Thursday, September 29, 2016

Random Notes, September 2016

The first presidential debate of 2016 reminded me of a boxing match. Donald Trump may have thrown more punches --an insult here and there, on top of a zillion interruptions-- but maybe half of them landed. However, Hillary Clinton simultaneously kept her cool yet knew exactly how to provoke (and expose) Trump. The GOP candidate's remark on stamina, and Clinton's clever response, ending up being the knockout punch.  Trump didn't seem to take a big plunge in the polls --you have to admit, the hayseeds that have hijacked the GOP are fiercely loyal to the guy-- but his first head-to-head match-up was by no means a success.

Besides talking about this blasted election, what else is going on?

+ My Royals are not going to the playoffs this year. I've done my best to not whine about our erratic pitching and the various key injuries we've had this year, but I will readily admit that another postseason wasn't in the cards for 2016. Right now, a .500 record for a fourth consecutive year is a more attainable goal. This roster probably has another year left before the economics of the game eats the organization alive (i.e. free agency) so I'm already looking forward to next year.

+ On the home front, I started grad school in late August. I'm going for a masters in secondary education, with a focus on English and language arts. So far things are going okay, it's been a matter of keeping up with the coursework. Still, I'm giving myself one semester just to see if this is going to work out, and the program takes 2 1/2 years.

+ Happy belated third anniversary to Stu News!


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sudden Resurgence

What a difference a month makes. Since the wonks first wrote off the Trump campaign, the polarizing real estate magnate has made an effort of sorts to "sound" presidential while not necessarily overhauling his platform or agenda. At the same time, despite what conservative critics would call miscues --the pneumonia situation was blown way out of proportion-- Hillary Clinton's campaign hasn't seemed very inspiring. As a result, the knee-slapper from mid-August is a tight race again.

If name-calling, xenophobia, and outright falsehoods drove new faces into the Republican tent, then I'm sure that particular part of Donald Trump's rhetoric can't be forgotten as this sordid election zooms past third base. Perhaps the most blatant about-face was Trump's announcement that he believed the incumbent president was born in Hawaii and not Kenya, ending 5 1/2 years of conspiracy theorizing. (I'll well aware that this sad "birther" phenomenon started well before that.) I suppose he can use that bizarre about-face to his leverage, as many Americans can't get past that whole e-mail thing, but it's a still a admission of Trump's blatant opportunism.

*sigh* Only six more weeks...


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Toxic College Relationship, Part 2

A week or so ago, I wrote started writing a personal essay about "Babs," my college girlfriend. (To read part one before going forward, click here.)

A few hours after our one-on-one sitdown, Babs dropped a line on Yahoo Messenger to ask if I wanted to grab some ice cream. I agreed, not really knowing what to expect. However, I made the fatal mistake of misreading her last dispatch as "see you at five" instead of "see you in five." For once her quick temper was justified, and we did not speak to each other for about three weeks.

I figured the healthy thing to do was to not focus on our failed relationship. I went about my business with school and finding a job as if nothing happened. Out of the blue, I ran into Babs and her new paramour Zak --yes, no C in his first name-- waiting for an elevator at Watterson Towers. We first encountered Zak a few months earlier on Normal public transit; she randomly struck up a conversation with the guy, and I guess they had stayed in touch. I didn't think, however that he would be her rebound.

Babs had a history of dating guys that were the same physical type: north of six feet tall, pasty and paunchy. Growing up rural and an affinity for cowboy hats were a plus. I was well aware that I was an exception, because she said she was going through a "nerdy boy" phase. The guy she two-timed me with had a build similar to mine (slight and gawky) but her preference was big and lumbering.

After our five-second encounter in the lobby, Babs messaged me on YIM that night. She wanted to talk things out, but it became a rehash of her previous bullet points: she hated my mom, she judged my religious beliefs (or lack thereof), I was weak and immature. And yet, she still wanted to be friends. Since I thought there was an outside chance we might become friends with benefits --again, I was thinking with my pants-- I decided to give it a shot.

Two nights later, I was awoken by the landline in our dorm room. (Keep in mind, it was 2006.) Babs was in hysterics. Apparently, she was not getting along with her new roommate, a woman named Lola. The roommate was a Black Studies major and very independent, and as far as politics and personality went she was the total opposite of Babs. Apparently, they nearly came to blows late one Saturday, and Babs asked if she could sleep at my dorm. Again, I begrudgingly agreed.

Babs grew up in Park Forest, a diverse, blue-collar suburb just south of Chicago. In a town that was about 40% white, 30% black, and 30 % Latino, Babs had a unjustified contempt for the 60% of the population that wasn't "her kind." One time when we were dating, we took a day trip to Starved Rock National Park. As we were leaving, I had to stop her from running over to a Mexican family because they weren't "speaking American." There was another time we were watching the 6 o'clock news at her house, and upon watching a news story about a 12-year-old African-American had been murdered, Babs said the middle schooler was "probably asking for it." Deciding to live with someone as headstrong as Lola was an attempt to show people she wasn't a bigot, but her true colors showed almost immediately. Within two weeks, Brit had moved into a new dorm room with a Jewish roommate. (As near as I can tell, she was not anti-Semetic.)

I volunteered to help out with this awkward, uncomfortable move-out, and it was there that I met a girl named Kathleen. She was a friend of a friend who was also free that afternoon; we struck up a conversation, became Facebook friends, and we agreed to meet for lunch the next day. It ultimately didn't work out, but it was my first earnest attempt at moving on from Babs. (Kathleen is married now, but we've stayed in touch.)

I thought the fact that we were no longer dating would discourage Babs from trying to "convert" me, but if anything else it made her --and her doofus paramour Zak-- double down. I was dragged into attending more campus ministry events, where they and some other born-again types tried to "convert" me. Where Babs used a passive-aggressive approach, Zak was a straight-up bully. I tried to make the most of my time there, but almost everyone I encountered acted like they were brainwashed. After two weeks of that nonsense, I kept telling Brit I was busy on those particular nights.

It was apparent after attempting to hang out with Babs and Zak a few times that he didn't seem to have any real friends. I don't think he was self-aware enough to know his approach to people was bullying, or at the very least condescending. He was a poseur, too; he claimed he was from Texas, but grew up 45 minutes from Normal. Not only was Zak annoying me about accepting Christ as my lord and savior, but he was starting to badger some of the guys on my dorm floor.

I guess at some point even Babs grew tired of his schtick, because their relationship ended after about four months. Over winter break, Brit called to apologize for being so pushy. She knew she was alienating people, and wanted to make amends. One night after the next semester started, I met with Babs and Zak for dinner; Zak was making me uncomfortable again, and I left early because I thought I had food poisoning. Babs dumped Zak the next day.

(Part three next month.)