It’s a weird thing to look back on, but when I was a small child I made promises to myself as an old person, if I ever got to be an old person. The most important one was the most stark: that I would never become a father.
Some of you know why already, and I won’t get into it again here. It’s enough to say that it was a kind of “the buck stops here” commitment. I’ve kept that commitment, and I have never regretted it for a second of my life. My waking life at least.
One night when I was 35, I had my one and only dream of fatherhood. Tybee Island, Georgia, a place I knew well from childhood. My grandmother Smith lived in Savannah, and I loved visiting her and I loved Savannah and I especially loved the beach a few miles down the road. In the dream I was an adult, it was early morning, and I was walking along the beach. I was blissful. And there was a child with me. My son. He was stopping every few yards to pick up handfuls of sand and sift them through his fingers. He was blissful. I started to say something super-duper profound to him as we walked, something about never taking anything, not even the sand, for granted. Suddenly he looked up and shouted excitedly: “Mom!” I looked ahead to see a beach house, a screen door, a figure behind the screen. I looked closer, curious to see who this woman was and I woke up.
I started crying violently almost immediately, for I knew this idea of being a father could never come true. My commitment was too strong, stronger than any principle or ambition I have ever had in my underachieving life. It has been my Prime Directive, the price for staying alive.
I never dreamed that dream again. At times I have wondered if it was a peek into an alternate universe or timeline where I am still me just not as damaged but I have no regrets whatsoever. It has to be this way, and I believe I have prevented suffering because of that childhood promise to myself, now.
As some of y’all know I’ve been substitute teaching at a high school in SW VA. I asked the administration to throw everything they had at me, because life is short, I am old, and I don’t have much time left to decide if I really want to teach. So I not only get the math/science classes and Jr/Sr grades I’m aiming for, but also phys ed classes and – sigh – 8th and 9th graders. It’s what I asked for and I’ve been getting better at class management, working toward a professionally stable medium between unhinged pushover and unhinged nazi when it comes to in class discipline.
Consider a Venn diagram of:
(1) people who jump into online discussions correcting others over what the AR in AR-15 stands for,
(2) people who jump into online discussions correcting others over what the official Confederate flag looked like, and
(3) people who jump into online discussions claiming that there was no GOP Southern Strategy and that Democrats exclusively are the real racists.
That Venn diagram would be three nearly identical and concentric circles.
I am ambivalent about Mastodon. Not the interface – that’s fine. Not the decentralized networks nor the open source code – I’m definitely for all that.
It’s just that having walked away from a Twitterful of imaginary friends already, I’m not sure I’m up to making new imaginary friends, or being one myself.
Hello Twitter friends. It’s time for me to go. Pretty simple, really. I have no desire to be “the product” any longer. I will delete this account over the weekend. I have one remaining social media account: (at)k4doh on Instagram.
I have no idea if I’ll be hearing from people on Twitter again. I will miss several personal friends and online acquaintances. Same thing happened when I left Facebook, only more so. People probably still think I’m dead over there.
I’m here on this site I seldom update, with intention to do more always. I have e-z to find email addresses. Instagram and Flickr even. I’d be honored if you could drop me a line just to say hello at your convenience.
I have the world’s best commute: 14 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway in SW Virginia. I also have a ham radio: the Kenwood TH-D72A. On 25 February, I stopped on an overlook at Mile 168 in Floyd County and took a hiking path up to about 3550 feet. I thought maybe with 5 watts I could scare up a contact or two. Instead, I was The Popular Kid, hitting a Greensboro, NC repeater with ease and making several QRP contacts on 146.52 simplex with operators in NC, and VA.
I lived most of my life in #Alabama. Spent too much time tolerating bigots just to get by without making waves because i had things to do. Sometimes I whined #notallalabamians when my state did something reprehensible yet a-rsfcking-gain. Didn’t matter. Our name was still used to represent everything embarrassing about the South in 21st Century.
I was not an effective advocate for getting our heads out of our asses. I just voted for losing candidates and complained on the Internet. Surprise! It changed nothing. Alabama is insular and self-spiting even compared to the rest of the Deep South.
If Judge Meatwad wins every Alabamian and everyone who cares about Alabama is going to have to endure an unprecedented tsunami of scorn and it won’t matter if we deserve it individually or not. It won’t matter how many college football games Bama or Auburn win. Emphasizing college football is just another way we let ourselves get played by the reprehensible oligarchy that run the state anyway. But that’s another story.
It’s coming. You won’t like it. I won’t like it. It may not be fair, but it is understandable.
Clyde Lee Smith
SWVA, December 12, 2017.
Many people post manifestos when they leave Facebook, as if they are nailing their words to the door of the Facebook Cathedral. Why should I be any different?
The TL;DR summary is that I got tired of pretending to have more friends than I actually have. If they can’t be bothered to stay in touch in *all* the other ways available to us in 2017, then there wasn’t that much friendship to begin with.
Dear Facebook friends and contacts:
I’m eliminating Facebook from my online life.
I remain on on Instagram (yes, I KNOW). I remain on Twitter for now at least, and I have email, and a damn website, *and* a couple of carefully neglected ERRRR curated blogs.
I don’t need to tell you that that this platform makes its users into marks in return for ease of use and shiny things to click. Or the privacy issues that make even the most paranoid conspiracy enthusiasts struggle to keep up.
(Monitoring what I type and DON’T send? Why yes, please I just wanna see more more MOAR CONTENT.)
But more than anything I resent Facebook for injecting itself into personal connections I have miraculously maintained and treasured over a lifetime that has already lasted a decade longer than I expected.
I have finally overcome the feeling that nobody will care about me unless I post and entertain them. That’s such an childish attitude. One that I have recognized in several students during my experience at the local high school.
And it’s an attitude nurtured by this supremely manipulative platform.
The blunt portion of this letter follows and I mean it without malice. But it’s the most important part:
If leaving Facebook means we no longer communicate, there wasn’t much deep communication to begin with, just superficiality. It means you all meant more to me than I meant to you. And I’m no longer afraid of losing that.
Hell, as far as 99% of you know I’ve been dead for years and this account is another FB artificial intelligence experiment. Or some punkass in Russia. Or the White House. Same diff. (heh)
I hope to be around. But this account goes dark at midnight tonight.
2017 December 02
The Bent Road
Meadows of Dan, VA
Email cls at clydeleesmith.com
Gmail clydeleesmith at gmail.com
Today I went to McDonald’s and had my 5th Annual Tornado Commemorative Filet-O-Fish sandwich a couple of days early. I Instagrammed it and shared it with Facebook and this brought several folks out of the closet who liked one of those things every so often.
I promised I’d share the reason behind this strange ritual of mine and here it is.
Simple, really. April 27, 2011 was the day of the most violent, sustained tornado outbreak I had ever experienced. It took hundreds of lives throughout the Southeast. I lived in Huntsville, Alabama, a frequent target of tornadoes anyway. The morning started with sirens and did not stop until the evening. Of course, the ham radio folks were on the case.
Not a drill, that’s for sure. The warnings kept coming, the storms kept racing through, and by the end of the day north Alabama had been struck by multiple tornadoes. Hundreds died in the the surrounding area, hundreds more lost homes, and the city had plunged into darkness. Utility crews said that the power had been cut by the storms as expertly as if a military force were to lay siege. to the city.
It would be over a week before power would be restored. The day after the storms everybody was looking for gas, food, lodging. I drove around, filled up the tank at a station south of the city and ended up outside of nearby Decatur. Near the Priceville interstate 65 exit there stood a curiously functioning McDonald’s. While most of Decatur was without power this fast food joint was on a line coming from a grid coming from Birmingham, 90 miles away. With no deliveries expected for days, all they had was a dwindling supply of food, and by the time I arrived all they had were fries and their Filet-O-Fish sandwich. So I had one. Never tasted better. And I’ve had one every year at this time. That’s all.
Meanwhile on Facebook, some of my former WEGL radio colleagues are confessing their liking for them that is both kinds of funny, if you know what I mean. 🙂
Watch the skies, everyone, and stay safe.