Monthly Archives: January 2013

Con Survival Guide, Post #12: Behind the scenes at a modern con remembering the past Or A view from the trenches

Con Survival Guide, Post #12: Behind the scenes at a modern con remembering the past

Or

A view from the trenches

               Walking through the con areas last night in the dark before setup I was remembering cons gone by while looking around with a sensation of stumbling upon the remains of a con in a post-apocalyptic word. (Yeah, I think that the rule that all sentences should be 7 words, or 9 words depending on who you talk to is crap)  [There you go, kicking down the fourth wall again.]  {Damnit, Jim, I’m a writer, not an English teacher.}  (And now back to our regularly scheduled program.)  So here I am at ChattaCon, and they’re doing setup. I ran into Brent, Kirsten, and about ten other people while checking in to the Choo Choo. One of the first things I found out was that someone had forgotten to bring the bag of 300 screws to set up the art room, so a couple of guys were on a run to get screws, but they needed more people to help set it up. Now I haven’t officially worked a con in about 20 years, although the last time I was a guest at a convention was last year. Still the old timers all really know that I am part of the con family and in a pinch I am one of the people they will come to.

So, I headed back up to the art room with Robyn, Raven, and Storm. Yeah, I’m aware that they all have the names of superheroes, but those are really their names. Robyn had forgotten his room key, so I went back to get it for him and Cynthia and I ordered pizza for dinner. Walking by Ops, I noticed that they had left a large number of wooden easels outside. The clouds for the soon-to-start freezing rain had already rolled in. I took the time to walk in to Ops and talk to old friends who immediately tried to recruit me for security.  So they are a little short, and I’m working on recruiting them some staff, but as of right now in my story I haven’t decided about myself.  I reminded them of the freezing rain and easels, and they immediately pulled them inside and thanked me for reminding them.  They had gotten distracted, as always at a convention, by conversation.  That’s where Cynthia caught up with me, still talking to the guys in Ops, because my pizza had been delivered and the driver was waiting for me to sign the credit slip.

Now, ChattaCon, at least in the Southeast, is the first con of the year, and it is a SMOF con.  When conventions started reemerging, this is where they got together and started planning their rebirth and recruiting staff.  ChattaCon was, of course, started by Uncle Timmy, who also started LibertyCon and therefore is the guy responsible for two of the best conventions in the Southeast.

Years ago, I started going to conventions as a paid member, but somewhere down the line I got recruited to be staff.  I was DAGR member number 96 back when they were on Memorial Drive in Clarkston.  People ask me if I was part of DAGR when they were at Stone Mountain, and I say “no” because DAGR never was at Stone Mountain.

After a while of running tournaments, I decided to try other parts of the convention, like con suite.  Eventually, I settled into security which I had been working outside of Science Fiction conventions for a decade.  I had already worked things like COMDEX and the great advantage to security is that, unless you get posted in one spot, you see more of the convention, and even if you do get posted in one spot, you get to talk to people more.  Later, of course, I showed up as a dealer all the way from Dallas, TX to Orlando and Pensacola, FL to Baltimore, MD and Rosemont outside of Chicago, IL.

Inside of conventions there are several overlapping but separate communities, which include but are not limited to Fan Community, Staff Community, Pagan Community, Drunk Celt Community, Steampunk Community, Gamer Community, Computer Gamer Community, Martial Artist Community, and the Dealer Community.  Now, the Filker Community is one of the communities most unique to Fandom.  They are devoted to Science Fiction folk songs, or just filkthy folk songs, which is probably why they were Banned from Argo.  The basic Fan Community itself is further broken down by genre and media.

So as soon as the art room was assembled, we all sat down and devoured the pizza we had ordered.  Now, there was staff pizza available for those helping assemble the art room, but it didn’t even go as far as the one we ordered for ourselves and some of us have too many food allergies to eat anything that isn’t special ordered.  As a matter of typical conversation last night  (as of when I was writing this part), we were discussing the fact that one of the uniting features of Fandom is that a majority have not just health problems, but really unusual health problems.  As a matter of fact, an awful lot of the people I know at cons have been written up in text books as, for that matter, have some of my relatives.  Richard Gurley was used to help develop the MRI because his bones are so thick they stop X-Rays.

Now, if you are a con-goer, and you’re having to go too long without going to a con, and you want to get that feeling of having gone to a con, I highly recommend reading Bimbos of the Death Sun, which is a murder mystery set at a science fiction convention.  It has always seemed weird to me that it is in the mystery section because it isn’t actually science fiction.  It is an awesome book.

Friday morning and cold, drizzly, freezing rain has descended on Chattanooga.  A significant number of the security staff are believed will not make it because of iced conditions.  We went to the City Café Diner Restaurant (as it’s called on their menu), where I first dined with the guys from Marietta Publishing a few years ago, for breakfast.  Yes, I know the diner’s name is horribly redundant.  The food is reasonably priced with more than generous proportions and rather good.  A really important feature for us was that they had no trouble accommodating the food allergies of all five of the people at our table.

The guys in Ops were joking about how the guys in computer gaming probably wouldn’t even get up until 3:00 PM when registration starts, and were ignoring stacks of pizza, which they had clearly already had for breakfast.  They were, of course, joking about themselves earlier.  I definitely would not trade my Eggs Benedict made with turkey sausage for their cold pizza, but the pizza was definitely better priced, being free.  I didn’t have any because I was stuffed, mind you.

Later, of course, we got hot pizza in the middle of the night.  To kill some time before a panel on Friday, we went to the con suite, where I got a free massage and picked up some free hard cider instead of the free beer or Coke.  That’s where I managed to hook up with Gregory Nicoll, who is hopefully going to join my writers’ group.  I also talked to Emily Hunter and Harry Coburn, as well as seeing Chloie.  On Saturday, I spent half the day standing in the Dealer’s Room talking to the beautiful and intelligent M.B. Weston, whose new book Out of the Shadows just came out, and Allan Gilbreath.  Then I had a brief conversation with a young lady named Poppy Jackson who has just written a vampire romance trilogy, but she promises they don’t sparkle.  Geoffrey Mandragora, who we talked to about his steampunk novel, The Thunderbolt Affair, that we picked up last year at LibertyCon, and his wife, Lillian Price’s new book which seemed to involve black, carnivorous unicorns.  I also talked to Uncle Timmy about conventions and engineering, and strangely enough the relationship between these two things, as well as talking to a few other people like Paul Cashman.  So, despite the fact that it may look like I was talking business all weekend, and in a sense I suppose I was (that’s certainly how I would answer the IRS if they asked), really we were just hanging out and talking to our friends about whatever, including Grizzly Dan, and Aegis Steampunk.  It may be sad, but we go to the dealer’s room mostly to socialize with the vendors rather than to shop.

Now, of course, there are also the room parties.  Friday night is never a big night for room parties, and there were only three.  Two of them were better than the third, but were not entirely spectacular.  Gary Poole had the party which may well be considered the best, but I didn’t actually make it there.  I meant to go check out the room parties, but I got embroiled in a conversation with Reverend Bob, who is the resident MIB from Steve Jackson Games.  (Steve Jackson was not at the convention this year, but he has been known to attend in the past.)  To be honest, over the last couple of days I’ve missed every panel I was planning to check out and honestly had no interest in making it for the Robot Wars.   Instead, like many con-goers, I reveled in being home with my tribe and being able to use a proper vocabulary without any obfuscation.  Saturday night’s parties are always much better, and more ubiquitous.

The Steampunk Stag Party, having been followed by The Steampunk Wedding, where R2D2 was the ring bearer, and a Dalek was…..a “pretty flower girl”, gave birth to The Steampunk Reception.  The reception had by far the best food including, but not limited to, moving gears made from chocolate covered Rice Crispy Treats that had the various cakes on top.  Unfortunately, I was hungry when I entered this room and, thanks to the peanut butter and chocolate cake, I may have gained a few extra pounds.  They also had real food including chicken with basil rice, chicken enchiladas, beef stroganoff, etc.  We’re talking real food, and clearly homemade with a limited amount of time and budget, but not limited imagination or skill.  The chicken enchiladas were particularly good.  There was the Viking Vs. Pirate party, which involved alcohol but no food.  Someone released a Kraken at that one.  Nevertheless, since it did not have food, it was over-crowded, and the lights were turned down too much, it was generally not that good a party, and it was where people went to get drinks, which is ironic because there were two other parties with more and better alcohol, including The Steampunk Reception.

The JordanCon Party had, as usual, the best selection of alcohol and it had good conversation, though it was drunker than usual, as well as having a Trolling Geordie LaForge.  Don’t ask!  Still, the very best party was a book release party (for and by Gail Z. Martin).  The best conversation by far, plenty of seating, enough people but not too many, and a good cause, with snacks and drinks.  She even had real Coca Cola instead of store-brand swill.

Meanwhile in the gaming room, Robert was having a conversation with someone else about Robert.  Neither of these was Robert’s father Robert, or any of the three MIBs named Robert.  Currently there are too many Roberts.  Other names have gone through this process in the past as well.  Generally speaking, there are many Roberts, Saras, Chrises, Krises, Cindys, Jennifers, etc.  Fortunately, there’s only one Uncle Timmy; or rather, unfortunately.  We could use more Uncle Timmys.  There aren’t enough people voluntarily working conventions, let alone running them, and never have been.

There were 997 guests at the convention, with half the staff and presumably half of the guests not being able to make it from the Nashville side because of weather conditions.  Let it be made clear that some people made it anyway, either coming first or braving the weather conditions.

On the darker side, there was a dweeb with a small Tesla coil on a hard hat on his head with about a two-inch Jacob’s Ladder coming of it, and while that, in and of itself, was kind of cool, he did not seem to understand that this is not an excuse to harass people because they have a phobia.  This is not a method of hitting on someone, but it does have a fair chance of getting you killed or beaten until someone thinks you have acquired some sense.  Despite two additional people telling him it wasn’t cool, he backed her into a corner not far from the balcony door.  If he had gotten any closer, he might well have “jumped” off the balcony.  Fortunately for him, two people got between him and her and he eventually had the sense to back up.  Then he wandered off to look for more alcohol.  I do not know or care what happened to him after that.

Before leaving the hotel, we stopped by and purchased our con memberships for next year.  I always preregister because, very frankly, it’s much cheaper that way, and the lines are shorter.  In fact, it took us maybe five minutes for five people to get their badges when we checked in on Friday because we were slowed down by me not being able to find my ID at first.

After the convention, we went to McKay’s Books in Chattanooga, which is the largest used bookstore I have ever seen.  It is definitely the biggest still existent.  I have occasionally seen ones that had a better stock in the past, but they no longer exist.  After making our purchases, we headed to India Mahal, which has by far the best Malai Kofta I have ever had, and then headed home only to realize that my little cadre of friends were all coming down with Con Crud.  After medicating them with our travel kit, I started the long drive home with my co-pilot passed out at my side.  By the time I stopped for gas, my co-pilot had somewhat revived and I was clearly coming down with the affliction myself.  We traded seats and I took the medicine and passed out.

I hope this gives you a little bit of an idea of what it’s like to go to a convention.  Follow my blog for more of the Convention Survival Guide.

Copyright © 2013 Julian Thomas Reid III

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Con Survival Guide, Post #11: You Can’t Live Happily Ever After Or How to Enjoy the Life You Have

Con Survival Guide, Post #11: You Can’t Live Happily Ever After

Or

How to Enjoy the Life You Have

            I guess pretty much everybody knows by now that the whole fairy tale of living happily ever after is sort of an ephemeral fiction, but what most people don’t know is that living happily now is not necessarily a fiction.  While the circumstances of our lives are largely determined by the dynamics of society and random circumstance (or, as Dr. McCoy would say, “Or in plain, non-Vulcan English: luck.”)  A large percentage of our situation and outlook are controllable if you have the right information.  There are a number of different types of people that are attracted to fandom and while almost all can be categorized as intelligent, they can be further divided into a number of categories.  Among those categories are the successful on a professional track; unsuccessful on a professional track; handicapped, whether physically, with brain damage, or mentally ill; dysfunctional; spoiled to the point of having become dysfunctional; and women.  These categories are by no means mutually exclusive, nor do they cover all the possibilities.  The only reason that I include women in this list is because they are discriminated against in much the same way the handicapped are.  Note: I differentiate between dysfunctional from privilege and dysfunctional from poverty, even though the results are similar.  I am afraid that dysfunctional from privilege is harder to overcome.  So now let’s discuss how to make our lives a little happier.

We have known for some time now that a person’s outlook can be altered to make them more successful.  The problem is that most people don’t even know this, let alone have any idea how this works, and unfortunately there are many who are busy selling platitudes so that they can get rich off of you without any real value to you.  While a positive attitude can be useful, people have succeeded with a negative attitude and even more people have succeeded with a neutral attitude.  A lot depends on circumstance.  If you look at people who are manic depressive, you will find that they frequently make a fortune during the periods of time when they are extremely happy and lose it all when they are depressed.  People with a neutral (no expectations or attachment) but flexible attitude are more likely to survive POW situations and Nazi death camps, and be placed in charge of Japanese corporations, for example.  People with positive outlooks can be very successful, and it does help with dealing with most people, but those people who were in Nazi death camps or in Vietnam POW camps who expected to be rescued by some certain time did very well until that time passed, even ones who kept resetting the date, were much less likely to survive than their counterparts who had no such expectations.

So we get to the first prerequisite for being successful and changing your situation, and this is a critical state that is ignored by “The Secret” and motivational speakers.  The first requirement is accepting things as they are.  This works best when you learn how to do it without any judgment.  OK, so this is the situation.

The next step is to figure out what you want the situation to be, and the third step is to figure out how to get from A to B, which is to say, “How do I get from the way things are to the way I want them to be?”

This is true whether we’re talking about your weight, your psychological condition, or even your financial portfolio.  This is the stage at which all of that visualizing what you want comes into play.  Its real value is to program your subconscious to help you get what you want.  You have to make your subconscious your ally, and it doesn’t matter whether you use meditation, the Silva method, hypnosis, The Secret, or role playing games.

Now, this next method comes after you’ve used creative visualization or cast a spell or whatever, and it is the most neglected and important step.  This is where you get off your ass and start doing something about what you want.  You need to break it into small steps, each of which takes you towards accomplishing one or more goals.  During this step, you need to forget about the previous steps and just concentrate on getting the job done.  This is not the time to sit around talking about what you’re going to do.  This is the time to do it.

Now, if you’re not happy, you might want to make one of your first goals finding out what will make you happy.  You’re also going to want to make sure you are healthy if at all possible and that means that if your doctor tells you that you can’t get any better, you need to tell him he’s wrong and find the doctor that will help you get better or do it yourself.  I don’t care whether you’re seeing a homeopathic doctor, an MD, an OMD, an Ayurvedic doctor, or a Voodoo witch doctor, if they are not helping you get better they are not doing their job and you should fire them.

In general, you want to take a look at your basic needs such as food, shelter, air, water, security and health and try and satisfy those first.  That does not mean that you cannot launch into a long-term project with a higher set of goals, but it does mean that you can keep an eye on those things that can sabotage your progress.

You want to surround yourself with people who are going to be helpful and have a positive, can-do attitude rather than telling you what you can’t do and cutting you down all the time.

As people as diverse as Dale Carnegie and Gautama Buddha have been pointing out for quite some time, what you dwell upon you become.  Everything you watch, listen to, read, and think about programs your subconscious.  If you watch reality shows about trailer trash losers, you will start to act more like a trailer trash loser.  Your mind is your greatest tool and your greatest asset if you use it properly.

It does not require being a genius to make money in this society.  In fact, three things that can tend to hamper your tendency to make money are being handicapped, being moral, or being really intelligent and not focusing on mundane matters.  Three things that can help you make money are being one-pointed, having friends with common goals who work together, and already having money.

Here’s the thing, though.  Money in and of itself won’t make you happy.  Poverty can make you miserable.  There are few things more miserable than watching your child die because you can’t afford to get them the medical care they need, for example.  A certain amount of money, on the other hand, can make your life more comfortable and facilitate other actions.  The real question is, how do you live happily ever after?

No one can say for sure what will happen tomorrow, so “ever after” is hard to guarantee.  Today, on the other hand, is a lot easier, and if you learn to make each day happy then that adds up to an overall happy existence.

If you rely on people, things, or any kind of “-ism” to make you happy, it’s not going to work.  All of these are attachments which inevitably lead to unhappiness to a certain extent.  You have to give up the idea that, “When I get such-and-such item I will be happy.”  Most likely, you believe that because someone else has told you that that’s what you should want, and if you get it you’re just going to find that you never really wanted it in the first place.  You might want to figure out what you actually want, if you actually want something, even if the only thing you want is to be left alone.

If you’re going to be happy, you need to enjoy each moment of your life.  To that end, it is absolutely essential that you give up worrying.  It serves no purpose other than to dissipate your energy that could be better spent dealing with the situations that you’re worrying about.

While it may be good to find out what you enjoy doing and make that your work, you can choose to enjoy whatever you’re doing right now.  Pretty much any job can be enjoyable.  Yeah, OK, your boss or your co-worker may be an obnoxious so-and-so whom you don’t like to deal with, and wouldn’t it just grind their beans if you’re having a good time and enjoying doing the best possible example of your job?  Who knows?  You may even be able to turn their attitude around.

Sometimes the people I feel sorriest for are the ones that were raised with a credit card and a trust fund.  They never learn the necessary skills for survival, and frequently find themselves struggling for the first time with the problems of an 18 year old during their 40s or 50s, with the maturity of a 12 year old, and by then it’s a lot harder to learn.  Now, I’m not saying that you should reject resources that are available to you.  In fact, that is something I have wished I had for years.  What I’m saying is you have to learn to be self-reliant and not depend on others.

There are lots of techniques I could teach you to help with specific parts of this process, but really it’s your own responsibility.  If this were one of my kung fu classes, I would give you an assignment based on your particular needs.  Really, though, once you have your priorities in order, it’s largely a matter of not dwelling on the past or longing for the future, but living in the present.  Now, by that I don’t mean being short-sighted and hedonistic in the common and improperly used meaning of the word.  I mean that you should learn from the past, plan for the future, and concentrate on the Now.

In order to get my students to get their priorities in order, I tell them to hold their breath for 5 minutes because, growing up with asthma, I found that nothing will make you realize what is really important like not being able to breathe.

When they ask me what time it is, I typically look at my students and say, “It is now.”  So remember, be here now.

Now, a small list of some things that you might find helpful:

So if you want to live happily ever after, you really need to start by living happily right now.  Each year is made up of about 365 days and if each one of them is bad, then the year is bad, but if each one is good, then so is the whole year.

Obviously, it won’t hurt if you continue reading my blog and getting additional tips on making your life better, but I can’t do it for you and neither can anyone else.  If you want to be happy and have a good life, then you’re going to have to do it.  The most miserable people I know are the ones who have had everything done for them, and they think that their problems comes from people not being willing to do things for them.  Don’t blame others.  Take responsibility for your own actions, and that means taking the credit for what you do right and the blame for what you do wrong.

Now, at this point I have to take issue with what I just said, because the whole mindset of blame in our society is rather thoroughly dysfunctional.  Even guilt itself, like any other form of pain, no longer serves a purpose once you realize what you need to change.  Now, if you don’t get up and actually change it, then that’s your own problem.  So if you want to be happy, be happy.  I realize that sounds like an obnoxious platitude, and I can guarantee you I’m against those, but in this case it’s practical advice.

Copyright © 2013 Julian Thomas Reid III

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Final Vacation

Final Vacation

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.”
— Danny Kaye

Two rather monumental experiences happened to me recently. I suppose for most people having a protracted situation where your life is in danger of ceasing would be the more profound experience but honestly, for me it was the lesser of the two by a narrow margin. I grew up with the specter of death hanging over me, never expecting to live past 18 or necessarily to it, so when I say that having the first real vacation of my adult life at over 50 was a more profound experience, i mean it.

The standard of living in America today is actually lower than many European countries where they have economies that are at least as free as ours, free medical care, a minimum of 1 month paid vacation per year, and lower unemployment, yet we ethnocentrically view ourselves as having the greatest economy and best system.

While both the Republicans and Democrats are busy whittling away at both our constitutional rights and our paychecks, the average American is disgusted with both parties, even if they claim one, and know full well that the politicians are just out to line their own pockets, but when it comes right down to it, the politicians and what they are doing will never be as important to us as our own friends and family and our ability to make a living.

Recently, I had a close brush with death. Let me assure you that anytime you can’t breathe for more than a couple of minutes, it really resets your priorities, vastly more than not eating for several days. As I grew up with asthma, I had this experience often growing up and so I’m not nearly as motivated by material possessions as most people. This was a little different, however. Despite having a severe allergy to crab, I have never really had a problem from it in the past. The one time I swallowed crab, I immediately projectile vomited and then was fine. Having recently gone to a restaurant that fries crab in the same fryer they fry everything else, I ordered beignets. The three hyper-intelligent people with me and the cute and seemingly rather bright waitress all forgot that beignets are fried. Not only am I reasonably intelligent, but I am a cook, and therefore have no excuse for the fact that not only did I not notice or think of this, but looked at the crispy fried exterior with concern over the oil content without making the connection.

As I was finishing the first beignet, one of the lovely ladies with me looked up and said, “Hey, that’s fried,” or something to that effect. Now, let me make this clear, we are talking a large oil fryer, that is at least hot enough to use for deep frying, and therefore at the very least is going to denature the majority of the associated protein somewhat and the amount of actual protein from this dilute source is at least theoretically microscopic, so I could not be certain I would have a reaction at all.

In less than a minute, I started feeling the effects of the allergic reaction. I took six 1000 mg bromelain tablets. Bromelain is the enzyme in pineapple that digests protein, and I tend to carry it all the time to deal with some of my less severe allergies. I went to the restroom and immediately washed my hands and rinsed my mouth and as I looked in the mirror before leaving the bathroom, I could see that my face was turning red and I had already become puffy. My face was tingling by the time I sat back down at the table.

At this point people questioned why I do not carry an epi pen. Well, first off as I’ve mentioned before I’ve never had a problem with crab before. Also, while I am allergic to bees and wasps, I generally just pour ammonia on it within two minutes, neutralizing both the sting and the allergic reaction. Unlike my cousin, who carries an epi pen, it would take at least two stings and several minutes to kill me. That may not seem like much to you, but it is a world of difference.

Now I can guarantee you that you do not think about what you’re thinking and feeling in a situation like this until later. At the time, much of my concern was taken up by the fact that my face and tongue were swelling, and as the restaurant was not well lit I was hoping that the change in the color of my face was not too noticeable. As my speech began to become more impaired, I ordered some white rice both to slow down the digestive process and to provide some calories for later when not eating was really going to hit me. I also ordered a shot of some kind of alcohol to increase stomach acid production. I did drink it but no, I don’t really know what it was. At this point my big concern was trying to keep my friends who were with me from getting too upset. I was very concerned about the two women I was with as well as the teenage boy who I was afraid might be scarred for life by watching me die. I must admit that I did not even think about the feelings of the poor waitress.

As I mentioned before I have faced death growing up on a daily basis. When you’re down to the wire, those things you really wanted to do with your life become not so important.

Unfortunately, despite the lighting in the restaurant, and the attempts to cover it, it was obvious to everyone that my face was turning purple and frankly it’s impossible to speak clearly as your tongue swells up.

The addition of an antihistamine got the situation thoroughly in check. My other experience though was roughly in the opposite direction. So I went on vacation. It wasn’t a vacation where I stayed home and packed or unpacked in relation to a move or cleaned house, or tried to catch up on my writing, or any of those sorts of things. The honest truth is that I haven’t been on any kind of vacation in many years. Now let me be clear about this, I was taken on vacation by a good friend who won a Bahamas trip. Sure I’ve done a number of things for them in the past but they didn’t have to take me, they could have taken someone else and I would have thought nothing of it, instead, for one of the few times in my life, I was treated as if I were appreciated. That in and of itself was more disorienting by far than the less unusual experience of having my tongue swell while I tried to remember where the closest hospital was.

I have not been truly relaxed in so long, that I had forgotten what it was like. While not breathing makes you realize the necessity and value of air, food, water, and shelter over pretty much everything else, going on a vacation to the Bahamas gave me a slightly different insight.

Now, the Bahamas are a commonwealth, which is a type of democracy, which still at least talks about ideals. They have virtually no unemployment, no welfare, a free market system, no ludicrous sense of entitlement, and much cheaper medical treatment. Their insurance covers not only their own medical system, but will also pay for medical care in America, but then they are only 60 miles away, so what do you expect. Oh wait, I believe my medical insurance won’t pay for treatment in the Bahamas.

I could go on at some length about their depressed economic situation because of having been hit by two hurricanes, or a number of other subjects, but that’s really not what we’re here for. So, you hit the beach in the Bahamas and the warm soft damp wind rolls over you like a blanket and you realize it’s an unusual form of parasite as it feeds on your stress, draining it all away. Even the stupid drunk American tourists who would be trailer trash if it weren’t for having friends who like the same football team as them who helped them get good high paying jobs can’t bother you. Yes, some of the tourists are nice, and some are even reasonably bright, but it is very easy to see why Americans have such a bad reputation overseas. Unfortunately, due to years of America being run by short-sighted individuals whose only ideal is greed, the inevitable result that our money is not better than anyone else’s anymore has come home to roost. If things were being run properly, the rest of the world would be better off, and middle class Americans would be living like aristocrats of the 1920s, the rich would of course continue to make that look like poverty. Sorry about the rant, and now back to our regularly scheduled program.

After eating out well and not concerning myself with the price, and shopping at stores with slightly better prices due to a lack of taxes, having a few drinks and actually relaxing on the beach, and going on a tour that included the houses of the island rich, I found myself with a newfound appreciation of creature comforts. One of the biggest limitations to making money in modern America that I have encountered is that I possess an unfortunate lack of moral flexibility. When you add to that the fact that I am handicapped and have never received any kind of assistance, from governments, churches, or honestly anywhere else, and that my “friends” have mostly been highly devoted to the idea of seeing how much they can rip me off for, the cards have been stacked against me somewhat. Honestly, I have never been that interested or concerned with money other than an abstract feeling that it would be nice to have some, especially that it would help me to help others, but now I have acquired an appreciation for creature comforts, especially if I am going to achieve old age before death.

Of course, it was right after this realization on the day we got back that I ate the beignet. Perspective is a fascinating thing. For the first time in my life, I do not view wanting comfort for myself and a little money as being in any way contradictory to appreciating the importance of basic survival and caring about others.

Copyright © 2013 Julian Thomas Reid III

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