Category Archives: Friends

What’s All the Hoopla?

In November 2017 I wrote about trying to work more exercise into my routine. At the time, I was enamored with the jump rope, which was fine and fun, until I realized I had to stop drinking anything after 2 pm, and I don’t mean just alcohol. If I didn’t, my after work jumping was, well, let’s just say maybe Muhammad Ali floated like a butterfly, but I come down more like a wildebeest pounding the ground as if a cheetah wants me for lunch. All that gravity is a little too much on my system, if you know what I mean. And I am not wearing Depends unless I’m traveling cross-country to punch out a bitch who’s getting it on with my man. Neither scenario — without or with Depends — has any dignity, but the second version makes a better story and comes with three square meals a day, and we all know that’s what really counts.

When I bought the jump rope, I also got a hula hoop at a toy store. I had done a little research online, but you know how fitness crazes are — people claiming to be an authority on hula hooping insist you must have fancy, expensive equipment. First of all, how do you even fact check that? Is there an official American Association of Hula Hoop Instructors? And what if there were? What self-respecting person would even believe that? Kids, don’t believe everything on the internet.

I tried my hula hoop a few times and then brought it to a friend’s house. I kept forgetting about it, until I finally remembered after about a year. By this time I had stopped jumping and was pretending to try other types of exercise, which was mostly just walking 4 to 5 miles a day. That sounds good on paper, but I walk leisurely and I can still lose my breath walking up two flights of stairs. The hard, cold, brutal fact is that as you get older, you have to work harder for less results. And doing nothing gets you in one of those Wal-Mart scooters and seeing 6 specialists for things called “comorbidities” in about 6 months. Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.

I got the hoop back and decided to give the internet a chance to show me how to use it — maybe that’s why I was having trouble getting the thing to glide around my waist like it did when I was 8 years old.  It was my technique that was lacking. I watched one video that talked about making sure you move either forward and back or side to side, and not an actual hula movement. So confusing. Still, though a part of me thought, I used to do this effortlessly as a kid. How hard can it be? Turns out as hard as anything you haven’t done in 45 years in a completely different body.  Also, muscle memory could very well be a lie.

Undaunted, I started on Monday after work, spun the hoop, and started rocking. Within minutes, I was out of breath, mostly from having to bend over and pick up the hoop from the floor every 2 seconds. After about 5 minutes, I put it away and decided to try again tomorrow. The next night I did try it again. Yay me! #lowbar. This time I was able to keep it up for about 5 seconds. I was buoyed by my success, only to immediately go back to my 2 seconds and retrieving the hoop from the floor. The third day I noticed my stomach muscles were sore — that’s got to be a good thing, right? Maybe I didnb’t do enough research. I decided to find a video of someone who looked like they were actually hula hooping. No trick camera angles. Intellectually I understood I needed to get a back-and-forth rhythm going, but I wasn’t understanding it in my body. The woman talked about pushing out with your belly. I really pushed my belly out and scrunched up my face like I was in pain, which was some clever foreshadowing on my part. I could keep the hoop up for 7 seven seconds, but then it would mysteriously slow down and drop unceremoniously to the floor. I wanted to quit, but that seemed lame. It’s a kid’s toy for crying out loud. I gave it one more whirl, really pushing my stomach out. Suddenly, my muscle yelled, and then I yelled, and it all came crashing down.

Yes, I pulled a muscle in my belly hula hooping, as if I haven’t suffered enough indignities of being middle-aged. An unhelpful friend asked, “How could that happen? My 5-year-old niece can do it on her arms and her legs. It’s so easy!” Little bitch.

So back to the internet, and apparently size does matter. The smaller the hoop the harder it is for an adult to make it go—seemed like there was enough physics to make it sound true for a layperson, so I sucked it up, measured, and ordered a grown-ass hoola hoop. I’m going with this: I’m an adult and am entitled to custom hoola hoops, fine red wine, and ice cream any damn time I feel like it. Take that, little hoop bitches!

If I can’t make the bigger hoop work, I figure there must be reciprocity. Small hoops are harder for adults, ergo. big hoops harder for kids? I could give it to a kid and hula hoop hope.

Under the Influence

Long, long ago, in a young adulthood far, far away, an aspiring writer read a short story in the Boston Globe Magazine. She can’t recall what is was about — probably it involved a young woman, but a line struck her and has stayed with her to this day: “We spend all our lives remembering the most basic things.”

I can’t tell you how many life lessons I’ve learned, often quite smugly I might add, only to get gobsmacked by the same problem a few years later. If I’m lucky, I remember what I did before and soldier on through; sometimes I don’t and need a second gobsmacking. I don’t recommend this.

I have several writer friends, and we check in with each other as a way to keep ourselves on track. It’s like having an exercise buddy, but way less sweaty. They will often tell me they were only able to write a little, but were reading a lot. They’ll tell me some quotes from writers that encouraged them or made them think or made them ask why? All good tendencies in a writer.

And I thought, huh. I used to do that. When did I stop doing that? Oh, yeah, when I had a husband, a kid, and a mother-in-law in assisted living. Right. Sure, now I have older parents, but I am no longer the first responder, and we have help. I still have the kid and he is away at school. And while he still needs support, I don’t have to go to back to school nights, or parent-teacher conferences, or god help us, math night. Can’t the math people go to math night and I’ll go to word night? I don’t even care what type of words they are — fiction, rap, poetry, monologues. OK, so maybe I haven’t quite let go of that stuff. Maybe I should read up on that. But what about writing?

When I thought of what I could read to be inspired, I was like, meh. I can barely keep up with my book group and romance novels. Reading about writing seems like a lot of work.

That aspiring writer from long ago is seriously rolling her eyes at me.

I actually didn’t have to go that far. If I had bothered to read my own “About” page, I would see: “I aspire to be the love child of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris. But I also have a serious bent that sneaks in between the laughs.” I should also add:  And I have memory gaps you can drive a truck through. But that’s not how I remembered how much I love, love, love David Sedaris. It was my friend Mike inviting me to hear David read in Boston recently. I have only heard him on the radio in snippets and never seen him in person. His essays make me laugh so hard, once when I was listening to him in the car, I almost drove off the road. He’d like that, I think. I have 4 of his books, and now I remember I got another for a gift that I didn’t like. So I think it was like, OK, that’s done.

But hearing pieces from his new book made me laugh out loud and my writing heart soar. He is about my age and tackling similar life things like midlife and aging parents in his irreverent, sarcastic, and sneakily self-effacing way. Yes, that’s how it’s done! He spares no one from his witty judging, especially himself. How could this love child get so lost on her own path? I could blame Cheeto flea, but really it’s more like my own smugness. Look! I write a blog! Every week! I don’t have writer’s block — I planned to have those cute hamster pictures in my editorial calendar. I have made it my friends. I don’t need writing advice. I am a writer. See my blog?

Somewhere along the way I went from being an insecure young writer to an overconfident older writer. Neither one is a good look, and everyone can use a role model. Especially one who writes like this: In the essay, “Jesus Shaves,” from the book Me Talk Pretty One Day, published in 2000, he writes about a French class he is taking in Paris with people from many other countries, and the students must explain Easter in their broken French:

”The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. ‘It is,’ said one, ‘a party for a little boy of God who calls his self Jesus and …oh shit.” She faltered and her fellow countryman came to her aid.

‘He call his self Jesus and then he be die one day on two  … morsels of … lumber.’

The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

‘He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father.’

‘He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here to say hello to the peoples.’

‘He nice, the Jesus.’

‘He make the good things, and on Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.’

Part of the problem had to do with vocabulary. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as ‘to give of yourself your only begotten son.’ Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.” 

David goes on to describe how he says the rabbit of Easter brings the chocolate, but the teacher tells him in France that chocolate is brought by a big bell that flies in from Rome.

“[The Easter bunny is] someone you’d like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It’s like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they’ve got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That’s the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there is no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell’s dog — and even then he’d need papers. It just didn’t add up.”

As soon as I got home from hearing David, I ordered his new book, Calypso, and one he published a few years ago, Theft by Finding. It’s like I discovered my favorite show just added two new seasons on Netflix. I can’t wait to binge. And this time, I’m not going to forget this most basic thing: I am the love child of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris and I’m going to make them proud.

 

 

After You

About one year ago I wrote about an incident that happened at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). It was a cool after-hours event with my bestie, Mike, and we were dressed up and having a fun. At one point we were focused on our target — a set of stairs — and like normal urban people made a straight line for them. Without realizing it, we walked between a group of people posing against an elevator wall with art on it and the person who was taking their photo. There wasn’t another way around, only the option to wait, but I didn’t see them. However, piercing my urban fog was a Black woman who suddenly appeared, draped her arm around my shoulders, and said sarcastically, “Congratulations on your white privilege!”

One million thoughts fired through my shocked brain, including, hey, why aren’t you yelling at Mike? He walked ahead of me! (Love you, Mike!) OK, fine, maybe I’m the safer target. That thought was followed by the many ways I am a person who is more racially aware. And also, have been working on to improve. One of my best friends is Bla….Oh, crap. I can’t believe I went there.

OK, how about I’m naturally clueless? My college roommates short-sheeted my bed, and I didn’t even notice. Wait, do people even do that anymore? Argh! And why didn’t you also yell at Mike? Why am I being singled out because I’m white and female…ugh and Argh!

OK, all I got at this point is shock, and so I apologized verbally, and I also bowed with my hands in prayer — maybe they thought I was being sarcastic, or maybe the Japanese people can call me out for appropriating their thing.

This shit is complicated.

But I learned from the white privilege class I took earlier this year that I can be good and racist. Although a part of me insists I was just being my normal clueless urban self. This is what city people do to stay sane. We ignore each other.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was walking with three members of my family, and I was telling them a story as we crossed a big wide open space in the Ruggles train station. It was a Saturday afternoon and fairly empty. Suddenly a Black woman appeared to my right and said loudly. “Excuse me!” She was trying to cross in front of us. Again, my first reaction was, we’re in a city! First come first serve, WTF? Also, there are four of us and one of you. Doesn’t that give us some sort of urban right-of-way? Is that even a thing? You know, democracy, majority rules, blah, blah, blah?

But I kept thinking about the woman at the MFA. Is being urban clueless a good enough excuse today? Was it ever? When I was growing up, people who had fancy boats with bathrooms could just flush their toilets into the water. That was OK then, and now it’s not. Sooo, where’s the line?

Not long ago, I was walking from one work building to another, and at one point the sidewalk narrowed to just wide enough for two people abreast. Two white people were animatedly talking in front of me, and suddenly (it seems I’m hopelessly not paying attention to people, and they are always appearing suddenly!) a Black jogger appeared next to me and behind the couple. He was speaking, but he had something over his mouth. All I can say was that it looked like the mouth part of the old timey World War II gas mask, but without the mask part. I was nearly next to him, and I was having trouble understanding him through that thing. But he must have been on repetition number 3 or 4, because he was mad, and yelling. “Move out of the way! Can’t you see me?” The white guy, on the narrow sidewalk ahead of him, said. “No, I didn’t see you.” The Black man answered, “What? Am I invisible?” Although it sounded more like, “WhamIibbibble?”

Oooooh, boy. I was kind of like, um this sidewalk is too narrow to see behind you and what in God’s name are you wearing? Is this a YouTube prank?

Was this about race? Was it about a narrow sidewalk? Was it about a weird WWII gas mask muffler thingy? Clearly Black people are pissed off, and have every right to be.

Within a few days of that encounter, I was waiting to cross at an intersection near my house. The cross walk is for pedestrians and bikes, and the three converging roads all have stop signs. I’m usually more in danger of getting clipped by the bikes than cars. This day I waited as the car came fast down the street and blew through the stop sign, only slowing down because she was turning the corner. A bike was also coming toward me and went into the street with nary a slowdown. The car jerked to a stop, and the guy on the bike pointed his finger at the driver, and yelled, “Stop sign! Stop sign!”

Now I know why we were told not to point. While it’s somewhat satisfying to point at others, it is also annoying to get pointed at. The bike passed, and the driver merely punched the gas and yelled through her window, gesturing wildly, “I’m driving! I’m driving!” Which I guess was her mistaken attempt to put herself in the right, even though, she so wasn’t.

So, both of them were white. Clearly everyone is pissed off.

It used to be that city people could just ignore each other blissfully, like at an Olympic champion level. We need to go from point A to point B with the straightest line possible. I cut you off, and that’s OK, because you will likely cut me off next time. It’s like an invisible contract we sign. I have lived here for 36 years, and I have not experienced this level of immediate reaction and being so pissed off about everything. And I’m not being all old timey and saying people were more polite back in the day. Hell no. We were rude then, and we’re rude now, it’s just that it took something really rude to get our panties in a twist enough to start yelling. Now everyone is on a hair trigger, and Black people are plain Fed Up.

A realization finally managed to penetrate my white privilege bubble: It’s not enough to look out and see Black people. I have to see everyone.

Of course, I did have my white privilege hissy fit: Why do I have to pay attention? I’m busy! I need to be places — important, urban places! Why can’t you just accept that me ignoring you is an urban thing? If you want to be treated like a princess, go live in the burbs or the country. I’m naturally clueless. Live in my head. Why do I have to change?

But I was going to have to do just that — the unthinkable. I was going to have to be calm, polite, and let other people go first. WTF?!? I told a friend my stories of pissed off people and how I was trying to be more aware in public spaces and let others go first. He asked me if it helped.

At first I said, well, I haven’t gotten yelled at lately. So, yes, it has helped. But then I realized, it also was making me feel better. I have a sensitive nervous system and can be easily be overwhelmed by certain kinds of stimulation, like talking to people, especially strangers. I thought having to always be aware of my surroundings, other than the usual woman ongoing, “strange man in vicinity” alert, would be exhausting. But as I began to do it, I noticed that I don’t have to pay attention all the time. Only at the essential times, such as getting through the train turnstile, or getting on or off the train. I’m not quite at the advanced level of giving up my seat, unless it’s really, really obvious the person needs the seat. I need to see fainting, blood, or obvious pregnancy.

I am making a conscious decision to see others and let them go first. I am trying to be extra nice to Black people — I try to smile in hopes of cancelling out any looks/comments they have gotten to this point in the day.

Is it helping improve this poisonous place we call the U.S. right now? Who knows? I have felt despair, and wanted to do some big grand gesture. That’s great, but it also smacks a bit of white privilege/white savior. It’s not one and done; it’s being there every day and being aware of others, whether I feel like it or not.

At least I haven’t gotten yelled at for past few weeks.

Fresh Legs

Mike and I have been going to our dance place since 2014. Other people commit to being CEO by 40, running a marathon by 30, or some other foolhardy pursuit. Ours is dancing. We committed to becoming regulars, and so we did. Most Sunday nights we step into our little slice of heaven, having fun with our merry band of dancing friends, making new friends, and on occasion, impressing the young ones with our moves and our love of the music. I can tell that’s what they are thinking from the sidelines as they watch us and sip their drinks. Or that’s at least what they should be thinking.

But it isn’t all rainbow flags and unicorns. Sometimes people try to steal your scarf. Packs of straight people, who have no idea about the importance of a safe space for gay people, descend on us and stand in the middle of the dance floor talking, getting drunk and twerking, and then committing one of the most unforgivable of offences, hitting me with their silly purses because they are too cheap to pay $3 to check them. Meanwhile their menfolk stand around uncomfortably, wondering what they got talked into. All of this they could do in nearly any other bar in Boston — why invade our world?

Yes, it’s true, I’m straight, but I understand I am a guest here and respect the space and the people in it. If I want to do straight things, I do them in a different place. See how that works? Also, I enjoy making up a lot of rules other people should know because, I’ve been here longer and have more dance cred than you, oh-poser-having-a-one-night-dance-stand-you-won’t-even-remember-because-you’re-going-to-be-puking-soon. Yeah, that.

One week in particular was really bad. We were overrun with straight people. They were talking loudly over the music, and I can’t even tell you how that is possible. I have to wear professional custom earplugs and I could hear them. They formed their own little dance line, taking up half the space, not caring about the rest of us trying to bust a move. And of course, I got bumped multiple times with the stupid purses. And maybe that put me in a crabby mood, but the music seemed repetitive — how many times can you dance to the fast version of “Sweet Dreams (Are made of This)” while watching Annie Lennox wander around in the night in a white nightgown holding a lantern? I went home feeling as if there had been a shift in the gay dance Force, and not in a good way.

But then the next week, Stephen came.

Stephen, from my post, California Steamin’  was visiting our coast from that place. He is a New England native who got lured to California, and I’ve mostly forgiven him. He said he wanted to go dancing that Sunday. I’d had a long week and a busy weekend, and frankly would have been OK not going, but I had promised, and it was Stephen, who I don’t get to see that often. Also, I’m a committed professional, so my ass was on the dance floor.

I’m so glad I did. In being a regular, I had forgotten what a magical place our dance club is, even when it’s overrun by drunken, straight people. Stephen was having a great time, dusting off his considerable dance moves. After nearly every song, he’d say, “Oh, my god, I love this song! I haven’t heard it in years!” or “I love Annie Lennox!” And suddenly, Annie, floating through the night in her white nightgown, was transformed into an ethereal goddess of 80s music. And then I loved her too.

And I was transformed, remembering how lucky I am to have a safe place to dance to the 70s and 80s music that made me, with my dear friend and partner in living our best life, Mikey. And how lucky are we that we can share it with our friend Stephen?

Damn lucky, and thank you Stephen for giving me a fresh perspective and reminding me of that. Here are my beloved boys. Let’s dance.

stephen2

 

 

Lights Out

I’m renting an amazing apartment in the Boston neighborhood of my dreams and feel like I won the lottery. It’s in an old building and as my friend who I’m renting from likes to say, there are no straight lines in this place. That’s what living in Boston means, with its 100+ year-old housing stock. All those kids living in the high-rise luxury apartments springing up in Boston like a toxic algae bloom have no idea what they are missing. I guess as the youngest child of four, I’m used to adapting to people and things that are bigger than me.

Unsecured doors swing open on their own, the bathroom door is loose and the closet door across from it door sticks. That doesn’t bother me a bit.

Then I encountered the light fixtures, which I believe predate my friend’s ownership (at least I hope so, or I may find myself knocking the toxic algae bloom door. Love you, landlord!)

It started with lights going out in the kitchen — fancy track lighting spotlights. Fancy to me because my idea of lighting is 40, 60, or 100 watts, and if you’re really getting crazy, use a 3-way bulb. I have tall ceilings, which I love, so, OK, I took out the tall step ladder Lora left for me, thank goodness. There are 3 little lights, and they don’t screw in, and they are flush to the fixture, so there is nothing to hold on to to get them out. Lora said there was a little rubber suction cup to pull them out. Um, OK. I couldn’t find that, but I like to think I’m pretty resourceful, so I thought I’d use a sticky ball of duct tape, which works only on the bulbs coming out. Putting them in, not so much because they get hot instantaneously, and then it just makes a melted mess and the bulb gets junked up. It took some coordination, what with being at the top of a ladder and reaching up awkwardly, but when I finally got it loose, I see the bulb has these two prongs you have to push in and twist to lock in, high up on a ladder in the middle of the kitchen. I’m not really looking forward to that part, but first things first.

You have to get your mitts on replacements.

It took a couple of stores to find the right bulbs. And then it took a couple of tries to get that first one in. I’m trying to match up the prongs into the holes and then twist it to lock it in, which sounds simple, except I’m on top of a ladder and can’t see anything. Just blindly stabbing the thing in there, hoping for the best. It finally feels like it snaps in. Great!

So when the second one went out a few weeks later, I thought I was ready. I had the bulbs, had some duct tape, had some experience. Not so fast, girlie. The second one wouldn’t go in. Or rather, felt like it was going in, only for me to climb down the ladder, turn it on and see it not light, or flutter on and off from being loose. I went from calm to a hot, sweating, swearing mess in about 10 seconds, which as you know, makes these tasks much easier. Sweating and swearing while teetering on top of  a ladder is not a good look for me, so I let that bulb stay out for a few days. Off course it’s the one pointed at where I cook,so my annoyance won out. It took another couple of tries, and it’s still isn’t clicked in quite right, but whatever. I moved on.

A few months later the living room overhead light bulb went out. It looks like an ordinary overhead light. I climb up the ladder, unscrew the glass bowl and discover more of these pronged light bulbs. Seriously? What is this, like the Betamax version of light bulbs? What the hell is wrong with plain screw in light bulbs? I gave a pass on the track lighting, because it’s seems like a fancy kind of lighting, which naturally requires extra things like suction cups and prongs. Fine. But an overhead light? With regular sized bulbs? Prongs? Really? Who even sells these things? Even more puzzling, it was one of those swirly tube bulbs — you know the ones that cost 10 bucks a piece and came out at a time when we’d only ever paid like $1 or $2 and the electric companies were giving us all discounts to buy them. Save energy, shine your environmental hero halo! Only to discover now that they are filled with mercury! Oops! Hey, don’t throw those away! True they did last longer, but you still have to get rid of them somehow. So not only did I need a light bulb with prongs, I had to hope they still make the non-swirly kind.

Light bulb people! Why do you feel the need to make a different kind of bottom for a light bulb? Just make the top more efficient and without mercury? Just focus on that, OK?

OK. Again, I had to make a couple of trips to different stores to find  a replacement. The young man who helped me, who most likely was born around the time these stupid swirly light bulbs were invented, gets a gold star for customer service,  because I went all “crabby old lady” on him. What with the prongs and the mercury swirl. He was appropriately sympathetic, in part because he only had one kind of replacement. I had no idea if it was the right wattage, I didn’t have a choice. That’s the other thing with these fancy/weird bulbs; they have no wattage or markings of any kind on the bulb or metal. So you can’t order them online, because you only have a picture to compare to, and guess what: size does matter. And, what, one wattage fits all? Or you know it’s not going to last on the market so why bother?

OK, I bought two bulbs for $20 bucks and change from the nice young man who did not judge me to my face. The package says they will last 10 years. Yeah, right, just in time for them not to be made anymore. I went back up the ladder and anticipated a prong wrestling match like the track lights in the kitchen. But lo, it’s amazing what leverage and easy access can do. It was in!

Phew, OK.

Not even a month later the dining room ceiling light bulb goes out. Ha! You can’t fool me twice. I’m ready with my pronged, efficient, non-mercury filled light bulb. Come at me bro! I get to the top of the ladder, unscrew the bowl, and there it is, laughing at me.

A conventional screw in bulb.

Screw the bowl back in, down the ladder, put the prong bulb away and fish out a conventional bulb. Back up the ladder. OK, done. Whatever.

Not even a few weeks later, a bedroom ceiling light bulb blew out. I’m really starting to hate all these ceiling lights and make a promise to myself to only use the floor lamps.

I climb up the ladder, but I’m not really paying attention. I mean, I have prong bulbs and I have conventional bulbs. What else could possibly be in a traditional-looking ceiling light fixture? I unscrew the bowl, which by the way is becoming a major pain in the butt. All these lights have pull chains and you can’t get the bowl off the chain, so you have to hold the bowl, while your taking out or putting in the bulb.

But I digress.

And what do you think I found behind light bulb door number 3? Three small lights, apparently called “torpedo candelabra” bulbs, and two of them were out. I thought of a few things I wanted to torpedo. Sigh. At least they have conventional screw bottoms.

Another trip to the hardware store, with bulbs in hand, and I was only  a little grumpy with the young worker. At least these bulbs seem more available. And the prongs taught me to be happy with the screw in version.

So the only light left to change is the bathroom light/fan set up. I’m going to stop using that thing tout suite. 

Photo Credit: Beautiful Halo: Ha, good luck replacing lights in that sucker.

Nod to Elton John: This Blog Has No Title

I’ve been sitting here trying to find a pithy title to this blog. And then Elton John’s song popped in my head:  This Song Has No Title.   When I say popped, I mean up from the recesses of my adolescent brain. I haven’t thought about this song in years, but the album it’s on, Yellow Brick Road, is part of the soundtrack of my youth — it was etched into me before I understood music could do that. It was my sister’s album, and she listened to it a lot. And I loved the double album artwork, so I as I gazed at it and read the lyrics, I listened to it when she wasn’t there. As I listened to the song just now, after at least 40 years, I air pianoed in all the right places. It seems relevant still:

“And each day I learn just a little bit more
I don’t know why but I do know what for
If we’re all going somewhere let’s get there soon
Oh this song’s got no title just words and a tune”

I’m stalling. I’ve been taking a class called “White People Challenging Racism: Moving from Talk to Action,” and just so there is no misunderstanding, we’re against racism and are looking at our white privilege. The way it’s worded and in today’s Cheeto flea world, I want to confirm that it doesn’t mean we are challenging the legitimacy of racism. So all you MAGA people, move up or move on back. Preferably get a clue, but that’s probably not gonna happen. And Black folks, we’re trying to work out our white junk so we can be better allies to you and make sure our baggage fits in the overhead compartment.

And I want to talk about it, but it’s messing with my head, making me look for words, which for a writer is like being a carpenter without wood. I’m angry, sad, puzzled, tired, exposed, struggling. Where the hell is the wood?

I’m a good white person. I need you to know that, and that’s part of the problem, see? This isn’t about good white person = non-racist. I can be a good person and still have racist ideas and thoughts and assumptions. And I’m squirming and struggling against the idea like one of Pepe Le Pew’s victims. I had the great fortune of having a best friend in college who let me into her Black world. I am an empathetic person by nature. I got it, I believed it when she told me how life was for her being Black. We analyzed when she was a new lawyer at a big Boston firm. Was the interaction because she Black? a woman? Low lawyer on the ladder?

I grew up working class, from immigrants. First generation on one side, 2nd on the other. College was a goal, not a given. I worked all during college, two of those years about 30 hours a week. I graduated with tons of loans, worked in nonprofits — a professional who was not out to make money, but a difference. I did not own property until I was 37. It was in an affordable, but less desirable Boston-area town. My then husband and I didn’t have parents who could give us a down payment, so we took the money out from our 403Bs.

I know white privilege exists on a systemic level. I can’t have listened to a Black person’s experience and doubted it. Ah, so comfy, from my “less privileged” place. I didn’t have money or social standing. I’m good, I’m cool, right? I’m not like those clueless rich white people. Am I?

I defer to my alter ego Blanche, because she likes to laugh at me when I’m being stupid. She sits at the bar drinking gin and taking long contemplative drags on her ciggies.

Blanchesmoking

Poor, Blanche. She just fell off her stool, she’s laughing so hard. Luckily, she’s a tough bird. She’ll be OK. Plus, she likes laughing at me, so she wants nothing better than to get on that stool and in position for my next misstep.

Blanche says, “You’re white, girlie. Hide behind your ‘working class, immigrant’ shield all you want. The fact is, no one has followed your sorry ass in a store, even when you had no money to spend. No one ever thought at work that you were only there because of affirmative action. Once they meet you, your coffee slurping may annoy them, but that’s just being a bad office mate. You uncomfortable? That’s sounds about right.”

Blanch takes a long drag on her ciggie and looks me in the eye as she stubs it out, “You ain’t perfect, babe, let it ride. I’ll stop laughing when you talk sense.” She downs her shot and slams it on the bar. “Or not,” her smokey, throaty laugh echoes in stale air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas

There, I said it. It’s a holiday, so I hope you are spending it the way you would like. I’m with my family, so you’ll have to look for my witty banner next week. Wait–that wasn’t a side eye to my family. I swear.

I will give you my friend’s holiday-related post which I thoroughly enjoyed. Bumble vs Winter Warlock  anyone?

Anywho, here’s a picture of my tree–that’s all you’re getting this week. Kisses and lots of eggnog and cheer for you!