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Photo taken in the Yellowstone area.

Image via Wikipedia

Just saying. If you venture into Yellowstone National Park, be prepared to yield often and everywhere to the bison and those who worship them. Just like cows and monkeys roam with impunity in India, leaving jammed traffic and havoc in their wake, so go the Yellowstone bison.

Aided and abetted by park rangers, bison bring traffic to regular snarled standstills. The not quite 15 minute drive from the park’s west entrance to the turn off to Old Faithful took us nearly two hours thanks to a bison taking up a militant position on the only road. The situation was made more frustrating by the rubbernecking city folk who either stopped mid-road for extended photo-ops or  were too terrified to just drive around the beast.

Granted, living minutes literally from a national park stocked full of bison, I am a bit underwhelmed by the site of them now, but the thrill of Yellowstone was definitely dampened by the tourists acting like … tourists. I lost count of the number of times we were held up by the bison paparazzi, but I am sure the park ranger stuck with bison road patrol didn’t.  Same guy at nearly every pile-up.  At our first encounter, Rob rolled down the window to query about the cause of the hold up and the ranger was too deeply resigned to even roll his eyes when he said,

“Bison.”

But his body language clearly radiated a deep shuddering heavy sigh.  By the end of the day, we felt his pain.

We spent just a day circumnavigating Yellowstone. In some ways it is majestic but in others, it’s just protected area in the mountains. Call me spoiled.  Go ahead, really, because I am, but I have seen mountains and valleys.  I have seen bison and bear (and know better than to pull over and get out of the vehicle).  Rivers and peaks are part of my holiday experience much of the time.

What clearly stuck out were the bubbling pools of sulfuric water that steamed and fouled the air like the hallway outside a high school chemistry class on a late spring day.

Old Faithful was the last stop of our day. Rob reasoned, correctly, that most of the masses headed there first thing, so we circled the loop from the opposite direction, taking in the mountain views and waterfalls first. The traffic was lighter and less inclined to stop and take pictures.* That leg of the day was notable for a couple of things: the insanity at the food/camp & gift store areas** at lunch – the bus tour people were probably the worst but the young family that allowed their toddler and preschooler to chase after ground squirrels with hotdog bits made me feel so much better about my own parenting decisions when Dee was that age that I am sorry now I wondered aloud if the kids would need shots when they got bit (seriously, the signs about not feeding anything even if it looks hungry and cute are ignored at your own peril).

The other event involved an RV with Pennsylvania plates and a Steelers logo on the back that veered from center line to nearly non-existent shoulder with such speed that I kept the camera trained on them for several miles just in case they toppled over. It would have made excellent viral YouTube.

Rob’s visited Old Faithful before and noted the commercial build-up right away. It’s a tourist mecca. A boardwalk with benches semi-rings this steaming hole and as the witching hour approaches, they fill up quickly. And disperse just as fast. The geyser erupts about every hour and 15 minutes for a grand total of 4 minutes and 20ish seconds. It begins with a couple of sputters before climbing slowly, maintaining its “erection” for a half-minute and then subsiding in nearly the same manner as it ascended. By the time it reverted back to its smoldering state, nearly everyone was gone. It was kind of sad, and I wondered what it had been like back in the day. You know,  of yore, when being a tourist entailed some effort and discomfort.

My advice for Yellowstone is get there early or late. If you can get into the park by 7 or 8 in the morning, the traffic is lighter and the flip-flop crowd is still back at the KOA. Go around dinnertime and you will encounter the skeeter bitten paparazzi as they are heading back to the hotels and campgrounds, sunburned, stuffed with junk food and laden with cheap Chinese knickknacks.  Either way, you win.  If you travel with the pack, be prepared to stop often and ford the hordes at every destination.

*We ran across a huge group lining the road up and down and peering anxiously into a valley that appeared to be empty.

**There were two age groups of employees at these venues. So young that their relatively slow mental processes strained one’s patience and so freakishly old that I become concerned anew about the state of Social Security.


Modified version of Image:Arnold Schwarznegger...

Image via Wikipedia

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver , the former Mr. and Mrs State of California, announced their separation the other day. News of the split splashed the web with typical “omg! how can a famous couple walk away from a marriage that doesn’t have to be measured in dog years to be an impressive run?”

They have a point. 25 years of marriage and 34 total (they dated 11 years* prior) is considered laudable anymore because in a society where most never make it to the altar at all, it bestows an air of powerful voodoo relationship magic on them that seems to elude the majority.

Maria has a YouTube stream – she was a reporter once and is a writer so its existence can be attributed to more than the usual narcissism that drives people to babble on personal YT channels. A recent entry asks her viewers to share how they deal with transitions. What spurred them? How did you cope? What do you wish you’d known going in? All the angsty good stuff.

Apparently what bothers her most is the end of busyness in her life. She isn’t a reporter anymore. Her kids are grown or nearly so and presumably able to function without her hovering over them. Her husband has left office, which effectively puts her out of a job too. And though he has projects in the offing, she does not.

Some of the news reports speculated that she is resentful. After all, she didn’t want Arnold to run for governor and it derailed her professional and personally when he did. She threw herself into her role of First Lady of Cali but that’s over now too.

Like her marriage.

I’ve been thinking about transitions. Why not? It feels sometimes like I have been swirling down river, bounced through the rapids or languidly floating for a good eight or nine years now. Never really getting to close to the banks and pushing off again when I do.

My personal life has come together in a way I couldn’t have imagined and it pleases me to no end, but that “career” thing I am supposed to want desperately and apparently need in order to be personally fulfilled – according to my feminist sisters – dangles above me like the apples over Tantalus. Unlike him, I don’t reach up. I just lie on the tire tube and marvel at the shadows they cast.

One of the last comments on Maria’s stream reminded her that it’s perfectly okay to just “be”. A yogi, I suspect. Because it is okay to “be”. Be content. Be still. Be aware. Be grateful. Be with yourself. Be with those who matter most.

I wonder if it’s possible for some to just be happy with life as it is? Are we so programmed to search and conquer and begin the process again that we can’t dwell in the space we call “transition” without feeling guilty about it?

Taking a break from Care2 has reminded me that there are other options – neglected ones and those just occurring to me – to explore. Transition at its core is really about exploration. I don’t mind that. Research and planning have always been my strengths. Execution maybe not so much but when it counts, I stack up with the best.

My advice? Be. And be mindful. Don’t worry so much. Take it easy on yourself. Forget about perfection. Don’t fret if you fall short or the goal line shifts from time to time. They say that life is a race, but it isn’t. They say that what we do defines us, but it doesn’t. They say to follow your bliss and you will be successful, but that’s not true if your definition of success is grounded in the material or rooted in competition and comparison.

If you are lucky enough to even be able to ask yourself how to transition, you are in a far better place than 98% of the others on the planet.

* I am highly suspicious of marriage length daters. It speaks to issues and ambiguity.


sarah palin's political hit list

Though it’s not actually clear that Sarah Palin’s SarahPAC “targeting” of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, incited the gunman who shot her in the head at point-blank range earlier today, it is clear that a sizable portion of the population in Arizona is bat-shit crazy.

A reader of Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish reported overhearing the following conversation shortly after word of the shooting began to spread through Tucson:

I am standing in the aisle at Costco when I found out my Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, has been shot dead up on the north side.

While I’m scrambling with my phone, two couples in front of me are talking about it and suddenly I hear one of the women say, “Well, that’s to be expected when you’re so liberal.”

And the other woman says, “Ohh, so we get to appoint a Republican?”

I did not trust myself to speak. I’m a Soldier. Please remind me what country I am fighting for? At least seven people are dead. She happens to be the only member of Congress married to an active duty military — he’s a Navy officer serving as an astronaut.

Giffords herself, in a eerie moment of prescience, about the dangers brewing in her state during the midterm elections that inspired Palin to “target” Democrats in close races had this to say,

“They really need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up, and, you know, even things for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. When people do that, you gotta realize there’s consequences to that action.”

A friend, (via my late husband) who lives in Tucson, had this to say about the shooting when someone asked her why she was worried that Democrats would retaliate,

“Because that is why she got shot. Not because she is a Dem, it is the issues. She supports liberal immigration views and most of AZ does not. She supports the healthcare reform and many are violently against it. The border of Mexico is very close to Tucson and many shots have been fired over this already, just never on a public figure. They have put other politicians and figures under protective custody on both sides of the debate.”

It’s the issues, stupid.

But not really. They claim it’s about immigration and being forced to go along with health care reform, but it’s heart is that the American Dream – built on unlimited acquisition and unsustainable upward mobility, whose heart is unlimited acquisition – is gone.

Not that it – the Dream – ever really existed. The whole thing was the ultimate cliché, a house of cards built on a sandy beach. But those in the middle bought in and those just below them were semi-content to pretend that with the right pair of straps on their boots they could move up too, and the illusion took root and grew in soil that has long since played out.

This last decade oversaw the last gasp and the bitch known as “payback” has moved in for good.

Because the shooter is in custody, his MySpace page and YouTube vids shutdown, it’s unlikely that the public will ever really know the truth. Which serves both sides. The GOP and Fox News can claim that he was a disturbed individual and that their courting of the lunatic fringe known as The Tea Party had nothing to do with the attempted assassination of Giffords, the death of an Arizona judge or the snuffing of an innocent nine-year old girl, while the Democrats can underplay and conciliate, letting their own liberal loony lap-dog fringe scream and cry conspiracy.

Meanwhile, the people, who have no fucking idea of what is really going on, will take uneducated sides and continue to give away their rights and trust in the wrong people. They have spent so much of the last couple of decades blindly rubber stamping the theft of their freedom that they haven’t any idea where they actually stand on the playing field anymore.

Immigration and health care are distractions. There are real, credible threats afoot, and it’s the people who are fiddling among the burning ruins of an America that never existed in the first place. It’s hard not to admire the brilliance and scope of what is going on, even while recognizing that something wicked continues its inevitable march our way.

I guess the revolution might be tweeted after all.


 

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Image by Elisabeth Moore via Flickr

 

Jennier Petkov has the dubious honor of being the 85th most googled term this afternoon thanks to her stunningly self-absorbed Housewife of New Jersey via Michigan turn on a local news channel.

In case you’ve missed Jennifer, she’s the trending troll de jour due to her harpy-ish harassment of her neighbor’s dying grand-daughter, and her relentless campaign to mock the death of the little girl’s mother.

Mother and daughter carried the deadly Huntington’s gene. The mother passed away at 24 and the now seven-year old daughter is in the last stages of a disease that eats away brain tissue.

What would drive someone to mock and torment the terminally ill?

It’s the culmination of a two-year feud that began when Jennifer mistakenly believed that her neighbors had deliberately excluded her son from a birthday party. I believe there was a bouncy house involved. The Trojan War and WWI were bouncy house snubs, I believe.

Regardless, the battle was afoot and has trampled all over Jennifer’s neighborhood and with a little help front Photoshop, she took it to Facebook even.

Enter the press. And cue the clever pot-stirrer who uploaded this clip to YouTube:

My favorite part … aside from the head bobbing – their heads always bob – why? … is when the near speechless reporter asks Jennifer why she would do such a thing.

Her answer was basically because she could and it was fun.

“Take it or leave it,” she says as her final justification.

And here is where she is you.

Just like Christine O’Donnell is you.

And Glenn Beck is you.

And that incredibly pouty, spoiled football player’s wife on The View is you.

The feeling that personal entitlement is all and that change, or meeting half way, is for the weak, those who aren’t strong enough (or too cognizant of the interconnectedness of humanity).

I wouldn’t defend Jennifer, but she is hardly an anomaly. The people bashing her today are Jennifer. Those who dedicated hate pages across the Social Mediascape to shame her and “give her a dose of her own medicine” are her too.

Jennifer’s mean girl ways are a timely find. Bullying is all over the news. Much hand-wringing and wondering why.

But there is nothing to wonder about. Bullying is part of who we are. It’s steeped in our culture of “take me or leave me”. The idea that we are free to impose, judge, forcibly coerce and bare our teeth like the Darwinian creatures we are is exactly what makes it possible for teens to mimic their same-sex fearing parents when they pick at their gay classmates until the whites of their bones show.

Sarah Palin‘s eye rolls. Rachel Maddow‘s contempt. Bill O’Reilly’s brow-beating. Jon Stewart‘s mockery. It’s Jennifer with a polish and book smarts, but it’s Jennifer no less. We are a nation of bullies. Our politics, our religions, our social fabric really is based on the idea that if the cause is perceived righteous – anything that has to be said or done to get the masses to line up and bleat is justified.

Just last evening, my oldest nephew pulled a “take it or leave it” on me. He’d spent the day before stirring the family crisis pot with teen angst and over-reaction that culminated in him “running away” for the night to make his point. When I talked with him the next day – after all the adults had made contact, assessed the actual facts and were on the same united page – he admitted that perhaps he’d gotten a bit overwrought,

“But it’s who I am,” he said, “and I can’t change it.”

I disagreed, and I still do. People are who they want to be. Their words and actions are who they are. Hurtfulness, manipulations that add up to bullying behavior aren’t justified by the ends no matter how heinous or righteous the cause. Jennifer was wrong, but the people who are harassing her right now are wrong too. They are bullies too.

Jennifer’s cause was the selfish preservation of face. She over-reacted two years ago but couldn’t admit it. She fell back on learned behavior that is not so different from what many people do on smaller scales in their places of work and within their families or social networks.

But any time words – or worse – are used to twist facts or to wound, it’s bullying. We Americans are mean girls at our core.  Hypocrites. Just like Jennifer.

“Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” – author unknown

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