Sunday, August 12, 2018

Thoughts on Ralph Ellison's Invisable Man

Well, I haven't finished the book yet. I read another chapter today. Yet again I felt myself being drawn in by the main character's struggles. It made me wonder why it takes me so long after I put it down to pick it back up. I think perhaps the simplest explanation is that reading it makes me feel guilty for belonging to the race which was for so long oppressive to anyone whose skin was a different tone than ours. Perhaps also I feel guilty because I belong to a community which harbors racism and I hear things and I say nothing. I never speak up for the oppressed, as I should. I never fight to make a difference in the ways I could now. That makes me think that, if I lived back then, I would not speak up against the terrible injustices that happen to the characters in this book.

I decided that I will be finishing Invisible Man for my August bucket list item. Since it is a book, I will post after I read so much of it. In order to finish it before school starts I will have to read more than one chapter a day. I imagine some days I'll be reading a couple of chapters and some days I will not be reading it. When I read, I'll write a reaction to the chapter without spoiling the events for anyone who wants to read it for themselves. Throughout the following paragraph I will be referring to the protagonist as MC for (Main Character) because it is written in the first person and I am not sure it has given him a name yet.

This chapter was about the University's reaction to MC's mistake. I think their reaction was a bit harsh, considering the mistake was not purposeful. I do understand their reaction though. They've worked to get to a place where they have a mutual understanding that allows them to educate black youth in the same way their white counterparts are being educated, and if what MC did threatened that, then they must feel justified in punishing him. I felt immense sorrow and teared up when he left Dr. Bledsoe and only reached the outside of the building before doubling over. What was done was an injustice, whoever was ultimately to blame. I can't wait to read more. I hope that the book ends with MC triumphing despite all odds, but I have a feeling it is going to end badly.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Best Laid Plans

Well, the plan was to kill two birds with one stone, but I should have given up on getting the back to school shopping done when I learned there weren't any appropriate office supply stores near the place where Gorman Falls is located. I should have, but I didn't.

We picked the closest location we could find, which was in Killeen, a whole hour and fifteen minutes away. We drove to Killeen, did our shopping, which took over an hour, then went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner (the older two adore sushi and wanted it, I told youngest she could order something else, she ordered fried chicken). It took about an hour at the restaurant as well. Now if we'd gotten an earlier start, this plan might have worked out, but as it was we didn't get out of the house until after 3:00. When we finally got to Colorado Bend State Park, it was just about twilight. We saw a trail which was supposed to lead to Gorman Falls, and started down it, but as it started to get dark, we decided to turn back around and go home.

We did get to see quite a few deer (and almost hit one) but didn't get any pics and didn't get to cross anything off the bucket list. I'm pretty beat, had one helluva day.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Chicken

Well, I chickened out of what I was supposed to try and do this month, which was to go skinny dipping. I kept it a secret because I was afraid that if people knew, someone might try and find out where and play a prank on me by stealing my clothes. I know. I'm paranoid.

Because the month is almost over, I have decided to take my girls to see Gorman Falls tomorrow and cross that off instead. So expect a post late tomorrow about my experience at Gorman Falls. We will probably try to go swimming (just regular swimming) if there is a place for it, and then we will do some back to school shopping.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Whiling away the Hours

So I have been trying (quite unsuccessfully) to combat my procrastination. Especially when the girls are here, it seems harder to get into gear and get stuff done. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's the feeling that it is unfair for me to be doing all the work while they play and the unwillingness to fight with them over whether or not they'll help.

Even when the girls aren't here I find it difficult to get myself into gear. For hours I will scroll social media, or read various articles I find, or watch TV shows (some which I have seen, and some which I haven't), or play video games, anything to keep myself from tackling the task which seems insurmountable, that of cleaning my house.

Cleaning the house is so boring. Ever notice that. It's so mundane that I can actually write while I'm doing it. I make up stories and articles in my head all the time. The only trouble is, if I stop what I'm doing to jot it down, then I don't finish what it was that I started doing. Although it is wonderful to be able to write while I do other kinds of work, writing also brings up questions. I'll be trudging along, washing dishes, thinking about how my stand-up comedy routine would go, then I wonder if my observation was true of everyone or if it's just me. If it's just me then it wouldn't be funny. Or, I'll be in the midst of imagining a battle scene for my WWII book, and wonder if the setting I've chosen is historically accurate. Questions make me want to research and research brings me to the internet, which is the epicenter of procrastination. You'll read one article and at the bottom will be links to four more that sound just as interesting. It's like a bag of lays potato chips, you can't read just one.

Same goes for when I sit down to write. I'll be typing along and a thought will come into my head and, of course, I'll need to verify it so I don't look stupid. I used to ask questions of the smartest people I knew. These questions were to expand my knowledge, but I realized that (outside the classroom) these questions make you appear stupid. Nowadays you're not supposed to ask questions of other people, you're supposed to ask them of Google. There's a problem with that, though. There are different sources which say different things, and the ones which are credible may not be (in fact usually aren't) the most readily available. Of course, reading what someone has written can be just as interesting at listening to what they have to say. It all depends on the writer/speaker.

Right now, I'm procrastinating so many things. Among them, my bucket list item for July. I chose one, but decided not to tell anybody what it was. Now I'm thinking maybe this isn't the time for that one and I should pick something else. It's already 11 days into the month so if I did pick something else it would have to be something which wouldn't require much planning or foresight. I don't have a lot of spare change, so it shouldn't be something that costs much (or anything) either. When I saw a Panic at the Disco tour advertisement in Austin, I thought that could be my thing (depending on the price of tickets), but then I found out that the date the tour came to Austin was back in February or something. They really should take down those signs. Any spontaneous trip is out unless I take the kids on one of my three day weekends with them. Then I'd have to worry about gas and what if my vehicle doesn't make it all the way there and back.

I suppose I could attempt to finish reading that Spanish novel I started, although I'm not sure I could do it in less than a month. If I decided to do that, I might write my thoughts about it each time I put the book down. It's not like I haven't read a whole novel within the space of a couple of weeks before. I did that with Jane Eyre in my women's literature class. The problem is that, with my limited knowledge of Spanish, I might be stopping to translate every couple of paragraphs. Perhaps I could set aside August for that goal, since I'll have to do it on a month when I don't have school work to attend to. I haven't even thought about how I'll approach the bucket list for months when I have school, but maybe I'll just take a hiatus until I graduate next spring (hopefully).

If any of you were wondering, I made amends with my parents. Well, we mutually agreed that politics and religion are both sore points we shouldn't discuss and left it at that. I'm still not sure if my parents read my post or not. They haven't spoken to me about it, so I suppose if they did, they weren't too happy with what it said.

Well, the time to procrastinate has passed. I need to get ready for work now. I'll check in again later and let you know if I've decided to do something different for my bucket list challenge this month.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Public letter to my Parents

Dear Mom and Dad:

I know our last encounter was rocky. You said some things that upset me, and I said some things that upset you. I know you want me to apologize, and maybe I do "owe" you an apology because I did over react. However, I'm not doing that and here's why.

Over the years you have done many things to wrong me. (I'm mostly talking about you Dad, but Mom has some culpability too). You've done things I wasn't even aware of until I spoke to my siblings about how you acted after I left home (which I had every right to do at 19). Every one of those things were forgiven without an apology. If you can't forgive me without an apology for this one thing, then I guess we'll have to go our separate ways.

I know our belief systems are different. I know politically we're at odds. I still love you as my parents, and would never wish harm on you. If you need help, you know that I'll help when I'm able. Sometimes I get annoyed, even angry, like I did last time we talked, at your apparent lack of concern for my feelings. I get over it. I was never one to hold a grudge.

That is all,
Elie

P.S. I did this instead of calling you because I know how stubborn Dad is, but I know mom will most likely read this post.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Good Samaritan

I drove halfway through Burleson before I realized that I would have to head back the other way to find a hotel. There were a few I'd caught a glimpse of on my way into town. I remembered them because I very much wanted to sleep in a bed the night before. I was just afraid of being late to my volunteer assignment if I slept at home, and didn't want to spend the extra money on a hotel room.

So I turned around in a shopping center and headed back towards I35. It wasn't long before I saw them, but I realized that the exit that brought me there was one I'd already passed. I took the very next exit, on down the road and then the first right turn available. Even after doing that, the hotel wasn't easy to get to. I had to weave down many roads and it took almost 15 minutes to find my way back to the hotel. I finally got there, got out and booked a room for half the rate they had been wanting to charge near the convention center.

The hotel clerk was a nice man with a middle eastern look and a strong accent. After giving him all my pertinent information, I paid for the room and got the room key. The doors were indoors, so I had to park and then walk back in. When I got out of my car, I got the hotel key out of my purse which is when I must have dropped my wallet. I took my suitcase and headed for my room.

Once there, it didn't take long before I drifted off to sleep. The previous night -- trying to sleep for a few hours in a hot and muggy vehicle -- had taken its toll. I woke up at 6:45 the next morning to my hotel phone ringing. Confused I answered the call. It was the nice hotel clerk. He said he had my wallet, that I had dropped it in the parking lot. I immediately began to panic. All the cash I had taken to spend at the convention (over $100) was in there, along with my driver's license and my bank card. He told me he was fixing to leave, but he could leave it with his boss who came in at 7. Wide awake now, I scampered to put my clothes back on and rushed out the door. I was in such a hurry, I almost left the key in my room but managed to remember it just in time.

I went back down to the lobby and to the clerk, who handed me my wallet. The first thing I checked was the cash. It was all still there (including a $50 bill) and my card and DL were there as well. I was so grateful. The clerk said someone had found it in the parking lot and turned it in. They took nothing from it, even though the cash was clearly visible.

I went back to my room and fell back asleep. I finally awoke at 10:00, and left the room by 10:45. By the time I got back to that garage, it was after 11:00. It wasn't as easy finding a parking spot at 11:00 on a busy day. I had to park all the way up on level 7. I made sure to not the exact floor this time, so I wouldn't have trouble finding my car again. Then, I headed down several flights of stairs and off to the convention for day two.

When I stepped in the door, the first thing that caught me was the transformation. The room where I had sat the day before giving artists their passes, was now filled with amazing displays. Some displays went several feet up, almost to the ceiling. I wandered from booth to booth, but the noise of the crowd began to get to me. As my anxiety grew, I began to experience the piercing pain and nausea of a migraine. I realized that I needed to eat something and get out of there for a little while. So I went to that restaurant in the omni hotel I had been planning to eat at that first morning.

I ordered a burger and sweet potato fries. The food was good, but my migraine was still in full swing and the nausea didn't go away when I started to eat. When I asked for cream for my coffee, the waitress didn't understand me. Then I heard her speaking Spanish to another employee, so I decided to ask for my to go box in Spanish. I did, and she understood me. I was a little proud of myself for being brave enough to use my Spanish in the real world.

When I emerged from the hotel, there were three people outside holding signs and chanting through megaphones. At first I didn't understand what they were saying, because at that close distance, with my migraine, it was difficult to discern it as anything but noise. Once I crossed the street and sat outside the convention center at the garden, I heard it clearly. They were saying "kkk killing field" and "Welcome to Asshole Ft. Worth" I still haven't learned what incident sparked this three person protest, but it seemed like no one was paying them any attention. They were still there when I decided to brave the crowd and reenter the convention center, but when I left a couple of hours later, they were gone.

As I wandered the crowd and checked out the booths, I began to grow more confident and asked several people if I could get a picture of their costumes. All of them gladly obliged. One woman, dressed as Wendy from Gravity Falls even brought her boyfriend (who was dressed as Dipper) into the picture. He even squatted so that he was shorter than her for the photo.

The first person whose costume I got a picture of was dressed as Elias from Ancient Magus Bride, one of my favorite recent anime. The story is about an ancient mage who is neither fairy nor human, he purchases a girl on the black market but rather than keep her as his slave, he frees her and asks her to be his apprentice. She is a very special girl who has a connection with all the magical creatures. It's a very powerful story about learning what it means to be human and growing up.

I saw many figurines and bobbles I would have liked. I saw some costumes which I neglected to get a picture of, but which were way outside of my price range. They were real leather corsets and beautiful flowing skirts, the kind I always admired in movies. I asked about the corset, but it alone was over $300. I sighed and resigned to just admiring them from a distance. In another booth, they had all manner of leather goods, including leather bound journals. I would have liked one of those very much I think, but they were a bit pricy as well.

The manga in the manga booth was at a discounted price and I really wish I would have gotten more volumes. I would have gotten one and two of the Devil is a Part-Timer, but they didn't have volume two. Instead, I got vol. one and two of Magi. Once I had purchased the wig, my confidence soared. I felt more like I belonged here. I was less like wimpy, frightened Elie the coward and more like the adventurer I want to be, exploring this whole new place full of familiar characters and strange but beautiful new ones.

In the end, despite all my troubles I was sad to leave. I had to leave at three because our arrangement said I would pick the girls up at 5:00. I ended up pulling into town at around 4:50, just enough time to drop by and show off my purchases to my work buds before heading out to my ex's house. The girls were ready to go and they all got a kick out of my wig. If you want to see the pictures from my adventure, they can all be found in the blog  post titled A Kon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The case of the Disappearing Garage

So, I finished my shift and clocked out. They gave me two tokens and told me to go to the "exceptions" line at registration. Only I wasn't sure where the registration line started. I saw hundreds of people lined up with no clear idea where the beginning of the line actually was. It took me several minutes to realize that the line was actually going into another room. When I got there, they put me in the exceptions line, which was very short. When my turn came, the person at the end of the line asked me why I was there and I told him. He then directed me to register 6. When I gave the girl my tokens, she was unsure what to do and consulted someone. Then she came back, told me to go to the exceptions line and that they had my tokens and would give me my two day passes. So I got into the only line I saw in that direction. There were about half a dozen people in line ahead of me and I listened to their stories as I waited. They weren't talking to me, but to each other.

One girl complained about having lost her badge. She was afraid they were going to make her go back to the end of the line. She said if that happened, she would just eat the loss and forego the convention altogether. She was all decked out in an awesome horror rabbit cosplay. I felt bad for her. Another girl commiserated with her. Her problem was that she paid for her ticket online and they weren't showing it in their records. She had proof from her bank that the money had come out, but when she tried to redeem the voucher, they were showing it as unpaid. I felt bad for her as well. I was a little afraid they would not remember having taken my tokens and I would not get the pass I had worked for.

When my time came, I ended up purchasing tickets to an event I really wanted to attend, but I got my day pass. They returned one of the tokens and said that the Thurs-Fri pass only needed one token. When I left, after receiving my pass, I put the token down on a trash can. I had considered just handing it to someone in line but then I decided that it might make other people around them jealous. Better to leave it up to fate. I hope whoever found the token knew what it was and redeemed it.

After that, I went through the schedule and figured out some of what I wanted to do. Then I realized that the event I had paid for was on either side of a mandatory volunteer meeting. I went to ask them about the meeting and was told that, since I had already completed all my volunteer hours, I was not required to attend. That was a relief. I also found out that I did not qualify for the crash space, so I picked up my suitcase. I asked about a room at the front desk of the omni, but they were booked solid. Then I asked at one of the neighboring hotels and found out they were running about $200 a night. That was a little too steep for me.

So I went to put my suitcase in my vehicle. I walked to 7th street and saw a building that said 777, but it did not look like a parking garage. I saw a sign that said "parking on 5th street" and decided that must be the lot I parked in. I went on to fifth street, but when I went to the second level of that parking garage, I could not find my vehicle. I went up a couple of extra levels just to be sure, but this lot seemed off somehow. I visited two more lots with the same luck. Finally, I found the door I had emerged onto the street from. I entered it, and the hallway seemed familiar, but as I went down it, I could not find the door which led to the stairwell. So I exited back onto the street. Then I found the ramp I had driven up and walked up it and continued walking until I found myself on the second level. There was my vehicle, right near the stairwell. My phone was almost dead, so after I deposited my suitcase, I plugged it into the charger and turned the key on to let it charge.

I had ended up wandering around looking for the correct parking garage for over an hour. I looked at the schedule again. The event I paid for was at 6:30 and then again at 8. It was already almost 7 by the time I found my vehicle, so I decided to wait until the 8:00 start time. I sat there for about 20 min and took a very short nap. At 7:30, I decided it was time to walk back. On the way, I saw a subway and realized I hadn't eaten anything since the hotdog I got on my food voucher around noon. I stopped in to grab a quick sandwhich. There was a line of about 10 people ahead of me and someone even tried to cut in front of me probably thinking I was in line for the bathrooms.

I looked nervously at my phone. I had a few minutes to spare, but I was cutting it pretty close. I decided to set my alarm for 5 minutes. If my turn to order hadn't come by then, I'd cut my losses and leave without getting anything. When my turn finally came, they were out of almost everything. The guy waiting on me complained that people just kept coming in, like there wasn't another subway. When he asked if  I wanted it toasted I said yes, but he was so frazzled he forgot to put it in and began taking the order of the person behind me. Because I was running short on time, I decided I'd just have it cold. I paid and got on my way. I still had 10 minutes until 8, so I ate while I walked the rest of the way. When I got to the convention center doors, I knew I couldn't take outside food in, so I scarfed what I could and threw away the rest. Then I rushed to the area where the program was supposed to be, except it wasn't there. It was on the second floor. I ran to the escalator. If I missed this, I wouldn't get to do it at all because I had to leave before they were scheduled to do it the next day. When I finally got to the room in question, everyone was still waiting in line. "Good" I thought. "I didn't miss anything." Turns out, they were having technical difficulty. I would have been fine being a couple of minutes late. I ended up waiting in line for another 15 to 20 minutes.

The girl in line ahead of me talked to me about cosplay and stuff while we waited. She was probably in her late teens or early twenties. We talked about some of the cool costumes that were there, and why we didn't dress up. I told her about my kids. She said she envied kids whose parents would take them to this. I told her how I volunteered for my ticket. Then, when they were ready to start, almost everyone else in line was sent to the first floor to purchase their tickets, so we got separated. I didn't see her after that.

The event was an escape room with a Yandere theme. The hostess played the part of an enamored fan who has captured us and locked us in a basement. We were all given tables and told to work together to figure out the solution to the problems we were presented with. The first problem we solved would turn on the lights. One of us at the table had to be blindfolded. The table I sat at had a gentleman wearing a maid cosplay. He was wearing glasses so he volunteered to be the one that got blindfolded. I wasn't allowed to touch the box, only he was. I was allowed to describe what it looked like and tell him what to do. If I had realized sooner that the other clues could be found on the other tables, we might have been able to solve it. We tried to solve the puzzle just using the information found on our table.

The other puzzles were similar. One puzzle they told us not to talk. It was a little difficult to work together without talking, and a few of them broke the rules and whispered. They got reprimanded by the hostess for talking though. We ended up actually solving that one. Some of the clues were more difficult to find and figure out. In the end, we didn't solve the puzzle before the time was up and would have been locked up forever if the threat to our freedom had been real. It was fun playing all the same and I was extremely glad I was able to participate.

The only other event I attended was the cosplay dating game. Several of the events I had wanted to attend were canceled or moved to a different time, so I spent some time just wandering around until the dating game one started. This was for a mature audience, so we had to give proof of our age to enter. Luckily, I had anticipated needing my ID and had it on hand. They had already begun going over the rules when I sat down. They said no touching, no homophobic or transphobic comments and not to be that person who keeps shouting from the back of the room, because nobody likes that guy. It was a pretty funny show. Most of the characters were chosen ahead of time. Sometimes the discussion got a little crude, but it was all in good fun. It was like the TV dating game show where one contestant chooses from three other contestants based on their answers to questions. The first round was a girl (Chobit) picking from three guys (one was Goofy, another I think was from Blue Exorcist, and the last one was this scary looking character whose answer to all questions was that he wanted to kill people and consume their souls). Goofy had some pretty funny answers to the questions. The second round was a guy picking from three girl characters. I didn't recognize any of the characters in that round. There was a girl cat-like creature, a pink haired girl, and one more whose costume I don't remember.

The next round was the Yuri round (a guy picked from three guys). One of the guys was a half-devil, one was Naruto, and the third was this outlaw looking guy who wore a mask but no shirt. All the characters were pulled from the audience so the dialog was all improvised on the spot, but it was hilarious. The guy who was picking from the other contestants was this detective guy and he was so funny. I'm not sure where the character came from, but he gave some of the funniest questions of the whole show. I wish I had stayed for the Yaoi round (girl picking from girls) but there was another show that was supposed to start at 12:30 and I was afraid I would miss it. When I got to the room the other show was supposed to be in, there was nothing going on, so I really should have stayed.

When all the fun was done, it was past midnight. I walked to my car, but this time I had memorized all the details I needed to get back to the garage. I found it within minutes. It was very tiring walking up the steps, and the cool air of the convention center was about three blocks and two flights of stairs behind me. I decided to pay my ticket for the time I'd spent here and find a hotel to crash in, preferably one which didn't charge $200 a night. So I went to nearby Burleson and got a room there.

Well I think this post is long enough. Stay tuned for the epic conclusion Good Samaritan, which I'll probably wait to write until Friday after work since I'm taking my daughter out for her birthday tomorrow.