Sunday, June 13, 2021

Moon Dance

I finally found a puzzle that I want to hang on my wall. It's called "Moon Dance," put out by a company called eeBoo, from their Piece & Love line of puzzles, which are wonderfully inclusive of all the colors of humanity who share our planet. I don't know if you've ever noticed, but people who look like me and my family do not appear in the vast majority of jigsaw puzzles, and so I was enchanted by eeBoo's diverse offerings. I particularly love this painting of women celebrating together in a moonlit garden. It speaks to me of feminine communion and joy. I ordered a frame for the finished puzzle, and am waiting eagerly for its delivery.

I also want to make a record here of those two ceramic plates on my dining table, the blue and the green, which arrived by mail in a box marked fragile, sent to me by the senator whose book I helped write. Clayed and glazed and decorated by her own hands, they are part of her series of "envelope plates," and one of them, the green one, bears the initials of her beloved mother as a design motif. Having worked with the senator on her book published earlier this year, I know what her ceramic art means to her, how deeply claying restores her for the fight for right, and so I know what an inestimable gift it is to receive a pair of these one-of-a-kind works or art. "Please use them," Mazie told me with her usual pragmatic sincerity, and so, with love and appreciation for her heart of fire, I shall.





Friday, June 11, 2021

Transformations


My daughter texted yesterday that she had the day off today, and did I want to hang out. This, as you well know, puts me in my happy place, a spontaneous wander around the city with my girl. She texted me again an hour later and said "I did a good thing at my job!” She then shared that a corporate partner whom she's been cultivating since before the pandemic began had just committed to a very generous sponsorship package to feed New York's hungry. My girl is loving her job right now, even though her millennial brain tells her she's been too many years at one place. Many of friends have skipped from job to job since graduating college, some have returned to grad school, but she's doing work that helps to secure people in need, has moved up steadily through the ranks, and has a super supportive and fair minded boss, a gift indeed. Not only that, her nonprofit agreed to let her work remotely from another city while her love is in grad school. And when she does come back to New York in a year, she'll only need to go into the office two days a week, and work from home the other three—this is the new protocol for everyone at her company. 

My son's fiancee also learned this week that the entire staff of her company will continue working remotely, so now she and my son are figuring out where they can set up office space for her in their one-bedroom apartment. One can't work from the kitchen counter or the couch and coffee table indefinitely. Meanwhile, my husband learned that everyone at the museum who took a one fifth cut in pay during quarantine by going to a four day work week, will be reinstated to five days as of July 1. All scientific staff will return to the building full time soon after. As for the magazine for which I edit, they have now put out more than a year's worth of issues with everyone working remotely, so I can't imagine they'll want to keep paying massive amounts of rent for their Brooklyn open concept office space, industrial cool and airy as it is. 

The city is being transformed in more ways than how people work. Restaurants have spilled onto sidewalks and out into the street, and the change looks to be permanent. Here's a picture of a Mexican restaurant on our block that is now mostly street side dining. The second picture is the view from where the man and I sat inside our favorite neighborhood place when we escaped our dining table co-working situation for a midday lunch earlier this week.

 
 

The kettle's whistling, and I've just run out of steam on this post. I need to go get ready to meet my girl anyway. Here's one last photo, taken by my daughter, of a woman going grey. My husband likes the silvering, and jokes that he's responsible for each an every one of those strands. I like that he likes the gray, but sometimes, I tire of it and color over it with perfect assurance that the change is only temporary, the silver always returns.


Thursday, June 3, 2021

Beautiful things


My man planted those roses on a trellis in the churchyard last year and they are flourishing. Yesterday, when he stopped by the church to sign some checks (he's the finance committee guy), his babies looked like this as they posed exuberantly for his camera. This is a man who, growing up, imagined marriage as being able to mow his own lawn and prune his own rose bushes. Little did he know he would end up with a city slicker and make life in an apartment in a city of eight million souls, so it's a gift that he has not just our windowsill but also that churchyard on a Harlem side street where he can answer the yen to grow beautiful things.

What a lovely time we had last night. Our daughter and her love are back in the city as of Tuesday, and will reside for the summer in an airy sublet in Brooklyn, a building with amenities I didn't know folks like us could aspire to in the city, perks like a garage beneath the building with rows of gleaming Audis that can be rented on a whim by residents at twenty percent less than anywhere else, and an expansive and beautifully appointed roof deck, with barbecue grills, fire pits, and overhead fairy lights on a wooden pergola, plus a huge screen on one wall for weekly movie nights courtesy of the management. 

A nice surprise for all was that both the residents and staff of the building are very diverse, all the united colors of Benetton (always loved that ad campaign), including mid-career professionals and millennial families, along with young hipster couples and transplants from other places who're new to the city for work or school. "We're experimenting with the bougie lifestyle this summer," my girl joked, and invited us to enjoy it with them. And last night we did. My son was working, but our niece who used to live with us and recently moved to Brooklyn joined us, and we all ate dinner up on the roof around a fire pit with the twilight sky arched above. For me, the feeling was of being able to truly exhale.

I didn't get many photos but there will be other chances, though the summer couple's dance card is already full, what with the city reopened and practically everyone we know now vaccinated. Plus most of their friends live in Brooklyn, and many of their business school cohorts are also in the city for summer internships, and they are a very social group if the past year in Boston is any indication. One year of grad school down already. One more year to go and then my girl and her guy will return to the city for good. At least I hope so. They are so happy to be home, they say. They were practically levitating with joy, even though they will both still have to do their day jobs. Oh to be young and tilting into the wind. The city has a certain electrical charge, and they plugged right back in. Even Munch seems excited to be back in town.





Saturday, May 29, 2021

Of safety and welcome


One hundred years ago on Memorial Day weekend, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the city's Greenwood District, an area known as Black Wall Street, prosperous Black families who had made a thriving community for themselves, went about their daily affairs. They had built elegant houses, a Black hotel considered one of the best in the world, banks, law firms, and flourishing businesses and schools, until on May 31 and June 1, one hundred years ago, their district was bombed from the air and incinerated from the ground as whites in Tulsa set fire to the entire kit and kaboodle, whole neighborhoods of families burned in their homes, with many who tried to flee shot and killed, and those who did manage to escape left homeless and penniless, concentrated in camps, their generational wealth in real estate and careful financial investments stolen in broad daylight, with no one ever held to account.

I'm ashamed to say I was a grown woman before I discovered what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the end of May 1921. I can still feel my naive and chilling disbelief that an entire community, thirty-five city blocks, had been razed to the ground in two days. Afterward, they put a highway through Greenwood so its residents could not rebuild. Many Americans still know nothing of the Tulsa race massacre. Some only learned of these events when they watched the opening sequence of the HBO series Watchmen, and were so astonished by the scenes of white mobs firebombing Greenwood, murdering its residents, mercilessly plundering their wealth, that they asked again and again, Did this horror really happen? Could this possibly be true? It did happen. The horror is true. 

What happened in Greenwood didn't appear in any history books from which our children were taught. And this week, the governor of Oklahoma signed a bill that bans the teaching of history that makes people feel uncomfortable, or that might make them feel any sense of responsibility, sorrow, or shame for past events. In other words, he banned the teaching of any and all the racial atrocities that are so woven with the history of this country. Look it up. The bill is so wrong as to be absurd. As someone said on a TV news program this morning, we have to start getting a little more comfortable with discomfort or nothing will ever change. Granted, nothing ever changing is the dearly held hope of many.

The fact is, the burning of Black Wall Street was not an isolated event. Across the South, and in the North, too, booming Black communities that sprang up in the aftermath of slavery were burned to the ground, their residents killed or run out of town, their hard-earned wealth destroyed to stolen, until at last Black folks clustered in concrete inner cities, seeking safety in numbers, starting again from scratch, their future generations mired in poverty and lack of opportunity, their freedom to travel where the wind might take them a wanderlust that could get them killed.

A month ago, a friend, the mother of a boy who went to school with my daughter in New York City, told us of her son driving cross country just for the lark of it, and how he stopped for a few weeks in a small town in Utah and loved it so much he decided to move there. This young man is white of course. A young man of color would not have dared to stop in white rural Utah, and perhaps would not have considered a drive cross country to be a lark, knowing the rural stretches of Trump America he might have to pass through, small towns where his humanity might be despised to the bone. No one talks much about this aspect of racism here, the way it clips the wings of our young, limits the geographic range of their dreams. I was happy for my friend's son, that he had found a place that spoke to his soul, but I couldn't speak for a few moments as the truth assailed me of how curtailed my own children's movements will always be in this country, if they hope to be safe, that is.

Not entirely incongruous to the musings of this post, the photograph here was taken by my niece Arrianne—morning light somewhere in Jamaica. Having migrated to this country forty six years ago, recently I find myself wondering what my life might have been like if I had just stayed in my first home. I realize that to some, no matter how long I live and work and pay taxes here, I will never belong. It is useless to ponder this, my husband says. We met in New York City. Our children were born here. They are American. Perhaps I might not have met and married this beautiful pragmatic man if I had not chosen to live here. Perhaps we are simply meant to be here, the evidence for that being the fact that we are here. 

Still, I yearn so hard of late for the spiritual safety and welcome of my first home, the green and blue island of my birth, it sometimes makes my vision blur.



Thursday, May 27, 2021

Summer is here



The man and I went to dinner in a Harlem beer garden last Friday, so that was fun. Date night outdoors, a lovely break in the proceedings. I have become much too acclimatized to life indoors, and lack imagination of the joys waiting to be experienced beyond my front door. It doesn't help that I have never been particularly gifted in this regard.

Summer is entering it's oppressive phase, the sun so bright through the window it blinds with its glare, the trees so fully leafed they hide the world, the daylight lasting so late into the night that sleep wont come till past midnight. In the summer, I wish I lived in a house with a deck and a backyard, rather than in a fifth floor New York City apartment. I wish I could step out my door barefoot, and feel the earth underfoot, the silky grass, the pebbles and sharp rocks. We don't go outdoors barefoot in New York. Such pleasures are saved for vacations in other places, and though I am yearning for such a trip, I seem devoid of the commitment and decision-making skills to plan one. I just go along from day to day, dropping down inside myself to check how I'm feeling, melancholy today, climbing the walls yesterday, longing to escape myself tomorrow. 

I can't watch the news anymore, all those dead children in Palestine, all those traumatized still living babies wondering if the next detonation will leave them homeless or worse, the father and his brother who each gave the other one of their children, so that if one of their houses were bombed, their line would live on. Closer to home, the mass shootings again, now that people have emerged from quarantine. What is wrong with us that we can't seem to regulate guns, can't seem to break the thrall of those who refused to be vaccinated because they're not afraid, yet need assault weapons to protect themselves. Who are we kidding? It's not to protect themselves, but rather to intimidate and spread fear, and far too often, to spray bullets and murder. I can't keep track of the names of the dead. Every day someone new. Dead by a cop's reckless gun. Dead by a gun owner's need to play with his toys. Sometimes, it is all I can do to make my world small, pretend man's inhumanity to man isn't destroying us.

What, I ask myself, am I supposed to do with this life? How can I make this day purposeful? And then night at long last creeps down through the trees, but brings no answers.


Friday, May 21, 2021

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The very air

Some fears should never be spoken, are not worthy of being powered by the vibration of sound. But how do we exorcise those fears, so that they cease to live inside us, making knees weak, breath ragged? They have such power, these figments of the mind, these imaginings that will hopefully never come to pass, and even if they did, what would I do then but keep on? All this to say I am a mess of unspoken fears this afternoon, and saying that here is my attempt to set them aside, to remind myself that the things I fear have not destroyed me, though I'm definitely a bit dinged. As I spiral in inner space, here are two photos of American Ballet Theater's Misty Copeland, goddess of the dance, because in my next life, I'm going to have that tensile muscle and grace, that mastery over the very air.


From @mistyonpointe


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Slow roll


It was the weirdest thing, I wrote and published that last post and then that night, after some comments had come it, it just vanished. Oddly, the comments were still in my queue, but attached now to a ghost post, and I had no idea what had happened. Then, the next morning, the post mysteriously reappeared, but as a draft now, and I wondered if there was anything in it that my guardian god fairies didn't think I should be putting out into the world, because I do think like that sometimes, but in the end I pressed publish again, and there you go. 

I'm in a slow cycle, nothing feeling too pressured yet on my currently active projects. I'm mostly just editing stories for the magazine this week and losing myself in reading books, which for so long I had been unable to do, as my attention was too scattershot. I wonder if it was the effect of perpetual exhausting outrage over the orange ectoplasm, mercifully relieved now by the delightfully boring good intentions of the current president. The kickoff meeting for my new book project is later this week, so I'll need to get busy again on that soon, but for the time being, I'm enjoying the sense of being able to meander a bit. The only downside is there's so little to do in New York beyond park activities and sidewalk dining right now, although that is likely to change soon, as more of the city gets vaccinated. 

My daughter and her love rented an apartment in Brooklyn for June and July, and I'll be so stoked to have them back in the city. My girl continues to do her job remotely, and he got a summer internship with a New York City finance firm. Even though his job is also remote, he figured it would be good to go into the office occasionally for some face time. Nothing like an in-person connection, especially now that offices are starting to open back up. My niece and her husband in Dallas will be coming to visit at some point, too, so the gang will be together again. My husband confessed that the thing he missed most in quarantine was regular get togethers with our young uns and their significant others. Well it seems the party's back on, though it may be moving to Brooklyn.

The apartment my daughter and her boyfriend rented is in a beautiful building with breathtaking rooftop amenities, and even a pet spa for heaven's sake. My daughter was thrilled at having found it. My son scolded his sister that she'll be spending twice as much on rent as he does every month, to which she replied, "Why can't you just be happy for me?" "I want to be happy for your bank account, too," my frugal son shot back. Without missing a beat my girl responded, "If you want to be happy for my bank account you're welcome to start making monthly cash infusions." He had the grace to laugh. I understand him, though. He is saving for a wedding, after all. 

I had a birthday by the way. My husband went down to the flower district the day before and picked up birds of paradise and ginger lilies and made me that beautiful arrangement, and brought home a new orchid, too. 


Friday, May 14, 2021

Life, liberty, happiness


How quickly the writing habit evaporates. Here's a picture. My news? The proposal I wrote has been sold to a publisher, and so now I have to write the book, but first I have to interview my subject again, in even greater depth, but first I have to catch her when she isn't on a plane to somewhere, she is always on a plane to somewhere. 

In the meanwhile I have had three work-related lunches in two weeks, two in my neighborhood and one in a tony town in a neighboring state, where people who are wealthy beyond imagining live. I worried about what to wear, and then I thought, just be yourself, if just being yourself doesn't cut it, then it's not a project for you. It may not be for me regardless, I don't know yet. I do love the agent on the project. She's one of those dark-humored yet deeply humane people with whom even an angsty soul can feel fully at ease. The prospect of working with her is a huge attraction, but I know what I do well, and what I might not be as well suited for, so I'm here, assessing. 

My son drove me the hour north to the lunch meeting in another state, and hung out with a friend of his who lives nearby until I called him to say I was ready, at which point he came and collected me from the restaurant and drove me back home. Such a lucky mother I am. Turns out I didn't need to worry about what I wore as my luncheon companion arrived at the waterside restaurant overlooking rich men's yachts with Crocs on her feet and she was completely and delightfully herself.

Things do seem to be bubbling. I had lunch two days ago with the woman who was my boss back in the early nineties, when I worked as senior editor for a travel book imprint at a publishing house. It was the only job I ever had that combined my college double major, English: writing concentration and Geography: cartography concentration. I've always loved maps; my first job in high school was handwriting the names of places on newly drafted maps, which my geography teacher recommended me for because my script looked like machined type. I digress. Back when I got hired at the publishing house, I was newly in my thirties and my boss, a prodigy in her late twenties, was already a publisher. When she offered me the job she said, "Oh Rosemarie, I have been searching for you for so long!" which made me preemptively forgive her for every difficulty she might ever cause me. 

She wasn't necessarily an easy boss, she was a stickler, a perfectionist, but it turns out I work well with such people, because they're very clear and straightforward about what they want. She left that job before I did, and a year later, she tapped me to be the co-writer with historian Madeleine Burnside on the very first book I ever had published, Spirits of the Passage, an illustrated coffee table reconstructed history of the earliest slave ship ever recovered, the wreck of the Henrietta Marie. 

We lost touch after the book's elegant launch party in an East Side art gallery thirty three years ago, until out of the blue she reached out two weeks ago and suggested we meet for lunch. I loved seeing her. We still knew each other so well, it was comfortable and warm as we caught each other up on the intervening years, talked about our twenty-something children, and reflected on how young we were back then. I learned that she'd married, moved to the Bay Area, raised her daughter there, got amicably divorced, and moved back to the city two years ago. She'd run her own literary agency for all of those years ("How did you start it?" I asked her. "Oh, I just found some clients," she shrugged), and now she had a project to pitch to me, a rather exciting one, and it just might play better to my strengths, I don't know, I have to do my research, figure out where to turn next, but it's a happy problem, this deciding.

The photo here is of a wonderful mural on East Third Street. It was taken by my friend Maryam, whose book I've just had the privilege of editing. Her novel is a sweeping global saga about motherhood and belonging, an epic work, and now it is with her agent and I pray and pray that it sells to a worthy publisher and you all will have a chance to read it, as you will not come away unmoved, and the world will be richer for receiving it. Amen.


Friday, April 30, 2021

Savoring the moment

I had my first business lunch in a year, sitting on the newly built sidewalk deck of my favorite neighborhood place, with all the music of New York City around us (as in trains, sirens, car horns, pedestrian chatter). Gosh, it felt good to be outside, and to be somewhat social with a very congenial lunch companion, who I was meeting for the first time in person, and who wanted to discuss ideas.

I heard yesterday that I didn't get that other book, and though I was disappointed to be the pageant runner up and not the one crowned, last night I slept like a baby, whereas if I'd got the book I would have been spinning in my head all night, knowing that I'd have to bang out another proposal on an incredibly short timeline. Things happen as they are meant, or at least, it's pretty to think so.

Dare I say it, I feel free. Free to explore random opportunities, to see friends without any deadlines making my breath shallow, to take the train two hours north on a weekday to have lunch with an older woman I love, to meet up with my old boss from when I worked in a publishing house two decades ago, who emailed me out of the blue this morning, and now we're getting together next week. 

It's liberating, knowing I have enough work lined up to get through the year (kiss it up to God that nothing falls through, now there's a throwback saying from childhood), but for the next few days at least, I don't have to engage with any of it, as everything has moved to the stage of being in someone else's court. The man and I are meeting some friends at a jazz concert tonight, Covid protocols strictly enforced, and said friends have all been vaccinated. Slowly, slowly, life is opening up again. 

Here's something joyful, my daughter and her five best friends since kindergarten, aka "The Six," all got themselves tested and/or vaccinated then spent the weekend together at an Airbnb in the Boston area, a house with a back yard that overlooked a lake. They had a wonderful time I heard, and this was a picture they sent to the mothers, who are all so moved at the way our girls' friendship evolves and deepens through the years. They are so different, each one, but they get each other, they are each others touchstone. An interesting note: the same orthodontist, visited back in middle school, was responsible for every toothy smile in this picture.



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

We carry on


I met up two dear friends in Central Park's conservatory gardens on Sunday. It was so good to be with them outside. The park was crowded, as it was seventy degrees out and spring blossoms are starting to laden their branches. One of my friends had come from a psychology conference that morning on "whiteness" and she very much wanted to talk about it. She said she was frustrated at the ways in which white people fail to interrogate assumptions that their perspective is the only one. Even good white people, she said, often seem more intent on trying to prove they aren't racist instead of exploring the ways in which they might be. She is white herself, and she argued that white people need to acknowledge their privilege and sit with their shame. A discussion followed as to whether the recognition of white privilege must be accompanied by shame. I told her I'd settle for inquisitive awareness.

In other news, I had a second Zoom call for a possible new project yesterday, so I dressed all the way up again. Here's another picture of me Zooming. It is interesting to me, after a naked faced year, how different one looks with foundation and lipstick on. I have decided that I very much would like to be chosen for this work, though I will be at peace either way. I've shown up to the best of my ability, even if I've been thinking since our Zoom call of all the things I could have, should have said. Now the waiting.

When I was a child, my mother, seeing me become anxious in advance of social occasions, said to me in a voice like dappled light, "Dress yourself nicely my darling, and then just forget about yourself!" I still hear her in my head, and it's the reason why, as stressed as I get beforehand, once the engagement starts, I do forget about myself, it's showtime. Bless my dear mother for the gift she gave me, simple as her words might seem. 

Meanwhile Black people continue to be killed by police, new deaths every day. I hear the names of the dead on the news and wonder if the case if an old one or brand new. I can't keep up. It is as if a mandate has gone out to police to execute Black people every chance they get, and they'll receive paid leave in return. It's no wonder I seem to have fallen into a social justice writing niche. It seems an important subject to engage in this moment. Honestly, the blatancy of racism in this country, from voting rights travesties to health and wealth gaps to police brutality, has become absurdly surreal. 

Good morning, friends. We carry on.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

At the end of a city block


“Optimism skipped out on the rent a while back, but the cynic in the penthouse won't leave until led out by marshals.” Colson Whitehead, The Colossus of New York

*

Spring is here, nevertheless.  

Good that I don't live in a penthouse. 

I get to be among the tulips.



Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Guilty on all counts


Ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd yesterday afternoon, convicted on all three counts. When the guilty verdict was read, I suddenly found myself sobbing, which I had not expected, even though I had been wound tight, fearing that this case too, would end in acquittal, dismissal, and tacit approval of cops snuffing out Black life. But George Floyd's execution was just so egregious, and caught on tape for the world to see. For three weeks the prosecution mounted an airtight case, arguing for George Floyd's humanity, and Derek Chauvin's inhumanity, while the defense tried to conjure up stereotypes of the scary Black bogeyman who might rise up and be dangerous even as he's calling out for his Mama in the afterlife, ever after he's stopped breathing, long after he's dead.

So many people cried along with me, which in retrospect should not have surprised me. I called my daughter in Boston twenty minutes after the verdict was read and she was still sobbing, as if her poor heart was in shreds. What does it mean to you? I asked her. What is making you cry so hard? 

I think I just let it in, she said. I think I had held a part of myself numb for over a year because I thought I would need that numb place to deal with the courts once again not valuing Black life. I was afraid they would let that cop go, like they do every time, like they did with Breonna Taylor. But they didn't. This time they said, enough, too much. And now it's all flooding in, the tragedy and violence of what happened to George Floyd, that sweet, good man who so many people loved, who had his problems, who struggled with addiction, who missed his mama, but who did not deserve to die.

I got it. They found Chauvin guilty, but George Floyd is still dead. And to get a conviction, the entire world had to bear witness, because everyone knew that if that video recorded by a brave, heartbroken teenager had not existed, Chauvin would have walked, too. That's why so many people cried. Release and sorrow, a painful brew. And then, within the same hour came the news of a 15-year-old Black girl in Columbus, Ohio, who called the cops because someone was trying to stab her, and when the cops showed up, they shot the girl dead. I don't know the details yet, but I really can't bring myself to believe that they can arrest white men armed to the teeth with assault weapons, even ones who murder Black worshipers in church, all without putting a scratch on them, but they can't deescalate a knife fight without shooting a 15-year-old foster child dead.

Modern police forces evolved from southern slave patrols and northern night watches charged with subjugating and brutalizing people of color to uphold the ideology and practice of white supremacy. The police may have changed their uniforms, but not how they see Black and Brown folks. You can't reform this. The rot is soaked through. You have to tear it down to the studs and start again.



Monday, April 19, 2021

My favorite co-worker

 
The man and I sit at that table every morning and he catches me up on the news while I'm trying to get started working, and then he tends to his plants on the windowsill and reports on their progress, and also the progress of the workmen repaving the path under our window. It's all very delightful, even when I say, Okay babe, I'm in my head trying to find my way through a sentence, and he waves a hand and says, yeah, yeah, ignore me, before getting up from our work table and going to make his breakfast. Also here's a photo of our daughter's dog Munch in profile, because a while back Allison asked for it. Our girl keeps trying to get us to say Munch is our first grandchild, but we say not a chance, he's our grand pup and we're still waiting for his human sibling. But we all do adore Munch.

 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Valisia

I had a big Zoom meeting on Friday, in which I was being interviewed for a possible project. I hate how I look on Zoom, I look gray and washed out, no light is quite right, and I also worry about the clutter in my house showing up behind me. I'm sure no one really cares, but I still judge my personal presentation quite harshly. Who am I kidding? If the meeting had been in person I'd have been just as stressed. Anyway, I did try to prepare, not just by reading up on the subject but I also purchased a video cam attachment as the built in camera on my laptop is blurry and dark, very unprofessional. And I ordered a laptop stand so I could position the screen level with my face instead of having the people on the call looking at me from the neck up (dear God, the neck, and let me tell you, weight loss has not helped that situation, how cruel that is). Then I experimented with the lighting in different places in my house and I looked uniformly bad everywhere so I decided I'd just set up at the dining table in front of the window where I could at least be comfortable. 

I was relieved when Friday finally arrived, because at least the anxiety would soon be over. I tidied the living room and placed a vase of flowers strategically in the background (Maryam, it was the flowers you sent me, still showing off their blooms beautifully). I then showered and dressed and put on a full face of make-up, including painting on lipstick for the first time in more than a year. When I sat in front of the screen I did look somewhat better because now the eye makeup and lipstick grabbed more attention, so now I know that for work related Zoom calls I shall simply have to wear that bold pink shade of lipstick, Valisia it's called, to distract the eye. Ha! That's me Zooming in the picture. No idea if I made any sense in the interview, but my lipstick game was on point.



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Stop fucking killing us


I need a break. I can't keep writing about brutalized Black bodies, dead Black men, cut down while going about their everyday lives by men and women sworn to protect and serve. The latest tragedy occurred ten miles down the road from the courthouse where We The People are spending millions to stage a month long trial to decide if a White cop who we all witnessed choking the life out of an unarmed, handcuffed Black man on a Minneapolis street should be answerable for committing murder.

And now, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was on his way to the car wash, his girlfriend in the car beside him. The cops said they pulled him over because of a deodorizer hanging from his rear view mirror. I remember a year ago when my own nephew was pulled over for a dream catcher hanging from his rear view mirror, his heart hammering as he placed his hands on the steering wheel where the cops could see them. My nephew drives with his license and papers on the dashboard so he wont have to reach for them if a cop pulls him over. This sweet faced kid was terrified, wondering if he would survive the encounter, as I imagine Daunte Wright might also have worried when he called his mom to say he was being pulled over. Now his one-year-old son will have to grow up without his father.

The cops devised other reasons for detaining Daunte after the fact, none of them warranting this young man's death. An accident, the cops are saying. The cop meant to fire her taser, not her gun. Fuck that. I can't. I watched the video of Daunte's mother and father being interviewed on ABC this morning as tears washed down my face. The pain in his parents' eyes. It's too much. 

And just one night before in Virginia, a Black army lieutenant in uniform, was signaled by cops to pull over for, as it turned out, no reason. He clicked on his hazard lights and kept driving till he could pull over in a well lit area. This apparently enraged the cop, who shouted that the army man was fixing to “ride the lightening” as he pepper sprayed his face, despite his hands being in the air. That well lit gas station with video cam possibly saved the army man's life. After being dragged out his car, battered and abused, he was sent on his way with no charges. I'm worn out by it all. The Black men I love are in random danger from law enforcement every time they walk out the door. I can't say enough prayers for their safety. I'm just done.


 



Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Breath after breath

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensional life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Wendell Berry 

*

This writing is a hedge against the anxiety that is making it so hard for me to breathe right now. What is anxiety but fear, but of what? That I will fail? That I won't be chosen? That I will be chosen and might disappoint? That I will prove unequal to what is asked of me? None of it is fatal, or even final, and yet I forget to breathe sometimes. Today I'm concentrating on breathing into all the sacred places, consecrating them with my breath, endeavoring, as the lovely Pema Chodron says, "to stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feelings of hopelessness," because "learning not to panic, that is the spiritual path."



Monday, April 5, 2021

A word, a quote, and some vicarious living


Ringlorn, adjective: 

The wish that the modern world felt as epic as the one depicted in old stories and folktales—a place of tragedy and transcendence, of oaths and omens and fates, where everyday life felt like a quest for glory, a mythic bond with an ancient past, or a battle for survival against a clear enemy, rather than an open-ended parlor game where all the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

Found on The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows 

*

"An honorable human relationship—that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love”—is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us."

Adrienne Rich

*

Channeling honorable human relationships and a bit of joy, here are some photos from the week just past of my daughter and my niece, who met up from Boston and Dallas for a beach destination getaway. My niece, a dentist, is fully vaccinated and my girl was tested before and during, was double-masked and face shielded while traveling, and spent time almost entirely outdoors, so don't judge her, as I did. I tried to get her not to go just yet, but she told me her body could not abide another week without immersion in a salty turquoise sea, and so there you go, the imperatives of the young. The truth? I had more than half a mind to join them, but work did not permit. They got back home last night, and now my daughter will quarantine and get two covid tests to ensure she didn't pick up anything, and then, hallelujah, after that she can get vaccinated because Boston expands it's eligibility criteria to include everyone on April 16.







 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Exhale!

She had a birthday party on the lawn with friends the Saturday and went out to a nice outdoor dinner with her love in the evening. On Sunday, her actual birthday, she went for a mani pedi with her Boston BFF, and then had Micky D for dinner. She loves nuggets and fries, but never lets herself eat them, so she decided on a treat. She posted that picture on her IG, and I commented "McDonald's huh? Such great habits I imparted!" She liked the comment so much she pinned it at the top of her feed. Oy.

The party on Saturday was actually a joint birthday bash for her and their dog Munch, who was born on April 6 a year ago. Munch had a wonderful time and afterward, everyone was bushed. I just like this picture of my girl and her guy.

Also, I finished the proposal at 5:47 P.M. today! It's 104 pages! I'll do one more read through tomorrow and attempt to trim word count and kill some darlings (I know some of you get that reference), and then I'm turning that sucker in on Friday. I have no idea how it will be received, but fixing a thing is easier than inventing a thing, so here we go. After I catch my breath, I'll be around to catch up on all your happenings. Been missing my tribe.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Happy birthday to our darling girl!

 You hold our hearts completely. ❤️



Saturday, March 20, 2021

Love languages

At noon today, my husband and I walked across the courtyard to the health center, found no line ahead of us, and were whisked right in to get our second Moderna shots. Afterward, we sat chatting with the nurse and two women who came after us for the required fifteen minutes, and were back home not half an hour later. The nurse did tell us that Moderna has proposed a booster shot to impart surer immunity against the more troubling variants. It is already being studied by the NIH. The other question, of course, is how long will the immunity that develops from the two-shot series last? Three months? A year? This is a rather significant question. 

Our son and his fiancĂ©e spent yesterday afternoon with us, and it was lovely. It's just so easy with them. Our oven has stopped working, which isn't surprising after twenty years, so our son went with his dad to purchase a new stove so he could apply his first responder discount on our behalf. I told him he's like his father, that his love language is acts of service. I know that, he said. He and his love had taken the test, and that was his result. Hers was quality time. I think mine might be words of affirmation, courtesy of my gently affirming mother, with my secondary love language being acts of service, because that is how I saw my dad show love all his life. If I have this right, your love language is how you understood (or yearned for) love to be given and received when you were a child. If that is indeed the case, it's not surprising that our son should mimic his dad's way of showing love, while our daughter, I suspect, mimics mine. 

The five love languages are: 1) words of affirmation; 2) acts of service; 3) quality time; 3) giving and receiving gifts; and 5) physical touch. I should caution that all this is off the top of my head so there's a chance I might be getting some of it wrong. If you're interested, the fully correct info is a google search away, and the quiz is here. In any case we had a love language fest here yesterday, mixing quality time, acts of service, and words of affirmation with my man's delicious corn and tomato chowder, lively storytelling, and simple soul-restoring joy. It was, all told, a very fine day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Asian Lives Matter (updated with a response to comments)

A shooter murdered eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta last night. Almost all the victims were workers at Asian massage spas, which gives the violence an undeniable racial aspect, even though one arresting officer ludicrously claimed the shooter was just "having a bad day." He was arrested "without incident," which told us he was white even before we saw his picture. These killings happened amid escalating attacks against Asians that Trump ignited by insistently calling Covid-19 the "China virus." In the past year, hate crimes against Asians have raged out of control, rising 1,900 percent just since lock downs began. My daughter and I had a text exchange about it just now. Her texts are in italics.

Mom! Having a moment about the Stop Asian Hate movement. Can I vent about it? Or use you as a sounding board?

Of course.  

I guess at the base of it? I feel like this is my first real opportunity to be an ally. Like the first movement I want to actively support that is not centered around an identity of mine. But how do I be a good ally? Do something more than post on my Instagram?

Also, I'm upset at all of the comments from Black people on the internet saying this isn't our fight or they give us hate so they're not supporting or fighting for them etc. That feels absolutely crazy to me but I can't get sucked into internet trolls .

Well, you can start by pushing back on those comments because this IS our fight. As MLK said “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” 

And as Angela Davis and Kimberlé Crenshaw said, all fights for justice must be intersectional, because what uplifts one oppressed group uplifts us all.

It’s also interesting to me that while I absolutely want to be an ally too, because AAPI people like Mazie are powerful allies for us, I notice that even though my horror and sorrow at the killings last night are real, it doesn’t feel as VISCERAL as it does when it's a Black person, which helps me to have some compassion for it not feeling as visceral to non-Black people when the same happens to us.

It doesn't feel as visceral to me either!!! Which is kind of more motivating for me. Like I remember the deep pain I felt last summer when it was Black people, so I can understand the pain Asians must be feeling but am noticing I'm not feeling it in the same way. But knowing that and knowing that people stepped up in solidarity with us anyway is motivating me to want to step up too.

So true! Post on social media. That’s more meaningful than saying nothing. You can also read about the Asian experience in this country, like how Japanese American citizens were rounded up during WWII and put in American concentration camps, and how US immigration policy was most racist against Asians, and the Chinese Exclusion Act stayed on the books well into the 20th century. (Also non-white people were not allowed to become naturalized American citizens until the 1950s, which isn’t that long ago). Also, maybe google how to be a good ally.

Like it's my duty to do so! Because it's been painful when people have brushed off the murder of Black folk in the past.

Well, I remember last year when we were reeling we wanted people to take the initiative on reading and studying how to be an antiracist, instead of making Black people have to teach them, so it's on us to get ourselves up to speed on how we can help in meaningful ways.

Yes! Exactly that too. It is very surreal for me to be on the other side. Feels like quite a bit of extra work to be done that I didn't have to do when it was about my identities.  

Afterward, I got to googling and found that the website Stop AAPI Hate has good suggestions for how to help. Also we can read up Asian American and Pacific Islander news and issues on @NextShark, @ResonateVoices, and @DionLimTV.

Response to comments: Some of you wonder whether this was mass murder born of misogyny, not racial bias. To my mind, it was both, because while the shooter turned his firearm almost exclusively on women, his main target was Asian women at Asian spas. The one man who died was just walking by outside the spa, going to the check cashing place next door. 

I think Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, Hunger, and other books, summed it up well on her Substack, The Audacity. In her piece, "A White Man's Bad Day," she wrote: "A hate crime was committed. It was vicious, gendered, and racially motivated. It was about class, the fetishization of Asian women, and men feeling entitled to sex. To eradicate this kind of moral rot, we need to name every part of it.” 

And then there is the matter of guns, and the fact that the murderer walked in and bought the weapon he used to massacre eight people that same day. The next day, 172 Republicans voted against the violence against women legislation, because they objected to a provision that would prevent domestic abusers from being able to purchase firearms. The gun lobby is so mean and mercenary it makes me despair. What keeps me going are people like you, who stay engaged and don't look away.

Making the world smaller

My husband's extended family on his dad's side recently created a WhatsApp group chat that is so active it's clear these family members were starving for contact. Messages arrive throughout the day, from relatives scattered from Antigua to Barbados, New York, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, England, Canada, and Spain. Suddenly, everyone feels closer than before, as they exchange old photos and bits of family history and lore, send birthday greetings, share Antigua news with exiles aboard, drop humor, update each other on individual doings, and express general joy at being in touch once more. The photo here was recently shared in the group. It shows the family gathered on July 4, 1959 for the wedding of one of my husband's aunts. His parents are standing on the far right, and my man points out that he is in the photo, too, as his mother (in polka dot dress) is visibly pregnant with him. His paternal grandparents are on either side of the bride and groom, and the other six in the photo are my husband's aunts and uncles. Such a handsome crew.