The Pool

Other than recording music, bringing Jane to the pool is the most difficult thing I do these days. Almost everything about it is perfectly tuned for me to be not good at it. Trying to leave the house with everything is a big challenge for me. I get the swim diapers out, the water toys, towels, my bathing suit, and some juice in a bottle. Then I put Jane’s outside clothes on and put my jacket on. At this point I’ve lost my keys. I’m getting sweaty now because I still have my jacket on, Jane’s jumping up and down at the door singing about pool and I’m really feeling the pressure. I resolve to just grab the duffle bag and bring it and Jane outside while I think about where the keys are. Oh. They were in the duffle bag. I get the bike out of the garage and attach the bike trailer to it. I put the girl in the trailer and buckle her in. This hurts my back.

The ride to the Rheinwelle (local indoor swimming facility) is about 20 minutes. Tonight it was raining lightly and not bitter cold so it was relatively easy. We get to the place and it’s time to lock up the bike, get Jane and our gear out of the Croozer and enter the Schwimmbad. It’s ultra hot in the changing area so I take her jacket and shoes off in the lobby. We pay and get an RFID watch thing which we wave in front of a sensor that is connected to a vertical turnstile entryway. It’s a very thin entry and it’s difficult to get through with Jane and the bag all in one shot but that’s what we have to do because there is a bar that pushes us through the apparatus.

We enter the changing room which has a row of doors. Each door is a tiny changing closet. There is one door that has a changing table and can accommodate a small family but this room is almost always occupied. We find a stall and I rummage through our bag. I clothe us and re pack the bag with 4 times as much as what was in it because it’s winter so we have lots of clothes and our jackets and we’re not allowed to wear street shoes in the locker room so I have to carry them or put it in the bag all while making sure that Jane doesn’t run off.

We enter the locker room. This room has tons of lockers. I find one and shove our things in it. It has a locking mechanism that can be activated by my RFID watch shaped wrist band. With toys and towels in hand we are ready to go into the pool room. The Rheinwelle is a huge place. There is a large lap pool, a kids lap pool, a baby pool, and a swirly fun pool with a small climbing wall and a wave maker with a swirly pool thing. Also, there is a hot pool outside that has minerals in it or something. Wow, I’m realizing that I know almost nothing about what to call any of this stuff.

Actually being in the pool is so much fun. Jane screams with delight and gets right to work. She’s at the point where she can walk around in the kiddie pool without falling over all of the time. She even crawls around with her mouth just above the surface of the water. There is a water cannon not unlike the tennis ball cannon from American Gladiators. Jane is somewhat protective of this piece of equipment. If another kid goes to it, she sometimes shouts at them and tries to take over operation of the cannon. I usually intervene.

Without fail, Jane will need to have her diaper changed after a short while in the pool. I strongly dislike this. It takes about 10 minutes to do what needs to be done and without going into much detail I’ll just say, having so much water involved really complicates things. We get back in the pool and it’s smooth sailing for about an hour.

Showers, collecting belongings, drying and changing. Again, this is all much more difficult with water. Everything backwards and we go home. I like the rides home. We have to climb a big hill but the air seems so fresh after being at the pool. I usually talk to Jane while I’m riding. I’ll ask her questions about animals mostly to keep her awake. She has an array of great animal sounds that she can mimmic.

Here’s a picture of the bike setup.

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I don’t want to come across as a complainer. It’s not that any of this is bad, it just requires a lot of effort. I hope to improve my organization skills to better optimize bag packing. Maybe I’ll even work on a pool Go bag. It’s so much easier just sitting around and watching Curious George with her at home but something inside of me compels me to take her to the pool. I want her to have experiences and I want her to think of me as a fun parent. Jane, I’ll print this out and put it in our journal for you. I hope that by the time you can read this, we’ll have had a long tradition of going swimming. With each visit you discover more and more and it’s so much fun to see you develop. I brought you to the pool to day and I’m happy about it.

I saw a topless woman today and I didn’t even rape her.

Today on my ride home from teaching lessons I saw a womanly figure in my peripheral vision. She was laying in the grass soaking up some sun. I didn’t want to stare so I just glanced. At first I couldn’t really see what was going on but upon a second glance I noticed something. Breasts. She had two of them. She was sitting with another human being but I wasn’t able to identify the gender. I guess I wasn’t focusing on the other figure. This all lasted about 1.5 seconds and as I rode off I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with that?”

The answer is nothing. She didn’t hurt anyone. She probably just wanted to feel the sun all over her body. I’m a dude so it’s pretty much acceptable for me to bare my (super hairy) chest whenever I want to as long as I’m outside. It’s weird that it’s different for girls.

One of the really cool things about Germany is that this sort of thing is no big deal. I’m sure that no one went up to the woman and asked her to cover up for any reason. She wasn’t causing anyone to “stumble” and if someone did stumble in any metaphorical or literal way because of her choice to not wear a shirt, it would have not been her fault.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about slut shaming. It’s this thing where something horrible happens to a woman and she gets blamed because of her appearance and or past sexual history. We see this ALL OF THE TIME. If a woman is attacked or harassed all too often the first question is, “Well, what was she wearing?” This is the wrong question.

Many of you who have known me for a while probably know that I’m pretty bashful when it comes to sexy stuff. I was the type of guy who would turn away when I walked by Victoria Secret because I would feel embarrassed. For a number of years now, I’ve decided to think about this differently. I came to the realization that sexuality is just a part of life and that I shouldn’t shy away from it or feel ashamed for having thoughts or feeling feelings because they are natural.

I’ve seen some talk recently about the importance of modesty. Some quote the bible and talk about how women are responsible for not causing their ‘brothers’ to sin. This is one of those things that really reveals the age of the culture of the bible. People still think this way and I think that one of the main influences for this is the adherence to ancient religious texts.

A friend of mine shared this today and although it’s written from a Christian perspective, my contrarian mind can’t think of much to say about it other than, “Hell yeah man!” I couldn’t agree more.

http://natepyle.com/seeing-a-woman/

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Sea Glass

This is an original song that I started writing about 7 years ago. I was in California to spend a weekend with Lisa and Sarah Hine. They are two years apart but have the same birthday so I went out with a group of friends to party with them. This song came to me when I was walking the beach one morning. Sarah lived in Long Beach at the time and Everyone was staying at her house. I remember everyone was just laying around, (it could have been 6 in the morning) so I went out to the beach. The first verse came to me right away after I picked up a piece of sea glass off of the shore. I remember being so impressed with the texture. I love texture.

Less than a year later I found myself in love with a woman named Rebecca. The song started to take meaning in the light of getting to know her. At the time, I was playing music with my best friend, Melanie. When I told her that I wanted to make the song about Becca, she helped me finish it contributing the second verse.

In Sea Glass, I compare finding the glass to finding my love. She, like the glass, had been refined and shaped by tumultuous experiences to become the beautiful treasure that she is.

Why Should I Care About Gay Rights?

When I got up today, I discovered a wellspring of poison. It’s called charismanews.com. A friend of mine posted an article from one of their opinion writers, Michael Brown. In his article My Response to Your Inaugural Speech, Mr. President, he spouts the familiar fundamentalist rhetoric. The author is a particularly outspoken member of the anti gay movement. He warns,

“what was once associated with the extremist views of radical gay activists is now as American as apple pie.”

If you’re into reading the odious ramblings of extreme devotion here is the link. Toxic Christian Link When I saw the status pop up on Facebook, I read the article right away. The friend in mention is someone whom I have looked up to for many years. This is what I posted on his status:

“I forgot how popular this stance was. I read this article along with the dozens of hateful and suspicious responses affirming it. I’m with the president on this one.”

It got a like. I looked back a few hours later and my comment had been deleted. I guess he didn’t want my voice in the conversation.

Reading through the comments on the Charisma News article was heart breaking. It’s perhaps the highest concentration of self righteous misinformation I’ve ever seen. A cacophony of poorly worded phrases shouting that homosexuality is disgraceful, how the president is leading the country into oblivion, how gays need to repent and be healed of their illness, how Christianity is being marginalized at the State level and so on. The ignorance is truly overwhelming.

The thing is that when you talk about LGBTQ’s we’re talking about a group that has been so marginalized that people are just now beginning to stand up for them. Just now, we, society are starting to wake up and realize that these people deserve rights. Religious people are complaining about threats on their ‘rights’ to subjugate and defame these people while the people in mention are fighting for the right to simply be who they are and enjoy the freedoms that others have enjoyed for millennia.

My comments get erased quite often on Christian pages. It’s OK. Their not curtailing my right to free speech. If I’d been arrested, that would be a First Amendment issue. I’ve noticed over the past couple of years that there are a lot of claims that Christians are being persecuted. These claims are often false or bloated.

Here’s the big question. Why do I care about gay rights when there are so many other problems going on in the world? With wars, disease, famine, and injustice, can’t we talk about something else? The answer is simple. Because freedom is important. If we can claim that we know what is better for people than they do, what have we become? Tyrants? Gods? I think that this is really about liberty. I’m happy that the President said what he said at his Inauguration and I hope that real progress comes our way.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Growing Up With a Confused Racial Identity

When I was growing up, my mom told me that I was American Indian, Chinese, German and Irish. German and Irish from my father’s side and American Indian and Chinese from hers. When I was in school learning about the Native Americans, I would raise my hand and offer that I was Mohawk and Shinnecock. I came to identify with the history and struggles of American Indian peoples. I am comfortable saying American Indian rather than Native American because I came to learn that many refer to themselves in that way. It’s also the language my mother used to teach me of the origin of my maternal grandmother so I didn’t question it. On her fathers side, she said that she was Chinese. This was less specific but I was told of a grandfather named Wy Lee, a great aunt named Mae Ling Pang, and Chinese uncles, the names of whom escape me.

Needless to say, I believed my mother and didn’t doubt her regarding my ancestry. I was an extremely inquisitive child, often requiring answers which were far beyond the reach of my mothers knowledge. I often asked her to tell me more about my ancestors. How do you know which tribes we have links to? What were their customs? Do I have a native American name? Are chinese people tall like me? I have straight fingers, is this a Native American trait? Teach me a chinese word. Well you must know some… To be fair to my mother, inquisitive might not be strong enough a word to describe my young self. I would demand answers of her ranging on all topics. When she was not able to answer questions such as, “could there be a way to get energy from sources which are not hot or burning?” a question that I thought up when I was about 10, she would admit that she didn’t have answers for me. This led me to demand her to guess. She would go on by saying that it wouldn’t be fair to just throw out an answer, but I was persistent. Eventually she would break down and offer up a line of reasoning to which I would immediately offer a rebuttal if I deemed her answer to be faulty in logical construction. It must have been infuriating.

To the issue of ethnic origin she did have many answers. These answers are likely to be entirely false. I was told that I did indeed have an Indian name. It was Hiawatha. Upon reflection I think that this is a rather good choice for fabrication because the historical Hiawatha was perhaps a leader among 16th century Mohawks a tribe to which my grandmother supposedly belonged. Here’s where it gets tricky. I was told that my Grandmother’s maiden name was Mantancowa. This combination is egregiously false. Mantan is the name of a potential ancestor and Cowa is the name of someone else entirely. There was also a long name which my mother called herself on occasion which was used to bolster the American Indian lineage claim. Kim-sita Buquita Bernadette Tickawitha Mantan Cowa Lee. Mantancowa was always said as one word and to a child, it bears familiarity to Hiawatha which was verifiably and indisputably American Indian.

When I hit pre-adolescence, I started getting to know people from my mothers side of the family. They were black. Sure, everyone was some combination of ethnicities which mixed black with something else i.e. Italian, but these people were certainly not Native American. My cousin Johnny was someone who I looked up to immediately. He was an athlete and still is, competing in marathons and cycling races. He was in my estimation, my ticket to being cool as was his sister Gia. They both grew up in the Bronx so their accents were distinctly urban and yet not ghetto or uneducated. Their mother and my mothers sister, Margo, has a very dark complexion. She has always been lovely, intelligent, and even-tempered. She was and is unusually stable for a member of my family and this stood out.

The following is one of my favorite stories to tell. I was staying over at Johnny’s apartment in Tuckahoe. I was probably 13 years old. I drove somewhere with him in his white 80′s Toyota sports car. It was so cool that every time I see a Japanese car from the 80′s in good condition, I smile and desire it. I asked John why he refers to himself as black rather than black, American Indian and so forth. He looked at me and said, “American Indian? Who told you that? Your grandmother was as black as the night itself. You know how you can jump higher than most of your friends? Have you ever thought why that might be? Ya Black! Have you ever been at the store and saw some thing that you wanted but couldn’t afford? Have you ever thought of stealing something before? Ya black!” He went on and on listing embarrassingly typical racial stereotypes. He said it of course to make me laugh as I am laughing while I write this account.

That night I had a dream that I acquired African features; much darker skin, more pronounced lips and a nose which flared out to a greater degree than mine did. When I spoke to my cousin in the morning I told him about my dream. He said, “I understand, I cried when I found out that I was black.” Of course he was joking for my sake. I wasn’t distressed by this knowledge but I was somewhat let down by the fact that my mother had either knowingly or otherwise misled me into believing that I had American Indian ancestors.

I had of course asked her if we were black. Believe it or not many of my black friends growing up asked me if I was biracial. She always denied having an African American background.

A Quick Note On Race:

The human species is not subdivided into racial categories. The whole topic of race is language borrowed from a less informed time. People perpetuate attitudes and behaviors based on their perceived race or the races of others but make no mistake, there is just one race of hominids and it’s Homo Sapiens aka Humans. We’re it. Find the weirdest looking person you can think of. You’re the same race as them.

Having been brought up with conflicting information regarding my now debunked racial origin had it’s disadvantages. My mother occasionally  called me White Boy. This was disconcerting because I knew of no positive context for this expression. I would complain when she called me that and she would say, you should be proud of your heritage. I call this deflection. I eventually disallowed my mother from calling me that which resulted in her coming out to me as a black person. This was when I was about 24 years old.

I have a really fond memory of hanging out with the Asian kids when I was in 7th Grade. I had just learned about Asia in my world studies class and I was eager to make friends with more of my kind. None of the kids objected to me tagging along. They didn’t ridicule me or show skepticism toward my obviously non asian features. It was nice.

When I was in High school I didn’t have a lunch table. I was a floater. A free agent if you will. As a freshman, I spent some time with the minorities who seemed to clump together around two tables which were closest to the a la carte section of the cafeteria. I wonder if there is a joke somewhere in there? Anyway, this lasted for a short time and then I would go off to another table for a while. Being a sensitive kid who didn’t understand ironic humor made school a difficult place for me. There is much to go into on that subject which I will save for another post.

I remember some friends inviting me to a minority club. We got together, listened to rap, and ate fried chicken. I’m not even kidding. I ended up not going to many of those meetings. It was transparent even to me, an oblivious teenager. There might have been and illustration being made but I didn’t understand irony at that point so I didn’t stay to find out if that was the case.

One afternoon there was a pep rally. A girl who I had a crush on invited me to sit with her in the bleachers. She said, come on, all of the minorities will be sitting in the same section. I became immediately disinterested because the purpose of a pep rally was to represent your graduating class, not to segregate into color groups. This is the day that I stopped caring about race.

At that point I was still very unclear about my background. My mother had regained ground in casting doubt that I was black. I was often asked about my family origins. I told people that I was American. That was good enough for me but to many Americans, this is not an acceptable answer. You can’t just go around with a perma-tan and call yourself merely American. “What are you really?” was a common response I would get. I sometimes gave more information but the truth is, I didn’t have very much to give. I know that my dad was Irish and Lithuanian, not German at all. My mom is for all I know only black but I have reason to believe that she could be Indonesian or East Indian. Her birth certificate says that her father was Sanka Mantan of Indonesia. I only have a sliver of information regarding a grandfather who might have been from India but it’s from an unreliable source. I suppose it’s also possible that my maternal grandfather was actually Chinese. These things are all currently unconfirmed so I will continue to give the short form answer when pressed. I’m black, Irish, and Lithuanian.

These things all bear a diluted meaning to me. I spent a lot of time identifying with various groups so now, I feel as though I’m a part of every group. Middle eastern people often ask me if I’m from one of their countries. Hispanic people regularly claim me as one of their own. Italians tell me that I look italian, black people tell me that I look white. White people usually don’t care either way unless their racist in which case I sometimes become the subject of their indignity.

I believe that my mother came out as black in the year 2005. She had just returned from being away for a long time and we were reestablishing contact. We were having a great conversation on the phone and she called me white boy for some reason. I simply replied, “You no longer have permission to call me that anymore. It never means anything good.” To this she broke down. She admitted to me for the first time in my life that she was black. She told me of how she was able to pass for something else. She has thin lips and wavy hair rather than tight curls. It’s just enough to cast a shadow of doubt on her origin. She had struggles growing up that I won’t begin to understand. It was the past and as with almost everything, it was worse, less accepting, and more ignorant. People on both sides of the racial divide were likely intolerant of her. Although she grew up in New York City, she was unable to cope with this part of her identity.

With the Fur

After my mother told me this story, she asked how I felt now that I knew that I was black. I told her that I had know for over ten years at that point and that I felt the same as I had before. In the following weeks she purchased a black Barbie for herself and purchased me two FUBU jackets the size of sleeping bags.

When she presented them to me, I tried to look grateful but was confounded by how ridiculous they were, fur collar and all. I declined stating that they didn’t fit the way I like my clothes to fit to which she replied, “But baby, they’re For Us, By Us!”

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t realize that I had so much to say about racial identity. I think that overall, I am at an advantage having identified with so many ethnic groups. Coming to the understanding that race is a hoax anyway had led me to be an more inclusive person. I like identifying with everyone I meet. I hope that more people have the opportunity to be as racially confused as I was.

The Repulsive Thirst for Blood

I sit in my office on a rainy night in Germany but I feel like I’m in Connecticut where a horrible shooting just took place. At Sandy Hook Elementary School, just a couple of towns away from where I grew up, a shooter shot and killed upwards of 25 people. Most of them were children. As I held my 1 year old before she went off to bed, I shuddered in horror and cried. I immediately understood the feeling of dread that anyone must have felt with children or loved ones in that school. This feeling of course was accompanied by confusion, frustration, and sorrow. 

News outlets keen to break a story mistakenly released a Facebook profile picture of a man assumed to be the killer. The release of this false information was immediately followed by angry hordes of justice seeking commenters. “Burn in hell”, “Murderer!!!” and comments to the like are rolling in by the tens of thousands. The cry for blood is deafening. I am able to understand this reaction as people seek payment for loss but I’ve never felt these feelings. This reaction is almost as repulsive to me as the initial crime. Why are people like this? I guess I just don’t have the gift of justice.

I’ve never understood people’s desire to respond to tragic violence with more violence. I didn’t feel it on September 11, 2001 when so many people died senselessly at the hands of fanatical terrorists and I don’t even understand it in the case of this massacre of school children. I think that revenge and cruelty enacted by any people at any time is bad for all people. All I can feel is sadness and loss. I hope that misinformation and suspicion doesn’t lead to any further confusion or loss of life. I think that job number one is to figure out how to stop this from happening again. 

My deepest condolences to those entangled in this tragedy. I hope that you find the strength to overcome.