I still remember, twenty-five years later, when the first Wu Tang Clan album dropped. I was twenty-one years old, in college, an avid fan of hip hop, which was entering a golden age after a shaky start in the 1980s. The record took our little campus by storm; I swear you couldn’t walk through the dorms or go to a party that whole year without hearing at least one track. Even now, decades and more later, I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite song on the album.
But of course I lived in Florida, the black hole of live music tours, so I never got to see them live. So you can imagine how happy I was to score tickets to the Wu Tang show this past weekend in Seattle. I didn’t even know when I bought them that the tour was specifically to celebrate Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers), which I still have a CD copy of that I bought in college, and that I still listen to.
So you can imagine how thrilled beyond thrilled I was when I found out that not only was I going to see a band I’d loved more than half my life, but that they were specifically going to perform the album of theirs that I knew and loved best. I hardly even minded having to walk into a giant venue with tens of thousands of other people in it, a thing this cranky introvert is not typically to be found doing, because if there’s one thing I hate worse than people it’s crowds of them.
We got there early, had a couple drinks, and watched the opening band (The Soul Rebels, I think they were called, a New Orleans brass band that does hip hop covers: they were good). Then, with much hullaballoo, the main event began. Continue reading
So, I have my preferences, loosely held at the moment, because it’s too early to get all worked up and the infighting/circular firing squad thing we went through last time (and how many other times before that?) just isn’t gonna work for us this time, so I’m saving my shots for the other side, who far more richly deserve them. That said, I do have a thing I want to say about how I’m going to be making my choices, donations, and decisions about whom to support in the 2020 election cycle. And though I shan’t tell you, a presumably grown-ass adult human capable of making your own choices, what to think or how to come to your own conclusions, I do hope you’ll give this a read and a good long think, afterwards.
We are at war, and have been for a long time. Decades, at very least.
No, I’m not talking about Afghanistan, or any of the other various and sundry American military deployments abroad, however hot or cold their current theater of operations is. Not that that’s not worth talking about, especially Afghanistan where we’re almost two decades in and I still don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish. No, the war I’m talking about is the war here at home, between left and right, and it’s a war only one side has been fighting for most of the time it’s been going on.
That has to change. Like, yesterday.
Look, I get that you may not think of it that way, and you probably don’t want to think of it that way. It’s comforting to think of the Trump era as an aberration, a Black Swan event that, while it’s doing some damage to our republic, our cultural and institutional immune system is even now spinning up antibodies (Congressional investigations, various state AGs, the Mueller report, etc) to combat it. Once the fever breaks, we can go back to normal, with good-faith bipartisanship and West Wing-style governance by whoever makes the best argument.
We can’t. Continue reading
I knew something was wrong the moment my mom walked into my room. It wasn’t just that she was crying, though she was. In a moment I was crying, too, because it was my mom waking me up to go to school that morning. Which was not her job. My dad was the one who woke me up for school in the morning. The moment I laid eyes on my mom I knew: my dad finally left her.
I was in fifth grade. Not quite ten years old. It was the early ’80s, and I was very shortly to have the disctinction of being the first kid I knew whose parents got a divorce.
It wasn’t a surprise. Like I said, I knew right away what had happened. And to be honest, I can’t — and could not at the time — remember a time when my parents weren’t fighting. I didn’t know what they were fighting about, didn’t really even want to. It was just a thing that happened, and when it did I would go to my room and play with my toys or read a book or I’d go outside and ride my bike around the neighborhood or go knock on a friend’s door or one of the thousand other things kids did back in the days when parents weren’t expected to schedule and supervise their childrens’ entire existence.
That morning was the last time I cried about it.
Because like I knew what had happened the night before, I knew what was expected of me. What was expected of any boy who wasn’t girly or gay or soft or weak. No one had to tell me that boys don’t cry.
So I didn’t. I tamped that shit down, put on my game face, and went on a field trip to Sea World with the rest of my class. As I recall, my dad was one of our chaperones. I didn’t ask him what happened. I mean, it wasn’t like it was a surprise. The real surprise was it hadn’t happened sooner.
I remember being very proud of myself for being so mature.
It wasn’t long after that I started acting out. Continue reading
[Serious trigger warning for survivors of sexual assault. You don’t need to read it. The important bits will be requoted in what follows.]
I didn’t want people to know. More than that, I didn’t want those things to have happened.
But they did happen. I did those things. And if it’s taken this long for me to human up and acknowledge them, well, that’s on me, too.
I could make excuses. I was young, dumb, and full of cum. I didn’t know any better. I came of age in the ’80s, when rape culture was just culture. Men were supposed to want sex, and anything shy of actual or threatened violence was on the table for getting it, be it deception, cajoling, or just getting her drunk enough to let you take her panties off and do what you wanted. I was a product of my environment.
Those excuses are bullshit. Basic human decency isn’t hard to grasp once you admit to yourself that other people are people.
[For the record, I still don’t want people to know, I still don’t want those things to have happened, those things did still happen, and I’m still sorry. Like then, I am still terrified of hitting ‘publish’ when I get to the end of this, because even though I don’t think of myself as a good person, I still prefer that other people do.]
Sadly, and sadly unsurprisingly, not all men took that watershed moment to reflect on rape culture and their place and participation in it, either personally or politically. Sadly, and sadly unsurprisingly, not all men are taking the opportunity now. But some are. Continue reading