Friday, January 13, 2017

Still kickin’

Everybody smash up your seats and rock to this
Brand new beat
This here music mash up the nation
This here music cause a sensation
Tell your ma, tell your pa, everything’s gonna be alright
Can’t you feel it? Don’t ignore it
Gonna be alright

~~ “Revolution Rock” by The Clash

Well, howdy, strangers!

Whew, I don’t know about you guys, but it’s been super hectic for us lately! Some fun things happened.

We had a very nice Christmas and got to spend some time with family, including Niece Jen from San Diego.

We spent New Year’s in Kansas City and had a blast! (More about that in a moment.)

We got an Amazon Dot and enjoyed it so much we decided to get an Amazon Echo. I’ve basically turned off the TV all day and just listen to music while I read or do chores. You can get Amazon Unlimited Music for $3.99 a month with the Echo and it’s a vast catalog. I’ve heard unfamiliar songs even from bands that I love dearly.

We attended South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Christmas party that he threw for supporters and had a nice time talking with Shane and Matt, and Mayor Pete chatted with everyone. He talked with us for a good 10-15 minutes and he is absolutely impressive. He recently decided to run for the Democratic National Committee chair and has gotten some very positive coverage from the national press. I don’t know if he’ll win it (he’s considered a dark horse candidate), but it’s obvious that he has a future in national politics. Personally, I’ve always said that he’s going to be President one day. I know he is a ways off from that, but get to know him, because you’ll be seeing more of him! (And learn to pronounce his name: it’s boot-a-judge.)

I met my personal reading goal for 2016 of 52 books and even passed it, with 54. My goal for 2017 is once again 52 books. Most that I read last year were quite good but I had a few stinkers in there, too. I suspect that 2017 will be similar!

Some not-so-great things happened, too.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks with a nasty cold virus that turned into bronchitis, so that wasn’t much fun! I’m still not at 100%...maybe 85%. But I’m feeling a lot better than I did, so I’m encouraged and looking forward to getting back to fighting form.

I have spent the past few weeks watching the Yam’s shenanigans (the Yamanigans?) with a combination of anger, disgust, horror, and amusement. It is eminently obvious to me that he is not going to be able to keep a lot of the promises that he made to his deluded followers (no, Mexico is not going to reimburse us for a fucking wall, geniuses) but that he and the Republicans will do great damage going forward. They are currently in the process of dismantling the Affordable Care Act, and millions of people will lose their health care. You know, that is something that I worry about...I truly worry about everyone that will be affected, no matter who they supported or their party affiliation. It’s too bad that the Republicans don’t care about them.

As for the latest, about the Yam’s possible probable fucking obvious ties with Russia, well, I’ll just wait and see how that plays out. And I’m sure that the other allegations about compromising videos have left the Yam feeling quite...pissed off. *cough cough* I think there is probably a lot more to this story and I’ll wait to see what hard-working journalists turn up. The rumor on Twitter is that Penthouse has video. Is it true? Who knows? Many smart people are saying so! Wheeeee! Or should I say Weeeeee!?

I’ll end on a positive note. Our trip to Kansas City was a wonderful little getaway! We got to see The Rainmakers two nights in a row, on the 30th and the 31st. They were absolutely fantastic, as always, and you could tell they were all feeling it and having a blast! Both nights, a couple of cool bands opened for them: Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds and American Slim. We got to have some amazing Kansas City barbecue, once at a place called Q39 and once at Jack Stack. We spent some time with our friend Bob (the lead singer) as we helped him tear down his December art show and then went to lunch. We were invited over to his and Michele’s house on Saturday for a soup lunch and got to chat with Pat (the drummer) and his partner Whitney.

[Note: I’m sorry I didn’t get a good picture of Pat either night. It’s always hard to get a good pic of the drummer!]

It was such a great feeling to talk with people with whom we have so much in common. I got to talk books with the super cool Michele, health concerns with the equally as cool Whitney, and music with the always cool Bob and Pat. It was a total blast for me to hear about their stories of years of making and recording music. Utterly fascinating for this music fanatic! I’m often awkward in social situations, but from the beginning, I felt relaxed and welcomed by the Kansas City gang. They are definitely part of The Tribe!

Talking with them gave me hope for the coming year. None of us knows what is going to happen (although we suspect that a lot of it won’t be good), but it helped me immensely to know that there are others who share my feelings and concerns. It is important for us to work together and oppose any and every effort to weaken voting rights or people’s civil rights. Knowing that there are warriors like them out there strengthens my resolve.

Oddly, the other thing that gave me hope was the opening band for The Rainmakers, a Kansas City band called American Slim. They are incredibly young...I guess a couple of them haven’t even graduated from high school yet! But they totally rocked! They played some covers (including an excellent version of “Sympathy for the Devil”...good enough that I thanked one of the members for not fucking up my all-time favorite song!) but also some originals. They have an EP of originals out and are apparently working on an album as well as getting gigs in the KC area. Hearing these kids play and totally rock out made me think that no matter what happens, there is always music. Go ahead and try to stifle our voices but as long as there is rock and roll, you will never succeed.

As Bob wrote to me, Keep the music on, there is more dancing ahead.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Our Tribe

Ain't it beautiful?
So unusual
Life's a gas and it's running out
Living a cliche
Gonna seize the day
Bottle rockets and celebrate, celebrate, celebrate

~~ “Carpe Diem” by Green Day

It was a great night last night in downtown South Bend.

Our own Mayor Pete Buttigieg invited his supporters to join him for a holiday celebration at CJ’s Pub, a great local haunt and burger joint. We met Shane and Matt there and had a great time getting caught up on everything and talking about how to deal with things.

Mayor Pete gave a brief welcome to us all and said he was keeping it brief because he planned on talking to all of us who attended, and he did indeed keep his promise. He visited with everyone in the room and spent a good 10-15 minutes chatting with the four of us. (We also got to meet his partner, who is a very nice guy!)

We asked Mayor Pete about how we go forward from here, and he reiterated what he wrote in his op-ed (link above). Talk to people. Interact as a community. Grassroots politics is key and we can all participate, whether it is running for office, attending city council meetings, or working with the local Democrats to get out the vote. But his main focus is on connecting with others and taking the time to listen to them.

He is a remarkable guy and I couldn’t be prouder to have him as our Mayor. He is also very easy to talk to and is not intimidating at all. I get the impression that he really wants to hear from everyone and wants to make a difference in our community. It was a pleasure to talk to him and I look forward to seeing what happens in South Bend as we go forward. I see many good things ahead of us!

I was also very touched by something Matt told me. At some point, I guess I wrote something to him and Shane about how while we might be dismayed, disgusted, and downright despondent over this election, those of us who love each other have to stick together and support each other. I said that we are all part of Our Tribe and we will get through this by hanging tough and sticking up for each other. Matt said that that really spoke to him and he took it to heart. It did my heart good to hear that something I wrote made someone feel resolved and ready to support those who are feeling disenfranchised.

It really is all about being stronger together, isn’t it?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why doesn’t she stay home with the kids?

Like a Chinese drama and conspiracy
It’s the death of a nuclear family staring up at you
It’s looking like another bad comedy

~~ “Nuclear Family” by Green Day

I recognize that there are generational differences but man, sometimes I just want to flip a damn table.

I won’t go into specifics because one never knows who might be reading this ([waving madly] Hi Vlad!), so I’ll just say that I heard an older woman criticizing a younger woman for going to college and heard the words, “She should just stay home with those kids.”

::sigh::

A few things here.

I applaud anyone—ANYONE—who wants to further their education. People with a college education earn more on average than those without one. Fact. So if you are raising a family, it makes perfect sense to get a college degree if at all possible. It’s not just about the monetary benefits, though. It’s also about learning for the sake of learning. Some of us still see the value in that. It’s why I am thrilled with the Rise of the MOOCs. I can take worthwhile and interesting classes online, continue to learn, and more often than not, I can do it for FREE. How super cool is that??

I know things were different “back in the good old days” *COUGH* (for whom?) but there is a new reality in the 21st century. If you are renting a two-bedroom apartment that isn’t a Roach Motel, you’re going to be paying at least $700 per month. Heck, it was 15 years ago that I was renting and my nice 2 BR in an apartment complex in a small city in northern Indiana was close to $800 per month. The price of food has gone up. The price of clothing has gone up. Utilities, gas, health insurance, you name it—it’s all gone up. This isn’t the 1950s, no one can raise a family on minimum wage, and that is a fact.

If people are working minimum wage jobs, it is a given that both parents will have to work. Maybe it’s comforting to live in your Leave It To Beaver world, but how can anyone ignore reality and not realize that it is just not the current reality and it never will be again? I suppose I know the answer to my own question. Low information voter.

Finally, there are plenty of women who find great satisfaction in working. Before anyone gets pissed at me, I’m not knocking any woman who chooses to stay home with her kids. If you are able to do that, more power to you! It is a very personal choice. But plenty of us enjoyed our work and found it stimulating and rewarding. I recall having a conversation with my ex many years ago about having children (it happened in front of others, which made it extra special) in which he said that he thought I should stay home and raise any child we might have. I was in my mid-20s at the time and was just embarking on my career in the laboratory and I was enjoying myself. I said, “What are you gonna do? Chain me in the basement?”

That attitude was bad enough coming from a guy (I think he attended one too many Promise Keepers rallies), but I find it especially bothersome coming from a woman. Again, I understand the generational differences and I get it that there is a wide gap between their reality and mine.

That doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it or that I will stop defending anyone who chooses to try to further their education. What was enough for you when you were raising a family might not be enough for a whole lot of us.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Irish Yam?

Notre Dame, our Mother
Tender, strong and true
Proudly in the heavens,
Gleams thy gold and blue.
Glory’s mantle cloaks thee
Golden is thy fame,
And our hearts forever,
Praise thee, Notre Dame.
And our hearts forever,
Love thee, Notre Dame.

~~ Notre Dame Alma Mater

The University of Notre Dame has a tradition of asking sitting Presidents to speak at their commencement ceremony every spring. They don’t always accept but most of them do.

The president of the university, Father John Jenkins, is struggling with whether or not to invite Trump. Apparently, he feels that Trump has exhibited a lack of Christian charity in his words and deeds. In fact, Father Jenkins has reassured all undocumented students who are there under DACA that they will be safe there and continue their studies; he has also considered designating Notre Dame a “sanctuary campus.”

Father Jenkins isn’t unfamiliar with controversy. He got a lot of flak for inviting President Obama to give the commencement speech in 2009. The Democrats’ pro-choice stance is antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic church, and there were many protesters in the city that weekend. He defended his decision by saying that as a University, they are committed to open discourse and discussion of all points of view. He got in some trouble with the Archdiocese, but he stuck to his guns.

I’m not a Catholic and I’m not even religious, but I’ve always admired Father Jenkins for his open-mindedness in the pursuit of truth, knowledge, and justice. I feel that Notre Dame does good things in our community and in our world and that they are committed to racial and social justice. Father Hesburgh was a vocal and active supporter of the Civil Rights movement. So while I don’t subscribe to the tenets of the Catholic church (or any church, for that matter), I give credit to anyone who seeks to help others and alleviate pain and suffering in their fellow human beings.

Heck, you don’t have to be religious to feel that way.

The student Democrats at Notre Dame have written a letter that will be sent to Father Jenkins urging him to not invite Trump to speak at commencement in 2017. It is worth a read because it says quite eloquently my feelings on the matter. Although I am not an alumna, I signed the letter as part of our community. I grew up here and have had a lifelong connection in that way, so I felt justified in signing.

While I share Father Jenkins’ commitment to open discourse, the reason I am opposed to Trump speaking at commencement is that what he says and does is not just antithetical to Catholic teachings; it is antithetical to basic human decency. The moment that I came to the conclusion that he is a contemptible person is when he mocked the disabled reporter. That is vile behavior and it shows a complete lack of empathy, charity, and kindness. His subsequent actions only added to my feelings, including his attitude towards women.

I am proud to be from South Bend, and a big part of that is Notre Dame. We love taking out-of-town visitors to see the campus, which is absolutely beautiful. I feel a certain pride of place about Notre Dame and I feel that Trump’s message would sully the good name—and the mission—of the University.

If Father Jenkins does invite him to speak, and he accepts, I plan on voicing my opposition by protesting and I have many friends who feel the same way.

See you on the protest line!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lost in the Supermarket

I’m all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily

~~ “Lost in the Supermarket” by the Clash

I spotted this at the grocery store today and of course, I had to have it. While I’m looking forward to reading it and I’m sure the articles will be excellent, I think there is an element of wanting to hold on to him and never let him go. I find myself feeling increasingly bereft as his time in office nears its close. There is also a sense of impending doom as the next administration nears, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

I feel fortunate to have lived during the eight years of Obama’s presidency. We have had our ups and downs but there is no denying (at least among the rational) that he is a good, decent, extremely intelligent man who has the best interests of the country at heart. So buying this special issue was my little way of falling to the ground, grabbing him around the knees and wailing, “NO! Please don’t go! Don’t leave me this way!”

::sigh::

But since it looks like he’s not going to declare martial law in order to set himself up in the Oval Office for life, I know he has to say goodbye.

It seems that I’m not the only one who is experiencing this feeling of loss. At the checkout line, the clerk rang it up and slid it to the end of the lane for the bagboy to put into a bag. As she did it, she glanced at it and read the headline: “The Obama Years.” The bagboy looked sad and said, “I’m going to miss him.”

The clerk said, “Me, too.”

Naturally, I chimed in with, “Me, too!”

Here is where it gets really interesting. The clerk, who is an older lady I see there often (I won’t mention her name for privacy reasons), seems to be close to retirement age. She is sometimes a little gruff, but mostly just all business. She seemed in a good mood today and was quite a bit more talkative than usual. She said to me, “I fear for my life now,” and flashed me a little smile that didn’t seem to quite reach her eyes. The bagboy, a youngster who could possibly have been of Hispanic heritage, murmured, “Yeah,” and I said, “I think a lot of us are concerned.”

The bagboy put the magazine into a bag and said, “He’s been great.”

The clerk wasn’t done. She said, “Like my daughter says, grab your picture ID and run for your life!”

At that point, we all did chuckle a little bit, but I would describe it as “rueful chuckling.” As in, “We have to kind of laugh about this, right? Even though we are scared and sickened by what is happening?”

I found this encounter intriguing on several levels and it has stuck with me all day.

First, not everyone in the Midwest is onboard the Yam Express to Hell. There are plenty of us right here in Indiana who are unhappy about this.

Second, it goes beyond just being unhappy. I’ve been unhappy with election outcomes before. We are now in the Fear Zone. Here were three disparate people: an older woman close to retirement, a young man of uncertain ethnic origin (I don’t mean that in a bad way...I just have no idea what his ethnicity was, but I could tell he wasn’t total whitebread like me) who is just starting his life’s journey, and middle-aged me who worries about erosions of civil liberties and about setbacks in all the progress that has been made in the last several decades.

Three very different circumstances, but a common sentiment: we are all afraid.

Afraid of what is going to happen to retirement funds and Medicare; afraid of what is going to happen to our gay friends and family; afraid of what is going to happen to women’s reproductive rights; afraid of what kind of life is going to be waiting for any young person when they get out of college—if they can even afford to go to college. We were all feeling afraid enough that we actually talked about this a bit in a place of business. I think we all are trying to find comfort where we can, and perhaps my purchase of this magazine reassured the clerk and the bagboy that there are people out there who are feeling the same way. I hope so. I hope that gave them a little boost today. Hearing their words sure gave me one!

It also made me feel angry. Because we shouldn’t have to feel afraid of the leader of our government and what he is going to do to our country and to the world. None of us. I’m not going to say that it’s unfair, because I know that life isn’t fair. I think it’s reasonable to say that it is unjust, though. It is unjust that a significant portion of our population is now living in fear. I remember being afraid of nuclear war a few decades ago. I feel that same pall over my life now and it seems that my compadres at the supermarket are feeling it, too.

Finally, it makes me think that the coalition is still there. The Democrats just need to figure out how to bring us all together so that we can work on progress for all, not just a select few.

I just hope that by the time they figure it out, it’s not too late.

This song is going out to the current Commander-In-Chief. You may not be in the Oval Office soon, sir, but you’ll always command my heart...and my respect.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Man in the High Tower

I am a lover of blank journals and have different ones going at various times. I have one for current books I’m reading, in case I want to jot down a note about something I read, one for the Modern Library list of novels I’m reading (I’m a little behind on that!), and one that I call my Idea Book.

The Idea Book consists of things that I think might make a good story or book. I don’t know if that will ever happen, especially a book, but it’s important to me to write down those ideas when they occur to me. I usually write in the Idea Book when I get up in the morning because I have very vivid dreams and that is mostly what generates the content of the Idea Book.

I had a rare late night idea tonight and went to write that down when I discovered something I wrote on October 13th. I don’t think this came from a dream...I believe I was speculating on a worst case scenario. I think I was planning on writing a blog entry about this but never got around to it because I was so focused on reading political blogs. I was rather stunned to read this because it seems that my worst case scenario pretty much came true. Here is what I wrote, with a little editing to expand upon my abbreviations.

I titled it “The Man in the High Tower,” a riff on Philip K. Dick’s novel “The Man in the High Castle” (as well as an excellent Amazon series).

***

How does The Yam get elected?

  1. Complacency
  2. Early freak blizzard in New York or New Jersey
  3. Late freak hurricane in Florida  

Attorney General Christie jails Hillary—ACLU gets her out. Christie indicted, replaced by Giuliani.

First two years—slim Democratic majority in Senate so no SCOTUS appointments.

No major harm in the first two years.

2018 midterms—all Republican Congress. SCOTUS appointments, Roe v Wade and marriage equality overturned. ACA repealed, millions with no care. All same-sex marriages nulled—CHAOS!

Taxes cut on wealthy. No money for infrastructure, etc. Money for military WAY up.

Persecution against gays, women, minorities.

Underground forms. Contact via Net but elaborate code.

No solution—YET. Hopeful.

Oh, and theocracy—mandatory church attendance? New cabinet post for Falwell, Jr.?

***

I was obviously wrong about some of these things. Christie is persona non grata in the Yamistration. The Democrats did not get a slim majority in the Senate. But it seems that much of my nightmare scenario isn’t all that far off the mark. Jerry Falwell, Jr. was really being considered for a cabinet post.

I’m half-tempted to delete the part about speculating on an Underground because it might actually be necessary! I’m laughing now, but I’m not sure I will be in the coming months.

Like many of you, I am feeling powerless right now, and I can’t begin to tell you how much it pisses me off to feel powerless. I am still trying to wrap my brain around this and figure out how to proceed. One thing I know is that if I see or hear any sort of discrimination or bullying of anyone, I will speak out. Zero tolerance. I also will push the decent people who voted for him to denounce those supporters who are racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and bigoted. Seriously, you have to step up here, people. If you disagree with the bigotry, then fucking say so! Denounce it with your loudest voice! I sure as hell will.

I am also calling on the media to stop pandering and call it like it is. Do your damn job! One of the foundations of our democracy is a free press, and you’d best start exercising that right before it is taken away.

Sometimes nightmare scenarios come true and sometimes I write scary things in my Idea Book.

But we can’t give up. Note that word “hopeful” in what I wrote. We have to hang on to that and we have to help each other.

Peace.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Salvation

Scream with your hands up in the sky
Like you want to testify
For the life that's been deleted
Sing like a rebel's lullaby
Under the stars and stripes
For the lost souls that were cheated

~~ “Revolution Radio” by Green Day

I’m still not in a great place.

Oh, I’m doing all right. I’m living my life, having fun, all that stuff. I haven’t been gunned down in the street, had my uterus ripped out, or been told “Hush your mouth, little lady.”

A stranger hasn’t grabbed my pussy, so there’s that.

I am still not feeling real happy about things right now.

At the moment, there is not a whole lot I can do about it. We’ll see what happens in the coming days, but for now? I guess I have to see what plays out.

In the meantime, I’ve been focusing on meeting my reading challenge. I have met the goal of fifty books per year in my Facebook reading group, but my personal goal is 52, and I am two books away from that. I think I’m going to make it! I’m going the distance! I’ve read some great books this year, but I’ve read a few stinkers, too. Quirky does not always equate to good.

Reading is always a refuge for me. I’m not retreating from the world, but diving into a good book and losing myself for a while is always a good thing.

We’ve also been watching “Aquarius,” the show starring David Duchovny (I lurv him) and about the Manson family. It’s fascinating, disturbing, and a great diversion.

As always, music is the best retreat. I’m listening to a lot of different things, but Green Day is the band that is perfectly matching my mood right now and their new album “Revolution Radio” is getting lots of airplay at Nutwood.

We’ll see what happens going forward and we’ll see what response is needed.

For the moment, I can immerse myself in books, movies, TV, and music.

To be continued.