Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mini-Post: Follow-Up to The Great Divide

Okay, I'm gonna go off my nut here and post an article from The Federalist.  Yeah, that The Federalist.  What's more, it's an article written by a man, a conservative man, and it's about abortion, for God's sake.  But I think you guys should read it if you have the time.  Why?  Because this guy is bearing out exactly what I talked about last blog post.  The radical idea that by listening to people who disagree with you, you can maybe learn something.  Now, it happens to be that this guy learned something about one of the hot-button issues of our time, never mind the one issue that I simply can't seem to be rational about no matter what I do.  But don't let that stop you.  Here's a guy who came in with his mind made up and left with some things to think about.  If more people did things like this, then it's possible that a lot of these intractable problems we have wouldn't be so intractable and for that matter, might not even be problems anymore.  So do give him a read.  Here's the article:

http://thefederalist.com/2017/05/25/5-things-right-can-learn-abortion-supporters-yale-law/


Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Great Divide

--Here comes the great divide.
I walk the slide
That only killers should fear.
Here comes the great divide
I walk the slide
I hope I never fall.

--Stuart Adamson

A while ago Joan installed a "podcast app" on my new cell phone. (I had to get a new cell phone because my old cell phone was flipping into "airplane mode" by itself, and at odd times.  A real problem if, say, my boss wanted to call me.  Naturally, T-Mobile couldn't fix it and gently "suggested" that I get a new phone.)  If you're not familiar with "podcasts," all I can say is, check a few out.  They're like radio programs, usually about half an hour long, recorded by regular people, some with agendas and some who just have a topic they like to talk about and educate other people about.  You download them from the Internet and you can listen to them on your computer, or through your tablet or cell phone or what have you.  Because my cell phone talks to my car somehow (I still think this is magic, or else the little guys inside my cell phone talk to the little guys inside my car dashboard and tell them what to say), I can now listen to "podcasts" while I'm driving to and from work, and in rich, stereo sound, too.  This was a revelation.  Imagine; all this time I could have been learning something instead of bouncing around at intersections and belting out the lyrics to "Come On, Eileen" for the 9,827th time.

Anyway, one of my favorite podcasters is Dan Carlin.  He's a political commentator, in a sense, but he approaches U.S. politics as though he's a space alien who has just come to Earth and is starting to learn a little bit about human society.  He's neither conservative nor liberal but kind of a maddening mix of both, which is what makes him so interesting.  Mr. Carlin has two main podcasts; "Common Sense", which is about politics, and "Hardcore History", which is also about politics but in the context of what happened during, say, World War I or the Holy Roman Empire.  (We interrupt this blog post for a quick plug: Although the podcast about World War I was six episodes long and each episode ran about three hours, it was totally and completely worth the time spent and you should go download all six episodes from his web site right now, while they're still free.)

Up until just before The Election, Dan Carlin was saying in his "Common Sense" podcast that he thought the biggest problem we face as Americans is corruption in government.  What, you might ask, did he think the solution was?  Well, he thought we should vote in an outsider who would do things in a way nobody's ever done them before.  So we did that, and, uh, guess what happened.  Now Dan Carlin is saying no, I was wrong; the biggest problem we face as Americans is not corruption in government, nor Donald Trump, as you might expect, but the fact that a large chunk of our population hates another large chunk of our population.  And the reverse.  Which is where Donald Trump came from.  And there are smaller groups that hate other smaller groups, and those smaller groups hate lots of other small groups, and primarily it's just a great big hatefest out there, and if we're not careful, the whole country is going to break up into a bunch of nationalistic, nuclear, surly little rocks.  Sort of like the Soviet Union did--oops, I'm getting ahead of myself.

 See, back in the 1960s, and even probably up until maybe ten or twenty years ago, if you told somebody the United States might break up, their likely initial reaction would be, "Oh no!  What can we do to preserve the Union?"  Nowadays, the reaction's a lot more likely to be, "Good.  I don't want to live with those people anymore."  Whoever those people may be.  The Jews.  The blacks.  The gays.  The conservatives.  The liberals.  The Society of Left-Handed Spanish-Speaking Librarians Without Tonsils.*  Pick your label.  Depending on who you talk to, you'd be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that in the very near future, you'll have your choice of Californiastan, Texasberg, the Kingdom of Washoregon, Utahsville,  New Yorkguay and the Republic of Gilead--oops, I mean the Confederate States.  (Maine, of course, will make like a tree and join Canada.) Presumably they'll all have separate currencies and you'll need a passport to travel from one to another. What's more, you'll have to pass an ideology check. No one beyond this point may openly advocate interracial marriage, for example.

So what can we do about this?

Maybe nothing.  Maybe us fragmenting and falling apart would be for the best.  We are using 25% of the planet's resources, after all, which is all the more shocking when you know that we only have 5% of the world's population.  We export our environmental damage by buying lumber from countries that don't have sustainable forests, messily manufacturing our products in countries that don't have air pollution controls, and overfish oceans that aren't subject to our environmental laws.  Breaking us up might be good for the world.  I think it'd be just terrible for us, though.  For all kinds of reasons. I mean, we've been a country for a long time.  It'd be kind of cool if we could keep on being one.

Dan Carlin isn't sure what to do, but I have a suggestion. It's kind of Buddhist-y, but here it is: Let's try actually listening to each other, instead of just seeing who can shout the loudest.  Let's get to know some of our neighbors who think differently than we do. And more to the point, find out why they think differently than we do.  How they came to those conclusions.  What pieces of information they considered.  And whether or not they're convinced of the truth of those pieces of information and, if they're not, if they've ever considered any other pieces of information that might point to a different conclusion. And (here's the hard part) let them get to know the same things about us.  And give us the same pieces of information.  After all, we might be wrong about a thing.  It's not unheard of.

In Buddhism we have this thing called "nonattachment to views."  About which there have been lots of words written, but what it basically boils down to is, "I might be wrong.  Therefore I'll listen and see if I can learn something."

How important is nonattachment to views?  Well, Right View is one of the eight things on the Eightfold Path that leads to enlightenment.  And I quote:  "“Right View” is also called “right perspective”, “right vision” or “right understanding.”...You need to see the world and yourself as they truly are, not what you have been conditioned to see."  And nonattachment to views is a big part of this.  In short, if you've grown up, say, in a country that has a dominant religion, and you and your family are of a different religion, you could perhaps be forgiven (at least for a while) for thinking that people of the dominant religion are inherently bad, evil, or otherwise nasty--especially if people of the dominant religion went out of their way to harass, repress and terrorize you.  (And I have no experience with this whatsoever, as I'm sure you know.)  But, once you got out there in the world and met some of the people of this dominant religion, you might learn that they have the same dreams, aspirations and ambitions as you do, that they want all the same things you want, and that just because they believe something other than what you believe, they're all individuals and it's unfair to paint them all with the same bad/evil/nasty brush.  Even if they've done the same to you.  Which, let's face it, a lot of them have.

We have so many choices anymore for our sources of information, and it's easy to get stuck in a bubble by turning only to those sources of information that support things we've already made our minds up about anyway.  Like, say, watching only Fox News, logging in only to Breitbart, and hanging around only with the #tcots on Twitter.  Conversely, you might watch nothing but CNN, log in only to The Daily KOS and hang around only with--with--I'm not sure there's an opposite label from #tcot.  But if there is one, that's the one I mean.

So what am I suggesting, you may ask.  Am I suggesting you watch Fox News for ten minutes a day?  Follow Karl Rove on Twitter? Log in to LifeSite News, for crying out loud?!  Well, yes, sort of, but more to the point, I'm suggesting you actually talk to people.  People people.  Human beings people. People who think differently than you do.  Find out why they think differently.  Ask them what they believe.  Here's a thing--people love talking about what they believe.  Get them started and you probably won't have to say a word for ten minutes or more.  Excellent tip for cocktail parties where you don't know anybody and you're only there to be arm candy for your wife.

And if you can, without being obvious, ask people why they believe what they believe.  And don't take "Because that's what it says in the Bible" as your answer.  Come back with "Okay, but you decided to believe that the Bible is true. When did you decide to do that?  What happened?"  And maybe the person had a born-again experience when he was fourteen or maybe he was in a terrible accident and almost died and thinks that God saved him or maybe he hasn't a clue when he made that decision or why.

Ah, now you are getting somewhere.  You have, after all, just learned something about this person that you didn't know before.  Maybe it will be enough to alter your view of him.  Maybe not, but more to the point, he's learned something too.  About himself as well as about you. If nothing else, he now knows that you're a good listener.  And what's more, you want to learn things.  Curiosity may have killed some feline back 70,000 years ago, but trust me, intellectual curiosity is about the best asset a human being can have.  Besides being a good listener.  I really think that trumps just about everything.

So that's my suggestion.  Maybe it'll work and maybe it won't, but it's certainly worth a try, isn't it? Because breaking up the country isn't only stupid, it would be really expensive.  You think taxes are high now?  Buddy, just wait until Utahville figures out it needs to host the Olympics again  You ain't seen nothin' yet.


*Not a real political action committee, but wouldn't it be interesting if it were.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Random Ramblings

Item:  Getting a state ID card is just as hard, and in this case more so, than getting a driver's license.  The state of Texas is a little confused that you'd give up a license in favor of getting an ID card instead, so they made it super complex.  At least, I think that is the reason. Next...

Item:  I am now the sole driver in the family.  Insurance rates have gone down appreciably, though not as much as you might think. Next...

Item: It's Joan's birthday.  Happy birthday, Joan!!  Next...

Item: This means it will soon be my birthday too.  Joan and I have birthdays exactly one month, one day and one decade apart.  Next...

Item:  We settled the Big Case at my office, finally.  So no Big Trial and there will be some money.  So I asked for a raise and was told "not sure where our cash flow is at this point...want to do something for my people but I don't know what...I'll think about it."  Which was more or less exactly what I thought they'd say.  At least they didn't say, "No, because we don't like you," which is what I always think they're going to say.  Next...

Item: Having more or less successfully painted this here iris, I'm now painting a pic of our kitten, Artemis, looking out the back door.  Wish me luck, this painting involves actual geometry and, you know, math.  Next...

Item:  You can look up how to contact your senator here.  Since the Senate will be debating a bill that will be stripping affordable health insurance away from anyone who has ever sneezed and can't get insurance from an employer, you might want to say a word or two to that person.  Next...

Item:  I have once again figured out that it is a mistake to keep ice cream in the house.  I don't know why I have to find this out over and over again, but I do.  Next...

Item:  I fired our process server, or rather, I'm not sending our process server any more work, which is the same thing as firing him.  Getting permission to fire him, on the other hand, took four months of screw-ups and noncommunication, as well as several meetings and court hearings, and it was like pulling teeth the whole time.  He still owes me two affidavits that I'm probably never going to see. Cautionary advice: DO NOT HIRE FRIENDS TO DO THINGS FOR YOUR BUSINESS.  It makes it hard to fire them if they do a bad job and it drives. your. paralegal. crazy. Next...

Item:  The Alarm is on tour this summer and will be coming to Dallas, Austin and Houston.  I'm very, very tempted to repeat the Epic Big Country Road Trip of 2013 but I probably won't, that was pretty exhausting and I'm driving to Kansas City to see the eclipse a few weeks after that anyway.  Still, it was a lot of fun, and you can check the Alarm tour dates here.  Next...

Item: By the way, there's a total eclipse of the sun on August 21.  If you've never seen such a thing, I suggest you get yourself into the path of totality forthwith.  I have never seen such a thing, but I understand it's pretty awesome and you kind of get why more primitive men thought the moon might be devouring the sun.

And that's how things are going, for the most part.  Updates to follow. Cheers!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Work In Progress

I have this bad habit of starting blog posts and then not finishing them.  Last week I got into full-on rant mode about a letter to Dear Carolyn, where this lady’s husband was disabled (as in, on disability/SSI and unable to work) and her family not only didn’t believe he was disabled, but kept asking him when he was going to get off his lazy ass and get a job.  I mean, excuse me?  They don’t just put you on disability if you walk with a limp, you know.  You have to apply (often more than once) and there are hearings and doctors are called in to testify and, you know, it’s kind of a big deal.

Mind you, the closest I’ve ever come to that situation is where I had sprained my ankle really bad and was limping around on crutches, and I went with my family to dinner and the bartender (really no idea what prompted this) suddenly yelled, “Faker!  She’s faking!” for the whole restaurant to hear.  He’s lucky I didn’t sail a crutch right into his wall of nicely decorated bottles.  I can’t imagine having to deal with that kind of cr@p every DAY.  Much less from family members.  So I got all into a rant about it, but I fizzled out two paragraphs in. I kind of Didn’t Know Where To Go With That. So that was it for that blog post.

Another time I started a blog post about the Buddhist Five Precepts and how they did and didn’t relate to the Ten Commandments and Thich Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings, but that was just a tiny bit esoteric and it was so boring it put my teeth to sleep.  So that one didn’t get published either.  I don’t think this sort of thing is unique to me; I’ll bet Stephen King has lots of stuff he started writing and then bailed on when he realized he was never going to be able to hook the monster up with the protagonist without a lot of mental gymnastics and an apologetic phone call to Bram Stoker.  (Incidentally, did Bram Stoker answer the phone? Because THAT would make a really good Stephen King story.)


Let’s take painting, for example.  I was just at an art museum a few days ago, and whenever I go to an art museum I invariably want to go home and paint.  I’m working on a picture of an iris (the flower, not the eyeball) and it’s not going to be great; it’s still kind of a work in progress but I can tell that nobody’s ever gonna pay $1.4 million for it at a Sotheby’s auction.  That’s okay, though.  I like painting, it’s fun and I’ve done lots worse.  Once I was taking a class and we had a nude model come in and pose for us.  I was so embarrassed that there was a naked woman in the room that I couldn’t do much more than peek at her every ten minutes or so, and what I painted ended up looking kind of like a gargoyle with a bad case of mange. You can bet that one got gessoed over really fast.  Years from now, after I die, they’ll X-ray my copy of The Beheading of St. John the Baptist by Rubens and find this really bad nude underneath it and wonder what I was thinking. I was probably thinking about how much I wished the model was wearing a dress.  (And speaking of John the Baptist’s head, I did Salome’s nose so many times trying to get it right that she looked like Michael Jackson.  My instructor had to come over and fix it for me.  Imagine, getting a nose job from a painting instructor.)  

The thing about failed first attempts at anything is, you tried it, right?  Lots of people don't bother trying anything (and criticize those who do, for reasons I'm a little unclear on.)  If your first knitted square looks like something the cat threw up, or your first silver white cake collapses in the middle, or your first painting looks like, well, a gargoyle with mange, there's no need to freak out or even show it to anybody.  (Sometimes failed first attempts are good for getting a laugh, though.)  The point is, you did it.  Maybe the next attempt will come out better.  Maybe there won't be a next attempt, because you figured out you never really wanted to learn how to knit in the first place.  But you won't know that unless you give it a try.  I didn't want to write a blog post tonight, for example, but darned if I haven't done one anyway.  Which is a good thing.  And now I'm going back to my painting.  Cheers, all.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Power of Attorney

People have been streaming into the law firm for the last several days.  Couples, individuals, and plenty of kids in tow.  We were open all day Saturday just trying to accommodate everybody and it doesn't show any sign of slowing down.  The law firm must be doing great, right?  Lookie here at all these paying clients, right?

Well--not exactly.

See, we're located in a very heavily Hispanic neighborhood.  As is true of most large cities, there are people living here who aren't supposed to be here.  Some of them have been here for years (24 years, in one case) and many have had children here who, because they were born here, are supposed to be here.  And ever since the ICE began its most recent crackdown, these people are scared.  They're scared that somebody's going to arrest them at work or on their way home, and take them away, and then what will happen to their kids?

Because that is what's happening.  ICE has shown up and arrested women during court hearings.  ICE has walked into Hispanic-owned businesses and detained people.  ICE has done "targeted actions" at locations frequented by Hispanic folks and just rounded up everybody.

Now, these are people who can't legally be here, so some of you might think all that is okay.  Some folks think we should have been cracking down on undocumented immigrants all along, and I respect that.  Some folks think we need a wall along the border, and while I can't imagine how that could possibly help, I do understand the mentality. I would argue that you can't really root out an estimated 11.4 million people and dump them on the other side of the border without some very serious societal and demographic consequences, but I do understand that some people are in favor of that.  Anyway, that whole argument, while very interesting, is kind of beside the point of this blog post.

What we're concerned about here is what happens to the kids.  The accidental orphans who stay behind when Mom and Dad disappear.

My boss is concerned about that too.  That's why, when these people come streaming in, he helps them draw up the paperwork so that someone else--an aunt, a grandmother, a trusted friend--can take custody of the kids if anything happens. Documents that give the someone else permission to enroll the kids in school, get them medical care, stuff like that.  You need documents like this to do just about anything for somebody's kid, if you're not the custodial parent.  So that's what we've been doing.  Word is spreading and so more and more people are coming.  At first we were taking walk-ins just as they appeared, but now we've had to start setting appointments because there's not enough room in the lobby for everybody who's waiting.

(And by the way, I've gotten to be a regular whiz at saying, in Spanish, "Sign here please.  This signature means X. This signature means Y."  And stuff like that.)

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, we're doing this for free.  What we'd ordinarily charge is way out of the reach of most of these folks.

I'm not going to tell you the name of the law firm.  I can't, lest the steady stream of clients become a tsunami and the ICE starts staking out the office.  But I can tell you this. Their kids, though usually shy around strangers and law firm people, are just like American kids. Kids who don't understand things like demographics and politics and international borders. Kids who don't want to go live with Aunt Lucy because their parents have been taken away.    

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Zen For A Day

So for about two years now, I've really been wanting to go to a retreat.  That is, a meditation experience where you go someplace, usually a nice place with lots of plants and trees, and do some serious meditating for days or even weeks.  I don't think this is strictly a Buddhist thing -- I went on a Christian retreat once as a teenager, though no actual meditation happened -- but Buddhists are kind of known to do this.  The idea is to have really deep meditations, so that you realize profound and awesome things about your nature and the universe.  Or at least you get a break from the phone ringing and people texting you every five minutes.

The last time I went on a retreat was I think in 2013, when Brother ChiSing was still alive and we all went to Praxis in far North Texas, just south of the Red River. That was awesome.  It was three days of meditation, walking, quiet and general restfulness.  I had a close encounter with a grasshopper, which is sort of a long story but you can read about it here.  And there were stars. Lots of stars. Zillions and zillions of stars. And grasshoppers.  Anyway, a great time was had.  And now it's been a couple of years and I really want to do this again and I keep running into the same two barriers:  One, there just ain't a lot of Buddhist meditation retreats happening in Texas.  This here's the Bible belt, in case you didn't know. And two, the ones there are, are either A. prohibitively expensive or B. far away or often C. both.

There was this one in Austin, for example, last weekend.  It was for women only, and it was hosted by the Plum Blossom Sangha, which is kind of a sister group to the Dallas Meditation Center, where I hang out. Same school of Buddhism, same guys in charge.  So it would have made a lot of sense to go, except the cheapest accommodations they had available were still too expensive for our budget.  I jist ain't got that kind of money for a weekend.  (And if I did, I'd be saving it up for a new mattress, which I desperately need.)  There's another one in April, which is cheaper, but still too expensive. Life is expensive, you know.

So, last Saturday I hauled myself over to the local Zen center, another Buddhist group in the Dallas environs, for a daylong retreat. It was better than nothing. (It was also cheaper.  A mere $35, and for that you get tea and crackers, too.)  Now, there's meditation in the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition, which is what I do, and then there's Zen, which is a whole nother thing.  A Zen retreat basically involves a whole lot of sitting, not a whole lot of anything else, and it's all very formal.  No stars. No grasshoppers.  You sit facing the wall instead of facing other people; people bow at you; you do certain stuff when the bell rings, etc.  Which, again, is great, unless you're like me and you have A. very little patience for formality and B. no clue what to do when the bell rings about half the time.  Or maybe more than half the time.

Now, I knew what I was getting into.  I've been there before.  But, that was an hour and a half long regular session, not a daylong retreat.  I also knew what I was bringing with me, which is, a right hip that gets very cranky sometimes, especially when you want to sit on it for what seems like an inordinate length of time.  So, being a smart person, I asked for a chair.  Yes, you can meditate in a chair.  It means you're not touching the Earth like all the cool kids, but you can do it.  The trick is not to rest on the back of the chair, and just kind of sit forward with your spine straight but not rigid and incline yourself not exactly forward but not exactly backward, either, while avoiding being straight up and down.  Yeah, it's kind of like flying a helicopter.  Not that I've ever flown a helicopter, but I don't imagine you just sort of wing over to where you want to be and press the "hover" button.

So anyway.  I was in this chair, and I was meditating, and everything was going more or less well, and then the teacher showed up.  The teacher is a pretty cool dude.  I think he's a comparative religion professor someplace besides being a Zen master, and professors of comparative religion (and Zen masters) tend to be rather even tempered and sanguine about this whole what's-my-place-in-the-universe thing.  I've only met him like once three years ago, but he remembered meeting me and I, remarkably, remembered what he'd said to me last time, which made him very happy.  (I imagine most professors of comparative religion would be overjoyed if they ran into a student who still remembered the basic plot of the Bhagavad Gita.)  So that went well, and we broke for lunch, and that went well, and honestly, I was doing fine until time for the tea ceremony.

I hope y'all have actually been to a Japanese tea ceremony, because I don't know if I can possibly describe what it's like. Let's just say, like all things Japanese, that the presentation of the thing matters as much or more as the actual substance.  You know how when you go to a Japanese restaurant, the food is very artfully designed and served on attractive little plates with contrasting colors and stuff?  Yeah, well, they do that with everything. Not to mention tea.  Well, especially tea.  Tea is very important. How important is it?  Well, it's important enough that I scooted out of my chair and got down on the floor, with the cool kids, so that we'd all be sitting at the same height and the tea servers wouldn't have to bend at a different angle to offer me a cup.  Because that wouldn't look right. 

Unfortunately, scooting down onto the floor was a mistake.  My cranky hip was already cranky, in spite of the chair, and being on the floor did not make it any happier. There's something about leaning outward at that angle that it just really doesn't like after a while.  So we meditated for half an hour, and then the teacher said a few words, and then the tea ceremony started, and by this point my cranky hip is making it really obvious that I'd better do something, like immediately, if I want to be able to limp down the stairs to go home.  So what did I do?  I straightened my right leg.  Rolled my toes to the inside.  Rolled my toes to the outside.  Then tucked the leg back in, figuring it would be good for another ten minutes.  Maybe.  Possibly.

And the second I saw the expressions on the faces of the people across from me, I could just tell I'd committed some kind of horrible faux pas.  Which, in a Japanese setting, is ridiculously easy to do.  And it had to be during the tea ceremony.  Of course.

So, being the brave person that I am, I snuck out the back door an hour and a half early, which was the second I had a chance and before anybody could talk to me.  Eesh.  Maybe if I don't show up back there for like thirty days or something, everyone will have forgotten all about it.  Or maybe it'll become one of those apocryphal fairy tales people use to scare hell out of children; "And that, young grasshopper, is why we don't straighten our right legs during the tea ceremony."

(Like how I came full circle on the grasshopper thing?)

Well, anyway, how embarrassing.  But I got my retreat, sort of.  Somebody just please remind me that the next time I go back there, I'm not to get out of the chair for anything. Yea verily, even tea.  Unless, of course, that would be another horrible faux pas.  Which is possible.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

So This Happened:

So this happened:  On our way home from a craft thing at a friend's house, Joan and I stopped at an Indian restaurant in Richardson to have an early Valentine's dinner.  As often happens, about six more parties followed us in (we draw crowds wherever we go, what can I say).  One of the parties was seated right behind us; a couple, evidently from around town, and some friends from out of town (they didn't have Texas accents; if I had to guess I'd say South Africa).  Anyway, we'd just put in our order when the guy of the couple started opining, loud and long, about transgender people and "men using the women's room".  I distinctly heard him say, "I feel like a woman today, I think I'll use the ladies' room."  Among other things, using some words I haven't heard in better than 20 years. Meanwhile, we got increasingly uncomfortable.  No, neither one of us is transgender (though I wouldn't tell you if I was, so munch on that), but we know people that are and, well, I'm just not happy about people dissing other people in public.  In general.  And in particular.  Are you?

Anyway, Joan leaned across the table and said, "Let's go."  And I said, "We just put in our order."  So she flagged down the waiter and asked him if he could box up our order to go.  And then Mr. Opinionated said something else--I actually didn't hear it, or didn't understand what I did hear, and Joan said, "Let's go. Now."  And we did.

We left a nice note for the manager, letting him know it wasn't his fault, and some money for the appetizer that had already come.  And on our way out the door, Joan leaned over and announced to the table, "Thank you for ruining our dinner."

Lemmee back up and say that again.  Joan leaned over and announced to the table, "Thank you for ruining our dinner."  

I mean.  I just.  Wow.  Those of you who don't know Joan, she is a quiet and nonconfrontational type of person.  She has a temper (who doesn't?) but it doesn't come out very often.  So she must have been pretty pissed.  I was just really uncomfortable and wanting to leave because I was listening to a person who plainly understands nothing of what he speaks and has to say it loudly, but it wouldn't have occurred to me to actually confront the table.  I mean that was ballsy.  Oops, I just referred to Joan with the wrong genitalia.  My bad.  You see how complicated this sort of thing can get?

A couple of minutes later, as we were getting into the car and driving away, I said, "I've never walked out on a check before.  Are we going to jail?"  Joan said, "Relax.  I left some money."  So I relaxed.  A little.  But if you guys hear anything about the Richardson police looking for two fat ladies who walked out of a restaurant Sunday night, I'd appreciate it if you'd pretend you don't know us.

This ends happily, sort of.  We drove over to Afrah, my favorite restaurant, which not only serves great Lebanese food, but is really warm and friendly and welcomes everybody.  We got a great meal and if anybody was talking loudly about transgender persons, they were doing it in Arabic so I didn't understand them.  (I can say a few things in Arabic.  Hello, how are you, he'll be out in a minute.  I thought I was going to get a job with the Holy Land Foundation Defense Fund there for a while, so I learned a little Arabic just in case.  I've forgotten most of it, though.)

So I guess the moral of this story is, you never know who might be seated next to you in a restaurant. So don't spew your prejudices about, loudly, to a room where you don't know who might be hearing them.  Or that people will be assholes sometimes.  But I think the real moral is, don't ever, ever piss off Joan.  She can be fierce when roused.  I'm going to take her a nice iced coffee now.  Cheers.