Monthly Archives: April 2018

X-Files, Fin

I finally finished watching the new season of X-Files. I’ve written a couple of blogs about the X-Files because I am madly devoted to the show. The first was about how Scully and Mulder have the best lips on TV.  Then I grounded Christopher Carter for Season 10,  and most recently, with season 11, I wrote this blog saying that Chris Carter is the bad boyfriend I can’t quit..I had only seen about half of the episodes at the time, and I realized Chris Carter was messing with my head again, like with season 10. And let’s not mention several of the movies that should never have gotten the green light. But in season 11, he first confused me by not continuing the disastrous Season 10, but instead tossed in a few emotionally satisfying episodes. So like when you take back a bad boyfriend because he promises to change, I was hopeful, but cautious.

And this time out, I am happy to report that Chris got it right. I believe I’m supposed to give you a “spoiler alert” at this point, but good god, people! It started in January and took me months to watch 10 episodes, so if you haven’t finished it yet, you need to go to show-watching rehab. Be gone!

He combined the familiar X-Files mysteries with Scully and Mulder reflecting on their middle-age. Alien-infused, slightly paranoid commentary on the government and the standard X-Files weird bloody gore unfold side-by-side with the physical limitations of middle age and their regret of choices made and not made. While doing their thorough investigative Scully and Mulder thing in the presence of  2 younger, impatient FBI agents, Scully delivers some funny lines about presbyopia — that thing we middle-aged people do, moving around our heads and squinting into our glasses to see small print. She’s teasing Mulder who is fumbling for his reading glasses to look at his phone’s Google search on the name of the person who was recently murdered. She also mentions loudly toward the young agents that gout is another sign of aging, and Scully and Mulder have a private moment making fun of them.

I loved them in this moment — I love making fun of the young ones without their knowledge.

But the episodes are also about regretting choices made or not made. Wondering if you could have done better, and forgiving yourself if you decide you couldn’t have. I am about their ages on the show, and I think that’s why it resonated so much.

I was curious about what others thought, and I was surprised to read a synopsis of the season that was the exact opposite of my take. I quote Zack Handlen from the AV Club website:

“…and it’s bad. Not the worst the show has ever been, and better than the mess that ended season 10 [Sandy comment: I totally agree!], but still: bad. As in not good, as in not worth it, as in kind of brutally depressing to watch everyone go through the motions for this nonsense.”

Ah, gotta stop you there, young one. From your picture I found online, I ain’t see no gray hair or hair coloring that seems a tad out of sync with your skin’s elasticity. So, I’m going to guess you are in your 30s. Look, I get it. I was “brutally depressed” watching On Golden Pond as a teenager. It freaked me out. Old people shaking and doddering around and yelling and being deaf. I wanted none of it, and wanted no reminder of getting old. It was a horrible movie to me; yet, people have told me it’s one of their favorites. It took me years to realize I was just too young, and it took several more years to think I should watch it again. Of course, now that I’m older, my biggest obstacle is remembering to add it to my Netflix list, which I just did, so there’s hope. And I think that just proves I’m old enough to appreciate it now.

Where was I? Oh, yes, young one, Zack, I get it. When you are younger, it is kind of brutally depressing to watch your heroes age. I know you want the endless conspiracy tangles, the far out weirdness found exclusively in small towns in the middle of nowhere, the witty repartee of their age-old argument of science versus belief. All that was there, darling; it just took a backseat to very real character development. These characters are now in their 40s and 50s, and they been around the block of life, with each other, with the FBI, with their careers, and with themselves. At this stage of their lives, they need closure on their son’s fate and what they did or didn’t do about it more than the continued shenanigans of the Cigarette Smoking Man conspiracy. But in true X-Files fashion, the two are inextricably linked.

At your age, watching Scully and Mulder talk softly in a church must seem like a lot of nonsense. But here’s what I saw: an amazing scene where Scully, who previously found an enormous amount of solace in the church and her religious beliefs, questions everything. Reviewing her life, she feels more like a failure, that she has no miracles left to ask for, that she has let down herself and those around her, and she has utterly failed to protect her son from Cigarette Smoking man and his minions.

Boy, do I get that. OK, maybe not the Cigarette Smoking Man minions after my son thing, but everything else, yes. And the best part for me? Mulder, the agnostic, shows up next to her in the church, lighting a candle because it’s meaningful for her (and her own candle wouldn’t light). He wishes he had never gotten her mixed up in the X-files, but tells her, “I am standing right here, and I am listening.” They have been workaholic coworkers, lovers, estranged, reunited, and have reached a place of being lifelong friends. His speech is that rare kind of moment, of truly knowing a person and accepting them. They have history, a lot of it is difficult, but they are both still alive and present to each other.

Zack, I gotta tell you, if this ever happens to you, get down on your knees and be thankful because this is what life is all about. All the great stuff about previous seasons? You can always bring your best to your work; and the alien evidence will always be moved to the next government facility and be out of reach. But this personal connection they have to each other? That’s rare and good baby, and is the thing even Cigarette Smoking Man can’t take away from them.

So do me a favor, Zack. Review this episode again at whatever X-files anniversary is being held about 15 years from now or whenever you are 45. Then we’ll talk about what is going on in this season. Of course, they may be On Golden Pond age by then, and if they do a show, we’ll alienate a whole group of new people. But I maybe able to help them get through it. I just have to watch the movie again and not freak out.

Also, I hope Chris Carter is done. You did good, Chris. We know that our beloved characters will be OK going forward; and praise the universe Cigarette Smoking Man was shot dead (we hope). What else do you need? Not a darn thing. Let’s do what the French do at the end of their films, because it’s cultured and classy. Fin.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Another year, another Boston Marathon. I first published this last year as part of my goal to fight Cheeto flea by getting more involved in racial justice. My progress has been slower than I would prefer, but like the marathoners, I try to stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I am reading a book called “Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era.” The author, Ashley Farmer, is a professor at my alma mater, Boston University, and I learned about her and her book from an email from the school — sometimes those annoying emails are actually useful! It is a bit more academic than I’m used to, but that’s OK. She talks about how Black women were working right alongside Black men to gain racial equality, reframing it and adding a female perspective. And she talks about women activists who make the case that it’s not just the big names like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth that we need to think about, but also all of the mothers and grandmothers who held the family together, often by cleaning white women’s houses, and who “found ways to financially and emotionally support [their] family in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and discrimination.”

So in addition to remembering Marilyn Bevans, the first Black woman to run in the Boston Marathon, I am also remembering her mother and grandmother and all the women standing behind her as she crossed that finish line. 

As a side note, I decided to Google “first Black women to run the Boston Marathon” this year again to see if we had made any progress on the topic in the past year. Guess what came up first? This blog post, followed by the same references from last year. If that doesn’t show that we all have something to contribute, I don’t know what does. Step by step, people. Step by step.

Today is Patriot’s Day in Boston, aka Boston Marathon Day. There will be an estimated 30,000 runners who have either a qualifying time, are part of a team running for charity, or are simply a handful of rogue folks who find registering and qualifying a bother, and good for them.

At 122 years, the Boston Marathon is the oldest, and is 26 miles and 385 yards, which reminds me of the Mass Ave Bridge’s measurement in Smoots — 364.4 and one ear to be exact. For some reason we Bostonians like our precision, even if it means adding yards or an ear. Oliver Smoot, by the way, was a 1962 graduate of MIT who stood 5 feet, 7 inches. You can well imagine how he was used as a measuring stick and that there was most likely alcohol involved. Perhaps the 385 additional yards in the marathon came about in a similar way. We can only hope.

Last year they retired the number of the first woman to officially register and run, Kathrine Switzer. In 1967 she registered with only her initials — there was this pesky thing where women weren’t officially allowed to run until 1972, so they gave her a number assuming she was a man. I guess that’s some progress. Mary Ann Evans had to take an entire man’s name of George Eliot to get published. Kathrine was inspired by the 1966 rogue run of Roberta Gibbs, who apparently jumped out of the bushes near the start and ran and finished the race. Wanting to run 26 miles is crazy and hard enough, without having to concoct a surprise way of joining in. A year later, Kathrine may have made more than 26,000 steps for herself, but also she made a giant leap for women athletes everywhere — at least the white ones. Marathon official Jack Sempe tried to take her bib, yelling, “Get the hell out of my race, and give me those numbers.” Her boyfriend, who was running with her, body checked Jack out of the way, but not before the whole thing was photographed and went the 1967 version of viral. There’s a well-done piece about the story in the Boston Herald.

Cool story, right? It made me wonder about other firsts, like the first African-American man and woman to run the Boston race. And that’s where that little ole thing called racism creeps in. Granted, Kathrine’s story was splashed all over the news because of the retired number thing. And there was that 1967 viral photo by a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, no less.

However, it should not have taken as many Google searches as it did for me to get to those other firsts. I mean isn’t that what Black History Month is all about? Digging up historical stuff that we’ve been covering up/not caring about for, like, ever?

I found two sources, and the second one, the National Black Marathoners Association history project gets credit for actually including a — — woman. Both sources say Aaron Morris was the first Black male runner in the Boston Marathon in 1919, 47 years before a white woman. The first and only reference I can find of the first Black woman to run in Boston is Marilyn Bevans in 1977; and she placed 2nd. That’s pretty amazing right? Where are the stories about her? Granted once I knew her name, more came up in the search, including that she is considered the first lady of marathon running. But doesn’t that warrant her coming up in the more general searches of first women/first Black woman to run the Boston Marathon?

Maybe in running circles this is common knowledge, but let’s face it, most of us think marathon running is crazy, unless it’s a big event in your city and you get the day off. Or you do it to celebrate a milestone birthday. I personally try not to be friends with people like that, but one tries to be open and flexible to others’ obvious lack of judgment.

So today, I salute you, Marilyn Bevans and Aaron Morris. I like you, too, Kathrine and Roberta, but you’ve been saluted enough. You all remind me that marathons take time, effort, and preparation. That sometimes people don’t want me to accomplish a goal, so I have to jump out of the bushes or avoid getting my bib grabbed. That sometimes remarkable accomplishments go unnoticed because of skin color or gender or both. That many times I need to remember that and be curious beyond the story of a white woman’s amazing accomplishment.

Happy running.

 

 

 

Nay-chuh

It’s been another week of the no-way-in-hell-is this-an-appropriate-temp-for-Boston-in-April: teens and 20s at night, highs in the 30s, snow every other day. The one day it got above 40 degrees didn’t count because the accompanying 50-mile-an-hour winds made my face hurt. So, I’m still a bit cranky. When I reviewed all the random notes I have jotted down as possible posts, none of them spoke to me, and one was clearly an unfortunate auto-correct accident. What exactly is “Waging. Nonviolence George lakes Betsy leondar-right”? Ya got me. Not only can you not make that up, you actually can’t do anything useful with it.

We no longer have a hamster who can save me in these moments, but I do have urban  wildlife. So this week, I present to you the dozing squirrel. He’s a bit fuzzy, but I kid you not, last week when I looked out my back window I saw the squirrel laying still on a branch. It was so weird for a squirrel to be motionless in the middle of the day, it caught my eye; I watched him for a bit. He was in a sunbeam, and he was definitely dozing in it, cat-like. It was, of course, not a warm day — winter seems to have had one too many at the bar and can’t get up and leave. But the squirrel was making the best of it.

So here’s to sleeping squirrels, sunbeams on a cold day, and a hope that next week will bring warmer temps and an interesting blog.

squirrel dozing 1

Sometimes It’s Better to Keep Your Mouth Closed

I’ve been trying to write this one over a period of weeks, struggling to add masterful flourishes to impress you all with my writing prowess. Ha ha ha, I’m such a dork! The cold, hard facts are that this story is so funny, there is really nothing I can add to it. So here it goes, the uncut version of, “Pigeons, Beware.”

I was on my way to work as usual. I got off the train and climbed the 62 steps up to the surface. Yes, I’ve counted them as a way of justifying that I’m not totally out of shape, it’s just that there is a lot of them. I am always huffing and puffing at the top of those blasted stairs. I will say it has motivated me at the gym, but 62 is a lot of stairs. You try it and let me know how you do, unless you are training for the Boston Marathon or an athlete, then, suck it. Or rather, don’t.

As I made my way across Government Center plaza, I recovered fairly quickly from the heavy breathing and was down to a half-open mouth and a medium huff and puff. The plaza is a large, rather unfortunate architectural outgrowth of the unfortunate Boston City Hall, built when concrete was a thing in the 70s. It’s not ageing well, but I must cross the vast, empty brick plaza to get to work. I was staring straight ahead, thinking random thoughts when some movement of two pigeons on the ground appeared in my peripheral vision to the right. This is not unusual. They mill about all over Boston and tend to scuttle away when you come near them, or if you want to vacate them more speedily, encourage a young child to run dead on toward them. There were no young people around, so I was confident they would scuttle away.

They didn’t.

Suddenly, one of the pigeons flew up and hit me with its chest, hard in the mouth, which as you may recall was open from those 62 stairs; and then he flew off. It really hurt, like when a baby or toddler bumps you in the mouth with his head. If there were a meme/gif, of me, it would go like this: My face is first surprised, then pissed off at the impact, then my helpless hands try to brush the nasty thing off my face, even though it is long gone by then. This would be followed by a look of disgust as I work my tongue in and out of my mouth trying to rid myself of pigeon. The scene finishes with me brushing off my coat with my hands (why? What good did I think that would do?) and looking around for either confirmation of what just happened or hoping someone had “Pigeon Yuck Be Gone” spray I could use. My friends are convinced there is security video footage of this

Effin pigeons.

I was still a good 10-minute walk away from work, and I had nothing to clean off whatever the thing had left behind, so there was nothing for it but to keep walking and accept that I already swallowed whatever might have been transmitted. I also sent a fervent note of encouragement to my digestive and immune systems to get whatever that bastard might have left me.

Once at work, I washed my face, and my boss gave me some mouth wash. As I was entertaining my coworkers with the story, one of the doctors I work with walked by and heard me. Then he laughed and said, “That’s disgusting! You know they are rats with wings, right?” See, the thing about working with doctors is if there isn’t any real danger they will make jokes and make fun of you.  I retorted that he could forget about getting me to do any work for him because I’d be Googling “pigeon diseases” all morning.

“Psittacosis,” he said with a smile.

“Is it bad?” I asked.

“It’s fatal,” he responded with a huge grin.

Ha ha. I really hate doctors sometimes.

After about 3 tries to spell that darn thing, I came across this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Psittacosis is a disease caused by infection of the respiratory tract (throat, windpipe, and lungs) with a type of bacteria that can infect all types of birds. Psittacosis in people is most commonly associated with pet birds, like parrots and cockatiels, and poultry, like turkeys or ducks.

I would add errant pigeons to that list.

The symptoms are flu-like, and the CDC disagreed with my coworker’s prognosis, declaring it curable with antibiotics. although it did caution that some people need to be treated in the hospital. Great, I work in a medical academic center, so all my coworkers and people training can come laugh at me.

Not to be outdone, another doctor I work with, a neurologist, heard the story and explained, also while smiling, that since pigeons generally have a good spacial sense, there was probably something really wrong with that pigeon to have run into me. She seemed a little too delighted when she assured me she’d keep an eye on me for any symptoms. Then she said something about the infection disease specialists writing up scientific papers.

Effin doctors.

Well, I’m happy to report I disappointed the doctors I work with and did not come down with psittacosis or any other bird-borne disease.

I used to think pigeons were rats with wings, and I recently read a book read that talked about how interesting, adaptable, and cool they are. I don’t recall the author getting smacked in the face by one. I almost fell for it, but pigeons better stay out of my way. My mouth is closed and my eyes are wide open.

Photo Credit: Disaffected Scanner Jockey tells a pretty horrifyingly funny story about pigeons.