Monday, July 27, 2015

Becoming an Ally

Last night, I was chatting with a friend from Texas.  She and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of political things since she's a Republican (gasp).  Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if she were a Libertarian - but more like those old school libertarian who formed their socio-political thinking before Ayn Rand convinced a lot of people who believed communities can take care of themselves without interference from a large, disconnected government to forget about the welfare of others and focus only on their own selves.  These old school libertarians see the wisdom in high way funds even when they see problems with the tax code, politicians, and that stuff.
My mom is an old school libertarian.  I hear there's a distinction made these days between Left Libertarians, Right Libertarians and American Libertarians because Teajadists generally don't think enough about policies to even make a real policy - they just react with fear.  That fear is easy to stoke as the Koch brothers have demonstrated so effectively as they and their fellow class warriors have taken over the country.
But I don't care about Teajadists, this morning, exactly. I'm thinking about how Velvet, as an affectionate, playful but seriously strict authority figure up at Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp, provides a stark contrast to the authority figures presented by the racist police who routinely commit murders with the blessing of a racist communities across the land who value property over people.  Those authorities pepper spray restrained college students too.

I'm also thinking about how those murderous, redneck cops in Texas are giving Texans a bad name.  A reputation worse than any we've had back in the day when Senator John Tower "flew"around a party in his superman suit.

Texans have been the laughing stock of the nation for generations because of screwballs in government, among other things.  We could always live with that because for the most part, those screwballs hadn't done any real damage yet beyond the stuff they cooked up with the John Birch Society.

I realize, here, that I'm speaking as a white Texan.  Brown Texans have had a different experience, as the case of Joe Campos Torres demonstrates.  In 1977, Houston cops arrested and beat 23 year old Vietnam veteran Joe Campos Torres and threw his dead body in Buffalo Bayou.  Maybe he was still alive when they threw him in the Bayou - either way, we see what White Texas thought about that when the judge gave two of the six officer involved one year probation and a $1.00 fine.
That's A ONE DOLLAR FINE for killing a brown man.  A Mexican . . . .

The comments of white people across the land who automatically support the cops anytime they've murdered someone - whether it's a black guy committing some low level "broken windows" offense like Eric Garner or a little kid minding his own business like Tamir Rice or a young black man in a hoodie holding skittles - the comments of whites show that the conviction that brown people are less than human continues to dominate domestic and foreign policy here in the good ol' US of A.

My friend in Texas is outraged at the behavior of the Waller cops and her neighbors who continue to support police violence as an appropriate to talking back.  Most likely, these good Christians are beating their children for insubordination as well.  Waller is pretty close to home for my friends in central Texas, and when a subject is dominating the local news, it's in your face everyday instead of in some place far away - like, say, Ferguson or Baltimore.  

Personally, I could see all kinds of violence erupting as the official response to Sandra Brown's murder starts unfolding in the courts.  If something resembling civil war were to break out in this country, you can count on the gun toting, "christian," white supremacists in Texas to start shooting brown people.  Remember this guy?  Joe Horn shot unarmed brown guys in his neighbor's yard, in the back.  That's legal in Texas, even when Texas is full of cops who would gladly shoot South Americans.  All kinds of white people are foaming at the mouth to shoot brown people - and it appears that a majority of whites still don't believe that's a reality every parent of a brown child in this country lives with every single day.  

No wonder young people, young people in white supremacist cross-hairs, used alternative tactics to draw national attention to this very deadly situation.  Still white suburbanites act as if blocking a road is worse than shooting brown kids.  A CVS, that can be replaced, is more important than the lives of brown people.  The convince and property of whites inevitably trumps the right to life for brown people and poor people of all shades.  I suppose the rights of middle class blacks are somewhat protected since they may have property and often "talk like white people," so that's okay.

A young, African American ballet dancer just stayed with us for a few weeks while she was at a dance intensive.  We talked about how her white "friends" at school say, "We don't think of you as black," as if it's a compliment - as if they're doing her an unusual and commendable favor when they extend their own equality to her.  That's liberals for you - never seeing beyond their own class and privilege even though they might be trying hard to be nice to others.

In any case, looking at that family photo in Vermont, the Whiteness is so white we throw off a glare in the sun.  And I'm saying again:  White people need to throw off the oppression of Politeness and start calling out ignorance whenever it confronts us, no matter how hard a host may have worked to make a lovely dinner.

I'm happy to say that the other night at Cupcake's parents' barbecue, Velvet, Pinko and I nearly made a nice white lady cry when she said that George Zimmerman was right to be scared of Trayvon Martin.  She didn't know their names of course.  It was just that guy in Florida who shot what's his name, the guy in the hoodie.  She even said it was hard to know what to believe with Fox being conservative and CNN so liberal.

That's what it means to be an ally, and it's time for every thinking white person in this country to throw off the complacency and comfort we passively accepted when Ronald Reagan told white America to forget about civil rights, feminism and peace and go back to the suburbs to shop.  A nation of self-centered yuppies was born - consumers who believe having stuff proves they are superior and that business ethics are actually ethical.

It's true that when you get out of the suburbs and into the streets, you may get pepper sprayed even though you're white and/or old - but like Frederick Douglass said: Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.

Today, we're fighting the same battle the abolitionists fought over a century ago.  The police now are playing the same role they played for the Robber Barons - brutalizing workers to prevent us from organizing, in addition to catching run away slaves.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Blinding Whiteness

I'm not sure when it happened.  In June, Velvet was enthusiastically describing some obscure moments in the history of westward expansion at the time of the Revolutionary War, specifically in Vermont, to some dinner guests over at Cupcake's parents' house who primarily spoke Hungarian. The guests spoke enough English to know when they were supposed to nod.  Cupcake's father, who came to this country from Hungary years ago, heard them speaking Hungarian on the street and invited them over for dinner.  I was proud of Velvet' enthusiasm for the topic, thinking he will be a good history teacher somewhere, but in my eyes, he was still a kid.
Up at Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp last weekend, Velvet was clearly a man.
He's program director for outdoor living and wilderness skills, just like last year, but because there were a lot of new counselors and support staff this year, the camp director put Velvet in charge of coordinating ALL the activities - so he's making sure the camp curriculum is implemented appropriately.  Velvet in charge of shit is a sight to behold because he's really good at it.
He's kind of an authoritarian dick, sometimes, but he's also a good listener who freely gives credit and kudos to everyone for a job well done.  With the kids, he's especially an authoritarian dick - but when you consider how boys cab be in this culture, especially between the ages of 9 and 14, there's nothing inherently wrong about playing the Big Dog among this pack of privileged puppies.  He seems to have an instinctual understanding of how to implement basic B. F. Skinner behavior modification theory by being a general hard ass about correcting behaviors but recognizing accomplishments with affectionate celebration. When a kid gets genuine affection and celebration of his/her accomplishments from an authoritarian dick, it can be more rewarding, especially since so many people praise every half-ass effort with an automatic, "Good job!"
Given that one of the primary goals of the camp is for every kid to feel like s/he's a contributing, integral member of a creative, reflective, loving community who has a unique set of skills and talents, I'd have to call this development a thing of beauty (#079-101 in the Explore Beauty challenge).

It's probably a big deal when a son has become a man in the mind of his mother.  I'm not sure Buzz Kill ever did.  Certainly Vagina Dentata (that's Velvet's grandmother, mother of Buzz Kill) considered Buzz Kill a male - but it seems like Vagina Dentata viewed all males as servants of one kind or another, rather like that proverbial queen bee.  Even her husband, who protected and provided for her, was still a servant, and when he died, those duties fell to Buzz Kill.  Fortunately, there was a crusty bachelor living upstairs when Buzz Kill's father died who could serve Vagina Dentata in more romantic ways - but he, too, was there to protect and provide.  With regard to Vagina Dentata, Velvet's only duties have been to accompany her to the theatre and entertain her over dinner and/or drinks, and now that she's in the nursing home, to come visit her regularly.  Buzz Kill stays on top of the visiting schedule, but really,  Velvet loves Vagina Dentata, so he's glad to keep her company once a week or so.

Cupcake is working in the kitchen at Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp again, and seems to be doing well.  Over the spring, I had been worried because she and Buzz Kill seemed to be in a race to see who could have the highest anxiety level, and both of them micro-manage Velvet when they're anxious.  It was troubling to think Cupcake might be turning into the Buzz Kill in Velvet's life - but up in the country, Cupcake seems relaxed, confident and capable.  The city must make her nervous.  I'm sure plenty of people can relate to that.  It even makes me nervous sometimes, and I love it here.

Here's a family photo up near the Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont:

While we were there, Pinko took the opportunity to build a rock balancing sculpture like he saw the artist Michael Grab doing in this video:

 Personally, I think Pinko's sculpture looks a lot like a penis, but maybe that's just me.  Could be a robot that lost it's head.

Pinko had so much fun with rocks that I convinced him to get a beverage dispenser made by an artisan in Maine.  We found it at a charming gallery in Ludow called The Silver Spoon.  Here they are in Maine Rockguy's shop on etsy:

Since I seem to be doing a travel log here, I'll just add that I loved the Maple Diner in Bridgewater so much that I got teary.  Some people might say I got teary because of the menopause, but really, I always get teary when I'm happy, and I was very happy to be with my happy little family in such a happy little place, with handmade mixed berry pie for breakfast. When Pinko and Cupcake were smoking cigarettes out in the back parking lot, the neighbor was out with her dog. She told them that a 400 pound bear had been in the dumpster the night before, and with those homemade doughnuts, I can see why. That dumpster must be a bear's paradise.

Even though the tears were not from menopause, I was glad to sit next to the air conditioner, with a ceiling fan overhead to boot, since these hot flashes are starting to get to me.  Not long ago, I was fogging up my own glasses - but I guess it just goes with the territory. It's pretty good territory, all things considered, because seeing the man Velvet is becoming makes me feel a little better about the future.

Between climate change and economic collapse, the future looks damn alarming.  You never know, though - shit might work out.  Stranger things have happened.  For now, I'm grateful to live in my happy little world, secure in the knowledge that the kids are all right (mostly).  I'm particularly grateful that I've never had to worry about giving my kid The Talk that goes along with the territory of being black in America.  Clint Smith's "How to Raise a black son in America," describes that feeling:

I have friends in Texas who honestly think that Sandra Bland's murder by cops in Waller County wasn't racism - just an out of control cop.  There's even an article on Huffpo entitles, "Sandra Bland's Arrest Wasn't Racism; It Was Something even Worse," where the writer, a woefully naive white man named Tom Mullen, says the chain of events would have played out the same with a white woman because the trouble was refusing to obey cops - as if a white woman would have been stopped for a turn signal in the first place. As if the cops would have beat a white woman.  Beating as many people as they do, the cops have surely hit some white women, but to date, there have been no mass graves of middle class white women discovered on the Texas border (Democracy Now! July 16).

I continue to be amazed at how hard it is for white people to accept the notion of institutionalized racism.  Maybe accepting institutionalized racism somehow undermines their self-esteem since it means that maybe all us white people didn't get exactly where we are by hard work.  Maybe we did work hard, but if life were a baseball game, we landed on Home Plate after starting at second base.  Everybody else has to start in on the bench.

One of the reasons ignorance and racism continues to thrive in White America, if you ask me, is that too many white people are too polite to challenge ignorance and racism when it comes up at the dinner table and other social situations.  It's time for white people to start having frank conversations with each other about racism.  We still allow some rednecks to cling to their beliefs that flying the confederate flag celebrates their heritage - as if slavery itself isn't racism.

I'm wondering how I'll react to the pervasive whiteness at Burning Man this year.  It continues to trouble me that the burn is so white it feels like being in one of those suburban schools with over 4,000 kids but only a handful are brown.  Prom night at Lake Wobegon High.
The demographics of Burning Man wouldn't trouble me so much if racial diversity was charted as closely as other information, such as the percentage of people in RVs sorted by age and gender.  (Black Rock City Census)
There is one little article about diversity in Black Rock City (Rebecca Mason, May 3, 2015) stating that BRC is whiter than pretty much any city in the country except Boston.  There could very well be more black people at Burning Man than there are in the whole state of Vermont, but there are more people in New York City than there are in the whole state of Vermont.  The BRC census was looking at cities.

The thing I find most disturbing is that many of the white people at Burning Man don't even notice that they aren't very many black people, as if a blinding whiteness is normal.

I guess blinding whiteness is normal in this country.  We put the 3/5th Compromise into the constitution, after all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chauffeurs, Torture and Other Material Conditions at the End of Empire

Somehow, Velvet has become a mouthy socialist.  I was a bit dismayed when he started going to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a CUNY college that is an easy commute from Buzz Kill's apartment, because it seemed like an unlikely fit for Velvet considering his history up at Tree Hugger U, but it was his only option.  John Jay was the only school in town that would accept Velvet with his grades.  As it happened, John Jay was trying to expand their enrollment of liberal arts majors and were delighted to welcome Velvet as a history major.  At least I think he was a history major.  It's been some time since Velvet started his seventh semester as a freshman at John Jay College, and truthfully, I can't remember what his major was then.  He's a history major now, though, and although many of his classmates are training for specialized careers in criminal justice - with majors like forensic science and emergency services - many of the professors are mouthy socialists.  Actually, I don't know what they'd call themselves if they were describing themselves, but when Velvet talks about school, his professors often sound like mouthy socialists to me.  I've done enough listening to Pinko and Woody that I know socialism when I hear it even if nobody says the S word.

Overall, though, I suspect John Jay is reformist.  They are providing the space for Left Forum, however, and while some lefties think Left Forum is an entirely reformist conference that isn't anywhere near radical enough, the name of this year's conference is: No Justice, No Peace: Confronting the Crisis of Capitalism and Democracy.
Not that Velvet has any intention of going to Left Forum even though he could get in free.  Pinko has been trying to talk him into it, and when Pinko is talking Velvet seems interested, but when Velvet is with Cupcake, he doesn't seem to remember that Left Forum even exists.  Naturally, Pinko is going.  He loves those kind of talks.  I think they're okay, but mostly, I'd rather send money so I can comfortably stay home in my pajamas.  I enjoy the parties down at the Solidarity Center, and I'm very excited to have seen Lynne Stewart across the room on New Year's Eve.  I love it that Pinko loves those talks, though, and that he's accurate with the glue sticks when he hangs out at the center making posters, and he's an energetic, enthusiastic helper at rallies and marches.

Sometimes, at family dinners, I feel a little bad for Cupcake because her political awareness is still emerging.  Her parents came over from Hungary and Romania years ago and take a dim view of communism because of Stalin, I think.  It's a common point of view, and her father actually believes that Wall Street creates jobs.  He's a nice man and a hard worker.  He just reminds me of Sabrina's dad, Thomas Fairchild, the chauffeur who is resigned and realistic about his station in life, played by John Williams in the original screen version of Sabrina.  As someone who rubbed shoulders with One Percenters on a daily basis, Thomas Fairchild has a very different perspective on rich people than Cupcake's dad who has been influenced by what he hears on CNN and other capitalist, corporate media outlets.

In any case, Cupcake's political opinions have stimulated a couple of animated discussions wherein Pinko, Velvet and I proceeded to jump all over her.  We didn't make her cry, though, which counts for something.  Even I had to say something when she said that she wanted to vote for Hillary because Hillary is a woman.  Cupcake is tired of patriarchy and hasn't realized that a woman can be as much a tool of the patriarchy as the Pope.  Or Henry Kissinger.
I'm not sure Cupcake really knows who Henry Kissinger is.  Margaret Thatcher either.

Velvet applied to John Jay College in the first place because that's where Cupcake was studying to be a coroner.  I don't think she's planning to be a coroner anymore, but I lost track of her studies once she got her certificate from Swedish Massage school.  It worked out, though, because Cupcake functions as Velvet's administrative assistant.  She makes sure he registers, does his assignments, buys him a tie to wear for his final presentation - that sort of thing.  I haven't seen Velvet without Cupcake for a couple of months.

They're in a bit of a struggle right now because Cupcake has a tendency to micromanage Velvet, probably as a result of her anxieties.  She still doesn't like to take public transportation, but I believe she can handle the bus.  Velvet's grandmother, my former mother-in-law Vagina Dentata, rarely ever took the subway herself.   One of the resentments I carried throughout my marriage was having to dig through the sofa cushions for bus change while she charged the car service to the business.  She often wore a chartreuse mink coat at the time which made it even worse - especially since Velvet was still in a stroller.  You'd think a man would tell his mother to take the bus and put his wife and child in a car service - but Buzz Kill never seemed to have the gumption to tell his mother any such thing.
That's one of the reasons we got divorced.

And it's a good thing we got divorced or else I'd have never run off to Burning Man to get Pinko.  I only mention my earlier resentments about taxis and car services because I figure Cupcake's habits and anxieties probably seem perfectly normal to Velvet whose father is anxious and grandma never rode the subway.  She's 89 now, living in a nice nursing home near Columbia University.  Here she is 20 years ago or so:

I shudder to think of trying to discuss politics with Vagina Dentata or Buzz Kill.  They both voted for Bloomberg and consider themselves Democrats.  I wonder if that's a peculiar breed of Democrat - a Bloomberg Democrat.  Kind of like a Rockefeller Republican, or those Reagan Republicans who are Democrats now because regular Republicans lean too heavily toward Christo-Fascism.  Pinko's dad is one of those kind of Democrats, a Reagan Democrat.  Pinko himself voted for Reagan, and if I'm not mistaken, Woody Konopelli voted for Richard Nixon, although he's somewhat embarrassed to admit it.

Just goes to show how a little reading can influence your political development.  Pinko got Velvet A People's History of Empire last Christmas, but I suspect Velvet was well on his way to being a mouthy socialist before he looked at that book.

My own political awareness has evolved to the point where I at least recognize the inherent problems of referencing Martin Luther King's "Rioting is the language of the unheard," quote when I'm going on about gaining weight as a result of indulging my sweet tooth while processing the state of the world.  I'm very glad that the conditions in my own life are such that a pint of Rocky Road will make it easier to carry on - as opposed to living with material conditions where setting things on fire seems like the most logical course of action.  And truly - middle America never, ever heard of Freddie Gray or Mike Brown until a small group of determined local residents started raising hell.

It still sucks that Middle America is so quick to shout about a damaged corporate outlet like CVS while remaining comfortably content about cops routinely killing unarmed, brown men, women and children. But at least I am just as comfortable sitting here in my lovely little home playing video games on a computer made in a factory where there could easily have been worker suicides.  One of those buildings in China, surrounded by barbed wire like a prison - those places where Mitt Romney tried to say the jobs were so good the barbed wire and other security measures were necessary to keep locals from storming the factory.

I suppose the contrast in material conditions are part of the reason why many activists say that white people can only be allies in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  We can be great allies, but when the rubber hits the road - privileged whites don't have the same experience in the US, particularly with regard to law enforcement.  We can stand in solidarity, but we can't commiserate.  Pinko wouldn't even lay on the ground with his brown comrades at the Die-Ins, but we could both sing "I Can't Breathe," a song the Peace Poets composed in memory of Eric Garner, when we were out in the street with friends.  Here's some folks in London singing that song:

Luke Nephew, one of the Peace Poets, is credited for writing the song that we sung one night in the winter over in Staten Island at the little shrine Eric Garner's friends and family erected at the spot where he was killed.  Here's some guys singing it in Cleveland at a memorial for Tamir Rice:

I remember all the people
these police killed
I can feel their spirits
They're with us still

It's hard to believe that so many literate, generally nice people aren't aware of the conditions of life that confront their neighbors a few miles away - especially since I know about this stuff.  I figure that if I know about something, it has to be common knowledge since I don't go out of my way to find any information - except about little kids, standardized testing, the Play Deficit and other topics relevant to my chosen field.  I like learning about that stuff.  I don't like learning about how Witness Against Torture sang the song I just referenced at the DC police headquarters to mark the anniversary of opening day at Guantanamo - but even that information is pretty easy to find by doing a simple search on the internet:  Fighting Racism and Torture from Fergunson to Guantanamo, Jeremy Varon, January 2015

All you have to do is stop playing video games for a minute to look briefly at current events and you'll find out all sorts of things just by clicking on a few links.  As much as all those Teajadists make my head explode, at least they read some shit on the internet.  The trouble is that the shit they read is published by folks like Alex Jones, and they honestly believe that the military is invading Texas, of all places (Scott Eric Kauffman, Salon, May 5).

But really, at least they're reading.  It's become rare in these United States here at the end of empire.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ice Cream, Solitaire and other coping mechanisms

Lately, I've been spending most of my discretionary time playing various solitaire games on a little internet game site.  I've played these games for years and years, and before I started with the Pogo website, I played The Sims.  Actually, I'm pretty sure that I relied on The Sims to get through my divorce.  I enjoyed making characters that resembled people in my life, like my former mother-in-law, putting them into a swimming pool or small room and removing the exits so that the little Sims person starved and died.  I also created characters with no cooking skills, sent them to an industrial strength barbecue pit and watched them go up in flames. These little solitaire games are nowhere near as complex, but miniature, animated cards are sort of hypnotizing when I win and they float into neatly stacked piles.

The other day, I noticed that I devote especially long periods of time to solitaire after reading the news.   The world leaves me agitated and depressed in a way that feels similar to my former marriage because we're pretty much trapped on a trajectory that looks worse and worse. over the next 25 years or so.  There's little chance we'll escape unpleasant eventualities over the next 25 years or so, as the Empire declines, what with climate change, economic collapse, the paramilitary police force - the casual brutality of poverty and all that stuff.

It's particularly unpleasant to witness so many dumb, suburban whites moaning about the destruction of property and rationalizing the destruction of life like they were right after shit hit the fan in Baltimore.  It's only a matter of time before shit hits the fan again.  Given that law enforcement kills a brown person every 28 hours or so, you'd think there would be demonstrations every day across the land (Operation Ghetto Storm).  Maybe there are demonstrations every day, but it seems like the only time demonstrations make the national news is when somebody sets something on fire.

While I certainly hope nobody in my own neighborhood sets anything on fire on account of killer cops, I get it that rioting is the language of the unheard.

The Paddle in Seattle, where kayactivists protested imminent drilling in the Arctic by Shell Oil, got some coverage, but it was mostly a bunch of picturesque white folks.

Most US media outlets left this story about 10 year-old Taye Montgomery alone too:

To be fair to the cops, they didn't point pepper spray directly at this little kid.  They just blanketed the crowd, and the little kid happened to be in it with his mother.  Naturally, people instantly started blaming the mom for taking her kid to a demonstration instead of looking at the reason for the demonstration which was that the cop who killed Tony Robbinson, an unarmed teenager, would not be charged.

Any time I go to my computer and am confronted by all the injustice and inequity in our country, I wind up eating unnecessary carbohydrates and turning to Juggle Gin a card game on not a cocktail.

This trend has got to stop because through overeating and inactivity, I've gained back all the weight I lost back when I was dieting in solidarity with Pinko, who was under doctor's orders to lose weight.  The good news is that all I have to do is quit stress eating handfuls of pretzels and get up off my ass.  That can be a tall order, though, when you consider that the US government treats people with such brutality that the UN wrote up a report.  I know the UN is largely ignored (especially by the US government), but still, it's pretty fucked up (UN holds US Accountable for Human Rights Violations at Home and Abroad).  Fortunately, things in my own happy little world are such that I can quiet my mind with goofy video games.  

In truth, the prevalence of ice cream in my personal diet is also a result of being exhausted by work.  Around spring break, one of the teachers broke his ankle so severely that he's out for the rest of the school year.  I've been filling in as lead teacher for that group of three year-olds and have been having all kinds of fun - but those kids are wearing me out.  It's been really challenging in a number of ways, but it's very stimulating professionally especially since I had forgotten just how good I am in a classroom, especially a classroom filled with three year-olds with a giant block area and a view of the river.

I hesitate to talk about work here on the blog, however, since one of the main reasons I got fired from Fire Starter Academy was on account of discussing my crazy assistant, who let a pot of melting candle wax ignite on the hot plate.  That's why I call it Fire Starter Academy.  That incident was years ago, and I deleted all the posts where I referenced my assistant, an older woman who habitually chewed fennel seeds.  The whole episode was a drag on every level, but as a result, my own ability to communicate both personally and professionally improved dramatically.  Fire Starter also provided me with an environment that was perfect for resolving all the messy issues around my divorce, as well as the messy emotional state I experienced while I went off psychotropic medications after more than a decade.  I'm very grateful that I went through all that, as well as the spectacular break up with the Narcissist, at Fire Starter Academy.  Then I got my old job back and have been happy as a pig in slop pretty much ever since.

In any case, I need to drop this 8 pounds again before the Burn because I hate to feel pudgy at Burning Man.  I especially hate seeing my menopausal pot belly, or MenoPot, in candid photos. I can suck it in with the best of them when I know a photo is being taken, but I don't like finding me and the menopot in a campmate's vacation photos on Facebook.  Facebook is bad enough these days because my newsfeed is filled with the personal posts from activist friends as well as articles and essays from my preferred sources, like Jacobin Magazine.  In fact, I've noticed a direct correlation between looking at the news on Facebook, then plunging directly into a binge of mindless internet card games with ice cream or pita chips following rapidly.

Something has got to change, and it's not going to be endless war and ecocide at the end of empire.  At least, not in time for me to lose 8 pounds before Burning Man.  You never know - like Frances says in Under the Tuscan Sun, "Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game."

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The New Normal in the Triciasphere

When you're working with the Law of Attraction, one of the things you learn is that we get that to which we give our attention, focus and energy.  So if you're dating, as I used to be, and so focused on not getting stuck with another asshole that all you do is endlessly rerun scenes of past assholery in your mind, you can be certain you will be going out with another asshole (or asswhole, as my friend Woody calls a complete and total asshole

I know about this Law of Attraction stuff as a result of taking a few workshops with my friend and former coach,  Max the psychic life coach and hairdresser.  He doesn't do hair much anymore since he's successful as a life coach and spiritual teacher, so I consider myself very fortunate indeed that he still nurtures my inner beauty with Miss Clairol - and he's really very effective at showing how we get what we vibrate, and I'm not talking about the rabbit habit by Vibratex, regardless of what all the materialist philosophers have to say about hippy dippy airy fairy new age thinking.  I'm talking about one's conscious orientation, our responses and reactions, toward material conditions.

Woody has convinced me that Free Will is a time-honored tactic the Owners use to exert control over the Workers, generally at church but plenty of folks are happy happy happy to say poor people are poor   because of their poor choices while declaring they are well-off (or obscenely wealthy) because they are superior in every way, as if they chose to be privileged and poor people chose to live on the street, for example.  But even though the notion of Free Will is bullshit, in my view, we absolutely do have local autonomy here inside our material conditions.  I can choose to be loving and chill, or I can choose to be a condemning AssWhole.
Namaste, Motherfuckers.

No one can wake up one morning and free will him or herself out of a dreary day trudging from a dingy apartment to a dismal job and into a bunaglow over the turquoise sea in Bora Bora.  But we can all look on our neighbors in elevators, on subway platforms and in line at the grocery store with kindness and notice all the little ways there is abundance around us.  Once you start noticing everything that's going right instead of dwelling on what's going wrong, you're not trudging through a dreary day anymore.  You start to believe in the possibilities instead of the obstacles and the next thing you know, you're co-creating your life, as they say, which means you can spruce up your own environment.  Who knows, with enough focus, attention and flexibility, you might even wind up in Bora Bora after all.  Once you start going after a Feeling instead of attaching yourself to a Form - you might find that everything you imagined you'd find in Bora Bora was in South Carolina, of all places.  Once you've freed your mind and are feeling the possibilities (that would be Vibrating at a higher frequency), the universe responds to your vibe.  Positive or Negative, just like a magnet.  You're going to pull something toward you, whether you see it or not, so you might as well start looking at what's coming toward you and catch the good stuff (that would be the Abundance).

I confess that the first time Max asked a few of us in his tele-class to notice abundance, all I noticed in my life was an abundance of Bullshit.  I'm happy to say that with practice, I have learned to face the bullshit with equanimity and in the process, have noticed a lot of beauty.  Every now and then, I record the evidence of beauty because sometimes it helps to have a reminder.  Jennifer Morrison at realia introduced me to the idea.

Nearly everyone I've met is aware that I left no stone unturned in my quest for a domestic partner, and Max suggested I write a couple of paragraphs about my ideal mate.  I decided to focus my attention on the First Man in the New Apartment because my ideal mate seemed like much too much to request.  The First Man, I could imagine - and I imagined he'd have long term potential. Then, I took the Desire Statement idea a step farther by copying the statement onto a teeny piece of paper, burning the paper into ash, mixing the ash in a tiny bottle then pouring it the Hudson River.  I also poured it into the shrubbery at the Heather Garden.

When I was writing, I focused on how I wanted to feel with this man instead of any specific picture - but I did say that I was glad to know the man's busy career was behind him so he had time for the relationship.  Pouring the ashes into the water and into the earth was my way of putting the whole thing out of my mind and allowing the Universe to do its part.  I suppose some might say I asked God to send me a financially stable man who was about to retire, and God sent me an unemployed communist.  All I can say is that's kind of how it is with God, and it doesn't do anyone any good to get attached to a form.  Max says that's like giving the waiter your order then going back into the kitchen to tell the chef how to do his/her job.

Whatever - Pinko's days as The First Man have come and gone.  He's the one and only man now, and he's no longer unemployed.  He works so much he's hardly ever home anymore.  Twelve hour shifts with an hour commute each way is bad enough, but many days he works over 13 hours.  I'm thinking he should cut back to four days a week pretty soon, maybe down to three in the summer.  We'll see.

Naturally, we're going to Burning Man again this summer, and as Pinko often says, "Burning Man doesn't pay for itself." We even got our tickets before the regular sale since Sideshow is an officially recognized, stand-alone theme camp in partnership with our new neighbors, Midnight Popcorn Palace:

Sadly, the day we had to purchase our tickets, I had an attitude about Burning Man.  In fact, I still have kind of an attitude because going to Burning Man is a lot of pressure.  I like Burning Man well enough, but it doesn't feel like vacation.  It feels like a relentless relationship trial by fire, literally.  We're not going to be on the Esplanade this year - which I must admit was pretty nice, if you have to go to Burning Man.  And I did like having Celestial Mechanica across the street.  Pinko says that our new spot in the Three O'Clock plaza is just as cool, or maybe even cooler.

But honestly, for someone who is often socially awkward, the level of intimacy required with so many new people is often hard to manage.  Living in a giant tin can with Pinko is kind of hard to manage, too.  The first year was different because I was determined to greet the situation with equanimity so I overlooked his housekeeping.  Last year was trickier since he resisted my effort to assert my need for domestic order.  He couldn't believe I'd be inside doing housework while everyone else was having fun, but I have more fun when I know that once I go out, I won't be tripping over dirty laundry when I get home.  There's so much else to trip on, I don't want to get tripped up in the living room.

I freely admit that Burning Man facilitates personal growth, by encourages playful creativity and evolving experimentation with community.  One day I might even write about Burning Man as Curriculum for enhancing adult understanding of Art and Community - but it doesn't feel like vacation. It feels like professional and personal development, with particular emphasis on Self in Relationship.  I still have a bit of an attitude about the work and resources involved in going to Burning Man, but there's really no point complaining about being obliged to go to Burning Man.  It's entirely too silly.  For the purposes of my job, however, I believe I will continue to act like it's an obligatory family reunion with my in-laws.

In the meantime, I'm rapidly growing accustomed to having long stretches of time to myself again.  I miss my bear, for sure.  He's very tired when he comes home, and he wakes up very early so that he can be in Queens by 6:00am.  I've been a little tired too because I've been getting up to cook him breakfast and fix his lunch, and this whole routine is still so new that I enjoy showing off.  Yesterday, I made bacon and scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions and provolone.   Lunch today was a pita stuffed with leftover chicken fingers, romaine and avocado.  Mostly, though, I make him some roll-ups from roast beef and goat cheese and give him a pear.  He likes pears.

I'm just about to make dinner - homemade chicken curry pot pie and kale sautéed with bacon, apples and onions.  I like cooking dinner for two, and he likes coming home to lovely smells in a warm kitchen.  He likes it so much that he got a teary the other night.

I suppose that we look more traditional now that he's got a commute and I'm making him a sammich, even if the insurance company does call him a sponsored male.  Or maybe we don't look typical at all since I'm cooking in the middle of the night and he's chauffeuring around minor celebrities, writers, producers and other media types.  I'm thinking we might be Bohemians, since he's a communist and I'm an emergent writer.  I'm reading at KGB in 10 days - that should count for something.

Maybe we attracted each other - or he manifested from all that soggy ash I poured into the Hudson.  Not long ago, I found one of the drafts of the desire statement I wrote about the First Man and showed it to him.  He was surprised at how closely he matched the man I had in mind.  Certainly the way our lives fit together exactly matches the feeling I was hoping to find when I started focusing some serious attention on finding my mate.  I'm still not 100% convinced anyone ever attracts or manifests anything.  It seems much more likely that if we articulate our intentions and desires very clearly in our own minds, then we're finally able to see that for which we are searching when it presents itself.  Kind of like Dorothy finding her heart's desire in her own back yard.  I never thought that Burning Man would wind up being part of my back yard, though.  In any case, we're pretty cozy up here in Harlem this winter.  It seems to be our new normal.
Blessed Be.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Good Dogs and Card Carrying Commies

Pinko may very well be a card-carrying communist soon since he's begun the process to officially join Workers World Party (history on Wiki).  I don't know if they actually have a card.  I hope they do, though, because if you're going to be a communist, you might as well be a card-carrying-communist.  It's the best kind.

I'm excited for him because of all the organizations he's investigated, the folks we've heard and talked with at Workers World have been consistently knowledgable and insightful, whether they belong the the party itself or to one of the organizations that the WWP supports, such as International Action Committee and  United National Antiwar Coalition.  Those organizations aren't exactly socialist or communist, but they all point at imperialism, capitalism and militarism as the root causes of all the trouble we're experiencing today.  A number of people sit on the boards of two or three organizations, so there's a lot of overlap.

The other day, someone I particularly admire, Sara Flounders, asked Pinko to join her for coffee yesterday to discuss WWP in general and the process of officially joining the party.  Sara knows all about military stuff in the middle east, and NGOs that may do some good things but ultimately are promoting and protecting the corporate agenda.  Bill Dores knows a lot about that stuff too, only I think he's more focused on Russia.  If there were a fan club for Red Writers and Activists - I'd be in it since we can definitely say that I'm a fan of Sara and Bill.

I suspect it's time to recognize that I'm a communist sympathizer, but I'm not joining the party if for no other reason than I don't feel like doing the reading.  Officially joining the party takes about six months of reading and conversation with a mentor.   I'll be interested to hear what Pinko has to say about the readings, and I like to attend meetings where people are reporting back on conditions in places like Honduras, for example, where real estate developers have been pushing people from their homes for some years.  It's kind of like in Houston years ago when one of the developers rented a house to notorious drug dealers to clear out the neighborhood.  Once the hard working, blue collar folks had moved out, the developer leveled the land and built a 70s version of McMansions.  The good ol' boys celebrated his business acumen.  In Honduras we're seeing the same strategy on a national scale: US business interests install the bad guys, the poor people are driven from their homes and bingo - an all inclusive resort retreat appears on the pristine coastline. The main difference is that the workers in Houston could afford to move somewhere else, and the economic refugees from Honduras have so few options that they piled onto buses for a dangerous trip through Mexico, where more bad guys often murder them for kicks, only to be greeted by racists who'd cheerfully watch them starve.

I learned about Honduras from a woman named Lucy Pagoda who works with New York May 1 Coalition.  She was at the Solidarity Center one night telling us about the Garifuna.  I learned about real estate developers in Houston from my mother, who is practically as much of an expert about corruption in Houston real estate as Sara Flouders is about the US military in the middle east.

The point, here, though is that I would much prefer to learn about stuff by talking with interesting people than by reading philosophical texts, and there are always a bunch of interesting people at the Solidarity Center.  Pinko and I went to the New Year's Eve fundraiser and Lynne Stewart was there for a little while.  She's the lawyer who represented the Blind Sheikh and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for passing messages between him and some supporters.  Now that I've been in the same room with her and have contributed a few bucks to WWP's publishing efforts, we can safely assume that I've landed on any lists I wasn't already on for stuff I said here on the blog back in the day when Sarah Palin's underlings and various military intelligence offices were stalking bloggers.  It was all over the day I mentioned Bill Ayers visited the school where I was teaching and I got his seal of approval.   Bill Ayers is interesting too, but I still haven't read anything he ever wrote.

For the record, I would like to say that I don't think killing a bunch of dissenters, or purges as the actions of Mao and Stalin might be called, is a good idea.  For one, I barely know anything about the history of the Chinese revolution and Mao.  And two, what I do know about communism/socialism/anarchism and revolutionary theory (again it's minimal, but still) the problem with those guys is that they were statists who thought they should be in charge of the state as opposed to simply representing the collective.  It's also my understanding that any time any communists make some headway in a revolutionary sort of way - like with the Paris Communes - the surrounding capitalists undermine the process as much as humanly possible so the capitalists stay in charge.  If you need an example of the lengths The Owners will go to stay in charge, just look at the Koch Brothers.  There is a pile of data on those douchebags - but I like Koch Brothers Exposed, a project from Brave New Films.

Pinko will have ample opportunity to work on his revolutionary reading list now that he's got an hour commute to work and back, and a good portion of his day at work is spent at one of the airports waiting to pick up someone at the luggage claim.  So far, he's enjoying his work as a livery driver - also known as For Hire driver.  He looks real cute in his new black suit, and he's such a personable fellow, not to mention a good driver, that a former super model has listed him as one of her preferred drivers.  The car service for which he drives handles a bunch of entertainment and media accounts.  I'm pretty sure that we used this service for all our driving needs back when I worked in public relations.  He's driven sports casters, comedy writers and HBO producers this week, plus some guy who was handling a family event for the Rangers hockey team.

When he comes home from work, Pinko is cheerful and chatty.  I imagine that if a big dog had gone riding in a car, and came home to tell his people everything he saw while he was hanging his head out the window all day - that dog would sound a lot like Pinko when he gets home from work.  Gigi says that the way I talk about Pinko sometimes reminds her of a classic children's book, Good Dog Carl.  I got it for him for Christmas.

He has often mentioned that he feels like a dog that has been rescued from the pound by a very nice lady which I suppose makes him a little like Maxi the Taxi Dog - in a book I have read several times, as a matter of fact.

At first, it seemed a little odd that we feel the same way about each other as we've felt about our dogs, but having someone who loves you as unconditionally as a dog loves you is about as good as it gets.
It's so good, I'm going to declare it a thing of beauty (#079-101 in Explore Beauty, a challenge from realia).

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pinko and the Giant Boob

Before Christmas, Pinko was fretful, agitated and generally unhappy because some people in the world had declared him to be a gold digger, a freeloader and, worse, a grifter like Gayle the Hillbilly Hustler.  He was particularly distressed one night at bedtime, so I scratched his back until he was relaxed enough to get to sleep, which is what good partners do (at least in this house.  For the record, he rubs my creaky shoulder all the time).  That night, he had a dream:
He was holding tightly onto a giant boob, while a small crowd of shouting strangers were trying to pull it loose.  He was distressed. Then my mother was leading the pack pulling it away, and he was even more distressed. Then the police showed up and pulled the boob so hard that it started to break.  He cried, "You're tearing it! You're tearing it!"
Then he woke up.

When Pinko related his dream to me, I was touched because - clearly - the boob is me.  Back when I was analyzing my own dreams regularly in psychotherapy, my shrink said that the police played the role of the superego in dreams.  We can conclude my mother plays a similar, more casual role in Pinko's dream, rather like conventional morality or a generic authority figure.  The cops would be Pinko's own self, from a Freudian perspective anyway.  In my own vaguely Jungian point of view, we learn to tell right and wrong from our parents, but judges and cops are the enforcers.  Woody often says that an individual should ever call the cops on anyone unless said individual wants to see that person dead.

I'm sure there are plenty of cops and family members of cops who would take issue with that statement, but the fact is that cops kills people in this country with astonishing regularity - and not just unarmed, black men either.  But we're not talking about Racism, institutional and otherwise, Mass Incarceration, and murders committed by the para-military police force in service of The Owners, or the murders they commit for kicks like those cops in New Mexico. We're not even talking about the fascist police in New York City who are working with Rudy Guiliani to fuck with DeBlasio and have been showing the world that the racist NYPD will kill anyone they want to simply for not following instructions.
Right now, we're talking about Pinko.  Fuck them.

Vintage illustration brilliantly recaptioned by Steve Denton of Monkey Muck

There was a time when, like most suburban whites, I willingly gave cops the benefit of the doubt.  Honestly, though, until there's a solid blue wall between killer cops and unarmed citizens instead of protecting killer cops from prosecution - it's hard to believe good cops are nothing but television mythology.  We can thank the NYPD patrolmen's benevolent association for my change of heart.

But back to Pinko:
It's taken some time for my parents to understand that there's a difference between being duped by a grifter and deciding that you're going to support someone.  Mother explained that part of the process  involved accepting that Pinko and I have an Alternative Lifestyle.  At first, I was perplexed because I thought Polyamory, BDSM and joining communes were examples of alternative lifestyles.  As it happened, Mother meant that Pinko's and my lifestyle is alternative because he's a man and is taking care of the domestic chores while I go out to work.  I hadn't realized that was still out of the ordinary - but then I remembered that my parents are getting pretty old.
So am I, for that matter.

While having a man as a housewife may seem odd to my parents, my insurance company has clearly defined the concept.  In preparation for a visit to the dentist the other day, I went online to make sure Pinko was listed on my policy since the Aetna didn't send new cards when I enrolled him.  He was there, all right, defined as a Sponsored Male.

I'm still liking the idea that I have a Sponsored Male at home.  Pretty soon, he won't really be sponsored anymore because he got his license to drive For Hire Vehicles from the Taxi and Limousine Commission.  The license itself arrived in the mail today, and now he is cleared to work at a fancy car service carting around people with expense accounts.  The car service wants everyone to know they have a Cadillac Escalade SUV fleet as well as a Mercedes E350 Sedan fleet - but they have a "no idle" policy that makes them Green.  Whatever.  The money will be green and that's what matters now.

When there's a paycheck from Pinko hitting my bank account regularly via direct deposit, dreams of hanging onto a giant boob will be a thing of the past.  He'll be off the tit, as it were.  As far as the insurance company is concerned, however, Pinko will remain a sponsored male.  Although it tickles my feminist funny bone to think I have a Sponsored Male like a stud around the house, there's something very rewarding in creating a personalized domestic partnership.  I really love my work and am happy in a job that has decent benefits and all that stuff.  Pinko will drive full time for a couple of months until we're back in my financial comfort zone, then he'll cut back to a couple of days a week to focus primarily on agitating, educating and organizing for social and economic justice.  By the time there are leaves on the trees again, we'll be able to call Pinko a Professional Revolutionist.  Even Chris Hedges says we need more people like Pinko (Why We Need Professional Revolutionists, Truthdig, 11.24.2014).

Somehow, I think he'll still find time for boobies.

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