georgia Satellites:

Don't hand me no trash and keep your cues to yourself! 

copyright 2015 Jas Faulkner and Zen Dixie

Monday, April 20, 2015

My 4:20 Story

Stick taps to George Scoville, who reminded me of the date. George abides.

I loved working in clinical psych, but I have to admit that once in a while the learning curve really threw me. This was especially true when I started accepting rotations in dual diagnosis and chemical dependency intervention programs. I really love that kind of work, but here's the thing: aside from Communion wine and the occasional contact high that happens when one majors in theatre, art, and yes, anthropology, my experience with chemically assisted fun was pretty much nil.

So I went from learning the alphabet soup of the DSM-V and arcana of psycohtropic drugs with their various side effects and projects timetables of maximum efficacy to completely new concepts like The Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions and New Playgrounds and, and, and, the slang. There was so much slang. I mean, I dabble in dead languages for fun and the sheer volume of street names and jargon for every blessed thing, not to mention completely new concepts that would have made Bill W. swear and break things

So I guess it should come as no surprise that I had no clue about 4:20.

A quick sidebar here:  4:20 is kid code for "Let's go out behind the vo-tech building and smoke pot." As in:
"What time do you want to go get the thing?"
"Nootch to the scootch" (Or whatever kids say. I'm not even going to pretend I know.)

Now my kids, who were usually fairly well behaved, found out that I did not know about 4:20, and being kids, they ran with it. For almost three weeks.

Kid: Miss Jas, I have an appointment with my psych and then my MD.
Me: No problem. What time do you need to leave?
Kid: 4:20 (The class stifles giggles)
Me: Sure. ::sighing:: We really need a clock in this room.
Kid: And Other Kid needs to see his social worker.
Me: What time does he need to leave?
Kid: 4:20.  (At this point, some of the students probably needed Depends.)

The hospital classroom had no clock and I am brutal to watches, so at around four, I would stop people as they passed by the classroom door and ask them how close it was to 4:20. This went on for some time to the amusement of, well, I guess everyone. Finally one of the psychiatrists pulled me aside during lunch and explained 4:20 to me within hearing of the kids.

This probably makes me a terrible clinician, but I couldn't be mad. I thought it was funny and they frankly had my admiration. I have a terrible poker face and they were going into week three of sending Miss Jas into the hallway of the Chemical Dependency/Dual Diagnosis program to ask various employees, social workers, doctors, and parents if it was 4:20 yet.

So that's my 4:20 story.  Happy 4:20 if that's your inclination. For me and everyone else, Happy 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 16 Moon landing.

copyright 2015 Jas Faulkner/Zen Dixie

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sometimes Comedy Isn't Pretty, But It Doesn't Have to Be Cruel

After giving it some serious thought, I removed "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" from my Netflix lineup. It is a great show and I was pretty excited about it. However, the cruel lampooning of a real person nags at me. I know it wasn't THE thing that precipitated Dr. Brandt's suicide. It shouldn't have happened, period. The showrunners didn't need to ridicule someone to make "Kimmy" funny.

In some ways, this casts the same kind of pall that the shtick about bullying Gary/Jerry/etc. did over Parks and Rec.The inevitable pile-on on Jerry always made me wonder if the creators of the show really thought it was funny..

The only conclusion I can come to is that the people who write this kind of material have never been bullied or maybe they've never been bullied enough to understand the impact it can have. I can speak from personal experience, having been and still being the "Jerry" in many situations and having a costume director actually create character's look based on my appearance for a mainstage show while I was an undergraduate at Memphis State in the late 80s.

What happened this week brought back a lot of bad stuff I thought I'd left behind. No matter how good or bad your life is going, there is no way that public ridicule can not affect you. It hurts. It makes you feel that you are less than a person and if you aren't particularly outgoing, it makes you fearful, sad, and feeling that the only safe place is alone. Worse, there is no way to fight back because you are not in a position of power.

I think for me the worst part is that these are women-driven, women-centered shows that are marked by dick moves. I expected better.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Love the Work You're With

by Jas Faulkner

Yesterday I received an email from someone I've chatted with online since 1996.  1996.  The people born that year are starting college or careers or enlisting in the military or any number of things that mark them as grownups.  Wow.

So anyway...

She wanted to congratulate me on hitting the one year mark with my website.  (For the few of you who actually only know me from this blog...all...two of you? The site she was talking about was  She went on to say that many ventures don't make it to the six-month mark, much less a whole year. And then she said a lot of nice things that at the time I wasn't sure were actually true.

Then she asked me how I'd sum it up.


The most important thing the past year has revealed to me? It has been an object lesson in what happens when you get what you want. It has also been a year-long crash course in learning to be the grown up.

Not that it makes any sense, but my vision of creating an online magazine never included managing other people.  It was possibly my least favorite aspect of collaborative work. That sort of thing has always left me not liking what parts of my personality come to the surface.  By nature I am not a leader.  Heck, I'm not even that great when it comes to following. Still, there was no way to get around it.  If I wanted the website, I would have to learn to lead.

So I learned, not just from the editors of other sites who took the time to advise me, but from the writers who stuck by me and the site over the last year. It hasn't been without some highs and lows.  Relationships have changed.  Some of them are stronger for the experience.  Some of them revealed weak places and broke from the strain.

The highs, even the smooth places have been pretty good.

The lows were memorable in ways that will provide fodder for a future story.  I think the absolute low point for me was logging into the online press room one morning to read a message from a writer who declared that he was in charge and called the site a "trainwreck".   Four staff writers LOLed and gave him virtual high-fives.

I shut off the computer, had a Holly Hunter from "Broadcast News" crying jag, and then spent the rest of the day asking myself how much I really wanted this. It turned out that I wanted it quite a bit.  The next day I logged in to the website, ignored the conversation, and got down to the business of planning the relaunch with a new hosting company.

I had almost completely forgotten that incident when an intern who was reading the and cleaning out the message boards in the press room came across the conversation.

"What did you think when you saw that?" he asked.

"I thought, 'I suck at this and I need to quit and turn the whole thing back into a handmade goods store.' That was my first thought.  Later on that day, I thought, 'You need to go.' Then I decided to hold off and see what happened next."

"It's fucking cruel," he said.  "Say that shit in backchannel, not right there where everyone can see how you feel.  Better yet, just quit if you have little respect what someone else has built."*

I told him that the incident really hurt at the time.  It also taught me a valuable lesson about how I taught people to treat me and my work.  It stuck with me.  Going forward, I learned what wasn't instinctive about being the boss.  I also learned respect for what I was doing and how to extend that to everyone around me as a way to nurture and demonstrate what I wanted.

So the highs that came in September and October, the first anniversary and beyond, those were all the sweeter for having dealt with everything that came before.  It gave me a sense of confidence, something I need as I move forward to 2014.

Here's the thing.  You can invest everything, and by everything I mean all that you are and all that you have in the material, emotional, and the spiritual sense.  The condition is that your work has to love you back.  By that, I mean the good days have to outnumber the bad. You might get tired, but there is always some aspect of it that pulls you away from being depleted. It makes you smile, even on the bad days.  Going past not minding, you are happy to be there.  Mind boosts spirit that in turn boosts body that boosts mind that boosts spirit and so on...

A friend once explained a difficult choice he had to make as an answer to the need to take care of himself.  He said at that point, it would have to come first.  He's right.   If you're reading this and wondering if the self-care (possibly professional self-defense) you're contemplating is selfish, I'll venture a guess on your behalf and say it isn't.

No matter what perks you might think you need to offer, what bells and whistles you can add as tools, the main thing you have to offer is yourself. The nice part is, its your choice to make that person cared for and confident and ready to off care in return.

So yeah, love yourself enough to care about yourself and you'll find that your work loves you back or it ins't the right work.

*And with that, he made up for nearly deleting the whole site the day before.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An Open Letter To Victoria Jackson

Dear Ms. Jackson,

First of all, welcome to Tennessee.  Like many natives, I have a Faulknerian love/hate relationship with my native state, so it always feels a little hypocritical to say, "Howdy! You're gonna love it here!"  The simple truth is, you are going to love it here, at least I hope you will. It seems like a lot of transplants do and you know?  That makes me feel pretty good.

Welcoming you here is one reason I wanted to write this letter-blog-post thingie.  Another thing I wanted to talk to you about is Middle Tennessee religious life. Quite a few people have this notion that Middle Tennessee is a hotbed of Protestant Christian homogeneity.

Most of the population around here is one flavor or another of Protestantism: Southern Baptists, The Church of Christ, Presbyterians, Pentecostal Holiness, Methodists, Lutherans, COGIC, D of C, Episcopalians waving hi!... There's no doubt we're the majority. There are other kinds of Christians around here as well.  You'll find a large number of devout Roman Catholics who attend masses in (the last time I counted) three different languages.  There are Greek and Russian Orthodox communities of faith.  With a little searching you can find some Coptic and Messianic congregations as well.

But, Victoria?  (Yeah, I am going to be forward and call you by your first name because I'm a Victoria, too, and it's a fun name to type.)  All of those people are just one piece of a bigger picture.  Go to any event where there is a cross section of people from this part of the state, say a Titans game.  You'll see Atheists, Agnostics, Sikhs, Jews who are extremely observant and Jews who wouldn't turn down a decent plate of BBQ, Pagans, Wiccans, Asatru, Jains, Buddhists, and yes, Muslims.

Those people are an important part of this place we call home, too.  They're Tennesseans, just like you and me. They're our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, they might be family by blood or marriage or a meaningful bond that just happens. One of the nicest things about living here is that nearly everyone is from somewhere else. What they bring with them makes Nashville a dynamic, interesting place to live.

I bring this up because I read that you want to oppose the opening of a mosque in Rutherford County. From what you've said in the past, I take it you're afraid of the people who will be using this building. Why?  Like anyone else here, they want to work, raise families, and be a part of the larger community.  I imagine they are too busy living their own lives to give much thought to disrupting anyone else's.

That's why I'm asking you to at least think about accepting this place for every aspect of what it is. I hope you'll open your heart and explore everything Nashville has to offer.

Jas Faulkner

Sunday, May 06, 2012

She'll Jus' Dah!

One thing I love about my job is that it gives me some respite from the rhetorical battlefield that is US political discourse. You and I know the Religious Right has declared war on women. This is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.  It makes me wonder how the smart, capable Republican women I know really feel about the situation.  Maybe I should ask them.  After all, a few of my friends on that side of the aisle had some choice words when McCain picked Sarah Palin over any number of women who would have shown the party in a far better light. One woman spent at least five minutes listing who should have been on the dias instead of Ms. Palin as her husband nodded in agreement.  (When Carol stopped for breath, he patted her knee and she snapped, "I'm not finished!"  So yeah, this is a sore point for nearly every proud conservative woman I know.)  

But I digress.

Working (mostly) as a sportswriter and editor, I get all kinds of news tidbits when the situation even remotely involves an athlete. The particular bit that caught my attention concerned the fiance' of former Saints tight end, Eric Johnson. Jessica Simpson (who usually doesn't register at all in my world) and Elle (What's that?) seem to have teamed up in an effort to further liminalise women who fall outside of the narrowing definition of what is acceptable behaviour for anyone sporting a uterus, boobs and a hairdo. For those of you who haven't heard about it yet, here's what she said:

 Ah swear, ah will croak if she asks me for a pair of Nikes instead of Christian Louboutins!”

I'll give you all a minute to facepalm before I continue. While you're doing that, I will weep over the fact that the same state that produced Ann Richards and Molly Ivins would somehow let this one slip past quality control. 

Jessica, Jessica, Jessica, is this an expression of your subconscious fear that your daughter might turn out to be something other than a pretty blonde pop princess? Not that there's anything wrong with being a blonde pop princess,  Sometimes they can be fun to listen to and it's kind of cute to watch little girls go through their pop-dolly phases.  (I think Ke$ha and Katy Perry are hilarious and adorable. Sorry, haters.) 

What isn't cute is the message that this sends to anyone still paying attention to Jessica Simpson. Not every girl can be a crack athlete, but every girl should be encouraged to find ways that she loves to be active. Ask any woman over thirty-five -especially those of us who grew up in the Southeastern US- where being anything other than a booster and cheerleader for the boys was more often than not discouraged. They and I will tell you that we should not go back to a time when girls were expected to sit demurely on the sidelines and cheer as the boys get dirty and sweaty.  

My friend, Lauren, offered her own head-shaking response to Ms Simpson's odd statement:

"I'm lusting after an expensive pair of running shoes a friend of mine just purchased...and if I could fit my foot into a Louboutin (and there is the minor detail of being able to afford them) I'd buy both in a minute. On the same shopping trip, no less."

and Dahlia observes:

It's sad that JS thinks a girl has to pick Nikes or Louboutins. Some of us like both.

Of course this is about more than shoes and shopping, really.  I suspect, and deep down I hope I'm wrong, that Jessica is afraid her little girl won't be pretty if she prefers the locker room to the mall.  Allow me to offer a few examples:

This is Manon Rheaume:

and, this is Manon Rheaume:

Okay, I will admit that I'm not the best person to judge this sort of thing; but I assume that few if any straight men or lesbians would run screaming if she expressed an interest.

Mia Hamm:

and of course there are the Williams Sisters.  They're powerful, beautiful women who know how to impress on the court...

and the red carpet.

I hope Jessica knows that the Littlest Simpson-Johnson could do a lot worse than the Williams sisters for role models.  Aside from their athletic careers, they've also made names for themselves for their tastes in clothing and they're enthusiastic students and patrons of fashion.  Check them out sometime, Ms. Simpson. When little Maxwell asks for a racquet or a pair of skates, please don't sigh or worse, say no.  See what it is that makes her love that activity and encourage her.  If you're supportive of who she is, she'll feel it and will want to do the things that you love, too.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Hamsters Are Back!

Please visit my sports blog, Greetings From Smashville to see what they have to say about the NHL Awards!