I’ve seen the dead walk among the living (pt. 3)

11 01 2018

Cont.

36. When #MeToo hit I thought, Oh, this is good, that people are talking about this. But I didn’t think #MeToo.

37. I’ve never been raped. I’ve never sexually harassed at work, grabbed on the train, hassled on the sidewalk. Not really.

38. Not really. I mean, yes, I’ve dealt with some shit, but, y’know, not like what other women have gone through. Sure, there some words, some grabbiness, some threats, but that didn’t count, did it? It’s just. . . what happens, sometimes.

39. And I mostly haven’t thought about it: it’s been nothing, not like what other women have gone through.

40. Do I just want to fit in? I’ve never really fit in with women, with women’s experiences. Sure, I feel like a women and other women recognize me as such, but I’ve always felt just off to the side.

41. Maybe I was nudged here or shoved here, maybe I drifted here, but I’ve mostly been fine being off to the side. Mostly. Mostly because I don’t know what it would be to be in the midst.

42. Anyway, I wondered, was I trying to make #MeToo about me when it really wasn’t? Was I trying to horn in on something that, really, wasn’t mine?

43. Or maybe I just stopped paying attention to things that other women, many younger women, have rightly said Bullshit! to. Maybe it’s not (just) about the worst thing happening, but that that petty shit even happens at all.

44. And that that worst thing is always there, the omnipresent threat: watch out and take care and don’t walk there and is it dark and did I latch that window and where are the people and where are the exits.

45. It’s background. It’s normal. Keep your eyes open and ears open and those times you drank too much and made it home safe, you were lucky, you were lucky.

46. I’ve been lucky.

47. Anyway, I don’t know if #MeToo, but I’m paying attention, now.

48. And I’m paying attention to how this is working its way through our culture(s), how the conversations are policed.

49. Some, older women, older feminists, are disdainful, dismissive. I think they’re wrong, but given my own uncertainties about my own place in this conversation, I can’t just dismiss them in turn.

50. This is what they’re used to, this is what they’ve managed, this is how they’ve lived.

51. They may be charged with a lack of empathic imagination, they may have forgotten all of the women who were with them when they were young, who fell away because they couldn’t get used to it, couldn’t manage it, couldn’t live with it, but they are not enemies.

52. Are they to be pitied for what they lack? Oh, no, certainly not: I mean, would you pity Catherine Deneuve?

53. But this moment has a history, and this history has currents, and not all of us are wading in the same river.

54. And, anyway, beyond noting that they’ve said this, what else is to be done with them? They took what power they could, but they were not the ones who shaped power, not the ones who could grant it in turn. Their attitudes may be problematic, but these women are not the problem.

55. So what is to be done with the problem—and, again, the problem is one of a system, of many systems, of men mistreating women? I don’t know, and because I don’t know, I’m willing to say Try everything.

56. Really: try everything. Try the mild and the radical, trying smashing against and working within, try lawsuits and black clothes and pins and hashtags and calling out and standing up and sitting down and everything, everything.

57. Everything, I have to remind myself, includes gentleness and patience and empathy for those who are kicking with everything they have, even—especially—when I think their aim is a bit off.

58. After all, I don’t know what will work, and maybe their aim isn’t off at all.

To be continued.

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It’s not a matter of fate, it’s just a question of time, and we all fall down (pt. 2)

5 01 2018

Cont.

23. The ever-present dread: your struggles only matter once you’ve overcome them.

24. Camus, of course, reminded us both that the struggle doesn’t matter and that the struggle is life; there is no overcoming.

25. My struggle is that I’m not struggling: I’ve given up.

26. Of course, Camus might say there is no giving up, either: to live is struggle, to struggle is to live.

27. Of course, Camus is dead.

28. Well. I’m struggling with my struggle, which is nifty meta way to avoid engagement, which was Camus’s real point.

29. It’s not that you can’t contemplate the boulder or wonder about the plague: it’s that you can’t just contemplate the boulder or wonder about the plague. At some point you have to move.

30. That’s where I am, slightly suspended, barely moving.

31. This is my struggle-not struggle—with myself. And that’s what Camus wrote about, the assertion of the self in an indifferent world.

32. But what of this assertion in a mean world? What if it’s not just the boulder and gravity? What if someone or something is trying to crush you?

33. Kelly Stout, who wrote that line quoted in #23, also quoted Zadie Smith: I remember there was always a girl with a secret, with something furtive and broken in her, . . . I often thought I saw her again, this girl who lives everywhere and at all times in history, who is sweeping the yard or pouring out tea or carrying somebody else’s baby on her hip and looking over at you with a secret she can’t tell.

34. The secret she can’t tell: the harm and the hurt, inflicted. Not indifference; malevolence.

35.There are (at least) two struggles, then, which I’ve been collapsing into one: with gravity (too much and not enough), and with all that wouldn’t mind crushing us.

To be continued.





It’s just a fire thrown across the wall (pt 1)

1 01 2018

Scattered year, scattered thoughts; let’s see how well I gather them up this new year.

1. I don’t really buy or even listen to much music anymore (don’t know why, don’t, . . . , just don’t know why), but this, from Erik Loomis’s best listens of 2017, is somethin’ else:

2. Got restless, reorganized my work space by turning my desk and assembling some disassembled shelves. Didn’t like it, so disassembled the assembled disassembled shelves, scooted around some other things, and now it’s fine.

3. I like to say I’m not much for magical thinking, but I just know that this reorganization will increase my writing by 1006.34 percent.

4. I don’t know what I can do for the 2018 elections but I have to do something.

5. I have combined the words “president” and “Trump” exactly twice: both times in a classroom when I had just referred to “President Obama” and/or “President Bush” and/or “President Clinton” and thus felt there was no way I could avoid saying, you know.

6. I will usually just refer to him as “Trump” or “the president” or, more rarely, Mr. Trump. I don’t want to deny reality but I’ll be goddamned if I grant him. . . anything.

7. Still, I don’t regret the two times I did say it. However awful is the current part-time occupant of the White House, I thought not saying it would have been about me rather than the point I was trying to get across.

8. Not sure if I’ll keep my Twitter account. Against expectations, I don’t tweet that often, but I do regularly pop open the app and scroll through the timeline—which, entirely in keeping with expectations, really is like snackin’ on chip after chip.

9. I mean, I’ve gotten some good sources and leads for my own work, but, honestly, this really is the equivalent of getting protein from Doritos.

10. And I could really do without the endless (ever-fuckin’-lovin’ ENDLESS) Bernie vs. Hillary debates. JFC.

11. I should also point out that I have become more sympathetic to Hillary and less to Bernie. This sympathy is completely about them as personalities, not at all about their policy orientations—which, in the end, are remarkably similar.

12. This is somewhat surprising to me, this sympathy. I’m not quite sure where it comes from.

13. Okay, it’s partly a feminist sympathy.

14. Oh, and also impatience with those who dismiss (still!) Clinton’s work-horse sensibility, not least because they don’t understand the work itself.

15. In the legislative sphere, there are process folks (e.g., Schumer), policy folks (Clinton), and passion-istas (Sanders). There are also those who just like being members of Congress, and whose function is largely to vote for party leadership and party initiatives.

16. Good legislative leaders are often process-ors who are able to herd the wonks, the bomb-throwers, and the generic MCs  through the legislative rapids to victory (or, alternatively, to dam up the other party).

17. Competent processors are often irritating (sell outs! why didn’t they do more! what’s the hold up?!) to those of us on the outside who could give a shit about procedure, but shit doesn’t get done without them.

18. Also: they rarely run for president. (Yes, I know: LBJ, but he ran for president as president, not as a legislative leader.)

19. Executives (governors, presidents) have to have some competence in all three areas, although some are stronger in one area or another; the best master all three, the worst, none.

20. Draw your own conclusions re: which presidents are masters and which, incompetents.

21. Did you notice that I left out what’s necessary for a good candidate? Because I’m damned if I know.

22. That said, I’m likin’ Kirsten Gillibrand for 2020.

To be continued.





All the drunks they were singing

24 12 2017

Christmas Eve we’d alternate going to my mom’s Episcopal Church and my dad’s Lutheran church. There were more Lutherans in Falls, so the church was bigger, and with a pretty good choir; it was always a lovely service.

Still, I preferred the Episcopal service. I loved that church: its wooden pews, worn by decades of congregants resting their arms across the tops of the backs in front them as they prayed, the stained glass all around the nave, maybe some kids in robes in the chancel, ready to sing the children’s songs, and the altar, with Father Kaiser, the kindly priest of my childhood, there to greet us all.

My favorite part was the singing: Glo-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-ria, in excelsis deo, and, at the end, in a darkened church, “Silent Night”, a beautiful hush to a small girl in a small Wisconsin town.

I still like “Silent Night”, tho’ it’s been many years since I’ve sung it in St. Peter’s; my tastes as an adult run more to the rough and bitter-sweet.

So, the annual tradition:

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and a happy, raucous, bittersweet, beautiful peaceful to us all.





I owe my soul to each fork in the road

23 11 2017

So much wrong, but this is so right:

Whoever you are, wherever you are, for whatever reason, go easy.





I’ve looked at life from both sides now

6 11 2017

Night is falling early, so time for this:

Perfect every time.





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.