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.

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Hit the road, Jack

12 10 2017

Enough with the fucking men.

Oh, I know, I’m supposed to say Most men aren’t predators and #NotAllMen and maybe even Some of my best friends are men, but, honestly, enough.

It’s not just Harvey Weinstein (who deserves every shitty non-violent thing coming to him), or Donald Trump, or Roger Ailes or Bill O’Reilly or R. Kelly or Bill Cosby, not just Hollywood and the media and politics, but the university (see here and here and here and . . . ), finance, tech, and pretty well any damned place where men and women work.

And whose fault is this? I think you know.

Yes, it’s women’s fault that men harass them (us), for not being professional, for being too casual, for being too sexy, for being naive, for being too yielding, not fighting back, for having the goddamned audacity of daring to walk into the world in our female bodies.

(And, oh yes, men are also abused—see Terry Crews and Corey Feldman—which serves to demonstrate that shitty male sexual-power dynamics can ensnare anyone.)

If there are rumors or whisper campaigns? Well, maybe that’s not the real story, or maybe it’s just women misinterpreting things, or, y’know, maybe there’s just not enough evidence, he-said/she-said, whattayagonnado? And, oh, cmon, that favorite actor/comedian/musician couldn’t really have done that, could they? I mean, they’re famous: why would they have to take what so many would willingly offer?

And then when the harassment and abuse can no longer be ignored? Well, then, it’s our fault for not having IMMEDIATELY reported it or IMMEDIATELY denounced the abuser and, really, aren’t we just a part of the problem with our silence?

This is where I snap. I am unshocked by violence against women, by sexual harassment and catcalling and the everyday-ness of treating women as the sexual adjuncts of men. I should note I have never been sexually assaulted, am not usually catcalled, and have dealt with only a handful of harassers/abusers, so my rage is less personal than ontological: this is how it is to be a woman in our fucking world.

So Harvey Weinstein, a major Democratic donor, is exposed as criminally creepy, and. . . it’s somehow Hillary’s fault? Anthony Bourdain has gone after Weinstein and those who covered for him, but he made sure to take the time to express his “disappointment” in Hillary Clinton.

Yes, the Democratic Party and countless Democratic candidates—including male ones!—have taken Weinstein’s money, but, really, it’s a problem that Hillary’s response has been “uninspiring”, that she said she didn’t know?

Such horseshit, such worm-infested horseshit.

Here’s where the “enough with men!” comes in: if “everyone” really did know, then why is it only the women who should have spoken up? Jane Fonda said she feels “ashamed” for not coming forward a year ago, when she first found out; how many Hollywood men feel guilty for having known for years? How many of them are wondering why they didn’t take those rumors more seriously, didn’t take the women seriously?

Anthony Bourdain: if everyone knew, if you knew, then why didn’t you say something?

I don’t hate Bourdain, enjoyed Kitchen Confidential, and have watched and will likely watch some of his t.v. shows. I’d probably enjoy a barstool-bullshitting session with him, and would be unsurprised to find out he treats people decently. In short, I don’t think he’s a bad guy.

Which is rather the point: He’s not a bad guy, and he manages to slam a woman for not reacting in the right way to a bad man.

He’s not horrible, but, really, that’s all that can be said.

~~~

When I first jumped on Twitter and started following a bunch of people of color, I’d commonly see withering references to white people (or wypipo)—references which would inevitably lead to white folks jumping into that person’s mentions to say “. . . but not me!”

I didn’t do this, but I understood the impulse: You want to be one of the good guys, and just as if not more importantly, you want to be recognized as one of the good guys. #NotAllWhitePeople. . . .

The original Tweeter would usually react with anything from exasperation to impatience to contempt: If this truly doesn’t apply to you, then why do you need to make this about you?

I understood that response as well, or thought I did. I mean, I could see that the Tweeter had a point, but weren’t they, maybe, a bit. . . harsh?

Well. Yes. And?

I have come to see that the harshness was merited, an honest expression of distrust in the goodness of white people, of skepticism that white people really have any interest in confronting white supremacy, in getting outside of their (our) own whiteness.

I think most men are not rapists, are not harassers, and think most men probably treat people (including women people) decently. I also think most men don’t see themselves as in any way responsible for the culture which make it easy for some of them to behave so horribly.

So, enough. No credit for not being horrible, no credit for meeting minimal standards of humanness.

That doesn’t mean we can’t be friendly, can’t be decent colleagues, can’t enjoy ourselves in a session of barstool-bullshitting, but, when it counts, until I see otherwise, I don’t expect men to step up.





Not touching ground at all

22 08 2017

Sucks to look for a therapist.

Physician? Not a problem: as long as the person’s competent and friendly (enough), I can work with him or her. I found my current doc via a walk-in service I used when insurance-less; now insured, I still see her, and she’s fine.

But a therapist? I gotta click with the person, and since I don’t know ahead of time who I’ll think, Yeah, okay, this is someone I’m willing to talk to even when I’m unwilling to talk, it’s a pain in the ass to search.

Well, that, and that I’m looking for a therapist means I’m NOT IN THE MOOD to be looking for a therapist.

I’ve had two good therapists, one nice-but-not-great one, and a number of non-starters. The two good ones were nothing alike—one was a younger psychiatrist who taught in the UW med school and was laid-back in her approach; the other was older, had a master’s in counseling psychology, and pushed—but both were tough and kind. I trusted each of them as much as I’ve trusted anyone.

So, beyond “tough and kind”, I don’t really have a type. I’ll know within a session or two—well, honestly, I’ll know within one session if I cannot work with someone, a few more if I can—which means I have to do the therapeutic equivalent of speed-dating before deciding on a relationship.

This shouldn’t be that big of a deal: meet for an introductory session, and if it works, great, and if not, well, it was only one session. But this seems like an enormous obstacle when one is NOT IN THE MOOD to be doing much of anything—which is, of course, no small part of the reason why I’m looking for a therapist in the first place.

I’ve been avoiding looking for months, but tonight I finally hopped on to my insurer’s website and looked for therapists who a) they covered; b) dealt with affective disorders; c) were in a convenient location; and d) had a schedule which would accommodate my own. I found three who met these criteria, although if none of these work out, there are plenty more available.

Now, having managed to drag myself out of my torpor long enough to find some possible therapists, I need to maintain this momentum (hah!) to confirm that my insurance coverage does, indeed, cover the therapist AND THEN book an appointment! Horrors.

Do I have it in me? I’d better, if I’m not to sink any further into this lassitude. I’m not in crisis, which makes it easy to put this off, but if I put it off too much longer, well, I might still be fine, or fine enough.

But knowing what not-fine is like and that that’s a risk? Yeah, I’d best get on this.





Break down, it’s all right

1 08 2017

When I was 22 I gave up hope.

It was necessary, a way to keep myself alive, but I don’t know that it was a conscious decision so much as a fait accompli.

Almost 30 years late, and I’m still snagged on that word, hope: hope you’re feeling better; hope it goes well; etc. I didn’t use it at all, for years, but sometimes there’s no good way to avoid the word without drawing attention to its avoidance. So, I use it, sparingly, and always with a mental reservation.

I gave it up because I was broken, as a person. I may or may not still be broken, and perhaps I won’t ever get past those breaks without at least a handshake with hope, but I have managed to put together a life without it.

It’s hard, and I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to anyone, but if you have to abandon hope, you can, and live.

The loss of hope is, or can be, less a tossing-away than an uncovering: you’ll see things, in this hope-less life, that you wouldn’t otherwise. I can’t say if this new sight is worth it, relatively speaking, but, again, there is a kind of clarity, here.

This is how I’m coming to see my response to the 2016 elections. Something broke inside of me, and I couldn’t get a handle on it. Now, I’m thinking that I had a kind of hope in American politics, a hope I never really considered, never really recognized, and that now that’s gone.

Again, a hard thing, but not the worst thing. Again, I gain a sight, a sense of the meanness of this country, which, however maddening, is useful to have.

The differences between the personal and the political hope-loss are that I didn’t know I had any left to lose, and that I thought I already knew how the US could be; that’s what made election night so unbelievably painful.

A more significant difference is that I ended up in a place where there are already a hell of a lot of people—mostly, people of color—who had discarded hope long ago. They haven’t given up; they just don’t expect that everything will somehow turn out right. No, there is work to be done.

This work would be easier, I’d think, if there were hope; or maybe it would just be easier to avoid the work. (I have evidence from my personal life to support both possibilities.) Regardless, there is work to be done.





Drifting this way and that

17 07 2017

These days I’m floating, a bit askew, a few inches from the ground.

I can touch down when I need to—when I have to teach or work my second job—but other than that, I’m untethered from the world.

This has been going on for awhile. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s not, well, it’s not much of anything. Better than bone-crushing anxiety or quaking depression, a slow dissolve ends in sorrow, nonetheless.

I noted a coupla’ posts ago that I don’t know if I’ll remain in New York, if I can afford to stay here, but as real as the financial questions are, the really real issue is that I don’t feel really real. I’m not quite here.

Brooklyn, Chicago, if I’m not, here, I won’t be, there.

Again, not an emergency; the lack of urgency, perhaps, is part of the problem. I’m not drowning beneath, so am not fighting for air. I’m low in the air, not fighting at all.





Polka, tango everyone

5 07 2017

Niece #2 got married in June, to a rather nice gent.

They live in the Twin Cities area, so, of course, got married in Green Bay (where none of us lives). It was lovely.

My sister, who is very organized, was a bit frazzled on Friday morning: the Saturday forecast called for rain, and—did I mention this was an outdoor ceremony?—she (and N2) needed to decide whether or not to put up the tent.

Ugh, she said, that tent is so ugly. But we have to do it.

Saturday was hot and bright, and no one noticed the condition of the tent under which we so gladly sheltered from the sun.

The bride was emotional. The groom was emotional. The ceremony was short, and they both said I do.

At the reception, the maid of honor, Niece1, offered a funny, heartfelt speech, as did the best man (Niece1’s husband—why yes, the bride and groom met through the sister and the best friend), and my brother-in-law, witty and charming, welcomed the groom into the family with an unabashed I love you.

I danced with cousins I hadn’t seen in decades, and relaxed with my sisters’ friends, who I see every few years when we all gather for celebration.

No one talked politics.

Oh, and I met my grand-nephew, who is the chillest baby in the Midwest. He was handed from stranger to stranger to stranger and reacted with, at most, raised eyebrows. My habibi.

It was strange to be back in Wisconsin, as it’s always strange to be back. I remember when I moved to NY and how the buildings pushed up next to the sidewalks took some getting used to; now, it’s normal to me, and it is the wide lawns and low buildings which startle.

Still, some things reassured: the (oh-my-god-how-incredibly-cheap) beer and the cheese curds. Some like the breaded kind, while I prefer the batter-fried: salty and super hot. The accompanying conversation with friends was also a bit salty, although a bit more relaxed.

I’m not certain of my future in NY—it is a costly and hard place to live—but it felt good to see the lights as the plane turned over Manhattan and we glided into Queens.

LaGuardia may be a shit airport, but for as many times as I’ve flown into and out of it, it is mine. And after a weekend in a place which is no longer mine, it felt good to be home.





Live it up, rip it up, why so lazy?

25 05 2017

I got home from picking up final papers and projects and began singing Supertramp’s “Fool’s Overture.”

No, I have no damned idea why.

This was my first Supertramp record—only it wasn’t mine, it was my sister’s. I don’t how often she played it, but I used to lay on the floor of our (finished) basement, stereo speakers on either side of me, and listen to the hell out of it.

I didn’t listen to the whole thing again, don’t know if I’ll ever listen to an entire Supertramp song again, but, y’know, in case you were wondering what you were missing. . . .

(Yes, I’ve been missing. Still working on that.)

Anyway. Memory is weird. Life is strange.