Thursday, July 27, 2017

a fairy story

We'd bought cake because we'd remembered it was momma's birthday next week and we wanted to get something to celebrate it. WE'd bought cake now because we had the money now and we were that we couldn't find someplace to hide it or keep ourselves from spending it and Kelly had proven that we couldn't save for shit.

No, I didn't mean that, but Daddy always said that money was like water, it'd flow through your hands if you're not careful and while Momma said that was why we had banks, as buckets to hide the money, and it earned interest there besides, and Daddy just made a face and said something about how he didn't think the bank charging him fees should be paying his wife interest, and then voices were raised, mean thing were said and doors slammed. Daddy didn't come round much anymore, but we hadn't bothered thinking of any of that when we asked the little girl for her money.
She was walking down the streets, and she looked nervous and we knew she had some. We'd seen her before going out to get ice cream, and we didn't think she'd ever noticed us.
She did just hand it over, though. Didn't ask questions. Didn't say "no!" Just "OK" and handed it over like it meant nothing to her. We didn't even want that much, just a few dollars to play video games with and split a donut.

"No, we don't need it all. Take this back," I said, because this was more than we could spend at the arcade before momma got home, expecting us to have dinner reading and on the table.
It spelled like spring. There was a sign for a fair behind us, and Kelly nudged my kidney, and said, "that'll be fine," and we took off.
I looked behind us. The girl just stood there for a moment and kept walking. Didn't cry or anything.

There were two cops on the corner, the opposite side of the street. I stared at them, fingering their night sticks. "Stop it! They're not looking at you!" Kelly whispered, as he took the money and pushed it into an envelope.
"Where'd you get that?" I asked. I'd never seen money in an envelope before.
"Mrs. Jones gave it to me for the permission slip for the trip. I thought it might come in handy, so I slipped it into my notebook. Stop staring at the cops. They don't know what we've done."
The cops weren't even looking at us. It was 1981 and they had bigger fish to fry; the "broken window" policy hadn't been dreamed up. These dudes were looking for actual criminals.

"She gave us $23!" Kelly whispered.
"Shit! What we gonna do with that? Momma'll know for sure"
"Wait! Didn't she tell us to get dinner going? She's working late tonight that's why we were out on our own. We could buy food with this!" Kelly's bright idea.
"Nothing too fancy," I warned. "I mean, if we go overboard,"
"Will you stop worrying? I say we can buy dinner!"
There was a bakery next to the Chinese restaurant. We stared into the window sometimes.
The man at the Chinese restaurant asked what we wanted. We looked at the menu, and figured we could get dumplings, beef with broccoli and that General chicken that Mom liked. We'd still have $12 left, and that was too much money to be caught with.

Passing the bakery again, Kelly said,
"We found a twenty dollar bill,"
"Who'd lose a twenty! Momma'll never believe that." I argued.
"Lots of people. Hell you mighta dropped it, running away from the cops like that," I fumed. I hadn't run from the cops. We hadn't even *seen* the cops when we were running, and when we DID see the cops we just kept real still. "But we found 20 dollars and decided to get dinner. Then we remembered her birthday is next week and I didn't think we could keep the money safe, so we'll buy her a cake."
"Can't keep the money safe. You mean, you think I'd spend it." Kelly always had to be the sensible one in his stories.
"You want to say that it was your idea? You think Momma will care which one of us bought her a birthday cake?"
I stared at him in awe.
"That way she can't ask where we got it and it leave $3 for later!"

The cakes in the bakery were amazing. All kinds. Kelly remarked that Momma didn't like chocolate frosting, but then I said, "it's our Mom's birthday next week!" and the lady said, "Then I'll have to show you our birthday cakes," and took us over to a different counter.

We got momma a cherry cake with black frosting that said, "Happy birthday Mom!" and hid it in the refrigerator when we got home.

Momma got home about 20 minutes later and took one look at the carefully set dinner table, with the food laid out, and shook her head.
"I probably don't want to know what you boys did today. No, I probably don't," and sat down to eat.

She loved the birthday cake, though.


It's always darkest before the dawn is a great cliche because it reminds us that things always look at their worst before they get better. But isn't that kind of obvious? When things start getting better, than they clearly have gotten to be as bad as they are going to get NOW, this time. They will start getting bad again later, but right now this is the worst it's gotten.

And the night doesn't actually get darker. Once it's night, it's dark. Unless you're in a city that knows how to burn bulbs, in which case the evening begins to look like a nite brite toy from the 70s.

I prefer to think of the day being an injury to the night. Our language backs me up. Day breaks. Yes, night falls, but it heals and cools the earth after the day has heated it up. The horizon looks like an injury at both ends of the day. The sun rises and burns red over our earth Eastward. When the sun sets over the West, the horizon burns red again, as a dark cover of night tries to cover it, and cool the earth from the damage we have done.

We act in daylight, where we can see what we're doing and we are culpable, people can tell what we're doing. What we do in the daylight is meant to be seen, we save criminal activity for night.
That is not true, of course, but right now I'm just following metaphors around trying to figure out why we think the way we do.
I was reading a book and grown women were referred to as "girls;" the novel was written in the 60s and that WAS how a grown man might have thought about two women who were older than he was. The women were childlike. He was a man. That doesn't happen much anymore. Yes, of course some men refer to women as girls, but not all men, and certainly not like they did in 1962.

Hope springs eternal; I'm not going to list all the ways that it feels like the Ego "taking our country back" is turning into this country going backwards. We all live here, and we all live here now. But I do want us to think about how he's mangling the language so we can use it properly against him. Language shapes the way we speak, of course, but also changes the way we think, because we get comfortable with certain means of expression. It's important to notice when those means of expression change and why.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Way too personal

Dear Mom,

I'm not sure how to write this, but I'm sorry if I was difficult. My father's love, no his adoration, of me was something I got used to. I was accustomed to, and when you seemed to want more from me, I didn't know what it was or how to give it to you.
No, that's not right, either. I knew that you expected more and I wasn't sure why. Dad seemed to understand and was happy with less, and I was OK with that. At 14 I didn't understand that you wanted the child I was before the head injury back, because I didn't really understand who that was.
I knew I was smart. I'd always known that. I even knew I was smart after the head injury that left me comatose for ten days. At 11 years old, I knew I was smart. I was still reading hard books, or trying to. I was still good at math. I was still ME, I was just me with a lot more growing up to do.
This might be seen by people who don't know me. By people who don't know that I taught myself to read when I was three. People who don't know how much I might have lost. If you, reader, are already tired of listening to me, click the back button. You don't know me, and you don't know what I put my parents through.
Because Dad wasn't sure what to expect, because he was sure this was going to be awful, that any recovery was just going to be impossible, that if I was LUCKY I might still have lists in the bathroom of what to do in the morning, and what to do in the evening, it was easier to live up to his expectations. He knew that this was going to be bad, and he wanted to prepare me for that.
Perhaps he didn't even understand the preparation for college that you were looking forward to. The seeing ALL the places around the country where I might discover who I was meant to be. And you wanted me to want that, to want to see the rest of the world.
I'm not being too hard on you. You wanted me to have the opportunities that I might have had if I had not stepped out into the street at the wrong moment, if I had not gotten in the way of an automobile. If I had not spent 10 days in a coma a month before my eleventh birthday. Mom, you wanted me to have options.
Dad wanted me to get well, too, but he was used to adjusting expectations, and moving them down, I think.
We can't ask him now, at any rate.
But I'm sorry that I didn't understand that by setting standards you wanted me to know that I could reach them. That by asking me what I learned in school, that you wanted to engage me in school. You wanted me to have the life that perhaps I could no longer see an an option.
And to thank you, I became more closer to the parent who asked less of me. Who was willing to settle at a lower point, but was perfectly happy with the results in the end.
That was exceptionally not fair to you. And I'm sorry.

And perhaps I am being too hard on myself, too.

Friday, July 7, 2017

What Privilege Looks Like

She came into my branch, no she came to the branch where I work, for an meeting.
"How are things going?" She asked, pleasantly. We had always gotten along, and I felt this administrator was in my corner.
"Things are OK, if you can ignore what Trump is doing in the White House," I tried to say, but as soon as I said "doing" she cut me off.
"I don't talk politics," she said primly, as though reminding me to chew with my mouth closed, and I stared at her.

A few seconds passed of silence.
"Things are fine," I told her.
"Good," she replied.

The event went as planned, and the woman said goodbye to me before she went back to her home office, but I had a bad taste in my mouth.
Not discussing politics is probably a good idea when you work with the public (as I do) because we have to help everyone who comes into our building and we never want to give the impression that our collections were chosen because of politics, or we help people because of our politics. Being viewed as a safe space is crucial to my organization, and we work to preserve that, but doesn't that mean that some element of politics shines through?

Being able to say "I don't talk politics," primly is a way of saying "this is not an appropriate forum," or it's a way of saying "we know that we don't rock the boat."
Perhaps I'm wrong, because my organization depends upon political goodwill. We need the funding from government officials, and this coworker knows that. When an earlier administrator tried to rely more on private funding he did not get support from the employees or administrators, but I still feel that saying "I don't talk politics" is an exercise of privilege because you can decide that politics are not important to you.
But you're just fooling yourself. Of course politics are important.

Black Lives Matter. There is no Planet B. We're all in this together, damn it.
The ability to choose what you care about it, or decide that "those issues don't affect me," is privilege. It's the same thing that leads most of us to think that the wealthy are just planning to buy their own new planet when we've destroyed Planet Earth beyond repair. They'll do the same damage to the next planet, too. Because some amount of privilege allows you to not need to learn from your mistakes.
The Ego in the White House is all about doing deals and not worrying about politics, because he thinks it doesn't matter. It does matter.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Not Loving It

I understood the desire for the slogan "Love Trumps Hate" from Secretary Clinton's campaign, but I thought it was a bad idea. I thought it was a bad idea because Love doesn't really trump hate, unless you're living in the novel A Wrinkle in Time. I also thought it was a bad slogan because because it repeated the opponents name (though I suppose that wasn't really Secretary Clinton's fault) and because Trump wasn't preaching hate, he was preaching fear, and that's different.

Fear is a tricky emotion, because it's often not rational, and fear doesn't often get a situationally appropriate response. I am afraid of mice and rats; no, I am phobic of mice and rats. Very briefly my apartment had mice (we have not seen evidence of them for YEARS) and I put out traps. I was talking to my father who, very sensibly, said, "You know, the mouse is more afraid of you than you are of it," and I practically spit out my water.
"Don't be ridiculous!" I told him, "The mouse isn't BIG enough to be as afraid of me as I am of it." He laughed at me, and while I understood what he meant, I didn't think it was relevant.
I don't hate mice. A small white mouse in a cage is kind of cute. I understand people who have them for pets, but I just don't want them living in my apartment. Sound familiar?

During the 2012 campaign the Ego in the White House wasn't peddling hate, he was peddling fear; fear that a world that people understood was gone forever and he could save it for them; Fear that good people were being overlooked or taken advantage of by BAD people, people who weren't playing by the rules; Fear that the world you remember with your rose-tinted glasses is never coming back and it's THEIR fault (fill in who THEY are for yourself, it's probably a different them for different readers).

On Independence Day my husband and I attended a We Will Not Be Banned Rally organized by the Council on American Islamic Relations, because it is imperative that we who do not live in fear stand up with those who might. I'm sure somebody wants to tell me to "sit down and check your privilege!" Well, fuck off. Those of us who were lucky enough to have been born here have a responsibility to make sure that our voices are heard as the Ego in the White House tries to make us all afraid of each other. I love this country and what it stands for, and it does NOT stand for forbidding people from coming here for bigoted reasons based on fear.

The next day the New York Times ran a story about how the current Administration is trying to find illegal aliens and deport them, and they're going far back to find people who have overstayed their visas. The Current Administration is deporting Iraqi Christians. These people often voted for Trump because he was going to deport MEXICANS, not them, not people who fled persecution and led respectable lives in the United States, raised children and have grandchildren 40 years later.

These people backed for Trump, and convinced their relatives to vote for him, because Trump was talking about the BAD immigrants, not them.

To get Martin Neimoller's quote wrong; First they came for the Illegal Immigrants, and I did not speak out, for I was not an illegal immigrant. Then they came for those who had overstayed their visas, and I did not speak out, for my visa was in line. Then they came for the petty criminals, and I did not speak out, for I was a law abiding individual. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

People backed Trump because they didn't realize that fear can move easily if you don't fight it. If you allow yourself to be afraid of one person, it's not difficult to let that fear spread. If you try to get to understand what you are afraid of, or get to know the person whose existence (or perceived success) frightens you, you have cured the fear, and that cure is what trumps hate. Love is blind and often has no reasons, knowledge is different. Knowledge is a cure that doesn't necessarily resolve all fears, but can tell you which ones are based on reason, and which ones are just emotion masking as fact.

Saturday, July 1, 2017


A bomb startled the voice into silence and as I opened my eyes in my bedroom I realized that thunder had woken me from a dream.

I could not hear the rain hitting my window. All I could see was light flashing outside, with booms coming closer. Flash! Boom! Flash! Boom! FLASH! BOOM!!

Please tell me this is just a rainstorm. I can't hear the rain.

Just tell me this is a rainstorm. It's too early and I can't quite seen the clock. I don't want to sit up and focus to learn what time it is.

Does it matter what time the bomb is dropped?

Will it drop in the morning?

North Korea doesn't have enough airplanes that could get a bomb over here. Probably not even enough...I do know that a missile is sent in a bomb that is shipped over here and it is THAT that North Korea doesn't have, though North Korea does seem to have Nukes now, and I don't know how many people in North America are happy about that. I'm not too happy about it, but I take some comfort in that fact when I realize that it is four in the morning and the flashes and booms have neither stopped nor quieted.

I get up. I hope it's raining. I don't know why I can't hear rain drops against my window, but I can't. I've heard dry thunder, but it's not common in New England. Yes, New York City IS New England. While it does not resemble any of the stereotypes of New Englanders, New *York* State is certainly part of *New* England according to geography. And Dry Thunder is a Midwestern thing. Flashes of light without sounds are...No, flashes of light without sounds can't be bombs because the bomb would make a sound, too. If it were a nuclear bomb it would make a sound. If it were a nuclear bomb dropping nearby it would kill me quickly and I wouldn't have time to worry about it.

That's an odd sort of comfort, isn't it?

I don't want to return to thinking about my father knowing he was dying slowly than he wanted to last January. I don't want to think about that anymore. But you can't unknow something. That's the problem with learning the truth; you're stuck with it after that, unless somebody else tells you a lie that you choose to believe instead. But wouldn't you know you were lying to yourself?

Do we know that The Ego in the White House is terrified? Or am I just projecting? If I *AM* projecting, is it a projection of the fear that I am not comfortable learning to live with on to the Ego? Or is it an awareness that if I were in his place I'd be shitting in my pants just like (I suspect) he is. Is that last sentence a question (I am not sure if my fear is just my fear projected on to him?) or is it a statement of fact (I'm sure he's terrified and has no idea what to do). Because I am certain that the Ego in the White House is terrified and thought it would be much easier to just walk into the White House, look at people and say "Fix this!" and they would do it. Because he is the President and we have to do what he tell us to.

Ha, motherfucker! Looks a lot easier from a distance, doesn't it. A lot of things are like that.

The worst possible place to be during the nuclear holocaust would be on any underground transit during rush hour. The power would stop. The trains would be crowded. We would have no idea what was going on.

If somebody announced that the reason the Q train had stopped just inches from the Canal Street stop is because the bomb had dropped and we've lost all power, I wouldn't believe them. I'd assume that was a random crazy person. If the conductor announced it....I don't think the conductor would. I'm pretty sure that somewhere in MTA training, they do not recommend encouraging people to panic on trains, particularly during rush hour, so we would just stay on a crowded, stinky train, waiting for something, while the radiation started to leak into the subway. What exactly would the conductor tell us, anyway?