Sex is gross and other things we learned Friday

Maybe you heard, but the Supreme Court finally put the gay marriage debate to rest last week.

I have had so many opinions for so long on this, and most of them do nothing to make anyone happy. I don’t fit into this neat little “us vs. them” on some things, and in other respects I want nothing but to see “the other side” destroyed. Allow me to explain…

Marriage should be private

Rand Paul seems to have come out for private marriage literally yesterday, at least vocally. I’ve long told people marriage is an obnoxious merging of church and state. As long as we tolerate that, we’re going to keep having problems.

Marriage should be reserved for churches and religious institutions. The government should be in the civil union business. You can get one, the other, or both. So if you’re not religious and want to get together for legal and financial benefits, the government can square that up. If you’re religious but don’t want to involve the government, your church can take care of that in the view of your faith. If you want both, get both.

This way no one has any problem either way, except in cases where people get miffed at churches for being way behind the times in most cases. I can see an instance where the Catholic church, for instance, might catch heat for not allowing same-sex marriages for the next 100 years or whatever.

But again, this is where the government can divorce itself of church and allow people flexibility and basic protections, as it should.

Republicans and Democrats are right

Great, I can get married now. But I can still be fired for it in a majority of states.

The Republicans and Democrats on the Supreme Court are not wrong. Chief Justice Roberts is not wrong when he says the Constitution has “nothing to do with” marriage.

This is just a muddy, gray area where a compass is pointing in one direction and our laws are not.

Our government is designed in such a way that when one branch is weak or ineffective, other branches will step up. So in the absence of a functioning Congress, our Executive (the President) and Judiciary (the Court), step in to fill the void just because pressing matters continue to be problems. Problems don’t stop just because Congress puts their hands over their ears.

So without Congress, SCOTUS stepped up and did what we did in the 60s with race: a big fat fiat that pushes things along. Does anyone think that Mississippi would have done away with slavery if not for the federal government? It took them this long just to kinda think about taking down the flag they used to represent that whole movement.

The Court’s opinions were weak. The reasoning was, basically, “Just because people have moved this way”.

I’m tired of this fight and every one after it

I generally do not like to be a “fighter”. So when I hear things like, “This battle isn’t over” or “The fight continues” for other rights and protections, I am thoroughly exhausted. I’m the guy who just gets up and goes to do something else.

But I am also incredibly irritated, angry, and confused.

I am irritated and angry by religious people. Every last one of them. I don’t care if you’re in an “open and affirming” church or the Church of Cannabis. I am angered by the very existence of religion most all of the time.

Every time a terrorist blows themselves up in the name of Allah, or someone answers any question with “CAUSE JESUS!”, or anytime someone votes in a State house or Congress to do something because of their faith, I am absolutely enraged.

For every major problem we face as a city, a state, a country, and as a people I can almost always trace it back to the tentacles of religion telling someone “This is okay”. It is not okay.

I am still shocked that we, as a country, have not heard stories of school children writing “God” in an answer field on a test when solving a question for “x”. Or adults claiming they don’t need to take a driver’s test, but still deserve a license, because “God told them so” and then filing court cases or petitions to make their non-answer the ONE TRUE ANSWER. That’s in “voices in your head” territory, but I have no doubt that if that happened, some base somewhere would get fired up to get it done.

My experience in church for years was one of shock and horror. People openly praying and opining for things like a job, their health, or marriage. For a group of people closely aligned with the “personal responsibility” crowd, they seemed to take little of it. The people praying for health so frequently ate crap and didn’t exercise. The people praying for a job seem incapable of reading a book other than the Bible to help them increase their skills. The people praying for their marriage don’t seem inclined to talk to each other, but instead to God. I’m aware there’s something to be said for “God enabling people” or “Giving you to the tools”, but not many people seem to catch that hint at the churches I sat in for years. Not to mention the notion that every bad thing that you do is “Satan”, because without him you might have to take responsibility for your own failure.

When it comes to some sort of culture war, my libertarian bent doesn’t want to care. Just leave me alone. And you dictating terms of my government defies that. This is like the government dictating what we can eat for dinner because someone’s a vegetarian.

I get it, you think gays are gross

Sex is pretty gross. All of it. Men have a floppy piece of ugly urine-piping, women have a smelly cavern of blood and urine, and everyone poops.

When people say “Being gay is a choice”, “Gays can’t have sex”, “Gay sex is an abomination”, that seems to ignore the obvious reality that all sex is pretty gross and everyone who has sex is touching something or putting something somewhere that leaks something.

And gay people no more choose to blow a bag of dicks than any straight woman or no more than any straight man chooses to fondle breasts. You like what you like, because you do.

And yeah, Pride parades are pretty weird. But don’t tell me that the Snake Pit at the Indy 500 is some bastion of upstanding class and purity. Or wrestling hogs or running a mud dash at a county fair isn’t a little unusual.

At the heart of all of my feelings, there’s one inescapable logical conclusion that causes my sense of confusion: people think and do what they do because it’s what they do. I can’t change people’s minds, I can only try to carry on and, at best, ignore them. People have different opinions and thoughts, and I am not blind to that.

But it becomes very hard for me to do as my mother said and “mind my own business” when people go running around making laws making it impossible.

Religious people ruined marriage

If anyone’s ruining marriage, it has to be religious people. They’re the only ones who had it! If your neighbor’s ladder breaks and he blames you for it because you asked to borrow it a month ago, that’s pretty rich. Or, more aptly, if he blames you for his ladder breaking after yelling at you to not even look at it.

Marriage wasn’t any better or worse off yesterday than it is today or will be next week vs 600 years ago.

Stop calling me a faggot

I got called a faggot last week. In Indianapolis. Just walking down the street. Like I have countless times before. I don’t yell “Tiny penis!” randomly back at you.

So learn to leave people alone.

What an amazing opportunity Avon, Ind. has

Imagine if humans could travel through space to another inhabitable planet. There’s a lot we could and would do differently, right? It’s unlikely that if a group of 100 people landed on another planet that one or two would immediately head off and say, “Bye guys!” and go live alone.

It’s also unlikely that we’d say, “Okay, let’s figure out how to make some cars and build an Applebee’s.”

But that’s what we do now every time a new suburb starts or someone goes to a small rural town. It’s a horrible use of resources and we don’t think about it because, simply, most people just don’t think about it.

Indy’s suburbs are starting to rethink what it means to be a suburb, and there are a lot of options right now.

Carmel’s mayor Jim Brainard has shown an obvious desire to increase the quality of life for Carmelites. Knowing that Indiana can never compete with sunny warm-weather places like Florida and the Southwest, Carmel is focusing on building things that are aesthetically pleasing and visually interesting to make up for it. This is expensive, however, and Carmel has about a billion dollars in debt to prove it. For comparison, the entire city of Indianapolis runs on a budget of $1.1 billion.

Greenwood is debating how to use its original Old Town Greenwood space, something they can learn a lot about from Fishers and Brownsburg. Fishers has practically destroyed what tiny sliver of their history they had in favor of me-too mixed-use construction. So if you want to live above a Chipotle and an ice cream stand, Fishers’ is soon to be your place.

Brownsburg is still something of a blank slate, but they’ve already set the tone with how they built their downtown to facilitate auto traffic. People in cars are by their very nature on their way someplace else.

And then there’s Avon and Plainfield. I feel like Plainfield has established itself as “the thing next to the airport”, and they have the industry and warehousing development to prove it. But Avon is different.

Avon seems to be quietly sitting there and growing rapidly, but with no central plan. At least not a structured one. Without the government offices and historic structures of Hendricks County’s nearby seat of Danville, Avon has no significant draw like the other suburbs. It doesn’t even have a highway. And that’s where Avon is more interesting.

Avon sits in a strip along US 36 and between Interstates 70 and 74, and west of I-465. Avon, if its leaders wanted to, could be the place where we’d do things completely different. Avon could be the place we’d build if we setup shop an alien planet.

Avon doesn’t have the noise pollution or divisive highways of other suburbs (Greenwood, Carmel, and Fishers have all picked distinct sides of their highways for most of their development). Avon has access to money and plenty of land for development.

It also doesn’t have as much already-aging infrastructure as places like Fishers. At some point, all of that aging water and sewer infrastructure in Fishers is going to come home to roost. If you lay it all down in a span of 10 years, you’re going to have a problem all at once decades later. We see this with places like Lawrence, Beech Grove, and Speedway today.

Imagine how Avon could build a city that was more bike and pedestrian friendly than car-centric. It could avoid building costly and unhealthy cul-de-sacs in favor of gridded, tree-lined streets. If built densely, it could have affordable and easily implemented transit straight along US36 into Indianapolis.

What an amazing opportunity Avon has to create its own history and be an example for a new way of thinking in urban development. It could be the Disneyland of Indy’s suburbs. Dense, purposeful, familial, efficient, and sustainable.

That Sunday Evening Feeling

I think you could very reasonably plot my income and overall happiness over the last decade and find they are two opposing forces. When income goes up, my happiness goes down and vice versa.

When I was 15 and didn’t really have much experience to think otherwise, I just thought “This is the way work life is. We all come to a place we don’t want to be and eventually we go home.”

Then when I started working at the State, this notion carried on. But the whole time I was just doing web work in the evenings and weekends, mostly for a little extra money, but also because I enjoyed it. What I enjoyed was the control and flexibility. I am not a person that likes to be tied to contracts. Just ask anyone who’s ever tried to lock me into a contract spanning more than a few months.

Eventually what did it for me is that “Sunday evening feeling”. You know that feeling. It’s how you feel when it’s Friday night or Saturday night and you think, “Whew. I don’t have to go to work tomorrow.” But on Sunday morning that feeling wanes and it becomes, “This is my last day.”

By Sunday afternoon, say around 4 pm, it’s, “I only have a few hours left, but at least I have a few hours left.”

And then on Sunday night, say around 8 or 9 pm, it becomes that hurtful pit in your stomach that says, “You’re out of time. You have to go back to work tomorrow.” That’s “the Sunday evening feeling”.

I hate that feeling. And when I started working in Connecticut I felt that Sunday evening feeling again in short order. That, among a whole host of other reasons, was when I knew that was the end of that.

I don’t get that feeling anymore. I have a workplace I can tolerate, mostly because it’s my own. But anyone who comes to work through my doors should never have that same feeling. If they do, I want to know how to relieve it.

It’s also for this reason that I recognize I am highly unemployable. Not because of a lack of skills or education (I have a library card and an Internet connection and I know how to use them), but because I just can’t handle working at a desk tied to arbitrary time shifts and perceived trading of minutes and productivity for dollars.

I recognized the stupidity of that when I worked for the Court. I don’t work well after 3 pm. I work best at 6, 7, and 8 am. But if you won’t let me work those hours, that’s your own fault, not mine. And if I do come in early, don’t look at my weird when I leave at 5.

So to any current or future individuals who work alongside me: don’t ever work your least productive hours and don’t ever dread the work. Because if and when you do, we all lose.

Thoughts on Pride

The older I get the more I recognize the world is full of a lot of gray areas. One that evades me, however, is Pride. It exists in a, uh, much more colorful space.

June, and more specifically this weekend, is Pride, the annual event for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to come together. So far so good.

The event is marked by a parade. So far, I’m still with you. Except this isn’t so much a parade as a borderline offensive display of people’s naughty bits.

Let’s be clear on one thing: gay pride parades are really only known in the public consciousness for men in underwear. Or men dressed as women, or women dressed as men and also possibly naked, but usually less so.

For years I have thought, “People walking around mostly naked is not helping.” It associates gay and lesbian people with lewd behavior or, worse, poor taste and a disregard for some pretty easy social norms. I have said so consistently and every year it doesn’t improve. When you have to work to get the majority – in this case, middle and upper aged white people – to think of you as an equal or at least not vote against you, this doesn’t help.

Supporters have long said Pride parades and festivals are a way to get in front of the general public, to make people more accepting by effectively becoming desensitized to the gay and lesbian community.

Except I don’t know that I’ve ever met a straight person who saw a pride parade and thought, “You know what, they’re all right. Let’s stop voting against them.”

The gay rights movement in this country has seen unparalleled success, but it’s probably more because of Glee, Frasier, and other primetime television shows that put gay and lesbian characters in relatively normal, but somewhat different, situations from straight counterparts.

I’ll probably end up at this Saturday’s Pride parade and it’ll be my third one. But it’ll probably be like last year: watch the parade and wonder how the City doesn’t get sued for issuing the permit and see it as an excuse for perpetuating the stereotype of over-sexed gay men and women. And also drinking before noon.

I’m not sure it helps, but they keep doing it, so maybe eventually everyone will become desensitized. The libertarian in me says “Whatever”, But I get why so many straight people are repulsed and turned off by it.

I’m thankful efforts by so many people to come out to their friends and families have been able to temper the knee-jerk reaction people have toward the community at large.

Salem Class of 2005: A look back at High School

This is part three of a three-part series on the Salem High Class of 2005, which graduated 10 years ago this month. Monday’s post is on K-5. Tuesday’s is on Salem Middle School. Today, High School.

Upon exiting 8th grade the mantra was about how terrifying high school would be. No more “spoon feeding”, no more coddling, it was all on you from here on. It was as if history was repeating itself.

But before I get too far in, I want to take a moment to mention Mr. J.D. Martin, my 7th grade math teacher, and the staff at Salem Middle School.

My mom died on January 18 of my freshman year of high school. On the day mom died, then at 11:30 a.m., I went home and handled details around getting her moved.

But that afternoon, sometime around 4:30 p.m., J.D. Martin arrived in his pickup truck and knocked on the door. Mom had already been taken away by Ben Weathers and J.D. stood with a card and an envelope. I didn’t open it right away, but he gave his condolences to myself and my dad and left shortly after.

Later when I opened the card there was about $700 and signatures of practically every staff member at SMS, save the lunch staff and some of the custodians. That gesture, and the seemingly insane amount of money, has not been forgotten.

Mr. Stephenson, 9th Grade

Larry Stephenson had a rough few years. When my class was in 8th grade he developed a brain tumor and spent most or all of that year out of the classroom. By the time we moved into high school he came back, only to suffer a setback a year later and eventually die.

I mention this because Mr. Stephenson and I had a strange relationship. There are three over-arching stories with him.

First, he was suffering the same kind of brain tumor (right down to the cell type), as my mom. Since mom had died at the same time, I think he was somewhat forlorn about his prospects. The kind of cancer cells he and mom faced have a 99% fatality rate with almost no measurable remission time. “It always comes back”, according to mom’s doctor.

Second, Mr. Stephenson wanted a website and decided that I should do it. It was my second site ever, after Lori Hazelip requested a site. I was off to the races there, career-wise. But one day over the summer we worked on his site through the day and had dinner at KFC. Over a buffet of mashed potatoes and chicken we talked mostly about his treatment. In retrospect, I think he was trying to gauge how it felt “from the other side”. To find out what it felt to be someone who had to watch someone else suffer through cancer.

Third, Mr. Stephenson somehow came to my defense when I didn’t even know it. At the time another student, who I will allow to remain anonymous, was spouting off a tirade of derogatory terms about me online (ICQ!) and in school. Mr. Stephenson heard about this from another student (who I didn’t even know knew about any of it), and he wasn’t having any of it. After some yelling and swift calls home to a parent, that little problem went away. I like to think that this person isn’t the same today. I didn’t know any of this until weeks after it happened.

Mrs. Duffy, 9-12 Grade

Doris Duffy is about the closest living embodiment of Aunt Bea we have today. She cared about a lot of students in a very motherly way, but one remarkable achievement: she and I sent an email to each other almost every single day for four years.

They weren’t even about anything in particular most of the time. It was just what we did the night before or that weekend. It was a rare bit of routine in a time when my day-to-day life was far from consistent. Since I woke up extremely early to get mom early-morning pills, I’d be up and awake around 5 a.m. to respond to her before heading to school. (Part of the reason I showed up to work with Bonita Purlee each morning was just because she was about the only person there, but I literally had nothing else to do. Joan Barrett was always first in to school, followed by either Bonita, Derek Smith, or me).

It was (and I promise to move on from the sad stuff in a moment) Doris Duffy who received the note from the office, just as I sat down from lunch to start her 4th period class, that said my mom died. It didn’t actually say that, of course, but we knew, and she turned to me and I could tell from the look on her face that mom had passed.

Ms. Cooper, 9th Grade

On Wednesday, August 13, 2003, Ms. Cooper did the dumbest thing I’ve ever experienced with a teacher.

Why do I know that date so specifically? Because I have a ticket stub on my wall right here next to me from the Aerosmith concert she took me and Mariah Gilliatt to that night in Cincinnati, Ohio.

You can see why this is incredibly dumb: first year teacher takes two underage students across state lines to be with a bunch of Aerosmith, KISS, and Cheap Trick fans.

I think she figured this out at some point around 8:30 when a drunk guy rolled down the hill beside us. On a school night no less. We got back in town sometime around 3 am.


Almost as good as that time Louis Snider put a numbing agent on the lip of her Mountain Dew bottle.

Mrs. Hartsook, 10th Grade

I hated doing “projects”. They took much time. I could bang out a 3-page paper in under an hour. But a shoebox diorama? That really screws with my Saturday. You can only glue shit together so fast.

So it’s no surprise that while I enjoyed the lectures and the energy and knowledge that Jeanne Hartsook imparted, I absolutely dreaded the projects.

So much so that by the time I was in 11th grade I asked to get switched into Derek Smith’s Government and Economics class instead of Mr. McKay, who was also project-heavy. I just wanted to write papers.

Mrs. Campbell, 11th Grade

I think it was my junior year, anyway. I made a habit of walking into class every day and saying, “I’m here, make a big deal.”

On my birthday they did. Office staff arranged to stall me after my 5th period class, which was weird because none of it seemed at all important. I think the discussion was just, “How are you doing?”

Eventually we walked upstairs, which was also weird, and every one in Shenan Campbell’s 6th period class, including my good friends Heather McDaniel and Rebecca Scott, were lurking in the dark to yell, “BIG DEAL!”

Mrs. Allen, 9-12th Grade

What can I say about Debbie Allen? I spent four years in her classroom, most memorably with Thomas Smith, Chad Curtis, Shaun O’Donnell and Chris Shireman.

But later on there were web courses with other folks, including Heather McDaniel and Rebecca Scott, where it felt like Thomas and I were the only ones doing anything.

I think Thomas’ site for the Washington County Community Foundation lived on for years, as did mine for the Salem Education Foundation (which I can’t even find online at all now). Though I believe they still use some of the graphics Thomas did in places, so I guess he wins the longevity award.

It was in 10th grade that I remember thinking very clearly, “Holy crap, I can make money at this, like, now. Someday I’ll run my own business.”

Mrs. Quatroke, 10/11th Grade

Early in my sophomore year Roseanne Quatroke was administering our graduation qualifying exam to me and a class full of other people. This was the morning of September 11, 2011. She stayed collected through the morning, but by lunch too many TVs were turned on and we knew what was going on. Or at least as much as anyone knew at the time.

I imagine that sort of “carry on, let’s finish this first” sort of mentality can’t happen today with a phone in every pocket.

Mr. Carter, 12th Grade

I don’t say this lightly, but my etymology course with Mark Carter has probably proven to be one of the most useful classes I’ve ever taken. I routinely run across words as an adult and think, “Hmm, this has a Latin prefix, so it must mean such-n-such.”

Mrs. Bedwell, 12th Grade

Jeanne Bedwell closed out her decades-long career with our class, and I’m glad she was there for the 04-05 year. A lot of people come back later and routinely say she was the most in-line with true college-prep of any other teacher.

But I just appreciated someone who would laugh, sometimes inappropriately, at whatever thing I would say. It could go over everyone else’s head in the room, but not her’s.

Other Notes

I remember this kickball tournament. I can’t remember if it was to raise money or was just for the sake of a game. But the late Louis Snider was playing and you had to have a custom-ordered T-Shirt in order to play and he didn’t have one.

So to make it work, him and Josh Sebastian would just space themselves out in the kicking order so when Louis went he’d have enough time to run around and get back to home base. There he’d just take the shirt off and give it to Josh, who would throw it on, kick, and keep going.

This went on for some time and I remember this only for the ingenuity of the loophole.

I imagine the model biological cells we made are still sitting in the showcase outside Greg McCurdy’s door.

Jeanne Bedwell’s “I -heart- Clean Air” sign.

John Calhoun never washed his water cup. And Bonita Purlee never drank the bottom swig of coffee until Joan Barrett bought her a coffee mug warmer for her desk. I remember this only because on my desk right now I have a cup I never wash for water and a coffee mug that I only drink every drop out of because of my mug warmer.

My famous penis-bruise came after I gave blood. I had just turned 17 and was in the gym, squeezing the little ball to give blood. Except I kept squeezing. For three hours.

I just wouldn’t bleed and the nurse kept coming over to twist and prod me to get me to bleed. By the time she was done my arm was so bruised and sore. Sadly it was in the shape of a giant penis on my forearm.

When I finally did stand up, I started to faint because the bandage didn’t hold and blood immediately gushed down my arm. I haven’t donated blood since.

Rebecca Scott ruined one of my favorite shirts by placing a small marker dot on the arm. I haven’t forgotten.

The second-most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen after Andrew Armstrong’s mustard use in elementary school was Derek Smith’s PopTart.

Every morning he’d walk into Bonita Purlee’s office with two PopTarts and place them in the microwave. With butter on top.

They came out just as soggy and bastardized as you can imagine. I’m guessing he doesn’t still do that given his success at losing a lot of weight. So that’s just good all around.

Jackie Arnold would sometimes write passes to pull me out of class, usually with “friendly” teachers like Jeanne Bedwell, so she could ask me how to do something on a website. This was back when she was in charge of the SCS website.Fun fact: the swirly marks around the SCS logo? It’s just the letter “Q” stretched all out of proportion around the courthouse.I didn’t think about it at the time, but now I recognize how incredibly ballsy and somewhat funny it is that Salem used the Courthouse in their logo, which is a county-wide symbol. So screw you, Eastern and West Washington.

Rebecca Scott, Heather McDaniel, Ian Hartsook, Heather Mannely, Shenan Campbell, and myself all went to London the summer of 2005. While in London we’re hungry and Heather Mannely just looks at us and says, “Well, we can go to a gas station for chips or something.”This has been a refrain we have not forgotten. Of all the times to skimp on dining, who would go to a gas station for potato chips in London?

About a year after my mom died, I got a pass to go see Judy Matthews. She had decided it would be a swell idea to send me and Chris Amick to this camp for kids who lost a parent. God knows what sort of story would have come out of it if Chris and myself had entertained the idea.

Obligatory mention of Terry Griffus. Sorry, bro.

Sometime after I received my driver’s license Jake Hattabaugh and I started spending every weekend together. Usually we’d head up to Seymour to see a movie, or go to Clarksville. The stories of these weekends could fill a small book.

As is the case when one of the few (and for a while, the only) openly gay people in a small town are together, people just assume you’re together. Which was never the case with us. I mean, come on, he wore a tail for, like, a week.

Judi Howey approached me one day in the hallway and just said, “I have a job for you.”

She literally had a job for me. I was to go to the Washington County Historical Society that weekend, a few weeks before my 15th birthday, and talk to Willie Harlen.

I walked in and said, “Judi Howey sent me here.”Willie replied by setting down his newspaper, turning around and saying, “Oh, good, you’re good with computers, right?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess so.”

“Good. You can start Saturday.”And that was my first job.

Tanner Terrell was the best waiter I’ve ever had. After working at the Historical Society, I’d go down to Christie’s every Saturday afternoon for lunch. My lunch hour started at 1, I’d walk in at 1:10, and he’d practically have my sweet-tea-no-lemon with a club sandwich and waffle fries ready and waiting for me.

I still remember the sincere look of appreciation on Ashley Harmon’s face when she came up to me in the hallway and said, “Justin Harter, thank you so much.”

Her home had just burned down and I remember going out to my car to write a check. I can’t remember how much I donated, but it was evidently enough to write a check. I had been working for a little while and was making solid money for a teenager doing odd-jobs fixing computers and stuff around town. I dropped it in the donation jar and didn’t figure I’d hear anymore about it, but I still remember her sincere appreciation.

What a crazy time.