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.





Elizabeth Wurtzel, 1967-2020

8 01 2020

Elizabeth Wurtzel is dead. Cancer.

I read Prozac Nation, of course—what fucked-up self-involved late-twenties white woman didn’t read it?—scarfing it down with enthusiastic horror, but begged off her after that.

She was too too too too too much. I couldn’t bear it; what if that was me?

That was the horror, of course: that I was too much.

(The enthusiasm? Oh, “fucked-up” and “self-involved” cover that.)

I was too much, at least when younger: too enthusiastic, too emotional, too attention-seeking, too serious, too much of whatever adjective can be wrapped around a bright and yearning girl who only wanted everything.

That was okay (for me; it must have been exhausting for others) when I was very young, but as self-awareness sidled in I began to question what I could want, what I should want, whether it was okay to want anything at all.

And, eventually, I concluded it was not. If I was not to want, then I was not to be so much, too much.

In retrospect, this was not the best decision, but fitting, nonetheless: from too much to too little.

Wurtzel apparently found a way to keep going amidst her own storms by celebrating them: “I hate anodyne. I hate that word. … I am baroque. I am rococo. I am an onomatopoeia of explaining away.”

Sitting in my small life I can finally appreciate her largeness, admire her willingness to embrace the messiness of her life, and wonder at her refusal to renounce herself.

If she was too much, then so be it.





I owe my soul to each fork in the road

28 11 2019

So I was talking to my folks earlier today and my dad said Hey, do you remember Thanksgiving from years ago?

And I’m thinking of how we all used to get together at my grandma’s, my brother, two cousins, and I happily at the kids’ table, the walk after dinner in the cold  Sheboygan night to the bridge we all spit off of, . . .

No, not that memory. Wasn’t that when your apartment was broken into?

Yeah, my first year in Montréal! Thanks for the memories, Pop!

Eighteen years later and I STILL double-check my windows and locks.

Anyway, may you all have had as boisterous or as peaceful a day as you desire.





I wandered out in the world for years

4 11 2019

Apparently, a show I never watched and have no opinion about featured a Waterboys tune in their finale.

Which is as good a reason as any to showcase that Waterboys tune.

It is, like so many Waterboys songs, too too much.

The relative restraint of Fisherman’s Blues arguably made for a better record, but there is something so wonderfully everywhere-and-everything to This Is The Sea.





And kingdoms fall

21 10 2019

I’m not a hipster, although I do admit to sharing the annoying trait of establishing my bona fides that I listened to something before it became cool.

Not liking something once it gets popular? Not me at all: I’m thrilled that others can confirm my good taste.

Still, it is the case that with some long-running bands or authors, I just get sort of tired of following them. It’s not even that they get bad or boring—although they sometimes do—but that I’ve just had my fill.

With U2, it’s both that I’ve had my fill and that I just fuckin’ loved their early stuff. Boy, October, and War never fail to yank me by the short-hairs, even today, as does Wide Awake in America and “Under a Blood Red Sky”. I really liked Unforgettable Fire when it came it, thought Rattle & Hum was okay, and while I think Joshua Tree is amazing and, like the early work, still listen to it, it was also the end for me.

They changed their sound and focus, which, honestly, if you’re gonna stick around, is better than just revisiting the same old shit. But as they moved hither, I went yon, and the messy, raging, joyous U2 I adored then and now is the one they left behind.

Anyone, the song that gave the title to October:

Overwrought? Maybe, but sincerely so, which was part of the beauty of U2 back then.





Baby, baby, please let me hold him

16 10 2019

Yet another absurd (-adjacent) baby: James Mark!

Like his big brother (my habibi Henry) and cousin (the angry spud Lyana), Sweet Baby James decided to pop in on the world a bit early. This necessitated tubes and lines and monitors, and after a week he’s still in the NICU, but as he’s now merely a “lazy eater” (per his mum), he should be heading home sooner rather than later.

Henry is apparently anxious to meet SBJ, and told his pop he wanted to get a toy for him. (According to my sister, the last thing that household needs is another toy, but whatchagonnado?) Let’s see how long before he wants to send the baby back.

~~~

Two things:

One, I am deeply grateful that my nieces were able to avail themselves of the best that medicine has to offer. There’s more to these birth stories; suffice it to say that what was merely momentarily dramatic could have been tragic had they not been at the hospital.

I get why people are leery of medicalizing birth—goddess knows I’ve voiced my own critiques—but it’s not 1968, women aren’t being knocked out before delivery, and birthing rooms, midwives, and doulas are now an ordinary part of the hospital birthing experience. And good medicine saves the lives of mothers and babies alike.

Two, I’m thinking of going to the Twin Cities in January to meet these new babies and reacquaint myself with Henry (and see some old friends).

I know: the Twin Cities in January?! But the flights have gotta be dirt cheap—most folks aren’t scrambling to travel to the below-zero—and I’m not teaching then, so why not? Plus, I want to see if I can still handle the forsaken cold.

Y’all know I dig New York (most of the time), but winters here are often merely dreary. I look forward to the bracing.





Did you ever see such a sight in your life

8 10 2019

Started my morning by hoisting a dead mouse out of the back of my replacement fridge.

How was your day?

~~~

I started reading Jonathan Bernstein when he wrote ‘a plain blog about politics’, then when he moved to Bloomberg, and I follow him on Twitter. I think he’s smart and knows a great deal about how American politics has worked.

I didn’t always agree with him—he’s been far more bullish on Madisonian federalism than I—but as a non-Americanist and grump, I thought—and think—it worthwhile to pay attention to an optimistic Americanist.

However, that optimism can skew the fuck out of his thinking:

Good government is tremendously important, but positing that the best way to get Republicans—a party Bernstein has recognized is FUBAR—to go along with impeachment is to take Pelosi out of the chain of succession is  . . .  what? getting high on his own supply? the slateyist of #slatepitches as ever were? at the level of “I’m not saying aliens, but. . . “?

Not it, chief.

~~~

I got the replacement fridge yesterday, after a months-long campaign to convince the super that my old fridge was, in fact, on the fritz. (The thermostat was rather too free-form, allowing it to get warm enough for ice cubes to melt, then powering on so fiercely anything in the back half of the fridge would freeze. This likely had something to do with the drip from the freezer into the fridge.)

A new one would have resulted in a rent increase; I told him I just wanted one that worked.

~~~

Again, I’d like us to get back to functionality, but I don’t see how Dems smashing their own kneecaps will do that.

No, the system has broken down—the Republicans broke the system down—and inviting Dems to break themselves as a means of repair is. . . not it, chief.

~~~

So the supe brought up a working fridge from the basement. And yes, it does work! Yay!

But it had also been in the basement for awhile. A basement in a building in Brooklyn. A basement in a building in Brooklyn next to a subway line. The chance of infestation was high, is what I’m saying.

Which I didn’t think about, because Yay! It works!

~~~

I’m leery of offering advice to people who don’t ask for it, and especially not to people I don’t know.

So let’s call this “Terri stating her preferences” for Dem actions: Yield nothing to Republicans. Nothing. Not one thing.

I don’t trust that any kind of compromise is going to be honored by Republicans, and that they won’t go back to SMASH!! the second they get the chance. At this point, we’re dealing not with an opponent willing to engage in reasoned debate, but bad-faith actors who will only forced back into line.

And it’s up to the Dems both to draw that line and punish them for crossing it.

~~~

But by last night something smelled rotten, and I thought, ohhhhhh, I bet there’s something dead in the fridge.

Shiiiiiiit.

It was late, and I thought, do I really want to confront . . . whatever is there at night?

No, I do not. And the smell didn’t reach my bedroom.

~~~

That said, the punishment must be to a greater cause than just payback. I’m not against payback—as much as it’s not my thing (I’m more the walk-away/freeze-out kinda gal), I can recognize the satisfactions—but I think it far better to do something productive with power, if/when the Dems finally achieve it.

~~~

This morning the smell was pretty bad, so before I had my breakfast or coffee, I pulled the fridge out, then with a sigh began to unscrew the lower back panel. It was with a fair amount of trepidation that I pulled it out: just what the hell would I find? or worse, what would come racing out at me?

I peeked in. Nothing. Nothing. Ah, yes, there it is: mouse corpse. Only one, that I could see, and nothing else moving.

~~~

So, my preference would be for Dems to add more judges at the district and circuit courts of appeals levels and, yes, to add 2 seats to the Supreme Court. And to fill them.

~~~

Grabbed some tongs, reached in, tugged the corpse out. I cleaned out the back while I was at it, then swept up and took the dusty funeral cortège to the garbage chute.

I then carpeted the whole area with baking soda, screwed the back panel back on, and shoved the fridge back into place.

~~~

The concern with court-packing is that the GOP would do the same when they next get power.

Now, I think they’ll do whatever it takes to tilt everything in their favor, so the idea that they might behave badly in response to the Dems doing something they don’t like is unpersuasive: they’ll behave badly anyway.

~~~

It still doesn’t smell great in here—I think it’ll take time for the baking soda to absorb all that corpse nastiness—but I’m pretty confident I got the source of the stink out.

~~~

That said, I do think the incentive to fuck with the Supreme Court can be reduced: at the same time Dems expand the Court to eleven, they introduce a Constitutional amendment to limit SC terms to 18-to-21 years (I’ve seen various proposals for why x or y-number of years, but it’s late and I’m too lazy to look up the arguments)—and they could write it in such a way that the term limit would apply to any justice who takes a seat after the date of introduction.

So, for example, Dems could in February or March pass legislation expanding the Supreme Court effective May 1, 2021. The amendment could state that term limits would apply to any justice confirmed May 1, 2021 and after.

~~~

Then again, if the smell doesn’t dissipate, I’ll have to go back in and search for more nastiness.

I really don’t want to have to do that, but I don’t need my apartment smelling like death.

~~~

I have no idea if this could work, and who knows if the Constitutional amendment would pass, but I think term-limits for Supreme Court justices is not a particularly partisan issue; having them apply to the new Dem-appointed justices might just help take just a bit of the sting out of the court-packing.

Oh, who am I kidding: the GOP will scream regardless. Tough shit. But maybe this will, over the longer term, help to take some of the partisan pressure off of Supreme Court picks: if every president is assured (more or less) of 1 selection per term, then this nonsense of holding open a seat (Merrick Garland!) or rushing to fill one (Kavanaugh!) might taper off.

In my dreams, I know, but what the hell, why not some late-night political dreaming?

~~~

And you, too: sweet dreams.





Fever all through the night

2 10 2019

Man, Peggy Lee was somethin’ else, wasn’t she?

Hot and cool, urgent and dispassionate, all at once. Man.

Anyway, my fever was not so luscious, just the usual uncomfortable mess. Bleh.

Hannah Arendt has a riff on pain as “the most private and least communicable of all.” Great bodily pain, she writes, takes us out of the world, into a privacy which is really privation. We are thrown wholly unto ourselves.

Well, my cold this past few days has involved more discomfort than pain, and I’ve stayed in contact with “the world.” Still, there is a kind of haziness attached to negligible illnesses, a fish-eye look at one’s life (and yes, the world) that squeezes to the sides anything which is not immediately in front of oneself. It’s not quite like the drunk trying to walk a straight line, but you are aware that your ballast is wandering a bit too to and fro.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Regardless, before my befogging, I happened upon this ad:

Good Christ, do people really want this? To have nearly every last bit of one’s life monitored by a fucking corporation?

Yes, of course they do. Muttering *Jesus, Terri, where have you been the last decade?*

In a different kind of fog, I guess.





I will try not to breathe

23 09 2019

I’ve lost weight. This pleases me.

It’s not much—as I mentioned back in February (I think), I hadn’t gained much so wasn’t looking to lose much—but paying attention to what I was eating and going to the gym even when I wasn’t in the mood has, ever so slowly-but-surely, paid off. Yay.

That said, I’m still dissatisfied. And I wonder about that, about body-acceptance and “growing old gracefully” and just letting things be.

That’s not really who I am, of course, and I accept (ha!) that, but maybe I could ease up without quite giving up. I mean, I’m in my early 50s and I still dye my hair: would it kill me to let it go grey? Or maybe there’s something to hanging on to a few tendrils of vanity?

I am vain, but it’s not expressed in the usual ways. I don’t wear makeup or do-up my hair, and my dress is. . . pedestrian, so it might seem as if I accept, even welcome, my plainness. But it’s more that about practicality—I rub my eyes a lot and like to splash my face with water, so makeup is more hassle than it’s worth, for example—than any larger peacefulness with my appearance. Ditto with loose clothes and flat shoes: I like to be comfortable, both when sitting and on the move.

Still, while I’m not the guy at the gym who (honest to Pete) kisses his biceps before doing pull-ups, I will occasionally flex in the mirror at home. And, yeah, I like that I’m a wee bit less round than I was earlier this year.

Anyway, this is all on the margins. I might be in good shape for someone my age, but I’m still. . . someone my age. Whether this means I ease up or hammer down, pffffft, I’ll likely never figure that out.