Thursday, June 28, 2018

Breathing space



"Look, I want to say,
The worst thing you can imagine has already
Zipped up its coat and is heading back
Up the road to wherever it came from."

—Tracey K. Smith, from Life on Mars

__________

So does that mean the worst thing I can imagine won't actually happen, or that it already has? Also, I could dream in that room all day long, drinking in lightness and air.



The stages of fascism


A woman I work with is Muslim American. As she sat among fellow parents at her daughter's graduation on Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it had upheld the third iteration of Trump's Muslim Travel Ban by a margin of 5-4. Devastated, the woman watched her daughter's graduate from middle school through tears. This was not the country she had been born and raised in. Her children were definitely not having the carefree upbringing she had known.

There have been a raft of other troubling SCOTUS decisions this season—the weakening of unions, the roll-back of pro-life protections, upholding a baker's right to discriminate against a gay couple, allowing states to gerrymander their voting maps at will. Then yesterday came the news that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a centrist, is retiring, giving Trump the opportunity to place yet another Handmaid's Tale extremist on the bench, one who will be committed to eroding reproductive rights and gutting health care for all. Why couldn't it be Clarence Thomas who was retiring? The man is an absolute waste of judicial space, and has been for decades. So now, the progressives in Congress are gearing up for a fight to delay seating a new justice until after the midterm elections, citing the GOPs refusal to even hold hearings on Obama's Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland in the eight months before the 2016 elections. The hope is that Congress will be very different in January, with a lot more women and progressives and people of diverse experiences, which might allow a more centrist jurist to be appointed, rather than another Neil Gorsuch, which would sink us all.

__________

In December of 2016, a month before Trump was inaugurated, Evan Osnos wrote a piece in the New Yorker that asked this heart-stopping question: "What is the precise moment, in the life of a country, when tyranny takes hold? It rarely happens in an instant; it arrives like twilight, and at first, the eyes adjust."

In her post yesterday Sabine addressed exactly that question, recalling her own family's existence in Nazi Germany and posting an excerpt from an Irish Times piece on how fascism takes hold. I could hardly breathe as I read the excerpt, which I've posted below. It so fully describes this moment. Let us not be sheep.

Fintan O'Toole writes in The Irish Times:

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.

One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities. Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

But ... there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.

It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

She said yes!


My darling niece is engaged! Her sweetheart popped the question last night! And oh, he did it beautifully. It was the third anniversary of their relationship and he took her out to dinner at their special place. But before they went, he presented her with this box of fragrant golden roses in the shape of a heart, and then the ring, and she burst into to tears. "So is that a yes?" he said and she nodded wordlessly. "Um, I'm gonna need to hear you say it," he said, and she laughed and cried and said it.

We were all on standby. We'd known from the night before that this was the day he would propose. On Monday my husband was home from work, and our son came over to hang out with us on his day off, and my daughter also happened to be off from work that day and she came over with a bottle of champagne and told us to gather round. "Leisa is getting engaged tomorrow. And Grant wants us all to be at their apartment for 9:30 PM to surprise Leisa when they come back from dinner and to raise a toast and celebrate." And so we were there, along with some of their other friends, and his parents, and my lovely niece dissolved again into tears when she came through the door and we all yelled, "Surprise!" even though there had been a firm plan to yell "Congratulations!"

There was so much love and joy in the room, so much laughter and communion, and I looked at all the young people there, the couples, and I thought that they will be each other's support system as the years go by, and I just felt so thankful that my son and daughter and niece were able to grow up like siblings, and that they are all with really good people right now, and maybe this is how it will be. Well, the first of these couples has declared, and we will be going to Jamaica for a wedding in the near future, maybe a year from now, and it will be beautiful.

We found out that Grant had called Leisa's mom in Jamaica the night before he proposed, and he'd talked to my brother about his intention to ask Leisa to marry him when my brother visited us in New York a few weeks ago. We had been drinking margaritas that night, and apparently my brother's response was, "I have two pieces of advice to give you: One, be patient, the good times will come and go, but if you're patient and have faith they'll always come again, and the other, well, I can't remember the other thing right now, I'll need to get back to you on that." Sounds like my brother.

On the way back home in the car at close to midnight, my daughter and her love dozing in the back seat, I reflected on how mixed that day had been for the world, with the Supreme Court upholding the Muslim ban, and a federal judge ruling that the children stolen by our government had to be reunited with their parents within 30 days, and primaries across the country, including in New York where a 28-year-old Puerto Rican educator pulled off an exhilarating upset victory over a 20-year incumbent who was next up to be Speaker of the House.

The world was definitely still roiling, with very real problems that we would continue to confront, but for this night, we were in a bubble of happiness, the rest of it not quite real, almost a parallel universe that was waiting for our return, but on this night, we got to exist in a week where my darling niece completed her year-long residency, signed a contract to work as an associate dentist at a practice in Brooklyn, and got engaged to be married. These are the moments that fortify us.

This morning, I'm remembering my niece texting me in the summer of 2015 to say, "I met someone." There was something about this one; I could tell right away. Congrats, my loves. I've watched your joy and ease with each other from the very beginning, and I'm so very happy for you both!






Saturday, June 23, 2018

Fantasy Lives


A young woman standing on a dock painting at the Saugatuck Art School during the summer of 1946. Photo by Wallace Kirkland, LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Image

__________

As a kid growing up in Jamaica, I dreamed of being an artist. I always knew I'd move north to America, where my beloved and utterly cool Aunt Winnie lived. I visited her in New York with my family when I was five, and from that point on my future was set.

Color the girl in that LIFE magazine photo a shade of brown, add a few pounds and a fuzzy 'fro, and you have the exact picture I had of my future. I applied to college in New York City and started out as an art major, but then I ran into an English professor named Maire Kurrick, and a creative writing professor named Elizabeth Hardwick, and these women inspired and encouraged me, and soon I had switched my major to English with a concentration in creative writing, and my old fantasy dissolved into to a new one.

Though I dreamed of the purity of writing books, I went in the journalism, because I was the child of a civil servant, who had instilled in me, above all, to make a living, to earn my own income and make my own way. There was no security to be found in sitting alone in a room and writing in the hope that someone would like what I had written and publish it. No, one had to have a job, and a steady paycheck. And the only way I could think to do that in the field of writing was to pursue journalism.

And so I went to graduate school in journalism, and became a reporter for the recently relaunched LIFE magazine in the 'eighties. Working for LIFE had been a secondary dream of mine when I was a girl poring over the magazine's photo essays, a brand new form of journalism back then. I studied the names and styles of the magazine's celebrated roster of photographers, imagining what it might be like to drop into people's lives in far-flung places. I ended up working with some of those men and women, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I suppose, in a way, that first foray into journalism was a perfect melding of the visual with the written word.

But now, here I am, a woman who sits alone in an apartment all day, writing books. Life has shown me again and again that the dreams we hold close are always in the process of being manifested. And now, I am beginning to dream again of returning to that first love, painting on canvasses, because while I do love and am grateful to make a living writing books, I am so often filled with agita at the need to please other people, while painting settles into my solitary soul as a feeling of comfort and peace.




Friday, June 22, 2018

Girl We Love




Because I need to reclaim light and joy and innate goodness in this space.



Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What Sabine said

Wise woman Sabine, who lives in Germany, left this comment on my post "Tender Age" camps. I implore everyone who reads here, please take this in.

"Please, please be aware that this is not the start of fascism. You are way into it. Ask any scholar. While I truly hope for you that voting can bring change, be aware that we all across the globe need to get ready to fight this monster. Whether you call it populist or call it fascist."


Begin Again

I came across an interview with the much lauded Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat in an online publication, The Rumpus. I know Edwidge. We went to the same college, and for a while moved in the same circles. She found early meteoric success and became a darling of the literary world. That did not stop her being kind and warm whenever we met. She is humble, a poet to her soul, and easy to love.

Toward the end of her Rumpus interview was the exchange below. For me, it landed like a clarion call to retrieve all the hope I've misplaced in the last few days, and not just because of heart-rending happenings on the southern border. Closer to home, I was wrestling with less dire concerns. And yet, they made my heart feel locked in a fist, my breath shallow, and at the edge of consciousness, vaporous fear. My editor didn't like where I chose to begin the story I am currently writing. She wants me to begin in another place. I will confess, though I was outwardly willing and positive, inwardly, it took some processing. It caused some pain, there I confessed it. I also wasn't sure I agreed, but she's the one who must be pleased in this equation. And so I will write a new chapter for her approval. On a good note, she loved the narrative outline, so it wasn't a complete fail. 

In any case, Edwidge Danticat's words found me today like an angel's song, reminding me to persevere, the stand in solidarity with all struggles, large external ones, and quiet internal ones. Doubt only weakens us, robbing us of the inspiration to meet each new challenge, making us forget that we can take them one by one, minute by minute, breath by breath, and do what's necessary. 

Thank you, Edwidge. Today, you have saved me.

__________


Rumpus: Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist At Work is the most important book for me in terms of understanding the artist’s life and the trials in truth-telling ... This framework of accepting the haunting and inviting the spirits in: when and how did you discover it?

Danticat: ... Create Dangerously was about giving myself permission. There are people who come into writing emboldened and formed. I wasn’t like that. I had to learn to give myself permission ... that this is a worthwhile endeavor, that I would fail sometimes, it would work sometimes, but like Maya Angelou says, that place had been earned for me. All I had to do was claim it.

__________

The photos here are by my niece and goddaughter Dani, who is following the call to write, and who is in Australia right now, gathering experiences. These sumptuous shots were taken at The Grounds of Alexandria. I'm sharing them here simply because I love and miss her, and because her photographs increased the beauty in my world today. She, too, is saving me as she travels the world, creating dangerously.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

"Tender age" camps

Rachel Maddow broke down in tears trying to report on a just breaking AP news story that the government is holding hundreds of babies in three or more secret "tender age" internment camps in South Texas.

Reporters are in tears.

There is no system in place to track parents and children for reunification. Families will be broken forever.

The Trump administration is very happy with all of this. It is being reported that our consternation and outrage have them clapping their hands in glee.

Auschwitz began as a detention camp. This is not intended to be inflammatory. This is a fact.

Where are the babies?

"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery."

Octavia Butler wrote these words in Parable of the Talents, the second of her brilliant Earthseed series, about a dystopian nation in which a religious zealot is elected president, emboldening his followers to kill people of other religions, as well as anyone they simply don't like. The fictional president's campaign slogan? Make America Great Again. You can't make this up, unless of course you are as prescient as Octavia Butler.

I sat in my living room this morning, listening to the news, listening to the lies being spewed by Trump administration officials, who are holding brown children ransom as leverage to get the Democrats to fund Trump's unholy wall. The newscasters played a tape of children crying as they were torn from their parents' arms. They reported on a Texas detention officer arrested and charged with "super aggravated sexual assault" of the 4-year old daughter of an undocumented mother. They interviewed sobbing parents who had been forcibly separated from their children. And suddenly my own tears were flowing, and my heart felt as it might bolt out my chest, I just couldn't contain the nightmare.

I had been awake since 4 A.M., venting on Twitter, howling into the void, furiously attaching #TrumpConcentrationCamps to every tweet and retweet, trying to do my part to get the hashtag to trend. For a while this morning, it did. I can't explain to you how boggled I am that this state sponsored abduction of children is actually happening. Sometimes, I think I must be hallucinating, because how on earth? And where are the girls who have been kidnapped by the government? How do we know they are not being trafficked? Where are the babies? How do we know they are not being sold into adoption to the highest bidder? We don't know. Those in charge of this policy can't answer these basic questions when reporters pose them, so what faith can we have in the safety and protection of these unseen children?

Some flight attendants reported that a group of children in cheap black and gray Walmart sweatsuits were flown on the redeye from Arizona to Miami a couple days ago, 16 children ranging in age from 6 to 11, all of them terrified, some of them weeping, a little 6 year old girl holding onto a flight attendant who had been kind to her, as the children's adult escorts scowled. At one point this morning I tweeted this:



I was undone just now to read this response: 


Monday, June 18, 2018

Such a good dad

This is one of my favorite photos of my kids with the man they are blessed to call dad. He is the best father, and I know good fathers, because I had one, too. So did he. How lucky we have been, and still are. I adore the way our kids lean into their dad, sure of his welcome, trusting his devotion, forever rooted by his love. Our babies are grown now, but they still lean into their dad in much the same way.

Yesterday both our son and daughter and their loves came over to spend the day with us. Our girl made her dad a key lime pie, and she and her sweet young man also rustled up a seafood boil for dinner, with shrimp and crabs legs and corn and potatoes in a bright creole broth, and it was delicious. We all sprawled in the living room after dinner and watched movies, an action flick and a comedy, everything wonderfully low key. A perfect father's day my husband said. 

I find that on these hallmark holidays I avoid social media now. I miss my mom and dad more intensely with each passing year. It’s a quiet yearning for them, almost peaceful in its constancy, except when I go on social media and see all the postings of people with parents here or gone, and my sense of loss flares into something blinding. It passes. It gentles down again the next day, and I feel grateful I had them for as long as I did, blessed that they were mine, and this is just how it goes. I imagine my husband, also an orphan, feels similarly, though he is a practical sort, and would never wring his hands, literally or figuratively, over that which can never be changed. 

 Our wonderful parents, and their firstborns.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Every path is the right one


For most of yesterday, I was in a funk. I get all knotted up inside when I don't hit my marks every time. What am I talking about? The wrongheaded notion that if I don't do something perfectly every time, if everyone is not immediately pleased with my efforts, I'm somehow an utter and abject failure. Like, if I don't post a loss on the big screen at my weight loss group every week, to quote a benign example. Never mind process. Never mind trial and error and begin again. Never mind the imperative of outside perspectives. I know I'm being oblique, but the point is I was really down on myself yesterday, wondering if I am on the right path. To make matters worse, not one, but two alternate paths presented themselves to me, neither of which I could fully explore, because I've already committed to the path I'm on, and will have to travel this stretch of the road to its destination. I have no idea if these other opportunities will still be there when I've completed the particular journey I'm on. Both of them seem less angst ridden than the choice I made, and offer more security, too.

To be slightly less oblique, one opportunity involved reuniting with my former work wife. We were both deputy editors at a women's magazine for many years, and had a seamless working relationship that was enjoyable to us both. Now she is in a new position and proposed to bring me on board. But our timing is all wrong. I got off the phone with her thinking the universe is just fucking with me, making me second guess my decisions. Or maybe I'm so confused in my own head my spirit guides don't know what to make happen for me (if you know about Tut's daily notes from the universe, you won't think I'm so crazy).

And then last night I went to a talk on meditation for weight loss by a fellow journeyman. My funk yesterday was not exactly about weight loss, but since everything is interconnected, it stands in for an aspect of myself that could use some reframing. This man who gave the talk used to weigh 461 pounds. In the same year-long weight loss program I just completed (in which I lost 50 pounds—yay, me! but still more to go) he came down to 340 pounds. In the year after the program, he lost an additional 115 pounds, and he did it by learning to how to meditate.

He said some things that rocked me with a blast of recognition: He called his hunger a raging river, for example, and said that at the start of his weight loss journey his goal was to gain control over that river, to learn how to navigate it. But at a certain point, as he began to investigate ways to tamp down his unceasing desire for food, he realized that it wasn't his hunger he had to gain mastery of, but his craving. It was a subtle distinction but I grasped it in the deepest way. Food is comfort. But what is it that makes our need for comfort so enormous? How can we touch that?

There was so much more from this man who spoke to us with his heart on his sleeve, who had clearly walked the path we were walking, who got it. He is normal sized now, tall and attractive in a dark haired, self-deprecating Al Pacino way, with the slightly awkward body posture of a man who used to carry a lot more weight—it was endearing. Some of what he said echoed what our friend here, Scott aka Tearful, has written about meditation, and about clearing the mind, non attachment, being a mirror for the world, taking all of it lightly, allowing all of it without judgment or suffering. Scott, of course, says it so much more eloquently than I just did, but a lot of what I didn't understand before, clicked into place last night. And when I came home, the knots in my stomach, the anxiety and feelings of impending failure, were gone. Everything was just what it was, and would be met in due course, and worked through. I didn't have to catastophize and manufacture problems that had not yet arisen. I could be in the moment. And I could eat a healthful dinner with my husband and feel satisfied.

May I grow more into this meditation adventure with time. Another thing I heard last night that was useful: No one feels as if they're doing it right when they start meditating. Don't worry about it. Just do what you do and keep clearing the mind, keep focusing on the breath, keep starting again, a minute at a time. I can do that. I don't have to be perfect. What a relief to stop reaching for an impossible state. I can just be.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Happier things


One of my daughter's college friends has been here all week, sleeping in my daughter's former room, and doing a jigsaw puzzle with me at the dining room table at random hours of the day. In between she's been hanging out with college friends in the city, then meeting up with my daughter and her friends after work. She graduated last week from Cornell's Hotel School, and is on her way back home to Arizona this morning, having left for the airport before daylight. She was a good friend to my daughter up there in the frozen northlands where they went to college. For three years in a row she came home with my girl at Thanksgiving and rode it out amid our crazy relatives in a jam packed household. She's so easy to have around. My daughter said the same thing, that she's easy to bring into any group of friends, you never have to worry about her connecting and being okay. This morning at 4 AM, when I woke up to hug her goodbye, her Uber waiting downstairs, she said, "Thank you for loving me and taking me in year after year and making me a part of your family. There simply aren't enough ways to say how much it has meant to me. I promise I'll be back before you know it." Her words just melted my heart. As my husband said earlier when our girl asked if her friend could stay with us for a few days on the way back home, "Rachel is welcome in this house any time."


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Stolen children

Call it what it is—concentration camps to hold the stolen children. The announcement came last night that Trump has authorized the building of tent cities to house the almost 11,000 children taken from their parents at the border, and held in cages in warehouses. The majority of their families had presented themselves at the border legally seeking asylum. I lay awake in the hours before dawn this morning, my brain reeling. How can this be happening? How it is that I feel so helpless to affect the course of these events? We are all watching the heartless destruction of families for reasons of hatred and spite. What comes next? What further atrocities will Trump and his ICE gestapo visit on this nation, on this world?

Invisigal shared a website listing suggested actions here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The current endeavor

There is peace in knowing exactly what your day will be about. I do enjoy this work, especially after the first draft is completed, and the worst of the can I do this? angst has dissipated. On Lucy's book, we already have galleys and today I am reading second pass proofs. Lucy McBath, a national spokesperson for gun law reform who lost her only son to gun violence, won her Georgia primary and will advance to the runoff election next month. If all goes as hoped, she will be sworn in as a congresswoman soon after her book is published in September. That would be a win for us all.



Sunday, June 10, 2018

This, too


Sister cousins. 

"Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts."

—Wendell Berry



American detention camps

We are once again talking about detention camps on the American landscape. We condemn the rounding up, detention, and murder of Jews in Nazi Germany during World War II, but we fail to assess what's happening within our own borders.

This time, the worst of the camps hold children forcibly torn from their parents when the families present themselves at the southern border seeking asylum. It is perfectly legal to seek sanctuary in this way, but now, as an officially sanctioned means of “deterrent” to other (non-white) refugees who might try to avail themselves of this humanitarian law, children as young as five months are ripped from their parents arms and sent to detention centers. I am using inflammatory language intentionally, and yet it doesn't even begin to capture the trauma. In some instances, parents who presented themselves for asylum were told that their children were being taken to bathe, and they waited and waited with the realization slowly dawning that their children would not be returned. It's a chilling echo of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany, where parents were told their children were being sent to "showers." At the US border, some refugees could hear their babies crying in a distant room. They never had a chance to say goodbye. They don't know where their children are as they, too, are imprisoned in detention centers, usually several states away. The children have no idea what is happening to them.

And nor do we. These camps are privately run, which means they receive government money for each additional child who is warehoused. By the end of May, more than 10,000 unaccompanied minors were in custody. We the taxpaying citizens are underwriting this atrocity. The fact that these detention centers are private enterprises also means they claim the right to refuse entry to journalists and even to elected officials seeking to inspect the condition of the premises. A senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley, tried to enter one of the camps, a former Walmart store whose doors are now chained and padlocked and whose windows are painted opaque black. He wanted to check on how the children in detention were being treated. He was turned away. What are they hiding? How are those defenseless children being cared for? We don't even know who is tasked with guarding them? Did anyone do background checks on the men with guns who have daily access to the children?

A Latina journalist on Joy Reid’s show this morning made a piercing observation. I'm paraphrasing. In essence, she said:

We detained Native Americans because we called them savages. 
We detained Africans because we called them property.
We detained Japanese because we called them infiltrators and untrustworthy.
We detained Muslims because we called them terrorists.
Now we are detaining Latin Americans because we call them animals.

It's the good old American way.

And it's happening even in sanctuary cities like my own. Last week in New York City an Ecuadorean restaurant worker delivered a pizza to Fort Hamilton US Army base in Brooklyn. He had delivered food to the base many times before but this time, after they took the pizza, they arrested Pablo Villavicencio and placed him in detention. Here's the thing: His wife is a citizen. His two children are citizens. And his own permanent residency paperwork has been legally filed and is pending.

The city was in an uproar, with #FreePablo demonstrations outside the ICE detention center where the pizza delivery man was being held. In response, the court has ordered a stay of his deportation while his immigration case is adjudicated. He is still in detention, however, and no longer able to contribute to the welfare of his family.

I recently saw a quote on a friend's Facebook page:

What would you have been doing in Germany as Hitler came to power?
You're doing it now.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Night and day


My brother is in town. He came over last night, so did his daughter and her guy, and my daughter and one of her friends. This woman is her work wife. Hired one week apart, they became instant allies, then found out they knew a lot of people in common and started hanging out across social circles. She was sleeping over for a fun girls night while my daughter's boyfriend is away in San Francisco for the weekend. Work wife is a delight, one of those people who can walk into any room and immediately turn strangers into friends. We all watched the NBA Finals and drank lots of margaritas and engaged in rousing, laughing conviviality, because whenever my brother and my niece are around, it is a party. After everyone left at around 1:30 A.M. my husband and I looked at each other and agreed, "Well, that was a blast." The only thing that would have made it more fun was my son being there, too, as he and his uncle riff off each other endlessly, always to amusing effect.


I have nothing planned for today. It is stretching out ahead of me like a yawning space, asking—demanding—to be filled. My man is at church painting a renovated room in the undercroft with some other folks, and I could join them, but I know I won't. I could work on the book, there is always work, but it's clear and sunny outside, not a trace of humidity, and I know I should be taking advantage of this day, taking myself somewhere that feeds the spirit. Everyone is busy while I am at a loose end. I feel a little lost, to tell you the truth. I know, boo hoo.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Good night, Traveler


"Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you... You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”  —Anthony Bourdain

*

To me, Anthony Bourdain always looked as if he'd just woken up from a bender. I read that story in the craggy map of his face, his eyes melancholy and much too aware, even when he was laughing. Later, he told us he had in fact been on many benders, he struggled to leave heroin behind, he kept cooking, traveling, weathering the electric shocks of simply being alive in the body he was in. I loved that he sought out people on the fringes, learning their food and eating with them, making us see their lives. I thought, naively, that he was gentling into middle age, growing into a sensibility that felt life too keenly, that couldn't shake off the jangle of the world. Last night, he took his own life. Fellow chef Eric Ripert, who was filming an episode for Bourdain's CNN show, Parts Unknown, found him unresponsive in his hotel room in France. With his death coming so soon after designer Kate Spade took her life two days ago, I feel pummeled. We look at people who seem to have everything they might dream, and we have no idea of their demons. Best to be kind, because we cannot know. I will miss you, traveler, and the way you lit up the corners.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

My tribe, thank you.

I blew right past my ten year blogging anniversary on June 2. Blogging sure has changed a lot in those ten years, but I'm so grateful for the people in this virtual country that I've come to know in a deep way, people I now consider part of my inner life, even though I might never have embraced you in the flesh. Along the way, some of you stopped blogging; I miss your regularly shared journeys of the heart, though we still sometimes visit in other rooms on these innernets, so we are not lost to each other. Others of you I meet up with in my dreams, I swear it happens, and how strange and wonderful that can be. Even though blogging has fallen out of fashion, the days long past of superstars making millions from clicks and parlaying their blogs into lifestyle TV shows, it still feels like a community here, a tribe of souls in far flung corners who somehow found each other, who hadn't really realized we'd been yearning for a particular kind of connection, until we found it here. Thank you, each one of you, for being part of my tribe.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

He did it! and an update

Our son passed every one of the gauntlet of tests for his nine-month-long intensive paramedic course, including the final one, the regional exam this morning. The text he just sent to his dad, sister, and me:


When I got the text, I sat alone in my house, all choked up. This is my child who never loved school, at least the academic part, who didn't plan to ever go back into a classroom when he finished college. Except he had to, in order to pursue his dream. And now this. He finished one point behind the first place score. I am so proud of him I could burst. 


Update: Thank you all for your kind comments. Please pray for my boy out there on the streets. He's been assigned to a rather rough part of town, and on the overnight shift—which he welcomes. He says the calls will be more varied and will force him to grow. Perhaps it is a law of nature that a parent's heart is never at rest.


Concert

We're in the midst of concert season for our ragtag little choir. Last night was our third of four concerts, this one held at the place where we rehearse every week in the dining room of a German Catholic bed and breakfast that used to be a convent. The dining tables were moved to the back and chairs were set up auditorium style and we stood against the large mahogany framed windows and sang to a very receptive audience of guests and staffers, people who were walking by on the street and saw the sign, friends of the singers, and a handful of artists from the neighborhood, who apparently use the guest house's common areas as a public gallery for their rather amazing work. I did wonder when we first began rehearsing there how an unpretentious guest house had such incredible sculptures just sitting out like that. I decided maybe these were loaned artifacts from the super wealthy Catholic church's private art collection. Funny how we make up stories in the absence of knowing what is.

The director of the guest house is a very amusing older man, eccentric and generous and a little lost in his train of thought, quick to laugh and absolutely delighted by our choir being part of his programming. So much so that he had his staff put out refreshments for us in the living room before our pre-concert rehearsal, trays of cookies and fruit, with bottled water, sodas and a big scrolly silver and brass coffee urn. After the concert, there was a lovely wine and cheese reception, hosted by a roguishly handsome art dealer who lives across the street from the guest house and is the person who convinced its director to turn it into a public gallery. He flirted outrageously with everyone, women and men, old and young, and we all felt very welcomed and charmed.

Our new rehearsal digs might not have the architectural splendor of our old digs, but our hosts could not be friendlier. So what if we're rehearsing in a dining room? With all that wood, the acoustics are good. I'm also just enough of an art whore to enjoy the fact that it's a hangout for real honest-to-God-doing-the-work local artists. I loved their shaggy haired shabbiness, the artists I mean, and even though I knew many of their names, they all carried themselves humbly, as if they remembered being unknowns, or maybe even thought they still were, as if they were grateful just to be able make art, and then take a break to come listen to a bunch of rather quirky singers for free.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Pink Dresses


Yara Shahidi, star of Black-ish and Grown-ish and a bright spirit.

Actually, I think I just noticed that photo of Yara because I like the actress and her dress reminded me of a mesmerizing scene from the new BBC series, Killing Eve, starring the inimitable Sandra Oh as a British-American detective named Eve on the path of a psychopathic Russian assassin who goes by the name of Villanelle. The two women, Eve and Villanelle, are obsessed with one another. In one scene, Villanelle, played by breakout star Jodie Comer, wears this fantastical pink dress to a psychotherapy session. It's an awesome fairytale garment, and I couldn't help imagining how sumptuous it must feel to swan around in. How's that for a little escapism? Plus I just like the photos.