Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Solstice Resolution







One yellow figure, there among
the piles of yesterday’s ambition,
counting, reconstructing plans
stacked so long ago.

The piles are high but sorted
into like things, femurs here
and there the scapula, here the teeth,
the bones of a fabulous creature.

The yard is on the flats beside
the still-fast-running river,
half a mile of sticks and stones
left piled there in the fall.


Cold and windy, shrouded with fog,
and still the figure moves
and plans to build and sees the future,
there among the parts. 

Can I call that future’s bluff?
There beside the river,
Mind stiff with the cold 
and frosted memory.

I can hardly do any less. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Talkin' about a Revolution, Oh-ohohoh ohoh. . .

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
William Butler Yeats


US citizens are not used to thinking about conflict. There has been no terror in the streets here for generations, nothing to cut our eyeteeth on that would let us predict such a future. Perhaps that is our real arrogance, that it can't happen to us. And yet, our Center has been openly and in-our-faces ripped apart, and the blood-dimmed tide is clearly loosened. Small worried echoes of martial law, containment centers, curfews are growing in volume; voices of disbelief and confusion. No one knows what this means yet. Few have attempted to analyze or describe how a country of 328 million souls could fall apart. Fascism on this scale has never been tried before, and the number of variables is enormous. 

You could start with the kind of questions we use when looking at a smaller state's turmoil in revolution: How much power resides with the Feds? How much with the states or regions? Where is the military's allegiance? What about militias? What regional alliances might come into play? Where are the "hot" spots and why? Could roads be closed? Airports? Could armed guards be in city streets? Which cities? Could there be food shortages? 

It is overwhelming to think about and just so not in our character. While there have always been survivalists, individuals and small groups who want to be ready for the apocalypse (of whatever kind), this core group has now snowballed into the "preppers." As a rapidly expanding market, US manufacturers have jumped right on that bandwagon, and the number of sales of generators has spiked across the world and is expected to be worth more that $27 billion by 2023. Climate change, political upheaval, hurricanes and holocausts - people are running scared.

Brexit in the UK, closed universities in Poland, Nazi sympathizers in Hungary, marshal law in Ukraine, and the uncivil spectacle of unmitigated greed and privilege that defines Washington today; it is very hard to hold on to hope.  I am carefully watching what happens to the Yellow Vests in Paris.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Sentenced to Structure

OMG it is pain in the ass to get old – or if not there, elsewhere! One joint or another: head, shoulders, knees, and toes takes on a whole new meaning. 

I have been ignoring a slightly shorter right than left leg my whole life. Since I had to buy new shoes in August, it seemed to be time to finally deal with it, considering my advanced age, and so I put a single Dr. Scholl’s in that new shoe and in two days I thought my pelvis was like to break in half. I had expected some, um, difficulties and had some yoga stretches at the ready, but it was Aleve at night for a couple of weeks till it settled down. 

In September I found that the backs of both knees were swelling at night and causing me increasingly sharp wake-ups and aches of a magnitude that got me out of bed, walking in circles until the intensity lessened. In the day I began to have muscle twinges down the backs of my calves, and I thought and thought about what could be causing it all, and I thought it must be the damn new shoes.  

Having limped through years of slowing falling arches before stabilizing in comfortable shoes some years ago, I had very carefully ordered that new pair – exactly the same as I had been wearing for an age. Really – reordered the same ones!  Who expected change? But change it did, and I realized that what I needed was a little lift in the heel. Never mind that the previous shoes did not, whatever!  I sorted through the massive stash of wedges, cushions, and arch support aids I had accumulated over those falling years and found some decent heel inserts that ended just north of my arches, changing the angle of my dangle. Blessed relief immediately - I had done the right thing! I cavorted and twirled on my painfree pins in celebration. 

Within a week I began to have shooting pains down the outsides of my calves and sometimes under my kneecap. What the hell? These got worse until I had to take pain meds to stay mostly asleep at night, with intermittent sharply drawn breath and tears till I was falling asleep at my desk in the day. The heel supports had just a bit of arch in them, and damned if that little-bittie was not shifting weight to the outside of my feet; hence the NEW pains. 

I bought smaller heel pads and again life is fabulous. 

But now it is November and the snows have begun; meaning in Minnesotan that it is time for my boots. Sigh. Here we go again. . .

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The 10 Percent Solution

It started with Diebold. 

You remember Diebold, the company that put an army of fuckable machines into our voting booths? Just in case you have forgotten, Al Gore would have been president if those computer chips had been soldered in place. 

Personally, I am sure that W did the deed. I was watching the returns that night, he and his family sitting around in front of their tube, when suddenly he was gone “ for about 15 minutes” after making some phone calls. I can see it – Jeb, dammit, git those votes into some car trunk NOW! 

Where was that Dade county box-o-votes for two days anyway? 


Not that it isn’t a long tradition in this country to rig some votes, but now you can just do it openly: gerrymandering, exclusionary voting rules, non-functioning voting places, police intimidation, voter purging, and actual vote changing. I heard a guess that the red scew was in for about 9% in this midterm. 

So, CONGRATULATIONS VOTERS! Look how many of us crawled from the walls to change things up in spite of the fix! I have not heard enough crowing about the monster effort it took to engage enough people for this accomplishment. The Beast seems too have pissed off our children:) We might not have rolled everything our way, but we now are an obstacle They will need to overcome. 

Heh heh heh

The second big lesson learned – our FFF (Fascist First Face) in obviously unable to gather enough power to put soldiers on the street. The election happened and without any false flags to shut things down. I was not sure it would not happen, but I do know that if they could have, they would have. He is a paper tiger. 

And so we proceed with confidence in our base and fearlessness in the face of what is still essentially a fringe cult, a hate-mongering self-interest cartel that slipped in the door while we were sleeping. Evil arrogance has no standing in a democracy, and Tuesday we perhaps were that for the first time in a long time. 

Good hunting to all those newly committed to change in Washington. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Civility and the Windigo

Yesterday I was drawn into an online discussion with a Libertarian who accused “the left” of being riotously uncivil; of being incapable of argument and logic and dedicated only to name-calling and innuendo. I was so incensed I had to get in there and do a little name-calling of my own!  Yes indeed the left is louder and ruder and more blatantly blasphemous than I can ever recall in my lifetime, because we are mad as hell and we just can’t take it anymore. 

It is not a pretty thing. But I needed to point out that this now-common warcry from the right is really really really the pot calling the kettle black. If anyone else is old enough, cast your mind back to the first time you heard such rude meanness in the media (well, except maybe for the Vidal-Buckley bruhaha in 1968 – for which they were roundly punished, BTW). For me it was “conservative” talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, and my reaction to him and the fact of people actually listening to him was a sick stomach. I was appalled, my friends were appalled, my family was appalled. Limbaugh was the top radio host in Sacramento, CA by 1984. 

In 1986, the Fox Broadcasting Company opened its competing network of sensationalist reporting and the Fox News Channel followed in 1996, sporting King o’ Rudeness Bill O’Reilly and The O’Reilly Factor. 

In the meantime, Jerry Springer brought voice to the least common denominator in his daytime tabloid talk show where name-calling and on-stage fights were encouraged. My face is red with shame at the eagerness with which my species devoured (and still devours) this kind of vitriolic “entertainment.”  By the end of the century, the bounds of civility had been shattered. 

Maybe someone with a better memory than mine can come up with an entry from the left during this period. There was of course response from skewered politicians and commentary from comedians. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert started in 1996. Stewart and Colbert are no slackers, but they are not the mud-slingers of the right, and an argument could be made that they both instead have upheld a standard of civility in their satire, that this was one of their main goals. Certainly they engaged the right in argument (sometimes directly, as Jon and Bill on many occasions) and challenged them to respond, but that response was always more character assassination, beside the point and vitriolic. No one was spewing spittle from our side of the fence.

Air America radio network specialized in progressive talk radio from March 2004 to January 2010, famously led by Al Franken and Rachel Maddox. Commentary from the left got a little sharper, but it didn’t last. Probably because it wasn’t mean enough. 

The thing is, mean is not the default for most lefties. We are lefties because we want good things for everyone, because we like people and want them to succeed, because we are empathetic with our fellow men and women – we have to be driven to be mean. Not that some have not learned to compete to gain power, but the blue masses do not qualify. 

Now the election of pond scum like 45 and his own incredibly ugly and mean statements have finally driven us to that place. Truthfully, we are not very good at it. This is one fight we will never win because we just don’t understand how to be so underhanded, selfish, uncaring, and ruthless. To us, that is despicable behavior and the fact that we have fallen low enough to respond in kind, however incoherently, is an eye-opening commentary on the limits of patience. 

Are we mean enough yet to actually take back the polity? To restore civil discourse? To rebuild to a more inclusive society? 

And if we are that mean, will we even want to any more? 

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Art of Curation

It’s a lovely word, “curator.” Not everyone has worked with museums as I have, but I notice that the concept and use of the term has spread in the last few years to apply to almost any kind of presentation, any organization of diversity. 

“Curation” has always implied for me a studied and judicious ordering of elements into some recognizable group; some affinity of characteristics that organizes chaos into a shape. If it is done well, the affinity becomes commentary and points out a new thought or an important lesson, perhaps even creates an aha moment. It is an admirable and worthwhile undertaking.

It is time to curate my own life; to comb, sort, and recognize the worth of the eclectic mess that fills my drawers and closets, graces my walls, and clutters my hard disks. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker – I have done it all, and written about it as well. And as no good deed goes unpunished, I am currently averting my eyes from portfolios, binders, baskets, boxes, scrapbooks, photos, thumb drives, and all those shelves in the basement! Why oh why did I save it all?

And that indeed is the question. For what reason did I save this, and is that reason still viable

•I don’t have enough years left to do half the print projects I started and put away – do I have enough energy to do some of them? Are they still worth doing? 

•What will my kids want to have? Should it all be didacted it so as not to embarrass them? 

•My home videos, professional photos, print and computer resolution files on every media format – surely I could at least eliminate the doubles, triples, quadruples, and store everything on like devices. . .

•Is there value in framing the best of the portfolios full of art originals? Where would I put them as my walls are all full up already? Should I just order them chronologically? Does anyone give a rat’s ass?

•Big tins of inherited family photos that I have begun sorting, scanning, and matching to ancestor information could go dark here in the middle of such a curation storm. 

•What about the diaries? There is poetry in them thar pages if I want to mine it to use. Or maybe I should just burn them whole before they are left to the eyes of others. . .

•Six feet of shelf space for the products of a lifetime in publications. OMG. 

I don’t feel so studied and judicious any more; organizing principles elude me as I begin to topple, and for now, I think the best thing to do would be to go home and take a nap.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Scalawags 2040

Minneapolis's new 2040 Plan is getting a lot of reaction. The Scalawag Overlord Brigade (SOB) that installed the new bicycle lanes on 26th and 28th avenues in the dark of the night (su-prise, commuters!) kept it all close to the vest until just weeks before several public meetings were announced and a public commentary period of three months declared. I hang with some real knee-jerkers, so I was hoping to be able to react to this plan with an open mind if not open arms. But now that I have done a little research, goddamn it, throw the scalawags out!

It actually didn't take much. Nearly 300 collected email comments (and many more from other venues) are available to read at https://minneapolis2040.com/received-public-comments/  and they are about 95% negative - loudly in some cases and convincingly in others. And don't think people didn't notice the sneakiness (well, a "lack of transparency" to be more politically correct). 

The goals of the city growth plan wouldn't melt in your mouth: dealing with climate change, which requires a radical reduction in car use (hence no parking requirements for new developments, heh, heh, heh); and racial equality, which means that all those historically redlined neighborhoods should have new four-plexus built wherever a developer wants to put them in order to end the "affordable housing crisis" (and I have a bridge in New York I would like to sell you. . .).

You can get the full monte on the problems with this plan as countered by Minneapolis's long-range planning director, Heather Worthington, from Minnpost's 7/24/18 article at https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2018/07/fight-over-minneapolis-controversial-comprehensive-plan-proposal-explained. Check out the butter. 

The plan must address education, jobs, skills training, small business support, yadayada somewhere, but you can't miss how it waxes fantastic about rezoning and building "affordable housing" in every neighborhood, differentially and apparently depending only on the whim of the developer.  It is outrageous - 4-unit buildings zoned in so that lower-income people and smaller houses get pushed out as the taxes go up and developers scarf up properties to build. Now I am all for making housing affordable - maybe by getting people JOBS so they have enough money? But then, we would not NEED new units, n'est pas? 

And another thing. I want to know what the city means when it says "affordable." To find out, I first called the Community Planning and Economic Development office (CPED) (and I recommend all of you do the same, since the simple request for a definition confused them so much!). The receptionist, flustered at my question, demurred about who might be best for me, then sent me to Nancy, who also did not know anything but sent me to the Mayor's Office, where I encountered the brightly smiling voice of Jacob Frey, MAYOR OF MINNEAPOLIS:), telling me to leave a message and he would get back to me. Right. Back to the CPED, I chose a random Development Coordinator who answered his own phone and tried to help me by reading to me the same description that I had found in the site's policy:

a) For residential rental projects, at least 20% of the units shall be affordable to and occupied by households earning 60% or less of AMI (Area Median Income). 
b) For residential ownership projects, at least 10% of the units shall be affordable to and occupied by households earning 80% or less of the AMI.
c) The affordable units (both rental and owner occupied) shall be reasonably distributed throughout the project and comparable in size, number of bedrooms, quality and finish to the market rate units in the project as determined by CPED staff. 

which tells me WHO can rent or buy, but not HOW MUCH THEY WILL PAY.  My young friend at PRG tells me that HUD publishes the Section 8 income guidelines on their website for the metro area and it’s broken down by household size and defines landlord limits for those parameters, but no one with the city can (or will) tell me if these guidelines are followed if no federal funds are involved. Anyone want to bet?

Finally, I sent a very specific email to SOB President Lisa Bender's office three days ago (August 1) asking for a definition, but so far no response. I sent the email because both phone numbers for my councilperson wanted me to "leave a message please I will call you back," and in the case of D'Ana Pennington, Council Aide to Ward 10, because she is "out of town from July 9-13 and will call back when she returns." Would that be in 2019? Has it really been over two weeks since she checked her messages? Maybe something happened to her. . .

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Abandoning the Castle

We have all seen the syndrome in our parents' generation, the inability to leave the home they lived in for so many years. There are many good reasons for this, of course, and I am sympathetic; more so since I have reached the age where these decisions must be made, to leave with control or to stay and take your chances. Either way, there are hurdles.

Of course, not everyone has the choice to leave, at least voluntarily, before they carry you out on the door. But most of us middle-class types do. Should we downsize while we are still capable of doing it? Perhaps our home is small and single-storied and in a nice neighborhood; perhaps it is already without too many steps to climb or old ceilings and electrical outlets that need attention; perhaps it is ideal and the best bet is to stay and get whatever services you might need as time goes along.

But what if it has lots of steps, bedroom on the third floor, laundry in the basement, so much space that one room or another needs maintenance on a continuing basis? And what if those rooms are all filled to the top with stuff, stuff you have been putting lovingly in place for years?

First to consider is attachment - the caress of memory at everything your lay your eyes on: this was a gift from the first grandchild, your daughter made that in first grade, you bought that before you were married. . . these moments of sighing satisfaction are not easily given up.

Second, there is fear of change - who knows what a new place would be like: whether in a retirement community or a smaller house, you will not know that place like the back of your hand and as for the neighbors!! OMG!!! What might you be letting yourself in for?

Finally, there is the simple overwhelming nature of a project so large as to sort and move a lifetime's collection - no matter who tells you they will help and if you can afford to have someone else pack it all up, you have to sort it yourself because IT ALL WON'T FIT IN THE NEW PLACE. I particularly sympathize with this problem, because if I were to move, I could not take half of what I have. And all the boxes and file drawers and closets that are mixed full of detritus and treasure would have to be culled one by one, assigned to the flames or saved for a new, probably very small closet. And don't kid yourself that your children and their spouses will be lined up to get any of it. They don't want your stuff either.

In addition to these commonly discussed roadblocks to change, I see, more often but not always in the men, that this change means not just the loss of a house, but the loss of a dream; that they worked their whole lives to create this space and they are not only house-proud, their egos are bound to it. If this is the case, moving anywhere else is the last thing they can consider, no matter how difficult the climbing or the fear of falling, no matter how frustrating the leaking pipes or the chipping paint, and no matter how extensive the paid services. The house represents their vision of themselves, their reward for a job well done, a safe haven after the storms of adulthood. This kind of attitude will cause resentment of whatever life changes cause a separation, be it medical or practical. The loss will leave an agenda.

For those of us who have anticipated this moment and placed themselves in appropriately supportive housing situations, Bravo for the foresight. For the rest of us, woe to those couples who disagree and their children as well - buckle up your seatbelts, the future is going to get rough.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Walls of Antiquity

If I were the historian of my life, I would compare myself to a medieval castle, and I would have to say that the time has come when my walls have begun to crumble. I am thinking this is what the Third Stage is all about.

When I was young, I was joyfully aggressive about building a truly grand structure, and I have done that. When I was middle-aged, I was as smart and dedicated in expanding that structure and building defensive walls as my energy could make me, and I rejoiced in it. But now, near the end of my sixth decade, I am definitely slacking. I no longer feel a real need to attend those walls, as if it is just too much trouble.

I might have thought this was owing to encroaching feebleness, except that I don't feel very feeble and in fact still have trouble sitting still. It is not that.  Instead, I think the torches have been passed, the bridge has truly been crossed, and there is just no need for the constant upkeep any more. Let those walls crumble!

It strikes me that this is not simple capitulation to age and powerdown, not just the unfortunate breakdown of bodies returning to earth - this is the gradual process of freeing the energies I once put into building, in my life the most significant investment I have made. And I am not just eroding out my energies, I am unearthing the dedication to pathways that reaped those gains, the focus that required a lot of unconscious censoring of behaviors and thoughts that were detrimental or even just extraneous to my goals. I think they call it The Straight and Narrow. I habitually don't window shop because long ago I knew I would never have enough money to purchase frivolously. I have quit reading serious literature in favor of murder mysteries because it is too distracting. I am known as level-headed, grounded, and calm (if not always rational). These are rocks cut for my walls.

The decisions that shaped my castle, including long-suppressing conventions and the desire to not offend, are no longer required. I find the crumbling is releasing fairy dust, covering my goal-meeting faculties with irrelevancy. I am not likely to be able to meet anyone else's deadlines any more. Likewise I cannot bring myself to care much who hears me rant or what they think about me. There is a general freeing of suppressed self that is coming up through the cracks. I think it is kind of exciting, to get to know me again. I am wearing purple!

For that is what it is - the self does not seem to change within a life, just to gain perspective. The cement that held the stones of my castle in thrall was my own determination to build it that way.  It now is crumbling from time and age, yes, but also from my recognition of having already had a fabulous lifetime, from my satisfaction with the structure I built. Any future joys are pure gravy, the laurels on which I am learning to comfortably and eagerly rest.



Thursday, July 19, 2018

Outrage Exhaustion


I saw this term used by a friend of a friend and have not been able to pass up any opportunity to use it since. SO PERFECT!  The last two years have been a helluvaride, but I am sputtering to a stop here - or at least a slow glide. You can only keep up frenzy for so long!

And it was a frenzy at first when 45 "won" the election. Geez geez geez, how could there be enough idiots to even get him close? I read, and signed petitions, and donated my little heart out until it became obvious that nothing anyone said was making any difference.

So I gave up on the petitions, thinking that the flood of lawsuits by People Who Matter would be more effective at taking the whole cohort out. A year passed, and whoops maybe not - whatever happened to those lawsuits? Those absolutely constitutional legal arguments? Those surely-this-will-do-the-trick, certain-to-impeach efforts? Nada. In the words of the old Fugs song, "Monday nothing, Tuesday nothing, Wednesday nothing, Thursday nothing." I quite sending money to politicians I can stomach and just read.

But surely that rat-bastard Mueller's team would get them, and get them good. It did strike me as ultimately ironic that the tried and true FBI lead liar (pants on fire) had become our new Savior, but whatever, go for it, Son. I even gave up scoping the deep state anymore so I could maintain a modicum of support for this effort and not tie myself up in any new knots. But here it is a year later and we have some low-life scum on display with no upward mobility in sight. And if Mueller Mueller He's Our Guy can't do it, who can?

I, like everyone else I know, have outrage exhaustion. I have begun the long trek to save my sanity by unsubscribing to every damn political or social email I get. The race to get Progressives into congress looks exactly like the race to get Democrats into congress looks exactly like the race to get any politician anywhere - Give Me The Money. I can't watch it any more, much less participate. I have instead scheduled far too much yard work and social time this summer to read a thing outside my murder mysteries. Too painful, too useless, and too too fatiguing.

It will take a lot to get my head out of my ass. It seems the only safe place to be.