Mary Beth Writes

Where this blog-post started: Several posts ago “The Non-Consumer Advocate” was about clowns. Specifically, the weird clown flotsam one finds when thrifting.  Here’s what Katy Wolk-Stanley posted at her site. http://thenonconsumeradvocate.com/goodwill-badwill-questionable-will-clowns-clowns-more-clowns/  

(If you are interested in listening in to a community of people sharing ordinary / extraordinary ways to spend / waste less in order to pursue bigger dreams and values, I recommend NCA. It’s one of my favs.)

So Iwas snarking at Katy’s clowns when for the first time in my long life it dawned on me what I was seeing.

Not just “camp” art.

Not just tasteless shlock.

Not just the tired decorating of “yesteryear”. 

What clowns are, I think, is 1920’s-1970’s era American language for alcoholics and alcoholism - before we developed modern language for alcoholics and alcoholism.

In our middle 30’s Len and I ‘woke’ to a reality that is so obvious now but was so surprising to us then, i.e., alcoholism.  Both of our families were hugely influenced by out-of-control drinking and out-of-control teetotalism/abstinence.  It started with our grandparent’ generation (and before, we presume) and was still roaring along inside the drunk and sober lives some cousins and siblings, as well as inside our own selves.

It was an interesting time for us. Yup. Here are some characteristics about clowns.  You might see the coincidences.

Sometimes clowns are charming and funny. Sometimes they act outside the accepted lines of how grown-ups are allowed to act – this is delightful to kids and surprises other adults. 

The clown with the flower that squirts water in the face of an important person? That’s fun.  Just like your cool uncle who won’t take “crap” from his boss anymore – so he loses his job and now his family is going to live rough until his unemployment runs out and he gets another job that he will keep a few months. 

Betcha two 36-packs of gas station beer I know what he will do during the day while his wife goes to work.

Or the aunt who hates her job yet gets up every day and goes to it and then comes home and does very damn thing she ought to do while sucking all the joy out of the air. Did she grow up in the chaos of alcoholism and so chose to never mess up – and she never has?  There’s often a mean clown who chases the fun clowns to make them do what they ought to do.

The Jekyll and Hyde clown?  The adult in some kid’s life who is sometimes violent and the kid is wary. But also, for reasons it take the kid years to understand, that adult can be really witty and imaginative and fun. You just never know.

The always-always-always happy clown.  The sloppy clown who forgets to zip his pants. The angry one with the gun that probably shoots flowers. The dangerous one who stars in creepy movies

Artists say they paint what’s scariest to take away its power. Writers write it. Poets say it. Women tell each other #MeToo.

Clowns are low-brow shamanism. Have you ever observed one adult giving another a clown figurine? It’s not a common gift these days, but I can still hear, “That clown just reminded me of … “.  Clowns never remind people of kind, normally-functional, give-and-take people. There will be a telling edge in there.

Or, you’ve seen this “art”.  A clown in heaven is talking on a phone to someone on earth; big ole red clown shoes and all. It’s ridiculous and poignant and why did that beloved relative die so young and leave us behind?

I don’t have much of a point besides this. Clowns are and were evocative language - without the accusing words – that reminded us that the people are flawed, dear, crazy, scary, and ours.

 I’m very glad that as a culture, we have evolved beyond the clown motif.  

So what’s with the Zombies?

Disclaimer and apology – Not every person who loves a clown is unconsciously dealing with their alcoholics of yore. People like what people like.  But it just seemed interesting enough to me to write about; how closely the clown theme stood in as a totem for what it was like to live with family members who were alcoholic.

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Comments

Never thought about it but, yeah! I come from an alcoholic family and have spent many, many hours in Al-anon meetings trying to unravel my life and the way I react to things. It’s helped!

We are 30 years into understanding the patterns, and yet still so often come up against those same old same old responses to stress. At least now, when either of us have a BIG reaction to whatever (this morning it was the awful weather and plans having to change fast) ... at least we know to slow down and look at what's being triggered.

Clowns and alcoholism —- hmmmmmmm Zombies. I’ve watched a few episodes of “Santa Clarista Diet” with Drew Barrymore. She is “undead” very strange and I cringe (there is blood in there). But, I am weirdly liking the series. Either on Netflix or amazon prime. Can’t remember

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A Long Ago (sort of) American Camelot on the Mississippi

 I finally finished reading “Empire by Collaboration” by Robert Michael Morrisey. It is a history of the Mississippi River from what is now the general St. Louis area down to its confluence with the Ohio River. This is the area Len and I traveled to see the solar eclipse in August 2017. While we were there, we visited Fort De Chartres and Kaskaskia, we saw old houses in tiny river towns, and we saw one of the oldest cemeteries I’ve seen in the US; it filled with 18th century gravestones inscribed with beautiful French names.

Where are the Movies that don't Blither and Lie?

Last night we watched last year’s “Happytime Murders” with Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph and a bunch of puppets who look like Muppets. Yes, the director is Brian Henson.

The plot? A former kids’ puppet show is making a comeback, and someone is machine-gunning down alumni puppets in order to get a bigger cut of potential franchise income. Phil Philips, puppet detective, partners with Melissa McCarthy to find the culprit. Along the way we see various episodes of puppet porn.

I laughed a lot and then the movie was over.

Went to bed. Woke up this morning irritated.

Sandhill Cranes of Kearny at Dawn

We were on vacation and now we are home:

First thing to report: we only had one fight.

Why is it so hard to keep a poor Black man who has committed NO crime out of jail?

(Our Brother’s back story is here:  https://www.marybethdanielson.com/content/what-happens-personal-finances-when-one-grows-poor-and-black-america )

.....

Our Brother is not in jail. This has been a challenge for him, for the people he loves, and for those of us who try to help and support him. Keeping O.B. out of jail is a modern-day Pilgrim’s Progress.

“Oh,” you ask. “Did he commit a crime?”

Love, two days later.

As some of you know it was an unromantically large number of years ago when Len gave me flowers. (The story is here.) 

The next morning, he drove me home on his way to work (read the first article if you have forgotten how why I spent the night at his house and in his bed…)

He ignored me for a day while I rested and recuperated in my apartment.

#UTLAStrong!

My niece Susan is a speech therapist educator in the Los Angeles public schools. She is on strike and I am proud to be in her family. Teachers are the foundation of everything else we all do. For most of the skills most of us depend on to live our lives - If no one teaches you, you don’t know.   

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