Monday, October 29, 2018

This loved man

His birthday yesterday was kind of perfect, with our children and their loves hanging out with us all day, and that, in itself was a party. It was exactly the kind of day my husband wanted, low key but convivial, with his beloveds around him, lounging and chatting happily into the night. Happy birthday, my love. At this no longer new stage of our lives, when we close the door at night and it's just us two, I feel the real gift of you, the comfort and ease of your company, and the deep blessing of shared history, and our precious children. I'm forever glad it's you.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

American Terrorism

Every day brings a new atrocity. Breaking news this morning is of a slaughter inside a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At least eight people dead, some police officers shot. It's being reported that the shooter had an automatic rifle and a handgun, and as he opened fire, he was yelling that all Jews must die. And now the orange psychopath is on TV saying if they'd had an armed guard inside the synagogue, no one would have been killed. The hatemongers have been unleashed, and by the president himself. I truly believe when he declared at the start of the week that he is a nationalist, it was the code his followers were waiting for to go out and wage a full on race war.

This was the third act of American terrorism this week alone, happening in concert with the fourteen pipe bombs that were mailed to critics of the president. Fourteen attempted assassinations. None of the bombs detonated because of a flaw in the making; the bomb maker, who is a rabid white nationalist and Trump acolyte, was thankfully not the star of his bomb making class (as someone on TV put it). Still, he attempted to blow to smithereens high profile critics of the president, including two former presidents, four members of Congress, two Democratic donors, an actor, two ex-CIA men, and a news network.  The list was given to him, name by name, in the president's vile tweets and hateful right wing rallies.

Elsewhere in America this week, a man walked into a Kroger store in Kentucky and shot an elderly black man in the back of his head. The man was with his grandson, buying poster board for a school project. The shooter then walked out to the parking lot and shot a black woman dead. He assured white bystanders they had nothing to fear because he wasn't there to kill white people. Just fifteen minutes before he killed two unsuspecting black people going about their lives on an ordinary day, this same man had tried to gain entry to a black church, but couldn't get in. So he went to the Kroger's instead.

Sadly, black people get killed in this country with such regularity the press barely covered the Kroger shooting. And now another massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. All three terrorists have been apprehended. All have drunk deep of the white nationalist Kool-aid. I'm just out here, bearing witness, forcing myself to look, to take it in, while trying to figure out what else to do.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Slipping into night

"Elections from North Dakota to Georgia may be stolen. The idiot king spews forth bigotry. The opposition party is threatened with attempted assassinations. A completely unfit attempted racist has been placed on the Supreme Court to judge the idiot king's obvious corruption. What little democracy this country ever had may well be entering its twilight. I hope I am wrong, but as night falls and the political winds get chilly, I am remembering Thomas Paine's admonition that we not be 'sunshine patriots' but winter soldiers. It is looking more and more like our charge is not to win a short term battle, but to settle in for a long campaign in a war that may well continue after our lives have ended. I am hoping against hope for a new dawn, but I think it's time to prepare for a long winter of discontent." —Jason Tebbe, historian

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Dear America

According to recent polls, some 47 percent of you are propping up a president who a few days ago declared himself a nationalist from a podium, over a loudspeaker, as some of you cheered, as if it was code to unleash the forces of hate to wage war.

You are giving credence and power to a man who declares the free press the enemy of the people, and a cadre of Republican minions too cowardly or morally bankrupt to stand against him, who in fact run all manner of racist and spectacularly dishonest ad campaigns in political races, who steal millions of votes in plain sight, whose nationalist rhetoric inflames the forces of hate to wage war.

This morning, the war was joined by those forces responding to the dog whistle, which was really a bullhorn. They sent pipe bombs to those who would seek to check their rampant, violent brand of nationalism. America, your president is stoking the flames of a race war, one in which white supremacists devote themselves to the destruction and nullification of all others. You might think I'm overstating things, that I too am being inflammatory, but I'm really not.

Today, several explosive devices were intercepted, one at the home of the Clintons, one at the home of the Obamas, one sent to CNN at the Time Warner building in midtown Manhattan. Also targeted by these letter bombs were former attorney general Eric Holder, ex CIA man and Trump critic John Brennan, congresswomen Maxine Waters and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and liberal billionaire George Soros.

This is America in 2018. We are no longer on the brink, but deep in the maw of a new civil war. The weapons have changed, and so have the battlegrounds. But the forces of division, bigotry, and hate look much the same. So when the activists and community organizers plead with us to get out there and vote as if our life depends on it, they are not speaking in euphemism.

Our very lives depend on what we do now.


As undetonated explosive devices are found this morning in mail sent to the homes of the Clintons and the Obamas, and to CNN in the Time Warner building in busy Columbus Circle, I'm posting my vacation pics from last weekend, where my daughter and I floated on a lazy river in Orlando and chatted and dozed under a cabana by the quiet pool and spent many wonderful hours with our cousins who live nearby. This lovely dream was invaded this morning by hell. The bomb story is developing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Life's grace

That's us, back in the day, in a failed selfie attempt long before selfies were a thing. We weren't yet married, or even engaged. We were still brand new. Not unconnected to this, I'm sitting here musing on the fact that I was always a chubby, okay a fat child. In adolescence and for a bit into my twenties, I was what people might call “well covered.” In truth, I felt grossly fat, ungainly, but now I look back and wish I could be that size again, and I wish I'd appreciated it more. Having more girth, always, than the girls around me, who were all thin and willowy and effortlessly graceful, made me self-conscious in life, a feeling of being conspicuous in the wrong way that has persisted to this day. So I wonder sometimes that I should also be so lucky in life, to have met and married a man who is undeterred by my gains and losses and gains over the years, who treats me always as if I am simply me, the woman he married, and laughs with, and shares children with, who exasperates him sometimes, but with whom he has cast his lot, and is at peace having done so. We had a joking moment on the phone just now; he is at work at the museum and I am working at home, and after I clicked off the call, I just sat for a while staring out the window at the mid-morning light falling soft through the trees, and I just felt lucky.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


I have been trying to just stand apart and observe my relationship with food this week, and what I see is that my emotions are a mercurial thing, they ebb and flow and swirl at the slightest change in the wind, and when they are roiling, I crave the narcotic of sugar: I read an article about an activist who is dying of ALS, and find myself craving an oatmeal raisin cookie. I listen to the news, and suddenly I want a key lime crumble yogurt. I hit a wall in my writing project, because I don't have enough detail and will have to interview my subject again, and anxiety flares, and I just want a slice of Milk Bar pie. They call it crack pie for a reason. Sugar numbs me, distracts me, blurs the edges. But it does so many other things besides, not the least of which is move the needle on the scale in the wrong direction. This feels exactly like addiction.

I'm remembering a man who lost more than three-hundred pounds by meditating. He said: "I had to gain control not of my hunger, but of my craving." Those words gonged in my brain. What yawning space inside me am I trying to fill, or anesthetize? I lost fifty pounds in the last year, and need to lose more, yet I can't seem to get my head back in the game. I am writing this in the hope of a new beginning. Yes, I know I can begin again in this second, that it's foolish to wait for circumstances to be perfect, for stress to abate. Stress never abates. And so I'm reaching for a kernel of motivation; seeking to unearth resilience; to vanquish despair and make the good choice. Thanks for letting me share.

In other news, I'm seeing images of complete devastation along the coast of Florida, houses reduced to sticks, forests kneeling all the way down. Difficult to believe that the steady, comforting rain outside my window right now is the remnant of yesterday's monster. This earth school is hard. But then it gives you colors like that tulip, which I think I should paint, and wouldn't that offer an infinitely more nourishing form of distraction, and perhaps a deeper soul comfort, than sugar.

Last night

The kids slept over. There was birthday cake and joy.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is this from a history professor, one of the clearest assessments of the current shape of fascism that I've read. This isn't your daddy's fascism, which is why so many haven't grasped that it's not down the road, it's here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Some infinite thing

"The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over ... The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting—the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing."—David Foster Wallace

The photo is from Jake's Treasure Beach, a magical corner of Jamaica. I'm dreaming of being there, and waking up to the infinite sea, and the shades of blue in that room.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

He made me a mother

I gave birth to this edgy, kinetic child twenty-seven years ago this week. From the time he was young, he knew he would never work in an office. He loved going to work with dad, roaming through collections of fish skeletons, identifying new specimens in the lab, watching the beetle colony process bones, exploring all the strange and magical wonders back stage at the museum of natural history. When he came to work with me at the magazine, however, he was bored to tears. The rustling of papers, the tap-tap of keyboards, conversations about adjectives, dangling modifiers, attribution. "I'm going to work outside when I grow up," he declared. "I'm never going to sit at a desk."

And now he is a paramedic, in and out of an ambulance all day. He has chosen a profession in which it matters not one bit if he covers his body in tattoos, and I am beginning to wonder just how far he will go with that. For his birthday this week, he sat for his fifth tattoo, this one the largest yet, a sailing ship and a rose on his forearm, the beginning of a planned sleeve. It's quite beautiful, though still a little red and raw, and the inked lines darker than they will ultimately be. But I'm still, after five tattoos, trying to get my head around the fact that my child's once untouched canvas of a body now bears these markings without my counsel or consent.

If there's any stronger evidence that our children belong only to themselves, the choice to tattoo the body is right up there. He approaches it like he's acquiring art. He researched this artist's pieces for months, and when he saw that he would be visiting New York from his home in Germany, he immediately made the appointment. All I can do in the face of his attraction to tats is hope I like his choices, and suck it up if I don't. I had to learn that lesson one summer when he had a friend who claimed to be a tattoo artist attempt a piece on his ribcage. It went awry, and is unfinished to this day. I mourned for months. I finally had to come to terms with the fact that I have no control over the decisions he makes about his physical person. Meanwhile he learned that just because someone is a friend doesn't mean you put the canvas of your body in their hands. You have to live with that ink forever. He has a plan to rescue and finish that tattoo next year, when he's replenished his coffers from this one. He's done the research and identified the artist he believes can fix it. His preferred style, he tells me, is grayscale neo-traditional.

Happy twenty-seventh turn around the sun, my beautiful boy. Your unfolding continues to be a wonder. We love you so.