Nov 9, 2016

This Presidential Election

What have we learned? That this country is not a democracy.
It should not have been possible for the late Supreme Court Justice Scalia to scrap the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), allowing mass voter suppression this election year across areas that the Republican Party called "disproportionately black" and "disproportionately democratic." As if those people are not actually part of the US, not actually citizens and aren’t supposed to vote anyway.
It would not have been possible for Texas to close down 403 polling sites, for Louisiana to close down 103, Alabama 66, and for Arizona to cut 70% of polling sites, from 200 to 60. It should not have been possible for the GOP to cut early voting and Sunday voting in Republican controlled states like North Carolina and Ohio. This election was carefully planned by GOP activists, so much so that they didn't have to worry about who Trump is and his blatant flaws. If this country were a democracy, the popular vote would count and voting as an institution would be as easy to participate in as the Fourth of July.
Unfortunately, this country is not a democracy and Trump is not a person, he is a puppet. The same forces that are actively trying to suppress our rights, trying to control the way we speak and think about government have more visible power now than they ever did before. If you are against “big government” but voted for Trump then you are one of millions of hoodwinked individuals across this country. Please continue to pay attention and participate in this nation. Now we really are going to have to fight against a government that is NOT for its people, by its people, but actively plans and plots to suppress its people through laws and legislation that infringe on our constitutional rights.  Not more freedom, less freedom, less rights, less active participation by citizens. I don’t blame the people who voted for Trump - whether they know it or not they are now Trump’s biggest opposition and are now directly tied to his future actions. Most of the country did not vote for him, and he knows this.
I blame each and every one of you who chose not to vote, because you did exactly what the system wanted you to, you gave up any active participation in this government voluntarily, without fighting for your rights. You’re the best! You’re their ideal voter – the one who doesn’t vote!  You bought into the lies that one candidate was equal to another and that because the Earth will keep rotating around the Sun, it doesn’t matter anyway. I hate you. I hate you and I am watching you. Don’t un-friend me, I will know who you are. Just know that because you did nothing, will continue to do nothing and aim to do nothing, you actively participate in the suppression of yourself and others. There is no such thing as a bystander, there is no way to withdraw from the current events of this nation. There is no excuse for being uninformed, for not thinking critically, for being selfish and self-centered. Your existence guarantees your participation in some way, shape or form, whether you control the way it is used or not.  You have contributed to the election of a criminal, a known criminal, who is going to put other criminals in power. I hate you, but I am still proud to be an American and proud of my country. I am still grateful to live in a place where a tacky orange man with fake hair can make the highest office of this land into a joke and I am proud to live in a place where sexism still exists so that I can stand up to it.

Oct 30, 2016

Hurricane Matthew

Once, I was staying with my friend Matt in Florida. A hurricane bearing his name was headed our way and a neighbor of his asked him to look after her dogs during the storm. She was in Virginia and her flight back had been cancelled. The storm was due to hit our area in the late afternoon of Thursday, which dawned a muted cloudy grey color, breeding widespread muted cloudy grey panic. I know this because I was up at the crack of dawn, rushing across Palm Beach County to return a rental car since I refused to be held financially responsible for damages incurred during inclement weather. Anyway, after getting back from that errand Matt promptly started trying to contact his neighbor about the dogs. I was occupied, trying to function without breakfast and think about exactly what it meant that we didn’t have milk or bread or even much food besides canned fruit, and that Matt had filled the bathtub with water but couldn’t exactly tell me what he was going to do with the water. Our conversation about it went like this, “You filled up the bathtub?” “Yup,” “Oh,” I look at him expectantly, he looks back. “Why?” I asked. “To prepare,” he said, “You know, in case…” “In case?” “Yeah.” He nodded and exited the conversation. Later on I tried again, “Oh and why did you … fill up the bathtub… with water?” “Just in case,” He said reassuringly, “We might need it.” “For what?” “Something might happen… you know.”
I didn’t know, I couldn’t figure it out. And I had a feeling that Matt didn’t know either but that the knowledge of a bathtub filled with water strangely reassured him. Meanwhile, I really wanted to take a shower, I hadn’t had a chance to before rushing off to return the rental car.
“What are we going to use the water for?” I tried again.
“For anything!”
“No, specifically.  The storm hasn’t hit yet, isn’t going to for at least six more hours, it didn’t take you that long to fill it up….”
Matt was no longer paying attention to me.
 Apparently there was a dog walker, who had a key to his neighbor’s house and could let us in to get the dogs. Matt received this information and promptly was like, “Now is good,” inside his head, reaching over me to shut off the stove, where I was cooking my breakfast, the first meal of the day, without saying anything at all.
On a side note, breakfast is very important to me.
So I was hustled over to her apartment on the other side of the apartment complex, feeling disconnected from the world by hunger. We get there and he’s like, “Ok, hold on.” And takes out his phone and tries contacting a bunch of people. Twenty minutes pass, probably longer as we stand there, waiting. The morning light changes and many people walk by, glancing at us curiously. Eventually, they walk by again, in the opposite direction, openly staring. The dog walker can’t come, he’s busy. So the dog owner, I guess, tells Matt that her friend will bring a key. More time passes, like a significant amount of time. Matt continues harassing people on his phone because the friend can’t drop everything to deliver the key right at this moment.  Soon, news arrives that a friend of the friend will let us in. Finally, someone swerves to the side of the road, rolls down their passenger window and tosses a key out at us, peeling off into the distance before any words can be exchanged.
“Ok, good,” Matt says brightly as he walks toward the front door, key in hand, as if we had conveniently just arrived and the two dogs we were about to collect had not been barking at us through the window for an hour.
He begins to fling open the door but checks himself when the two dogs in the entryway lose it. Unfortunately, I was standing next to him and was not ready to go back in time. My hand latched onto the edge of the door as it began to swing closed, keeping it from moving much. Matt, who had caught a brief glimpse of the dogs, said something like, “Those are not small dogs,” but I couldn’t really hear him over the barking and was distracted as he pried the door out of my hand.  He started making cooing, shushing noises at the dogs through the door, which seemed to encourage the dogs to bark with renewed vigor, and I realized that I could not do this for very much longer. I told him to shut up and seized control of the door, which he relinquished easily when I stood in front of him and became the first person the dogs would launch themselves at.  I opened the door a crack but didn’t close it when they started barking. When their barking paused I opened it more, etc – I was a dog walker for many years before I decided never again would I pick up dog shit, so I’m familiar with this kind of thing.
            The dogs sort of freaked out again when Matt decided to join us but had pretty much calmed down and decided now that they had company they had better eat all their food. I was reminded that the sooner this was done, the sooner I could eat something. We got their leashes on them and went back outside, where they immediately rushed over to some grass and pooped. Without thinking about it, I grabbed the leash of the other dog from Matt and sort of was like, “Oh, no we forgot plastic bags, I will hold this for you while you go in and grab some,” and also clean this up. But I probably just grunted at him and ran off with the two dogs. In hindsight, I admire my instinctive actions to avoid picking up dog poop.
As a dog walker, many people assumed the reason I didn’t have a dog of my own was because I wasn’t allowed to. Wrong. Dogs can be very enjoyable to interact with but are, ultimately, very gross. I was the one hired to clean up after the dog.  If I had a dog, who would I hire? No one. I’m poor.
Anyway, after absconding with the dogs and leaving Matt to deal with their excrement, I let them joyfully drag me around the apartment complex before I was beset by a wave of dizziness. By the time I could see straight again and hear past the rushing in my ears, Matt was suddenly with us again and taking one of the dogs from me.  It was eleven- something in the morning when we took the dogs back to his apartment. Upon entering, I spotted a jar of peanut butter and stuffed a spoon full in my mouth, the only readily apparent thing to eat in Matt’s kitchen. I sort of noticed the commotion of the dogs destroying Matt’s entryway, covering it in water, Matt trying to yell at them or give them directions, while struggling to take their leashes off but it was background noise. I did notice Matt using all the towels he possessed to ineffectively mop at the floor, including one I had used and planned to use again.
            Around this time Matt grew concerned about the tub of water and the dogs. Even though I had not moved from the kitchen, he kept reminding me to keep the bathroom door closed so that the dogs wouldn’t get in the water. Or drink the water, which would contaminate it. For what purpose, I had no idea. I sincerely doubted we would be drinking that tub water, since Matt had meticulously stocked the fridge with two gallons and four liters of nicely packaged water (and not much else). Matt continued talking about the dogs and the tub of water but I can’t remember what he said, I was trying to feed myself and no longer cared about taking a shower because there was nothing to dry off with afterward anyway.
After food, I suddenly demanded, “Who told you to fill the tub?” And he was like “People.” And I was like “…People?” And he was like “A few people, yeah,” And I was like, “How many people?” and he was like, “One. One person.” And I was like, “Oh?” And he was like, “A coworker.” And I was like, “And then did he tell you what the water was gonna be used for?” And he just sort of looked at me blankly.
Eventually Matt decided to just drain the tub, because of the dogs.
Later, on a walk with the dogs, we met some of his neighbors and they also talked about filling the bathtub up with water. We stared at them and they explained that if the power goes out, the water pumps stop working and the toilet won’t flush because the tank won’t fill with water, so you use the water from the tub to fill the tank. After that, Matt decided to fill up the tub again.
Luckily the storm did not hit the area where we were very seriously because we had almost no food and tried to go to the supermarket a day later. We ended up buying some kind of rye and pumpernickel swirl bread because there was no other kind available. 

Oct 19, 2016

Here's a story

My grandmother:

         I have always known that my grandmother is an amazing person. Growing up, I only had one grandparent. I have only ever known what it was like to have that specific grandparent as a grandmother.  I have noticed that people like to claim possession of “eccentric” grandparents. They use the word, being affectionate and positive. When we use the word about my grandmother, it’s forced optimism and an understatement.  It’s an “err on the side of caution” and “less is more.” It’s a way of being polite out of a sense of loyalty to the woman but also unwilling to let people dive undeservingly into something they don’t understand.  It’s a lie.  In fact, the only time I would use the word “eccentric” to describe my grandmother would be with heavy sarcasm.  The word that is most often used to describe my grandmother is “memorable.” And she is very memorable. I was in a pleasant conversation with several nurses in the hall of her nursing home, when one asked me, “Who’s your grandmother?” At my grandmother’s name all three women’s faces darkened and their attitudes towards me cooled. Was I surprised, taken aback or dismayed by this reaction? Not at all. I had been trying to avoid saying her name. Someone once told me at some function that they had an “unforgettable experience” with my grandmother, before walking away without introducing themselves. I took that to mean my grandmother was the unforgettable part.
          Here are some of my experiences with her that I will never forget.
          As a young child, when I began to realize that other grandparents were called a plethora of titles and names besides grandma or grandpa, I asked her how she felt about being called grandma, or rather, would she like to continue being called grandma, since I didn’t remember if I had given her a choice?  She looked at me and spoke as if speaking to someone with far less intelligence than herself, “I am your mother’s mother, not your mother, thank god, nor am I compensated in any way for taking care of you. I’ve done my job, I raised your mother. So I am your grandmother. Your grandma. Understand?”
          She once received a boom-box with a CD player and several CDs, which she couldn’t figure out how to open and found incredibly frustrating. Frustrating and apparently very fragile as she had only tapped it a few times with a hammer, and not only had the CD case shattered into a million pieces, so had the CD. This was her closest brush with current technology for many years afterwards.
          Once, while walking somewhere on the streets of New York City, I spotted some conveniently placed scaffolding. I quickly climbed the scaffolding and managed to do a couple flips around a horizontal bar before I was violently ripped off by my grandmother and a policeman. The policeman held me by one arm, demanding, “Whose child is this?” while my grandmother was gripping my other arm, much more painfully, and yelling at me that I was going to be arrested, put in jail and then crack my head open on the sidewalk. She even yelled at the policeman to reprimand me more and then didn’t give him an opportunity to, as a crowd gathered, mostly of construction workers who also had things to say to me. My grandmother was yelling and shaking me, “Look down! Look at the cement! Imagine the cement covered in blood! Dripping into the cracks!”  When the policeman asked my grandmother if she knew me, she just stared at me for a second before admitting, “Unfortunately, yes. This appalling child is my granddaughter.” Even after that, the policeman seemed reluctant to release me into my grandmother’s custody and inquired about my mother, who I had spotted blithely taking pictures of the window displays a ways away while my grandmother was screeching about blood on the sidewalk.  My mother came bustling over with her camera and tried to whisk me away to stand in front of the window display for a picture. She knocked my grandmother’s hands off me but was halted by the policeman who continued to hold onto my arm. My mom asked him brightly, “Would you like to be in the photo, too?”
On another occasion, we were riding in a cab, my grandmother seated between my mother and I in the back. I was behind the cab driver. My forearm and hand had been casually resting on the armrest of the door when suddenly my grandmother screeched at me, “DON’T OPEN THE DOOR!” Naturally this was very alarming to everyone. In the resulting chaos and screaming, the cab driver veered sharply to the side of the road and threatened to kick us out, my mother began yelling in my defense, and my grandmother continued proclaiming that I had been about to open the door and leap out, killing us all. 
We used to visit her in her Manhatten apartment and sleep on her pull-out sofa bed. On one such occasion when I was around seven, she was preparing dinner and I realized her kitchen lighting was one of those dimmable round knobs and I promptly treated all of us to some spontaneous strobe lighting. While turning around in alarm, Grandma spilled a large amount of spinach on the kitchen floor and started to scream at me. This was followed by lots of slamming things around. While she was still yelling, my mother thrust twenty dollars at me and kicked me out the door. In a split second, she had decided that the streets of Manhattan were safer than being trapped in an apartment with an enraged Jeanne Fischer.  I have a vague memory of waving the twenty dollar bill in the air while skipping down the sidewalk and a man sitting against a building, calling out to me, “Hey, honey, do you want to break that twenty with me?” 
More recently, when my mother was telling my grandmother about how I hadn’t had a boyfriend in so long and she was worried about me and my social life, my grandmother suddenly said sharply, “Shush, Mary! She might be gay,” And then turning to look directly at me, “And we would still love her the same, anyway.” She said very solemnly. Which prompted my mother to also turn and look directly at me, nodding with an equal amount of gravitas, “That’s right, we would.” And my grandmother said, “And she can still get pregnant and have children.” “That’s right, she could,” my mother said with a smile, and my grandmother continued with raised eyebrows, “So she should be careful while she’s figuring that out,” My mother nodded again, solemnly, “That’s right, she should.”
          They continued to look at me without blinking, so I said contemplatively, “I don’t think I’m gay…”
          “I don’t think you’ve really tried it yet,” my mom said. 
          “I find myself very drawn to the male form... and sometimes even… their minds – “
          “You think you’re attracted to them because you have no imagination and have never been exposed to any other kind of life!” My grandmother stated grandly, leaning forward with her finger in the air. 
          My mother frowned at her, “No, mom.”
          “It was expected of you to like men, you never had a choice!” My grandmother continued to preach.
          “Mom, what are you talking about? I've always had gay friends. Two of my oldest women friends are gay lovers and they used to babysit her when she was little.”
          “I think we’re talking about your life now, grandma.”

My grandmother leaned back in her chair and gazed off into space. “We might be,” she said softly.