Tuesday, March 31, 2020

True work


We haven't seen our son, nor spoken to him much. He's emotionally hunkered down, the way he gets when things are hard, the way he was during the brutal boot camp that was the fire academy. He was less like that during paramedic school, although that was hard, too. But the learning excited him, felt intuitive and native to him.

Meanwhile, our daughter's four-person team at the non-profit has now raised almost three million dollars to feed the city's hungry. She works the phones from home every day, capturing donations from corporate givers. Then at night, she paints botanical watercolors, working out her technique. She says it calms her.

I once read that the activity that feels most deeply peaceful to you is your true play, and that which excites you, makes your heart leap with joy at the challenge it brings, is your true work. It would seem my son is where he is supposed to be in terms of work. Unfortunately, he can't get much of his true play right now, which appears to be rock climbing. He is such a tersely physical being, such a contrast to his sister, who can roam quite happily inside her own head.

Our son is picking up every overtime shift he can and doing what he can in this pandemic ravaged city. People who go into the kind of work he has chosen don't waste much energy on being afraid for themselves personally. They feel a mission to help the ones who are endangered, even at the expense of themselves. But it takes a toll. "How are you doing, son?" I texted him yesterday. "Fine, the usual," he texted back. Hunkered down.

Last night on the news, someone said that health care workers and first responders will be suffering from PTSD when this pandemic finally eases its stranglehold. In our city right now, they are fighting to save the sick and the dying in a war zone, bombs falling all around them, nothing hyperbolic about that.



Monday, March 30, 2020

Life is but a dream

The worst, the very worst and most terrifying aspect of Covid-19's grip on New York City, and the world, is that as hospitals get overrun—and they already are here, despite predictions that the peak of this pandemic is still two weeks away—people are dying alone in bleak rooms, without any loved one by their side, as no one is allowed to visit or be with the sick once they are admitted. How can this be? I remember when my husband was so ill three years ago now, there was no way he could have advocated for himself in a medical setting. He wasn't even conscious during the worst of it, but I was there, watching out for him, able to call the staff if anything seemed amiss, and that was at a time when the staff wasn't losing their minds with terror and overwork, running to keep up, doing their best, but really, so many things must be falling through the cracks in the current scenario, and there is no one there to make sure their loved ones aren't the ones falling. It is a waking nightmare the likes of which we could not have imagined in our so-called technologically superior first world.

I saw a picture last night of a plane load of doctors and medical personnel, flying from Atlanta to help us in New York. I looked at the picture for a long time and after a while I couldn't see it anymore through the tears. I wash my hands till my wrists bleed. I slather them with Neosporin antibacterial ointment or lotion, before washing them again. I wipe down everything obsessively, but the disinfectant wipes are running low, and there are no more to be had anywhere. Perhaps we'll buy white rum from the liquor store, pour it into a spray bottle, and douse everything with that. Turns out liquor stores are still open, considered essential businesses. I get that.

I've been keeping most of our windows closed out of concern that pollen from the budding trees will blow in and provoke scary allergic reactions, which we wont know at first to be merely that, and not the start of something more insidious. But this morning, I threw open the window in my bedroom, thinking one has to periodically allow in fresh air, and I realized how sound proof our apartment is because as soon as I opened the window, I heard sirens, one after the other, ambulances wailing by on the avenues, the sound continuous.

My niece had a stomach ache and nausea yesterday. She thought the second half of the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich she had for breakfast didn't agree with her. She lay in bed all day, distracting herself with binge watching Tiger King. Apparently, it's a thing. Everyone is talking about it. I kept checking on her. She was down all day, but no fever. The unspoken fearful thought: Is this how it begins? But she's feeling much better this morning. Back to normal, she says.

I'm having stress dreams, mostly about my son. I dreamed I was in a crowded place, like a train station, and my husband was on the other side of the cavernous hall, screaming our son's name and frantically beckoning me to come to him. I ran to him, pushing through the crowd, understanding that we had to go to our boy. But the car was on the other side of a cliff, and we had to navigate a narrow, crumbling path on the edge of it, the waters swirling and furious far below. I wanted to ask why we needed to get to our son so urgently, but I had to concentrate on placing my feet. We never did get to the car, or to our boy. I woke up, heart hammering. The blinds outlined by rainy early morning light slowly solidified. 

Just a dream. 

Stay well out there. 



Sunday, March 29, 2020

Turning 26 under quarantine


Yesterday was our daughter's birthday. She and her boyfriend came over and we celebrated here. After much discussion, we have decided that our two households will quarantine together, which means following the same social distancing, hand washing, and no face touching rules so that we all remain healthy and don't infect one another or anyone else. So far so good, everyone seems fine. My cold from last week is gone, and I wonder if it might have been allergies, as no one else seems to have come down with it. Also, my friend with a cold who I sat beside in choir three weeks ago has now tested negative for covid. I'm thankful for that.

My husband drove to get our girl and her guy and bring them to our house, and then he drove them home at close to midnight, so they wouldn't have to deal with subways, buses, or Uber cars. The birthday was challenging at first. My daughter's friend group since elementary school, the girls we still refer to as The Six, sent her a Milkbar cake for her birthday. They had asked for a no-contact delivery, but it never did show up at her apartment door or in her lobby, despite having been marked as delivered, so she had to spend some time on the phone working that out. Apparently some other lucky person found a Milkbar birthday cake at their apartment door yesterday—if they opened their door that is. That cake could sit there for days.

Then, when my daughter and her love tried to exit their gated community, the gate they usually use wouldn't work with their key fob, so they had to walk around to a different one. They are both able bodied and would have been able to climb over the gate if they'd had to. Still, for some of their other neighbors it would definitely have been a fire hazard. Later, we tried to order dinner in, reasoning that gig workers need to keep being paid, but after two separate tries on Seamless, our food never showed up, so my girl on her birthday spent yet more time on her phone, politely texting with the restaurant and with Seamless to secure refunds. She's good at this. Finally we decided on Philly Cheese Steaks from the 24-hour corner deli for dinner, and my girl and her guy went out to get them, waving to neighbors but keeping a good social distance from other people every step of the way. They did see a dog they periodically sit for, and Emma bounded over to them and into my daughter's arms. That was a highlight. As soon as they got back into the house, they washed hands and we wiped down items that had come from the outdoors—not perfect but we do what we can.

Despite the false starts, the afternoon into evening was easy and enjoyable with the five of us. My girl's boyfriend had made her a delicious Funfetti ice cream cake, with blueberry cheesecake ice cream layers, and an angel light whipped cream icing. It was so loving of him. The evening before, he'd seen my girl starting to spin out, trying to decide what kind of cake she wanted and he told her not to worry, he'd take care of it. It's so helpful when our partners know our quirks, and step in to calm them. I loved him for it. We (as in my niece) had also made a cake so it was a two-cake affair, and we sang the traditional happy birthday song as well as the African American version, the South African version my daughter's art teacher has been singing to her and her friends since they were four year old, and the Caribbean happy birthday song. I thought I'd taped the whole joyous rendition of it, but when I checked, I'd pressed the record button wrong. We watched lighthearted animated features chosen by my girl, Frozen II and Tangled, both featuring a more empowered generation of Disney princesses. Then we watched The Great British Baking Show before calling it a night. It all felt very peaceful.

My son didn't join us of course. As a firefighter and paramedic, he is on the front lines of this epidemic every day, and would not expose us. So far, he and his fiancee seem fine, and he is rather luckier than his dad in that he lives with a partner who loves to cook. My husband is at this moment sitting in a chair behind me doing his daily Spanish lessons on Duolingo. He attended church services on Zoom at our dining table this morning, while I lay in bed and watched the latest episode of the new season of Outlander. Meanwhile our daughter is at home making a watercolor painting with the art supplies we gave her for her birthday. She's sending us photos of every stage. We haven't shopped in over a week. We're all stocked up and, yesterday notwithstanding, using what's in the house. Only six people are allowed in the supermarket at once, and everyone else waits outside, six feet apart, for their turn. This is how the lucky are living now in the big urban metropolis. We keep on.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Work stations


Thank you all for you kind words of concern. I feel enfolded in such a loving community here, as real as it gets. I am doing okay. The three of us in our little quarantine abode have not been outside since the weekend, not for groceries of anything else. The pollen count is high, spring blossoms are popping out along branches so recently bare, and the new corona virus continues its invasion of our city, our nation, our world.

Has there ever been a more startling demonstration of our interconnection? One scientist explained that difference between the transmission rate of Covid-19 and the more usual flu: With the flu, one person, through ten steps of transmission, may pass the virus on to a maximum of 14 people in the course of every day life, while with Covid-19, that same person doing all the same things will create a ten-step chain of transmission that reaches 59,000 people. I played the video again, to make sure I'd heard him right.

We in New York are on the leading edge in terms of numbers of cases in the U.S., possibly because we are have been testing more than anyone else, and because everyone lives shoulder to shoulder here. Fortunately, we have Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is intelligent, empathic, and proactive. He intends to abandon no one. As for me, I think I'm on the mend from whatever illness it was that claimed me. Unless of course the sniffles have simply moved down into my chest, which does feel somewhat true. Still, I'm no longer looking at the world through watery eyes and sniffling every moment, and that's a relief.

Yesterday I wrote 500 words before climbing into bed. It had taken everything to get those words down, and I didn't know how to go on. This morning, I got up and went straight to my lap top and wrote 1,100 words in the first hour, getting a difficult portion of the story securely behind me. Sometimes, when a thing feels hard, it really is best to walk away and come back to fight another day.

My husband, meanwhile, has reached the point in being housebound where he needs structure. He's dusted off his guitar and music workbooks. He's taken down from a high shelf a ship building kit he abandoned a decade ago. And he's brushing up on his Spanish and learning Portuguese on Duolingo, a language instruction site. These are his activities every morning now, after he checks in with his coworkers and fellow vestry members via email and Zoom. He reasons that his museum does a lot of work with Portuguese speaking people, so he's actually boosting his work skills, aka working from home.

Elsewhere in the house, my niece is diligently teleworking from her room, updating website images and putting up new blog posts and managing her bosses' demands. Come evening, we might put on a movie. Last night we watched the World War I movie 2017 together. The night before was the whodunit Knives Out. Sometimes, though not last evening, we open a bottle of wine. One meme going around is that at the end of this quarantine everyone will have become a superb chef or a raging alcoholic. And a mother now forced to home school her 6 and 8 year old children reports that "one child has been expelled, one suspended and the teacher has been fired for drinking on the job."

In any case, now we know who really keeps our country going—the janitors and sanitation workers, grocery store clerks, truckers, food preparers, police and firefighters, and most of all our health care workers. I hope we're all taking of note of who the "essential workers" are. What's happening in your interconnected corner of our world?

Also, my niece just started playing her cello in her room, and it's lovely.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Wish me


I appear to be sick with something. Perhaps it's just a cold. It's useless to say I never get colds, because I seem to be rather wracked with one now. People say if you have a runny nose, which I did have the first couple of days, it's not covid. But that might be a myth, according the research I was doing on Dr. Google at 4 a.m. last night when I couldn't sleep. My eyes hurt, but I don't have a fever, so that's a check for the plus column.

I'm not too sick to work, and so I am pressing on with the book. I have been making good progress, and am now at 82K words, just three thousand more to make word count. It's now apparent that I will blow right past word count, as I probably have more than 3K words of the story still to tell. I'm at the point of jettisoning all sorts of ideas and trying to figure out where to end what is essentially an ongoing story, one that changes not just daily, but hourly. Wish me inspiration, please.

How are you all doing out there? I won't even talk about the national nightmare that is the president. Every time he comes on our TV screen we change the channel. I just can't. I did read that a doctor in Italy said they were no longer treating people over 60 for covid. And the Lieutenant Governor of Texas seems to think that might not be such a bad idea.

Real talk? I'm scared. More than I have been able to admit until this moment, right here. I don't want to die before seeing my grandchildren. I don't want my husband to get sick. Or anyone I love. Or anyone. Wish me courage, wish me faith, please.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Shelter in place

We live perpetually on the knife edge of hope and dread. In New York City, the massive Jacob Javits Convention Center, home to the world motorcycle and boat shows, new age seminars and international furniture fairs, Comic Con festivals and worldwide Book Expos, is being converted into a field hospital. Hospital beds float on a lake of white marble, waiting for the crest of the curve of an illness that couldn't be flattened nearly enough.

From where I sit next to the window, the city is eerily still. Yet my niece just came back from a run in the park, and she said everyone else seemed to have the same idea. She ran fast, so as not to tarry in anyone's orbit, breathing the same air.

My son works alongside some of the most dyed-in-red conservatives in New York City. In his firehouse, Fox News blares from the TV all day. This is why he knows that a large swath of America thinks the pathological liar who is president is doing a good job. "And if he gives people Covid bailout money," he says, "I'm telling you now, it's a wrap."

I can't shake the sense that the earth is resetting itself, but maybe that's just a delusion. It's sunny outside. Spring is coming to our garden. The world looks no different really than it did two short weeks ago, before we truly understood the dangers. But it feels different, as if we've wondered into some dystopian science fiction movie in which the monster is unseen, diffuse, and no one knows the direction from which it will strike, nor how, nor if, we will vanquish it when it does.




Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Life under quarantine

My days of quarantine are not much different from my days before. I sit at my desk and write, as my deadline for this book has not shifted, in fact last week it was moved up by a month, as the editor wants to publish next spring. But these days, I have my husband home, the TV on giving updates on the Covid-19 pandemic, and my niece is in her bedroom, set up at her desk, video conferencing with the digital team at her job of two months. The way America works has changed overnight. We are among the fortunate, in that we are continuing to have work, and our paychecks continue to be deposited on schedule, at least for now. But gig workers, food prep workers, temp workers, so many people are in a world of hurt. And the grocery store owners, and those who stock the shelves, even though the coin is flowing in for them, still they have to be out among the masses, at risk every day. This is the case for my niece's father in Orlando. She worries for him, and also for her mother, who even though she can stay home, is very much among the vulnerable, having beaten back cancer just a year ago.

The shit show that is the president is now on blazing display, as he whines that governors need to do more, find their own ventilators, and all this for a crisis that two weeks ago he insisted was a hoax. Fuck him. The governors in this country are providing the real leadership now, and they're on their own. The no count president hasn't a clue what to do, that is if he cared to help at all, which he doesn't. A jewelry box maker in New Jersey was on the news this morning, saying his factory could easily be converted to making masks and other protective gear, he only needed the government to put in the order. Since last week, labs nationwide have stood ready to begin testing, if only the federal government would give them the go ahead. The corrupt self-dealing president declined the World Health Organization testing kits that would have allowed us to begin testing people in late January. Then he gave the contract to develop the test kits to his son-in-law's brother. The tests didn't work at first, and we lost even more time. Now we simply don’t have enough tests to determine the scale of the crisis. Only 13,000 people have been tested in the US since February began. They do that many tests in a day in South Korea.

Public schools in New York’s tri-state area are now closed for the foreseeable future, but meals are still being provided on a grab-and-go basis to kids whose only meals for the day were at school. Some have suggested that empty university dorms can be turned into makeshift hospitals should the need arise. One man wrote about his wife's symptoms, deep fatigue and tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, headache, occasional fever, coughing. They called 911 on the fourth day and the paramedics came at once. They didn't test his wife. They said she definitely had Covid-19, but they had stopped testing for it that morning because it was "so rife." So this woman, sick as she is, and her husband, who appears to now be getting ill as well, are not among the confirmed cases, which tells you that for every positively identified case, there are many uncounted more. As a doctor who is now sick himself said, "This thing has been spreading for a long time."

I feel symptoms myself now and then, a cough, a sneeze, a thickness in the heart and throat, shallow breath. They come when I'm in the throes of anxiety about my loved ones. And then it passes, and I feel fine, so I'm going to assume that in our little quarantined household, we are all okay, and may we all remain so. I do worry for my son, who as a firefighter and paramedic is on the front lines daily. "All is well," he just texted me in response to my texted query about whether he has protective gear. "I have gear. Worrying isn't going to change anything so don't bother with it." Easier said than done of course.

Meanwhile my daughter is working harder than ever from home, because she works for a non profit that feeds the hungry in New York, the number of whom has exponentially multiplied. She is the business partnerships manager, which means she encourages corporate concerns to make philanthropic donations to help the cause. "I'm so stressed," she told me on the phone just now. "Our sponsors want to help, but if we don't reach out and capture those donations, they'll go somewhere else." Yesterday, she raised $100,000 to feed those in need. One. Hundred. Thousand. "You are one of the lucky ones," I told her. "You have the privilege of contributing something of such immense value right now." Honestly? I'm in awe of both my children. May we all be saved.






Sunday, March 15, 2020

Pandemic

The streets of this teeming city have emptied. The photo was taken in Times Square yesterday. To see what this same scene usually looks like, even late into the night, compare with the second photo in this post, which I took at close to midnight one summer evening.

One of my friends sent this poem to a circle of us women who regularly gather. Or at least we used to. Who knows when next we will see each other in this quarantined city. My friend said the poem was sent to her by her 81-year-old yoga teacher. I'm sharing it here because it feels so deeply like a message we all need to hear.

PANDEMIC
by Lynn Ungar

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world you love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

3/11/20

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Well, that escalated quickly

Fearing the spread of the corona virus, most colleges and universities are sending students home, with plans to finish out the year though online instruction. Some students being turned out of the dorms have nowhere to go. At the University of Dayton in Ohio last night more than 1,000 students gathered to protest the shut down of campus housing, and police in riot gear lobbed pepper spray into the crowd to get them to disperse. International students across the country are wondering how they will travel home with airports shutting down. At Cornell, my daughter's alma mater, all in-person classes have been cancelled for the rest of the year, and at Ithaca College, my son's and live-in niece's alma mater, spring break has been extended for an extra week or maybe two. They're hoping to have some clarity, I suppose, by the time students are to return. 

All Broadway shows have gone dark, and the NBA cancelled the rest of its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for Covid-19. The orange idiot president sniffled and struggled to read the teleprompter in a national address on television, in which he said testing would be free for everyone. If you lose the lottery and come up positive for the virus, however, you're own your own with the insurance companies, as further medical treatment does not appear to be covered. Oh, and actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson have tested positive for the virus in Australia, where they are being monitored. We all know that if the Hanks had been stateside, they would be walking around not knowing they had the virus, as they very likely would never have been tested. 

My sister-in-law, a cardiologist, pointed out that experts are saying 70 percent of the world's population will get the virus, but for 83 percent of those people, the effect will be mild and recovery will be total. The U.S. lags behind the entire world in its ability to test people and determine the true scale of the crisis, because our leadership has not only dismantled health protections but has also failed utterly to think ahead. The cluelessness of the president’s men is ludicrous. 

My niece and her husband were supposed to fly in tomorrow night from Dallas to attend a wedding in Long Island. They planned to stay with us overnight, but now have decided to just stay in the hotel for two nights instead, so as not to expose us to possible plane contagion. "We'll probably be okay if we get sick," she told me, "but you guys are in the danger category age wise." Plus my husband has that heart-valve replacement history, and we don't know if that qualifies as an underlying condition. He seems unconcerned. He rides the subway daily and has volunteered, as the one who lives closest to his job, to go in and monitor the Ichthyology department's live fish tanks. When I told him our niece wasn't coming after all, he texted in response, "So date night is back on?" He's what you would call a resilient soul.




Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Corona


It seems that all anyone in New York City is talking about is the corona virus. I can't tell whether it's incredibly hyped up or a true crisis. Columbia University and Barnard College up the street from me have shut down all in person classes and activities. My husband's museum told everyone to take home whatever they needed to work from home for a while. He works with the Ichthyology collection. He and his coworkers put their heads together to figure out what they could do from home and came up with a solution: Binge watch Netflix.

My son thinks everyone is being a little bit insane, but I'm secretly glad he's a firefighter now and not a paramedic making EMS calls. Although he came over this afternoon so that I could help him update and format his resume (my OCD is useful for such things) because he plans to pick up a side gig as a paramedic at a time when health care professionals are more in demand than ever. Meanwhile my daughter's co-workers in midtown are bemoaning supermarkets that are all sold out of hand sanitizer, Lysol spray, canned goods, and toilet paper. "This isn't happening in the hood," she told us. "I went into the grocery store on my block and all the so-called scarce items were right there." I guess some folks simply don't have the means to be stockpiling goods based on a maybe.

Yet the hype is such that people are even avoiding Corona beer, which led one of my son's friends to make a point of patronizing a restaurant named Corona in the neighborhood of Corona, Queens, where he sat drinking a Corona beer. Serendipitously, our son was on speaker phone sharing this story with his dad and me as we were driving to Brooklyn last Thursday, and right after I'd snapped that photo from the highway of houses in Corona. Earlier in the day, I'd gone into the offices of the magazine for which I edit freelance, and the executive editor greeted me by opening her arms and saying, "Let's hug now while we're still allowed."

Just three days later, at my choir rehearsal, everyone greeted each other by tapping the toes of our shoes, laughing at the foolishness of it, before offering a squirt of hand sanitizer. Anyone who coughed got the side eye, and my Lyft driver that evening worried about bringing the virus home to his diabetic mother. It all feels like a slow motion catastrophe, so slow you’re not quite sure it’s really happening. And yet the numbers of the sick keep rising, and massive institutions, whole countries even, keep closing down. No telling what comes next.



Monday, March 9, 2020

One day soon

I can't stop looking at this photo of the powerhouse of women who ran for president this year. From left they are Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Kristin Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris. Elizabeth Warren was by far the best candidate in the entire race, by my lights, but I would have happily voted for four of these five. But now those four have all bowed out, along with a black man, a Latinx man, and an Asian man, all three of them strong candidates, too, yet all of them casualties of a white male founding patriarchy that devised the whole electoral system as a stopgap against anyone but them holding power. It's remarkable, when you think about, that Obama managed to crash that firewall. People of conscience in this country have been made to pay for it ever since. Now, we are left with a choice between two white men in their late seventies, one who pounds his fist for revolution and one who promises a return to the status quo. Given their age, their vice presidential picks will be critical. I will of course vote for whomever becomes the nominee, because #VoteBlueNoMatterWho. Still, I'm looking forward to the day when a woman like four of those pictured here takes the reins. I know its coming.

Here's an informal poll: Who do you think is the VP pick that would most help a Biden ticket? A Sanders ticket? If you care to share your reasoning, I'd love to hear that, too.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Don't Mess with Brooklyn



"My name is Linda. I'm from Brooklyn. Don't mess with Brooklyn."

Those words open the first chapter of We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders. Brooklyn was out in force on Thursday night, as a Palestinian American Muslim community organizer held her book launch in a Baptist Church in the hood. It was fantastic. There was praise music and Palestinian folk dancing, and Linda's whole cadre of freedom fighters was up there on stage with her. The pews were filled with people of every description, race, walk, and creed—gay and straight and trans, abled and disabled, hijabs and yarmulkes and church lady hats, embroidered abayas and leather bomber jackets, piercings and pearls.

After the Baptist minister welcomed everyone, he promised us excerpts of the book. But instead of Linda getting up to do the reading, as authors usually do, her activist friends stepped up to the podium one by one and read passages in which they featured or to which they were somehow connected. They were a beautiful parade of rappers and rabbis, city councilmen and community leaders, poets and pastors, journalists and movement workers. I had a tingling feeling as I listened, knowing every word that came next, and yet knowing that they weren't my words, they were Linda's.

My husband and daughter sat beside me, their faces touched with wonder. "How are all these activists so insanely attractive?" my daughter whispered. "It's their passion," I said. "It's so bright it blinds you." I felt a kind of wonder myself, a sense that I had been privileged to have been tasked with an important thing.

Linda's son also read from a part of the book that told a story about him and his mother during the intense nine weeks when she was helping to plan the 2017 Women's March that kicked off the resistance to the most vile and hateful president in remembered history. In the middle of it, her son's voice cracked, and sobs broke from him. Linda in her shocking pink hijab and black leather jacket and fly studded boots got up from where she was and went to him, folding the man she had birthed into her arms. I looked over at my husband and  saw he had tears on his face too, then I looked at my daughter who seemed to be holding her breath, one hand pressed against her heart. It was that kind of night. People cried, laughed, cheered. Love infused every molecule of air.

When the readings were done, Linda took the stage to be interviewed by one of her sisters in the movement, Carmen Perez, the director of Harry Belafonte's organization, The Gathering for Justice. The first thing Linda did was to  thank her family. She said it was their support that made her brave enough to do movement work. Next, she thanked her editor for believing in her and her book. And then she said: "Is Rosemarie in this room? Is she here?" I waved from my seat, and blew her a kiss, and Linda said, "There you are!" And then she introduced me by my full name and said, "This woman is fantastic, and you need to know who she is."

This was unusual. Authors are not in the habit of giving public shout outs to their ghostwriters at book launch events. But Linda did just that. "Now, you all know I'm not an author and I'm not a writer, I'm a talker," she said. "And so when I was given the opportunity to write a book I didn't know where it was supposed to start and where it was supposed to end. This book was birthed because there was a woman named Rosemarie who sat with me, who helped me throughout my journey, pulled out the most important moments of my life and allowed me to put them on paper in a way that could inspire people around the world. So I want people to know there would be no book without you, Rosemarie, and I want you to know how much I love you and appreciate you and fell in love with you the first day I met you." (These were her exact words, which I lifted from a transcript of the event.)

I was so glad then, that I had not skipped going, the showing up being always so hard for me. Can you imagine if Linda had called out that to that sanctuary full of people and no one waved back? Afterward, people were coming up to the editor and me and thanking us for helping to bring their beloved's story into the world. Our editor said that in all her years she had never been to a book launch quite as rousing and unexpected and inclusive as this one. My daughter pronounced the whole evening extraordinary and my man said, "Linda took us to church."

Don't bother to google her. What you'll find is hateful, as right wing dark money has spent millions trying to defame and discredit her.  That is not an exaggeration. They fear her power, which you can see within minutes of meeting her is rooted in love. If you're curious about her, read her book. I have nothing to gain from promoting it. I've already been paid for my part. I just believe we should all know the truth about who Linda is, and how she's out there every day, risking her very life to make a better world for us all.






Wednesday, March 4, 2020

It's Pub Week!

I'm so proud to have collaborated on this book with an extraordinary woman, who fights every day for us all. I spent a year of my life excavating her stories and writing them down. She went there fearlessly. I saw the death threats she gets every day, the vile messages on social media. But I also saw her heart, which is courageous and loving and true. I think the book came out beautifully.


Also, as long as I live, I will never get over the rush of walking into a bookstore and seeing words that I wrote pristinely bound between book covers.


In between being a surrogate for Bernie Sanders—the first woman in a hijab ever to be front and center in a presidential campaign—Linda is out there selling the heck out of her book, helped by universally good reviews. "Imagine a little Muslim girl walking into a bookstore and seeing this?" she says.


Linda's unapologetic goal is to make the New York Times bestseller list, to prove to publishers that stories like hers matter, and are worth taking a chance on. "I poured my heart into this," she says, "both my joys and my tragedies and I want as many people to read it as possible." 


#NotABystander
In bookstores now.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Old Vines

I have absolutely no brain cells left with which to compose a post. It's all being poured into the book, I'm learning so much, but please forgive my silence here. I have to get to 85K words by the end of this month, so I'm writing every minute I can, because I know that any day now I'm going to get slammed with a flood of stories to edit for the magazine, my other gig, and my writing time will be squeezed. I'm reading your blogs though I have no brain cells for comments just now either, but there's love. I'll be back as soon as I have a whole draft done, and can finally begin the fun part, editing, layering, pruning, deepening and hopefully making it better. The other book, the one I turned in last year, comes out tomorrow. There's a big launch party for it on Thursday. Will try to find mental space to report in about that. In the meantime, here's a picture that found its way into my day.

My sweet man is a wine connoisseur. He is part of a wine club that supports vintners working with small yield old vines. A shipment came last week. I looked up from the dining table where I was working and this is what I saw. The bottles are all put away now in his wine coolers. In our house, a good red is always just a corkscrew away. So much going on in the world. Wish I could stop and opine, but I know you know.