Bett Norris

Perspectives

The Leaving of It

I am an old woman with few regrets and a shaky memory. I invented a theme, a thread that runs through my family history, to amuse myself. I admit that I use faint reminiscences to give comfort in my old age, to soothe loneliness, and to stir up outrage among any remaining relatives. While the younger generation may read it and laugh, I hope that the reaction of my own generation includes indignation and thoughts of lynching. If you want the bees to come out, poke the hive with a stick.

So I poke and prod at the secrets and lies that are the shaky foundation of a finer background than my family actually lived.

I know the real foundation is strong. I know because I am strong, and I want everyone to know where that strength came from. That real source of will is where the true pride of the family should hang its hat.

Those of my age will imagine the hat as one of frills and lace worn by Southern ladies of refinement and background. I picture it as an old gray Fedora with sweat lines and the dirt of hard work staining it, making it darker than the dark-skinned, silent men who wore them, darker than the family will ever admit.

Family legends say that the men of the Morgan family were genteel and distanced from the hard labor of growing crops, removed from the humble beginnings of their ancestors, who arrived on the American soil every bit as early as DAR predecessors, even if subsequent events excluded them from such company, in fact if not in their own perceptions.

My daddy was one of those lean, silent men. I can barely remember him without a hat. His hair was black and very thin. Mama would sit him in a straight back chair in the kitchen with a towel around his neck and cut his hair and shave him. I have that image in my head. I realized as an adult that Mama probably shaved him on a Saturday or Sunday morning after he had indulged in a night of heavy drinking. Daddy’s hands probably shook too much to trust him with a razor.

As a child, I remember playing with that razor. It was the classic single blade with a silver holder that opened like a draw bridge. I would play with the turn screw at the bottom, watching the two halves raise and lower. Daddy had a pair of wire rim glasses he kept in a hard case with felt on the inside. Mama kept them in the bottom of her bedroom chest of drawers. The ears and wings of those glasses were flexible wire. You could bend them into any shape and straighten them out again. I never saw Daddy wear them. I wonder if they were issued to him in the Army.

Daddy served four years during World War Two, all of it in the Panama Canal Zone, an essential stronghold for the Allies, and a prime target for the enemy. He got promoted to TEC Four, with sergeant chevrons. I believe he was a cook. I have pictures of him in uniform. In one photo, he is standing outside the officers’ club, playing his fiddle. In another, he is sitting, with his elbow propped up on a pith helmut.

Dog Days

I must have asked my mama every year why the sultry days of summer are called dog days. She said it was because it got so hot that the dogs crawled under the house and were good for nothing. Actually, the ancient Romans named the period from around July twenty fourth through August twenty fourth. It had to do with the Dog Star Sirius. In my part of the country, that’s southern Alabama, dog days seem to start around July fourth and last until after Labor Day. It is a time when it is so hot and muggy that the air you breathe seems heavy, not crisp and clean the way the air is in the spring, and in the fall, and in what little winter we have.

So according to my personal history, we are still in the midst of dog days. I can remember the dogs under the house, because sometimes I crawled under there with them. They dug little bowls to sleep in. I tried it, and the dirt was cooler when you dig down into it.

Dog days was also the time you had to watch out for hydrophobia. The Romans believed this was a time of evil, and sacrificed a dog to appease Sirius. They thought the Dog Star made animals crazy. I know for a fact that dogs do get crazy, start walking sideways, and foam at the mouth. They mostly call it rabies today, but the ancient Romans named it hydrophobia, which means dreading water. If you ever see a dog that won’t take a drink in the hottest part of summer, and it starts twitching and walking like it can’t control where it’s going, then that’s a mad dog.

I am not opposed to shooting a mad dog if it will ward off craziness. Looking back at my family history, I would do better to skip the canine sacrifice and shoot the crazy person. Lord knows there’s been enough crazy folks in my line of descent. Mama said once, “If you can’t kill ‘em with kindness, just shoot ‘em.”

I am old now, prone to ailments and debilitations, but also filled with the beautiful truth that I can do just about any damn thing I want to, because I’m old. In Mama’s older years, she carried a little pistol in her purse, a five shot revolver, .22 caliber.

“It’s not funny.” That’s what I have been saying to everybody my whole life, whenever something happens to me that could not happen to anybody else, whenever I say something and I am deadly serious but people laugh anyway. Like the time I fell up the stairs and dislocated my left thumb. That’s not funny, it really happened. I was going up the stairs into work, with a mug of coffee in one hand, my purse in the other, and who can walk in high heels, really? Some things are just not funny, and it’s mean, or at least rude to laugh.

Then there are some things that happen that are so mixed up and not right that the only thing you can do is laugh, I guess. Like the time Mama pulled out her gun. I didn’t know they made pistols that little. It looked tiny enough to be a cigarette lighter, like the art deco table lighters they made back when. I had a collection of those once, lighters set in fine crystal, lighters shaped like golf balls in silver, table ornaments made to match with fancy cigarette cases kept on coffee tables when everybody smoked. It was once fashionable and sophisticated.

When Mama whipped that little .22 five-shot pistol out of her purse, I thought she was pulling my leg, that it was really one of those cigarette lighters. But it was real. I was driving at the time, and I almost ran right off the road.

  At one time, when cars were still a novelty and a luxury, people went for Sunday drives. That what Mama and I were doing, I assumed, until the pistol brandishing and the dancing on graves started. Mama bears grudges for a long time. The grave was that of a long ago schoolmate of Mama’s, a girl who had been mean to her, I guess. When we found it, out in the woods, in an untended cemetery on a bluff overlooking the Alabama River, Mama fairly cackled and did a jig right on the grave after I read the headstone to her.

  Here’s why people laugh when I tell them about the pistol. Forgetting the context of the story, they laugh because Mama couldn’t see, due to macular degeneration. So the fact of her carrying a sidearm for my protection is what made them laugh. It made me break out in a cold, clammy sweat.

  Now that Mama is gone, I often wonder what happened to the little pistol she kept in her purse along with her daddy’s old pocket knife, her nail clippers, tweezers, cigarettes, lipstick, wallet, Certs,  and all the other things that I would sometimes play with when I was a child. I should have kept on inspecting the contents into my adulthood, apparently. That gun had white fake pearl grips. It was cute. Wish I had it now to add to my collection of ugly table lighters. No one would know the difference.

  In my old age the love and yearning for shooting has returned, and I can indulge myself. I wish I had Mama’s little gun, just for sentimental reasons, but I like to shoot. I can sit on my back porch right now and shoot up a storm. I retired to the country, and almost everybody around here has weapons, for shooting snakes and other dangerous creatures, and in case any mad dogs come around. This is more likely than you think. A lot of people don’t get their dogs spayed, and they have puppies, and none of them get rabies vaccinations. There is a chance that I might get to shoot a mad dog still.

I must state that Mama used a hoe to kill snakes. She sharpened her own hoes, and you could slice your finger open with one. It worked nicely for chopping the heads off of rattlers.

I asked for a .22 rifle every birthday and Christmas. I told long stories about how I could shoot squirrels, or turkeys, and thus contribute to the family provisions. Of all my brothers and sisters, Daddy must of thought I was the one most like Mama, so he wisely resisted every time I begged.

There was a wildness in me. I was always running in the woods, playing at cowboys and Indians. I was influenced by reading all of Daddy’s Western novels, Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. Like some kids yearn for a horse, and read things like National Velvet and then grow out of it, I read all those skinny paperback novels of the West, and desperately wanted a firearm.

When we went to town, I would go straight to the ten cent store and look at the cap guns and holsters. That was what I got for Christmas. I wore that gun belt all the time when I wasn’t in school. They never made one real enough to suit me. When I was allowed to have a BB gun, we had battles in the woods, shooting each other indiscriminately. Back then, we didn’t have air rifles or any sort of propellant like they sell now, so it didn’t hurt very much. If you got hit with a BB, it might have stung a little, and you wouldn’t want to shoot anybody in the eye. We would come home with little red marks all over. That was a lot of fun.

Brooding Irish

We called my mother’s mama MoMo. I don’t know why. MoMo was dark-skinned. Her palms were pink. That was the “Indian” blood showing. She was a Lynn before she married, and the Lynns and the Huckabees were all dark-skinned. Dark skin, dark eyes, dark mood, like they all were holding onto to some tragedy from generations of sad, beaten people. Like the Irish, they were quick to laugh and drink and sing, in the face of unending struggles to make it through one more planting season, one more harvest, one more sad generation of poverty and lost hopes.

Escape to America, fetch up in the deep piney woods of southwest Alabama, settle along the slow-moving Tombigbee, and proceed then to live as impoverished and beaten down as ever they did in the old country. With a bit more freedom, a bit more land earned through homesteading, an astonishing program where the government gave them land instead of taking it away.

That mix of brooding Irish and long-suffering Indian created a strain of displacement and disenfranchisement, including a sort of self-deprecating humor and low expectations that runs through all my people today.

Artissma Hill, she was, the first white lady born on American soil, the matriarch who married into this stew of dissatisfaction and high humor. Artissma was my great-great, great grandmother on my daddy’s side, the Morgans. She was also my great grandmother, three more greats added, on my mother’s side. Artissma had two daughters, one, Margaret (Granny Mag she was called) who married a Morgan, and one, Annie, who married a Huckabee. Morgans married Huckabees, Lynns married Huckabees, so Artissma is my grandmother on both sides of the family. Somehow, I am related to myself.

Some say the term black Irish came from blood mixed with invaders, Vikings or Spanish, who settled in Ireland and raised black-haired offspring. Others say the term came from the Irish masses who emigrated after the eighteen forty seven potato famine, caused by a blight which turned the potatoes black. I believe the term refers not to ancestral strains or blighted potatoes but to the gloomy, morose mood so many Irish seem to have. I tend toward a dark view of life myself.

Mama always maintained that the brown eyes and skin came from the Indian blood in us. I think Mama engineered more facts than she knew. A hard woman who lived a hard life, and raised nine children, she sought romanticism the same way others seek the truth. When she looked at her brood, half of us blue-eyed, half of us dark, she must have wanted us to feel the dignity of the “Noble Savage”, the patience of the decimated tribes, rather than the alcoholic doom of the Irish. As it happens, we have both. So we drink and we sing and we despair.

I wonder what Artissma Hill, she was, would have thought of us Morgans, mixed blood, mixed heritage. Would she have clung to the notion of imagined wealth, cotton, slaves, and land? Would Artissma, born in the Carolinas in seventeen eighty, acknowledge the dark side of her mongrel descendents?

The branch of the Morgans who settled in north Alabama kept their bloodlines true. They would have been favored, I’m sure. What would the genteel Artissma think of the bare-footed, loose-limbed, squirrel-and-catfish-eating southern branch of her family tree? I think she might have snipped and pruned us right out.

MoMo used to dip snuff. Back then, I’m talking a long time ago now, it came in nice juice glasses, smooth on the outside with swirls on the inside of the jar. My Aunt Swannie, she chewed tobacco. They used the same brand, Beechnut Sweet Tobacco and Snuff. The tobacco came in a foil pouch with diagonal red and white stripes. Sometimes my mama would dip or chew with them, but she mostly smoked Pall Malls. And sometimes, they would give me a little dip to put between my lip and gum. I actually liked chewing the sweet tobacco, cut into soft strips that you could work around in your mouth until it was just right, moist enough and giving off a tingle. It was fun to work up a spit. If the men chewed tobacco, it would be from a compressed block of shredded stuff, not sweet like my Aunt Swannie’s. They would whittle a little slice off the two inch square, chew on it a while to soften it up until they got a comfortable wad in their jaws.

We would all be sitting outside under the trees where it was cooler, in the deep shade. We brought the kitchen chairs, ladderbacks, and put them right in the yard. It didn’t seem as hot to me then, not as hot as the grown up women made it seem. They swatted flies, fanned themselves, and occasionally they would spit to the side. Once in a while, MoMo would call out, “You young ‘uns git out of that road,” pronouncing “road” with two syllables, like “ro-ad.” Our mothers were happy to leave the child-watching to their mother for a while. It must have been hot, and dry, because I still recall watching the glob of tobacco or snuff juice hit the ground, and the way it formed edges all the way around, with the powdery dust trying to build a dam, a ring of dryness around the wet blob. Usually, the dry dam worked, and the tobacco juice wound up changing from dark brown wet stuff to a gray dusty circle on the ground.

I never knew my Aunt Swannie’s real name until long after I was grown. You’d think I would have been more curious. I just thought that Swannie was her name. It kind of made sense, because my grandma’s real name was Birdie. Mama told me Aunt Swannie’s real name. One of those boys’ names they turn into a girl name. My mama had one too. Mama’s name was Earline, and Aunt Swannie’s name was Geraldine. Mama said they started out calling her Duck when she was a baby because she was fat and waddled like a duck when she walked. But MoMo wouldn’t let that name stick, because Aunt Swannie had a slight hump in her back, and MoMo thought a nickname like Duck might cause her some trouble when she started school. She re-nicknamed her Swannie, and the bend in a swan’s neck matched perfectly with the curve in Aunt Swannie’s back. I thought they might have agreed to the switch because of the expression, “Well, I swannie,” which translates to “I never heard of such as that.” And Aunt Swannie could make you think that way about five times a day.

Aunt Swannie was simple-minded, and I mean that in the best possible way. She had a simple soul, and a sweet outlook on life, and never believed or said anything mean about anyone.

I remember those sneaky tastes of snuff and tobacco, and I always associate that sweetish, old, musty smell with my grandma, Birdie Lynn she was, before she married Carl Buckalew.

I like to believe that I never got into trouble unless one of my mean cousins visited. My mother is one of six siblings who all in turn produced a bounty of children, not all of the same quality. Like my cousin Carol Anne, with an e, who wanted to be called Caroline, rhymes with lime. She was sneaky mean, pretty manners in front of the grownups, but always the first one to suggest something to do with lying, stealing, hiding, pinching, or some other nasty behavior I would never indulge in if left on my own. I distinctly recall one visit, where we kids hung around the adults just long enough to be shooed away, which we took to imply vast freedoms as long as we stayed out of sight and nobody got hurt. Carol Anne first separated us out from the younger kids, as smoothly as an old cowhand cutting calves from the herd. I believe her talent for this lay in the fact that even the toddlers recognized her as crazy mean.

Next she would suggest something like, pull down your panties, and then I will. Let’s crawl in through the window and get cigarettes out of your mama’s purse, which we did, and she also took a dime, I think. Somewhere along the sneaky time together, she managed to bring pain into it, pinching with fingernails to see who could stand to receive the reddest marks without crying, or something along those lines. There would be some risk involved, as in the thieving of cigarettes. I dare you to run down this steep hill as fast as you can, at the bottom of which is a small creek and huge brambles of briars, blackberry vines with thorns as vicious as roses.

When you accept a dare, you can’t then say it was anybody’s fault that you wound up bleeding, scratched, and wet. Carol Anne knew that. In her sneakiness and meanness, she clung to those singular childhood codes of honor like a Supreme Court justice. We were the same age, but Carol Anne seemed older, at least in her motivations, which were inexplicable to me, with my simple way of looking at things. If you have a guest, you play whatever she wants to play, and if she is are crazy enough to stir up hornets’ nests, then you just have to run very fast, and hope the visit ends soon, while secretly praying that your cousin should get caught, just once.

I remember good things too, like the adults sitting on the front porch talking and smoking, dipping and spitting, while we kids ran through the yard in an afternoon thunderstorm, sliding on the grass, splashing in puddles that dried up almost as soon as the rain did. I remember running, never walking, playing until dark, and then running some more in crazy circles catching fireflies.

What I don’t like to recall is getting punished for doing some of Carol Anne’s crazy stuff, while she stood by her mama and didn’t get punished. Mama knew I only did those things when Carol Anne was around, and she only spanked me to shame her sister into switching Carol Anne, but that never happened. After the company left, Mama would be nicer to me to make up for being mad at her sister.

I can still smell the afternoon rain, that peculiar whiff of dust turning back to dirt, the rising smell of green as leaves and flowers drank in the water, and I can hear the gurgle of it streaming off the tin roof of the porch in a sheet that hid the grownups from view. We set out buckets to catch the rain water, so we wouldn’t have to haul water from the creek. So that must have been before we dug the well. I still can’t decipher whether it was before or after Jack the mule died.

What I am thinking of is probably several visits combined into one, so when the mule died wouldn’t be any sort of point of reference to a single afternoon where all these things happened. Though I can’t be sure that all of it didn’t happen exactly this way, on each visit, the sameness of them all making it seem like one long, hot, humid, rainy afternoon, with lowering skies and distanced adults and bare feet slipping, sliding in mud and green grass, and catching fireflies. I can sit and watch the fireflies now, on my own back porch, and they remind me that my pursuits were always simple, and it took me all these decades to get back to it.

Why I Won’t Buy Mary Trump’s Book, or, I’m Just Not That Into Him

When I heard about this book, written by a close relative, a true insider, and by someone who is a clinical psychologist, I was excited. This is going to be good, I thought. Juicy family history, like his dad used to beat his little bare bottom, so that’s why he is so cruel. Maybe this book would explain why he raped underage girls, why he treats all women like commodities. I’d get all the information on all the family infighting over money, wills, property. I could find out if he really is a sociopath, a pathological liar, if Jeffrey Epstein and Putin really did have enough to blackmail him into oblivion.

Hard, irrefutable evidence of the man’s truly depraved indifference to everything that doesn’t affect him. A psychologist who has observed him for all her life could tell us that he definitely is a racist, a narcissist, a misogynist, and just how ignorant he really is. I began imagining family dinners revealing Fred Trump’s manipulations.

I eagerly watched the first couple of interviews Mary Trump did on television. I listened to her calmly, almost unemotionally tell us that he really did use the n word. She was un emotional when she said he is certainly the most dangerous man in the world, certainly capable of cheating, lying, bribing his way to re-election, more than likely to refuse to accept defeat.

Then, I decided not to read the book. I’m tired of him, and everything to do with him. I can’t stand the sound of his voice, can’t watch his press conferences Virus updates, speeches. I am heartily sick of this man, and I don’t care any more.

I’m not just tired, I am weary. I am bone tired, soul weary, ready to lie down until he is gone. Three more months. I count down the days until November 3rd. I can hold on for three more months, right?

Even if he sends unidentified federal agents from unidentified federal agencies in unmarked rented vans into Portland. I can wait.

Even though, still, there are children held in custody, separated from their parents, under conditions we would complain about in animal shelters. Hold on till November, then vote.

When he pulled out of Syria, and let the Turks stroll across the border, swallow up miles of territory as a “buffer” zone, leaving thousands of Kurds to be killed or removed, not to mention hundreds if ISIS prisoners behind, breaking our word and promise to our allies, leaving the field, further deconstructing our standing in the world, I said I would respond with my vote.

When he used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters so he could walk across the street for a truly bizarre photo op, I gritted my teeth and thought, not much longer. I can stand it.

When he said the BLM movement didn’t know what they were protesting about, just people following a crows, it barely ticked me off. Because counting the days until the election.

When he pushed to reopen schools, so parents can go back to work, save the economy, and his re-election, I thought no responsible parent, no concerned local school board would even consider it. Then he shut down the White House cafeteria when one worker tested positive, sent everyone for contact tracing, quarantined anyone possibly exposed. And canceled his Jacksonville RNC convention because, you know, the out-of-control virus.

Something happens to my heart when I hear him speak. I can’t look at his face. We are almost done with him. Just one hundred more days.

I find it hard to say his name. I choke on the title of his elected position.

It’s different this time. Everybody says so. This is not like the pop, fizzle of the Mueller Report. Not like the doomed impeachment. People are in the streets, and they will stay in the streets, until we get fair policing, equal justice. Right? Stay in the streets until Election day.

John Lewis died, a man who was a personal hero for me. He was born and raised in Alabama, not too far from where I grew up. He was the third of ten children of a sharecropper. I am the fourth of ten children born to poor white parents who, yes, at one time, did sharecropping for a farmer named Fortner Agee. Lewis became one of the youngest leaders of the civil rights movement, an original Freedom Rider, president of SNCC, one of the organizers of the March on Washington, as well as a participant of the Selma to Montgomery march for voter registration. Many times, I’ve driven across that bridge where John Lewis along with many others got beaten. Wondered every time what it was like for those long ago marchers. How they found the courage to stand there, to be beaten, and not fight back.

I wonder now how the current protesters in our streets calmly face the police, the unidentified, unwelcome agents who shoot tear gas and rubber bullets and flash bangs. And I ask, who are these people, having lived through the television images of dogs, horses, fire hoses, billy clubs and boots, how can whoever these anonymous troopers are advance against mothers in yellow T shirts?

Just because we are in the middle of a pandemic that might kill me before I get to Election Day, I stay home, wear a mask when I have to go out, wash my hands, and pray: dear God, please let me live long enough to vote. I can’t march in the streets. I’m too old, too crippled, and too scared. But please, let me vote.

So my heart hurts. I don’t want to hear any more about what he said, what he did. I don’t want to read about him any more. I just want to vote.

John LewisI will vote

The Feasting Virgin

 

The Feasting Virgin by Georgia Kolias

The Feasting Virgin

I absolutely loved this book. I feel heavy and full, like I ate too much, and light and excited, like I just discovered something important, and I can’t wait to tell about it. I’ve read books before that centered around food, cooking, the kitchen, but this one has got to be the best, in terms of the writing, which is excellent, nuanced and steady, like those Greek dances you see, where they start out so slowly and seriously, but then it gets faster, and joyful, and then serious again.
The Feasting Virgin is also the best at drawing characters so you can see and hear each one. They are immediate and real. Kolias goes overboard headfirst into cooking, until the reader is swimming in extra virgin olive oil, infused with garlic, simmering in sauces, floating in marinating lamb and chicken, smothered in buttery layers of filo. Okay, I give up. Let me just say, you may gain weight just by reading this delicious book.
Callie is a person who tries her best. When she gets pregnant accidentally from a man she has known barely a month, she tries. She tries to be a good mother, tries to learn Gus’s Greek culture, tries to create a family unit. Succeeding at only the first goal, she enlists the help a Greek lady named Xeni to teach her to cook Greek food. In a hurry, because Gus’s mother is coming from Greece to visit.
So ensues a tangle of relationships, mishaps, misapprehensions and mistakes, enough to fill a Jane Austen comedy of communal expectations, hilarious cultural endeavors, and some really ingenious inexplicable intertwinings of love, lust, redemption, forgiveness, renewal. I haven’t had so much fun reading a book in years. 

Grumpy Old Men

I feel surrounded by them. Trump, Sanders, Biden.

Grumpy

 

I’m holding onto my ballot here in Florida, waiting to see what Warren will do. I’ve never been a supporter of Bernie (long list of reasons) and I think Warren comes much closer to getting those ideas of writing off student debt, universal healthcare and childcare, and lots of other things, done. After all, she has a plan. I will get behind whoever gets the nomination. But Bernie better watch out and play fair. Frankly I can’t trust a man who claims to be a democratic socialist but who sounds too much like a stubborn, opinionated, grumpy old man to ever actually get anything done. That said, Trump has got to go. Period. I will support any coalition to get that done. Joe actually can do a lot to restore our standing with allies, with our voting system, and make a lot of headway on the cleanup after Trump. 4 years of being able to breather easy and restore some faith in the justice Dept sounds good, a pause, a reset button, and in 2024, people who like Bernie’s ideas but not his irascibility and defensiveness may get a shot at transforming this country. Still, my heart breaks for Warren, Harris, even Hilary Clinton. Warren has the best mind and the best heart in the field. I would have loved to see her dismantle Trump. If Bernie gets the nomination we don’t know yet who he may choose as his VP, and we don’t yet know who Biden will pick either.

There’s been lots talk (rumors, wishful thinking) about Biden choosing Stacey Abrams. Or about Sanders choosing Warren as his running mate. I don’t really support either fantasy. If Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, he has a history of pouting, crying wolf, being less than supportive of the nominee. I don’t think two progressives in the white will make it any easier to get moderates on board the wholesale change train.

I think Abrams would accept the offer from Biden, but even though she is smart and a great speaker, I don’t know if she brings any help to the ticket. Biden already has the strong support from the base. And as smart as she is, Abrams does not have the relationships with Congress to help with legislation and Biden has all the experience he needs there. Like wise, choosing another moderate like Klobuchar doesn’t pull anything into the coalition. My fantasy dream team might be a Biden/Warren ticket. That may or may not make Bernie supporters come over.

Sanders choosing Warren as a running mate just won’t help him at all. Except that she could go a long way toward bridging the gap between Sanders’ unlikeability and maybe help him get some things passed. Neither would Sanders’ choosing a moderate for the ticket help him win over those moderates who are already too skeptical of his blatant ambition to fall for this kind of blatant appeal. I still believe that Trump will cut Sanders into little bitty pieces.

If I have to vote for Sanders in November, it may just be the last time I cast a ballot in this country I love so dearly.  Because if Bernie loses, as I suspect he will, then I’m not going to live here another 4 years through the increasing load of bullshit, the dangerous rhetoric, the demolishing of our standing with allies, the lying and cheating and the deliberate destruction of the Justice Dept, the State Department, and other cabinet agencies, as well as see more and more unqualified lifetime appointments to the federal bench.

Sure Plays a Mean Pinball

tommy

Sometimes, that’s exactly how I feel, like I’m playing pinball blind, with a rigged machine. I love Edie Falco. I’d probably watch her read the classified section of the newspaper. So, I’ve watched every episode of her (major network) show “Tommy.” Let me be clear: this is no “Nurse Jackie.”

I wish I could recommend the show, I really do. There are few things that distinguish it from dozens of other bland network police shows, other than the sharp presence of Edie Falco. It has the twisty twists and quirky quirks of most network dramas, such as: Tommy’s the new police commissioner of LAPD, and she’s a lesbian, a fact mentioned only once in the pilot episode, then dropped like a hot potato. She’s from the NYPD, where she would never have been made commissioner because of an assault charge, she has a grown, bi-racial daughter who resents her. Most of the force she now commands resent her too, because she’s New York, lesbian, and a woman. She has those quirky assistants that are supposed to support her against their better judgment. You know this drill. We have all seen these shows.

But, also, even though, and in spite of all that. I wish the show had better writing, so that I don’t have to depend so much on my love of anything with Edie Falco, so that I wouldn’t have to read the depth of character in her face, in every weary sigh, every nuanced silence. Because, Lord knows, Falco’s got all that down. The character of the mayor has a few layers to it, like is he a good guy, or just another shifty politician. Her director of communications also shows some murkiness. The scenes with Tommy’s grown daughter sometimes pull the heartstrings, and I’m sure every working mother has sometimes had to wade through the anger and tears caused by “your job’s more important than me” arguments. It is a pleasure to watch Falco’s face as she patiently waits through yet another confrontation with a neglected daughter, until the tears come, before her daughter accedes that she does love and still needs her mother, acknowledges that having an important job is, well, important. See the trailer below.

Tommy

The plots are too predictable. This show will plod its weary way through the season, and sigh its weary last sigh. And I will watch every episode, glean every morsel of subtlety and layered response, read to me through Edie Falco’s eyes. Thus my yearning for something more from her weighs on her shoulders just like the safety of the city, the neglected daughter’s inevitable outbursts, the resentment of the entire force she commands. But those shoulders, those eyes, that face that says, I’ve been to the dance and found it lacking, I’ve heard all the complaints and did my job anyway, because, so what? It’s always hard for women who expect to have careers, and raise children, and do better than the men to get further along. Somebody will always be looking at you with needs you have yet to meet. Somebody will always be damning with faint praise, implying that you are adequate, but a man would do better. Because they are all grown children with resentment. So you listen, until they stop crying, admit their demands are impossible, and begrudge the success you’ve fought for.

Sort of like Tommy, you sure play a mean pinball, Edie Falco. You do more with the inadequate resources you’ve been given. “What makes him so good? He ain’t got no distractions.” Deaf, dumb, and blind, no writing, no directing, no supporting cast, you sure can handle that.
All lyrics quoted from “Tommy” written by Peter Townshend, the Who, 1969.

EdieEdie 2

 

So Here’s the Thing

The other day, I responded to a comment on one of my relatives’ pages. They posted that the Bernie Sanders Medicare for all plan would raise a middle class family’y taxes by 52%. So, I had to speak up. I don’t like getting into political arguments with relatives. It makes me feel bad. But,I promised myself that I will stay engaged no matter what, because I really believe our government is at risk.

Here’s the thing. I don’t like Bernie Sanders. I’m not voting for him in the primary. I think he is a grumpy old man who shouts out the same things over and over. I don’t doubt his sincerity, I don’t believe he is a socialist or a communist, and he does make some good points. But he is a windbag full of ideals with no concrete plans to achieve them. But there is too much disinformation and out right lies and too many good and civic-minded people repeating them.

So I directed this person to Bernie’s web site and the white paper about Medicare for all. While I do not think there is a chance in a million, even if Democrats win back the Senate, that something like that will get passed.

I watched Amy Klobuchar get a big boost from her debate in New Hampshire. Then I watched Elizabeth Warren come out spitting red-hot nails at Bloomberg, pinning him to the floor. I think Warren will get a boost from that. She has spent her entire career bulldogging facts and throwing them out at her opponents like spears. Then I saw that she was left out of a poll, for no reason, and that some articles didn’t even mention her in covering the campaign.

I’ve seen Kamala Harris do the same things in Senate hearings. I’ve watched Nancy Pelosi corral her caucus, hold them in check, then turn them loose on impeachment a pack of rabid hounds on a mission she knew would fail. I watched how she worked so hard to win back a majority in the House, only to have some of her own, whom she helped elect, turn on her as maybe too old, or too traditional, too something to serve as Speaker. One by one, she approached, gave them a little lesson about what it really means to be Speaker, and she got her gavel back.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Kristen Gillibrand. Stacey Abrams. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Katie Porter. Maxine Waters. Ayanna Pressley, Jackie Speier, Val Demings. A long list of women, old and young, long-serving and rookies.

The list goes on, all the way back to Eleanor Roosevelt, Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. Rosa Parks. Fannie Lou Hamer. Amanda Boynton. Ida B. Wells.

So, I come from a long line of determined, pissed-off women. We all do. Women, who birthed babies, nursed and raised them, and who picked cotton, walked picket lines, marched, protested, got themselves elected, or educated, or commissioned, and kept going after what they needed, wanted, from this country. Lucy McBath and Carolyn McCarthy.

Women hold the majority on the rolls of registered voters. Lots and lots of women, including those content to stay out of politics, are plenty fed up and pissed off with what has happened since 2015, when Trump descended those stairs to proclaim himself.

There are so many of us, sick of the privilege of mostly old white men to grab what they want, when they want, who stick together far beyond the hail-fellow-well-met boy’s clubs, fraternities, teammates; patriarchic, entitled, too afraid of losing status and power to actually expand it to include anyone who is other than they are.

Men have run this country of ours for two and a half centuries, and despite the best efforts of the best of them, their default position at the head of the table has led us to this: protecting and defending the indefensible to the point that we may not have a democratic republic left.

I think it is our turn now. I want to duplicate ten-fold the results of the 2018 mid terms. I don’t just want them to vote. I want to elect all the smart, well-prepared, fed-up, pissed-off women out there.

you all saw what Warren can do. Do you really think she can’t take down Donald Trump? Please. I have seen her make grown men want to cry. And Kamala Harris too. And Katie Porter. And AOC. And the Speaker. I say, vote. All of you, us, go out there and vote. Vote in McGrath, and vote out McConnell. Please. Vote them all out, those who colluded, those who stood silent. Let women run the government, just for a while.

Are women more decent, good, impassioned and empathetic than men? Yes, sometimes. Do you really think that a House and Senate made up of a majority of females would allow for one day what has been happening at our Southern border? Do you think a female president would be comfortable with breaking treaties with allies, with deserting them in the field of battle? Has anyone checked on Flint, Michigan lately? Would a simple majority of women allow water contaminated with lead to continue to poison babies and children?

Do you think a Congress and an Administration full of women would allow children to be afraid of getting shot in school? I’m pretty sure a government of women, by women, for women would have demolished the political power of the NRA as casually as my mother used to stand between us and a snake while she calmly chopped its head off with her hoe. (She kept it sharpened herself.)

It was mostly women who started the Montgomery bus boycott. Mostly women who walked, all the long days and months, up and down those hills in Montgomery. Millions of women, all over the country and the world, took to the streets on January 21, 2017. Millions of kids marched for their lives after seventeen were shot and killed in Parkland Florida.

If men have held the reins of power for two and a half centuries, and messed things up so bad that neighbors, friends, and relatives can’t even talk bout this state of affairs without rancor, I think it is about time we let some women take over the driver’s seat. We can’t possibly do worse, and we have a lot of experience doing the hard things, and so much experience t cleaning up other people’s messes that most of us do that while we make out our shopping list, fold the laundry, do the dishes, run the vacuum cleaner, oh, and rejoin the Paris agreement, and slam Russia with a few more targeted sanctions directed at the oligarchs who mostly support and depend on Putin. Yeah, we can do that, and make lists of ways to re-united children separated from their parents at the border, appoint somebody really good to the State Department, reverse the tax break for kabillionaires and corporations. (We’re looking at you, Amazon!) While we’re in a mood, let’s find who thought up those stupid rules for the College Football Playoffs, and politely suggest they take up another hobby. I’m thinking Kamala Harris either for the Supreme Court, or Attorney General. IDK.

IDK, Too Much?

So, I got into a discussion with somebody that I know and love, and this person said they will be voting for Trump again. They said Trump may not speak well in public, but he does get results. Okay, so here is my response: “I’m not exactly sure what results you are referring to that Trump has produced. The result of making our allies not trust the word of the US; the result of separating thousands of children from their parents; the result of the largest deficit in he nation’s history, the result of the largest tax break for corporations and billionaires? Maybe the result of the lowest GDP in the last century? Or do you en making”trade deals” that cost farmers billions? How about rolling back the clean water and clean air regs? That was a good one. Or how about the result of letting oil companies drill on public lands? I wonder what results I need to thank Trump for? Regardless of Trump’s results, I still prefer to vote for someone, anyone, who has at least read the Constitution, someone who understands and respects the law, someone who believes this already is the greatest country in the world instead of someone who has never seen the inside of a church, someone who bases foreign policy on that’s best for the country, instead of what’s best for his re-election. I’m just simple-, or single-minded. I’ll vote for someone who knows how to act right in public, I’ll vote for someone who is willing to work for the people who put him in office, not for himself. I will vote for someone who understands Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8.” IDK, too much?

Nottingham: The True Story of Robyn Hood – Anna Burke

Wonderful re-imagining of Robin Hood, fast-paced and captivating.

Not Me Anymore

Okay. This book broke me. It tore my heart out then proceeded very slowly to put it back. Very very slowly.

Nottingham is the second lesbian Robin Hood retelling I’ve read in less than six months. While Niamh Murphy’s Outlaw had a definite YA feel, Anna Burke’s Nottingham is all grownup.

An endless feud between the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robyn’s family sends her hiding in the Sherwood Forest, when all she was trying to do was care for her family. The woods are not safe for anyone, let alone a young woman, so she pretends to be a boy. When she stumbles onto John, an outlaw with his own secrets, he decides to stay with her instead of bringing her to the vicious Siward, who fancies himself the King of Sherwood. A hunting accident then leads the Sheriff’s daughter Marian to them.

And that’s all I’m going to write…

View original post 288 more words

For Starters

My nephew asked me this question: “Who is better than Trump?” I told him, he is. I am. Any decent person is. Below is my answer in full.

For starters, I am. You are too. Any number of people are. Trump has never seen the inside of a church, has never read the Bible or the Constitution, has cheated and failed at every business he started, filed bankruptcy 6 times, stole money from his own charitable foundation, ad infinitum. Any number of people are better than Trump. You would be better than Trump. I’m serious. Any sane, decent human being would be better. You know you are a better man than Trump will ever be.You are smarter than he is. You have more love in you than he does. You have more common sense than Trump. You are a father, and I believe that you would never lock children and babies in cages. If you believe in strict immigration enforcement, you might send lots of people back where they came from, but would you separate mothers and fathers from their children, or send them all back united as a family? You have better sense that that. Anybody does. Anybody with a high school diploma could do a better job at being president than the person who currently sits in the Oval Office. Trump’s lack of education, understanding, and empathy make him unqualified for the job he holds.

If you were president for a day, who would you give a tax break to? Dear nephew, you have a cousin who served in the Marines, did two tours in Afghanistan. President-for-a-Day, would you have left our Kurdish allies to be killed and pushed out by Turkey? As president, would you pick on a sixteen-year-old girl? If you were president, would you cheat to try to win re-election? Would you steal money from the defense budget to build a wall that could be easily bypassed by anyone with a ladder, or a shovel?

This is the game. If you, or I, or anybody else were president, would you appoint a Secretary of Education who does not believe in public education? Would you appoint a Secretary of Energy who takes money from oil companies? How about a Secretary of HUD who doesn’t believe in affordable public housing?

As president, would you refuse to release your tax returns? Would you cut a deal to sell arms to Saudi Arabia after they murdered and dismembered a journalist working for a US paper?

As president, would you refuse to read briefing books to prepare for meetings? Or would you be so driven to do the best you can for the country that you would gather all the information you could, and get advisors who are experts in their fields to help you?

This is not a game. And it is not fun. The current president is a bully, a cheat, and a liar. He is dangerous. He is not a good person with good intentions. This is not a game.

We Don’t Need Another Hero

 

Thoughts and Impressions on Robert Mueller’s testimony. He seemed hesitant, sometimes confused, and repeatedly referred to the report, as in “I stand by what’s contained in the report.” Mueller did himself no favors regarding his reputation, nor did he help the Democrats in their quest for the truth.

Even Jim Jordan found a relevant question to ask, which of course Mr. Mueller did not answer.

Could it be that Speaker Pelosi’s approach is the right one? Huh. We got ourselves into this mess. It seems we have no one else to blame, and no one else to turn to for help. We must extricate ourselves from the quagmire. We must drain the swamp. We, meaning all of us must rescue ourselves from an ineffective Congress, from a corrupt president, from the thunder dome of endless partisan bickering that has done more to send the government into dysfunction than Steve Bannon’s “deconstruction” theory ever could.

Nancy I think we need to start some deconstructing of our own. We can begin with the 2020 elections. Make it our job to turn this country around. You can still vote. The problem is, not enough registered voters do that. More people did not vote in 2016 than voted for either candidate. That means the “I don’t care” faction actually won, and the rest of us lost.

Next, make an informed decision about who you vote for. Forget about political parties. Strike Democrat, Republican, independent, progressive, conservative out of your thinking. If they have a track record, study it. Actions speak louder, right? If they don’t have a history, then study their exact words and proposals. If they promise they’re going to do something, do they say how?  Do all of this with the mindset that we are hiring them to do a job for us. Make a list of the jobs you want done. Find the candidate that explains best how they will do those jobs you want done.

Mueller and his report, and his feeble testimony, are not going to save us. That’s something we must do ourselves.

Maybe I am being too restrained. How on earth did people vote for a man like Trump? He lies, all the time, even when it doesn’t matter, even when the truth is demonstrable, knowable, provable.  A rich kid who, with his daddy’s money, managed to file bankruptcies several times, and rise from the ashes of each fiasco with planes, penthouses, gold plates and gold-plated chairs and fixtures,  with a younger, more beautiful wife, still able to attract financing for projects where he invariably cheats contractors, gets sued, pays pennies on the dollar. This is a man who has never read the Constitution or the Bible, never saw the  inside of a church, never attended a single 9/11 funeral, never saw a crooked deal he didn’t like, a man whose friends and acquaintances seem to all have trouble with ethics, morals, and the law. This is a petty, vindictive man who couldn’t let go of his hatred of President Obama, couldn’t let go of his demeaning of Senator John McCain even after death. He has locked children in cages, denied refuge to those legitimately seeking it, turned asylum seekers away from ports of entry, Tried to ban all Muslims from entering the country, backed Judge Roy Moore after he was accused of child molestation, denied knowing Jeffrey Epstein despite video, audio, and numerous news reports to the contrary. This is a person who promised to drain the swamps in Washington, and instead appointed Cabinet secretaries who were/are lobbyists who worked against the very agencies they now command. (See Steve Mnuchin at Treasury, Wilbur Ross at Commerce, Betsy Ross at Education, Mark Esper at Defense, and I could go on.)

And maybe, Robert Mueller was too restrained, by his own inability to disobey direct orders from the Attorney General, who is in ct no longer his boss, by his strict code of adhering to the letter of the law, even when it isn’t the law (See the OLC opinion that sitting presidents can’t be indicted, as well as the rules for the Special Council.)

In my opinion, the House Judiciary Committee’s time would have been better spent playing Simon Says with Mr. Mueller.

Turns out, we don’t really need Robert Mueller, or Congress, to save us. We can do that.

Real Heroes

 

 

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