Pitbull

Vilified.

bennyHe was born in a cage, a small one. He lived in his own filth and didn’t walk until four months of age. His skin was so riddled with mange, fungus and sores that he was almost put down. A Pitbull rescuer came to his aid. She brought him home, nursed him back to health and put him up for adoption. Two months later he came home with me.

My Pitbull was not vicious. He was adorable. My children could literally pull on his face; he would lick them into submission and they would gross-out on his breath. His best friend, and some think his forbidden love, was a Siamese cat. He went to doggy daycare and was attacked by a Golden Retriever. He slept in bed, under the covers. But he looked vicious to people who only knew the breed through a lense of fear and violence. These people would cross the street when I walked him. I was even told that I shouldn’t have an animal so dangerous, that he should be put down. A man accosted me once when Benny walked up to say hello.

Benny did bite someone, by accident. Benny liked basketball a little too much. It overexcited him, put him in a frenzy of play. He accidentally bit the guy while trying to get to the ball. The guy called the police and sued me. Benny had a record after that and I had to take him to an animal behaviorist; it was a Marley and Me moment when Benny pulled the behaviorist down and dragged her across the park after he saw another dog — he didn’t go for a hump like Marley. In retrospect, it was funny, back then I was afraid she would report him as dangerous. She didn’t report him but she was annoyed about the whole being dragged thing.

Benny was not a vicious killing machine set to tear everything in his path to shreds. Benny the Pitbull was a gentle soul who taught me patience, responsibility, love and understanding. He was born into a shitty environment to a person who was irresponsible. This is an all-to0-familiar story with the breed. They are vilified because of who raises them. I chose to embrace the animal who needed me most and I will forever be grateful that I knew him.

At thirteen years of age Benny died in my arms, surrounded by his family. Someday I will mix his ashes with my father’s who loved him dearly, and spread them over the sand on a beach in Oregon, the one place Benny could run with care-free vigor — it was an empty beach back then, no people to get scared. I miss him all the time and I hope that somewhere he is playing a gentle game with my father — he knew better than to play basketball or fetch with Benny.

 

A true villain.

shutterstock_323547224When we needed to be afraid of Saber-toothed cats and Short-faced bears, fear helped us survive, evolve and become the techno-crazed nuts we are today.

In 2017 it seems that fear is no longer helpful. We fear change, technology, immigrants, big cars, little cars, guns, strangers, kids, adults, pollution, cancer. I could go on for a while.  Watch the news.  It’s a fear mongering machine. CNN, Fox, MSNBC, all of it by design sells fear. We are fearful creatures who need to evolve. There is no true value to be as afraid as we are — it no longer serves us as a species.  In fact, I think it’s harming us.

I’m here writing to you because I was afraid.

Four years ago, I came out of my cave and started writing a novel. I hid it from people for about a year and worked on it in the wee hours of the night when no one was awake. I was afraid. Fear kept me from doing what I truly wanted to do because I was afraid not to make money, afraid to look stupid, afraid to fail — the list goes on. Fear held me back for a long time. I should be in the prime of my career, not starting a new one. However, I’m not grumpy when I get home and my kids love my stories (the ones I tell them are PG-13 at their worst). I read The War of Art about seven years ago. I let it marinate for three years, reread it a few times and finally pushed the fear aside and got to work. Four years later, the fear still creeps up on me but I catch it, usually after a day or two.

The momentum has brought me to this place. I’m on my fourth rewrite, I started a blog and I’m submitting short stories to publications. I get rejected, oh yes. Not one of my stories lives out there, unless you count the college literary journal that no one has ever read.  Monetary success is not on the table, yet.

I’m not saying do what I did. I have my own journey. I’m saying don’t be so afraid. And if you aren’t afraid, you have a leg up.

The fear mongers: CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc., didn’t win. I’m not buying. I tuned them out when I started to get serious. Sometimes I don’t even know what is going on in the world, but I’m also less afraid.

Ride Along

Last Friday night from 4pm-12am I rode in a squad car.  I was up front, so breathe a sigh of relief. I’m too old and “responsible” to be in the back. I did it for research but I ended up with something more than fodder for my novel.

Ride Along

It was a classic Portland night, rain with a little extra cold and ice on the side — or on top if that suits you. Ice storms are a real treat, but thankfully we were on the tail end of it.

It was a slow night. Vice was doing a “mission” — they were undercover busting drug dealers in Old Town, so we had to stay away lest we scare the miscreants off with a black and white patrolling the streets. The first call was a complaint after the fact. A man had crashed into a shrub, most likely due to the mix of ice and a very steep hill. The call was made because the suspect fled the scene. This usually means no insurance, a warrant or something else nefarious. All the officer could do was take down the plate and report the incident. The next call was a DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants). It was tough to watch a person in his mid-thirties on his way home from work after tying one on with his buddies fail the FST, field sobriety test, then see him cry because he knew his life just took a hard left. Like I said, slow night.  Portland is not that exciting and I like it that way.

By the end of shift I learned a few things. My favorite: if you get in trouble and don’t want to sit in jail, say you swallowed drugs and keep your mouth shut. The jail won’t take you because of the possibility you might die from the drugs you swallowed and the officer has better things to do than sit with you and wait for you to crap out the drugs. You’ll be let go, unless you did something really bad, then you’re screwed. I also learned that people tell more to an officer than is necessary. It’s as if they are compelled to ensure their innocence even when they aren’t a suspect. This generally leads to self-incrimination. But all you have to do is watch The First 48 to know that.

Officer London Westerlund, who I rode with, along with all the officers I met, were kind, thoughtful and very funny. They didn’t want to hurt people, blast them with tasers and itch their trigger fingers. They were proud civil servants who were excited that I was along for the ride to see what they do on a daily basis.

I would suggest going on a ride along. It’s fun, informative and you might get to see something exciting.  Either way, it will get you out of your routine and give you a glimpse into the part of society you might not know much about.

The only true villain that night was the ice.

The Bully

It’s a noun and a verb. A powerful word.

I know bullies aren’t born. They are created, molded by another bully. There are exceptions but those are extreme and usually come in the form of sociopathy.

bully
This is not a bully. He’s just a tough son-of-a-gun who fell, bloodied his nose then posed for his father. It helped him forget about the bloody nose.

Both my kids have been picked on. I learned that it’s way easier to tell my son to fight back than it is to tell my daughter to systematically ignore her entire peer group back; I didn’t know girls could be so vicious to each other.  Adult bullies are a totally different animal.

An adult bully, most likely terrified of adulthood, makes everyone miserable. If this person is in your life, I suggest standing up to him/her or moving on. It’s scary though,  especially if this person, this bully, holds a superior role to you in the workplace.  In this case, they are threatening your livelihood, your potential to put food on the table.  The consequence to fighting back or moving on is much greater than detention, suspension or expulsion from school. Tread lightly, but tread all the same because it will only get worse. Trust me. I finally just quit and moved to Mexico, married the coolest lady on the planet and have two amazing kids. I beat the bully because I moved on. I’m an adult — at least most of the time.

The bully is a villain, an archetype of a villain, a social construct of alpha v. beta. The opposite is the ear-beating victim that complains constantly and does nothing. Don’t be that person either. You get one shot at this ride, as far as I know, so make it a good one.

Here We Go

This is my first blog, my first post and my way of saying, in the words of Elmore Leonard, “…I’m gonna’ make my run.”

horse2
                                                            John Grogan is making this horse laugh.  He has a way with animals, I guess.

I was inspired at the Texas Writing Retreat to start a blog.

Literary Agent Elizabeth Kracht told me it would be a good idea to post something a couple of times a week. Joe Clifford also told me it would be a good idea. He writes books and Elizabeth, A.K.A. Liz, gets them published so I figured listening to them was probably a good idea. In my about section you can read further as to why I’m completely nuts.

I titled my blog “Who’s Your Villain” because I want to explore the villain in life, literature, film and anything else you can think of. Ultimately we are our own worst villain but it takes years of meditation in the mountains of Tibet to understand that.

Sometimes I’ll explore the villain in books, movies or shows that I like or hate.

meal
                                              One of the many amazing meals at the retreat.

I can’t thank you enough if you take time out of your day to read this.  It means the world to me. If you hate blogs but know me and want to support me then follow me.  It helps.

No matter what…big kisses.