Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"Time to get more tea. Now I'm in Mexico."

My husband and I are sitting at the dining table, in front of the big window, beyond which most of our trees have lost their recently golden leaves. I am working on the lush and lyrical novel I've been hired to edit, and he is back to geo-tagging fish specimens from his museum's collection, having completed his part of his department's annual report last week. Geological survey maps from countries across the world are displayed on his laptop, as he reconciles collectors' written descriptions of where specific specimens were found with actual geography. It's patient detective work, as many of these collections were gathered decades ago, and some descriptions don't match the topography on his screen. He has just finished tagging a collection from Guatemala. "Time to get some more tea," he announces cheerfully. "Now I'm in Mexico."

Meanwhile, I'm in Armenia, where the novel I'm working on opens. I'm enthralled by the characters, and hope to do this sprawling family saga justice. I pray that it will sell well, and secure the author's family and allow her to dedicate herself to writing full time. She's so gifted, an emotional soul, buffeted minute to minute by internal weather. She makes me look like a stoic, but this, I think, is why she writes the way she does, the story pouring out of her, unable to be contained. I hope and pray you will one day soon know her name.

I learned last night that my next project may happen after all. I thought the deal had fallen through, as I didn't want to accept one of the terms set by the subject's agent. But the subject has now said she wants to work with me, so our agents are renegotiating the terms. I had decided I was at peace with whatever happened, and that I would simply sink into this gorgeously written book I'm working on and when it was done, catch up on reading all the books that have piled up on my nightstand, and on my kindle, for years it seems. It was a delicious alternative to contemplate. But now, I shall have to push harder and be more schedule oriented in getting through the current manuscript—I won't give it short shrift of course, but no more meandering and sighing with pleasure. Another job awaits, and though it includes the always dreaded task of writing a proposal, I am grateful to have work.

I feel so lucky to be here, in this moment, with this man. He is excellent company, even on those days when I'm climbing the walls and have to get outside. I don't feel like that today. It's in the low thirties outside, crisp and cold, the sun casting lacy shadows through the trees. I look out from my apartment several floors up, and the world feels quiet somehow, gentle, even though I know that the cruel and corrupt president, in his last days, is doing his worst. We just have to hang on. There are two covid vaccines on the horizon, both reportedly 95 percent effective, and a president-elect who knows what he's doing is steadily getting up to speed.

My daughter took this picture on a recent trip to Maine. The way the light falls, a rainbow's end right at her feet, it looks to me like a portal to something good.

Friday, November 13, 2020

How can I resist?


I must have watched this clip a hundred times. In the absence of grandchildren, my daughter sends me pictures and videos of her dog Munch, doing cute things.

Munch and his lovelies will be coming to us for Thanksgiving, as will our son, though he will arrive later, as he's on shift at the firehouse that day. His fiancee will be with her family in New Jersey, so it will be just us five for dinner, and Munch of course. We'll be well under the no-more-than-ten-people guidelines for indoor gatherings. I'm really looking forward to a week of thrice daily walks around the neighborhood with my girl and her pup, though I confess I'm a tad nervous about any gathering at all, now that covid is once again on the march in New York City and everywhere. My daughter and her love seem to be inside a fairly safe bubble up there in Cambridge. He gets tested twice each week, and she's going to get tested before she comes to us, and she even sent me the Harvard dashboard that shows the covid situation on campus, how many tests, how many positives, how many in quarantine, etc. They have a lower rate of infection than the city of Boston itself. The dashboard shows a 0.02 percent rate of infection from the many hundreds of tests they do daily, and they're quick to isolate and contract trace for anyone who comes up positive. My girl said that since the school year began, there was one positive result in their section of about seventy people, students and their partners, and the student was immediately quarantined. Subsequent tests came back negative, however, so the previous positive test was concluded to be a false result. 

I do think people who are fairly fit, like my children and their loves, may be less likely to contract covid to begin with, and if they do, they are likely to have a better time of it. My husband and I cannot claim such prime physical conditioning, however. With our various underlying conditions, we are definitely at great risk. Still, we're going to do Thanksgiving with our kids. I miss my girl something fierce, and so I'm just going to pray for our continued safety and hold my babies tight.

My niece in Texas has been texting our group chat with photos of Thanksgivings past. She can't believe we won't be together this year. For almost two decades, she's missed only one year, when there was a family reunion in Florida that I didn't go to because my mom was too frail to fly there from Jamaica, and the idea of being at the reunion without her made me sad. We had a rollicking Thanksgiving in New York with other friends and family that year anyway, but face timed our missing reunion folk continuously. I guess we'll be doing some face timing again this year. Here's one of the pictures my niece sent. That's her on the left, with my daughter in the middle and another of their cousins, the cello-playing niece who lives with us, on the right.

My niece who lives with us won't be here for Thanksgiving either. She went home to Orlando in September to see her family—and vote—and has been working remotely from there since. She's returning to New York in December. I often think how she always dreamed about moving to New York City, and when she finally did, not even a year later everything got shut down, and she was stuck inside for months with her old aunt and uncle, seeing none of her friends, and unable to really enjoy the city with her boyfriend. I'd half expected her to decide she was staying indefinitely Florida, but a week ago she texted her return date and shared that she's missing New York. Maybe she's one of those people the city calls, and never lets go. Until recently, I thought I was one of those people myself.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Black girl magic!

I find myself at a loss for words to truly describe how I'm feeling, the hope and the release, mixed with the muscle memory of anxiety and outrage at the continuing antics of the party of Trump. I no longer want to waste energy railing at the cruelty and corruption of this outgoing administration, their refusal to admit they lost. I'm aware there's a mountain of havoc they can wreak before the new president is inaugurated on January 20, 2021, but I have also come to believe that Joe Biden is really the perfect man for this moment, a decent human being who is deeply experienced in what will be required once he takes office, and who somehow manages to keep his cool in the meantime. I'm really ready for the whole Republican mass delusion about election fraud to occupy less of my psychic energy so I won't even go into the ridiculous spectacle of Rudy (tuck-your-shirt-in) Giuliani, Trump's demented lawyer giving his big bad press conference from the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping store in Philly, wedged between a sex shop and a crematorium. Some idiot thought they'd booked the Four Seasons hotel. Of course that seedy back lot was far more on brand, but I can't even muster the sense of irony to care. Here's a sweet story instead. When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris's grand nieces learned that Aunty Kamela had won, the older one yelled, "Black girls can be president!!!" Like it was a revelation. This was reported by the girls' mom Meena Harris, who is Kamala's niece and a lawyer, activist, and lovely social media influencer, with whom our Vice President-elect shares an October 20 birthday. I love that I am looking forward to news of our new first and second families that won't make me want to stab something. Better days are on the way. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Election Day

My niece and her husband who live in Dallas flew to Boston for the weekend to visit my girl and her love. They had to post negative covid tests before they flew. It did my heart good to imagine the cousins together again after so many months apart. The two couples apparently ate their way through Boston, rating the meals and the cocktails and having a fine time together. They sent me pictures all weekend, because, well, they know I live vicariously through them. It snowed in Boston, which meant that Munch, the puppy, experienced his first taste of snow. 

One of my daughter's closest new friends in Boston happens to be a lifelong Texas Republican, who wasn't going to vote because she hates Trump, but after many deep and searching conversations with my daughter and another of their friends, she decided to send in her absentee ballot for Biden after all. She is white. Her husband is black. The third friend, who is also white, told her, "You and I may not have anything to fear from Trump, but people you love, do." And my daughter admitted to her that when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, she wanted to purely mourn her, but couldn't because the salient emotion she was experiencing was fear of what her death might mean to people who look like we do in this country. I think these openhearted, nonjudgmental talks helped deliver one more Texas vote for Biden. I imagine this kind of exchange is not always possible with Trump supporters, but then, my daughter's friend is a Republican but not a Trump supporter. I'm hoping that particular distinction will make all the difference when the ballots are counted tonight.

Our son and his love came over earlier to show us his new car, a Honda Accord Sport. His dad got behind the wheel and we drove around the city for a while, before dropping his love off at the salon to get her hair trimmed. The streets were fairly empty everywhere. No long lines of voters, which makes me think most of New York City voted early. I snapped that photo of my boy in the back seat, leaning over his dad's shoulder pointing out some of the car's features. He looked at me like, why on earth are you taking my picture right now? Then we came home and our son hung out with us till his sweetheart was done with her hair appointment. He's going to be working tonight, so he'll watch election returns at the firehouse, where at least half of his fellow firefighters want Trump to win; somehow my boy navigates this world while managing to stay true to himself. Still, I would not want to watch the returns with a bunch of Trump supporters.

I voted on Sunday, in a downpour. A DJ had set up on the Harlem street corner, blaring music, and one of the poll workers was dancing the electric slide on the sidewalk, not caring about the rain. Single-handedly she made the whole atmosphere feel festive, hopeful. And now, we wait. I plan to keep myself quitely at home for the rest of the day. I started a puzzle on the dining table to distract myself, and I'm reading Mariah Carey's riveting new memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey, which my friend Michaela Angela Davis brilliantly collaborated on. I aspire to write like this. I love the way the narrative verges on magical realism when recounting events from the perspective of a child, or a dreamer, because isn't that how the world can seem to children and dreamers?

If anyone is looking for serious binge watching distraction today, I highly, highly recommend The Queen's Gambit on Netflix, best thing I've watched in a long while. Seven episodes based on a book by the same name, about an orphaned girl who turns out to be a kick ass chess prodigy, a survivor, but also a troubled one, taking on an international gaming world dominated by men. It's set in the 1960s, the cinematography is beautiful, and Anya Taylor-Joy is captivating in the role of Beth Harmon, the chess master.

One relationship in particular, with the character whose name we know only as Mother, was just so moving to me, problematic for sure, but also so true to how it often goes in life, when there is love and need and trauma. I wont say more so as not to give spoilers, but it's definitely worth your time. And though your heart may be in your throat some of the time, I promise it won't leave you in a funk at the end, except maybe the funk of pining for characters who climbed inside you, and now you must now let them go. Let me know what you think if you decide to watch.

Okay, people, let's all send powerful wishes into the ether, just in case it's as plastic as the sages say, and can be sculpted by the collective force of our desires. Here's my obligatory "I voted" photo. May decency and hope prevail when this election is over. And may we know it to be so on this very night.