Category Archives: Boston

It’s Quite Vivid

I’m all about making things fun and easy, but I amaze even myself sometimes. If you are a regular reader, you may know I’m struggling with how to wrap my arms around getting more involved in social justice and learning more about racism and white privilege. You know just small, little things like that to help beat back the Cheeto flea and his turd minions.

Part of the problem is that I think I may have used up most of my intellectual curiosity and prowess in my 20s and 30s, what with my subscriptions to Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s (no, not Harper’s Bazaar, the smarty pants Harper’s). Then family duties called. Lapsed subscriptions were replaced with other reading. While I firmly believe that reading to your children gives them an excellent foundation for being a functioning adult with critical thinking skills, there is also a small part of me that also believes reading the Berenstain Bears 100 times over the course of several years causes permanent damage to a functioning adult’s critical thinking skills. You do your best to pick only the books you can stand to read that many times, but inevitably, the Berenstain Bears book and its kin come into your life, and like the dog who goes right for the person who dislikes dogs, your kid will pick the crap book every time.

So where was I? Right, fun and easy. So the related other part of the problem is that when I try to decide, should I read a depressing book about how messed up institutional racism is? Or the book for my book group, which is non-fiction and usually not quite as depressing as racism, but still serious and requires concentration? Or that trashy historical romance novel I just downloaded for free on Hoopla?

Guess who wins? I know. I’m the worst. Blame the Berenstain Bears.

But I’m nothing, if not wily and persistent. I had read the last historical novel by the white writer I liked and when I tried several new ones, based on Hoopla suggestions, I couldn’t get through them. I may read historical romance novels, but I do have some standards. The heaving bosoms need to belong to a strong female character and need to be part of an interesting historical plot that is based on truth. I went through many lists of writers, and one of the suggestions included a Black historical romance writer, Beverly Jenkins.

Well, hey now. Could I get a two-fer out of this? I need to learn more Black history anyway, and the book I’m currently reading Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era, is quite educational, and I’ve been stuck on page 36 for a while now. I know, I know, I’m the absolute worst. But I have a mission to fulfill, so I downloaded a book called Vivid. Vivid is a female physician of color who travels from California to a Black community in Grayson Cove, Michigan; they need a doctor and no one else will hire her in 1876. They also only hire her because they think she’s a man–she uses the “no first names” trick.

(As a side note, I just saw “On the Basis of Sex,” the movie about the early career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who nearly 100 years later after Vivid, made it into Harvard Law School and was top of her class, only to also not get hired. So, you know, there’s that. But the movie is good, so go see it, my fellow snowflakes!)

Vivid is well-written, entertaining, and not only chock full of historical details of Black people in the 1876,  Beverly also lists pages of resource material at the end of the book. Paydirt! There really were Black women doctors in the 1800s, and there were all-Black communities being established in the U.S. Sadly for my gay friends, they are no gay characters in these books, but if I find any good gay historical romances, I’ll let you know. Most of Beverly’s books I’ve read take place in all-Black communities, or in cities like Philadelphia because, as she notes in the end of one of the books, it played an important role in the Black race’s history. I’ve read about the 1800s and the establishment of the African Methodist Episcopal church, middle class households, ranching out west, poets and writers, and more. In other words, I’ve read about human beings being human and their specific struggles because of their color.

One of my favorites, Midnight, is set in Boston on the verge of the Revolutionary War. In it the main free male character talks about being captured by the British navy and being forced into naval service–it’s called impressment and was legal in Britain at the time. And you know those Brits–they like to carry their rules around with them to other countries, whether the other countries agree or not. Not long after reading about it, I was able to tear myself away from fascinating Beverly to my read book group book, Heirs of the Founders, by H.W. Brands, about the second generation of American politicians. An early chapter describes how in 1812 two elder statesman, Henry Clay and John Calhoun, were trying to persuade their congressional colleagues and President Madison to wage war against Britain in response to many transgressions against American sovereignty, including, you guessed it, impressment.

So, I rest my case. And I know I can’t be satisfied with just Beverly and her meticulously research novels and heaving bosoms, sigh. I’ve got more reading to do, and I also signed up for class in January called, “White People Challenging Racism.” But for the moment, I need to find out what is going to happen in the next installment of the Grayson Cove, Michigan town. Seems were going to learn more about Dr. Vivid’s brother-in-law, Eli.

And, thank you Beverly, for your wonderful books. Here is a brief bio from Wikipedia: “Beverly Jenkins (born 1951, Detroit) is an American author of historical and contemporary romance novels with a particular focus on 19th century African-American life.[1] Jenkins was a 2013 NAACP Image Award nominee and, in 1999, was voted one of the Top 50 Favorite African-American writers of the 20th century by the African American Literature Book Club.[2] Jenkins’s historical romances are set during a period of African-American history that she believes is often overlooked. This made it difficult to break into publishing because publishers weren’t sure what to do with stories that involved African-Americans but not slavery.[3]

150430_blog-photo_bev-jenkins

 

Top 5 for 2018, Cuz We’re All in Hurry

I usually do a top 10 or top 11, because it amuses me, but this year I just have time for 5, but I’m guessing you won’t mind. You’ve got things to do too, don’t you. I just want to say thank you for reading in 2018, thank you if you’ve been reading longer than that (check is in the mail, I swear), and thank you for continuing to read in 2019, if you are so moved. I love that two pieces I wrote eons ago continue to get readership–it cracks me up and lifts me up : Jilted by My Hairdresser—Twice and Shaving, Waxing, Electrocution: A Primer on Women’s War on Hair. I just realized they are both about hair, one flippant and one serious. So we must all have a thing about hair–hmmmm. Food for thought for 2019. Or maybe hair for thought.

Happy new year and here’s to making 2019 better than 2018. The bar is pretty low, people.

Anyway, here are the top 5 posts for 2018. I swear I’m not insulted that they aren’t all from this year. That’s cool. Really. Fine, I’ll work harder next year!

5. Wine Whine  : So I’m guessing you all like wine, and that’s why I like you. Some of you are sommeliers, and more power to you. Me? I’m a simple girl. Show me your wine rack that’s organized in a way people can decipher and no one gets hurt.

4. X-Files: The Bad Boyfriend I Can’t Leave : This one is the 2nd in the series, so I would be negligent if I didn’t  encourage you to read the first one: Christopher William Carter, You’re Grounded and then #3 X-Files, Fin. The fact that neither of those made the top 5, or the top 10 for that matter, may be an indication that it’s similar to the Star Trek movies: only the even numbered ones are any good. Whatever. If you are an X-File fan, prove it and read them! If not, you’re forgiven. There is a high probability the 2nd one is better than the other 2, but you didn’t hear that from me.

3. It’s a Cute Hamster Week : Not sure why you liked this one better than this one, which was so cute, it hurts: It’s Time for Cuteness. But maybe the cute hamster week, with the hamster hanging on is more relatable than cuteness that hurts. You can be the judge of that.

2. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: So I posted this twice, once in 2017 and again in 2018. I think that makes it a classic. (Hint: you will most likely see it in April 2019–for testing purposed only, I swear. Enjoy!

1. Alpha Flee: OK, so I’m going to pretend that the top post for 2018 is NOT a post I wrote in 2016. I’m going to be flattered you found it. Buried underneath 2.5 YEARS of OTHER FABULOUS POSTS. Did I shout? I didn’t mean to. I’m just SO EXCITED that you found it.  And now that I’ve reread it, you’re right. That is some damn good writing. So you’ve got impeccable taste. I totally knew that.

For the record, my personal favorite for 2018 was the Beocat Epic tale. Long live Sir Beocat!

Happy New Year my loves and see you in 2019.

I Am the Slurper

Koo koo kitchoo. Although calling myself cool is too much of a stretch unless there is a round of drinks going around that I am paying for, I like to think I have my moments. At the very least, I would say I’m a considerate, self-aware person, especially at the office. If I’m feeling perimenopausal and you’re a stranger crossing my path, well, good luck to you. But my coworkers I have to live with every day. I know the value of being a considerate office mate. Not like that guy who sucks the last drops of his iced coffee with a straw. What a jerk! And then there is a woman who someone said she makes the most noise doing absolutely nothing. Crinkling papers, paper clip jingling, moving stuff around on her desk. So annoying!

That’s not me. I try to be helpful, and if I can’t say yes to a request immediately, I let you know when I can. I try to entertain and not bore people with my stories. I empathize, I validate. Overall, I would rate myself a pretty decent coworker.

That was until the office holiday party. Did I drink too much? Interestingly I did have an office party with another group that involved alcohol, and since I haven’t been summoned by HR, I managed to navigate that party well, and I’m guessing I was “fun,” and not “fun?@!#$%^^&???”

Oh, no, this other party was just a bunch of us having a nice catered lunch, and my coworker who sits on one side of me said something about me slurping my coffee. But he teases everyone about the most ridiculous things, so I said laughing, “I do not slurp my coffee!” To which my coworker who sits on the other side of me said, “Oh yes you do!”

I had that Matrix moment, where time slows down and my morning routine flashed before my eyes: getting coffee from the kitchen, walking back to my desk, lifting the cup to my lips, and…

OH MY GOD! I’m a SLURPER!

How could I not know this? Me, self-aware, super helpful Sandy!? Of course then they also started complaining about the crunching noise of my daily celery and carrot snack. To that one I say deal with it. I try to close my mouth. That’s the nature of the food and not much I can do about it.

But slurping? Ugh, the absolute worst.

Actually you know what was worse? I sat down this morning and forgot all about it. I’m pretty sure I did it again today. I can’t even hear it! WTF? All those years of giving the side eye to people who make noise at work. I’d think to myself, surely you can hear that, you’re just being a jerk. But apparently being a jerk and hearing yourself slurp is not mutually exclusive.

Wow, so….sorry? I’m going to try to remember tomorrow, and I can only guess that my other good qualities have prevented my coworkers from poking me in the eye with a Sharpie. Or, I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. So that’s what that Beatles song was about.

 

 

 

What Do You Want an Afghan for?

When I was in high school, a bunch of friends and I were sitting around and one quietly asked, a little embarrassed, “Does anyone have a napkin?” and we’re not talking about something to wipe food from your mouth. Mishearing the request, another friend answered loudly, “What do you want an afghan for?”

As is the rule with all quality longitudinal friendships, we still joke about that moment. It’s a girl thing, getting surprised by your period, which has unceremoniously snuck up on you. Some of us can studiously count the days all we want and mark our calendars, and our periods laugh at us, sitting at the bar, eyeing us on the overhead TV. And the minute it would be most inconvenient, say, while you’re at a fancy restaurant with white fabric chairs, or giving a presentation at work to mostly men, or in the car on a long trip and miles away from the next exit and any supplies, she laughs evilly while sliding off her stool to come for you. She never comes at home when you are within easy reach of your supplies, or at your friend’s house who would also have supplies, and maybe wine. Oh, no. What fun would that be?

Bitch.

So at some point in your life, as a menstruating woman, you will find yourself asking a friend, coworker, or mere acquaintance if you’re desperate enough, “Do you have a napkin/tampon/pad?”

I can’t remember if I read this on a blog or as part of a novel, but I love this story. The woman is in her late 30s, maybe early 40s and has kids. She carries around tampons in her purse, and at one point they spill out in front of a younger, female coworker, whose eyes get big at the sight of the “super” tampons. You know, because kids, later in life flow. The little girly “light days” ain’t gonna cut it. It’s been so long, that the woman has forgotten there are other types of tampons, and only realizes it though the younger woman’s big eyes.

I can relate. At 53, yes, I still need tampons. Don’t get me started, and yes, I know when — if — this damn thing ever stops, I have other troubles ahead. Maybe whatever those troubles are they don’t cost a small fortune and require a shelf of space. I suppose I can be considered “lucky.” My period no longer plays hide and seek with me; however, she prefers to slide off her bar stool every 24 days like clockwork, which she never seemed to have the time for before.

Bitch.

I’m 53, this is supposed to be getting slower, maybe even skip a month here and there. Ha, ha, ha, she says. What is inconsistent is what happens at day 24, however. Any or all of these things can happen, and it rotates randomly. Leg cramps, backache, migraines; fast, heavy, slow flows, sometimes in the same day; it’s all part of the fun. As a result, both at work and home I have a drawer full/shelf full of 3 kinds of tampons and 2 kinds of pads, and more ibuprofen than a CVS. This has been my life for years now, and like the poor hapless lady in the story, I’ve completely forgotten that periods can present in any other way. That once upon a time, before electricity, I had light, irregular flows, and even skipped a period now and then. I maybe went through a box of one size tampons every 3-4 months.

Until my younger coworker asked apologetically if I had a tampon. Like she might take my last one. “Sure!” I answered enthusiastically as I opened my bottom desk drawer, which as you can see from the picture is chock full. “Oh wow!” she said, eyes big.

tampondrawer

And I saw it through her eyes — like that women in the story. Crap. I already know it’s ridiculous to have my period at my age, but you don’t have to put a fine point on it or remind me nobody has a drawer full of tampons at their desk.

Then she got overwhelmed by the different sizes, “I don’t even know what these all are,” she said, slightly panicked. I thought how could you not know? In the tampon isle there are boxes with all sizes, marketed to us by color and names like “regular,” “super,” “super plus,” and that one grand day they were test marketing “ultra.” I was so happy and excited I bought a box and I never found them again after that. I have a bone to pick with the ever-changing, yet declining helpfulness of the color packaging, but that truly is another blog.

Maybe if your period has a little more civility, you get to have just your one box of one size, tucked away discretely among your note pads and pens and sticky notes.

She grabbed one, I believe is was a super, and ran off. And I was left staring at my drawer. Resupplying it can sometimes feel like musical chairs. Every time I restock, I think maybe it will stop, and then what will I do with all this? (Answer: donate to a woman’s shelter). But she’s sitting on the bar stool laughing at me. She’s not going to pull that trick on me for a long time — Miss every 24 days.

Oh, no, not me. I got my full drawer at work and my full shelf at home. My coworker did come again a few month later, asking for a tampon. She seemed less shocked this time, so that was good.

If my period ever does stop I was thinking I could fill the space with yarn. I make a mean afghan.

Dedicated to my dear friend Ruthy. You know why.

 

 

 

It’s a Classic

I’d walked by the small sign on a tiny side street in Boston’s Beacon Hill many times on my way home, and always wondered what was behind the door at 37A. Most of Beacon Hill is made up of tiny side streets that barely accommodate cars, so I often feel like I’m travelling back in time and can hear a faint clip clop of horse shoes on cobblestone. The name fed into the time travel: Harvard Musical Association. I rarely saw anyone going in or out, and I wondered if Harvard, which was way across the river, had misplaced a piece of itself.

But that’s what I love about Boston. You could walk on side streets all over town and stumble on these tucked away associations and societies — some still active because of a blue blood trust, some long gone with only a plaque to mark the spot, but all of them tracing their roots back to clip clop on cobblestone.

By chance I got invited to a fundraiser of a friend’s music organization for kids called musiConnects to be held at — you guessed it, the Harvard Music Association. Two-fer! This liberal snowflake would get to support music for kids and find out what’s behind mystery door #57A. My friend asked to pass the invitation to anyone who liked classical music. I was short on time, so didn’t have a chance to drum up anyone to bring. I also wasn’t sure who of my friends liked classical music. I like it myself, once I got over my father’s efforts to push it on us as kids, and I even took some adult ed classes to learn more. It always seemed me to be a type of music that to truly appreciate it requires some knowledge of the interplay of the notes, the vocabulary, the context in which the composers worked. Unlike, say, a kickass Jimi Hendrix guitar riff. It didn’t help that I learned the hard way, you don’t just buy Schubert’s Symphony #4 for an afficionado. They want a recording by this specific symphony, with that guest conductor who was there in 2005, on the occasion of the composer’s 350th birthday.

Jimi playing pretty much anywhere is good stuff.

At least listening to kids playing classical music, I had a better chance of accessing it. I know, I know, symphonies want a broader audience, and I get it, but some of us are still intimidated by the ornate hall and the impeccably dressed musicians. And memories from that one summer concert at the Hatch Shell when a storm blew up suddenly. It delayed the performance for a short time, but also rained, hailed briefly, and then created a spectacular rainbow, which I and my small son enjoyed thoroughly. First we laughed at the crazy weather, then ooed and ahed at the rainbow, all the while getting the stink eye from the older patrons, who seemed to take issue with our glee at mother nature’s interruption.

I had no idea what to expect, but from the moment I entered at 57A, it was pure magic. The door led to a typical winding 1800’s staircase that led to a gorgeous main room. I love how so much space is hidden in these old brownstones. The streets outdoors are actually more cramped than the indoor spaces.

The walls were lined with paintings, of course, and bookcases of musical scores. The association has a storied history, cuz, you know, Boston, complete with a library, free practice rooms for musicians, and having a hand in creating the Boston Symphony Orchestra. As one does. You can read it all on their website. But that was just the appetizer.

The real treat began when muciConnects resident musicians played 5 chamber pieces, all composed by women, in  sets of string quartets, one which included the kids, and another featured a drummer of the tabla, a drum used in North Indian classical music. These professional musicians teach hundreds of Boston kids to read and play chamber music (which is typically played in small groups of 3-6 people). In the process the kids gain confidence and learn collaborative thinking.

I’m not sure what I expected, but the intimate setting and the personal chat the musicians gave about the piece and their experience with it totally flipped everything for me. This wan’t an academic talk, or giving information you could find on Wikipedia. They were speaking of it as a live thing that mattered to them. One musician introduced a piece by Fanny Mendelssohn, sister of the more famous Felix Mendelssohn (but only because he was dude). She said it was a difficult piece and during practice the group struggled with the sound, so they decided to sing the notes instead and that helped them hear it in a different way. If she hadn’t mentioned the difficultly, I might not have appreciated the last movement, which indeed sounded amazing and looked … difficult. The four bows were flying back and forth, up and down, making the notes fell over each other and into each other into a beautiful finale. When they finished the last note they all looked at each other briefly and their eyes and smiles said, “Yes! Nailed it!” And how can you not get excited when the musician says, “This a really fun, energetic piece, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.” The joy on their faces when they played was as uplifting as the music.

Then the 3 students came up and played with their teacher/musician. The music was simple, but they did so well. They were working hard to watch their teacher and each other, smiling the whole time. The relief (no mistakes!) when it was over was just as sweet.

So what’s behind door #57A? An evening I won’t soon forget. Thanks to the musiConnect kids and their teachers for showing me that classical music actually is accessible, even to a Jimi Henrix fan like me.

 

 

 

 

 

Do It for the Elders

Unless you live under a rock/bubble bigger than mine, which is highly unlikely as it’s one of my minor superpowers, you have heard the request to vote from every crack and crevice of our system. And you’ve most likely heard the very good reasons: make your voice heard, participate in our democracy, save our country from ruin (even though people differ on the definition or ruin, we seem to be able to agree we’re all working toward that goal).

And that is all fine, but in case those reasons don’t do it for you, here’s another: Do it for the elders who single-handedly run our polling systems. At least here in Massachusetts.

I have lived in and voted in 3 different areas in and around Boston: in a city with a mix of college kids, townies, and those from elsewhere who liked it enough to stay; a working class city; and now a bastion of blue snowflakes. What do they have in common? Every poll place is run by people over the age of 70, maybe even 75.

While we’re bellyaching about having to run in there before, after, or during work, or between jobs, or picking up/dropping off kids, or between care giving errands, these badass guardians of our democracy are there from 7 am to 8 pm on election day, and with early voting, on many other days, as well.

So if  you are at least trying to pretend you’re human, you should go out of respect of these elders, many of them grandmas and grandpas. Are you going to diss grandma? Are you that lame?

And if you don’t care about that, are you going to be shown up by a little old man or lady? They can get up early and sit there asking people the same questions for hours, and you can’t manage to take 10 minutes to pop in and vote?

C’mon, don’t be an asshat, just vote! You can always be an asshat later.

And of course all you lovelies who have voted or will, thank you. You’re utterly fantastic, and the badasses approve.

Photo credit: OMF

 

Here’s What We’re Going to Do

My grandmother, who we called Memere (we’re 1/2 French Canadian), would say, after listening to whatever childish request we’d cooked up or if it were a rainy day and we were moping around, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” And some amazing activity would ensue: cooking up cripes (that was our version of crepes), or making a dress for an off-brand Barbie, or figuring out what fun thing to do with a piece of a float that had washed up on the shore of her tiny lake cottage.

She has moved on, but her words came back to me as I have been thinking about the three ballot questions we have in Massachusetts. If you live here, I’m sure you’ve read up, or have been reading the flyers that are inundating your mailbox, or you’re getting phone calls from engaged young enthusiastic people. But you’re still not sure?

Here’s what you’re going to do. And because my Memere’s involved, at least in memory, you know you can trust this:

  1. Ballot Question 1, NO: Do you approve of a law that would limit how many patients could be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other health care facilities. The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care. No on 1.

I work at a hospital that is consistently ranked in the top 3 in the nation–OK once we went down to #4, but they changed the criteria that year–and we say no. The nurses at my hospital have complete control over how many nurses they need to take care of patients who are always changing and have changing needs. One size does not fit all. Here’s is the chief nurse speaking plainly about it to one of our docs. It’s not a slick advertisement, just an iPhone video of reality.  Our chief nurse says no on 1

2. Ballot Question 2, YES: Do you approve of this proposed law that would create a citizens commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the United States Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same Constitutional rights as human beings and that campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated. Yes on 2.

We’re Massachusetts, and we have lots of smart eggheads who can help clarify this. I know being smart is totally out of fashion right now.  But we can’t help ourselves. Let’s show the rest of the county how it’s done, shall we? They hate us anyway, so what do we have to lose?

3. Ballot Question 3. YES: This one is do you essentially re-approve of a law that has been in existence since 2016? This law already adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement. Such grounds also include race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, disability, and ancestry. A “place of public accommodation, resort or amusement” is defined in existing law as any place that is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public, such as hotels, stores, restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, and hospitals. “Gender identity” is defined as a person’s sincerely held gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not it is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Yes on 3. 

WTF? Look, whatever feelings you have about people who may be different from you. THIS LAW ALREADY EXISTS. No children, pets, or people’s silly pride had been harmed by this law.

WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS? You live in Massachusetts–we’re a bunch of blue snowflakes, deal with it. If you have a problem, there are lots of other states you can be happy in. Buh-bye.

Happy voting people, and please don’t disappoint my Memere!

Image credit: National Monitor