Sunday, March 21, 2021

Extra

 



(Painting by the badass Niagara)


Like most people, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect over the past year. I’ve always been one to ponder but a year like this has put my pondering into overdrive. 

One thing I’ve realized is that I’m a little bit “extra.” Maybe more than a little. There have been some interactions over the years where I realized I was too much for some people to handle. I don’t know if it’s my enthusiasm, or my intensity, or my low tolerance for bullshit. My weird sense of humor? How opinionated I am? My foul mouth? All of the above? Fuck if I know. 

But like The Black Crowes sang, I guess I’m too hard to handle for some. 

I seem to mostly notice it in guys. I’ve got a group of ride or die girlfriends (we call ourselves the Wolfpack, for reasons unknown—hey, ladies!) and we’ve had this discussion. We’re all strong women, raunchy as all get-out, outspoken...and we get along great. We find the fragile male ego amusing at times. Three out of four of us are vertically challenged (except for the long-legged Vegas bombshell!) but we’ve all had the experience of intimidating men. 

I think we’ve probably all been called names, from bitch to ball-breaker to...well, I’ve been called a coldhearted c***. Because we speak our minds. (Let me give a shout-out here to my stalwart husband, who takes my outspokenness in stride and seems to have figured out how to peacefully coexist, even in Quarantimes™.)

Being a strong woman doesn’t mean emasculating men. It means asserting our own right to speak up and be heard, and that includes when we’re being interrupted or mansplained to. Gee, so sorry I’m not a shy, retiring flower, but if you do that to me or treat me in a condescending manner, you’re gonna have a bad time. In addition to a long-suffering husband, I am fortunate to have plenty of friends—both male and female, online and in real life—who are also capable of taking me in stride. 

But you know what? I wouldn’t change. I don’t think I could. I’m honestly a mellow person, content to hang out and enjoy my peace and quiet, but I have my passions. I know I put people off sometimes because I’m a little too much...but I’d rather be that way than coast through life not feeling passionate about anything. It kind of separates the wheat from the chaff, too. If you hang out with me, chances are good you’ll have a fun time. If I’m too much for you, that’s your choice. [shrug] 


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

An Act of Charity



I suppose it’s human nature to try to find the positive aspects in this past year of shutdown. And there are several, there really are. I appreciate every good thing that has happened and I’m happy that we haven’t lost any close family members. But it’s been rough in a lot of ways, no matter who we are or what we’re going through. It’s hardest on those who have lost loved ones, no doubt about that, and I still haven’t fully processed the losses in our country and around the world. 


One positive thing for me is that the University of Notre Dame and other local colleges have made so many lectures available online. Most of those lectures have always been open to the public, but how convenient is it to sit at home and have a beverage while you attend a lecture? Pretty darn convenient, if you ask me. 


So I’ve taken advantage of that (I get updates and notices via the ThinkND newsletter—anyone can join!) and there have been some interesting discussions. I really enjoyed one from the curator of the Snite Museum of Art, in which he talked about a painting in their collection by Grace Hartigan. A beautiful Abstract Expressionist piece and a much-needed infusion of art! 




The most thought-provoking lecture happened last week. It was called “The Covid Vaccine: Good Science and Science for the Human Good.” 


It wasn’t quite what I expected, although I should have. Notre Dame is a Catholic university, after all. My first clue was when the discussion opened with a prayer. Hooo boy. Was this for me? I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did. 


There were several presenters: one was a science professor who talked about the mechanisms of vaccine development, including which cell lines are used (hint: one is a cell line that’s been in existence for decades, and it’s from human fetal tissue); one was an ethics and philosophy professor who talked about whether it was ethical and in line with Catholic teachings to use something that uses cells from aborted fetuses, whether induced or spontaneous; one was a young seminarian who continued the theme of whether the Catholic church could condone this. 


Well. As I’m sure you all know, I am firmly pro-choice. There are many nuances there but that’s not what this entry is about. While I don’t believe anything could make me change my mind on that, it made me think about how and why some people would object to scientific research using fetal tissue or cell lines. I don’t agree with that, but I saw it from their perspective in a way I hadn’t thought about before. (I still think that is short-sighted, but I get it a little better now.)


After much discussion, all three presenters concluded that not only was it ethical to get the vaccine, it was a “moral imperative.” There was much convoluted, philosophical discussion of how far you were removed from the “evil” of abortion (their word, not mine), whether saving thousands of lives negated the “original evil” of the abortion that resulted in the cell line, the fact that for the Pfizer vaccine, that particular cell line is not used in production, merely quality control. (The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does use a fetal tissue cell line in production, but it is a long-established cell line, not that from a recent abortion.) 


One of the presenters used the phrase in the title of this entry: getting the vaccine is an act of charity to humanity. Getting it is for the greater good of society. 


It seemed like a really long way to get to what I already knew. But it made me think about it from a different perspective and I found that it really made me think and put myself in their shoes. They were quite uncomfortable shoes for me, but hey, it’s always good to think about things from another viewpoint. You might not feel the same way, but at least you can say, “Okay...I get where you’re coming from.” 


The seminarian also discussed the rise of conspiracy theories, about the vaccine and in general. He said something that I found very interesting. That sometimes the best thing to do is to let people do their own research. He called it “reading yourself out of the rabbit hole.” His point was that when we try to argue with people who believe those things, they just dig in deeper (that’s been my experience, too). That doesn’t solve the problem because most people who believe that nonsense aren’t going to seek out alternative views. But maybe some will. 


The latter is part of the reason I have come to the decision to not engage with those who are refusing to get the vaccine for whatever reason they’ve landed upon. I could probably easily refute all of those reasons, but will they listen? Nope. My hope is that they will start seeing family and friends, loved ones, political figures, celebrities, sports figures, whoever, getting them and they’ll start to think, “Okay...none of these people are dropping dead, so maybe I should get it, too.” 


A gal can hope, right? 


Get your shot, peoples! The life you save might be one other than your own!





Thursday, January 28, 2021

Just Because You Can (Part Two)

 



(See Part One here)

Deanie got up the next morning and left Calvin in the bed to sleep it off.

After they’d left the party last night, Deanie stopped at a gas station and got a pack of cigarettes while Calvin slept in the passenger seat. She was never a smoker but smoking with Jolene felt kind of right. 

When they got home, Deanie got Calvin to wake up enough that she could haul him into the house and dump him into bed. Then she stayed up, smoked, and drank some whiskey. She honestly wished she had some of her Daddy’s moonshine that he used to brew up in the mountains. But whiskey would do for now. 

She finally got up and carried herself off to bed, unzipping her dress along the way. When she got into their bedroom, she let her dress fall to the floor, took off her stockings and underthings, and slipped a nightgown over her head. She slid in between the sheets and laid awake for a while as Calvin snored beside her. 

She thought about Jolene and how she seemed to want to be her friend. She thought about the things Jolene had said about both of their husbands. She finally dozed off to sleep and thanks to the whiskey (not to mention Ferlin’s dirty martoonis), she slept deeply. 

Deanie woke up to more of Calvin’s snoring. She rolled out of bed, put her robe on, and made herself some coffee. After she poured herself a cup, she sat down at the kitchen table and lit a cigarette. She looked at it. How had she never picked up this habit? She didn’t know, but she was enjoying it now. 

As she sat and looked out the window at the back yard, the phone rang. She answered on the second ring. “Hello, Marshall residence.” 

“So formal, Deanie! Hey. This is Jolene.” 

“Hey, Jolene. Thanks for calling. How are you?” 

“I’m fine. How are you doing?”

“Good. Just listening to Calvin snore.” 

Jolene laughed. “Ferlin is upstairs so I can’t hear him, but he was snoring too when I got up this morning!” 

Deanie laughed. “Seems like they can’t handle their liquor.” 

“Not as well as we can, that’s for damn sure.” 

Deanie stifled a laugh and took a drag on her cigarette. 

“Deanna Joy Marshall, are you smoking?” 

Deanie giggled. “I am!”

“You said you didn’t smoke!”

“I don’t. But today seemed like a good time to start.” 

“Well, don’t let it become a habit. You won’t enjoy it eventually.” 

“Okay.” 

“I was wondering if you’d want to come over for lunch one day this week. I feel like...well, I do want to be friends with you.” She paused. “I’d really like to have a friend like you, Deanie.” 

Deanie listened in astonishment. Someone as glamorous as Jolene wanted to be friends with her? She finally managed to stammer out, “I’d...I’d really enjoy that, Jolene. Thank you.” 

“Wonderful! Is Tuesday good for you? One o’clock?” 

“Yes, that would be great.” 

“Oh, I’m so pleased. Hey, here’s a tip, honey. Make sure you have coffee made for when Calvin gets up. If you don’t, he’ll be a real pain in the ass.” 

Deanie burst into laughter. “Jolene!” 

Jolene laughed, too, but said, “Trust me on this one. When we hang up, you’d best make it right away.” 

Deanie said, “Okay, I will, I will.” She lowered her voice. “And yes, Calvin is a pain in the ass if he doesn’t have his morning coffee! I can’t imagine how bad he’ll be when he has a hangover.” 

Jolene snorted and said, “I’m sure. See you on Tuesday, Deanie! Kisses!” 

“See you then.”

Deanie hung up the phone slowly. She seemed to have made a friend. 

She stubbed out her cigarette and got up to put on the percolator for Calvin’s coffee. She sat back while it brewed and lit another cigarette, smoking as she looked out the window. 

The coffee was finishing up when she heard Calvin stirring in the bedroom and making his way to the bathroom. He finished up and shuffled out to the kitchen, and sat heavily in the chair across from Deanie at the kitchen table. 

She said, “Good morning.” 

He grunted and she rolled her eyes. 

He said, “Coffee?” 

Deanie was suddenly livid. “On the stove. You literally walked right past it.” 

He finally looked up at her. “Get me a cup?” 

“Are your legs broken?” 

His eyes widened but then his need for coffee overcame his irritation and he went to the kitchen and poured himself a cup. She viciously thought, “How hard was that, dummy?” 

He came back to the table and plopped into the chair again, taking a big swig of coffee. He seemed to finally get himself together and looked up at her and the first thing he said was, “Are you smoking?!” 

She stared at him and realized at that moment that she despised him. He wasn’t that sweet boy up in the mountain woods anymore. He was just an asshole. She blew a cloud of smoke into his face, making him cough. “I don’t know. Am I?” 

He waved his hand in the air. “Jesus, Deanie. Since when did you start smoking?” 

“As of now.” She glared at him. 

He sat back in the chair but it was obvious that he didn’t have any strength to do anything other than stare at her. “Well, at least open a damn window.” 

He got up and went into the living room and clicked on the television. She heard him fall onto the couch, where he’d probably spend the rest of the afternoon. 

She sighed and started cleaning up the kitchen. 

***

She let him have his time on the couch. In the early evening, he finally went in and got dressed. She started putting dinner together and when he came back out, he was more civil. She decided to be a little nicer, too. She served up the Salisbury steaks and vegetables and sat down with him at the table. He complimented her on the dinner but they didn’t talk much beyond that. To be honest, she was thinking about what she would wear to her lunch date with Jolene. 

After he finished eating, he gave her a kiss on the cheek and went in to watch a little more television. She sighed and muttered, “You’re welcome.” 

She cleaned up the dinner dishes, tidied up the kitchen, and looked around. Everything was in its place. Or was it? 

She walked into the living room where Calvin was sprawled out on the couch. “Good night, Calvin.” 

He looked up in surprise. “You’re going to bed now? It’s early.” 

“I’m feeling tired.” 

She went to the bedroom and put on her nightgown, then brushed her teeth. She climbed into bed and laid awake until she heard Calvin come into the bedroom. He slid into bed beside her and put his arm around her waist. He nuzzled her neck. “Deanie, you mad at me? Don’t be, darlin’.” 

She didn’t say anything. He rolled her onto her back so he could look at her. “Don’t be this way, Deanie.” He climbed on top of her. “No one else can love you like I do. You know that.” 

He pushed her nightgown up and when he entered her, she looked over at the window. The moon was shining brightly over the trees and she stared at the moon. She thought about how the moon looked when it rose over the trees up in the mountains. She thought about a boy who had promised her the moon as he kissed her under the trees as the cicadas sang. 

Calvin finally finished and climbed off of her. He laid back and fell asleep almost immediately. Deanie laid awake for a long while and when she started to finally doze off, Calvin began muttering incoherently in his sleep. He finally said a word Deanie recognized. 

“Jolene.”


Monday, November 2, 2020

Georgia on my Mind

This is my online writing home but I also have an analog home: I keep a hard copy journal and I have for years.


I find that during Quarantimes, time has gotten a little wiggly for me. I find myself thinking of things from the past more and more. I told some friends that I think it’s my brain’s way of filling the void left by lack of social activities. Brain says, “Well, if I can’t go out and talk to a bunch of other people, I’m going to console myself with all these people from forty years ago. So there!” 


Add to that a terrible sleeplessness due to thinking about the election and things get weird. 


The Magnificent Jake Tapper, on his daily CNN show, usually mentions one or two people at the end of his broadcast. People who have succumbed to Covid-19. It’s a sad but kind tribute. One day, he was talking about this guy and gave his town as Clarkesville, Georgia. My ears perked up immediately and it brought back a flood of memories. 


When I was still in high school, my parents bought a small place in the Georgia mountains—in Clarkesville. We had spent some time there because I had (and still have) relatives in north Georgia. It’s a beautiful area, and the house they bought was right on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. I liked the area, too, but I didn’t want to spend my senior year in high school at a brand new school, one in the South. I would feel like a fish out of water. Mom and Dad agreed with that, so they hung onto the Indiana house and while they started working on the Georgia house (there was a lot of cleanup to do, and that’s a fascinating tale in its own right, but that’s a story for another day), my sister and her husband stayed with me in the Indiana house. 


When I graduated, we sold that house and I moved to Georgia with Mom and Dad, at least for the summer before college. I spent three summers there during college breaks and hearing a mention of Clarkesville (our address) brought all those memories back. 


I had a nice little corner bedroom. I didn’t like the air conditioning so I kept the two doors leading to my room closed and my two windows wide open to the hot and humid Georgia air. (My leather shoes and purses paid the price by giving their lives to mildew.) I had a high iron bed and loved to perch up there (I had to hop to get up onto it!) and read books, listen to records, and write in my journal, as well as letters to friends and family back home. 


As I thought back to that time, I could almost hear the loud buzzing of the cicadas, the rustling of the big rhododendron bush outside my window, and smell the scent of its blooms wafting through my room. I was 18-19 when I lived there and I was filled with all the uncertainties and longings of that age. I was trying to figure out my place in the world and trying to figure out this impending adulthood thing. 


But for the time being, I was a college girl from the North living in a rural mountain town in the South. As I told others when I was thinking back to that time, I feel like it was the last time when I didn’t have a care in the world. I had the usual anxieties of the time, like nuclear war, and the usual anxieties of a teenage girl just starting to understand the power of being a woman. But no bills, no job to go to, no homework...just enjoying the present and dipping my toe into adulthood.


It was a heady time and it gobsmacked me to feel all that like it was yesterday. 


The point is (and there is a point here, I promise!) that it prompted me to find all my old journals. I spent a manic half hour late last night hunting them down, but I found them! As I read entries from that time, I had to laugh at myself, but it was also...what would be the word? Poignant? Bittersweet? I wanted to tell the 18-year-old Beth, “Listen. You’re gonna be okay. You’ll never figure it all out, because no one ever does, but you’re just starting your journey. Be true to yourself, and you’ll make your way.” 


This started out as a completely different entry, one about my brief romance with my Georgia boy, one that never came to fruition but was intoxicating nonetheless. I realized the back story was a little too long and deserved its own entry. 


I’ll eventually read through all of these old journals and I’m sure it will be an emotional experience for me. I’ll share a few things on here but there will be plenty that I keep to myself. A gal’s gotta have some secrets, after all. 


But Dear Diary knows all.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Just Because You Can (Part One)

 


“Deanie! Hurry up! We’re gonna be late!” Calvin hollered from the living room. 

Deanie hollered back. “I’m coming!” She put the backs on her pearl earrings, the ones Calvin had given her on their tenth anniversary. She looked at herself in the mirror and smoothed her dress. Not too bad, if she did say so herself. She grinned and slipped into her shoes, grabbed her purse, and sauntered out to the living room. “How do I look?” 

Calvin saw her and said, “Finally! Let’s go.” 

Her face fell and he realized he’d hurt her feelings. He stepped over to her and put his hands on her waist. “You look beautiful.” He kissed her forehead. “But we need to get going! I don’t want to be late to this party!” 

Deanie nodded and smiled at him, and they headed out to the car. He held the door open for her. All these years later and he was still a gentleman. Mostly.

As they pulled out onto the road, Deanie said, “So tell me about this new boss of yours.” 

Calvin gripped the steering wheel. “He’s coming straight from Atlanta! Can you believe that? He’s a real bigwig, Deanie, and it’s a big deal to get invited to his house.” He glanced over at her. “So be on your best behavior.”

Deanie looked out the window. When was she not on her best behavior? They’d both grown up in the mountains, but sometimes Calvin seemed to think that she was nothing more than a dumb hillbilly. Of course, that made him one, too. She snorted quiet laughter. 

Calvin looked over at her. “What’s so funny?”

She resolved to not pick a fight and turned to him and smiled. “Nothing, sweetheart. I think a little bug just flew up my nose, that’s all.” 

He stared at her for a moment and then turned his eyes back to the road. He began to talk about the new boss, Mr. Jenkins, and prattled on about how smart and sophisticated he was. Deanie’s mind wandered and she looked out the window. They’d come a long way from their little mountain town and although she was happy with their nice house in the suburbs, sometimes she missed the days when she’d meet Calvin late on a hot summer night and he’d kiss her under the mountain laurel, the cicadas singing in her ears. She missed that boy. And she missed the girl she’d been then. 

She snapped out of her reverie when Calvin slapped the wheel and said, “Here we are! Won’t you look at this place, baby?” He pulled through a gate and up a curved expanse of blacktopped driveway. “We play our cards right and we could be the ones livin’ in a place like this! Woooo!” When Calvin got excited, he reverted back to his deep accent. 

She looked at the house and had to admit that it was impressive. A lot bigger than their modest ranch. Seemed a little cold and imposing, though. She shook it off, and when he parked near the other cars and opened her door, she took his arm gratefully. 

They walked up the steps and rang the bell. They heard a clattering of steps from inside and a woman opened the door. 

When Deanie saw her, she almost let out a gasp. She was the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen. Her hair was a deep auburn, framing her face in gentle waves. Her skin looked like porcelain and her vivid red lipstick was in stark contrast to her pale complexion. She was dressed in a white satin cocktail dress, one that hugged her curves intimately, and Deanie suddenly felt embarrassed by her off-the-rack dress that she had just moments ago thought she looked so good in. 

But when Deanie raised her eyes to the woman, she felt an electric shock. She’d never seen eyes that were such a deep, emerald green. The spell was broken when the woman said, “Hello! Welcome!” Her voice was deep and somewhat husky. Deanie wondered if the woman smoked. 

“Please come in!” The woman beckoned them in and asked, “And who might you be?” 

Deanie was silent, deciding to let Calvin introduce them, and when he didn’t say anything, she glanced over at him. He was standing there with his mouth open. Deanie moved a little closer to him and gave him a discreet elbow to his ribs. He looked over at her in astonishment and then back to the woman. “Oh! I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m Calvin Marshall. I work for Mr. Jenkins.” 

“Oh, yes, of course! Ferlin has mentioned you. And is this your lovely wife?”

“Yes, yes. It is.” 

Deanie looked at Calvin and inwardly rolled her eyes. It? Really, Calvin? She put out her hand to the woman. “Hi there. I’m Deanie.” 

The woman took her hand and squeezed it. “Deanie! What an adorable name!”

“It’s short for Deanna. Deanna Joy.” 

“Well, that is just lovely. I’m Jolene. I’m Ferlin’s wife. Do come and join us. Ferlin has mixed up a batch of his dirty martinis and they are to die for!” 

They followed her down a hallway. Deanie looked around at the furnishings and artwork. She looked over at Calvin to point it all out to him and realized that he was watching Jolene. Deanie sighed to herself. It was shaping up to be a long night. 

Jolene led them out to a covered patio and over to a rather beefy man holding court with a couple of others. She put her hand on the man’s arm and said, “Ferlin, Calvin Marshall is here.”

The man looked up and grabbed Calvin’s hand. “Good to see you! Welcome to our home. And who is this lovely lady at your side?” 

Jolene spoke up before Calvin could. “This is his wife, Deanie. Isn’t she adorable?”

Deanie was getting a little tired of being spoken of like a cocker spaniel, but smiled and took his hand. “Mr. Jenkins, it’s so nice to finally meet you. Calvin has said so many wonderful things about working for you.” 

“None of this ‘Mr. Jenkins’ nonsense, please. Call me Ferlin.” 

Deanie nodded. 

Ferlin smacked Calvin on the shoulder. “Same goes for you! But only here. At the office, you call me Mr. Jenkins!” He laughed loudly and the other men he’d been talking to joined in. Calvin just looked dazed and finally tore his eyes away from Jolene.

“Yes, sir. Ferlin it is, sir.” 

Ferlin rolled his eyes and then said, “Here. You both need a martooni. I make ‘em special. And extra dirty.” He winked at Deanie. 

Deanie thought, “Yes. This is going to be a really long night.” 

Ferlin poured them drinks and watched as they took a sip. Calvin started coughing and Ferlin pounded him on the back. He said, “Hey now, Calvin! Can’t you handle your drink?” 

Deanie choked for a moment on what seemed like straight gin, but recovered quickly. She smiled and said, “It’s delicious, Ferlin. Thank you.” 

He beamed at her. “Atta girl! You’re all right, Deanie!” He looked at Calvin. “You could take a lesson from your wife!” 

Calvin flushed a deep red. Deanie looked at Jolene in desperation, and Jolene sprang to the rescue. 

“Calvin!” Jolene’s voice rang out. “Let me take you and Deanie on a little stroll through our gardens. Yes?” 

Deanie nodded gratefully and Jolene took each of them by the arm and led them down a pathway, pointing out various plants along the way. She mentioned nothing about Ferlin’s remarks, and Deanie was grateful. Calvin seemed nothing less than smitten by Jolene.

As Jolene showed them the ornamental trees, Deanie wondered if Calvin’s aspirations were really what they needed in their lives and if these were the people they wanted to be around. But she had to admit that Jolene was charming. As they strolled down the garden path, Jolene asked her about her hobbies and passions. Deanie found herself responding enthusiastically about various books she had been reading and about how she’d been dabbling in a little painting. 

Jolene continued to ask her questions and despite her initial feelings of intimidation, Deanie decided that she liked Jolene a lot. She was kind and warm and seemed to be interested in what Deanie had to say. Which was more than Calvin was lately. Deanie glanced over at Calvin, on the other side of Jolene, and he was openly gaping at Jolene. Oh, for Pete’s sake. Deanie stopped on the path and said, “Jolene, I’m feeling a little warm out here in the sun. Your garden is lovely, but I think I need some shade.” 

Jolene turned to her and said, “Oh, of course! Are you okay?”

Deanie nodded. “I just need to get out of the sun. And probably a glass of water.” 

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry. Let’s get you back and get you cooled off!” Jolene put an arm around Deanie’s shoulders and led her back to the house, Calvin trailing behind them.

Jolene got them to the house and firmly told Calvin to talk to Ferlin, then took Deanie into the kitchen. She sat Deanie down at the table and ran a cold glass of water at the tap. She handed it to Deanie and sat down at the table with her. “Have a sip. Are you sure you’re all right? You do look a little flushed.” 

Deanie sipped the water. It tasted good. “I’m fine. I’m so sorry.” 

Jolene put her hand on Deanie’s. “Don’t be. It’s a warm day.” 

Deanie looked up at her. “My husband likes you very much. He keeps staring at you.” 

Jolene sat back. “I had noticed that.” She picked up a pack of cigarettes on the table, shook one out, and lit it. She held out the pack to Deanie. 

Deanie didn’t smoke but she kind of felt like having one now. She picked one out of the pack and Jolene lit it for her. Deanie coughed a bit and Jolene smiled at her. 

Deanie took a drag and coughed again. Then she bucked up and decided to be honest. “Listen, Jolene. I know you could have him if you want. It’s pretty obvious to me that he’d be happy about that. But he’s all I’ve got. Please don’t take him from me.” 

Jolene stared at her for a moment and then stood up and went to the sink and stared out the window. She finally turned to Deanie. “You know, I thought you might be different.” 

Deanie blinked. “What do you mean?” 

Jolene walked back to the table and sat down again. “You seemed nice. Genuine. Not like the usual women I encounter.”

“I AM nice!” 

Jolene laughed. “Honestly, you are. But do you have any idea how many times this has happened?” 

Deanie shook her head. “How many times what has happened?” 

“Another woman thinking that I want to steal her husband away.” 

Deanie didn’t say anything. 

“It’s so predictable. Ferlin hires someone new, we have a party, the new employee and his wife come, the husband is smitten with me, and the wife thinks I’m trying to steal him from her.” She waved her cigarette in the air. “It’s so typical.” 

Deanie bristled. “I’m not typical!” 

“No, you aren’t. That’s why I thought you might be different.” She laughed. “Honestly, do you really think I would want to steal your husband? Why?” 

Deanie was dumbfounded. She realized she didn’t know how to answer that. 

Jolene laughed again. “You can’t answer that, can you?” She leaned over and took Deanie’s hand again. “I don’t want your husband. He’s as much of a pig as Ferlin is.” 

Deanie gasped and pulled her hand back. 

“Oh, don’t act so shocked. You know it’s true. We put up with this all the time. I’m expected to be a good hostess for Ferlin and put up with him. I suspect it’s the same for you.” 

Deanie stared at her in shock. Then she took a big drag on her cigarette and blew it out. She stubbed it out in the ashtray and looked into Jolene’s green eyes. “It is.” 

“I knew it.” 

They both laughed and then Calvin appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. He leaned his arm against the door frame and said, “What are you lovely ladies up to?” 

Deanie turned back to Jolene and they covered their mouths to stop from laughing out loud. 

Ferlin came up behind Calvin and clapped his hands on Calvin’s shoulders. “Where are my girls at?!” he yelled. 

Deanie and Jolene looked at each other again, barely able to contain their laughter. 

Ferlin moved up to Deanie and put his hands on her waist, and Deanie’s laughter dried up. She stared at Jolene and when Ferlin started to move his hand up, Jolene said, “Deanie and I need to go powder our noses. Excuse us.” She took Deanie’s arm and hustled her to the restroom. She got her inside and shut the door behind them. 

“Deanie, are you okay?”

Deanie nodded, but she couldn’t get the feeling of Ferlin’s hand out of her head. 

“Listen, Deanie. I’m so sorry. Ferlin gets handsy sometimes, especially after he’s had a snootful.”

Deanie nodded again and then decided she needed to say something. “Thanks for getting me out of there. I don’t want to hurt Calvin’s chances at his job, you know.”

Jolene rested her hand on her hip, turned on the overhead fan, and lit a cigarette. She held out the pack to Deanie, and Deanie took another one. At this rate, she’d be up to a pack a day in no time. They smoked in silence for a moment. Deanie began to relax and leaned back against the vanity. She shook her head and laughed a little. 

She looked up at Jolene, who smiled. “I know, honey. Believe me, I know.” 

The rest of the evening passed without incident, although Calvin still acted odd and out of character. He stared at Jolene a lot. After a round of charades and more of Ferlin’s martoonis, the party wound down and people started to leave. Calvin was more than a little unsteady on his feet, but Jolene and Deanie had absconded to the kitchen for a few glasses of water during the evening, so she felt fine. She told Calvin she’d drive them home. 

Calvin sulked a bit but was in no condition to put up a fight about it, and Deanie and Jolene got him into the passenger seat of the car. When Deanie slid behind the wheel, Jolene leaned in and asked, “May I call you tomorrow?”

Deanie looked into her lovely face and nodded. Jolene smiled and said, “Wonderful. Drive safely and get Calvin home and into bed.” 

Deanie finally smiled back and said, “I will, thank you. And thank you for a lovely evening!” 

Jolene patted the side of the car and leaned back, with a smirk on her face. Deanie put the car in gear and backed out into the driveway. “Jolene understands me,” she thought. She pulled out onto the dark road and pointed the car towards home.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal


~~ The Declaration of Independence


Last night, like so many others, we watched the movie of “Hamilton” on Disney+. We had seen the Chicago production of it a while back and loved it, but seeing the original Broadway cast perform it was mind-blowing. The acting, the music, even the lighting, were just spectacular. It was fun to see friends who had never seen it experience it and realize how incredibly good it is. 

If I were a history teacher, I’d do everything in my power to get my kids to see this. Not only does it teach history, it teaches it in a modern way, bringing those original ideas into the present and helping people understand what a remarkable experiment our country is. 


While we watched the movie, the “president” was having a photo op at Mount Rushmore and talking about the “leftist mobs” in the country. His comments were divisive as well as dismissive of the suffering happening in our country right now. Thousands of people are getting sick and dying every day, and he chose to stoke racial and partisan anger, as well as endangering all those who attended. This so-called president might want to ignore the coronavirus, but it is not ignoring people. It struck me as a terrible message to deliver on a day that means a lot to our “grand experiment.” 


Those of us bearing witness right now will tell this “president’s” story. And it will not be kind. 


It also struck me that those who founded our country would be particularly appalled by such a demagogue. They did what they could to prevent someone like him from gaining power, but they were far from infallible. They were imperfect in many ways, but they did have a visionary view of what our country could be. We obviously haven’t achieved that yet, but we are a work in progress. We work towards a more perfect union. 


On this day, we should resolve to defeat not just this “president” in November, but to defeat this toxic form of nationalism. We know we can do better, and we must. 


Happy Birthday, America. You’re having a really weird mid-life crisis, but I’m going to hold out hope that you will learn from this and strive for better. I still believe in you. I need you to believe in yourself, the way Alexander Hamilton and others did. 



Saturday, June 27, 2020

American Idiots

Don't wanna be an American idiot

Don't want a nation under the new mania

And can you hear the sound of hysteria?

The subliminal mind-fuck America


~~ “American Idiot” by Green Day


AHAHAHAHA

I’m not sure, but I think I might have reached my limit when it comes to idiocy.

Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow but at the moment, I’m ready to break out the Rick Dalton flamethrower. Die, you Nazi bastards! AHAHAHAHA


Shit. 


I honestly don’t know how to process the sheer dumbfuckery that I’m seeing right now. A former coworker—a scientist!—posting bullshit conspiracy theories; a spike in cases in states that opened too soon; a so-called “president” who thinks that pretending that this virus doesn’t exist just makes it magically go *poof*. Presto! No more virus! No more cases! No more DEATHS. 


Blaming China like it fucking matters at this point. First of all, there is zero scientific evidence that this was engineered in a Chinese lab. Second, there is such a thing as “global travel.” People travel to and from various countries all the time, whether for business or pleasure. Third, viruses and other infectious agents don’t give one single fuck about supposedly closed borders. Fourth, it is already here and has been since late in 2019, so isn’t the whole point to do what we can to contain and mitigate it? Yes! Yes it is! 


FInally, we fucking told you so. Even little old me, just a lowly microbiologist working in a local lab, has been warning about a pandemic for years. Scientists much more knowledgeable than I have been sounding the warning for even longer. The Obama administration listened to those scientists and had an actual playbook that laid out what a global pandemic might look like and how to deal with it. Every lab I ever worked in and every company with any concern about operations in such a scenario had an emergency plan. 


The current administration basically tossed it in the trash. 


I am so disgusted and angry that I just want to break stuff. In fact, I need to pause for a few hours before I throw my laptop across the room because I am PISSED OFF. 


[break]


[three days later]


While I’m in a better frame of mind, I am still disgusted. Yesterday, we were subjected to the Idiot’s Pet Ghost VP standing in front of the American people and lying right to our faces with what Seth Meyers calls his “dumb little hyphen mouth.” The response to this has not been a success, and anyone with half a brain can see it. One of the things I find most infuriating is that they all seem to think we’re stupid and can’t see what is happening in front of us. It’s obvious that their rabid supporters are suckers supreme, but the majority of us aren’t. The polls are showing it. 


A couple of things occurred to me over the past couple of days. 


First, I’m seeing a certain subset of Americans that are practicing what I would call “toxic individualism.” I don’t know if I coined that phrase or if I read it somewhere and it stuck with me, but I suspect the latter. Either way, I think it is fitting. At the press conference yesterday, Dr. Fauci spoke truth to power and told the American people that we don’t just have responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones, we also “have a societal responsibility.” The Idiot “president” and his acolytes have severely damaged the social contract and it may be beyond repair. We’re seeing a weird evangelical defiance about gathering to worship and not wearing masks despite the outbreaks traced to church gatherings. One has to wonder about how much some of these people care about others as their god directs them to. Ken and I and plenty of our atheist friends obviously care more than some of these yahoos do. 


Real men wear masks
Second, I really think we are mainly on our own right now. The federal government has provided some stimulus and relief money for those who are suffering right now, but the lack of true leadership is painfully obvious. More still needs to be done, but they are ignoring the increase in cases and what really needs to happen in order to control this pandemic and tamp out the fires. All it would take would be for this dysfunctional administration to come out with a statement saying that it is vital to American interests for everyone to stay home if possible and to wear masks if it isn’t. And then be publicly present wearing masks. Can you imagine how much that would help?


Sadly, they won’t do that and I honestly don’t know why. They aren’t just dysfunctional. They just don’t give a fuck. They really don’t. And all those poor saps who say, “He cares about us!” are as delusional as he is. 


Also sadly, while I think it is up to us, I really don’t think we’re up to the task. The majority of us know the reality of things, but there are far too many people who seem to be blissfully ignoring reality. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out for them, and unfortunately, it impacts all of us. 


I think it’s important that all of us with an ounce of reason and common sense start speaking up a little more. I’m not going to go out of my way to confront maskless people who are distant enough from me to not pose a danger, but if someone gets up in my grill or says something shitty to me, I will not hold back. Time to start shaming people, if you ask me. 


At a time when the American people need to show the resolve that we’ve been known for throughout the decades, I believe that we are woefully inadequate to the task. It makes me sad to say that, but it is obviously and painfully true.