selective memories


-- चार हजार एक सौ चालीस-नौ --

Shobhit, Ivan and I all watched the season finale of Game of Thrones last night. We always wait until midweek after the episode airs, so that we can all watch together. This is more for Ivan than anyone else; he's worked Sunday evenings the entire time this seven-episode season has run, and usually Monday evenings too, and Shobhit doesn't want to share login information with anyone. Ivan doesn't have his own HBO Go subscription and doesn't tend to try navigating the many remote controls and the Apple TV box on our TV. I suspect he likes having company while watching anyway; for a while now he has suggested he and I watch something -- a show, movie, whatever -- on days he and I are home together.

I've done a pretty good job of avoiding spoilers on the two to three days after the episode airs each week. Here's another one of the many ways Shobhit and Gabriel are similar regardless of their contempt for one another: neither of them give a shit about spoilers. I'm pretty sure Gabriel once told me he had a habit of reading the final page of books long before getting to the end in his reading; he's more interested in how the ending is reached than being surprised by what the ending is. Shobhit doesn't even think of it in those terms; he just doesn't think it's a big deal to be told how things end or about major plot twists they occur. I, on the other hand, am amongst the many who prefer that all the information be new as I watch (or read).

The last couple of weeks, during the couple of days he has wait to watch the week's episode, Shobhit has read things online that revealed what happens in the episode. He did that this week, and he told me beforehand, "It's weird." I forgot to ask him what exactly he thought was weird when this episode ended, because I'm not sure what he was talking about.

Gabriel was a holdout for a long time, resisting the very idea of watching Game of Thrones. I've been watching since August 2013, at which time I would either watch some of them with Shobhit in West Hollywood or actually mail them to him with the packets of mail I would send him. At the time, only seasons 1 and 2 were available on DVD, but season 3 had finished airing the previous June -- the massive amount of online talk about the "Red Wedding" was what made me decide then to give it a chance. And I loved it from the beginning; I got season 3 as soon as it was available, and couldn't believe how shocked I still was by the Red Wedding even though I knew some shocking massacre was coming -- I just didn't know who it would involve.

After that, unable to keep waiting for DVD releases, I subscribed to HBO Go, for the sole purpose of being able to watch Game of Thrones while it aired.

I was at Gabriel's place to watch the series finale of Breaking Bad in September 2013 when Game of Thrones came up, and I told him how much better it is than he, or anyone, might expect. I'll never forget him asking, "Are there dragons?" And I said, with a resigned tone knowing it would seem like a deal breaker to him, "Yes." And he wasn't interested in any fantasy-type show with dragons.

But! Not long after that, it apparently occurred to him that Game of Thrones could maybe be one of the few shows he and Kornelija could enjoy watching together -- their television tastes wildly diverging otherwise. This idea was moderately successful for a while as far as that intent went, I think, but more specifically, once Gabriel started the show, he was all in, in a way I could never have seen coming: he loved the detailed backstories of each of the different houses and their complicated and interwoven histories. He even came to memorize each house's banner, something I still haven't done. I think that this show exceeding his expectations, when it comes to its depth and intricacy of plot, is an understatement.

I, on the other hand, have never had the memory capacity to keep up with the story on that level. I was frustrated from the very first season by the countless characters, and had to find an online chart that showed who each character was an how they related to each other. After seven seasons and five years of watching the show, I barely can keep them all straight even now. I've been thinking about starting the show all over again in the lead-up to the final season, which the consensus seems to be won't actually air probably until 2019. There is no question that I would pick up on a lot I totally missed otherwise because I spent so much time just being confused by who was who the first time around.

Even now, there are two podcasts I listen to, The Watch (formerly Hollywood Prospectus, which Gabriel long ago recommended to me), and A Cast of Kings (which I learned of through Tommy), which are very helpful in listening to the hosts discuss Game of Thrones just after each episode airs -- it always helps clarify a lot for me, and get a sense of what TV critics think worked and didn't work and whether I agree. Listening to them -- and this is much more the case with A Cast of Kings than with The Watch -- also helps keep the story more vividly in my memory, as my memory has generally been a broadly complicated issue my whole life.

It could be argued, though, that these podcasts needlessly complicate the experience for me -- as generally speaking, I watch this spectacular show just to be entertained and not to pick it apart. I'm not nearly as nitpicky about it as a lot of fans are, although I still stand by my assertion that resurrecting Jon Snow reversed the show's superb integrity of storytelling that existed until that point. Just as with superheroes, when characters can just be brought back to life, there are no longer any real stakes and not nearly as much with which to get emotionally invested. I got over this soon enough, though, and in the end am glad the character remains -- but only selfishly. I loved many of the other characters that wound up dead too. And the major character who died in this week's season finale, honestly, although I actually really enjoyed the scene, felt like a bit of a bone being thrown to the show's early reputation of trying to make it clear that no character is truly safe on this show.

A lot has been said about season seven taking a hard left turn into fan service, and I rather agree with the sentiment: we've narrowed down to a few major players, and after several seasons featuring truly shocking turns of events, we can pretty much expect them to last to the end, and if any of them die, it'll be in the climactic episodes that end the series, at which point there is little to no shock value left to be had. The impact of the likes of Ned Stark's death, or the Red Wedding, or even Jaime Lannister's hand being chopped off -- that's long gone. The show, while still riveting, has transformed from a rivetingly unpredictable drama to a blockbuster special effects extravaganza. The fan metaphor discussed on A Cast of Kings is rather perfect, I think: the show used to be steak, and now it's popcorn.

As always, however, I must reserve judgment of the series on the whole until the final season is done. Even though season seven has suddenly changed a bunch of the rules the show followed until now, the final six episodes could still solidify it as one of the best shows ever produced. I still think it's the best show currently in production.

-- चार हजार एक सौ चालीस-नौ --


-- चार हजार एक सौ चालीस-नौ --

Last night, after going back and forth in my mind for days as to whether to make any donations to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts when I already make monthly donations to both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, I donated $10 to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. It's a challenge to decide which organization is truly effective for making donations; the Red Cross, for instance, is apparently a particularly bad choice unless you donate blood instead of money. I can't donate blood, as it's still regressively considered unsafe only because I'm gay. I don't particularly want to donate to any religious charities either. The place I did make a donation was found via one of the links in that Stranger article about the Red Cross.

My donation was triggered by one of Shobhit's most vile behaviors, something I truly cannot stand: when a disaster hits a conservative state, he literally claps his hands, says things like "Yay!" out loud, and openly states that the citizens of conservative states -- where, hello, plenty of liberals actually live, and I would never say even all conservatives deserve this anyway -- deserve to die. It's the kind of thing that makes me feel like I am compromising my own values by staying with him. I'm frankly tired of his heartlessness and inhumanity and I really can't take it anymore.

To be clear: I know that at his core Shobhit is a good person. On an individual basis, he'll be there to help a neighbor or friend he sees in need. But that's also part of the problem, something that makes it easy to lump him, a rather liberal person, in with the very conservatives he so despises: a willful refusal to see the forest for the trees. On a macro level, he's convinced himself that it's just pragmatic thinking to say that wiping out large swaths of humanity is simply good for the planet. It doesn't matter to him that we actually have the capability to, for instance, feed even all the people on this already massively overpopulated planet -- because its people are too self-serving to make that capability a reality. I don't see how that kind of thinking is constructive for anyone.

This is a fundamental difference between him and me. For him, I am his world, and all other people, and even their very lives, are secondary. I freely admit to taking advantage of being in this position. For me, although Shobhit remains the most important person in my life, he isn't my entire world -- he's the biggest part of a world I exist in, in which others are also deserving of love and respect and attention.

So, when we were about to start doing the New York Times crossword for the first time in several days, I told him I made that donation -- and that I was going to make another $10 donation every time I hear him say that all Texans deserve to die. He literally laughed this off, saying that then he'll just keep saying it until I deplete all my money, but he needs to know how serious I am. This is a tactic Dan Savage has long suggested for dealing with whacko Trump supporting family members: if you keep donating to causes they hate as long as they keep on with their preposterous FOX News talking points, soon enough they will shut up. As applied to what I am doing, it's not about donating to a cause he hates -- but about something he cares much more about: depleting my savings. More than anything with him, money talks.

He can keep thinking whatever vile, vindictive, inhumane, disgustingly heartless thoughts he wants. But I'm done listening to him verbalize them, unless doing so results in monetary support of the very people who are the subject of his completely misplaced hatred.

I actually have friends with family -- and a few family members of my own, come to think of it -- who live in Texas, for fuck's sake. A coworker has parents who live in Rockport, Texas, and yesterday she showed us a video one of their neighbors took of their house, which had been in the direct path of Hurricane Harvey. It tore the entire side of their house off, like the lid of a can. It now looks like a doll house, with one exterior wall completely missing. I'm supposed to sit here and think they deserved this? Should I tell my coworker that? "Well, your parents probably voted for Trump, so that's what they get!" Are you fucking kidding me?

No. Just . . . no.

We're supposed to be better than our current president, who visited the area without seeing a single actual flood victim, and instead bragged about his crowd size -- not act like even worse people.

-- चार हजार एक सौ चालीस-नौ --

In other disturbing news, I got a surprise private message on Facebook Messenger last night from Darcy, the longtime close friend of my mother's who was also mother to two of the three boys I lived with for two years as a child, all four of us sexually molested by the man who was her then-stepfather, Jim Duffy. She wrote:

I was wondering if you would be willing to have a conversation with me some time about the Duffy's. You don't have to and I don't want to cross a comfort boundary. Just let me know either way

So much time has gone by that this doesn’t come up that often anymore, and I haven't even talked to Darcy, save for very occasional Facebook messages, for years. I don't even know when Mom last talked to her, or even how much contact they have had particularly since Mom had her stroke in 2014. Darcy is ten years older than her, but they were great friends when we lived with Jim and Jan (Jan being Darcy's mother) in Olympia between 1983 and 1985.

They were also completely unaware of what Jim was doing to us boys, all of us living in the same room. He went much further sexually with the other boys, as I was the oldest and had a better understanding of what was absolutely not okay, but Jim was an expert at navigating what could easily be seen by an eight-year-old as a gray area: he used to wash me in the bathtub every day, for instance. I rationalized it, thinking, you're supposed to wash that. (Side note: Jan was emotionally manipulative and abusive to such an extreme that she fucked me up way more than anything Jim did. We’ve also all long been convinced she played an active part in luring children for him.)

Anyway. I was slightly taken aback by this, wondering why she was asking me this now. I was always very open about being a victim of molestation as a child, though -- very effectively conditioned not to be ashamed of it. I didn't even realize how wrong what Jim did was until I was the first person to say something, to my brother, who told my mom, who told Darcy, and so Darcy asked her kids and that's how she found out about what happened to them. I nearly had to testify against Jim in 1987 and was terrified of it; he did get convicted and was sentenced, at the time, to sixty days work release. Sometimes I wonder if his sentence would have been any harsher had I actually testified, not that it really matters now.

I wrote back: I would have no problem with that at all, except that there's honestly very little I remember at all anymore.

This is very much the truth. There are just a few key things I still remember -- Jim insisting I go to bed with my clothes on, for instance, after which I would always wake up in my underwear. It was an adult before I realized he got off on undressing me in my sleep; as a kid I never understood it, and I hated having to go to bed in my jeans. I even had a real issue with having to sleep in bed with pants on, I found it very much repellent, until well into young adulthood. I never woke up, though. I slept like a log as a child, although I did fear for many years that I might have repressed memories of something I might have woken up to. That never happened. In any case, there is very little beyond these few details I even remember anymore. This is such a bygone time in my life, such a truly distant memory, I rarely bother with them in any way. In spite of those horrible years, I actually am more likely to think back on happier memories when recalling my childhood now. It's just the way my mind works.

And then Darcy dropped this on me: Ok. Jim was recently seen at a public pool taking photos of young boys. I will fill you in more tomorrow.

Uh . . . Jesus. Okay. I'm almost disappointed to know Jim is even still alive. I wonder what relevance this has to me now, though? Amazingly, Darcy sent another message literally as I was just writing the above paragraphs about this.

I won't paste it all here; it was kind of long. Suffice it to say Darcy's foster daughter (a person I did not even know existed -- I was like, since when do you have another kid?) posted a warning to locals in the Tenino area that this man was seen there with his camera, and suggesting they keep their kids away from him. And this post, which has been shared over 700 times, has a stunning number of comments on it not only refusing to believe the allegation even though his conviction is public record, but are even saying Jim is being slandered. What the shit?

One of Darcy's kids even posted about being one of the victims. Darcy asked if I would post something too. I had very mixed feelings about this idea; I'm not sure what difference anything I say will make at this point. She said she totally understands if I don't want to. But, I decided to write this up and I did post it -- and, in this case, I will post it all:

So I’m not sure how much difference it will make given the willful ignorance I already see amongst many in this comment thread, but I was asked to share my own experience and so I will. This will make me the second of this man’s many victims to speak up here. The idea that anyone doesn’t believe this, especially given the public record, is baffling to me, but whatever.

I am one of the four children for whom Jim Duffy was convicted of molesting. I was touched inappropriately by him daily between 1983 and 1985, between my ages of 7 and 9. To my knowledge, this was his only conviction but it’s long been known that he molested many others. And although I know he went much further with the younger boys I shared a bedroom with for those two years, I can only speak to my own experience.

This man used to wash me in the bathtub. He took pictures of us all bathing. He used to insist I go to bed fully clothed, just so he could undress me in my sleep. I would go to bed with jeans on and, a very deep sleeper at the time, wake up in the morning in my underwear. I was at a borderline age where I knew for sure some things were unacceptable, and the things he did to me seemed like maybe they were okay at the time. I assumed then that my mother knew what he was doing and so it must be okay; neither was the case. I was the first of us four to say anything, after my mother moved my brother and me to Spokane – I told my brother, who knew well enough that this was wrong. He insisted I tell my mom, who then contacted the mother of two of the other boys, and the rest is not just history, but again: a matter of public record.

This was over thirty years ago. In the context of today, indeed, there’s nothing illegal about hanging around a pool with a camera. The legality is beside the point. It may very well be that the local police are powerless to do anything as long as he doesn’t actually touch any of those kids I am certain he’s leering at. All I can do is implore all reasonable people to be wary of this man, and to keep any and all children they care for far away from him.

And by the way: I am the only one of those original four boys who is not in any way related to him; I am not a family member, and my family just happened to live with them for two years. That arguably makes my position less complicated – perhaps not totally objective, given I am one of the victims, but maybe a little more objective, since I don’t have the kind of emotional investment resentful family members might have. I don’t think about all this that much anymore, as it’s been comparatively easy for me to leave it far behind in the distant past. I have had very little to no contact with anyone involved for many years. These are merely the facts of my own experience and this is too important not to speak up about.

Darcy was immediately very appreciative. She's apparently processing a lot of new information because when she went to locate the public records herself, which she did not know she had a right to see in the eighties, it revealed a lot of information she did not know. I feel pretty bad for her right now. Being the parent of a molested child -- in her case, children -- has to be uniquely painful. I guess family members who refuse to believe this are threatening her to such a degree that she removed Jim's full name from her post. I have zero qualms with naming him, and I'm in a much easier position, being unrelated to him, to do so.

-- चार हजार एक सौ चालीस-नौ --