I have a conversation with Stephen DeBaun, known to me as the Reverend Stevo, a community activist and founder of the Sparks Network, a platform to connect volunteers with events and organizations. We discuss the ins and outs of his company and how he hopes to shape the face of volunteering, enabling our natural desire to help out which hasn't been served well by technology up to this point. Stevo and I chat about Karaoke, accordions, and alcoholic root beer. He talks about the importance of local politics and his experience being involved in the Occupy Movement in Ventura and the Westside Community Council. I wax poetic about the value of volunteerism and talk crap about goddamn Liberals. I rant about the Six Flags Flash Pass and attempt to do the math on how much time a general admission rider waits in line on behalf of people who skip to the front of the line with a Flash Pass.
My wife, Victoria, recently took our oldest kid on a two-day Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor getaway for her birthday. It was a grand time for the two of them, and I was happy to guard the home front and allow them a girl's trip. Because it was just a treat for two and not our entire brood of four kids, they splurged on Flash Passes for the two parks; paid access to shorter lines to get on rides and waters slides faster. Victoria sent me a text message in the middle of day one letting me know how many amazing rides they had managed to get on in the short amount of time they had been there. Jokingly, I warned my wife not to accrue too many hexes and bad juju from the hot and sweaty people whom they breezed by to move to the front of the line. My wife admitted to feeling like an asshole doing it.
I recall a trip to Hurricane Harbor a few years back. My kids and I stood in line to ascend one of the park's many water slides. The accent was a concrete staircase split down the middle by a metal handrail, one side packed with sweaty masses, waiting in the oppressive heat, ready to advance a single step at a time, up the multi-storey tower for the opportunity to bolt down a waterslide. The other side was empty most of the time, punctuated by the occasional group of teens who would sprint past us on their way to the top of the tower. They held Flash Passes and that allowed them to wait in a shorter line, whose members were cycled in at the top of the slide tower at a much faster rate than the people waiting in the general admission line.
I have a conversation with Rich Kleckner, who decided 6 months ago to start dressing as a woman full time. We discuss his lifelong proclivity to cross-dress and how he has dealt with the social stigma of being a stranger to the straight community and the gay community. We talk through the various terms people use to describe him and how he has found a very small community of like-minded cross-dressers who has given him insight into his obsession. We discuss cross-dressing in pop culture and world cultures. I mention the various spectra that gender identity and sexuality exists and we inventory Rich's answers to where he fits on the Genderbread Man, a graphic from ItsPronouncedMetroSexual.com. Of course, no discussion about a man in a dress these days can be complete without answering the most important question in the world, apparently: Which bathroom does Rich use? I rant about the media's incuriosity about Michael Steven Stanford's failed attempt to assassinate Donald Trump.
My wife Victoria asked me if she could interview me and I said, "Of course!" My lovely wife of nearly ten years is an obsessive planner and notoriously unadventurous eater. She created a "Wheel of Brian Parra" to select topics for me to discuss. I talk about our domestic life, my obsession with Judge John Hodgman, and how I'm willing to perform self-surgery. Vic asks me to discuss how I came to be so well dressed and why I binge watch TV Shows. We discuss TV shows that are too close to our everyday lives to be watchable for us. I wonder aloud if I might be a Gladwellian super connector. We discuss whether it's possible to rekindle friendships with childhood friends and if it's weird that I go see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2:Out of the Shadows with "The Guys" (It's not.) We talk about White vs. Mexican families and I recount the time we ate hot dogs for Christmas. I explain why I'm NOT moving to Tennessee to climb the corporate ladder. We drink wine. She triggers my stutter and my, "UHHHHHHs." We discuss the drag cruises we've been on together and what I expected to happen as a straight man on a gay cruise. I address the shooting at Pulse Night Club and explain why I'm so passionate about speaking out about this issue. I pay tribute to Edward Sotomayor Jr., who lost his life in Orlando. Victoria and I met him aboard the Drag Queen cruises we attended and held him in high esteem.
I have ended each of my podcasts with the words, "be kind and thoughtful." Certainly it's my intention to have people who listen to my podcast consider those words as they go about their days but I want to acknowledge that I'm saying those words to myself; I often neglect being kind and am constantly thoughtless in word and action. These days it's so easy to forget what other people go through, what others endure and so often we judge each other based on our limited assumptions of what is right for others with no consideration for their personal experience and feelings; we assume much about others based unsophisticated understandings of what their life is. I use that as a preamble to my following message; it's not related directly but in some ways should be a throughline of anything we encounter.
My heart goes out to the friends and family of the victims of the Orlando shooting at the Pulse Night Club. The pain and suffering you are going through right now is unimaginable. I'm sure every common thing that can be said about death will be said to you ad nauseum in the coming years, but there are lots of people that grieve with you, who are your allies, who will stand with you despite what may seem like the stunning silence of millions. My family and I count ourselves among those who have cried with you and in some other city, on some other day may have been in that very same club dancing with your loved ones.
I have a conversation with Neil Polzin, a board member for Camp Quest, Inc. and camp director for the Southern California session of Camp Quest West, a secular summer camp for kids of nonreligious families. He just returned from the Reason Rally in Washington D.C., a rally promoting reason and freethought to our nation's law makers. Neil spent a few days lobbying his congressional representatives about real sex education to counter abstinence-only education and talking to people about Camp Quest. We unpack all his experiences from his trip day by day where at one point, he nearly shared a stage with the Wu-Tang Clan, in front of a crowd of ten thousand. I ask Neil about his experience being ousted from the Boy Scouts when he admitted to being an atheist. I rant about my podcast post on the TNT2E Facebook page being targeted by trolls working for Donald Trump.
For the last few weeks, I've been editing the podcast of Luke Storey, founder of a school for fashion stylists, School of Style. Luke is an interesting guy who pulled himself out of a life of drugs and depravity by engaging in every possible self-help, spiritual, herbal, nutritional, and lifestyle solution he could get his hands on. He's launching a podcast about all the things he's tried called The Life Stylist. This first episode is his life story and the next episodes, that drop once a day for the next ten days, are interviews with people who are behind the practices he's tried out. Help keep me employed by giving it a listen then rate, review and recommend.
Last week, I posted a podcast about my experience talking to attendees of the Bernie Sanders rally in Ventura, CA on May 26, 2016. Before this post, all my podcast episodes were recorded conversations with friends of mine or people I reached out to on the internet who had unique perspectives. Certainly no one who might be considered famous, perhaps my brother-in-law who is a well-regarded author and historian was an exception. As it goes, my podcast, for 17 weekly episodes was received as I expected, friends and family and an assortment of curious acquaintances would check it out garnering perhaps half a dozen listens a day. I had previously tried spending $20 on it to have it promoted to people on Facebook who were interested in my topic. No post seemed to fare so well as when I decided to spend $20 on my podcast post with "Bernie Sanders" in the title this past Saturday.
I attended the rally for Bernie Sanders on the campus of Ventura College on May 26, 2016. A Democratic presidential primary rally is a rare sight in California, and I was very excited to attend my first. I recorded conversations I had with 23 amazing people I ran into all day long and present them here. Some were good friends; some were casual acquaintances; some were complete strangers; all were fucking bad ass. All day long I was confronted with passion, enthusiasm and genuine concern for the future of our nation. I start the day off connecting with Lisa Bean AKA Boh Nellis, a previous guest on this podcast and talk to members of her entourage.
I have a conversation with artist Travis Shorey. Travis draws and paints three-eyed monsters and geek-culture characters engaged in mostly eating tacos and drinking beer. His colorful painting can be seen on his Facebook page, Jankety Arts. Travis is a huge fan of beer, and I delight in going through his beer inventory in Brewbacca, his beer-toting Chewbacca backpack. Over the course of nearly three hours, we cover various topics as censorship in art, Randy Newman dropping the N-word, the Savior of Rock and Roll, who is obviously Bruno Mars, and whether Travis has ever been too drunk to fuck.
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