Friday, July 26, 2019

Dallas days

We're in Dallas. The flow is effortless. Pool. Hanging inside. Hanging outside. Tacos and margaritas. Breakfast chatter. Pedicures. Test driving Teslas. The best damn Texas barbecue. More pool. Designer ice cream. Movie watching. Still more chilling by the pool, dusk falling, sipping wine. I love my family!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


"Your room is ready," my darling niece texted. We're going on a little trip to Dallas, my husband, our two children, and me, to visit my newlywed niece and her husband. My daughter is tickled that the four of us are going on vacation together. "Do adult children really go on vacation with their parents?" she laughed. "Apparently," I replied. "Well, I can't wait," she said. Even better, my son made all the flight and car rental reservations, because I was underwater with work. And two weeks ago, my daughter took charge of booking rooms for us all on a family reunion cruise in the works for next summer. I'm so impressed that we are now in this place where my very competent children can take care of arrangements for the family. In years past, the designated travel agent would have been me. So what if my son booked our flights to Dallas way earlier than I would have chosen (we'll be heading to the airport in the middle of the night) and out of an airport I try to avoid because it's always under construction. My husband just shrugged, and I got his meaning. Our son took the initiative. Roll with it.

The photo up top is of my family, shortly after arriving in Dallas from our before daybreak flight. It was 9 AM and my niece and I were the only ones awake. I kind of love the photo.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Do all lives still matter?

My friend Jane and I sat in our garden on a bench just before dusk, catching up on our lives. Jane, whose son is half Japanese, was telling me about the passion of  George Takei, the former Star Trek actor, who spent his childhood between ages 5 and 9 in a Japanese internment camp in the swamps of Arkansas, his family forced to abandon their belongings and start over with nothing on Los Angeles' Skid Row after the war. The internment camps that proliferated on the American landscape during the Second World War are often left out of history books and are seldom discussed by Japanese American families who see no reason to stir the shame they still feel at the way they were treated.

But now, George Takei sees a reason. At 82, he wants to make sure all Americans know what was done to some of its citizens. "This nation has a long and tragic history of separating children from their parents, ever since the days of slavery, " he says. "I have to tell this story before there is no one left to tell it." Takei's new graphic memoir, They Called Us Enemy, has just been released and next month he will appear in an AMC series, The Terror: Infamy, set in a Japanese internment camp.

As we all know, the internment camps are back with a vengeance. History doesn't repeat itself, I heard someone say, but there sure are sequels. Well, then, let's rewrite the sh*t out of this one. As a bumper sticker my cousin sent me the other day said:

Saturday, July 20, 2019

We Are All The Squad

That's my first U.S. passport picture. I was 26. I am a naturalized citizen and my children are American born. Trump wants people who look like us to go back where we came from, as in his view, and that of his followers, the only true Americans have white skin. Not so. Tell my children to go back where they came from and they'll land in New York City. The richest irony of all, Trump himself is a first generation American, just like my children. In fact, every white person in America has an immigrant history, too.

We are living in Trump America, two words that now evoke the same chill as the phrase Nazi Germany. This week the president told four congresswomen of color—Ayana Pressley, an African American; Rashida Tlaid, a Palestinian American; Ilhan Omar, a Somali-born refugee and a naturalized American; and Alexandria Osario-Cortez, an American-born Latinx woman, to go back home to the sh*thole places they came from. These four women, known as The Squad, had refused to vote for a border funding bill, as it did not specify how the money would be used and it contained no protections for migrants.

A day later, at a rally in North Carolina, Trump told lies about the women, calling them "pro-terrorist," especially Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. His goal, of course, was to inflame his all white crowd, which began chanting "Send her home." It was Hitler's Nazi rallies come to life before our very eyes. When history is written, the name Trump will be synonymous with the worst depredations ever recorded, including the incitement to murder non-whites. That is not hyperbole.

Baby Hitler is creating a tinderbox, putting these four women and everyone who looks like them in grave danger. He is trying to make the 2020 campaign about these four congresswomen of color, trying to gin up his base by saying "Vote for me, vote for whiteness, or you will have to deal with upstarts like these women who think they actually belong in this country, much less in government." I want to believe all is not lost, because when Congresswoman Ilhan Omar returned to Minnesota last week, a crowd of hundreds greeted her at the airport, chanting "Welcome home, Ilan!" A cheering crowd, including many white people, standing against hate. It was beautiful.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


The man and I, and our niece who lives with us now, went down to 79th Street last night to witness Manhattanhenge, also known as the Manhattan Solistice, during which the setting sun aligns perfectly with the east-west grid of the city's streets, casting a fiery orange light, and people flock from their homes to bathe in the glow. Some streets offer more dramatic views than others, the wider ones, unobstructed by trees, with high buildings on both sides forming a man-made canyon that intensifies the light rays. It's an odd moment of communion in the life of this bustling city, with everyone getting still, watching the sun as it sinks below the horizon, arms raised in unwitting salute to capture the marvel of light using technologies of light. People smiled at one another in rueful acknowledgement of our insignificance in the face of such the celestial grandeur. The name Manhattanhenge was coined by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, where my husband is also part of the science staff as an ichthyologist. DeGrasse Tyson was inspired of course by Stonehenge in Salisbury, England, built 5,000 years ago and thought to predict the progression of the seasons by the movement of the sun over its stones. My niece, who is still new to the city, having moved here only two months ago, thought the whole thing was pretty darn cool. I did, too.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


We caught our son on the news. A truck exploded on Madison Avenue, and he was there with his crew, helping to douse the flames. His sister pulled these screen shots from the video. I cannot forget our son saying to us years ago that when everything is going to hell, he wants to be one of the people who can help turn it around. I'd say he looks prepared.

May he be safe always.

Anyone watching The Handmaid's Tale, the TV series depicting author Margaret Atwood's dystopian society in which women exist only to function as child bearing chattel, domestic servants, submissive wives, and sex workers for high placed men? The story is set in a barely fictional part of the U.S. that has been renamed Gilead to denote its supposed adherence to biblical principles. The series has ruined the word Gilead for my daughter and two nieces, who cannot hear the word now without thinking of it as short hand for evil. I explain to them that the old Negro spiritual "Balm in Gilead," referred to Gilead as a place of spiritual healing, but The Handmaid's Tale takes the line "There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul," and turns it on its head, making women the universal sinners, who must live under the dominion of men. Some wives and "aunties" are complicit in subjugating and brutalizing their fellow women. These, I suppose, are the women who would have voted for Trump in our current universe, which isn't really parallel, because aspects of that fictional world, and our real one, are starting to converge.

If you're familiar with The Handmaid's Tale, you'll understand the question my daughter asked her dad the other day. She said, "So, Daddy, what is our Canada plan?" She wasn't actually joking, but was referring to the "underground railroad" in Margaret Atwood's dystopia, in which handmaids and other brutalized women and their sympathizers escape to Canada. To offer some context, there's a meme going around that started with this tweet:

I'm suffering from a kind of whiplash trying to keep up with all the catastrophes swirling around us. Yesterday, someone referred to what our nation is going through right now as "massive trauma." I thought of those brown children crowded into cages at the southern border, denied basic human hygiene, with reports of them being trafficked by border agents as rich businessmen line their pockets with taxpayer money paid to them for these for-profit concentration camps. Massive trauma. It gonged in me as truth.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Impossible. Done

I just this minute pressed "send" on my proposal, which has now been delivered to my subject and her agent for their review. Now I wait, hoping it passes muster, hoping they don't find it wildly off base. Nelson Mandela's aphorism is echoing in my brain—"It's always impossible until it's done." Once more time, I've managed to pull a thing out the hat. May it be worthy.

In between working intensively and hosting houseguests (we had a young woman and her mother stay with us last week, so the daughter, 17, could attend a precollege program in the city), I've been escaping into the Outlander series on Netflix. Now I see what all the commotion is about, though the second season isn't quite as absorbing as the first. Still, I'm all in, now, and will definitely watch all four seasons that have been released, and the two more that have just been green lighted. The chemistry between the lead characters, Claire and Jamie (Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan), lovers out of time in the Scottish Highlands of the mid 1700s, is just off the charts. I find myself holding my breath watching them, though be warned, some scenes from the first season are almost unbearably brutal.

What about you? As our nation's ideals and laws and basic human decencies progressively go up in flames, what guilty binge watching or other adventures have you escaped into lately? It's something of a paradox, but I'm learning to disengage the gears of vigilance in order to keep the travesties in view. Most of us have no idea what else to do. We're looking for the moment in which we can truly make a difference. In the meantime, self care is a revolutionary act.