We only come out at night

6 04 2020

The walking has become a thing.

I started the night-walks as a distraction from myself, thought I’d go out every once and awhile, but it’s been every night since that first night—with the exception of this past Saturday, when I day-walked.

Mistake.

It was sunny, and while I only hate the sun in July and most of August, it was all wrong. Too bright, too hard: everything was too distinct.

I was restless at home, and thought, what the hell, get my walk in now, maybe venture down some of the alleys I had spotted in Crown Heights.

Aside: Yes, alleys! I love alleys, but Brooklyn is not known for them, and I pretty much assumed you could only find them in a few, tv-famous areas of Manhattan, but one night-walk through CH and I spotted alley after alley after alley.

First thought: Am I going to go down there? Hell, yeah!

Second thought: It’s dark, and this is still New York.

So I waited until Saturday, and as I was making my way back through CH, I glimpsed down those alleys and thought: No.

We’re all mostly confined to our own patches, and for me to have strolled through that back patch would have felt like trespassing, like I was impinging upon what little private space those people had.

I don’t know if that makes sense, but that is the sense I had. We’re mostly tethered to those private spaces, but to have walked—in a public lane, to be sure—in the back of that space would have seemed a violation.

Anyway. Back to the main drag: Not only was everything too set apart in the day, it was also much more obvious that the city was shut down. Empty playgrounds on a sunny day are not normal, and all of the shops which should have been open were instead gated, some with signs saying Sorry. . . COVID-19. . . .

Those signs are still there at night, of course, but pulled-down gates at night are the norm.

Is that it? That night-walking allows some normalcy that the light strips away?

Eh, I don’t think so. My area of Brooklyn is a social place, and were it not for this virus people would be out on the corners or stoops just hanging out wherever; now, there are few of us out.

More likely is that that initial night-walk awakened the memory that this is something I can do; whatever else happens, this I can do.





And the beat goes on

30 03 2020

I am slowly going mad.

I like being alone. I like choosing to be alone. To be alone because I can be nothing else is. . . too much, not enough. Not nearly enough.

How are you?

~~~

I used to walk at night, when I was younger. I walked around Falls some, but this really took off when I lived in Madison. Over to Lake Mendota, out to Picnic Point, or back behind Breese Terrace, looping around the chancellor’s house, sitting on swings in dark parks in neighborhoods built for kid-kids, not college kids.

This continued in grad school, Minneapolis. Walks through Loring Park and the sculpture garden and down Nicollet and to the river, bridges over the river.

I wasn’t well, then, but I can’t fault the nighttime roaming. And my sorrows got some airing-out.

I still walk, of course, but in New York, the walking is always to and fro, from here to there. And almost always during the day.

~~~

But I am, as I said, slowly going mad. I have work—teaching at a distance and still the second job (also at a distance)—and we are not literally locked down. I go across the street for milk and yogurt, over to Flatbush for bagels.

We can still run. I still run.

Here to there, here to there, and home again.

~~~

So, tonight, a night stroll, just around, just to see.

I live near central Brooklyn’s hospital complex. I’m used to ambulances, so I can’t say if there are more; there are plenty, regardless.

East down my street. There were few of us out, some of us masked, some not. The closer to the hospital, the more scrubs, the more masks. Across the street from an ER, in one fast-food place, everyone, workers, customers, wore masks; in the other, none did.

Further east. It’s so quiet. Usually in a damp night sound carries, but tonight, the silence carried.

Turn north, past black women in blue scrubs, bonnets, masks; past the psychiatric buildings, high fences all around, light in every window.

There’s a school, half-lit and empty, classrooms above in a long slow curve around the side, like a weary spaceship waiting for its crew.

Down past the handball court, I notice the one-story railroad apartments. This is low Brooklyn, hidden behind the height of the hospitals and the arch new buildings for the nursing students and medical residents.

I pass a couple of men, one offering the other gloves. Nah, man, he says, holding up a roll of paper towels, I got this. I lose that thread as I notice a building that looks abandoned, but there’s a red blip for keyless entry.

Crabwise, west now. A man stepping off his stoop smiles and says “Make it home safe, mama.” I half-say “You, too,” before realizing he’s leaving his home. “Have a safe night,” I call instead.

Down Nostrand, the noise picks up. The usual ambulances, and the one alarm, a block away? that sounds like a whole building yelling out a London OO-EE! OO-EE!

The women waiting at the bus stop wear masks. I check the driver; he’s wearing a mask.

My laundromat, usually open, is closed, gates where windows would be. Gates up and down the street.

I forget to look up to the sky before heading in.

~~~

I have to remember, there is more than just me, more than the texts and the emails and the voices in the radio. We are not abstractions.

Brooklyn is right here, it’s all around me, a real place.

It’s easy to miss this, during the day, when it all seems like a backdrop, mere scenery on my way to somewhere else.

I forgot that I can see so much better at night.





I count the spiders on the wall

26 02 2019

So, being middle-aged apparently means I don’t sleep well and even thinking about food makes me gain weight.

I do not like this. I like sleep and not-gaining weight.

I’m pretty much right in the middle of what counts as “normal” or healthy for my height, but clothes that had been loose are snug and there is a roundness that I can no longer ignore.

I’m not terribly vain, but, goddammit, I do not like how this looks or feels.

So I decided to lose a bit of weight—literally, just a bit. I’m a small person, so while even small gains are noticeable, it won’t take much for my clothes to stop hugging me.

Still, I want something a bit more precise than my jeans to keep track, which means that I have, for the first time in my life, purchased a scale.

Now, I’ve certainly weighed myself before. We had a scale when I was a kid, which I used regularly, and I’d weigh myself weekly on a magnificent old scale in the locker room at the U of Minnesota’s rec center.

Kinda like this.

But after I left Minnesota my weight-measuring days dwindled to not-quite-yearly doctor’s visits. My weight has been mostly stable, and I figured that my clothes would tell me when I’d gained a few.

Well, them clothes be yellin’, and I thought, Goddammit, if I really want to keep track of my weight, I’m gonna have to, y’know, keep track of my weight.

So I bought a goddamned scale, weighed myself, and have decided that weekly weigh-ins were the way to go.

Now, all of this is the prelude bait to the actual switch: this is less about the weight than the scale, and what it does.

It measures.

Shocking, I know, but in the past decade (or. . . two?) I’ve become rather anti-measurement. For example, I used to track my running times, and then at some point I thought, This is just stressing me out, so I stopped wearing a watch.

I used to balance my checkbook, but at some point I thought, Geez, I can get the balance at the ATM or online, so what’s the point?

I have a list of all of my cds and I still maintain a database of my books, but for a shit-ton of other matters, personal and professional, I just let it all go.

That wasn’t the worst strategy, honestly, but it has had the unintended effect of making me shy away from all kinds of non-work-required measurements and tracking, and increase my anxiety over said measurements and tracking.

Which is ridiculous, especially since the results, when I finally do check them, are usually fine.

Thus, my decision to purchase a scale was one small blow against denial, one small step for self-accountability, and one small way for me to calm the fuck down about myself.

It’s ridiculous, I know, but it just might work. A bit.





And I said “shit!”

16 10 2017

I happily saw shit on Saturday.

Well, I didn’t see “shit”, per se; instead, I saw what happens to shit at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. C. had gotten tickets for a tour via OpenHouse New York, one of those nifty freebies available to New Yorkers which I always think I should do! and then forget to do. C did not forget.

The tour started with a lecture by an assistant director at the plant, during which he talked about the process by which water and waste makes it way to the plant, how garbage (whatever happened to fall into sewers) gets removed, what happens when its (BABY WIPES) are not and how non-removed trash (BABY WIPES) gum up the works and makes him very unhappy.

Guys, baby wipes in the toilet are bad. DON’T FLUSH BABY WIPES.

The wastewater is then cycloned and centrifuged and filtered and munched on by aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, biosolids (including food waste) is shunted off for re-use, and the 95%-clean water is piped into the East River. The assistant director (who hates BABY WIPES) pointed out that, not to brag or anything, but the EPA only requires 85%-clean.

Anyway, the lecture was good and informative and he had props of the water at various stages, but, really, we were there for the Digesters Eggs.

These babies:

There are two sets of four, and they sent us up to the top, 10 at a time, in a verrrrrry slow elevator.

The view was lovely:

I thought it might stink, but, really, it didn’t. There were portholes at the top through which you could look at the churning water, but absent a leak around these seals (which, okay, one or two of the eggs had leaky seals), nothin’.

I don’t know what these are, but you can see get a sense of how huge this site is:

This was and is a highly industrialized area of Brooklyn: Newtown Creek itself is hella polluted from over a century of industry, and goddess only knows what’s in the ground. Given that pollution is the ultimate anti-gentrifier, the area hasn’t been overtaken by lofts and hipster bars; instead, there are metal recycling businesses across the street from the plant, and National Grid (gas) has facilities in the area.

In fact, National Grid is in the early stages of building its own facility on the plant to capture, process, and use the methane produced via the Digester Eggs. Sustainability, baby!

The plant does try to capture and reuse the methane for its own power purposes, but their storage is limited; further, the bladder inside a storage facility had collapsed, so it was being flamed-off, here:

It was all very cool, and C and I agreed that it would be great if she (who’s finishing an environmental science degree) got a job here.

I know, most visitors to New York never leave Manhattan, and, honestly, that’s fine! There’s lots to see in Manhattan!

But Manhattan is onstage, and as much as I thought when younger that I wanted an onstage life, I have come to appreciate the gears of backstage. And it really doesn’t get more backstage than waste treatment.





So if you think we live in a modern world

22 11 2016

I’ve mentioned before my attempt to grasp modern ideologies, an attempt since grown into a project I’m calling Modernity’s Ideologies.

Here, in maximally-minimalist form, is my sketch of the argument:

Terri Peterson ©2016

Terri Peterson ©2016. Do not quote without permission.

It’s hard to see (click to, y’know, see it), but the basic outline is MODERNITY as historical moment; Liberalism, Totalitarianism, and Reaction as worldviews; the attendant ideologies to these worldviews; and, finally, the types of regimes most compatible to these worldviews & ideologies.

The ideologies in the chart proper are referred to as ‘governing ideologies’: these refer to ideologies which offer a more-complete view of government and politics, which take account of individuals, groups, society, culture, economics, and governmental institutions. ‘Adjunct ideologies’, listed below the chart, are so-called because they are incomplete: they may cover some aspect of politics, but are unable on their own to provide a full and practical understanding of politics.

These are, of course, highly contestable claims; libertarians and anarchists, in particular, are likely to assert the wholeness of their ideologies (and, shoot, I should probably add ‘communitarianism’ to the list of adjuncts). I am unconvinced, although I do recognized that I’ll need to make the case for their adjunct status. As it stands, I argue that adjuncts may be fitted (more and less easily) with the various governing ideologies, that you could find, say, black liberation or women’s liberation accompanying liberalism or reform socialism—just as you could find white supremacism and anti-Semitism accompanying the same.

Anyway, the basic argument is that modernity emerges in European history and in so doing provides opportunities for the development of new worldviews, which in turn give rise to various worldviews. Liberalism and Totalitarianism are included on the same line insofar as both worldviews (or Weltanschauungen—I think I should stick to ‘worldview’ but oh, I’d like to sneak in that bit of German) accept modernity and the forward movement of time; Reaction rejects modernity and looks to the past.

Note as well that I list no ideologies coming out of Reaction. This is because I accept the view of ideology as a modern phenomenon; insofar as Reactionaries reject modernity, so too do they fail to develop ideologies. Reactionary regimes, however, lasted centuries into modernity: arguably, they didn’t disappear until the end of WWI.

And, again, this chart arises from European history: I make no claims about the history of ideologies elsewhere. Given that ideas, like people, travel—see communism in Asia, for example—I’m not arguing for the geographic and cultural exclusivity of these ideologies; rather, I haven’t done the work to make any claims one way or the other. Scholars steeped in the histories of the rest of the world would almost certainly generate their own, distinct, genealogies.

I have a lot of work to do: define modernity, define Europe, and then, oh yes, the worldviews and the ideologies themselves. I also have to make decisions regarding the spread of these ideas as Europeans colonized other parts of the world: do I stick strictly to the continent, or look European ideologies in, say, the Americas, in India, across Africa?

Finally, I’ll have a last chapter, ‘Post-Modernities?’ in which I’ll take up the challenges of those who think we’re already beyond. I used to be in that group, but now think, no, we’re still in modernity, frayed though it may be.

Anyway, when I refer in the future to any kind of ideologies, this is how I’ll be making sense of them. Whether it makes sense to anyone else remains to be seen.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: See them on the beach or in New York City

8 11 2016





Willkommen!

14 12 2015

Fucking hell, ONE DAY after I make the absolutely authoritative and IRREFUTABLE argument assertion that the US is not Weimar, and Jeffrey Goldberg’s Twitter stream puts me on to this:

FireShot Screen Capture #035 - 'Trump’s Weimar America

No. No no no no no no no. Annnnnnnnnnd: No.

Question: Does Cohen state in any way how the US is like Weimar? He does not.

Oh, he goes on about anger and antipathy and xenophobia and bombast—as if these were new things in US politics—but says next-to-nothing about what Weimar was about.

The one thing he does mention, hyperinflation, he (correctly) dismisses: hyperinflation hit Germany in January 1923 (really, the inflation was bad even in the latter half of 1922), but by the following year was under control.

(Which is to say: those who think hyperinflation in 1923 => Hitler in 1933 are incorrect.)

So let’s look at Weimar, if only briefly.

The first thing to know is that the republic was formed out of the corpse of an authoritarian empire, an empire which lasted less than 50 years. Some conservatives had hated Bismarck’s Reich, believing the realpolitik behind its inception too cold, too practical; they wanted an expansive Empire, one which would compete with the UK and France, and which would dominated Europe.

At the onset of war in 1914, Germany failed in the former task, but it certainly was the strongman of the continent: it was the most populous state, and had the largest economy. The Kaiser’s government vacillated in its attempts to restrain the Hapsburgs, but when war came, the population was ecstatic: they were certain they would win, and that the glory, and riches, of victory would be theirs.

The government and the General Staff of the Army encouraged such thinking and then, as Germany’s fortunes turned in 1918, discouraged any counter-message through suppression and censorship; the Kaiser himself was only told of the need for surrender in September.

Oh, and can I pause here to note what shits were Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff? They’d set up what was basically a ‘silent’ military dictatorship in 1916, and when their tactics failed, they disclaimed any responsibility for those failures. Hindenburg went on to testify, twisting the words of an English writer, that the German army had been ‘stabbed in the back’ and Ludendorff—such a shit—set up any following government for failure. According to Detlev Peukert,

he pressed for the formation of a new government, which would have to concede Germany’s defeat and accept the likely peace terms that would follow, from the majority parties in Parliament: the Social Democrats, the liberals, and the [Catholic] Centre. The eventual effect of this cynical manoeuvre, which absolved the ruling conservative and military leadership of responsibility for the consequences of its own failed war policy, was to inflict on the democratic parties the odium of the notorious Dolchstoß [stab-in-the-back], directed by stay-at-home-politicians against the fighting soldiers in the trenches. (The Weimar Republic, p. 27)

(Ludendorff, you will not be at all surprised to learn, was also involved in the 1923 beer-hall-putsch, although the court acquitted him. He was sidelined after an unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1925 (Hindenburg won), but remained involved in far-right politics until his death in 1937.)

Now, I’m spending a lot of time on this, and we haven’t even gotten to the republic itself, but the point is, that republic was targeted by its enemies even before it was born—and those enemies came not from outside of Germany,* but from its very center.

To be continued.

~~~

*Okay, not entirely true: German Communists, inspired and later directed by the Bolsheviks, were also opposed to the republic—they did, after all, attempt a revolutionary coup in early 1919—and they created no small amount of trouble for the republicans once the new government was established. Still, whatever power they had in the cities and in industrial areas, they had little power in the apparatus of the state itself.

n.b.: I updated what had been “1924 =>. . .” to “1923”.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: We are the sultans

7 12 2015

Now, I’m not one of those who thinks Trump is a fascist*, largely because I have a(n overly?) strict definition of fascism, though I do concede that he’s plucking those führer chords pretty hard.

Still, this is brilliant:

h/t Jeffrey Goldberg

*At the most basic level, I think fascists are highly ideological, which Trump is not: he’s merely opportunistic. This isn’t to say one can’t be a cynical fascist—Göring comes to mind—but he lacks any ideology beyond “winning” and himself.

I think the better descriptor for his politics is Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan’s concept of sultanism:

[A] sultanistic ruler characteristically has no elaborate or guiding ideology. There may be highly personalistic statements with pretensions of being an ideology, often named after the sultan, but this ideology is elaborated after the ruler has assumed power, is subject to extreme manipulation, and, most importantly, is not believed to be constraining on the ruler and is relevant only as long as he practices it.

Doesn’t that sound like Trump to you?

But like I said, still a brilliant photo crop.





What are words for

14 07 2015

Go pound sand.”

I don’t get it. I mean, I understand it’s a way of telling someone to take a flying leap, buzz off, fuck off, beat it, but why bother with such a dull (in both senses of the word) epithet? “Go fly a kite” isn’t the sharpest retort one could fire off, but at least it has the bite of the k and the t to make it sound a little nastier than it is.

It’s rounded and bland, and “pound sand” is just, pffft, it’s the verbal equivalent of punching a pillow when angry: the jab dissipates into a mound of mush.

If you don’t want to swear (really?), “beat it” works perfectly well: the two syllables go up and down in short order, a sharp point aimed dead at the target. Crack!

Yeah, that’s what a rebuff should sound like.

Okay, other phrases oot and aboot online: “no more fucks to give” and “because fuck you”.

I like both of these formulations, mostly because I like the attitude contained therein, but, like the aforementioned “batshit crazy”, bemoan their overuse.

“Just sayin'” was okay in small—teeny—doses, but it’s been fire-hosed everywhere online. “Fixed that for you” could, sometimes, be clever, but mostly it’s just tired and kinda jerky.

There are words and phrases which I like very much and think deserve wider use—but, like the hipster who only loves the songs no one listens to, I fear that were these terms to spread, the thrill of them would be gone.

So I guess that’s a way of sayin’ keep sayin’ “just sayin'”: better a phrase I don’t much care for than one I do flattened across the cyberverse.

Just, stop with the whole pound sand thing, okay?





Circus Maximus MMXVI: If you complain once more

15 04 2015

By the Fata Morgana, what is Peggy Noonan ingesting?

I don’t usually read Noonan—Charlie Pierce and Wonkette provide sufficient wrap-ups—but I caught an excerpt of her column in which she complains about the unfairness of the media:

Two points on the general feel of the 2016 campaign so far.

One is that in the case of Mrs. Clinton we are going to see the press act either like the press of a great nation—hungry, raucous, alive, demanding—or like a hopelessly sickened organism, a big flailing octopus with no strength in its arms, lying like a greasy blob at the bottom of the sea, dying of ideology poisoning.

Republicans know—they see it every day—that Republican candidates get grilled, sometimes impertinently, and pressed, sometimes brusquely. And it isn’t true that they’re only questioned in this way once they announce, Scott Walker has been treated like this also, and he has yet to announce. Republicans see this, and then they see that Mrs. Clinton isn’t grilled, is never forced to submit to anyone’s morning-show impertinence, is never the object of the snotty question or the sharp demand for information. She gets the glide. She waves at the crowds and the press and glides by. No one pushes. No one shouts the rude question or rolls out the carefully scripted set of studio inquiries meant to make the candidate squirm. She is treated like the queen of England, who also isn’t subjected to impertinent questions as she glides into and out of venues. But she is the queen. We are not supposed to have queens.

I honestly thought Pierce and the nasty good folks at Wonkette were exaggerating when they referred to her, uh, louche style, but now I’m wondering exactly how many lotuses she eats prior to laying down in front of her keyboard.

Marco Rubio had a pretty great announcement in that it made the political class look at him in a new way, and a better way. I have heard him talk about his father the bartender I suppose half a dozen times, yet hearing it again in his announcement moved me. I don’t know how that happened. John Boehner is the son of a barkeep.

I. . . it’s. . . Good goddess, who writes like this?

Okay, sorry, I got distracted by the vapors wafting off of her. . . thoughts. The real point in bringing this up is to bang away on one of my favorite pots: Fairness doesn’t matter in electoral politics.

It doesn’t matter if Noonan is correct in her assessment of the mild treatment of Clinton (she is not) and that GOPpers will be subject to the cruelest and most unusual punishment by the media (if only), because fairness itself doesn’t matter.

I get the complaints, I do—I hated Ronald Reagan and thought he skated from the ill consequences of his policies, and considered the press’s treatment of Al Gore juvenile (and I still don’t understand how Joe Biden gets away with what he does)—but in the long march to the presidency, the agita over media slights or mis-magnifications is itself misplaced.

Sure, it allows you (if you are Peggy Noonan) to fill column space with psychedaelia, but the candidates themselves can’t get bogged down in the media mire: whining about the news-meanies isn’t going to get the non-tribal voter to the polls.

And that’s the whole point of the campaign: to get the folks on your side to show up, and to prod those who aren’t on the other side (and maybe a few who are) to drag their asses to the polls and pull the level or draw the line or punch the screen for you.

Who knows, maybe in Noonan’s marmalade-sky world, slurring about fairness makes its own tangerine sense. But on that hard, hard campaign trail, it doesn’t matter.

Winning matters. That’s all that matters.

~~~

h/t Shakesville