Snow Trek to Star Wars

Snow.

As a friend and I begin our mile long trek through falling snow and slush-filled sidewalks to see the eighth installment of the Star Wars Skywalker saga and the ninth installment of the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi, I calm his near conniption and re-come out as flakes of white blanket my black framed glasses and my warm breath seems to fog up any non-flake filled part of the lens, which leaves me slightly impaired on the slippery path before us.

I had forgotten that I’d come out to him already, and I find myself at a loss for who I am and who I am not out to at work.

It is not something I hide, as I wear my transgender necklace everyday and led the understanding New Mexico LGBTQ+ youth training at the school, but still, I don’t begin every conversation with, “Hi, I’m transgender, which probably means you a) think I am the devil b) are confused or c) could give no fucks. Or, in all likelihood something else entirely.” Perhaps, I should begin every conversation in this manner.

As our walk continues, with brief pauses for snow-filled photo opportunities, I begin to lose feeling in my toes. My blue canvas boat-esque shoes are not made for snow, but I did not want to get Philadelphia street grit on my beloved black and white plaid Converse. The blue canvas shoes should be on their last leg, since they are slightly stained by ketchup, ranch, and green chile stew spills of elementary lunch duty. Yet, knowing myself and my inability to purchase new articles of clothing and throw out old articles of clothing, some (at this point very few) still hanging around from the days of high school, I know I will likely continue to slog through streets, sidewalks, and hallways in them until the soles completely wear through.

Arriving at the theater, which possibly due to the snow, is fairly empty for a Friday night, I ask one of the theater employees if theater 17 is in the middle of the movie. It is a dumb question I know because it is 5:36, and our movie begins at 7:30.

Out of sheer dumb luck, the employee laughs at the idea of waiting for two hours to see a film that is about to start in the theater behind him, theater 3. He says we are free to wait, but if we want, we can go right on in.

We do.

The movie plays.

It . . . I won’t provide any thoughts or opinions or spoilers about it here.

None.

But, after Episode VIII ends, and we begin to walk back to the hotel, I am struck by a thought.

This will likely be the first Star Wars film I won’t see with my family, let alone in the theater with them.

I am filled with almost a melancholic sadness as I remember.

I remember watching the original films re-released in the late 90s in a theater, which would later become a comedy club, where the comedian would tease my stepfather for his . . . lack of hair.

I remember watching The Phantom Menace in a nearly empty theater in Sand Springs, wondering how it could be possible that the theater wasn’t packed.

I remember watching Attack of the Clones, arriving late, missing the crawler, and being so frustrated until I was so entranced by the movie, that the tardiness no longer seemed to matter.

I remember watching . . . well, I don’t actually have a clear memory of watching Revenge of the Sith, but I do remember watching The Incredibles for my birthday, hearing the voice of the soon-to-be Emperor in a trailer, and being unable to contain my nerd excitement for the sixth film and third episode.

I remember watching The Force Awakens, knowing that in days everything about my place in my family would soon change.

I remember watching Rogue One, my brother opting not to attend the showing to read in the Barnes and Noble near the theater.

And, as I am flooded by memories of Star Wars and action figures and my mom shouting upstairs that Attack of the Clones might be too scary for my youngest sister and Lego battles, I hear my brother’s words from a few nights before when I was in a NyQuil addled state as he said, “I am mad at you,” and I said nothing in response.

I can’t shake the words from me.

Do I address it?

Do I let it go?

I know, or at least I have a very strong idea of why . . . the article.

“Child of Trump Nominee Speaks Out”

On a loop, “I am mad at you” plays on my mind as I pull up Twitter while waiting in the hotel restaurant for my avocado bruschetta and goat cheese fritters.

And, then, I see it.

CDC is banned by the Trump administration from using the word “transgender,” and the reality of what that means shakes me to my core.

I remain fairly silently and withdrawn throughout dinner.

I feel hopeless.

Via text, I vent to a friend and apologize for venting.

I feel hopeless still.

After dinner, as I close my eyes and try to fall asleep, I scroll through a text exchange with that same friend to find what I am looking for and need to see.

It reads, “Don’t let them get you. You are stronger than that. I know you are.”

I read the text again and again.

I close my eyes.

The loop drowns out.

My core shakes less.

And, I fall asleep.

 

Child of Trump Nominee Speaks Out

http://www.gayly.com/child-trump-nominee-speaks-out

Report: Trump Bans ‘Transgender,’ ‘Fetus,’ ‘Science-Based’ From CDC Documents

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-administration-cdc-banned-words_us_5a348ed2e4b0ff955ad3221d?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

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My Ideal Bookshelf – A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

In a darkened theater, waiting for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri to start, the trailer for the latest Guillermo del Toro macabre fairy tale, The Shape of Water, plays, and I nudge the elbow of my friend, whispering, “I want to see that.”

After the heartbreaking feature film ends, a discussion follows, which leads to a journey down the Wikipedia rabbit hole until I reach director J.A. Bayona, director of The Orphanage, which was produced by del Toro. Bayona, also, directed the adaptation of the most recent read on my Ideal Bookshelf, A Monster Calls.

I’d been chronicling my thoughts about each book on the figurative shelf until I reached this one.

This one had me stuck and unable to move forward.

And, I am not sure why exactly.

I guess this book has just stayed with me, as did the movie.

How do you tell the story of a child trying to accept his mother’s cancer diagnosis?

How do you make that story matter?

How do you make that story linger?

The beautiful illustrations, the core narrative, and the tales within the tale reveal truths about who we are and how we cope with our realities.

When originally read, now, and throughout the course of that time in between, I have dwelled on those truths.

And, as I cope with my own reality and all of its intricacies, I know that I will still keep A Monster Calls in my thoughts.

Consequences, An Exchange

I am really disappointed that u would intentionally try and destroy your dad’s career..

 

I am really disappointed that he would accept a job offer from a racist, bigot, serial sexual assaulter.

 

So u want to try and destroy his career.. no one is trying to destroy u.. only wanting your happiness.

 

You really think this will destroy his career? Every anti-LGBTQ Nominee has been confirmed. But, if he is going to represent Oklahoma, all Oklahomans deserve to know how he views LGBTQ people.

 

Why are u not embracing your life and being happy .. why try your hardest to hurt your dad (Redacted) (redacted) (redacted) and (redacted)..

 

You think this is about me trying to hurt people? You think that is who I am. I am standing up for who I am. And, I am standing up for every queer person in Oklahoma.

 

It is so unfair repeating things your dad said when he first found out.. very mean and cruel.. I am shocked u would do this..

 

Really? He has not bothered to try acceptance. Besides, if he really believes those things, why is afraid of someone finding out?

 

U don’t have to stand up to your dad. He loves u.. yes I think this is about u intentionally trying to hurt him.. you can say u are trying to let people know but u are just spreading hate and anger.. u are suppose to be happy and having love for your life.. love for friends and  love for your family.

 

Wow, I am not shocked that this is the side you have chosen. Just disappointed. I work on the Reducing LGBTQ Adolescent Suicide team, which stands up for students. That is what this is about. This is not about hurting my father or my family, but it is about protecting people who cannot protect themselves and to protect him.

 

He dosent think those things u said. He was just reacting in the heat of the moment. This isn’t easy. He is accepting.. u will never know how this feel. I can not believe u could try and hurt him and (redacted) and (Redacted)..

 

Months after I came out, you told me that he said if I had come out when I was a child you both would have taken me to conversion therapy. Also, if he doesn’t believe I am possessed by demons and the devil. Great, he is not an idiot. Doesn’t make him not an asshole.

 

No one needs to be protected from your dad. This isn’t about taking sides. This is about me telling MY child that it is terribly wrong and mean and cruel to try to intentionally hurt your dad.. I didn’t even talk to your dad. He just told me to read the article.

 

In another place and time, maybe, it would not be about taking sides, but unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. So, yeah, I am going to speak out against a nominee who mocked queer people my entire childhood and is taking a job offer from a man who jokes about hanging the gays.

 

He never said that I told u that was one scenario that could have happened if u came out as a child. He never said that. U and I were talking.. u are right to help kids get through this. You are wrong trying to divide and talk about sides.. this is wrong to try and hurt ur dad.

 

That is not how I remember the conversation.

 

Well that is how I remembered the conversation.. your dad never even thought it possible u doing this as a child. U and I talked about that.. this is wrong.

 

A division occurred the night after I came out. It has been widening since. Sometimes, it is the big things like this. Sometimes, it is smaller things, things that stay with me.

 

U want a division..

 

If that is what you think, you are as lost as he is.

 

All I feel is u want us not to accept u.. but Nicholas Bailey (Redacted) I accept u and love u! I want u to have an extraordinary life!! I want u to find love and happiness.. I don’t want u hurt but I don’t want u 2 hurt anyone either.. this life is the only one u will have.. live your life with peace love and happiness.. people don’t have to agree.. that’s impossible..

No, people don’t have to agree. But, I will never agree with what you have said today. I will be fine. But, I will always continue to fight for people who don’t have peace, love, and happiness simply for being who they are.

Another thing, by accepting this job, he is either a white supremacist, or he is okay with accepting a job from a white supremacist. Either way, whatever moral compass he had is broken.

How is that even legal?

From the highway as I cruised southeast into El Paso, I could see it. It was tall and blackish or brownish. The sun was setting so it was impossible to see for sure. But, it was tall, and it was ugly.

I felt choked as tears welled in my eyes.

It looked horrible, and it seemed to exemplify the very worst of what America has become.

The border wall between Texas and Mexico.

I hadn’t planned on writing a post about the border wall.

Part of me feels like it isn’t my place and that I wouldn’t have the right thing to say anyway.

And even after, on the way to go see Coco and the wall came into view again as a grandparent’s praise for a monument of racism plays in my head and another’s MAGA pin flashes through my mind, I fought back tears in that moment, but I did not plan to write about the wall.

But, on my way back to Albuquerque, traffic is directed off the main road as the speed goes from 75 to 65 to 55 to 45 and finally to 35 as a line of cars extends in front of me and behind me.

As the line of traffic shortens in front of me, I can make out the signage of the side of the white SUV, Border Patrol.

Questions stream in rapid succession through my mind.

What is Border Patrol doing here, 30 miles north of Las Cruces, NM?

What kind of stop is this?

Does this kind of thing happen often?

Is it normal?

I pull up and roll my window down for the older male individual, ushering vehicles past. I don’t know what to expect. And, he only asks one question before ushering me forward.

“Are you an American citizen?”

I say, “Yes” and am told to move ahead.

I begin my path back to the highway and back home but with more questions.

How is that even legal?

To ask someone if they are an American citizen when they are just driving home. To stop someone on the highway an hour north of the American/Mexican border.

And, I just feel an overwhelming sense of sadness.

When did this become America?

Why?

Or, has this always been American, and I just never knew . . .

Where Things Stand

Two years ago, I came out to my fiancee as transgender, which ended that relationship. A month later, I would come out to my brother and parents. Here is where things stand.

 

Dear Senator,

 

Hey made it to Quartz mt.. I want to talk to u soon.. I am in class until 6. Then A mtg. Then dinner.. so if u are available this evening I would like to talk to u..

 

Have a good time at Quartz Mountain. I’m not really available tonight, getting ready for a Paint Night tomorrow.

 

Ok.. have fun painting.. I didn’t know I had upset you again. I will delete my Facebook account as soon as I can figure out how to save my pictures..

 

Why would you delete your Facebook account? That makes no sense. If you stand by your posts, why delete it?

 

Because u get very upset and I don’t want to continually upset u.. life is short

 

I get very upset? There are so many other things that make me upset than your Facebook posts. I am still not even sure what blog post you are referring to.

 

While I have no idea if this message will reach you or make a difference, but I could not live with myself if I did not express my concern. The Trump administration continues to nominate radical and dangerous individuals to high government positions, and with a heavy heart, this also includes my father, Frank M. Coffman for the position United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

 

I am way more bothered by my father’s new job than anything I have ever seen on your Facebook wall. But, I do want to add this. Your post about Puerto Rico and CNN being fake news scares me. It really does. It is naive and discredits the media. And just so you know, my coworker lost family members in the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico. The island is devastated and will take years to recover.

 

I am very sorry. For your feelings and your friend who lost their family members

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/conversations-with-people-who-hate-me/id1257821731?mt=2&i=1000390479804

Deleting your Facebook page is ridiculous. If you feel a need to apologize, listen to this podcast instead. There are nine episodes, and listening to them would mean more to me than an apology ever would.

 

Ok.. do I download something

 

Did the link not show up for you?

 

I see it. I will have to get head phones

 

Almost two years ago, I came out to my parents as transgender, and needless to say, it went poorly. I am writing to you because a person in the position of U.S. Marshal must be objective and non-biased  in regards to following the law. Based on everything I know about my father, he is committed to his prejudices over his respect for the law. For instance, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I know he views the Black Lives Matter movement as criminal. Yet, it is his disdain for the LGBTQ+ community that frightens me the most. He refuses to accept family members as LGBTQ+ and has explicitly told me that I am under the influence of demons and corrupted by society because I am transgender.

 

Why are u bothered by your dads new job as a us marshal in Oklahoma

 

Because the Trump administration is threatening the very foundation of this country’s democracy and my father wants to work for that administration. Also, as radical and extreme as the Trump administration is and out of everyone in Oklahoma, the Trump administration sees my father as a kindred spirit for this role.

 

Whoever the president is has to appoint the Marshall.. you know your dad is not a kindred spirit.. he was more a bush kindred spirit.. I think he quit being a secret service agent because he didn’t want to be involved so closely with trump..

 

I have no idea why he quit the USSS. And while I used to think he aligned his views with moderate Republicans, I know the media he consumes and the views he holds. Just his views on social justice movements and LGBTQ+ individuals certainly does not make me feel safer or confident that he will objectively use his authority to protect all Americans.

 

I disagree.. if something happened your dad would not see gender or race or anything to help and protect.. u seem very angry and filled with rage!

 

Where is this coming from? And, of course I am angry, but filled with rage is a bit extreme. And, unfortunately, knowing things my father believes, I have to disagree with you about him.

 

To talk to u .. u don’t seem angry.. your blogs and text are extremely angry and raging!! U have been hurt by your dad and u r very sensitive to him at every level.. it is OK for people to have different beliefs and opinions!! It is EVERYONES right to feel and think differently.. and then of course someone thinks they are right and someone else is wrong! But to try and force that anyone believes exactly to believe/agree with everything u do is impossible

 

At this time, he and I barely speak, and his support of radical conservatism only drives us farther and farther apart. It is heartbreaking to write this to you, but if I do not speak out, who will? I ask you to oppose his nomination and to continue to speak out against other current and future Trump nominees that threaten democracy and the freedoms of this country.

 

You are completely right that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions. Here is a key difference though. Some of those key differences could cost me my job, my healthcare, a place to live, my students’ families, and lives. Not all thoughts and opinions are right or just, even though you are entitled to them.

 

Yes every opinion and every thought can cost someone something.. costing a life is the most important loss.. the things your dad said to u was horrible and he was falling apart.. and the things I say to u are not to hurt u..but past all of that u can’t make anyone feel what u feel

 

Is he still falling apart? Are you? Regardless, the things I say and write may not change how anyone thinks or feels, but I have to try. Because, if I don’t, who will? And, how much damage will be done in the meantime if I stay silent?

 

No he is ok.. being a Marshall removes him further from trump. I am ok.. I just don’t like feeling like we r fighting . I accept and love who u r. I want u to love me and accept who I am..

 

While that is not entirely accurate about his new job, I would prefer us not to disagree. However, I will not stay silent. I love you both, but that doesn’t mean I will just accept your views and opinions just because you are family.

 

Accept isn’t the right word.. from my text.. u don’t have to accept my beliefs maybe accept the right to be different from each other.. have u thot much about meditating for inner peace

 

I certainly accept your right to be different. I don’t have to be okay with it. Just like you don’t have to accept me for who I am. And meditating? I’d rather be a bit more proactive for inner peace, like getting involved, contacting legislators, etc.

 

Just sometime for peace and to relax a bit

 

What brings me peace is knowing that I have done something in the face of what is happening.

 

Thank you for your time,

Nicholas Bailey

 

Ok what do u do to relax

 

Paint nights. Movies. Spend time with friends.

 

Child of Trump Nominee Speaks Out

http://www.gayly.com/child-trump-nominee-speaks-out

Hope, An Exchange

I hope you come visit. For a lot of reasons, I am not sure if I will be around for the holidays.

 

Say what now? Um why?????

 

(Redacted), I thought you should know I am transgender for sometime now, in fact I was going to tell you when (redacted), but I was asked not to by (redacted). More recently, telling you was brought up again, but again, I was asked not to because of fears of you being bullied if you know, which honestly makes no sense to me.

This is why I won’t be in Oklahoma for Christmas and am undecided for Thanksgiving. It is not easy continuing to hide who you are with family, and it is even harder knowing some of the views family has towards the LGBTQ+ community.

I am not sure how you will react to this, but I hope I will have your continued love and support. Know that I love you and will always be there for you if you need me.

 

Honestly, I’m not sure how I am supposed to react, I am a little shocked, but if this is what you want, then I support your decision. I love you too

 

I can understand and appreciate that. It shocked everyone. I appreciate your support. It means the world to me.

 

I couldn’t have asked for a better or more hopeful response. Where things go from here, only time will tell, but this is a moment of hope.

A moment.

Another Tuesday

Some things seem impossible.

Impossible to do.

Impossible to hope for.

Tonight was a sliver of hope and a strong rebuke, a rebuke to bigotry, corruption, and deceit.

The Resistance stands strong.

IMG_0750

The above tweet flashes onto the screen of my iPad. I can’t look away, and I have been refreshing my Twitter app frantically for a glimmer of hope.

A retweet sends it my way.

IMG_0751

Another retweet brings a smile to my face.

It has felt so horrible and hopeless for the last months, which have felt like decades.

But, this is hope.

Possibility.

IMG_0752

I switch over to Facebook, inundated with increasing possibilities. I scroll by a post from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Wow.

Just wow.

IMG_0753

A quick shift back to Twitter as tweets scroll by in an endless sea of excitement. One after another, excitement rolls through, excitement and hope.

IMG_0754

I consider all the people who consume Fox News like a sponge, soaking in an alternative reality. People who I once respected. People who I used to look up to.

I continue to scroll until I cross someone spouting bigotry.

Andrew T. Walker.

His words enshrined in digital stone.

“Christian parents, the nation’s first transgender elected official enters American history tonight. What are you doing to prepare your children for this new world?”

I hear these words as if uttered by a parent.

My scrolling continues as I stumble upon a reply to Mr. Walker.

“Christian parent here. We’re celebrating. We’re preparing our so to embrace difference, not fear or discriminate against it.”

IMG_0756

The gif of applause that follows is perfection.

I can’t spend all night on Twitter and decide to do something about the laundry situation.

After a few minutes, The iPad screen is illuminated again.

Twitter.

One last look before I move to some other distraction.

IMG_0757

Yeah.

That.

Muted Words

How many days has it been since the last one?

I turn to Google because I think surely it must have been a month since Las Vegas. Surely, it has been at least that long.

Google bring me this URL: http://www.dayssincethelastmassshooting.com.

A bright red zero blazes onto the screen. At 2:00 PM today, more lives were lost, lost to the senseless gun violence that has taken over this country, the blood stains on our hands and the hands of the cowardice within the American political system.

Then, I remembered that after the Las Vegas terrorist attack that I posted on my Facebook. I switched to the Facebook app.

There.

October 2nd. Fifty-eight people, people with hopes and dreams, were gunned down by an American terrorist. Fifty-eight people that America dropped the ball on to protect, and now, it is too late.

I am grateful that one of the people I follow on Twitter tweeted about blocking words. I had not known blocking a word was possible. I had immediately known which words I would mute. I feel beyond frustrated and disappointed. I grow angry. At talented people who disappoint. At the rich and powerful that take advantage. At the heartless. At the denying. At where we are right now.

I grow angry.

And, rejuvenated. Rejuvenated to resist, to try to make the world a better place, to not give up, even when things seem impossible, to give a damn and do something about it.

I go back to back to the website, Days since the last mass shooting in the United States. I click on history. The list of dates is incredible to see, an incredible tragedy, an incredible disgrace.

I realize that the list is incomplete. The list of American terrorism only includes the mass shootings. There was another shooting, just recently, at a Walmart.

Again, I turn to Google.

After some alarming headlines but not really finding what I am looking for, I settle on: https://www.massshootingtracker.org/data. 

img_0747

Damn.

Three hundred and seventy-seven mass shootings so far this year.

Three hundred and seventy-seven mass shootings, and that number doesn’t even take into account the shooting that just happened at a Walmart.

And, three people were killed there.

When will it end?

When will the ignorance and the greed and the selfishness and the senselessness of the American Right end?

And, I am not only talking about on this issue.

But, on taxes.

And, on healthcare.

And, on the health of the planet we live on.

And, on civil rights.

The American Right really needs to get their shit together.

The future of humanity depends on it.

Before I put this post to rest, I scroll through my Facebook wall, and once again, I come to this post. 

Damn.

img_0749

I am really getting tired of seeing that article pop up.

Really tired.

Because at this point in our political system, a vote for a Republican is a vote to continue this insane loss of life.

You are either helping put an end to this or, by not voting or voting Republican, you are allowing this to continue.

It is that simple.

One final thought.

Hey, 2008 Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, did you ever think that your rewriting of the 2nd Amendment would have led to this?

Just wondering.

 

Days since last mass shooting in United States

http://www.dayssincethelastmassshooting.com

Trump’s “Condolences and Sympathies” Won’t Cut It

Mass Shooting Tracker

https://www.massshootingtracker.org/data

Man accused of randomly killing 3 people at Walmart captured

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/01/us/colorado-walmart-shooting/index.html

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

https://www.theonion.com/no-way-to-prevent-this-says-only-nation-where-this-r-1820163660

District of Columbia v. Heller

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_of_Columbia_v._Heller

Big D’s Case of Moviemaking Fever

When most people hear my hometown’s name, Mannford, two things come to their minds: Lake Keystone and meth. Mannford sits on Lake Keystone, which rivals Norman’s Lake Thunderbird in its level of grit and grime, but the boaters still flock to the lake every summer. Meth comes to mind because Creek County is the meth capital of Oklahoma, and with the recreational lake, there is a demand for a cheap recreational drug. Meth fits the bill.

But, to me, Mannford is home. It’s haphazardly planned, poorly constructed, racist to its core, and extremely, er, not politically correct. Still, as I mentioned, it is home, and I can’t help but think back on the glory days of awkward middle and high schoolness, ruling the school with my iron fist of geekness, and learning a hell of a lot at my first job, O.J.’s Old-Fashioned Family Restaurant.

Sitting right off the intersection of Coonrod and Highway 51, O.J.’s Old-Fashioned was my grandfather’s restaurant. For many years, it stood tall and proud in the small lake community until my grandfather decided that it was time to pass on his legacy to his youngest son, known as Big D to many O.J.’s employees. Ignoring almost everything his father had done, Big D decided to reinvigorate and renovate the successful business.

The first thing to go was the tall wooden sign, which was replaced with a glowing green neon sign that towered over the lackluster Mannford skyline. The second thing to go was the outside’s sense of old-fashionness and decency, which came about when the burger joint’s exterior became a radiation, nearly glowing green. Most of the interior became a blindingly bright orange, and a smoking section was added to the back of the burger joint.

I became an O.J.’s employee in the midst of the turbulent changes that the restaurant went through. With the building and the menu constantly changing, work became increasingly more difficult, but, for the most part, I didn’t mind too much. It was interesting having my uncle as my boss. I was constantly trying to impress, not only him, but my grandfather who would stop by frequently. Still, it was mostly Big D that I was trying to impress. He was family, my elder, and I wanted to prove that I had what it took to work at O.J.’s. I wanted to prove that I could make my family proud of the work I did there.

For two years, I worked there. With Big D by my side, we flipped burger after burger and fried straight-cut potatoes after curly-cut potatoes. We scrubbed greased floors until they gleamed with cleanliness. We washed thousands upon thousands of dishes. We were a team, and all seemed to be going well until I began to pay attention to the real Big D.

Towards the end of my two year run at O.J.’s, mysterious women would call up and ask for Big D. He’d leave and come back a few hours later, never commenting on what had gone on. Every few months, O.J.’s wouldn’t have the money to pay its employees, and my grandfather would have to come and pay the employees from his personal bank account. When my grandfather asked me to start keeping tabs on my uncle and let him know when my uncle took money from the cash register, I was uncomfortable with the assignment, but I agreed to take it. And, after witnessing Big D take money from the cash register time and time again, I wanted no part of O.J.’s anymore and decided that it was time to move on.

I found a new part-time job in town and eventually moved on to college. My younger brother began working at O.J.’s and claimed that things were much better. My disgust and disappointment started to fade away. I was able to talk and joke around with Big D again. Our relationship seemed to be getting back to normal. Everything seemed to be going okay – that was until the cast and crew of the film The Isolation descended upon Mannford.

It was late August, during my freshman year at O.U., when Big D offered me a chance to see the first film set that Mannford had ever had. The film set was right outside of Mannford in a neighborhood that I’d thought was only occupied by run down trailer houses. On my way to the film set, I passed many run down trailers. Various cheap plastic toys filled their yards. Heavy oversized tires were placed on a few roofs to prevent the thin metal from blowing away.

Double checking the address that Big D had given me, I pulled my ’99 silver coupe into the driveway of, yet another, run down trailer home. The yard was disheveled. Clumps of waist-high weeds dotted the brown yard. A blue and pink toddler slide lay upturned near the wooden steps leading up to the trailer’s front door. Keeping my car running, I waited and looked at the house. It was long and narrow, like most trailer homes are. One of the screens from a window was ripped and hanging loose. The house itself was covered with loose plastic siding. From the looks of it, there seemed to be no activity coming from within the house.

I heard Big D’s vehicle before I saw it. Big D’s small golden SUV, which was a poor imitation of the Jeep Wrangler, came lumbering down the driveway. Dirt and dust filled the air as the vehicle came to an abrupt stop. The doors to his SUV creaked as Big D stepped out onto the white gravel driveway.

Big D’s greasy hair had a bright glimmer in the sunlight, and his big white smile threatened to pull his face in two with his excitement. He was beaming. I exited my car, meeting him at his SUV. He immediately began to ramble about his role in the film as we made our way to the front door. When Big D had first met the director while swimming at the local public pool, Big D had been asked to help scout locations for filming. Now, he was no longer helping out with that. He was actually in the film as a pimp/assassin-trainer/drug lord in the next big indie hit.

I listened to Big D rant as we made our way to the wooden staircase leading up to the trailer. It looked sturdy enough, but I didn’t want to trust it with any extra weight. So, I remained a few paces behind. Arriving at the front door, I continued to listen to Big D, but I was never able to put my finger on what the film was about. It was a mixed bag of sci-fi, action, and, what seemed like to me, softcore porn.

Big D’s heavy fist pounded on the front door.

Ignoring any possible response from inside, Big D turned back towards me and stumbled over his speech with delirious excitement. According to him, this was it. This would be his big break. He’d finally be free of the small people. I looked about again. All I saw was a trashed out yard and a junky trailer, a typical Mannford home.

His balled fist rammed the door again.

This time the door was answered. I couldn’t get a look at the individual opening the door from inside because of Big D’s frame blocking the doorway. There seemed to be a bit of a heated exchange between Big D and the individual from within. Still, it must have gone somewhat well because Big D was now holding the door open and motioned for me to come inside with him.

At this point, I should have left. The whole situation just felt weird. I’d never seen Big D acting this delirious. He seemed almost too aware of what was going on, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure how he’d react to me just skittering out on him. After all, he did invite me here. So, I decided to go inside.

Big D was already inside as I made my way in, shutting the door behind me. The room was dark with thick heavy fabric covering the windows. As I made my way inside, I saw a ledge had been built onto the wall, and sheetrock lay haphazardly around in bits and pieces. As we progressed towards the living room, I saw a large inflatable mattress lying on the living room floor. There were several blankets covering several large lumps, which I guessed covered at least three bodies. Two uncovered white mounds could be seen amongst the cluster of bedding.  

Big D tiptoed around the clumps on the floor and opened the heavy dark green curtains. Groaning could be heard from the pallet on the floor. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I was finally able to tell that the glistening white mounds belonged to a thonged woman’s rear. Unsure of how to respond, I looked away. My eyes came across Big D grinning at the nearly nude rear-end. Movement from the floor caught my attention, and I heard groans as the bodies began to stretch and struggle awake.

The thonged woman seemed to have a new sense of modesty and grabbed blankets around her. I wasn’t entirely sure if she was wearing anything other than a black thong. My eyes were still adjusting to the new light in the room, and I couldn’t really make out her face. But, I could see her long black hair was a frazzled mess. She looked up to Big D and spoke in a thick, possibly British, accent. She asked if Big D had brought her any cinnamon rolls from O.J.’s.

Big D could tell that she was disappointed that he’d apparently forgotten her cinnamon rolls. Trying to make up for his absent-mindedness, he asked if there was anything else she needed.

In a demanding, yet sultry tone, she requested coffee and, almost instantly, collapsed back into her cradle of blankets.

Immediately Big D looked to me, and I could tell that it would be my job to help make coffee. I did my best to dodge the lumps on the floor because I was still unsure what was just blankets and what was a blanket cocoon containing a waking film crew member. As we made our way into the kitchen, the smell instantly caught my attention. Rot, spoil, and sour hung thick in the air. It was difficult to imagine that there was a functional kitchen underneath the mass of mess. Boxes, crumbs, and other bits of gunk coated the floors and counters. My eyes were lost in the sea of filth.

Big D said that he needed a coffee filter and that there should be one around here, somewhere. I scanned the kitchen looking for anything resembling a coffee filter. I saw bits of paper, plenty of crumbs, possibly a skittering bug or two, but no coffee filter. Yet, as I meandered through the stench, light caught my eyes. I glanced down to see a small mirror covered with a few lines of snow-white powder. There was a small plastic bag of the same powder sitting beside the mirror.

Now, I’m no expert in these types of things, but I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking at.

Still, I didn’t want to seem too judgmental. So, I pointed to the mirror and asked Big D, “What’s that?”

Big D scoffed at my question. He claimed that it was a prop.

I could tell that his coffee filter search was over. He’d found paper towels, which he said would be a suitable replacement for a coffee filter. He added that he was being resourceful.

After starting the coffee, Big D’s attention turned towards the random pieces of sheetrock scattered about the floors. He pointed at the sheetrock, and I could see that mousetraps had been attached to the backside of the wall. Big D explained that the heroine of the film was going to be shot at and the mouse traps flicking shut would seem like the wall had been shot by bullets. I simply nodded and tried to force a grin, but I was beyond ready to leave.

We made our way out of the kitchen and back to the living room. There were fewer lumps on the living room floor. My guess is that they had migrated to different non-bright areas of the house. Big D demanded to know what time the filming would commence because he’d promised me, that there was a major scene being filmed today.

None of the stumbling cast members had an answer. They seemed to laugh at Big D’s suggestion of any filming going on. From a remaining floor lump, a gruff masculine voice stated that they’d need about ten or fifteen minutes to get ready.

This answer seemed to satisfy Big D because his diminished smile was back to a full-on wide beam. He asked if I wanted to see the film’s script because as he pointed out, I was an English major and should have an interest in things like film scripts. We took our leave from the trailer home/crude film set. Big D offered to drive me to his place to pick up the script. I made my way to the passenger side, but it took several minutes for him to open my door because he had to remove an ample amount of trash, paper, a half cup of used dip, and scattered cigarettes from my seat. As soon as I could sit down, I shut the door and buckled my seatbelt, taking a quick note of his lack of a seatbelt.

I was ready to leave. This whole situation was too strange for me. The whole cast seemed to be in drug and alcohol-induced stupor. Big D’s behavior wasn’t adding legitimacy to the situation either. Still, I knew that if I would go to his place for a few minutes it would at least get me away from the faux film set and crew. I told myself that I’d see the script and then get the hell out of there.

Big D’s ride bounced down the pothole-filled road as we made our way to his trailer house. At a leaning yellow mailbox, we turned left down a windy wooded road. I offered to remain in the car while he went inside to grab the film script.

He left the car and headed towards the house. He wasn’t gone long, but the entire time that I was alone, I kept going over in my head how weird this was. It was bringing back old memories of everything that had happened at O.J.’s. All the joy and excitement that I had at first because I would be seeing a real film set had long disappeared, and now, disgust was filling the void where excitement had once been. This was not a situation that I wanted to remain in. Big D could claim that this was a real film crew, a real film set, and a real film script, but it felt too seedy – even for Mannford. At his front door, I saw Big D’s wife at the door as she kissed and hugged him. His hand held a manila folder, which I could only assume contained the film’s script.

After Big D’s frame seemed to collapse into the driver’s seat, he handed me the folder. I began looking over it. I’d never seen a physical film script before, and I wasn’t real sure what I was looking at. It seemed like a film script that had been read many times. There were many pages, but Big D made it clear that this was only part of the script. The missing pages were locked away, only to be seen on a need to know basis. The pages that were there contained thick black lettering. The font was centered on the page, and the text had lots of spacing. Big D began to back out of the driveway pointing at the script any time that he noticed his character’s name on one of the pages that I was scanning.

As we made our way back to the film trailer, Big D asked me what I thought of Nikki. I wasn’t sure who he was talking about, but as he started to describe her, it was quickly made clear that it was the woman whose rear I’d seen. Before I could give a decent answer, Big D proceeded to describe to me, in great detail, his hard-on for the lead actress and that if it wasn’t for his wife he so would have banged her already. Fortunately for me, the trip back to the set was short, so I only had to put up with a few minutes of his vivid and sexual description.

The golden SUV pulled back into the drive of the film set/trailer home, and I practically leapt from the car. I explained to Big D that I needed to get back to college. I did have a legit excuse; it was Sunday. Class was the following day. I didn’t really have homework, but I used it as an excuse anyway. The beaming Big D that I had been around for the last forty-five minutes frowned. He wanted me to stay and see how a real film crew made a movie. He made his way to the front door of the trailer, but as he went to knock on the door, it flung open revealing a halfway-dressed man that had clearly just woken up.

Big D quickly inquired if they’d be ready to shoot in a few minutes; the man simply laughed and went back inside. From the man’s laugh, I could tell that it belonged to the gruff voice that had said they’d be ready to shoot in ten or fifteen minutes. Big D followed the man back inside.

I felt the urge to leave. I should have gone. I didn’t want any more of the weirdness inside. I wanted out, but for some reason, probably curiosity, I followed Big D back inside the trailer. There were no longer bodies on the floor of the living room; instead, these individuals walked around in a zombie-like trance. The stumbling crew appeared to all be dressed. From what I could tell, there were at least six people in the trailer, three women and three men.

One man, the man who had answered the door the second time, turned out to be the director. Big D was giddy with excitement and kept badgering the shirtless man trying to bring the filming closer to a reality. I tried to find a place out of the way. The black haired woman, who had demanded coffee and was apparently named Nikki, asked me if I’d ever been to a film set before and if I wanted a role in the film.

Before I could reply, Big D asked me if I could give him a hand moving some furniture. As it turned out, the shirtless director needed a particular room in the trailer to film a scene for Big D’s pimp/assassin-trainer/drug lord character. I followed Big D and another stumbling man, who I hadn’t noticed before, to the back of the trailer as the director showed Big D the room that needed to be cleared. The room, like every other room in the trailer, was filled with junk. There were bits and pieces of furniture, a mattress, and piles of trash all throughout the room. I began to help move the room’s junk into the living because I had determined my best course of action would be to help then leave as filming commenced.

As we continued to clear the room, the heavier man helping us left and returned with the director, who approved of the room’s new status. It looked good to him, but they still needed a few props in the room. The director and Big D moved a large green chair back into the room as the heavier man leaned against the hallway’s wall.

Big D grabbed my shoulder and asked for my help with a small project to help get the room ready. I agreed simply to help facilitate my leaving. We made our way out of the trailer. The balding heavyset man that had moved the chair with Big D followed carrying several cartons of cigarettes. Big D explained to me that they needed to start smoking these cigarettes so that they would have enough butts to make the scene look authentic.

Asking if I would help, Big D grabbed a handful of cigarettes, lit them all, and began puffing on them rapidly. With his other hand, he went for another handful and gestured for me to take it. This was too much. I had never smoked a cigarette in my life, and I was not going to start now.

I reached for my cell phone in my pocket to check the time and made an “Oh, look at the time. I gotta go” speech. As I turned around to leave, Big D’s cigarette holding hand gesticulated wildly. He was shocked that I was leaving. They were just about ready to film the scene. Frantic that I was leaving, he went for the front door to ask if they’d be ready to shoot in a few minutes.

I could hear the laughter from inside. That was it. It was time for me to go. I couldn’t take the insanity of the situation anymore.

I made my way to my car. The leather seats were hot and burned the underside of my legs as I sat in the driver’s seat. I didn’t care at this point. I was leaving. Ignoring any pleas from Big D, I backed up my car and drove away, leaving dusty clouds of dirt in my wake.   

My Ideal Bookshelf – Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, Christopher Moore

It’s always nice finding an author that you can dive into almost any book of theirs and enjoy. Throughout my reading journeys, I have found several of these authors.

In middle school, it was Gary Paulsen, on journeys into into the wilderness to survive in isolation.

In high school, it was Robert A. Heinlein, on journeys into space to rethink the human condition.

These authors would be followed by others: Jasper Fforde, Jon Krakauer, Rick Riordan, Brandon Sanderson, and David Sedaris, to name a few.

And, during my college years, one of those authors was Christopher Moore.

With an insane and inane sense of humor, Christopher Moore’s novels take on everything from the Grim Reaper to Santa Claus to vampires to Shakespeare and pretty much everything in between, including the story of Jesus H. Christ.

Lamb follows Biff, Christ’s childhood pal, as a host of angels commission the inept and misguided Biff to write the untold story of Christ, essentially filling in the years that the good book leaves out. While a hilarious parody in its own right, chronicling debaucherous sex, drug use, and other Bible-worthy shenanigans, Biff’s story relates the shift from the teachings of the Old Testament to the teachings of Christ as he discovers the beliefs of “eastern” religions.

The story is filled with ridiculous magics and other supernatural forces of fiction. And as I read through this highly entertaining fictional account of a religion’s savior, my last shreds agnostic beliefs drifted away on the wings of angels, which according to the world of Night Vale are all named Erica.

My nonreligious convictions have always been a sore spot with living in Oklahoma, surrounded by the devout. When I had tried to express my thoughts, I was told I would grow out of it. Or, I was met with shock that I didn’t believe.