A Manifesto for the Messy: Ten Points to Consider

Not everyone lives in a house that looks straight out of Pottery Barn. There are people who do, but they often pay people to clean for them. You can’t afford that, and you don’t have time or energy to do it either. You might apply to be one of the families that are tidied up in that new Netflix series, but chances are you’re not telegenic enough.

There are two extremes of anality. One is anal retentive. This is the preferred end of the continuum in modern society. Keep everything in. Keep it all tucked away. Be constipated. Do not park your car on your street, but in your neatly organized garage.
The opposite extreme is anal expulsive. Artists tend to lie closer to this end of the spectrum, though not always. We throw our garbage around and splash paint and glitter glue on it. We give it to our relatives for holidays. Sometimes this work turns into something so beautiful we don’t want to waste it on our relatives. Then we can sell it, and then we can afford to hire someone to clean our house.
We may not need all types of people in the world, but we have all types, including the messy. Accept them. If you are one, accept yourself. Don’t ever invite people over. Wallow in your filth. Own it. Who are you trying to impress anyway?

Messy people are often the kindest. Also, overweight people tend to be nice as well. Not spending all their energy on cleaning or dieting frees them up to be kinder and more interested in other people. They also have better pastries.

Of course, there is a point of no return, where your messiness can become so out of control that it drives everyone in your life away. If you hate people, this is not a problem. If you care what others think, cultivate relationships with other messy folks.

If you are embracing your mess, do not live in a neighborhood with an HOA. You cannot have a bowling ball garden in a neighborhood with an HOA. You also can’t grow food or raise chickens or create glitter-glued garbage sculpture in your front yard with an HOA.

Try to simplify your life so you don’t always have to sort through things. Maybe just move into a refrigerator box on the side of the road. You can visit your junk occasionally, if you still pay your rent or mortgage. Likely you can’t, if you’ve done this. Sometimes simpler just isn’t better. You’ll have to be the judge.

Don’t be so judgy. Everyone has quirks. Some are worse than others.

Have patience with the obsessively neat and controlling. Especially if you marry one. In fact, if you’re messy, you probably have done this. Try to remember that they married you because you put them in touch with a side of themselves they can’t access. They are messy inside, and you are messy outside. Wear them down. They will crack one day. Then they will kill you and dispose of your body in neatly tied plastic bags with the pine scent that you aren’t ever able to find at the grocery store because you’re just too disorganized.

Even if you’re hopelessly messy, you may eventually negotiate your way through the stacks of stuff piled in your home over to where you left your cellphone. You might even find your charger and call a therapist who specializes in hoarding disease and its accompanying compulsions.

Moderately Quitting the Moderate Drinking

So now there appears to be no health benefit to drinking moderately and regularly, which means I’ve had to chuck my gin and tonic habit into the same trash heap as sniffing glue, methamphetamines and goat yoga. (No, I haven’t tried all of these, but I’m sad they’re off the table. Goat yoga is off because I’m allergic. To yoga.)

A goat licks Julia Lewis during a yoga class with eight students and five goats at Jenness Farm in Nottingham, New Hampshire, U.S., May 18, 2017.

Social drinking used to be a thing. My parents’ generation proudly collected fine liquors to stock their home bars, and proudly collected home bars in the shape of globes and umbrella stands to hide the liquor when not in use. The globe bars looked educational and stately on the outside, hiding the jollity within.
Much like Queen Victoria, who started them. (Don’t quote me on that.)

My family home did not have a globe bar. We had a wet bar, which was a tiny room with a little sink and some shelves in it where my parents kept the booze. They only opened it when we had parties, and then they pulled out the dusty old whiskey and vodka bottles Dad had bought on sale and made manhattans and whiskey sours and hot toddies and other exotic sounding beverages that made the grownups laugh way too loudly and play unusual party games.
The rest of the time the wet bar was a kind of hide out for my brother and me. Sometimes we used the sink for scientific experiments, but mostly it just took up its tiny space in the house and was opened irregularly.

In my dotage, I’ve not had a globe bar or a wet bar. My husband travels a lot, and collects tiny bottles of all kinds of alcoholic goodies, so that we have a little something of everything in about two hundred tiny, bubbly bottles. We keep all of it on a pantry shelf in the kitchen. We can proudly serve exactly one full drink of almost any top shelf liquor to at least one guest.

But now, even this infrequent and parsimonious celebrating has been curtailed by the Global Burden of Diseases study. This study has conclusively found from data collected over 16 years and from 195 countries that alcohol just isn’t the gentle panacea we had hoped it would be.

You may read the dire news, if you haven’t already heard it, here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31310-2/fulltext

All I have left are books and music, which have so far not been determined to be harmful in moderate quantities. Also I have coffee and chocolate, which are not harmful in minuscule quantities. I am trying to embrace the minuscule without resentment. I have only been moderately successful at this.

And well yes, I have only been moderately successful at cutting down on my moderate gin and tonic habit. But as my husband likes to say, “Spread the poisons around so that it’s less likely anyone of them will kill you.”

What Are You Carrying to Class?

A few years back, I wrote a song called “Pretty Little Gun”. It was meant to be ironic, poking fun at the idea of guns as a fashion accessory and “go to” mediation tool in Texas.
You can listen to it here: Pretty Little Gun Tune

I sang it with the swagger of a wealthy, know-it-all Texas cowgirl, stylishly intimidating everyone with my ability to riddle them with bullets on a whim. But because it was ironic, I dedicated my performance of it at South by Southwest to Texas Governor Ann Richards, who stood up to the gun lobby and refused to sign any laws allowing open carry of guns in Texas, despite her own bona fides as a gun owner.
Ann Richards gun

Many believe this stance cost her the reelection. Texans love their guns.

Thanks to our current governor, Gregg Abbott, who loves pandering to lunatics, we’ve got open carry in Texas now. And lots more guns. We’ve got lots more guns all over the country. And people dying as a result.

Here’s a link to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit group that is keeping accurate and up to date records of gun deaths: Gun Violence Update

Inevitably when I or one of my peace-minded friends posts these statistics on Twitter or Facebook, someone will come along and claim that we need more guns, not fewer. They want everyone to carry a gun. Because they believe a “good guy with a gun” can stop a madman with a gun.
gun rights tom tomorrow cartoon

Except that a man (or woman) who carries a gun can lose his temper and start his own rampage at any time, no matter how good he thinks he is. Even well-trained professionals like (hopefully) the police can’t always tell who’s good or bad or even what the hell is happening when guns are going off.

Countries with stricter gun laws than ours don’t have these mass killings as often. Yes, they sometimes do happen, but far less than for us. They’ve made it harder for all people to get guns, which has made it extremely difficult for madmen to get them. This means there are far fewer deaths overall. As Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz reported in this recent New York Times article: You’re much more likely to die of a lightning strike than a gun in Japan. In fact, your odds of dying from a gun are monumentally lower in almost all other countries.
Death by Gun Likelihood By Country

People who are against all this gun carnage are looking at a long, hard fight. This summer, after the worst mass shooting in American History in Orlando, we’ve even seen a filibuster and a sit in in Congress in support of very limited gun control. But as of this writing, not even that could get the Republican-controlled Senate or House to agree on even the most basic of measures.
Which brings us to dildos.

student with dildo

In August, the University of Texas at Austin is going to have to allow students to openly carry guns. This is a horrible mistake, because students are a volatile lot and there are going to be deaths. But meanwhile, students led by UT alumna Jessica Jin, are organizing various Dildo protests.

Dildo protests UT

The University of Texas has a policy against carrying dildos openly on campus. They really do. But open carry of guns will be allowed as of August 1st, 2016. When classes start on August 24th, in answer to the open carry law, there will be a “strap in”, with hundreds and possibly thousands of young people openly brandishing dildos in classrooms and on campus in protest.

Will the dildo carrying protests be stopped by the outraged bullets of an armed man who values violence over sex? Will more violence ensue? Or will the absurdity of the situation allow some leniency from the people who feel they must carry guns to be safe and who are in fact enjoying intimidating people (girls with vibrators) who scare them? How long will the dildos be carried? One day? All semester? As long as open carry of guns is allowed?

Will this result in UT policy being changed so as to allow open carry of dildos? What about other tools of sexual gratification?
UT can’t stop allowing open carry, as a public university, it can’t opt out, as most of the private colleges in Texas have.

And will the absurdity of it all jar lawmakers into supporting stricter gun laws?

I watch with worried anticipation.

And of course, I’ve written a new song commemorating this event. Here are the lyrics. And a link to a rather rough recording of the tune. Not suitable for work, I’m afraid. But then, neither are gun battles. (Feel free to imagine the Eagles singing it a la Hotel California style)

My Arousomatic 153:

If you must have an artificial penis
Cause that’s the only way you’ll feel free
Couldn’t you get one
That takes batteries
And offers up to ten different speeds?
Do you have to have an AR-15?
That spits bullets at a lightning fast pace?
Wouldn’t you be happier
With something else that vibrates
And puts a big grin on your face?

Dildo lee doo!
Dildo lee dee!
Dildos or vibrators please!
I’m plenty good
Without a gun
With my Arousomatic 153
With my Arousomatic 153

The Arousomatic may not be legal
To carry around like a gun
But if you stow one of them in your backpack
You know you’re always ready for fun!
And if you feel a little unstable
And in need of security
The Arousomatic holds its charge for hours
And can also go AC/DC.

Dildo lee doo!
Dildo lee dee!
Dildos or vibrators please!
I’m plenty good
Without a gun
With my Arousomatic 153
With my Arousomatic 153

I don’t believe your reasons.
For carrying round your toys that kill
I know you’re not hunting for your dinner
You’re just looking for a bloodlust thrill.
But you know what puts the lust in bloodlust?
It’s a need to get off in some way.
Why not go back to basics
And use the kind of toy
That won’t get you killed or put away?

Dildo lee doo!
Dildo lee dee!
Dildos or vibrators please!
Give me a good guy
Without a gun
Or my Arousomatic 153
With my Arousomatic 153
My Arousomatic 153.

Sing along here:

by Marilyn Rucker

The UnBlogger

Waterfall MarilynRude Jogger Video

Well, I didn’t write my blog. I am a bad Myrddin author and will be sealed in a yew tree and burned if I don’t get something out. So I’m submitting a music video I did instead, of a song I wrote a year or so back about the Rude Jogger of Steiner Ranch. It’s a true story, mostly, based on a news article by John Kelso, the humor columnist from the Austin American Statesman. The video was shot by Gary Feist of Yellowdog Video. The song is on my album: Interstellar Pirate Queen. If you’d like to jog to it yourself, you can get it at www.marilynrucker.com.

Also, just because it came to me in a panicked flash this morning, I wrote an apology blog in rhyme. Feel free to stop reading if such things hurt you, as they should:

The Blog Apologetic

I woke with soul and mind agog
To find I’d failed to write my blog
But “How?” you ask, so reasonably
“Since here appears blog poetry?”
You wince, I know
To see the truth:
“A fecking doggerel!”
“How uncouth!”
You snarl and snap your finger left.
I am dismissed, ignored…

But no,
You are a sturdier soul
A calmer mind
A purer prole
Who isn’t stuck so stiff to labels
And reads with patience
Rhyming foibles
Churned out in stressful, instance dire
Humbly begging you hold your ire.

Until I serve up more of meat
A strong opinion
A literate feat
Perhaps in poetry uncovering things
Usually hidden in coffee rings
Or is that grounds?
Or maybe tea leaves?
Or Ouija boards?
Or wandering thieves?

At any rate, I have to go.
Google gonged and told me so.
Just as it did to warn too late
I’d missed my deadline.
Here’s my fate:
Three months after this sorry verse
I’m sure I’ll serve up something worse.

Apologies! But hope you like the music video! It was fun!

Peace and Pastry for the Flaky

I am having a hard time concentrating lately. Maybe it’s my constant but unsuccessful effort to tune out what’s going wrong in the world. If only I could keep myself off of the internet, cruising for cute pictures of kitties and rabbits cuddling in boxes ten times too small for them. Instead I end up fighting with people about gun control, global warming, treatment of refugees, and religious freedom. This doesn’t make for peace of mind.

So for a few weeks now, I’ve been concentrating on peace. Peace and pastry. I immersed myself in the Great British Baking Show, which was a kinder, better kind of reality t.v. The hosts were firm but not cruel, the contestants didn’t punch each other, and the pastries all looked superb. Yes, there were tears, when a contestant’s pastry wasn’t flaky enough, but the show never got nasty. Even when a contestant was sent home each week, hugs and gentle regrets were always given. No one spat on the losers or attempted to undermine the winner. The show is a superb antidote to the Hell’s Kitchen, Bachelor, and Housewives of Buda, Texas shows out there. See? Reality shows don’t have to be cruel!

Reality doesn’t have to be cruel either, but it is. I’m not sure why we don’t seem able to convince each other to work for the common good, or even to agree on what the common good is. I believe that competition itself isn’t that good for us, even when it results in spectacular gingerbread castles.

spectacular gingerbread house

And for those of us who are pre-diabetic or gluten intolerant, pastry cannot stand in for the common good. We can awaken our empathy and compassion, which will move us towards the common good, if we experience art. By experiencing art I mean making and/or appreciating music, art, literature, film, dance, theater and poetry etc. Folks who don’t get into any of that would call me snotty. (These are people whose poetry must sneak up on them in country western or Top 40 pop songs.)

I wrote a poem about peace. Not the peace of total domination or annihilation of the enemy, but the peace and prosperity that everyone deserves. I am currently thinking it’s unattainable, but essential to pursue. So I offer this poem with a wish for peace, compassion and prosperity for the whole world. And may everyone’s pastry be flaky.

Lady and unicorn

Peace, the Unicorn

Peace, the Unicorn
Peace elusive
Hunted to extinction
Hunted to dreams
Peace, the rare and impossible
With Mercy, Compassion and Justice
Entwined in its mane.
Its horn
One of plenty

(Yes that’s a mixed metaphor
An improbable but necessary cornucopia)

Peace, the Unicorn
Glows just ahead of its hunters
Who will never catch it.
They are too loud, too violent.
And the legend is
The Unicorn will come
And lay its head
In the lap of
Someone gentle and innocent.
Then the hunters will kill it.
And start the hunt again.

Marilyn Rucker Norrod 2015

Bill Bryson and Peach Cobbler

I grew up in Texas, and I know how to survive the summer. Mostly, for a redhead, this means to stay out of it. Austin sits at the same latitude as the Sahara Desert, with similar climate. Or in the words of Robin Williams: “It’s hot. Damn hot! Real hot!”
The only sane activities are conducted near water or in air conditioned buildings.
But there are compensations. This year, the peaches are especially large and sweet. This is due not only to the torrential, flooding rains that came around Memorial Day but also due to having at least one hard freeze in the winter. For some reason, peaches like these kinds of things. Although they are soft, delicious, and tender fruits, they are unaccountably tough.

Technically these are nectarines, the fuzz-free peach. Though fuzzless, these are still great in the cobbler. They also make a good still life subject.
“Technically these are nectarines, the fuzz-free peach. Though fuzzless, these are still great in the cobbler. They also make a good still life subject.”

When I was a child, our house had a creek in the backyard. Mom and Dad planted peach, plum and pear trees. We weren’t really great at growing things, but the fruit trees, especially the peaches, were tough then too. It helped that the creek was fed by natural underground springs to make up for our haphazard watering. We had big sweet peaches every summer. There were always too many of them, even with squirrels and birds and a variety of bugs gobbling them up. There were too many for me and my friends to just eat off the tree, though the sticky delight of that and then spraying off in the garden hose or jumping in the creek was a fantastic way to spend a summer evening.

But the best thing to do with peaches was make them into a cobbler. Not just any cobbler. This one: “Peach Cobbler Number Two”, submitted by Mrs. C.J. Erbacher of the Methodist Mother’s Round Table for their 1968 church cookbook. My mother had a copy of course, having been a member of the Methodist Round Table for a brief time. They required all members to wear armor and compete in jousts while singing hymns written by John Wesley himself. It was a demanding and exhausting group.

Methodists do not kid around when they make peach cobbler. The recipe calls for one and a half sticks of butter. You can use margarine and it will still be fine. (It won’t be all that much better for you though, so you might as well have the butter.)

The Methodists use this cobbler to make converts. They also use it to foment revolution in third world countries. This cobbler can heal deep emotional wounds, encourage litigants to settle amicably, and destroy your political opposition when served at your campaign events. It can also win the stomach (and therefore the heart) of your true love, especially if you add a scoop of ice cream.

The butter, sugar and peaches caramelize in this thing to make something that melds cake, pudding, pie and candy textures and flavors. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Stick your feet in a pool while you eat it. You’ll be glad you did. It almost makes up for the heat, torrential rains, locusts, and mosquito-borne diseases of that godforsaken hellhole I call home.*

Peach Cobbler #2
Submitted by Mrs. C.J. Erbacher

Sift together: 1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tspn. Baking powder
Pinch salt.
Add ½ cup sweet milk (or enough to make a batter the consistency of pancake batter. I usually add ¾ cup) Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Melt and brown lightly 1 and ½ sticks of margarine (butter) in a baking dish. While margarine is still hot, pour the batter over it, sprinkle with nutmeg, and add 1 can drained sliced peaches or use fresh ripe peaches, sliced. (Takes about three large or four medium peaches). Bake in a moderate oven (375 deg) for about forty minutes, or until golden brown. The batter will come to the top.

While healing deep emotional wounds with Cobbler Number Two, I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s One Summer. Bryson is one of my very favorite writers of all time. He is a master of the anecdote, and he mixes the events of the summer of 1927 in a way that…well…caramelizes them into a tasty and cohesive whole.

Lindbergh, shy and retiring, flies across the Atlantic in what is essentially a paper airplane, and is rewarded with crowds of adoring fans. He hates the fame. He loves flying. Babe Ruth, by contrast, loves the fame and the crowds and the resulting easy access to the ladies. He seduces Lou Gehrig’s wife, thereby turning their friendly rivalry for homeruns into something decidedly unfriendly. Herbert Hoover meticulously plans flood relief from the torrential Mississippi river floods of that summer, paving the way to his successful election as president. Four bankers meet in Europe and decide that the Federal Reserve will cut its discount rate for gold from 4 percent to 3.5 percent, to encourage owners of gold to mover their savings to Europe so they could enjoy higher returns. They figured that America could “absorb the stimulus of a small rate cut without going crazy.”

This was incorrect, and in fact led directly to the market going insane enough to cause its collapse, which brought us The Great Depression. This in turn was blamed on Herbert Hoover. This in spite of the fact that he had nothing to do with it, and his predecessor, Calvin Coolidge, preferred dressing up as a cowboy to actually acting like a president. There’s more. It gets complicated and rich and full of tasty digressions, which is what Bryson excels at.

So you’ve got your instructions. Pick up One Summer, make this cobbler, and go jump in the lake. Or try wading in a creek near a grove of peach trees. Watch out for Methodists.

• “That Godforsaken Hellhole I Call Home” is a great song by the Austin Lounge Lizards, who know of what they sing.

Marilyn Rucker is an author and singer/songwriter living in the blazing inferno that is summer in Austin Texas. Her mystery novel, Sax and the Suburb, is available at http://www.amazon.com/Sax-Suburb-Marilyn-Rucker-ebook/dp/B008GX3YNS and http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sax-and-the-suburb-marilyn-rucker/1113543498?ean=2940015533385
Marilyn in yellow dress at piano