1996 Notebook

Family Reunion?

Last weekend's family reunion has been making me think a lot. I'm not sure I like the direction my thoughts are going.

The reunion wasn't bad. The remains of a tropical storm were passing through on Saturday, so about 40 people were crammed into my parents' house. The children were pretty well behaved.

The exception to that was the older of my two nieces. Ever since she was very small, she's had a phobia about men with beards. That doesn't play too well with me, having a long beard and long hair. I hadn't seen her in two years, and I hoped she would get over it. After all, she is four and a half now.

She's not over it. On Saturday she spent the day upstairs, and on Sunday she wet her bed rather than leave her room to go to the bathroom. Taking the family picture was no pleasure. I had to be snuck in from behind so that I wasn't visible to her. That's it. I have no idea when or if I will be back in New York, but if she isn't over it then from now it is completely and totally her problem. She's going to have to grow up.

At least my other niece doesn't have that problem.

The best part of the reunion was getting to know my cousin Ron and his wife Melissa. I hadn't seen him in at least twenty years, and it was a pleasure getting to know some people more on my wavelength.

On Sunday afternoon some friends from college showed up earlier than expected. It put it little crimp in seeing the rest of the reunion. More people than I expected showed up, and we went out to dinner.

Maybe I had jet lag. All I know is that seeing all those people again wasn't anything spectacular or even special. Having seven friends and a baby at dinner made it really hard to talk to anyone, which I had hoped to do if there were just one or two people there. Plus the baby wouldn't be quiet.

I just don't get it. Why do people have babies? And why do they have to take them everywhere? Why are people supposed to be impressed? It sure doesn't take much to make a baby. It's as natural as shitting. Am I supposed to be impressed by that?

By Monday morning's 6:20 flight I was a zombie. I had hoped to meet Goat in the Cincinnati airport, but he wasn't able to make it. I ate breakfast, which was a Good Thing. After the next plane ride I waited for the shuttle to Corvallis. It was a four hour wait. And I was a zombie. I feel much better now.

All in all? I wouldn't pay $600 to do that again. My mother asked if they would see me for Christmas and I said "No.". My brother asked me to promise to be at the next reunion and I refused. After missing the first Billy NW gathering for this, I feel it just wasn't worth it.

The best part was getting to know Ronnie. The worst part was watching C-SPAN and seeing Representatives read anti-gay rhetoric into the Congressional record disguised as the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act". It left me feeling very alone without Goat.

But I keep thinking about crying children and overpopulation.

And the voice of Rick Reynolds keeps asking "If you weren't related, would you ever see your family again?".



While talking to Trevor today, he put together some facts that I had somehow never connected. I do not own:

  • an automobile
  • a credit card
  • a television set

and I live a reasonably content life. I'm not a hippie, but I'm not in the mainstream. I wonder what I am.


Today's deep thought

When I was young, my family had a tradition of eating the brains of deceased relatives. We thought this would make us smarter. We prayed and sang and made it a festive occasion. Unfortunately, we ran out of relatives when Uncle Jack ate Grandma, so I never got any. My turn was next, so you can imagine how disappointed I was.

Uncle Jack says it was a mistake to eat his mother's brain, but I think he's just sad about getting kuru.

Thanks to the Purple Crow for the inspiration.


The True Story of Jackie Paper

Puff the Magic Dragon lived by the sea
and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honnalee
Little Jackie Paper he loved that rascal Puff
and brought him string and sealing wax and other fancy stuff

One grey night it happened Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon he ceased his fearful roar

It's a wistful story of the end of childhood. But we never learned what happened to Jackie Paper.

He did grow up, it's true. And he left Puff. But he didn't forget Puff. He never did. But he couldn't play with Puff forever.

As Jackie Paper grew, he started looking around at the world outside. It wasn't the idyllic world he read about in children's books. One day he listened to the news and realized that there were people in the world who didn't have enough to eat, people without homes, people who were sick, people caught in war zones. And Jackie Paper began thinking about them more and more.

Jackie grew. He visited Puff, and played with him and loved him with a child's pure love, but he began to understand that he might be able to help other people. There was help he could give.

One day he realized that he would have to leave Honnalee and Puff. He did his best to prepare Puff for that day. It would be a hard day.

The day finally came. He was ready.

The sea and sky were grey on the day Jackie Paper left. Jackie had tried to explain to Puff what he had to do, but Puff didn't understand.

Jackie Paper travels the world helping people. He thinks of Puff often. He has a hope of someday returning to Honnalee and showing Puff all the good he's done, hoping Puff will understand. But that's not as important to him as all the help he's given and can give to people. And so he continues to travel, giving what help he can along the way.

Jackie didn't give up his childhood. He kept the best of his heart: his generosity and compassion.


A Story about Roman Catholicism

The most insipid tune I know is a cloying little religious ditty called "Sons of God". It's truly horrible. I was thinking of how sappy it was, when I remembered these lines:

Eat his body, drink his blood
And we'll see the glory of the lord

Somehow, it doesn't seem quite so bad anymore. Transubstantiation - who needs it? Let's forget the whole scene and take it as a cannibal anthem.


What is Our Duty to Other People?

If you knew someone was doing something self-destructive, what should you do? What if the person's actions affected other people?

I know someone who runs a support group for people who are struggling with homosexuality and religion. He's "ex-gay" and married to a woman. He is intelligent and has good intentions. His struggle between Christianity and homosexuality has been long and difficult.

I am afraid that he's the wrong person to be running a support group. He's already made a choice, denying his homosexuality and deciding to be a Christian by act of will. He's hardly what one would call an unbiased observer.

Imagine someone who is confused, upset, and vulnerable coming to this group. The message is that homosexuality is something to be overcome, something to be denied. Even if the person is wise enough to leave, the impression that will be left is of people who spend a major chunk of their lives fighting who they are. This is not healthy behavior. What a waste! And it all came about because the leader of the group believed that homosexuality was unacceptable to God. Now that belief will be spread to others, people who are seeking a light in their darkness.

If you were confused about something, wouldn't you want to hear several opinions before you made up your mind?

But I can't tell him all this. It wouldn't help him, I don't think; it would just make me feel better at his expense. So instead I write about it here.

This all came up again because the Cult Awareness Network, a clearinghouse for objective information about cults and their practices, has just been bought by a Scientologist. If there were some kind of truth in advertising law for organizations like that, they'd be breaking the law so hard it would make your head spin. Don't trust what they say after November 1996.


Last updated 2 June 2000
All contents ©1996-2002 Mark L. Irons

Next: 1997 Notebook