Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Survival skills

People started calling those in power to account
And people started saying, "I want my voice to count"
And people started learning that they don't need to fight
And they control their future and try to make it right

~~ “The News” by Carbon/Silicon

Eugene Robinson had a great column in the Washington Post titled “This Country Deserves Much Better Than Trump.” I’m not linking to it because it’s behind the paywall, but if you have access, I highly recommend it. This quote is what got me thinking:

“It's exhausting, I know, but don't let outrage fatigue numb you to the moral bankruptcy and gross incompetence of the Trump administration. This ugly departure from American norms and values must be opposed with sustained passion—and with the knowledge that things will probably get worse before they get better.”

This is exactly what I’ve been struggling with off and on since the election. I am an optimistic, happy person, but there are days when I feel so exhausted and angry and in such despair that I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I had that kind of day yesterday but I managed to pull myself out of it and it made me think about how to deal with what I’m coming to think of as Yam Fatigue Syndrome. It’s such a constant shitstorm of incompetence and ignorance and downright meanness that it can overwhelm. Then there is dealing with friends and family members who voted for him. It’s enough to send even the most optimistic person around the bend.

There are actually books out there that deal with this topic. How do we stay afloat in the Age of the Yam? I haven’t read any of them yet, but I have a few thoughts of my own. These are things that help me and maybe they’ll help you, too. Which is the very first thing on my list!

  1. Support and encourage each other. There are times when I have to step away from social media, but other times, I find that my friends and family members provide much-needed strength and fortitude. We are in this together and it is up to us to help each other and provide a source of encouragement when needed. I’m such a positive person that I find myself being that source more often than not, but it’s almost like a bank or that weird thing that nobody knew was so hard, health insurance. *cough* You pay into it and you have something there when you need it. For every person I’ve encouraged and tried to help stay positive, I’ve gotten that same kind of encouragement when my own battery was running low. We help each other. That’s how it works!
  2. Do things that make you happy and renew your spirit. For me, that is a lot of things. Music is a big one, as are books. I also feel a sense of peace and renewal when I pay attention to the flora and fauna of Nutwood. Seeing deer walking through the back yard is something that never fails to bring a smile to my face. Everyone has something that brings them that sense of joy and peace. Do those things.
  3. Keep your sense of humor! We have to keep laughing. Thank goodness for people like Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, and Samantha Bee (and many others). They point out the absurdity and horridness of the Yamistration but manage to give us a good laugh while they do it. You don’t even have to laugh about political stuff. Just hang onto that sense of humor and try to find things that give you a good laugh. One of the biggest laughs I’ve had lately was about that weird Google AI humanoid thing learning to walk. I laughed so hard that I cried (and yes, I snorted) and it was quite a catharsis. Never get so angry that you lose the ability to laugh. At least not for long.
  4. As many of you know, I’ve become an admirer of former FBI Director James Comey. Don’t get me started, but I’ll just say that I find his integrity very compelling. He’s one of the Good Guys and we need to cherish and encourage that. Anyway, I saw a video of him talking about what he tells (or told) new recruits coming into the FBI. It was two things, so this point gets its own subcategory! Wheeeee! Outlines are fun!
    1. Gratuitous Comey picture
      Sleep. Yep, he told recruits to get enough sleep and that it was not a moral failing to do so. He said that you work better and smarter when you get enough sleep and that sleep deprivation doesn’t help when it comes to churning out the best work (or being the best person you can be). I sometimes have a hard time with this because I love to stay up late and don’t like to sleep the day away, so if I have one of my late nights, it can mean that I really don’t get the sleep that I need. And you know what? That’s when I’m at my most irritable and impatient. Little things can get to me and I am definitely not at my best.
    2. The other thing that Comey told his recruits was to love someone. What a simple thing, but what an important thing! His thinking there was that it provides something to ground you and keep you focused on what matters. I’m sure that for FBI recruits, it also makes you think about your mission and about what you are fighting for, as well as insulating you from the many bad things that particular job can entail. (“Silence of the Lambs” shout-out!) I think this applies to civilians, too. Who or what do you love? Why do you do what you do? Why do some of us protest things even if we aren’t directly affected? Do we love others and want to help them? Do we love freedom and democracy? Do we love our country and want all of its citizens to prosper and thrive? Comey said to “love someone.” I would expand that to “someone or something.”

So that is my list, at least everything that I can think of for now. Granted, it definitely helps to be an optimistic person and I am certainly that. But even I need some encouragement at times, and these things help me. Your results may vary. I think it’s important to realize that we are in this for the long haul and as Robinson wrote, things could get worse before they get better. That makes it more important than ever to support and encourage each other.

I’ve got your back, fellow Warriors!

Cape Cod Morning

“Listen. You need to get out of here now.”

Cassandra leaned against the kitchen counter, arms crossed. She lit a cigarette and blew the smoke in his direction.

“What did I do?” he asked.

“Nothing. You just need to get out.”

“Come on, baby. At least give me a smoke.”

She tossed the pack his way and he caught it. He lit one and gave her a smirk. “I could use a drink, too.”

She hesitated and finally said, “I suppose I could use one, too.”

She pulled down two glasses from the cupboard and poured a couple of fingers of Scotch into each of them. She handed one to him. He tried to click his glass against hers and she glared at him, taking a swig of her drink.

“So c’mon, what did I do to make you mad? Why you acting so mad at me?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. I just want you to leave.”

He set his glass down on the table and walked over to her and put his hands around her waist. “Why you gotta treat me so bad, baby?”

She pushed his hands away. “Stop it, Vince. I told you I want you to leave. That means you need to leave.”

“I think I’ll leave when I want to leave.”

She slammed her glass down on the counter and some of the Scotch sloshed out. Something in her eyes made him step back. She took advantage of this and stepped towards him. “You need to leave. How many times do I have to say it, Vince? As of now, we are done. I can’t do this anymore.”

He smirked. “That’s not what you were saying an hour ago. You seemed pretty okay with doing it.”

“No more. Get out of my house. OUR house.”

“Oh, all of a sudden it’s ‘our’ house. Like your husband knows what’s going on. Or like you even matter to him. Or he matters to you.”

She took another step towards him and he backed away again. “This was a mistake from the beginning. I don’t know what I was thinking, but this is over. Get out.”

He started towards her but stopped in his tracks when a loud siren sounded somewhere outside. “What the hell is that?”

“It’s the storm siren.” She ran to the front window and flipped on the radio on her way. As she looked out the window at the glowering sky, the announcer said that a major storm was moving in and everyone within the sound of his voice needed to take shelter. The sun was still shining on the trees in their yard but the clouds in the distance were dark and ugly. She whirled towards him and said, “Damn it! Vince, you need to leave, right now! I don’t want you here, and Jack will be home soon.”

“Hell, no. I’m not going anywhere in that shit.”

She turned back to the window and leaned over the sill. The trees and grass had begun to whip in the increasing wind. She peered into the distance and saw a plume of dust. As she watched, she saw the shape of a car emerging. Jack’s car.

“There’s no time. Jack’s on his way. He’ll see your car. Get into the kitchen.”

“Don’t tell me what to do! I—”

Cassandra slapped him across the face. “Get in the goddamn kitchen, Vince!”

He rubbed his face and gave her a sullen look.

“Oh, stop being such a baby. You’re going to sit in the kitchen and we’re going to have a drink. As far as Jack is concerned, we’re two old friends from when I worked as a cigarette girl at the Hula Room.”

Vince shuffled into the kitchen, muttering all the way.

Cassandra pulled out a chair and shoved him into it. “Stop sniveling, you idiot. Just sit down and shut up. Have another cigarette.”

He lit one and sat quietly for the moment. The front door opened and closed and Jack called her name.

“In here, dear!”

He entered the kitchen and hesitated when he saw Vince sitting at the table. He walked to Cassandra and kissed her cheek. “Who’s our guest, sweetheart?”

“Where did you meet me, darling?”

He stood there a moment looking puzzled and then said, “At the Hula Room. I bought a pack of smokes from you.”

Cassandra smiled brightly. “That’s right! Vince here was a regular customer and he stopped by to say hello and get me caught up on all my former pals. Do you remember Ginny? She got married!”

Jack nodded and said, “Yes, I vaguely remember her. Good for her.”

“Anyway, Vince was just getting ready to leave when the siren sounded and the report of the storm came on the radio.”

“Yes, that’s why I’m home a little early. I heard that the storm was moving in and wanted to get home and make sure that you were okay.”

Just then, there was a bright flash of lightning outside, followed by an immediate crack of thunder.

Jack said, “Well, I don’t think anyone is going anywhere soon, so I think I’ll have a drink, too.” He poured himself a neat Scotch and sat at the table.

“So, Vince is it?”

Vince nodded.

“What is it you do?”

“A little of this, a little of that.” He threw a glance at Cassandra, who glared back at him. “Freelance stuff, mostly.”

“Well, depending on what your ‘freelance stuff’ is, I might be able to help you with some connections. I know a lot of people in the city.”

Vince shrugged. “I do okay.”

Jack shrugged, too. “All well and good. Just offering to help.”

Another crack of thunder echoed and a deluge opened up on the house. Cassandra ran for the front window and closed it before the rain could do any damage to the furniture or lamps nearby. Vince got up to follow her and Jack stood up. “She’s fine, pal.”

Vince slowly sat back down.

Cassandra returned to the kitchen and poured them all another drink. “My goodness. It is really coming down out there! You definitely can’t leave now, Vince.” She opened the pack of cigarettes and put one in her mouth. Jack leaned over to light it. She placed her hand on his and murmured, “Thank you, darling.”

As she leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs, Vince gave her a look and then gave Jack a look. He laughed. “Well, aren’t you two just something else?”

Cassandra and Jack looked at him. Cassandra adjusted her bra strap and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and said, “Whatever do you mean, Vince?”

Vince looked between both of them and laughed again. “Really, Cass? Are you going to pretend like this was just a visit between old friends?”

She stared at him.

Vince looked at Jack and said, “And are you really such a dope that you don’t get what’s going on?”

Jack stared at him. “What exactly is going on, Vince?”

Vince looked at Cassandra and then at Jack. “Do I have to spell it out for you?”

Jack shook a cigarette out of the pack and lit it. “Hmm. No, I suppose not.” He blew smoke rings in the air. “Do you need another drink, dear?”

Cassandra said, “That would be lovely, thank you.”

“And you, Vince?”

Vince looked at them both in amazement and then sat back in his chair. “Sure, I’ll have another drink. Why not?”

Jack fetched the bottle from the counter and poured them all more drinks. He stood and said, “Cheers to us all, and here’s to riding out the storm!” He downed his drink, winked at Cassandra, who downed hers and winked back at him. After watching them, Vince downed his.

“You two are crazy, you know that?”

Cassandra laughed. “Oh, we’ve been told that, yes.”

Jack said, “We have indeed.” He returned the bottle of Scotch to the counter and on the way back to his chair, picked up the stainless steel toaster that was sitting near the stove.

Vince said, “I think we need to talk a little bit more about what’s going on here.”

Jack said, “I agree,” and brought the heavy toaster down on Vince’s head. Vince dropped his drink and Cassandra said, “Oh dear! The Scotch!” and Jack hit Vince with the toaster again.

Vince slumped over the table and Jack sat the toaster carefully on the counter. He looked at Cassandra, who was still in her chair, smoking her cigarette. “We have some cleanup, darling.”

“Mm, yes.” She stubbed her cigarette out in the ashtray. “Let’s get to it.”

After cleaning up the kitchen floor and table, and burying Vince and the toaster in the backyard, Jack and Cassandra stood in the rain, their arms around each other. Jack said, “I love you, dear.”

Cassandra looked up at him and said, “I love you, too, my darling.” She looked down at her red dress. “My dress seems to be ruined, though.”

“I’ll buy you a new dress, sweetheart.” He kissed her on the forehead as the thunder rumbled overhead. “But honestly, how many times must we do this?”

“As many times as it takes, my love. As many times as it takes.”
**This story came about because of the book In Sunlight or In Shadow, a collection of stories inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper. The editor, the writer Lawrence Block, challenged readers to write a story about this particular painting. This is my take on the painting.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A table-flipping day

If you're feeling like I feel throw your fist through the ceiling
Some people call it crazy well I call it healing
If you need love turn around, do the helicopter
If you're sick, baby girl I would love to be your doctor

So burn it down, burn it down baby burn it burn it down
Burn it down, burn it down baby burn it burn it down
Motherfucker, burn it down, burn it down baby burn it burn it down

~~ “Burn It Down” by AWOLNATION

Some days it just doesn’t pay to chew through the restraints, you know?

It’s not a bad day, not at all. We got the incredibly good news that when it comes to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare for the unenlightened) it looks like both “repeal and replace” and “just repeal the motherfucker” are dead in the water. The former due to some Senators feeling that it didn’t go far enough, which is more than a little disturbing, but hey, at least they said ‘nope.’ The latter was due to three—count ‘em, THREE—women Senators saying that it was cruel and would harm their constituents. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said, “I didn’t come to Washington to hurt people.”

Seems like some of the female Senators didn’t take too kindly to being completely shut out of the committee that drafted the bill, eh? We’re the majority in the country, so next time, perhaps you might give us a voice, Mitch, whaddaya say?

Hahaha...what am I saying? As long as these guys are in charge, they’re going to keep trying to control what we do with our bodies. Yet another good reason to get more women in government, at all levels, and in all branches.

So that’s a good thing. It is also beautiful and green and lush here at Nutwood and I love this time of year, despite the heat and humidity. I got to see lots of birds today, and other little critters, including a couple of young turkeys and their mama!

Also, my homey James Comey is shopping a book deal among publishers this week and I am super excited to read it when it comes out AND Ken has already said that we can travel somewhere (maybe DC!) for a book signing if he does book signings, and the publishing company will probably want him to do book signings. I know a lot of my friends still have major reservations about him, but he’s become kind of a hero to me. Don’t laugh! For real. He stood up for what he thought was right and he basically was having none of the Yam’s bullshit so figured out how to continue the investigation even though he was out as head of the FBI and he figured out how to do it in a legal way but one that totally put the screws to the Vulgar Talking Yam. That, my friends, is something I can admire. That is ninja-level badassery coated in a handsome visage and Boy Scout demeanor. I can only hope to achieve that level at some point in my life, and he has already achieved it at just a couple of years older than me. I’ve got some work to do!

I also recently discovered an older but new-to-me band called Carbon/Silicon and that will be a Music Moment entry at some point. I listened to that today as well as AWOLNATION, a long-time favorite, as reflected in today’s music selection.

All in all, it was a good day. So why am I feeling so agitated and low-level angry? I’ve been thinking about it this afternoon and I can point to a couple of things.

First, there is a former friend who is posting some really bizarre shit on their page. I won’t go into the circumstances of why they defriended me but it was pretty absurd and instead of reaching out to me and asking me what was going on, they just decided that I didn’t like some political meme they posted and so I started “ignoring” them. Bitch, please. You think I don’t deal with friends and relatives who are super conservative? I live in Indiana, for Pete’s sake. Perhaps I was trying to preserve the friendship by not seeing every anti-Hillary, anti-Obama post you put up. Did you ever think of that? Nope, they just defriended without a word to me.

They did me a favor, though, because the stuff I’m seeing on their page is more of the same and worse. When I got a message from someone I wasn’t even friends with wondering what was going on, I figured it wasn’t me. I don’t take kindly to what was said about me and came through another person, so I will be channeling my inner Comey and taking my jabs here and there where I can. I am a very easy-going person, but I think it’s safe to say that you do not want to make an enemy of me.

Second, there was this late-afternoon story about Yam supporters from Vox. It gave statistics from a poll that showed that they simply do not believe that there is anything of importance about certain campaign people meeting with Russian operatives. 32% believe the meeting never took place, despite the fact that Yam, Jr. released the emails stating that it did.

This is absolutely astounding to me and utterly mind-boggling. This is some straight jacket level delusion. They aren’t just not believing news reports about it. We all know how they don’t listen to the news that contradicts their own narrative. They literally do not believe people intimately connected with the candidate and campaign they voted for.

I really do not know how to process this. I gave up trying to discuss anything with them long ago in order to preserve my own sanity. But this is just goes against everything I’ve valued and trusted in my life. The scientific method, verifiable facts, straight-up discussion using logic and reason, fucking RATIONALITY.

This is what is making me want to listen to rage music tonight. I’ll find my equilibrium soon—I always do—but this is the kind of shit that makes me question the intelligence and even the sanity of those who refuse to accept reality. I don’t know what the solution is. I really don’t.

So for now, I’ll just go with how I’m feeling.