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Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Liquid and Magic


Like liquid, she thought, watching the man's hands fly across the piano keyboard. She was sitting in the first row. Not a very good front row seat. Most of his hand movements were obstructed by his shoulders.

Like liquid, she thought all the same. Also, like a magician.

Some years later, typing, she realized the connection between the water and the magician. Her water broke as she was transcribing a letter for her employer, and she asked to be excused from her desk.

“Now?” the employer asked.

“I'm in labor, I think,” she replied.

Her employer swiveled in a chair so that her view of the city was obstructed by a shoulder. “But I'm in the middle of dictating.”

She continued typing. The contractions came fast. By the time her employer finished-- “Sincerely yours” --the baby plummeted onto the floor and remained there, waiting for an encouraging slap or any sort of encouragement to take an independent breath.

She stared at the employer. The employer, who heard the sound of birth and—startled--swiveled back to face her, stared back.

“For god's sake, woman,” her employer said.

Her fingers moved like liquid across the keyboard before her, typing FOR GOD S SAKE WOMAN.

“No jesus no. Pick it up. The... that, there.”

She knew where the gesture from her employer ended, but she was afraid to look. She was afraid to think. She kept her fingers hovering over the home keys, and her fingers trembled.

“The baby. Pick up the baby.”

Pause.

“The letter is done. Take the rest of the day off, if you like.”

She printed out the letter. Cut the cord. Scooped up her baby. Returned home for the day.

It wasn't often she took an early day. She didn't know what to do with herself at first, but the infant now breathing against her chest gave her a suggestion. The infant kneaded against her chest and screamed out suggestions like a needy cat. Gently, as she walked from work to the train, she lowered one corner of her dress, lifted out a breast from her bra, and offered it to the infant. The infant took the breast. The infant became silent. Passers-by glanced at her with expressions she didn't bother to decipher.


Once she got home, she cleaned herself and the infant. She called her mother, who was glad to hear the letter had been finished.

Then she called the father, who told her never to call again.
She thought about the way the pianist's fingers moved like liquid, and how the notes appeared even when she could not see the fingers. She thought of magicians, pulling rabbits out of hats.

“I knew you were coming,” she told the infant resting in a pool of blankets on her bed. “But warn me next time.”

Both she and the infant locked eyes for the first time, and both acknowledged there would not be a next time. How silly. The cord was cut. The breast was suckled. The infant was washed, the afterbirth was ejected on 2nd Ave, and the letter was signed 'Sincerely yours'. All that needed to be done up to the point where she locked eyes with the infant had been done. What remained was what was to come.



The father knocked on the door a few nights later. She slid out of bed. The apartment was one room if you forget the bathroom, and so everything was where she needed it to be: the bed, the sink, the couch, a computer, an oven, and the infant in a mini-fort made of wood and cloth and feathers. She slid out of bed with only one thought: Please stay asleep, infant. Please don't let the knock at the door make you cry.

Her breasts were sore. Her body was sore. Each day she returned to her employer, and each day she typed dictated letters, and each day she carried the infant with her. When the infant screamed, she pulled down a corner of her dress and slid from her bra a swollen breast. And there was silence. And dictation. And no one said anything, but used their faces to express everything.

Knock.

Her employer gave her two weeks to find someone to deal with the infant. “If in that two weeks you don't find anyone, you'll be dealing with it yourself.”

The infant was at the time on the employer's floor, crying for her. In her lap was the computer she used to type out the employer's messages. Her breasts ached, but her fingers continued moving like liquid and she caught herself typing, “Dear Sir: It is with great sorrow that we report that if in two weeks you don't find anyone, you'll be dealing with it yourself.”

She quickly deleted the sentence, and resumed transcribing. Resumed typing.

Her breasts continued to ache. The infant continued to cry.

Knock.

Another conversation with her mother did not end as well as she hoped. Her mother was elderly. Going deaf—but aren't we all—but not yet senile. “Grandchild!” her mother exclaimed. “But how is the job?”

“Mom, we already went through this.”

“Anyone can get a child! But is the job okay?”


Knock.
She slid from the bed on the first knock, and tripped over a toy the infant was too young yet to enjoy.
It was an easy walk from the bed to the door. Toy aside, there weren't many obstructions. No doors, no walls, no halls. And the infant remained asleep, which was good. She didn't wan't the infant to retain even the slightest hint of confrontation between the father and herself. “Remain pure,” she whispered. “You just keep dreaming.”

The light from the street waved in and out of the apartment as each car a floor below pushed past the building. She felt as if she were under water, moving toward an escape hatch. The closer she got to the door—hoping always hoping for the father to keep his next knock to himself—the more she felt as if she were in liquid.

She felt as if she were a magician.

Hands, moving, making magic and art.

Knock.

The infant moved. She could hear the light cover rustle as the shoulders of the infant shifted.

“Don't,” she thought. She didn't say the word. She thought it.

Knock.

She knew from the sound of fabric the infant had tossed off the light cover. She knew from the sound of breath the infant was about to wake up.

Through water she made it to the door. One hand closed on the knob and the other on the latch and she turned both at once. Fingers worked, and as the door opened, as if magically, the father was standing in the hallway, backlit by a dim light and holding a stuffed bear that had seen days far better than she had seen.

“What the hell, babe” was all the father said.

She took a step into the dim light. Behind her there was another intake of air.

The infant erupted. A scream so primal she was sure ancestors heard it.

“No hell,” she shouted.

“I wanted to give you this,” the father said, shoving the stuffed bear at her.

“Scream,” the infant said.

She took a look at the father. At the bear. She considered all the letters she had typed over the past few weeks. She said this: “That bear is a contract.”

The bear went into hibernation into the father's coat. She shut the door. She was now in the liquid and the magic.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Heritage is a Dish Best Served Old

A lot of articles lately quote Southerners afraid of one thing: Loss of heritage.

Heritagectomy.

Southerners fear, more than anything else, a removal of their history. They also fear a realization of it.

Appomattox, I'm not kidding, is a foreign word to most Southerners.

Heritage.

Here's the thing: Heritage is not a thing that is taken away. It is a thing one carries about like junk DNA, still in one's very fiber even as he or she continues to evolve, change, grow, and gain distance from that heritage. To be in possession of a heritage, one must be in possession of a past and a future. To have a heritage, one must not be in full possession of a present.

In other words: The past is in you, no matter how useless it is. To have a heritage, you must be in the future at some distance from your own past, and if you keep trying to make that heritage a present, well, you're a stagnant asshole incapable of growth, change, or lacking in any of the adaptation techniques necessary to prolong the species.

As a Southerner, I get the need to celebrate the brave time when my region of the country rose up against the Northern devil, or whatever. Truly, it's a tough call to say some of the grunts in the field just fighting to keep their families safe were traitors and racists. Perhaps some of them weren't guilty as charged--perhaps some of them were just impoverished and desperate young men dying for a cause they didn't fully comprehend just because they wanted to protect Ma back at the homestead.

But does that warrant willful ignorance 150 years later? It's a dry irony to say this, but does slavish dedication to an idea so far gone in the past--gone with the wind--call for such modern dedication?

150 years ago, there was a very dedicated and determined thought that actual human beings were so awful they could only survive if we treated them as cattle. In 1920, those humans finally got the right to vote. Those humans were women.

Heritage is not a thing on which to cling. It's a thing to toss aside, and look at with considerable distance. To keep heritage as a permanent thing--always present, always constant--is to turn it into something else: It is to turn it into a stagnation.

It's like he's pan-handling.
Removing Civil War memorabilia from public lands is not a removal of heritage. Absolutely, we must continue to sift through the dust of our national heritage, to understand how that dust created the soil of our future. But to say this is a denial of heritage, this progress, is to forget we're leaving a heritage of our own, and a pretty poor soil upon which others may build, cultivate, and grow.

Again, here's the thing: If Southerners continue to cling to the past, the past will cling back, pull down, and smother them. That stupid flag will mean nothing to future generations because it will be a shroud wrapping a very large part of a very united country, covering decay and nothing more.

Heritage is junk DNA. Carried with you, and no one knows why. "The South will rise again." Sure. But before that happens, "That strand of DNA involving gills in your neck" will be activated. We'll all regrow neck-gills before the South Rises again, if the South keeps living in the past.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

This Thing of Depression....

I don't mention it often, because there are so many people in my life with larger and more pressing issues, and because their issues seem more important and more pressing. But I suffer from depression.

It's true!

I know, I think, how to manage it. I know when I'm too depressed, and I know how to ask for help, and I know when I'm thinking of jumping in front of a train that I'm having an off day. So I don't jump in front of the train.

In those fleeting moments--and all phenomena are fleeting--I recognize life is something I'd rather have than not have. And the mood passes, and the train passes, and I step into it and travel onward.

Depression is tough. Sometimes it feels as if I'm an idiot for submitting to the worthless and awful way it makes me think. Sometimes it comes at me and I think, well why am I wasting this perfectly good train arrival by not leaping in front of it?

Of course I know that would ruin a lot of peoples' commute. Leaping into an oncoming train is like committing suicide: a selfish act. Public masturbation.

True fact: Mussolini didn't make the trains run on time. People say he did, but he didn't. And even if he did, he would've avoided hurling himself before a train. Out of respect for the commuters, he'd've allowed himself to be hanged from a lampost.

Which is what happened! The trains in Italy worked because Benito Mussolini never jumped in front of them.

He also didn't own his own rope.

I have depression. It's a terrible thing. No more terrible than what other people have, but it's a thing. So this, a silly article about a show I've never watched, made me smile. It made me smile because people are currently in a moment of understanding--they're suddenly kind, and empathetic, and good. Not a month ago, there were stupid flags still flying, and homophobic marriage laws in place.

I cannot hate my own depression. It is real, and it is mine. But I can, for one moment, appreciate that depression is shared. Greg, who deals with my moods and fights his own demons, knows the struggle.

What the hell is Supernatural?

Comic-Con just had an incredibly emotional and inspiring moment—and it was a complete and total surprise. It happened during the Supernatural panel, and there wasn't a dry eye in the packed house.
The CW series ended its panel with the packed audience of more than 7,000 fans holding up candles for star Jared Padalecki's Always Keep Fighting campaign. Padelecki recently opened up about his battle with depression, and started the Always Keep Fighting campaign to help people struggling with depression, self-injury, addiction and suicide. The surprise candle moment came about in support of his AKF campaign.

"I'm holding the candle in my pocket right now, I can't let go of it," Padelecki told E! News moments ago, right after the panel. "At first I didn't know what it is. I thought people were holding up their iPhones or something. And then someone handed me the note explaining it and I found out what was really going on. It took everything in my power not to cry.

Along with the candles that were passed out to the crowd came a note: "Everyone is given a candle that burns just for them. When your flame flickers and you fear it will go out, know not seven the strongest wind lasts forever; and there are other lights to guide you even in the Darkness…And when your candle burns bright, you can ignite the hearts of others and hope will spread like wildfire…Always Keep Fighting, and you'll never fight alone."

"I just want to say thank you, so much," Padalecki told us of his message to the fans who organized the candle surprise. "It's stuff that I have dealt with and I'm still dealing with so it means so much to me. I hope the fans feel support from me the way I feel support from them. I love them all very much. I really do. Fight for each other. Love each other. Always keep fighting."
"I'm so humbled," he added, wiping away a tear. "With the Always Keep Fighting campaign, it feels a lot like it's grown into something bigger than I ever could have imagined. And it's the same with the show, and this character and guys I've been working with for 11 years now. It's so cool and so, so humbling. I feel like I'm the old guy here! I've been here for 11 years doing Comic-Con but it's such a cool experience. I mean, this is what I dreamed of as a kid. I am so, so humbled."

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Someday the Mountain Might Get'em, but the Law Never Will

Being Southern in New York City is exhausting.

Being gay in Alabama, doubly so.

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The thing about Alabama is that the state name is so full of A. Every other letter is an A. If you removed the A, the name of the state would wreck Vanna White. A contestant asking for a vowel, and choosing 'E', would leave poor White stuck beside the board hoping for one tile--one solitary tile--to light up.

Elebeme, btw, is too Hebrew-sounding for Alabama. And I say that as a Elebemian who grew up across from a synagogue.

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What I learned in high school, in Alabama history, was that the Civil War was less about civility and more about States Rights. Not human rights. Humans were beside the point, in my Alabama history class. What we were taught was this: The reason there was a Civil War was because the North tried to tell Southern States what to do. The war was not over slavery, but over the broken promise set forth by the Founding Fathers that all states would govern themselves.

Obviously, when it came to setting up the 'federal' part of the Constitution, the Southerners were on a bathroom break.

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Elebeme. Heh.

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You know why it is exhausting to be a Southerner in New York City? Here's why: You (or I) are constantly trying to assure concerned and decent individuals that the South is not full of nuts.

It's true.

A Southerner in NYC spends most of the day repeating a phrase that becomes a mantra: "You don't understand: there are a lot of nice people down there." And again: "No, really: There are a lot of kind people down there."

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What I was not taught in Alabama History classes was this: George Wallace. I mean, of course, we covered George Wallace when I was in school, taking 5 fucking years of Alabama History classes. But we didn't go into the George Wallace thing. What we discussed was his heroic stance against federal law, his martyrdom, and his eventual absolution. Not kidding. When asked about George Wallace, I was taught to say the following:

George Wallace was a brave man who stood up for his beliefs. He stood in a schoolhouse door, and he stood until he was shot nearly dead. He believed Alabama was better when segregation was in place. And they shot him for his beliefs.

I was taught this while setting in an integrated classroom!

And I met George Wallace once. He was in a wheel chair, and unable to stand for anything. He patted me on the head, let me set in his lap, and years later I realized what a sad, sad man he truly was.

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So, it's exhausting being Southern here. True story: when the RNC had their rally at Madison Square Garden in 2004, I marched against it, and had to shut down a group of marchers using a Hitler poster to imply George W. Bush was a new Hitler.

The march itself was nice. I went alone. A sunny day--sharp edges along the route were etched in yellows and marchers were mostly washed in delightful highlights, reflections from buildings and direct sun from... the Sun.  A delegate from the RNC commented to me that standing down-wind from 'the hippies' might fry nose-hair, but negativity was mostly ignored.

Except for one pocket of protesters. They were well-meaning, I'm sure, but they were jabbing Bush-as-Hitler posters into the sky as if they wanted the sky to bleed. FOX News used these protesters, later, as evidence that the Left had become unhinged. What FOX didn't show you was that a lot of others attempted to intervene, attempted to explain the demonstration wasn't helping. Nazi is a specific thing. Godwinning is not, in fact, winning.

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All these years later, and people are still defending racist iconography. People still forget what Nazis were like, and what the South was like, and what George Wallace, standing in a school door, was like. You can use the iconography in an ironic way, a genuine way, or a rebellious way: in the end, that shit is just an insult to unity and peace. If a symbol means so much to you that you're angry about its removal, then you clearly do not have the stomach to understand most of history.

+++

Today, a State senator from South Carolina, during a debate over the removal of the stupid flag at the State Capital, tried to turn the discussion to marriage equality. The Senator bemoaned the fact that just a few weeks prior, the White House was draped in "the abomination colors".

Flags. What gets me about the discussion right now--the discussion about Confederacy, about homosexuality, about legitimacy--is that most people really, truly feel George Wallace, for all his faults and regardless of his regionalism, was correct: Right or wrong, he took a stand. He stood up for what he believed, and was shot down, and we should celebrate that.

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George Wallace, and the Confederacy, did not take an actual stand. You know what's difficult to do?

Continue to explain there are good people in the South, when the evidence keeps creeping in the other direction.  Southerners: For the love of god, let the flag go.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Scalia with a Fringe on Top

So, in fifth grade, I got a perm. Probably not the best choice,  I admit, but I'd had straight hair all my 11 years, and wondered what it would be like to have curly hair. Most all the characters I loved in literature had curly hair. My hair just hung around as if it were a shawl, or a veil, or some sort of thing so unnoticeable that narrators would've called me 'the brown-haired kid' and moved on to the next paragraph.

It was--in those books--the curly-haired, the blonde, the red-heads, that got some special note. They remained in the narrator's story long after the poor, ancillary, unremarkable straight-haired/brown-haired characters were dismissed.

So. Fifth grade. Permed. I went to school and was instantly ridiculed.

To be fair to all who called me names: It was a terrible choice. My hair looked like fettuccine put in a broiler. It looked like I'd hit puberty on my scalp. It looked like I'd been pampered at a spa run by an insane Frenchman. The best thing about a perm is that it does not live up to its name.

Still. My attempt to connect with characters in books who were different--and more notable--than the boring brown-haired guy was when a classmate called me 'Girly.' And not as an adverb either--classmates meant 'girly' as a pronoun.

Example: "For my last pick in this game of dodgeball, I'll go with girly."

Another example: "For my last pick of sitting with anyone during lunch, I'll go with girly."

Another example: "For my last pick of stealing a jacket, I'll go with girly."

But I'm not bitter.

Some years later, still aware of how boring having straight, brown hair was, I attempted to dye my hair blonde. I even had the same perm-ologist bleach out my hair, because small towns are like that: once someone knows your roots, you trust them.

Hair like mine--roots like mine--do not easily bleach.

Thing about that attempt to bleach my hair: It was the eve of my first date with Greg. I'd met Greg, my husband, at a LGBTQ event a few weeks before, and decided I wanted to get to know him better. Possibly "know him" in the Biblical sense, but I certainly was drawn to him. We'd hit it off on our first meeting but I worried I didn't interest him. To show Greg I was someone he should remember in the narrative of his own life, I went blonde. And when I showed up at his door for our first date, he laughed.

So, like, going back to the time in fifth grade where I perm'd my hair and everyone made fun of me? That was a better experience than meeting the love of your life for a date, and having blonde hair, and hearing laughter. "What is this?" Greg asked, doing a vague gesture towards my head.

"I, uh, don't know how long I'll have hair," I said, "so I thought I'd try out being blonde."

"But it's orange."

"I, uh, it took three clenses to get it this color."

And only three months to grow back to the regular color.

To sum up: I'd be a boring character in a YA novel; Perms are not, thank god, permanent; Greg does not like me as a blonde, but does love me anyway; and this:

June, 2015 is perhaps the most amazing month in a generation. So many awful things have been turned into so many useful things--and it is rare that an awful thing has a good outcome. But here we are: tragedy has been turned into a movement against hate. It's true that there's a long way to go, but don't believe the people who say perms are permanent. Time may straighten the permanent, and I don't believe in the arc of the moral universe. But I do believe that we all bend towards goodness. Girly or not, we all want kindness, peace, hippie applesauce and solid roots.

Also: did you ever think you'd see this? Roots go deeper than you can imagine.



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