Cross Post #6: Hipsters, defined.

 

Excerpt:

“But what about their legacy?” I was recently asked by New York magazine. “What will they have left behind after it’s all said and done?” This question gets on my nerves. “Music and fashion,” I answered incredulously. Since when are young people responsible for leaving us with anything more? Have you heard their politics? I don’t want these people voting. I want them doing what they do best: Fun. The greasers were about rock ’n’ roll and making out in rumble seats. The beatniks gave us some good books, but they were mostly about shocking their parents by dancing with Negroes. The only thing the mods cared about outside of dancing and getting laid was fighting Elvis fans. Boomers, who are masters at glorifying their past, insist they stopped a war, but we all know it was Kissinger’s relentless bombing that ended it. Hippies were horny stoners. Though I was one of them, I’m happy to admit punks were more preening peacocks with guitars than anarchists smashing the state. Rap evolved from parties in the South Bronx. The list goes on, and it’s always just teenagers partying.

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Mindful Conversion

Tons of conversations happen within a day – business conversations, family conversations, friendly conversations, stranger conversations, elevator talk, pillow talk,  discriminatory talk, self-doubt talk, coworker conversation, social conversations.  You name it and there is a conversation going on about it at this very moment.   In fact, I’m having a conversation at this very moment, with you.

I have many conversations going on at once that I wonder if the quality of my conversations have suffered because of quantity?

Inspired conversations, a mutual exchange, haven’t been around here for some time.  Sure, I stand around the soap box and listen to the megaphone-wielding digital evangelist.  I walk away – like you – intrigued with the nugget of information, the point of view, or the language that tickled my funny bone.  Sometimes, I even get riled up enough by what they have said that I engage in their solicitation to bring me onto their platform so that they can try to sell me their encyclopedia.  I’ll tell you one thing, though, very rarely will an evangelist keep the conversation going on with me long enough for a conversion.  You see the main difference between an inspired conversation and a social conversation is altruism.  While the point-of-view in all good intentions and the voice unique, the main motive is conversion (purchase a book, a product, traffic increases, popularity contests).  An inspired conversation is a direct connection between two very present people that, without motive, have a life-changing conversation.

I’ll tell you, of all the conversations I’ve had in the past year, I’ve had very few inspired one.  Conversations that really get to the heart of who I am and make me invest in myself, which is where the social conversations leave (after the purchase).

Many moons ago in Truckee, California, in my early twenties I met a guy named Dustin Sabo – he was a rock climber (some claim notorious but that never came from him).  In a societal space, we were placed in a hotel in which we both worked.  His lifestyle, granola and minimalist, I admired.  My lifestyle, chaotic and grandiose, he didn’t admire.  While I spoke of lofty dreams (of which I accomplished, mind you) and my super-charged ego spouted off all the things I was going to do once I reached this place of achievement, he listened.  He had not one thing to gain from listening other than seeing a little deeper into the human condition.  When it was my turn to listen I couldn’t hear through the pressure-cooker of my own goals.  However, the low hanging fruit of his journey stuck with me and as I was going somewhere else he gave me a book – the very book he was reading.  It was Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Miracle of Mindfulness” and as I packed up my Honda Civic to head to the city that never sleeps to catapult a band into stardom – which I did – I opened it briefly to find he had scrawled “Have fun on life’s travels and remember not to sweat the small stuff because everything is the small stuff.”

One day, when I was sweating the small stuff I opened the book – one day in the privacy of my own time – and that book changed my life.  It was the mindfulness of Dustin’s listening to me, not selling anything, but engaging in the basic human condition in which got me to pick up the book.  I’m thankful I did because Thich Nhat Hanh has been a catalyst to my own mindfulness and I have Dustin to thank for that.  Inadvertently, I bought what Dustin was selling – mindfulness.

I had many conversations like that before everyone was peddling something.  I would follow you anywhere, buy into whatever you were selling, if you inspired me.  But, who has the time to cut into selling for a little meaningful human connection?

“Without mindfulness, however, you will quickly lose count.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Oklahoma, I still believe in ya!

Some people believe you choose your family prior to birth, and if that’s true then I chose the most loving, open hearted, and understanding, family one could have picked. Unfortunately, they settled in Oklahoma, by way of California. Yeah, I don’t get it either but so it goes that my grandmother, the eldest of the Montano clan, made the pilgrimage to Oklahoma for a man and her little sister followed suit. Had they met after the second wave of the Women’s Lib., I’m sure the story would be that the men made the pilgrimage to California for the gold!

Oklahoma might be landlocked and not feature ocean-front property, nor does it have a tranquil desert spread through its land but the Native American history is still very well and alive in small towns named after the legacy; Checotah, Geronimo, Hoot Owl, Indiahoma, Kiowa, Muskogee, Oolagah, Pawhuska, Quapaw, Sapulpa, Tahlequah, Talihina (where I was born), Tishomingo, Wapanucka, Yukon, and so on. If you’ve never been to Oklahoma then you couldn’t possibly know the beauty of the Kiamichi Mountains in Fall especially since my brother’s spirit is perched at the very top of those mountains.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of red dirt that doesn’t come off your shoes easily, or at all if you have an old pair. Hell, the red dirt even has it’s own genre of music, and it’s not just “Texas Red Dirt.” Fact, red dirt only got from Oklahoma to Texas because Texas sucks. See, I’m a loyal Okie that pokes fun at Texans (even though in reality Oklahoma is more culturally devoid than Texas), lets everyone know which celebrities were from Oklahoma, and roots on Oklahoma’s college teams since we have no professional ones.

I’m not blindly loyal though, to anyone, ever. If my brother murdered someone, I would urge him to confess or I would have to do it for him (cough, cough, unlike some sisters in Oklahoma I know). When Oklahoma voted McCain over Obama due to racism (I took a survey of which I won’t go into but yeah the “N” word is commonplace), I’m the first to stand up and let people know that the majority does not speak for the minority. Thankfully, the rest of the world picked up the slack on that one and Obama is in office. When the bigot Oklahoma State Representative, Sally Kern, made headlines for her hateful anti-gay remarks and continues to do such, I call her office non-stop to try and educate her on Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual, and Transgendered people. Even now her ignorance shows:

Sally Kern is an Oklahoma state representative with her own, unique take on the economic crisis: gays are to blame.

So let’s apply some simple Math for Ms. Kern (not sure they had that when she was in school). If a low population of people can be the reason for a state’s entire economic crisis then that must mean that the revenue these people make are insanely higher than the majority. Now, let’s get fancy and put in some statistics..that would mean that the minority factor here, LGBT’s (same-sex couples accounted for less than 1% of overall Oklahoma population in the 2000 census–I’m assuming that is because most were afraid of being openly gay in Oklahoma and by afraid I mean fearful for their life, as well as the fact the census under served the gay community in 2000 and single LGBT’ers) make so much more money than 99% of Oklahoma’s population that we alone can make or break a state. Wow, no wonder Pepsi, MTV, and other big corporations have embraced us. That also must mean, granted you assume the more money you make equals to more intelligence and academic merit you have, that LGBT folks are pretty damn smart! In the next census (2010) the LGBT community will be better served by collecting data on same-sex couples (still yet under serving the community by not including gender identification and single LGBT’ers but it’s a start), and I’m going to go out on a limb and just tell you that us gay couples contribute a buttload of money into the economy so imagine if our taxes were taken away from the entire country. Wow! If we can single handedly break an entire state, I’d hate to see what we can do to a country.

Oh Ms. Kern, you’re an idiot.

Oklahoma, listen up, ok? hehehe. This is just plain archaic what I’m reading about abortion. I know my small hometown would easily be able to spot that girl that ‘moved closer to her orthodontist’ or got half a dozen abortions to save her overly strict parents from embarrassment. We suspected in high school, but now stuff like that would be confirmed. C’mon, isn’t discrimination tiresome?

Get on the phones, call the leaders in your state and let them know how you feel about this stuff or write a letter. I can speak from experience that your words and you matter in change, but you need to be heard. Let Ms. Kern know if only 1% of the population is accounting for your state being broke then for heaven’s sake why wouldn’t you want the minority to be fully integrated into the population..imagine what the poor state would get back from the active minorities?! Women, get on the phone and let your state government know that YOU have the say over your body and deserve the privacy of your choices.

I don’t live in Oklahoma, and I’m happy to work for a company (MTV) that holds equality in the highest regard so that I can achieve greatness within it. I also live in a state that includes me fully into the population (lucky them that they get 45% of my paycheck for simply giving me something that should be free, freedom). I still remain loyal to Oklahoma, which is why I posted this blog because there is 1% of the Oklahoma population that are bullied by Ms. Kern and company and their spirit is heavy.

Oklahoma is beautiful, and even though I’m disappointed in the politics of the poor state over and over again, I still have hope that those amazing spirits that reside there (like my family and friends that are truly great people) will join together to make Oklahoma great like it’s people. Then you can send Ms. Kern to Texas!

Gentle Loneliness

Stumbling into a bar, midday, alone and without any sense of urgency, albeit aimless.  The male bartenders in anytown, USA, pretty much look the same, but it’s their distinguished dialect that differentiates between the regions.  I remember a handful of bars because of their bar speciality, like the Greek tavern by Port Authority in New York City where the owner makes his own stout red wine and generously keeps my glass full without a bill.  I remember other bars for different reasons like Bar of America in Truckee, California, due to embedded nuanceslike the assymetically placed clock beside a large hole in the wall that could easily be covered up by that damn clock.    It’s not really about the bar, itself, that captures the aesthetically pleasing side of my loneliness.  No, it’s the ambiance of life’s vibrations and the romanticized connection to all those sentences I’ve read about characters that have sat on the same type of stool, in the same type of bar, experiencing the same synapses of mood, that connect me to these places. 

It doesn’t end at bars.  There are a series of places that come to mind like some scene of a coming-of-age movie where the shadow of loneliness envelopes the main character causing them to reflect and move forth in life, back on track.  Right off the interstate in Dallas, Texas, there is a grassy knoll hidden by an overpass that is across the street from a well-known hospital.  It was there that I would sit for hours just looking into the vastly lit wide open Texas sky at night, waiting for an epiphany.  I’ve used the term ‘epiphany’ so much that it’s often spouted out from my mom’s mouth in reference to wise stories from a strong-lived life as what my mom calls, “what’s your term?  I had an EPIPHANY.” 

I counted it up once and I had moved 32 times give or take a couple houses during my parent’s divorce, 5 different states, 20 different zip codes, 7 of those were in a NYC burrough, and 3 different towns in New Jersey.  That’s a lot of unsettledment in one lifetime.  I wasn’t running from anything per se as much as I was running toward this idea of a life that I only knew from books and movies. 

Nowdays I can’t really concentrate in bars due some latent A.D.D. that has me more interested in people watching than sitting with my gentle loneliness that brought forth much of my writing.  Other than my pickiness of not sitting by a kitchen or facing the crowd in a restaurant, I don’t really notice symmetrically conflicting items like oddly placed decorative ornaments.  I also just bought a house so there’s no need to go anywhere but home to find myself anymore. 

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You Be The Judge: Short Story For Esquire

Ladies and Gents, I just started a short story and I must stick to the title “Never, Ever Bring This Up Again” about a childhood trip to California.  I won’t disclose the full story but it involves a child standing in an inch of urine in the dirtiest gas station restroom.

Is this a good start or should I start again?

Never, Ever Bring This Up Again

Alisa M. Ben

There was something about Uncle Bo’s oldies music that felt like flashlights were shining all around in my insides.  Aunt Lou and Uncle Bo were kind of like those people in musicals when they would break out into song at the exact same moment.  It was a long trip from Oklahoma to California but they packed enough Chubby Checker, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis to get us to Santa Fe, New Mexico, before listening to the same song twice.

The sun reflected off Aunt Lou’s transparent pink sun visor and hit my eyes when she turned from the passenger seat to look at my cousin Crystal and me in the middle seat of the van.

“I chew my nails and then I twiddle my thumbs,” She sang along to Great Balls of Fire and gestured with her hands for us to join. “I’m real nervous, but it sure is fun, C´mon baby, you’re drivin’ me crazy..”

“Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!!” We busted into song.

My uncle played the steering wheel piano and I watched the crow’s feet in his eyes become deeper in the rearview mirror as he laughed.  Crystal was in junior high school and wasn’t as delighted as I was by the impromptu concerts.  She tried real hard not to smile and adjusted her yellow jelly shoe, while I finished the song with our aunt and uncle but I was just a third grader.  I stuck my feet out straight to impress Crystal that I too wore jelly shoes, red ones.

“When did you get those,” She took the bait.

“Mom bought ‘em for me for the trip.” I beamed and continued to swing my feet.

“You’re a copycat,” She rolled her eyes at me.  “You always have to get what I get.”

“No I don’t,” I defended myself even though it was true.

“Yes you do!” She snarled.  “Just like the leg warmers that I had first and you got them for Christmas!”

“So what,” I argued.

“Imitation is the highest form of flattery, sweetheart,” Aunt Lou chimed in.

“Yeah meditation is the highest form of flattening,” I repeated.

“Im-i-tation and flat-tery,” She enunciated.

The July warmth of the desert sun through the large van windows highlighted the blonde baby hairs on my tanned legs.

“Ew, shave those things already,” Crystal pointed.

I looked at my legs that she was pointing to and embarrassment bubbled into my face and I felt like crying.

“Oh Crystal leave her alone,” Aunt Lou defended me. “She’s too young to shave and besides there’s no need for it.”

The People of The United States of discrimiNATION

As a child, I had no experience with discrimination so therefore I did not have any prejudices (other than food).  Around the age of five or six while vacationing with my family in Truckee, California, I saw my first transgendered person.  I was playing on a pile of lumber (yes, my parents let me play in a lumber pile which is more dangerous than the hello I shared with the transgendered stranger) and a deep orange VW bus putted along the back road as the passenger took in the breathtaking scenery that the Truckee River offers.  I was immersed in my own world of play as the Doppler Shift of the hippie music pulled me out.  I turned around to see the passenger’s hand making hand waves out the window as the VW bus inched closer to my makeshift playland.  The Dr. Frank-N-Furter looking person watched me watching him with a curiosity that was frightening.  As his/her face softened into a loving smile, my scared feeling faded into a safe smile and I turned to run into the house.

Initially, I was afraid of the stranger because he/she was different and I didn’t know why he/she looked like that.  As the hippie music moved closer and I saw my first transgendered person, I can’t say I innately had any prejudices other than why is this person different looking?  With my own experience, THAT moment was a defining moment of whether or not I would be a product of my environment and carry on a legacy of discrimination because my experience was a smile and a ‘Hello little one’ out the window.  My experience wasn’t hate-filled, but it certainly was one I had never experienced before.

My mom told me that just because someone is different from me doesn’t mean they don’t feel the same things I feel.  I asked but why did the boy look like a girl.  She told me that sometimes people have to figure out who they are in life.  In a defining moment, my mother asked me if the transgendered person scared me.

“Yes, mom.”

“Why?” She asked.

“Because he wasn’t like us,” My sponge-like brain awaited answers.

“Did he do something to hurt you?” She hugged me.

“No.”

“So then why are you scared?” She continued.

I thought of his different face and how his soul beamed through his eyes as he looked at my fear dead on and with a caring heart smiled a warm smile at the little girl in shock.

“He smiled at me.”  I answered.

“So even though he was different he was a nice person, a good person maybe?”

I thought for a moment and replayed it in my head, “yep, he was nice.”

There is a moment like that in every one of our lives; a moment that shapes our perception.  Truth be told, I later found in life I was the one different and having been on both ends of the potential discrimination table I can tell you that discrimination is inherited.

I feel very fortunate that my mother, A TRUE CHRISTIAN, had an infinitely open heart to teach mine to be just as open and is currently teaching my little brothers the same.   Many parents are not like her and hand down discrimination to their children  and so on and so forth.  I told you this story because deep down somewhere you too have a moment like the above and if we can educate children about the facts of discrimination and stop spreading it, the world will be one big open heart.

Please read these facts and then join our fight for equality.

DFNF

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