Category Archives: Thoughts

The Backwards Journey

Recently my friend Tim Jordan wrote on Facebook about his friend Joe. According to Tim, Joe was an unmedicated paranoid schizophrenic, the type who ends up so deep within the thralls of their mental illness, they forego their medication, they believe everyone is out to get them – except for Tim in Joe’s case. The mini biography that Tim wrote about his friend Joe was both sad and touching, and I wanted to share it with anyone who may cross paths with this post.

Tim’s story goes as so:

Sometimes I would be driving past this one particular park with my friend Joe the Unmedicated Paranoid Schizophrenic and he’d be like, “Hey dude, do you want to go raise the devil?” and point down the road into the park because apparently it was the best spot in town to conjure up the Father of Lies and I would always say, “Nah, man. Let’s just focus on getting this weed and then go back home and smoke it up.”

Then he’d be all, “Okay that’s cool man. One day though, right?”

“Yeah dude. One day for sure, Joe.”

Another time I was with Joe in his apartment, and he was operating, at that time, under the particular delusion that he was a 2000 year old monk. We watched a lot of good Kung fu movies at that time, and he was gathering a lot of cheesy Kung fu magazines that we enjoyed looking through. Yes, magazines were still pretty relevant then. It was sometime in the early aughts, as the cool kids say.

So anyway he ordered this cheap Shaolin monk garb and it arrived while I was there. I watched him put it on with a great deal of excitement. Finally, after 2000 years he was getting back in the groove.

After getting everything on he immediately threw this high kick that was pretty impressive, but also unfortunately absolutely ripped the ass out of his monk pants.

It was hilarious, but I absolutely could not laugh because Joe could be volatile and I really wanted to stay on his good side. Which made it even more hilarious. I had to make an excuse to run over to my apartment real quick so I could laugh in peace.

But then, there was that other time that Joe casually mentioned he started to burn down his building, but only changed his mind when he worried that my apartment was too close, and might catch on fire too.

Then, there was a period of time where Joe was convinced that he could get his magic powers back, if he just straightened his spine; so he built this medieval torture device looking thing that he could hang from while wearing a helmet. Sometimes I would come over, and he’d just be swinging from that thing, and carry on a conversation like it was something everyone did.

Then, he became convinced that if he ate enough rice that it would fill up his esophagus, and straighten his spine. He already had a giant pot of rice made.

So I asked him, “Are you saying you’re going to eat all that rice to the point where your stomach fills up and it backs up into your throat? Like, I could look into your mouth and see the rice poking out back there?”

“Yep,” he said. “Want some?”

“No thanks, Joe”

I watched that pot of rice slowly turn to rot over the next few months. Just like everything else in his apartment.

Before Joe completely succumbed to his mental illness, he had what I thought was the greatest job ever. He was contracted by a third party to manage all the arcades at Carrowinds, our local amusement park.

He got paid all year round, even when the park was closed, but he had to work just about every day in the summer when it was open. He used to sneak me in the park sometimes when he was working.

He was great with kids. If he saw someone having a bad time he would give them free games and prizes. Like those remote control cars and boats are kind of tricky to learn. He’d teach the kids how to drive then better with a few free games.

He was the best.

Sometimes in the winter when the park was closed we’d drive over and into the park. We’d smoke a blunt in the car and he would drive all through the park on the walkways, etc. It was wild.

Then he’d open up some arcades and we’d smoke some more and play free games for hours.

Joe was the best.

Then there was the day Joe told me he had to smoke crack to make the voices in his head go away.

Over time we went through this backwards journey with technology. We started with a PlayStation 3. Then he sold it to his brother.

So then, for a while, we had a Super Nintendo. We played a lot of baseball. He didn’t have many games. I sucked at that baseball game. Then he sold it too.

Eventually we were sitting in his dark apartment because he had no power, playing this handheld baseball game straight out of the 1980s. I was better at that baseball game.

Sometimes Joe would be waiting for me, on the steps outside my door when I came home from work. I was not always happy to see him. By this time most of what he spoke was nonsense, and I had usually had a shitty day renting tuxedos and dealing with a terrible boss. Oddly enough he would act pretty normal around my wife Alice.

I tried to keep most of the crazy from her. Joe was getting thinner and we’d feed him. He didn’t trust food from anyone else anymore.

We fell into this pattern where I spent an hour or so with him, listening to him ramble on about conspiracies. One minute he would be Jesus, the next the devil.

Once he told me that he was trying to get political asylum from China. Turned out he was telling the truth there. He was emailing a lot of craziness to people.

After an hour or so of sitting in the dark in his filthy apartment I would go home, get high, and try to decompress.

My escape was Dark Age of Camelot. I role played in that game. I created my own little world there, and everything else just faded away for a while.

Joe was going to be evicted soon.

I had no idea what to do.

Listen, I’m no saint here.

Joe lived in the same apartment complex. He knew when I was home and I couldn’t avoid him if I wanted to. I didn’t want to make him mad, or think I had betrayed him some how.

He’d already attacked his dad with a crowbar.

All his family lived here too, but they abandoned him when he got sick. His mother used to call ME and I would beg her to go see him. I got mad at her once and told her she was just going to let him die, that this wasn’t going to end well.

I was as scared of him as much as I loved him. We had a spare bedroom and he knew this, but I also knew I couldn’t let him in.

I just couldn’t trust him. I couldn’t put Alice in danger, but I felt like I was failing him.

I think at times Joe was the loneliest man on the face of the Earth.

Then an old friend stepped in. He could take Joe but he lived in Virginia. I helped Joe pack, bought him a new tire for his junker car.

I also tried to warn the friend, but I knew he couldn’t quite grasp what Joe was going through.

Joe’s last night in Charlotte, he slept in our spare bedroom. I kept a bat by the bed and didn’t sleep. Joe was my best friend, but I couldn’t trust him not to snap and do something horrible.

I felt like I was betraying him.

Saying goodbye was horrible but also a huge relief. I felt guilty about that. Still do. If I could have done more for him I would.

But I wasn’t doing so well then either. Watching Joe change and disintegrate right before my eyes had taken a toll on me.

Joe stayed in Virginia for about a month. Things got far worse. One night I’m playing Dark Age Of Camelot and the friend calls. He says:

“Joe killed my cats. My neighbor saw him and called the cops and he’s on the run. The only place I think he would go is straight to you.

Oh, and on a side note, someone from the Secret Service came by and took all of our computers. Joe was writing threatening letters to the president.”

Alice and I stayed at her brother’s house that night. The next morning I have to go to work and before I even open the store I can hear our phone ringing.

It was Joe. He wanted to meet me on my lunch break. I worked in the mall and thought if there’s anywhere I can do this and probably not die it’s going to be here.

I told him of course I’d meet him. And I would buy him lunch.

He was so thin when I saw him but he ate the burger and fries I bought for him. He was twitchy and paranoid and probably on crack or something else.

This was my best friend. My last best friend and he was just a husk of the Joe I knew. He casually told me that he killed the cats because “they were talking” to him. I had to just eat my fries and nod. Thankfully he told me nothing more about it.

He told me that he was going to Charleston and work on a fishing boat. I wished him well, gave him the few dollars I had on me, and hugged him tight. He hugged back, and we just stood there in the food court, hugging each other for a long time.

That was the last time I ever saw Joe. I got a few updates over the next few weeks from my weed man. Joe had hooked up with some mutual friends down there.

Those updates were never good.

I used to dream about Joe a lot after he was gone and in these dreams he was right about all the delusions that he’d held.

He raged across the Earth like a demigod and he KNEW. He knew I had never believed him, that I was just humoring him and wishing that he’d be “normal” again. He was disappointed in me. Angry with me. I had nowhere to hide from him.

Then one night I had a dream where I came upon Joe sitting calmly in a tree. He thanked me for being his friend and disappeared.

I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed of him since. I don’t have any pictures of him. It gets harder and harder to recall his face.

His mother hired a private detective to find him after the messages from the weed guy stopped coming. The detective found a record of a speeding ticket in Charleston. Nothing else

I was at my wit’s end, Joe had vanished and I was desperate enough to go to a psychic who told me he was dead. She told me he was in the Pisgah National Forest.

He had talked about going there a lot. He wanted to live there. Then again he also said he had a mansion there with a gigantic Boulder of crack. Who knows.

I went on the Doe Project, a database for unidentified bodies, and found one in the Pisgah National Forest that did kinda match. I tried to contact his mom but years had passed at this point and I couldn’t find her number.

It’s probably not him but I try to be a realist about these things.

Joe is either in jail (he’s not though, I’ve checked), committed somewhere, or dead.

I mean, I’m pretty sure he’s dead.

I still have a cell phone with my same number from back then. If he’s alive he would have found me by now. Or I him.

Joe was the last. I can’t do that again. I have IRL (in real life) friends and they are fabulous but I can’t take any more in. That was enough for me.

Mostly I live on the internet anyway.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this. I did not mean to do this tonight but it’s been a decade and I still mourn Joe.

I started mourning him before he even left. The Joe I knew died a long time ago.


Tim’s story put a lump in my throat, and accentuated the way his friend Joe affected his life with untreated mental illness, going from being relatively benign, to dominating the entirety of his personality and actions . I sincerely hope Tim gets closure on his friend one of these days.

In the near future I would love to write more of these stories, about people who have influenced peoples lives, both good and bad. Check back soon to see what I can come up with.

The Gentle Giant

Perusing Facebook this morning, I came across a post by a friend, Tim Jordan, who wrote a story about his grandfather. The story was quite moving and I asked him if I could publish it here, of which he gave me permission. So for your consideration, here it is.

My grandfather was in WWI.

That’s a fact that still absolutely confounds me but my mom was the youngest of 7 children, the only girl, and there was a significant gap between her and her youngest brother. I remember a picture from the newspaper of him at the train station holding a sign that said GO TO HELL GERMANY and that also confused me as a child because my grandfather was the gentlest of men and I couldn’t even imagine him saying hell, which along with butt and guts I considered the worst of words at that age.

My grandparents lived in Olla, Louisiana, more accurately on the outskirts of Olla, in the middle of fucking nowhere; an ill kept state road farting away into nothingness just before making it to their home. A home my grandfather carved out of the landscape using stones and trees from the very land where the house stood. It was purely functional, a small 4 room shack with a porch and a cistern off to the side, long sealed away before I was born and the source of many warnings I ignored. How I never ended up as a literal Timmy in the well I’ll never know.

Over the last 20 years or so I became more and more interested in Grandpa John and in talking to my mother we both began to slowly realize a pattern of severe depression and possibly psychosis. He never held a job for long and spent lots of time at home rarely moving from his favorite chair except to hunt the occasional squirrel. There were lots of other signs too but I won’t go into them here because I really want to go back to WWI.

Grandpa wasn’t in France long, maybe about three weeks, before he was sent back home. He was uninjured physically but most definitely suffering from what we would now call PTSD. He was never quite the same, outwardly the gentle giant we all knew, but prone to bouts of psychosis where he didn’t know where he was, vomited profusely, cursed up a storm, railing against the horrors he saw in the war. I heard some of these stories as a child, listening in where I wasn’t supposed to, and I can remember climbing up in his lap as a child to comfort him even though I didn’t understand at all what was going on with him. I never saw him in any of those states though. He was always so kind and loving and willing to hold us kids for as long as he could, before we wiggled away to chase the cats in the yard or catch lizards that were cute until they bit you.

Grandpa eventually fell and broke his hip, spent a while in the hospital, then came home and required a hospital bed and after care. I can’t say what happened to his mind at that point, maybe it was dementia, which runs pretty rampantly on the other side of the family, but it wasn’t like dementia I’d ever seen before. He just seemed to give up and sadly languished there for a decade or more.

He was mostly silent but would occasionally shock everyone by talking and letting us all know how aware he was about what was going on around him. Maybe those were just random moments of lucidity. In the 80s, small town America, physical and mental rehab weren’t exactly the norm so nobody really knows what was going on with him. Occasionally my grandma would wake up in the middle of the night to find that he had climbed out of bed and was sitting in his favorite chair. These moments made me profoundly sad for him.

When he died, the first of my grandparents to pass away, I was glad that he was finally at peace but I felt like I hardly knew the man yet at the same time I felt like he was a kindred spirit. We don’t have much left of him anymore. We have some pictures and my mom has his favorite coffee cup, a little dainty piece of china decorated with pink flowers.

I can always remember the day he died because of what my grandmother said one time when were visiting his grave. “He died on the longest day of the year,” she said. “It was certainly the longest day for me.”

 

Remembrance Day

Today, the 11th of November is Remembrance Day. The day we remember our fallen soldiers who fought and died for our way of life. Soldiers who were drafted or volunteered, to make the planet a better place. To fight oppression, and for us to live free.

In the Great War, our planet’s first war where countries all over the globe participated, we fought against German Nationalism. Germany sought to absorb the countries around it, relentlessly bulldozing their way through Europe. Further south, the fascist Ottoman Empire was doing the same thing. Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, The United States, and several countries of Europe and the Middle East fought against these war machines, pushing them back. Forcing Germany to surrender, and leading to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. We fought against fascism and nationalism, and we were victorious.

After the First World War, Australia (and other nations) took in refugees fleeing from their countries. Their homes were destroyed, their families killed, their possessions forgotten. They came from Europe, they came from the Middle East. Many of them did not even know that English was a language and had never heard it spoken before. Yet they came. They integrated, and they made our countries better for it.

During the Second World War, Germany, this time a fascist nation, which grew from the seeds of discontent, again decided to usurp Europe for itself leaving nothing behind. It wanted Great Britain, Russia and even Africa to itself. Several countries – Italy, Hungary, Romania, etc – allied with Germany, out of fear, or because they thought there would be more to gain by allying with them. In the east the Japanese Imperial Army, another fascist, nationalist country, were attacking and absorbing territory from China, Korea, Indonesia, and the rest of South East Asia, attacking the United States in Hawaii, even coming as close as to bomb Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia. Their ambitions proved fruitless as again Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, The United States, Canada, and many other nations joined forces to push back the conquering aggressors and end the war. Once again, the victory went to the forces fighting for freedom, and against fascism.

Once again, refugees fled their former countries, in Europe, in Africa, in Asia. Australia accepted not only refugees but people who just wanted a better life than living in war-torn Europe. Even soldiers who fought for the Axis powers were allowed to immigrate to Australia, rebuilding their lives here. We welcomed them with open arms, they integrated with us within a generation and our culture learned and grew from their input.

The Korean war, and the Vietnam war were the next wars that these allied nations joined together for, fighting the aggressive expanding Communist Chinese in Korea, leading to the liberation of the southern part, which became the Republic of Korea. China supported the Vietnamese bid for independence from the French by providing arms and war equipment, as well as funds and soldiers. We fought this war to prevent the toxic nationalism of China from possibly spreading further through Asia and into the Pacific. Fears that communism and nationalistic policy would make its way throughout the world unless it was stopped fuelled the war that Australian, New Zealand, British and American soldiers (amongst others) died for. Communism and Nationalism was not compatible with our way of life, and we were not prepared to allow it to continue to flow out of China.

The Vietnam War created tens of thousands of refugees who fled in rickety boats from Vietnam. Many of their boats ended up in Australia, their occupants terrified and sick. We allowed them into our nation, we allowed them to integrate with our culture and become Australians. Our cultural backbone once again strengthened with their addition.

The Cold War lasted decades, from after the war until 1991. During this period there was only muted fighting. The Russians had supported the Chinese during the Korean and Vietnamese war. No actual fighting was done between the two great nations of the USA and Russia. However during this period, thousands upon thousands of people fled the Eastern Bloc into the west of Europe, over or under the Berlin Wall to West Germany. To the United States. To the UK, and to Australia. These people have also been important for our cultures.

Our allied powers once again fight against nationalism and fascism in the Middle East, against Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi, Assad and the Islamic State. We create refugees because we fight the terrifying ideals of their leaders. Their leaders who want to impose strict religious rule upon the rest of the world. To impose strict fascist laws upon every nation, and to control us with fear and threaten us with destruction. Their ideals that are not shared by a majority of their people, the people who flee towards freedom. The people who escape those countries in the most dangerous ways because it’s more safe to sit in the ocean on a boat barely holding together than stay under the rule of their oppressors for any longer.

We only strengthen our nation with the blood, sweat and tears of people who join our country to live free, who wish only to make their lives in a free country, to have their children in a free country, and for their children and their children’s children to grow up free.

Australia is a free country.

This is what our soldiers died for. Freedom. Against fascism, against nationalism, against war, and for the safety of the oppressed.

Lest We Forget.

Lest We Forget

Internet lies and how to fight them.

I’m not going to talk about Trump.

That’s not true. I’m going to talk about him. I’m going to talk about him a lot, I’m sure. But for my first post here, I’d like to focus on a more pervasive issue, one that I believe can be blamed for his rise, but which existed long before it, and will continue to be a problem after he is, god willing, gone. It causes far more problems than Trump supporting, including, but not limited to, vaccine denialism, climate change denialism, fear of genetically-modified food, and pretty much every conspiracy theory. That problem is the inability of the average person to critically evaluate sources and determine whether or not a website, meme, video, etc. contains accurate information.

I am now 26. When I was in school, we didn’t really cover this. We spent about an hour learning about what sources could and could not be cited for research papers. The class basically boiled down to “not Wikipedia.” No one taught us about hoaxes, or lies, or outdated information.

My upbringing taught me to mistrust sources, because my dad thought it was really funny to make things up and tell me about them as if they were true. So from an early age, I learned to double-check things – if Dad said something that sounded a little suspicious, I’d go ask Mom to confirm. But most people don’t have parents who lie to them for shits and giggles, I imagine, and so they miss out on what turned out to be one of the most important lessons I ever learned.

You can see this throughout the internet. People see a meme or link making an outrageous claim and they just share it, even become outraged over it, without checking the facts. Older people seem to be particularly susceptible, but young people are by no means immune. Many humorous examples can be found at http://literallyunbelievable.org/, which is dedicated solely to people who do not know that The Onion and ClickHole are satirical.

Let’s play a game. I’ll post a few images and you decide whether or not each one is trustworthy and accurate. These are images I have created. I have chosen apolitical subjects for these memes (at least, as of 10/27/2016 – I do not pretend to know whether these poor animals will someday become politicized through some strange turn of fate).

firegoosememe

This one can be discounted immediately. It is unbelievable and cites no sources. If you want to be particularly skeptical, you can look it up online anyway.

 

wolfpackmeme
This one is believable and cites credible sources. If you go to those citations, you will see that the information is backed up.

 

hummingbirdmeme

This one is a little surprising, but again, the citations back up the information.

This one seems kind of odd, right? Even if you study birds, you’ve probably never heard this. But wait — there are citations. But they are very small citations, and I didn’t do you the courtesy of putting them into TinyURL first this time. What happens if you type either of those URLs in (which no one will really bother to do)? SPOILER ALERT: the claim actually doesn’t appear anywhere in the cited work. I made it up, then linked to related pages on credible sites so that on the off-chance that someone DOES go to the links, but doesn’t read them, they’ll think I must be telling the truth.

A common method for disseminating incorrect information is to link to a source that agrees with the statement, but which is biased and/or a complete hoax. If you can’t find a certain claim from a real mainstream news site or a scientific journal, you can assume that it is not true. Of course, this is rather difficult to get people to believe now that we have certain candidates openly saying that “the media” (actually an incredibly vast group of people consisting of news networks, newspapers, radio stations, and websites) is always lying. That’s an issue I’ll address in another blog post, however.

How can we stop people from falling for hoaxes on the internet? Through education. Every single time you see someone fall for a hoax, point it out. This is easier said than done, especially if it’s a family member, but it’s very important. They may not like you for it. They may not even believe you. But you have a chance to convince not just them, but the people around them (including people silently watching an internet discussion), if you bring facts. Children in schools are now being taught how to tell a good source from a bad source — reach out to your local school district and ask if they teach this skill. They probably do. The people left behind are people in their mid-twenties and older, and they need to be called out when they perpetuate misinformation. We can change the culture of the internet if we stop letting these things stand unchallenged.