Rejection Somewhere in Africa…

Hi guys, I still have to edit this and punch it up, but at least I have most of the story down.  I promised I’d post this Monday, regardless of condition, and I did.  The only thing is I can’t seem to format it for cell phone, unless your cell phone is the same size as a computer:( Thanks for reading!

Rejection in West Africa…or…Nobody Loves me

By Mary Mack

Part I:  What and Why

I never truly wanted to go to Africa in the first place.  I only went there for a boy.  Joey and I had already been long distance dating for a year or more anyway, so it really didn’t seem like a deal breaker when he decided to join the Peace Corps and move to Africa.  In fact, I encouraged him to do it.  God, does this sound stupid now.

“You’ve got to do it, or you’ll regret it,” I said. (Insert your own quiet crying here.)

Joey and I traveled and camped in so many off the beaten path places together, I knew he would do great in Ghana living in modest shelters and meeting the African people and teaching their children.  He did well.  He learned the language; he organized soccer teams; he ate with the hand your supposed to eat with; all that.  On his time off, he even organized and took part in a bike ride across Africa through hostile territories to raise awareness and prevent Guinea worms from hatching in the bowels of humans and starving the human from the inside.  A Guinea worm can be ingested as larvae when drinking from unclean water sources in parts of Africa.  The CDC describes the worms as being about 3 feet long when they decide to slowly exit the body from a burning blister on the surface of the skin, but they can grow much longer.  Joey had stories of Guinea Worms around 15 feet long that had grown in people for years.  The only way to get rid of them—and this is stated on cdc.gov—is to encourage them to come out.  You encourage them to come out on their own by putting some fresh water on the blister, and by letting the worm wrap itself around a stick or pencil as they exit the body.  Exiting the body can take days or weeks depending on how long the worm is, and how encouraged he is feeling.

Joey showed the locals how to filter their water.  He slept as a guest in the mud huts of the people, some of whom had had guinea worms and survived the bacterial infection that can happen as they exit the wound.

That’s something you’d never get the opportunity to do in America!  I was proud of him, and was thankful he raised my own awareness of Guinea worms, even back here in the U.S. where most people will never get one.  I had never heard of them, in fact, and now as I tried to figure out how to get to Africa for a visit, I had nightmares of contracting a twenty-foot guinea worm most nights, though I was never known for worrying at the time.  Even now fourteen years after my trip to Africa, I wonder if there’s a long worm that’s been cohabitating with me, causing me to make bad choices, sleep poorly, and sometimes hoard up chewed food in my cheeks forgetting to swallow.  I do all these things way more than someone without a worm should.

 

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In 2002, despite the Guinea worm nightmares, I was, in general, a care-free, politically clueless, medication-free, and sound-sleeping young woman.  I had just gotten my first full-time band and music teaching gig out of college near Nashville, Tennessee, where all my music major buddies from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh had moved.  I moved down to see what was so good about it.  Nashville used to be a great place.  Joey, also a friend from UW-Oshkosh though we wouldn’t start dating till after school, would come to visit me in Nashville often.

He left for Africa mid-summer 2001 to teach science in a remote village sometimes using a remote language called Twi, a language he asked me several times to teach myself, but I didn’t do it.  I had three jobs, two on top of my teaching gig.  His village was in the northern part of Ghana, but I do not remember the name of it.  I didn’t do any of the work I was supposed to.  I do know his village was smaller than the Northern Wisconsin town I grew up in, and my town only had a population of 500.

When I would go to the post offices around Nashville to mail him a letter or one of very few packages I would send while he was away, every southern postal worker I’d encounter assumed I was mailing packages to my beau in the military, especially since it was after the 9/11 U.S. soldier deployments.

“Bless you both.  Tell him thank you so much for his service,” they’d say in a buttery, proper Tennessee accent that makes you feel like you are supporting a worthy and necessary cause even if you aren’t.  The Tennessee patriotism makes you feel like you matter.  I didn’t want to ruin their romantic assumptions by telling them he was probably exactly opposite of what their yellow-ribbon beliefs caused them to imagine.  Honestly, it was really dangerous to organize a bike ride through remote Africa, especially through Guinea worm infested mud puddles should some accidentally splash up into your mouth, but they wouldn’t understand.  Not with that accent they wouldn’t.

Between the postal workers believing I was dating the bravest of men, and Joey’s mom sending me copies of the photos Joey had sent her to develop, accompanied by greeting cards with messages like “only two years left,” I figured I had better go visit Joey before there was no more space left on my credit cards.   That would be soon, and then I wouldn’t be able to travel anymore.  I was already in debt from college loans, and from drinking.  I had put more than two years of steady drinking on a few credit cards, and was at least $20,000 in the hole just for that.  There was some eating, but it was mostly drinking.  I was a musician, and a teacher after all.

It was I that had to do the flying.  We were both poor, but Joey was getting paid in Ghanaian currency: Cedi.  So he was really poor.  One dollar Ghanaian was only ten cents, if that, in the United States at the time.  Ghanaian teachers did not get paid well to start with, and Joey got paid even less, because it was considered a stipend to his volunteer program.  I never even considered I could have tried to buy him a flight home, instead of going there myself, but I had more time off than he did to do the actual flying, so this is how it had to be.  I owed it to him.  Joey had always been so kind to me, and I had only made one mix tape for him so far using the CD collection he allowed me to keep at my apartment to my great enjoyment.  He must be really lonely in Africa, I lamented.  If I had to put more debt on a credit card, then that’s what I had to do.  It was my patriotic duty.

PART II:  Priceline and Smuggling

I thought bidding on Priceline.com was the only way, I’d get to visit Joey, because the standard cost of a ticket over the phone with the one or two airlines that flew to Ghana, was $2000, $1500 more expensive than any car I’d ever owned.  Priceline was a newish thing back then.  So was the internet for that matter.  Priceline was the only thing I really made use of online, because it’s how Joey and I would visit each other in our respective cities even before he changed continents.  You could bid on flights at ridiculously low prices and get accepted for those flights most times.  It’s way tougher to put in a low, winning bid now in 2016.  Priceline’s business model was similar to the cheap salsa at Trader Joe’s.  You’d buy the cheap salsa once, and then you gradually experiment with more and more expensive groceries each trip.

At my teaching job, I spent most of my prep period, the daily hour you are supposed to use to  prepare lessons for your sweet, sweet students because you are so Goddamn into teaching—using the school’s big, beige, boxy computer looking up places you could go on Priceline.  I didn’t own my own computer, or have the internet yet.  I couldn’t afford it.

The internet wasn’t exactly instantaneous, so it took some patience and commitment to do this.  Looking up flights myself made me feel liberated.  Before internet was invented, I’d have to call back home to Wanda and her daughter Tammy, the travel agency ladies at Sun, Travel, & Tan, who had a desk and a tanning booth in the back of Wayne’s IGA, our town’s only grocery store back home.

I typed in a bid for $400, and it froze up the computer.  I turned the computer off and on, and entered $450 in the bid box and provided my initials below, claiming responsibility for the bid.  I pushed “enter,” and the computer shut off by itself.  I turned the computer on and off and on several more times after more attempts at slightly higher bids.  My bids were jamming up the school’s phone and internet lines.  I called Priceline.  It turned out Africa wasn’t a Priceline destination yet in 2002, but I was still able to type in ACCRA, GHANA in the airport space for some reason.  I guess they were looking ahead to when Accra, Ghana might be a hot spring break destination, even though no airlines were currently on board with that idea, and neither was Ghana.  I decided I could at least try to get to Europe.  Europe was so close to Africa, people were probably zooming in and out of the jungle at affordable prices all the time.  Maybe there was even a bus you could take.  On a whim, I entered in a 300 dollar bid for a roundtrip flight to Amsterdam, and I accidentally got it.

“I guess I’m going to Africa, I thought,” even though I still didn’t have a real method to get there, and suddenly remembered I hadn’t discussed it with Joey ever.  Things were always left pretty vague when he left, but my matchmaker roommate, Jennie, started training as a frame maker and was constantly matting and framing images of Joey and me, and hanging them around our apartment, her crowning achievement being a hot pink, heart shaped matte around a blown up, awkward snap shot of Joey and me.  Jennie did not have a boyfriend of her own at the time. She even convinced me to buy a used, pit-stained wedding dress from one of the garage sales in our Nashville neighborhood, because it was only $20.  We had been day drinking, so when I tried the cream-colored dress on over my clothes in the yard of the garage sale and it only drooped in a few spots, I thought, “Yeah, it’s stupid not to buy this. I can grow into it.”  With all this behavioral reinforcement— in my mind—I would end up marrying Joey, although Joey was unaware of the photo’s and the wedding dress.  I’m really creeped out thinking about it myself, years later.

At any rate, I now had in my possession a United Airlines flight to Amsterdam.  I just needed the next leg of the trip going south.  Amsterdam was a KLM hub, and KLM was the airline that Joey had used to get over to the peace corps in the first place.  I called KLM’s partner, Northwest Airlines to book the flight from Amsterdam to Ghana, and I ended up paying about $1400 dollars round trip, not too much of a savings if you figured in the chance that one of the flights from two different airlines on two separate, non-refundable, roundtrip tickets could be late, causing me to miss the next flight on a different airline, voiding my ticket.

I wrote Joey a letter and attempted a phone call to let him know I would be coming.  I had a calling card I could use to leave a message at a phone that sometimes worked at his school, if there were anyone there to answer it.  It was a community phone, and very unreliable.  This would be the first time I’d try calling.  I gave it a shot once a day for a few days, and finally a boy answered.  I was fortunate the kid knew pretty good English, so I described Joey to him.  He called him Mr. Joey, because Joey turned out to be one of his teachers.  I asked if he could tell Mr. Joey to call me, because I would be visiting. Nothing came out very clear, and the connection was very staticky.  I didn’t expect Joey to ever get the message.  I’d have to rely on the letter, even though all mail was read and sometimes lost once it got to Ghana’s post offices.  I still wasn’t worried.

The next day, I got a phone call with Joey on the other end.  The student had given him the wrong name, but he figured it was either me or his parents.  “You’re visiting?”   He sounded extremely surprised.

“Yeah, I just did it,” I continued.  “You wrote you had a little school vacation coming,”  and then I heard my words a few seconds after I said them, echoing back through the land line telephone on this inter-continental phone call.  He had that echo on his end, too.  It was extremely annoying and confusing, and difficult to communicate.  Letters were better.  Plus the African phone was really for emergencies.  My visit to Africa wasn’t an emergency.  It would be more like a party.  I gave him my dates, and we would settle everything by letter.  Before he hung up, he remembered to add, “Oh and make sure to study the tribal language on those sheets I sent you, and pack really modest clothing so your ankles don’t show.”

“Isn’t it like 110 degrees with 100% humidity,”  I asked.

“Yeah, but they already don’t trust us because we’re white, so you have to try to fit in.”

A few weeks later, close to when I would be departing, I received a letter from Joey, imploring me to bring certain items, including more mix tapes since I promised I’d make them and hadn’t.  The second thing he asked for was to see if I could have anyone donate about a dozen athletic shorts for the school’s new soccer team.  The students had to play in hot weather in their only pairs of starched school uniform pants.  The third thing he asked me to bring across the ocean and through customs were fireworks.  It would be okay to leave out some of the shorts if that was the only way I could fit the fireworks.  He wrote about how he had tried to describe what fireworks were to his Ghanaian students, but they just couldn’t imagine it.  There was  no T.V. and no internet to show examples.

Joey hadn’t been in the country for 9/11, and wasn’t aware of the new rules for flying, although I don’t remember a time prior to 9/11 when they ever encouraged bringing fireworks aboard the plane.  Obviously, this would be a checked luggage situation, and I’d have to plan a trip up to Nervous Charlie’s, a real fireworks superstore north of Nashville. (It’s also a gas station.)  There, I’d use my professional knowledge as someone who’d previously worked at fireworks stands in Wisconsin, to invest in the best pyrotechnics my credit card would allow, with which I would fly post 9/11 even though security had recently confiscated a plastic butter knife from my bag.  If you hadn’t flown immediately after 9/11, you should know the TSA wasn’t formed the next day, so some airports made their own rules guesstimating government advisories.  Some were so strict, not only did they take away plastic knives, but the airport vendors switched to sporks, so no one could kill you with what would take at least 3,000 consecutive stabs from a sturdy, plastic fork.  Despite this, I remembered how much I loved fireworks as a kid, and thought, “Okay, if I do one good thing in my life, if I just fight for one good thing, it will be for these hungry African children to witness a real American (made in China or Mexico) fireworks display.  That sounds like something I’m willing to fight for.”

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PART III:  Blast Off

The school year had just ended on May 31st.  My flight was scheduled for June 7th.  I worked on final grades, attempting to enter them into a brand new online report card program, which crashed the giant computer almost as many times as my laughably low Priceline bids had.  I didn’t care.  I was just biding my time until five business days after the school-year ended, when the lost and found would become fair game to scavengers like me.

Exactly five days after school ended, at 3:30 p.m., the official end of a school business day, I gleaned at least twelve pairs of baggy, junior high, gangster style basketball shorts from the lost and found, plenty for a start up kids’ soccer team in Africa.  I even took all the Gap t-shirts with the headmaster’s permission.  Mr. Hovenden, the headmaster at the school I worked for, had been in the very first Peace Corps started by President Kennedy in 1960, so although he didn’t appreciate my messy desk or my tardiness, he did approve of the Peace Corps and of friendship with other countries and of my donating these clothes to underprivileged children.  Once, I had tried to make conversation with him in his office, and asked about a gorgeous hand-carved wooden stool next to his desk.

“That’s from my time in Kenya,” Mr. Hovenden replied, and he went somewhere with half his brain.

“Oh, Kenya’s in West Africa, right?”  I had no idea.  I hadn’t looked at a map of Africa, since I was in sixth grade, for Africa flashcards week in Mr. Helland’s class.

“No,” I summoned Mr. Hovenden back from a magic memory by guessing the exact wrong side of the continent for Kenya’s location.  He could not form words, and stared at me.  I backed casually out of his office.

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Just because I didn’t know where West Africa was, didn’t mean I hadn’t been enjoying the West African rhythms CD from the music room’s World Mix collection.  I had dreams of becoming an ethnomusicologist someday when I was done teaching, so I    was aware of the rich musical traditions of West Africa.  Therefore, on the sixth day after the school-year ended, still on a donation high from the athletic shorts harvest, I grabbed a bunch of formerly student-owned, abandoned, plastic, and high pitched recorders and their manuals from my classroom’s official “abandoned recorders pile.”   These student model, almost in-pitch, transverse flutes could only add to the rich musical heritage of Ghana.  Not to mention, it would save a young person months of having to carve their own flute from one of the time-honored, African hard wood trees.  These recorders were plastic and basically maintenance free:  Someone could even toot on one right in the ocean or in a heavy tropical storm!  Sure, they sounded like shit, but I was bringing the quality and convenience of American life to the starving African children!

Into my giant, trail backpack, I packed a large and disrespectful number of molded-plastic instruments, which Joey hadn’t even asked for.  (He would be so surprised!) Then, I used the lost and found athletic wear shorts and T’s to wrap and pack the only fireworks I could afford to buy at Nervous Charlie’s, a disappointing, fireworks display even by first-timer, African standards.  I stuffed in some gluten-free instant oatmeal packets, and some lightweight clothes for myself including a swimsuit in addition to one more mix tape, some bug spray, sun screen, contact solution, fake Oakley knock-offs, and extra rubber-bands and wax for my adult braces.  Like I said before, my visit to Africa was going to be a real party.  I packed all these things and had no room for anything else, especially not any suitcase-hogging, modest Amish-style clothing.  The 7th of June came and at 4 a.m., my sweet roommate Jennie brought me to the Nashville airport.  I bought a king size bag of M&M’s to tie me over on my long and confusing, twenty-plus hours of assorted flights into Africa.

In his letter, Joey said he would meet me at the gate at the airport.  That means something different than at the major U.S. airports.  What he meant, and what I learned deplaning, was that he would meet me at the actual gate of an actual chain link fence that surrounded Accra’s airport.  All the people funneled out through that gate, but you could get out faster if you gave someone posing as an official escort some money.  You basically were skipping customs with a bribe, but I didn’t know that at the time.  I thought I was tipping a nice airport employee.  I didn’t have any luggage for customs anyway, because the airline lost it.  They told me to come back tomorrow.

“Just tell someone at the gate, you need your luggage.”  That was how security worked there, but that would be tomorrow.   My escort took me to the gate, and I milled around just outside it, until Joey appeared,  a couple moments later.  He looked exhausted and sweaty.  It was a difficult trip to get to the airport four hours south of his village by random cars and buses on mud roads with so many ruts in them, that sometimes travel could only creep and vehicles would get stuck and clog up the road, making it a 10 hour trip.  Many times, because of the huge, dried mud ruts, long long detours had to be taken.  Joey was lucky.  He set out that morning and arrived by the night.  (I hope people are realizing this was before anyone had a cell phone, and there was no land line in this situation to use.  We just had the plans we made in a letter, and it worked weeks later.  People were so much more reliable before cell phones.)

We only greeted each other we a small hug, as we were both exhausted, and also confused by airport operations.  The plan was to get a cheap hotel close to the airport, so I could make as many walking trips back to the airport as necessary to check for my luggage.  In Africa, a cheap hotel was different than a cheap hotel in the states, but no big deal for an adventurer like me—no big deal until after we got into the hotel room and I watched Joey remove one of his shoes to smash a giant, half-man, half-cockroach looking insect that was crawling on the wall.

“I think those are the one that bite,” he said.

We both crawled onto the only bed in the room.  No bug could keep me awake.  “It’s too bad I can only be here a week what with how expensive it was and how long it took to get here,” I uttered.

Joey, who had been unusually quiet, replied, “I think we should just be friends.”

I didn’t explode, because I didn’t believe him.  How would anyone ever have the nerve to break up with someone who just flew to Africa to see him?  I decided to let him sleep on that decision.

“We still get to go see stuff, though, right?”   If he was serious, I could not let the time and money allotted for this trip to go to waste, and there was no way, I could have survived alone in Africa then.  I hadn’t studied any of the sheets.  I didn’t have any maps, or money, and I was allergic to wheat, the thing from which most everything there was made.

“I guess.  I mean if you still want to,” he said, in the limpest tone of voice he’d ever used.

Christ.  What a party this turned out to be.  Now I had to pretend I went to Africa, just because I wanted to go to Africa.  To reiterate, I never wanted to go to Africa.

I dug in my purse, ate a few peanut m&m’s left over from the Nashville airport, and went to sleep.

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Part IV:  Morning and luggage come.

When morning came, there was not much for me to do to get ready for the day, besides just stand up.  I didn’t have any of my belongings with me yet, to primp for my ex-boyfriend who laid on the bed beside me.  Trying to be positive, I told myself Joey and I were just friends in college in Wisconsin, and so we could just be friends and still get along here in West Africa.  What a load of shit, more like a constant I.V. drip of shit, I had to feed myself in order to make it through this trip. It’s not like I could have afforded a new ticket back home that day.  I had to stick it out.  I hadn’t slept well enough to be able to ask why he wanted to break up with me, and I kind of thought that maybe if I didn’t say anything, maybe he’d just forget he broke up with me.  Even if it were true, he could not be so cruel as to make me fend for myself in a foreign country I didn’t understand with no real communication outlets for eight days.  Neither of us said anything about it, and we set out on foot for the airport.

“You think they’re going to search my bag, especially since it seems kind of suspicious coming in all on it’s own now,” I asked Joey.

“Yeah, they search all the bags and they sometimes keep stuff for themselves.  You don’t have fruit do you?  That’s illegal.”

“Maybe like a couple bananas, but mostly it’s just all those kids’ clothes for your soccer team, and the fireworks, is all.”

“You actually brought that stuff?  Even the fireworks?”

“You asked me to.”

“Fuck.  I heard you’re not supposed to pack fireworks now.  I hope they don’t arrest you or take you for questioning.  They make up their own rules.  We could not claim it and go.”

“All my other stuff I need is in there,” I said.  You can’t go to Africa without sunscreen, right?  I was extremely nervous, but I was always good at getting out of bad situations before this.  I have innocent and confused-looking eyes.

After several stomach-acid-inducing trips back to the airport to check for my bag, I spotted it on a shelf behind men who were rifling through many other bags.  This must be customs, I thought.  I sighed, considering I might not be coming out of here.  I was broken up with anyway.   If they held me indefinitely at airport jail, at least I wouldn’t have to pretend I was having fun the whole time.

I stepped into the short rifling-through-the-luggage line.  My palms were already sweaty, because it was so hot outside, but now the perspiration turned cold when I thought about the armed man finding the fireworks and my banana.  I pointed at my big green bag on the shelf, and the guard laid it out on the table.  He unzipped it and fluffed it up a little.  To my good luck, my guard was more of a social butterfly than a guard.  He noticed all the shorts in my huge hiking pack, and didn’t look any farther, except to question what was in the Quaker instant oatmeal pouches I had brought.  I told him it was food for me, since I had allergies.  He explained they had excellent food in Africa and made recommendations of what to try while I was there.  He then asked me why I looked so fat in my passport and why was I now skinnier.  I pointed to and explained my adult braces, and that it was hard to snack because food got stuck in there.  He looked very closely in my mouth.

“Why you have deese,” he asked assertively.

“Oh, God.  This is it.  This is how it happens,”  I panicked.  I was so close.  I made it through the bag search, but now I’d be thrown in African jail for having braces, which means you live the rest of your life in African jail, and you never get your braces off.  They can do whatever they want in Africa.  Everything is corrupt.  I learned that almost immediately.  Every mistake you make in Africa always ends with you living in Africa the rest of your life, definitely contracting at least one Guinea worm.

I didn’t know how to explain cosmetic orthodontics to the simply clad, armed guard.  How was I to explain that my teeth needed to be prettier to a person so culturally removed from myself?  And so I just told him the doctor made me wear them.  It was required.  The guard made a clicking sound with his tongue and shook his head, feeling sorry for me that I had a medical condition so bad that electrical looking, metal gadgets had to be surgically implanted into my teeth.  He had never seen a medical situation this bad, and he lived in Africa.

Joey met me outside the fence again, surprised it hadn’t taken that long and that they didn’t find the fireworks.  We were about to start a new, slightly less happy adventure in Africa, as friends.  He paid a man with a fake taxi license and a car that sometimes works to take us to our initial tourist destination on Joey’s list of things we’d have time to do.

Part V:  Party Time

The first super fun thing we did together in Africa to make use of our time off and maybe at least enjoy our friendship was to travel to the beautiful West African Atlantic Coast and visit one of the remaining Slave Trade Castles, renowned for it’s extreme cruelty throughout the centuries, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Accra, Ghana airport.  I held back vomit as we looked into dungeons where men and women had once suffered, packed in body to body in suffocating temperatures.  I was going to be sick envisioning the torture in this huge, stone structure, and couldn’t believe it was now a tourism site you could visit and even combine into a travel package alongside a canopy zip line tour of the jungle in order to save a little money.  If you don’t feel truly broken up with yet after you’ve been dumped, ask your ex to take you on a post break up, celebration of friendship date to a historical site of one of the most horrific examples of man’s inhumanity to man.  That’s really when you’ll start to think, “Hey maybe we aren’t getting back together.”

I still had seven days left here, so in my head I would repeat the words, “Just try to enjoy Africa,” over and over.

“At least I can help the African children.  I’m good with children.”  I had those music recorders to give out still, and the soccer kids would appreciate the lost and found shorts.  Maybe Joey will give me some credit when school starts up again and he sets off the fireworks display I brought.  I’d be a magic, fireworks fairy.  That was good at least.

After the slave castle, we would ride a real African bus with chickens on top to drop the goods I had brought off at Joey’s room in his village.  The bus would be crowded.  There were even seats that flip out into the aisles, so as not to waste the precious aisle space. We bought and drank plastic bags of water, hard boiled eggs, and Fan-yogo drinks from the baskets on ladies heads level to the bus windows when they stood just outside the bus.  We traveled like the real people who lived there, not like fancy tourists.  He was making Cedi and I was on credit.  Credit didn’t work anywhere.   So we relied on little bits of cash.

I was happy to see a lot of small children boarding the bus with their robed mothers.  These kids would love me just like American kids did.  Once the bus filled up and we departed, the children peeked back curiously at me and Joey, the only white people on the bus.  Since I hadn’t gotten any sun over the winter, my skin was extra white, with more of it showing than should be.  I was wearing a muscle shirt, modest by American standards.  It was miserably hot.

When I waved at some of the children, and didn’t get that response back from them, I figured I had to be happier.  I smiled a big happy smile several times, and the different children I smiled at all had the same response:  immediate and loud bawling accompanied by stronger clinging to their mothers.  The mothers faced the front of the bus with the petrified children clinging to their necks, forced to gaze back on me everytime they opened their eyes through the sobbing.  I’m familiar with this natural childhood position of fear, because it’s how I went through a haunted house once when I was five clinging to my dad.   When the mothers glanced back to see what was the matter, they only saw a confused and strangely pale, young boy-woman. (I had short hair.)  They’d give me dirty looks and utter the B word.  The B word is bruni.  It’s like the N word for white people.  I didn’t mind the B word, because in Ghana, white people did bad, bad things.  Really, white people did bad things everywhere.  There’s tons of people who should be calling the whites bruni’s.

Some of these screaming children had never seen a bruni before (I can say it, because I’m white.), but they had especially never seen a bruni who had the teeth of a metal, devil monster.  I didn’t realize it was my adult braces scaring them, so I kept smiling even more aggressively.  I needed to be extra friendly to win them over, and I really needed these children to like me, because they were all I looked forward to after I got dumped following a twenty-hour plane trip, but Africa seemed to rally against me.

If only I had had unnoticeable Invisalign braces, everything would have been fine, but I had the large, protruding, metallic, silver ones with red stretchy, saliva-dripping, rubber bands holding the jaws of their possessor together.  Getting the cheaper, metal orthodontia was one of the only sensible financial choices I had made in the last few years, but a decision that proved to be disastrous for African children relations.  The children grabbed impossibly tighter to their mothers’ necks as my red, rubber braces bands stretched and glistened with the spit of satan, whenever I talked or smiled in attempt to make things less scary for them.   Finally, one child gestured to her teeth as tears streamed down her face, and I realized it was my braces that were setting off all the kids.  I was so sad, and I felt like a criminal.  We still had four hours left on this bus ride—the poor kids, and the poor, sad criminal.

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Everything else was tough too.  Nothing ran on time.  Sometimes there were no cars or buses to catch.  Lizards crawled around us when we slept.  Simple things you took for granted at home were not available.  There were no napkins.  You’d wipe your hand with any other type of paper if there was any, but there often was no paper around.  Sometimes you could find a plastic bag, or just let your hand be dirty and crust up.  Very rarely there would be a cloth to wipe with.  There was no toilet paper besides what you remembered to bring yourself, and not too much for water.  At that time, people purchased shady drinking water in plastic bags rather than bottles, and you sucked on a hole you’d stab in the plastic bag to get the water into your mouth.  You don’t think about these things in the U.S. and you don’t realize how good it feels to wipe your hands after finger feeding yourself.  I still only let myself  buy a couple rolls of paper towels every year, because I became extremely aware of our waste after that trip.  I try to use cloth or reusable everything since then.

I did convince Joey to go to a hotel on a cliff overlooking the ocean with an amazing beach.  I never could have afforded a hotel like this in the States.  I swam in the warm ocean water with huge, but gentle waves while the sun went down.  The ocean there was all sand bottom and massaged my feet.  The air tasted like salt, just like people say.  No one else swam down there. There must have been sharks, but I hadn’t thought about it till now.  I had the beach, and what felt like the entire ocean to myself and enjoyed it.   A curious group of teenage school girls approached me out of nowhere, and asked me questions about the United States.  They were too polite to mention the medical condition in my mouth.  I gave them a little bottle of perfume I had in my bag, and they loved it.  They sprayed it on each other, giggling up and down the beach.  Then I had a wonderful meal of fried fish and salad with Joey for dinner on the hotel’s porch.  The salad turned out to be rinsed in dirty water, but it was so good I didn’t even think about the new worm that could be growing inside of me.  The waiter gave us his address, and asked if we could write him from America.

“Just try to enjoy Africa,” I kept saying, and sometimes it worked.

Part VI:  One Last Bit of Rejection and some Revenge

I wanted to be able to redeem myself for buying this trip when I reported back to my friends and co workers.   If I could just go hear some of the music or experience an actual African drumming ritual, I thought people would think, “Oh, you’re not dumb for going to see a boy who just ended up breaking up with you, because you had many other professional and career-related reasons to go to Africa!”  Not to mention, I really wanted to go hear some live music just because I love live music.  I knew Joey loved music and that he would cave in.  I pleaded to go see and hear some real African music and drumming—not drum circle, Prospect Park, Brooklyn crap, but real traditional, tribal drums, like an ethnomusicologist would study.  Joey knew of a little inn known for it’s small outdoor stage and live music.  I was redeeming myself already.

We found another car posing as a taxi which took us into very remote country.  The roads were awful and we spent more Cedi than we really could afford.  While asking directions of people on the side of the road in the Twi language, Joey also mentioned the drums and inquired if there were somewhere we could learn about drums.  The answers given were confusing.  No one is drumming right now, was what seemed to be the answer, but Joey’s Twi was not perfect.

After the taxi let us out, we still had to walk quite far down a jungle road, but miraculously found the inn Joey had heard of.  Though we were the only people staying there, a full-time bartender was present out at what seemed like a Jamaica-style wooden deck with bar and stage.  Trees and vines grew in and around the outdoor bar.  A traditional hand-made drum sat atop a service table behind the bar.

“Is that your drum,” we asked the bartender.

He nodded.

“Are you going to play in a band later,” we asked.

He shook his head no. The young man grabbed his drum, held it, and caressed it, but did not percuss it.  He spoke English in bits, and explained to us there would be no music for another few weeks.  We had arrived during the month of silence.  He was not allowed to play his drum.

“Oh my God.  Here we go with the rejection again,” I thought.  Not just for me, but for this poor young man.  I could tell he was really happy when he played his drum.  Drumming and music were his life’s joy.  He looked antsy.  Had I been there three weeks or so from that moment, I’d have witnessed the happiest person in the world as he’d strike his drum for the first time in a month. This really was a doomed trip.  Of all the months I could have picked to visit Ghana, a place bubbling with music normally, I picked the Goddam month of silence?  I thought about it, and realized there had been no music anywhere else either.  It had been extremely quiet.

The Ga people, one of the ethnic groups in Ghana were enforcing a mandatory month of rest from drumming and loud music.  The Twi people and other ethnic groups of Ghana also were respecting the month-long Ga tradition of silent prayer called Homowo.  If they did not respect it, they would be attacked, so they kind of just said “Hey, let’s respect it.  Silence is good sometimes, right?”   And so, I did not get to hear any traditional music, played on beautiful, hand-crafted, traditional drums.  My boyfriend was still broken up with me, the children still hated me, and I would have no professional growth as a musician, gaining coveted, hands-on insight into the Ghanaian drumming rituals.  Africa, as a whole, rejected me.

****

After a long trip at 4 a.m. to the Accra airport the last day, I checked in to get my boarding pass.  I was told the plane had already left.  Then someone said it hadn’t.  Then someone said it had.  I burst into tears.  I had no one here, and no money.  The plane wasn’t supposed to take off for another two hours, but I forgot Africa can do whatever it wants to you.

“It does end up with me living here forever, doesn’t it, “ I thought, and cried more.  The lady gate agent didn’t know what to do with me.  She wasn’t used to someone who assumed things should go as planned.  A man ran back down towards me and the gate agent again—the gate agent was not even anywhere close to where the plane was, by the way—and yelled at her to have me run with him.  He could have yelled at me directly to run with him, but apparently telling people to run was the gate agent’s job.

The plane was still there.  They needed to leave early, though, so they could fly to Liberia and stop for fuel.  The airport in Accra had run out.

I heard from Joey in a few letters after my visit.  I had given his roommate and co-teacher Boat, a recorder and lesson book. It seemed Boat really took to the recorder and would play it into the wee hours of the night, keeping Joey awake sometimes.  Boy, did that ever make me smile.  What sweet passive aggressive revenge it was to encourage your ex’s roommate to play one of the most annoying instruments of all time.  I recommend it to everyone who gets broken up with.

Eventually, I moved out of Nashville back up north toward home and landed in Minneapolis to live in my brother’s basement and start paying off some of my debt, including the trip to Africa.  When Joey came back from the Peace Corps, he first went to his parents’ in Wisconsin.  On a weekend trip over to Minnesota to visit his brother who also lived there, Joey stopped by and got his CD collection back from me.  That was really the end of things—that and the slave castle, but the CD’s sealed the deal.  I don’t know how you end a relationship now.  How do you take mp3’s back?  There aren’t even any land line phones left to truly hang up on some one.

The memory of the warm ocean and the happy teenage girls with innocent dreams of the U.S. hangs with me the most from that trip.  They say humans don’t remember pain, so maybe that’s why my brain’s held onto that evening more than the rest of the visit, like an old and foggy, good dream.  There was one other positive thing that I hold on to.  One of the only other things that didn’t reject my presence in Africa was the beer.  I remember the beer so well.  It was pennies to buy, and tasted amazing.  Star beer was a big and delicious brand, and it did not contain parasites like the water.  Drinking beer on a muggy, 100 plus degree day, in a country with no air conditioning, is a spiritual event.  Drinking beer anywhere else will never live up to your expectations.*

On the whole, if you are doing any traveling, though, I still would not recommend Africa.  I never wanted to go there in the first place.

By Mary Mack, 5/9/16 , http://www.marymackcomedy.com

*According to this chart on www.ratebeer.com Star beer is the lowest rated Ghanaian beer, so I must have just been hot. 

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Published in: on May 9, 2016 at 5:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Gimme 3 days!

What a fun show “rejectified” was!  I’m fleshing out and tightening (opposites?) my story of rejection in Africa.  I’ll have it up here by Monday with some stock footage of children crying.  Thanks for not giving up on me!

Hope to see you soon…oh hey, I’ll be at Creek in the Cave in Long Island City,  Friday May 6 (Seis de Mayo) and May 7, both nights, for my own show called The Obstruction.  I just started telling people about it today, so if you come, maybe bring some cards and we’ll play, in case you’re the only one there.  I’ll be there May 13 and 14 too at 7pm for free.

Ok, I’ll get writing,

Mary

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Published in: on May 6, 2016 at 4:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Type A Diagnosis Follows Packer Loss

The Packer’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks in this week’s Sunday game has suppressed my husband Tim’s immune system so much that he had to go to the doctor, and when he came home, he informed me, “The doctor said I have type A.”

I thought, “Maybe does ‘hepatitis’ come after type A?”  Type A what?

“It’s a bug,” he said.

He has a Type A bug and it’s cause by the Packers, I guess and it’s highly contagious, so now he’s sleeping in the basement office with his head under the desk, and refuses to turn on any lights.  But when I go to bring him food or liquids, I see the bulge of his headphones beneath his #12 stocking cap, the light glow of his computer from the back, and then green and gold hues emitted from the front of his screen, reflecting onto his Vince Lombardi-style glasses.  I’m worried.  I know these are the Packer highlights he’s been purchasing online. He’s gone “hair of the dog” on me.

Tim already had a small cold at the time of kick off Sunday, so he didn’t feel like traveling back to home base in Minneapolis or going to a bar in Menomonie, Wisconsin where he landed at his mother’s house after his stand up comedy performance in the area the night before.  His mom–her name is Adrianne–decided Tim should relax, and she and Tim would view the game together in her TV room, which is cozily decorated with floral paintings that match the proper couches and antique end tables, requiring two to three layers of coasters before you can set down your tea.  This room boasts a 17″ television, the only one in the house.  For nice!

Nicer yet, sweet Adrianne thought she should try to make this play off game special for Tim.  After all, she is a very thoughtful, polite, and conversational church secretary, not just a mom, but a real funster.  Because she takes great interest in supporting her son’s interests, she went ahead and invited her friends Rachel and Betty over–to make the game even more fun.  Rachel and Betty, also in their 70’s, know nothing about football, but were gracious enough to ask Tim lots of questions about it during this amazingly heated game that went into overtime!  They even provided commentary that had nothing to do with football, in case Tim might get bored watching this particular game that decided who would go to Super Bowl XLIX.  Well, it was definitely TOO MUCH FUN for Tim.  Feeling his energies depleted after the rap session and chatter party, with no beer available to replenish his electrolytes, Tim had to rest up an extra day at his child hood home, and hide under his Green Bay Packer comforter with his feet hanging out the bottom, because it’s a child’s comforter from when he was a smaller Packer fan–a child fanatic.  He had to hide under there to rebuild his strength, but this loss was so excruciating and the company was so wild that his Pride had been zapped beyond repair, and so the next day, he looked into the Favorite Team Loses clause on his insurance policy, went in to see the professional, and came back to our house in Minneapolis with an air mask on, and a severe diagnosis of Type A, and headed straight to the basement claiming people shouldn’t be around him.  Then he sent me a text message up to the first floor of our house, where I was working and per his requests, I wound up going to the drugstore to pick him up some sinus spray, and some Gatorade.  He’s so out of it, and it’s so dark down there, he might be squirting the Gatorade (It’s a sports bottle.) up his nose and the nasal spray into his mouth, but it’s nothing next fall and some interim highlights can’t mend.

Published in: on January 21, 2015 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

DEC 19th…Mpls, Cedar Cultural Center. i’m having a nervous breakdown.

We need a couple more dogs (smallish) or an animal that looks like a dog, so we have a real doggie sweater contest, a real one.  At my North Star Variety Hour and Meat Raffle, AKA Mary Mack’s Holiday Meat Raffle Show and Doggie Sweater Contest.   Tix are at Electric Fetus cheaper in person in advance or $12 at the Cedar Door, or somewhere around there at http://www.thecedar.org.  Enter your dog by writing me at this address:  marymackcomedy@yahoo.com  !

THE BLOG PART OF THIS POST:  Everybody says you’ll be less stressed out if you are organized.  This is not true at all.  I have been getting organized this last couple weeks, and it is the most stressed out I have ever been.  I am eating my Melatonin gummy drops all day to stay calm.  Also, don’t do that.  Don’t get organized and don’t eat natural sleep remedies throughout the day.  Except for the Brahm’s brand.  That brand is okay to eat every so many hours, especially on a plane.   

Hello,

Mary

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Santa Monica Fundraiser tonight and more shows between the Mississip and CA

Tonight! Sat., Sept 21- SANTA MONICA, CA –  YWCA  Kids Benefit  w/ my buddies Carlos Kotkin, Paul Morrisey, and special friend!  http://www.ywcapreschool.org/events/  

PARKING: The event is at the YWCA

2019 14th St  Santa Monica, CA 90405

Just south of Pico on 14th

Free valet parking…tix are $20 and $ goes to not rich kids.  Tickets may be purchased in advance online at the YWCA site or by phone during business hours: (310) 452-3881

Monday, Sept 23-LOS ANGELES, CA- “Hot Tub” Kurt and Kristin’s show @ The Virgil bar on Santa Monica Blvd-8pm $10?

Friday, Sept 27- HOLMEN,   WI- Public House Concert w/ husbo Tim Harmston!  fun night–donation based–   FACEBOOK David Schipper  our Bluff view concerts for reservations: https://www.facebook.com/events/212046275627663/    

Saturday, Sept 28- MEDFORD, WI-Broadway Theater, 7pm and 9pm if good demand.  Call the owner Dave’s cell at  757-472-9049.    https://www.facebook.com/events/203059603202201/  

Saturday, Oct 5–  MN,ALBERTVILLE PARISH- doing a guest spot for Husbo Tim Harmston …I will post his info at www.facebook.com/marymackcomedy1   it’s a fan page i guess.

Wed. Oct 23Will somebody help me book a show in IOWA CITY, IA ?  This is on the way to St. Louis.  please watch www.twitter.com/marymackcomedy in case this happens.

Thurs. Oct 24, ST LOUIS, MO– Too Hip Comedy Showcase that’s the name.  Located at 3359 South Jefferson Avenue, Saint Louis, Missouri.    9pm     Tix at door for $10 OR GET EM EVEN CHEAPER AT http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/427572     Here’s the fb invite and map and stuff:  https://www.facebook.com/events/545849338807916/   In the future, will we be communicating only in links?  I’m so scared.

Fri and Sat. Oct 25-26, TOPEKA, KS-I DON’T KNOW THE VENUE YET, but mark off some time on your busy calendar to come out!!  CoStarring with Tim Harmston  I hope my dentist friend Ted comes.

Tues-Sat. Nov 26-30, MPLS, MN-Tim Harmston is headlining at Acme Comedy Club and I got the owners permission to open for him and directly harrass him during his comedy set.  I called it already he isn’t allowed to open for me in the Spring.  TIX FOR TIM’S SHOW AT 612 338 6393…700 block of N 1st street.  Green Awning just b4 the Star Trib distribution building.  there’s a nice parking lot across the street that’s cheaper than all the other downtown parking lots…Are those condo buildings down there or is it a really rich cult.  what’s happening mpls?  why is beer $6.  it’s cheaper to buy wine now.

MON-WED OCT 28-30: PUEBLO? TAOS?  ABQ?  WATCH FOR RANDOM APPEARANCES by me and my hus-bot Tim Harmston!   If u “like” me or twitter friend me at www.twitter.com/marymackcomedy  i will post all randomness!!!!!!!!!!!

Also if you are in Los Angeles–PLEASE WATCH FOR SHOWS THERE!!  Excited to see you all again:)

Published in: on September 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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COME LEARN WHY WOMAN DESERVE LESS TODAY! Chippewa Falls WI 5:15pm-Irvine Park

Today April 17th starting 5:10pm:   My comedy part comes at 5:50pm at the main pavilion where I will try to confuse the issues even more!   Don’t worry I made hand outs!   Why am I speaking?  Truthfully, I intrinsically already feel so bad about myself just being raised a midwesterner & a Lutheran, I don’t need the WI government helping me out with that.   Irvine Park-120 Bridgewater Ave, Chippewa Falls, WI 54729

 Or click here for a google map. 
Thanks for listening. and please read all the good info below,

Mary-ready to speak and yes everybody will probably be offended even though I don’t mean it that way, or do I?  

(Oh April 17th is Equal Pay Day because that’s on the average how long a woman has to work into the next year to make the same as a man with the same job in the year before…so about 4 months longer—that’s a lot, and that’s without the new rules that make it even more difficult for the gals.)

Wisconsin is ground zero for the war on women.
·        State Senator Glenn Grothman, who introduced SB 202, the bill which overturned the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act summed it up this way: “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a so-called bias in the workplace is just not true.”
·        A recent TV ad paid for the Republican State Leadership Committee depicts State Representative Donna Seidel in a recipe box. But you don’t have to watch the ad to know that Republicans would rather see Wisconsin women in the kitchen than at work—particularly working in the Capital building. 
·        Earlier this month, Gov. Walker and all four Republicans running in senate recall elections—Van Wanggaard, Terry Moulton, Jerry Petrowski, and Scott Fitzgerald—overturned the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, a law that helped shrink the pay gap between men and women by deterring employers from discriminating against women and people of color.  This, in conjunction with last year’s attacks on collective bargaining—aimed at a majority female workforce—makes working women particularly vulnerable in Wisconsin.
The GOPs is not only assaulting women’s rights, but it’s also waging war on women’s wages
·        When Scott Walker “dropped the bomb” and started his all out war on collective bargaining, he also started his war on women. 
·        Reporter Alyssa Battistoni explained last year during the protests that the “demise of public sector unions would be most detrimental to women and African-Americans, who make up a disproportionate share of the public sector workforce.”
·        Approximately 80 percent of teachers, and 95 percent of nurses, are women.  The majority of all other public sector employees are also women.  When you deny the right for women to collectively bargain you deny them the chance to close the gender pay gap.
Wisconsin had been on the path to narrowing the pay gap, but Republicans like Scott Walker and (Terry Moulton, Scott Fitzgerald and Jerry Petrowski) are turning back the clock and taking us in the wrong direction.
·        The gender pay gap closes to 88 cents on the dollar for women who have the right to bargain versus 72 cents for those who don’t.
·        When you take away the right to punish employers who discriminate based on their gender, you have created a situation that almost guarantees the unfair wage gap between men and women will persist.    
·        April 17, is Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes how far into 2012 a women must work to earn what men earned in 2011. 
·        When Act 20 passed, women in Wisconsin had hoped that we were on our way to becoming one of the few states which successfully closed the gap between men’s and women’s wages. 
·        Under Scott Walker’s leadership, we have been moving in the wrong direction.  Walker and the Senate Republicans who introduced and voted for this legislation may think that women’s voices don’t matter, but come June they will learn an invaluable lesson: a woman’s vote does not count for just 78 percent of a man’s. 
 

Published in: on April 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm  Comments (1)  

Shrimpy Scamp

I saw Scamp camping trailers at the MN state fair last year and can’t get them off my mind!  It’s like your own for-human P.O.D. system with so many reasons to get one (which I will share in future blogs).  But is my Chevy Aveo be able to tow it?  I don’t know the tow rating on my anemic 4-cylinder, Korean American car.  And furthermore, do you get the 13′ scamp WITH the toilet, or skip the toilet and take the couch instead?  BTW, if you skip the toilet the couch converts into TWO more beds.  (see diagram)

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Thirteen feet is not much air circulation room for a toilet OR for 4 people sleep breathing.  To put things in perspective, I had a solo canoe once that weighed 39 lbs.  I could lift it myself and it was 12 feet.  I tried to sell that to the school bus driver for 200 bucks (a real steal) but then he only showed up with 100 bucks and a hammock from El Salvador, so basically he paid me 101 dollars.  Cripes.  I shoulda took that travel voucher from South West Airlines Friday to make up for it.

Scamp’s website (hewn from Central Minnesota sensibilities) shows a few people REALLY EJOYING their scamp, while conspicuously not showing the inside.  I don’t really care if they’re shady about the inside.  It’s a good, fun product, and as far as camping goes, I think they’re mostly just for when it rains so you have somewhere to play cards and shit.  Very reasonable.  If you want more info, see http://www.scampcampingtrailers.com or go to the MN State Fair.  They are under the south end of the sky ride.  So yes, I’ve seen the roof too.  Oh, yeah: the point.  Love em, but  I probably can’t get one, because we’ve already been in trouble with the ordinances and sky patrol of Bayfield County, Wisconsin for too many campers on our land.  But if someone else gets one, please let me know how you like it.

 

Published in: on March 19, 2012 at 2:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Republicans won’t allow Obama tax cut to continue, and rich still pay less tax

This is a newly added addendum (but at the front) of this blog I posted in Dec. about rich farts and taxes…Lots of interesting conversation arose on face book about it–thanks guys.  Some people showed a chart showing how the millionaires are supposed to pay 35 per cent tax, blah blah blah…but what most people don’t know is that millionaires (and higher) learn how to move their money around to make it look like capital gains, charities, etc.  so people like Mit Romney pay less tax then I do sometimes (and I’m not even that good of a comic).   Here’s a copy of an article below explaining how he does it…Now a lot of people will say, “but look how he gives so much to charity.”  If you do the math, you will see that giving a lot to charity saved Romney hundreds of thousands of dollars on taxes.  Last night, I gave 40 bux to a Methodist youth group, and it didn’t save me anything, except maybe one of them won’t grow up to be a killer one day and come find me.  So I guess it was worth it.   You might read the following article and STILL not believe that many uber rich don’t pay much for taxes, but that’s because you don’t make as much money as they do, and you haven’t gained admittance into the magical land where money is made of air and speculation and can be called just about anything.  Romney is probably one of the more honest (sadly) of money moving people, but what I am interested to know is if the 1.5 million he donates to the Morman church can come back to him in campaign contributions?  Can it?  It’s not like the Mormon church ever doles out money for ads or lobbying or anything.  C’mon!  They’d never do that!    (As a side note, even though I’m not Republican or Democrat, I still like Ron Paul and President Obama, and I know I could eat those words tomorrow.)

One of the more Pleasant Tax articles on Romney (from Yahoo):

Mitt Romney’s tax returns show more than $42 million income over last two years

By Holly Bailey | The Ticket –

Mitt Romney paid $6.2 million in federal taxes over the last two years on income generated almost entirely on investments linked back to his days as a founder and partner in Bain Capital.

According to documents released by his campaign Tuesday, Romney earned $21.7 million in investments in 2010, and he will report another $20.9 million investment income in 2011.

In 2010, Romney paid $3 million in federal taxes but also gave about $3 million to charity—roughly half of that to the Mormon church—which lowered his effective tax rate to roughly 13.9 percent.

According to his 2011 tax return, which hasn’t been filed yet, he’ll pay $3.2 million in taxes with an effective tax rate of approximately 15.4 percent, according to his campaign. He gave $4 million to charity, including $2.6 million to the Mormon church.

The release comes after weeks of pressure from Romney’s rivals for the candidate to release his financial information. After weeks of hedging, Romney finally agreed to release his tax information for the last two years. During Monday’s presidential debate in Tampa, he pointedly declined to follow in the footsteps of his father, George Romney, who released 12 years of returns when he sought the presidency in 1964.

Romney said Monday there would be “no surprises” in his filings.

“I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more,” Romney said during Monday’s debate. “I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.”

But in the process, he took a shot at rival Newt Gingrich’s tax plan. Romney noted that his income is almost entirely derived through capital gains and noted that under Gingrich’s proposal—which would eliminate taxes on capital gains—he would have paid no taxes.

Other popular Yahoo! News stories:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/mitt-romney-tax-returns-show-more-43-million-135129751.html Page 1 of 5

 

MY ORIGINAL BLOG From Dec. 3rd–Well, I don’t use this blog for serious things usually, but I copied and pasted a mass letter I received below explaining what the Obama tax cuts have been, including a calculator that shows how much it saved you last year and how much more you will have to pay.  Republican, Democrat, and Other Party families should all appreciate this….There doesn’t seem there should be any political division, but rather a RICH against the MIDDLE CLASS division (disguised as a republican verses democrat issue, which it shouldn’t be, but that’s a great brainwashing way for the struggling republican families to vote in the people who are keeping them poor.)

I don’t understand why, if the Republicans joined  Norquist’s cult and said they won’t raise taxes, why is it okay now?  I guess it’s okay to do anything that will make the president look bad….and where is Grover Norquist in this?  Why is he not threatening the Republicans they will lose their posts this time?  Because it works in his favor to make even more money from the Republican lobbyists and big business, etc. when Republican law prevails.  The same laws that allowed the banking system to collapse in the first place.  Real bad guy that dude.  And apparently very two-faced.  Well probably, there’s more faces to him like one of those dice pieces in the board games that freak me out, because I’m a meek church goer, and I avoid the black “magics.”

So this conservative lady (me) is also learning, it’s good to be patriotic and support your country and the people of your country, UNLESS you are a millionaire or better, then there’s no need and it really is an inconvenience for these billionaires to pay a fair tax and take one less trip, so another less fortunate  family can buy vegetables this year.    AND SHAME ON CONGRESS FOR BREAKING (if they do).  If you, as a congress person,  had voted for soldiers to go over and fight in other countries, you (the politician who is at least pretending to fight for your country) should only be allowed the same breaks as those soldiers who you sent overseas.  When is that break even?  Every two years?  I’ll ask my cousin.  Certainly this is not too much to ask of a politician who is “fighting for the American people”–to sit thinking in his plush office where his offspring (who, by the way, are not at war, with exception to a few) can visit; to sit in that cozy office and serve the same amount of time before breaking as an endangered  soldier spends in hostile, life-threatening conditions.  Good God–what a joke this congress is.  When republican John Boehner said a few years ago that the republican politicians would focus the next four years on getting the president out of office, he was being extremely honest because the republican party has not done anything else beside that…except wasted our time and money trying to get the president out of office instead of working together to help the very people who voted for these  republicans.   HERE’S THE LETTER THAT WAS SENT OUT WITH THE HANDY CALCULATOR:

2012
Mikelle –In case you missed it — yesterday Congress voted on a bill that gave them two simple choices:

A) Let President Obama’s payroll tax cut expire, raising a typical family’s taxes by more than $1,000 next year, or

B) Extend and expand the tax cut, helping 160 million people and letting that same family keep $1,500. Click here to find out what it does for you.

The payroll tax cut would be paid for by requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay a little more. But some in Congress think millionaires and billionaires should get to keep paying the already-low rate they get, thanks to the Bush tax cuts.

This one isn’t complicated. And for a party whose leaders and candidates have pledged not to support any tax hike ever, taking money out of the pockets of middle-class families should have been unacceptable.

But almost every Republican in the Senate went with option A — blocking President Obama’s proposal, and refusing to make the wealthiest among us contribute their fair share to help struggling families and strengthen the economy.

So it’s clear that when they say no tax hikes, they really mean millionaires and billionaires shouldn’t pay more, ever — even if that means your taxes go up.

We’re not letting this one go until Congress reverses course and does the right thing. And one way to spread the word is to make sure you know exactly how the Obama tax cuts affect you and your family.

We’ve created a new Obama tax cut calculator — use it to find out how much money Republicans in Congress want to take from you, then share it with everyone you know so they can find out, too.

In these last few weeks alone, we’ve seen Congress fail to act over and over again. First by refusing to keep teachers, firefighters, and cops on the job and to hire more of them, and now by refusing to protect a middle-class tax cut that makes a real difference for millions of American families.

And the Republican presidential candidates are in lock step with the GOP leaders in Congress on this. Just last week, Mitt Romney said he’s “not looking to put money in people’s pockets” and backed his Congressional counterparts.

Try the calculator to see what’s at stake for your paycheck, and please share it with anyone you think needs to see it:

http://my.barackobama.com/Tax-Calculator

Thanks,

James

James Kvaal
Policy Director
Obama for America

Published in: on December 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mandatory Blog Entry #1

Mandatory Blog Entry #1

Someone else has joined my blog says the computer. Thank you. Because of this, I am forcing myself to type a blog entry even though nothing is going on: THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY.
Despite that statement, I feel there is some important info I might impart to you before the holidays. The following will be a big time saver if you are the type of person who thinks he can do things, but really can’t.
Tonight, I tried to recreate a beverage usually purchased from the liquor store. The beverage is called choco-wine and it comes like wine–in a wine bottle. I discovered it while entertaining at an “agro-ladies” gathering. Choco-wine, in all its mysterious novelty, was the booze provided at each table. It’s apparently all the rage with ladies’ nights—at least in rural Stearns County–and it was definitely good. So tonight, instead of doing my taxes (the reason I have this week off) I tried to recreate the goodness of choco-wine with the following ingredients and method:
Mary Mack’s Home-made Version of Choco-Wine
2 Tbls baking coco
2 Tbls sugar
lil water
BOIL THIS IN A SAUCE PAN. Then add…
1 c Almond milk
1/4c whole milk
1/4c half and half
BRING TO NEAR BOIL. Pour in mug til ¾ full.
TOP WITH SOME RED WINE FROM AN OPEN BOTTLE OF RED WINE YOU FORGOT TO FINISH LAST WEEKEND. Enjoy.
***********
Well don’t bother writing any of that down, because it was not anything like the bottled choco-wine. I took one sip from my mug, and then I took another sip, so that I was sure I needed to throw up. The fact that the original choco-wine came in a wine bottle rather than a milk jug should have told me I was approaching it from the wrong end—meaning they didn’t start with hot chocolate milk and then add wine. They STARTED with the wine and happened to add a shade of chocolate. Also, there probably was no milk involved ever. Damn it, because I wasted three different kinds of milk by ruining it with wine.

End Mandatory Blog Entry #1.

SPIDER JOHN and Charlie Visit the Mall

SPIDER JOHN AND CHARLIE PARR at THE MALL

Preface:  So you know…Charlie Parr is an “old country blues” style of guitar player/singer/songwriter.  He’s based in Duluth, MN and travels around the country showcasing his high level of talent.  He is a quiet guy, and very nice.  Spider John Koerner (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Koerner) is a legend of folk music from a time before Parr, and was very active in the original, prolific Minneapolis West Bank (of the Mississippi) music scene of the 60’s/70’s .  He is mentioned in Bob Dylan’s book, Chronicles, as one of Dylan’s influences, if I am not mistaken.  I have read a bunch of books, and they are all mixed up in my brain. (i.e. Sometimes Encyclopedia Brown rides on a raft with Tom Sawyer and it’s not even on the right river.)  Anyway, you could probably just ask Dylan directly about Spider John, and he’d tell ya.  Another great source for a history of the West Bank scene would be West Bank Boogie by my friend Cyn Collins with the prologue written by Garrison Keillor, who has still not had me on his show, even though I have written quite a few poems about Sweetened Condensed Milk.  So if you are still confused about the  two characters below, and need to substitute in two more widely known figures who could have gone on a similar adventure as the one in this story, you could maybe replace Spider John with Woody Guthrie and Charlie Parr with Bob Dylan just because he’s from Minnesota.  (Not to mention, Pete Seeger is too close in age to Woody Guthrie to play the part of Charlie Parr in that version of this play.) Hope you enjoy my slash fiction.  Is that what it’s called?  Star Trek people do it.

SCENE  ONE

Spider John Koerner and Charlie Parr descend into view on the down escalator at the Mall of America food court.  The tiny hum of fluorescent lighting is a constant annoyance to Spider John, but he doesn’t realize where this sound is coming from.  Instead he continues to swat at invisible gnats he thinks are buzzing around his head. He jiggles the polka dot knapsack and stick that rest on his shoulder. Spider John speaks like half prospector, half drill sergeant for the sake of this sketch, because “grrrr” was only funny for two lines.  Note:  It is preferred that scene openings and parenthetical be read aloud by a narrator.

Spider John:  Christ all mighty, when they gonna take out the trash in this cafeteria?  Flies everywhere.

Charlie:  Gosh, they don’t seem to be bothering me.  You got cologne on or something?

Spider John:  Am I wearing a T shirt that says “Pansy” on it?  This is natural.

Charlie:  Oh wait, I forgot I still have bug spray  on me from last year’s Home Grown Fest.  That’s what it is.

Spider John:  Holy Shit, Chuck.  Look at that yonder there.  Says “Orange Julius.”  I used to play with that guy.  Or was it Julius Orange?  Can’t recall.  He was just sitting on Riverside one day–must have been 1974–with a nice dobro, for a bum. Wasn’t that good.  I guess he’s famous now.  Got his own place, right here in the…where the hell are we again?

Charlie:  It’s called a mall.

Spider:  I marched on the Mall in Washington.

Charlie: This is an indoors mall.  It’s called the Mall of America.

Spider:  This ain’t no indoors mall.  There’s a roller coaster and a tree.  Speakin’ o which, I gotta take a leak.

SCENE TWO

We see Spider John emerging from behind a tree at Camp Snoopy, zipping up his pants, while Charlie flags him over to look at something out in the store area.

Spider:  Thank God it was a number one.  It’s like the state fair in there.  Security everywhere.  Not like it used to be when I could keep a hydroponic dooby garden in the back pool of Ye Olde Mill.

Charlie:  Sure Spider, but look it here!  A whole store of flannel.  Says “Pacific Sun” up top.

Spider:  That’s a crock a shit.  I been to the Pacific.  Hitched rides the whole way, and when I got there, it was so bright, I had to turn around and go home.  Sat in Palmer’s for a week just so my retinas could heel up.

Charlie:  Yeah, but my wife might like to see me in a new flannel.

Spider:  How she gonna recognize you in a new shirt?  Can’t see your face, boy.  That plaid’s the only distinguisher you got.  This morning I thought I was ZZ Top was pickin’ me up till you took off your jacket, and I placed the flannel.

Charlie: Well still, it’s right here.  Let’s just take a peek.  Maybe we’ll know someone in there.

(The two slowly approach the Pac Sun as if it might be a trap, or maybe an oasis that disappears as soon as they get close.  They stop just short of the electronic security scanners you must cross in order to enter or exit.)

Spider:  Ah shit.  Security again.  Jesus Christ.

Charlie:  Yeah and looks like this machine took over a real man’s job.  I’ll write a song about it.

(As he says this, both begin to empty the contents of their pockets, placing items just at the base of the walk-through scanners.  Along with their knapsacks, there is now a jumble of keys, finger nail clippers, guitar strings, a harmonica, and a couple jaw harps sitting on the tile. The two enter.  The machine doesn’t beep or sound any alarm, but Spider John remembers one more thing.)

Spider:  Hold up. I forgot something’.

(He passes back through the scanner, bends over, and pulls out a large jack knife from his boot, leaving it atop the pile of items.)

Spider (cont’d):  They woulda took that for sure.

Charlie:  Yah, they woulda.

Spider:  Let’s go see about a shirt then.

(The two approach one of the all-plaid shirt-racks near the register. At first, they are afraid to touch the shirts, and instead put their faces as close as possible to the rack sniffing and eyeing up the material which they mistook as flannel.)

Charlie:  There’s no fuzzies or bumps on this material.  I don’t get it. [do two sniffs]

(He sniffs.  Spider grabs out a shirt.)

Spider:  What the hell is this?  It ain’t flannel.

Charlie: It’s light and airy.

Spider:  It’s a goddam blouse they stuck plaid on top of.

Charlie:  What does the tag say?

Spider: 50% Rayon, 25% Polyester…Did this crap come from NASA?

(He holds it up to the fluorescent store lights.)

Jesus Martha, I can see through this shit.  What are they tryin to pull here?

Charlie: I dono John.  I’m scared.  This doesn’t happen in Duluth.

Spider:  Well get ready, cuz it’s comin’ your way, son.  You know that any new thing that happens in Minneapolis makes it’s way up to Duluth a couple years later.  Better pack up your family and move on to Thunder Bay.

Charlie:  I can’t do metric John.  I can’t do it.  What’s gonna happen to us?   The doctor said “get out and do some walkin.’  It’ll do ya good.” So I did John.  I got both of us out ta do some walkin’, and did it do us any good?  No.  It put the fear of God in us John.  The end is surely near if they’re selling us a see-through flannel.  It’s cold John.  It’s cold.  I can feel the frosty breeze from capitalism’s heart on my skin. (pause)  Wait.  Let me write that down.

Spider:  My friend, there’s only one thing to do.  You know it.  I know it.

(Spider John takes out his cigarette making kit, and pulls a book of matches from the box.  He taps a young, spikey-haired passerby on the shoulder.)

Spider:  Kid, unless you want the Man to eat your soul and spit it back out in swatches of Rayon, hand over your Dippity Do!

The kid replies: What?

Spider: Your hair gel, son.  Your groom-n-clean.  The shit you’re keeping’ your hair up with.

(The kid hands Spider John a canister of texturizing paste from his back pocket.  Spider dips his fingers into the jar of hair gel, and works it professionally into a clump under the clothes rack:  a make-shift lump of sterno, ready to birth fire.)

Charlie meekly asks:  Spider?

(Intent on his task, Spider John pays no attention, and pulls off a match.  Unfortunately, it won’t light on the matchbook which had grown damp with sweat during the man’s first indoors mall walk.)

Charlie (cont’d): I got it Spider.

(Charlie strikes the match against his stiff general store jeans, and nimbly sets the hair gel aflame.  In a matter of seconds the imitation rack of flannel is blazing.  The check out girl, blows a bubble and watches it, unresponsive, not remembering about science.  Spider and Charlie dash toward the exit and their knapsacks, but not before the sprinkler system has engaged, soaking them through.   As they scramble, Charlie calls out):  This wasn’t my week for showering.

Spider:  It’s free.  Take it.  Look out! The cops!

Not the real cops, but the privatized mall cops have caught on to the revolt that’s happening in the mall.  Well, not the real revolt.  They just think someone really hates the Pac Sun store.

Charlie:  I can hardly run in this wet flannel, John.  It’s too heavy,” (Charlie  Cries.)

Spider:  That’s the way it was meant to be, boy!

 

Scene 3, Closing Scene

Spider John and Charlie are handcuffed and sitting on a bench outside Hooters.  They must wait for the mall cops to finish their lunch before continuing on to the MOA interrogation room.

Spider: I feel alive, Chuck.  We’ve started a movement. I guess this did turn into a march on the mall.

Charlie:   Yeah, a real march.  Maybe this is the Mall of AMERICA.

Spider:  It’s turning out that way, isn’t it.

End of Episode 1

Published in: on May 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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