Thursday, December 30, 2004
pregnant hope billowed out big as a sail,
rocked playfully on the waves of possibility and flirting,
But it ended with a SPLAT:
glistening raw redness of a watermelon
cruelly lurched from the back of a truck.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Fortunately I had a Christmas breakthrough. After work on Christmas night, I went out with some co-workers and talked to them about the job, had some drinks, and then had a MUCH better shift tonight. In fact, it was the first shift I truly enjoyed because I did not freak out or become frightened at any point. Usually I make at least one mistake per shift that causes me to panic and start thinking, "That's it. They're going to fire me. That's it. They're going to fire me."
Tonight, incredibly, I stayed calm throughout, rode the waves of hectic-ness, kept smiling and truly stayed relaxed. It felt so good! I don't know what caused the shift, but now there's hope for this job work out. Only by staying calm will I truly improve and get those big parties. I really want this job to work out because I do enjoy it (plus I have lots of flirting opportunities, which is always good for this spinster). Either the comaraderie of my co-workers helped or I need to start drinking regularly (I rarely drink, but had three shots on Christmas night). I don't care, I'm just grateful for the new level of confidence and ease. Let's just call it the closest I can get to a Christmas miracle.
And let the money flow!
Friday, December 24, 2004
Merry Christmas, 2004. My favorite Christmas movie is Bad Santa with Billy Bob Thornton. It was in the theaters last year at this time and it's great. While wearing the Santa outfit, Thornton picks up a character played by Lauren Graham ("Gilmore Girls" mom). She has a Santa fantasy and when they are shown having sex, she's chanting, "F--k me, Santa! F--k me, Santa!" It recalled my personal fantasy which is similar, only replace the name "Santa" with "Jesus." I actually saw this movie with a Lutheran minister who could have gotten lucky that night, I guess, but somehow it didn't happen.
This really is free association. Speaking of Jesus, one curse I say when I'm really angry (but never out loud) is "Jesus f--king Christ on a stick!" I've been using that one for a couple of years, and I was hugely gratified to hear it uttered by Cartman on the latest South Park episode. Kyle is chiding Cartman for not caring about Christmas, and Cartman sputters, "Christ on a stick!" Maybe it'll become mainstream, but probably not.
Today was my day off from the restaurant and I'm about to go to bed out of sheer boredom. This has got to be the last Christmas season I spend like this: nowhere to go, no one to hang out with. I'm considering cheap meaningless sex just for something to do. Shall I hit a bar? Pick up some lonely guy? Call it charity work?
What is the magic of Christmas I imagine used to be there? Some illusion of childhood materialism or part of the delusion nurtured by society to get us all to settle down and get married and have children and be miserable? Is there some spirit I'm supposed to "discover," some healing that will take place as soon as I stop insisting that I don't believe? That's the catch. They say Jesus saves or that miracles happen or whatever, but only if you believe. We have to plug into the Matrix willingly, otherwise we get nothing but the same Bing Crosby song played over and over and over like a ululation emptied of emotion.
I know there's a restart button. There are all kinds of ways to end your life and dying is only one of them. Some of us won't change until we are finally, mind-numbingly pierced through with an agony so complete that it blocks out everything we have managed to accomplish. An ecstasy of fumbling towards the life I want, I want, I need, I thought I wanted, I tried to have, maybe not, maybe this isn't where I belong at all.
I've lost all trust in my hunches. The truth of my reactions is so corrupted with the terror of intimacy that I no longer know if a gut aversion is a good call or the binding fear paralyzing me again. How does one re-learn instinct? Maybe it's time to let the shell break. Maybe the soft, vulnerable goo within has alchemized into the rubbery hardness that won't break when it hits the ground. I'm tired of trying not to let the cracks get bigger.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Please look up this event for yourselves. It’s fascinating. I feel like crying just thinking of how differently we do war now. Could this ever happen again? Maybe not.
I’ll transcribe as much as I can here over the next couple of days. Check back for more. Weintraub often refers to the German soldiers as “Saxons” and the English ones as “Tommies.” I don’t know who Frank Richards is that he keeps referring to, but I’m sure it’s made clear in his book (which I don’t have).
Taken from Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub, The Free Press, 2001
At the “earliest crack of dawn” Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch of the 134th Saxons wished “a good morning” to the English opposite. The next section in his battalion had heard of his “incredible adventure” by field phone and began making “friendly overtures.” Zehmisch had “delightful conversation in English, French and German” with enemy officers who had joined him. Contagion had set in. On Christmas morning at Houplines, near Armentieres, Frank Richards and his friends in the second Royal Welch Fusiliers “stuck up his board” on which they had lettered “A MERRY CHRISTMAS’ and waited to see what would happen. (He was used to evading orders. In the ranks since 1901, with duty in Burma and India, he had “risen,” he wrote in memoir “to primate.”) When their message was not riddled by fire, two men in his company jumped onto the parapet of their trench and raised their hands above their heads to show that they had no weapons. Two Germans opposite did the same, and began walking toward them, up from the Lys riverbank. As they met and shook hands, the trenches emptied and men on both sides began running toward each other. “Buffalo Bill” Stockwell, Richards’ company commander, had seen it too late to matter, rushing into the forwrd trench only when his men were gone. His nickname had come from his habit of pulling out his revolver and threatening to blow a man’s “ruddy brains out” for some trifling thing - and what he saw then was no trifle.
Since no choice existed but to accept reality “company officers climbed out, too. Their officers were also now out...We mucked in all day with one another.” One English-speaking Saxon confided that he was fed up with the war and Richards and his friends readily agreed.
Other unit commanders attempted at the start to put limits on fraternization, but were usually no more effective than Buffalo Bill. A belligerent Welch captain hoped to limit the cease-fire, but a sergeant with different views hoisted a large screen lettered “A MERRY CHRISTMAS.” At first, in the thick ground fog that accompanied the overnight frost, the Germans failed to see it. Yet, with no shots to fear, men ate their breakfasts openly. As the mist began lifting, soldiers on both sides “got a bit venturous and looked over the top,” normally unsafe in daylight. “A German started to walk down the tow-path [of the Lys] toward our lines and,” Richard wrote, “Ike Sawyer went to meet him. The German handed over a box of cigars. Later the Germans came boldly out of their trenches, but our men, still forbidden to leave theirs, threw out tins of bully [beef] and plum-and-apple jam.” And they shouted “Here you are, you poor hungry bastards!”
Exchanges of food were driven by the vast differential between supply and demand that the holiday had created. Germans would have given much for the legendary coarse English marmalade, but the only jam that reached the troops in 1914 was cheap plum-and-apple. From the German standpoint the surfeit was a boon. In exchange - in Richard’s sector - they promised to roll toward the British lines two barrels of beer. In Captian Stockwell’s account, the Saxons opposite “had been shouting across in English” all Christmas morning but only when the fog had lifted did his troops see half a dozen of the enemy standing on their parapets without arms, shouting, “Don’t shoot. We don’t want to fight today. We will send you some beer.” Three of them began to roll a barrel that had been hoisted onto a parapet “into the middle of No Man’s Land.” More Saxons emerged between the lines and things were getting a bit thick. My men were getting a bit excited. We did not like to fire as they were all unarmed, but we had strict orders and someone might have fired, so I climbed over the parapet and shouted, in my best German, for the opposting Captain to appear. We met and formally saluted. He introduced himself as Count Something-or-other, and seemed to be a very decent fellow. He could not speak a word of English. he then called out his subalterns and formally introduced them with much clicking of heels and saluting. They were all very well turned out, while I was in a goatskin coat. One of the subalterns could talk a few words of English. I said, “My orders are to keep my men in the trenches and allow no armistice. Don’t you think it is dangerous, all your men running about in the open like this? Someone may open fire.”
He called out an order, and all his men went back to their parapet, leaving me and the five German officers and a barrel of beer in the middle of No Man’s Land. He said, “You had better take the beer; we have lots.” So I called up two men to bring the barrel to our side. I did not like to take their beer without giving something in exchange, and I suddenly had a brainwave. We had lots of plum puddings, so I sent for one and formally presented it to him in exchange for the beer. He then called out, “Waiter,” and a German private whipped out six glasses and two bottles of beer, and with much bowing and saluting we solemnly drank it, amid cheers from the both sides. We then all formally saluted and returned to our lines. Our men had sing-songs, ditto the enemy.
From Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub. Isn’t it amazing? If only it could happen now.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Anyway, I've been struggling with these questions ever since I began this restaurant job. They ask me if I'm married, why I'm not married, if I've ever been married, why I've never been married, if I have a boyfriend, if I want a boyfriend and why I don't have a boyfriend. The interrogation is made all the more difficult by being in Spanish. After decades of shame and silence about my poor gringo-level Spanish ability, after decades of carefully NEVER mentioning Spanish on job applications or resumes, after decades of explaining to people with common expectations and assumptions that no, I don't speak Spanish, yeah, I know, but I don't. After all that, here I am at my first job ever where I actually have to speak Spanish. If I want the salad guy to understand that the customer wants both French AND Thousand Island dressing on her salad, I have to say it in Spanish. If I want to ask the dishwasher for more silverware, I have to say it in Spanish. Oh, the irony. The irony is thicker than my American accent.
Anyway, the questions don't stop: why aren't I married, why don't I have a boyfriend, why haven't I ever been married? I ask you, blog readers: what should I say to this?
Today I finally came up with the answer I'm going to use for now. One of the food runners (that is, one of the ones who hadn't asked me yet) asked me why I'm not married. I said, "Because I'm an axe murderer."
Does anyone know how to say that in Spanish?
Friday, December 17, 2004
But now I'm a server at a downtown Chicago restaurant and even when I'm not busy, there isn't a computer in sight. I like this job MUCH better than my old one because sitting in a solitary corner of the 30th floor of the Prudential building for two years, I just about died of loneliness and boredom. I never saw anyone and I'm a very social person. It was horribly lonely and isolated and gave me way too much time to obsess over my problems. At the restaurant I'm surrounded by people constantly interacting: servers and cooks and bussers and dishwashers and bartenders and managers. It's great. There are cute guys to flirt with and customers to chat with and Christmas decorations and happy music. I love it.
But I hardly have any time to blog anymore! I don't know what to do. I guess I'll just write when I can. Like right now. Oops, that's it, time to go to bed.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
What I'm trying to say is that this is a good organization that does good work, so check them out. They have all kinds of items; the religious stuff I saw was picked especially for the church market. They help disadvantaged artisans who live under difficult economic circumstances such as cut-metal craftsmen in Haiti, traditional dollmakers in Vietnam and jewelry-making women in Ethiopia. Ten Thousand Villages promotes fair trade, pays its sellers promptly and buys items that reflect and reinforce the cultures they come from. You can visit their website or the Ten Thousand Villages store at 719 Main Street in Evanston (tel. 847-733-8258, email: email@example.com).
I bought a small, soft-sculpture representation of the "three wise men" done in rich colors. It was an impulse buy partly motivated by my recent posting about how all the wonderful gifts are gone from my Christmases, but knowing my purchase was helping women earn a living in the Philipines also made the action easier. I brought it home and wrapped it that night while watching Alistair Sims in "A Christmas Carol." I made a point of not looking at the gift as I handled it: I just placed it in a box, covered it with tissue, and wrapped it in my favorite red foil paper. I will now anticipate it until Christmas Day. And just like that, a little bit of the old magic is back.
Friday, December 10, 2004
I saw a woman unwrap a package of gum and let the paper fall to the el platform. It particularly bothered me because she had a child with her and this is a terrible thing to model for your children. I walked over to her, picked up the wrapper, stood before her, looked her in the eye with a generous smile and said in my warmest voice, "Please don't litter." She muttered something as I turned away and threw her garbage in the trash can. I then resumed my post, waiting for a northbound train.
Soon after that I saw a couple of teenagers sitting on an el platform bench. She sat in his lap and they seemed very happy and giggly. They had ice cream bars and the girl let her wrapper fall to the ground. I walked over and knelt right in front of them, which clearly startled them because they went silent and stared at me. I picked up the wrapper, stood before them with it and said, "Please don't litter." Again, I did it in the nicest tone of voice, as if I were asking them for a personal favor because littering personally hurt my feelings. Again, I didn't wait for an answer as I turned away. I dropped the ice cream wrapper into the garbage as I heard their giggling resume.
I've now done this several times and it has become a personal mission. I HATE LITTERING. It's rude and lazy and rude and lazy. Whenever I see anyone litter, I now walk over to them, pick it up and hold it in front of me as I say, very nicely and usually with a smile, "Please don't litter." I am beseeching them, appealing to the wonderfully good person I know is inside them, or at least that's what I want it to look like. It's really the most passive-aggressive behavior I've ever indulged in. I'm seething inside and sick of the garbage these idiots leave, but my current strategy is to "kill them with kindness." Join me.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Then one day, after about a week, it hit me: this was the lipstick color my mother wore when I was growing up! Oh, NO.
There really is no way to prevent turning into our parents.
Monday, December 06, 2004
The obvious answer is about me feeling pressured and judged by a society that believes I "should" have a husband and family by now. We all know such feelings of lack and loneliness lead people to severe depression and attempted suicide at this time of year, but I'd rather look more deeply than that. Let's start with some of the memories I cherish: my sister and I trying to guess what was in the slowly growing pile of gifts under our tree (my parents didn't wait until Christmas eve, but put the presents out as they wrapped them), the colorful glow of tree lights against our tv screen, the smell of incense at midnight mass, the taste of Aunt Marty's tamales, the excitement of receiving my most desired items and playing with them all day (a stuffed cat, a tape recorder, a magic 8-ball). This is what I suspect made my childhood holidays so great:
1) Someone else was in control and all I had to do was be there, without doing any work or planning.
2) The presents!
When I was too young to help cook, shop or clean, my whole Christmas experience focused on deciding what I wanted for Christmas and then waiting for it. I had a few obligations such as singing in the school Christmas pageant and staying awake through Christmas mass (and trying to choke down one of Aunt Marty's tamales), but for the most part my sister and I had only one thing on our minds for the whole of December: presents. It was the delicious process of deciding what toys from the limitless universe of toys I wanted the most and then waiting for them to appear, which they always did. And that was it. That was Christmas for me as a little girl.
Well, no wonder Christmas used to be so great, but now sucks so completely. Choosing what I want with the exquisite certainty that I will get it is gone from my life. It has been replaced with careful planning and strategizing for what I want (eg. saving for a new computer or learning how to be a good girlfriend) with the all-too-common experience of not getting what I want regardless of how much I want it, how hard I try to get it or how many times I ask for it. That's true all year round. At the holidays the few bona fide Christmas gifts I do receive from well-meaning people (and I do greatly appreciate them), are consistently not items I particularly want: bath sets, candles, scarf-and-glove combinations. No wonder it feels like the colorful lights have gone out of Christmas. As a single person who lives on her own, I'm also responsible for filling my holiday calendar with Christmas-y activities, or creating my own events. No longer can I just climb into the back seat. Now I decorate my own living space, buy my own dresses and seek out the activities I hope will fill me with the Christmas spirit.
But what do I mean by "Christmas spirit?" As a grown up consumer and tv-watcher, I think of "Christmas spirit" as the excitement of parties, the thrill of spending time with my favorite people, Gratitude For Everything, some vague globe-spanning sense of appreciation for all people, and a sterile, never-fully-manifested feeling of dull anticipation for "the birth of the baby Jesus." Yet none of that even begins to approach my childhood excitement about presents. I was raised Catholic but have never felt anything about "the birth of the baby Jesus" except a general gladness that it leads to receiving presents. Presents, presents, presents. That's what Christmas was about for me as a child and I suspect that's what Christmas is about to me as a grown up. For me "Christmas spirit" is made up of my feelings of anticipation and joy at receiving the things I most want, but the problem is that the Christmas gift machine shut down for me long ago. No wonder Christmas has felt empty and hollow for decades.
I believe having children shifts one's participation from gift-receiver to gift-giver and I can only hope parents get to re-experience some childhood magic through the joy of their children, but for those of us who are single and not parents, it's the lifelong withdrawal symptoms of no longer having a steady source of presents, unconditional love and caretaking at the holidays. Having realized that my main source of Christmas joy is a gift-receiving tradition I outgrew years ago, how do I develop a new tradition of "Christmas spirit?" I begin by asking myself, "Well, what do I want more than anything else today?"
I want excitement, I want love, I want connection with others. I want to feel that my stark experience of world-without-answers is shared by many others with whom I can whistle in the dark. I want to be inspired, I want to feel divinity up close, I want to know that I am all right, I am fantastic, I am an incredible gifted beautiful person surrounded by other incredible gifted beautiful people. I want community and laughter and tiny children getting under everyone's feet. I want the whole world to sparkle and I want to sparkle with it and I want it every day.
Were my childhood holidays characterized less by materialistic greed than by the feeling of being loved and taken care of that those gifts gave me? I remember never doubting that what I asked for was on the way, not once, and I was never disappointed. Not as a little girl. But now the secure feeling of being loved that those presents symbolized is gone and I want it back.
Now it is my grown up task, Herculean and Sisyphusian, to provide for myself the sense of love and community I need. I will never again be completely taken care of by another and part of my maturity is stepping in to fill the role of being my own caretaker. Unfortunately, I'm a much more complicated person now so what I want for Christmas might not be easy to find. Maybe knowing what it is I'm looking for will help me recognize it when I see it; maybe not. There's no Christmas certainty for grown ups.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Well, after "tipping out" the bussers, the foodrunner and the bartender, I'm bringing home $67. Does that sound typical? How am I doing here? I'm afraid of one indicator: one couple didn't tip me at all. They simply drew a line through the place on the charge receipt where you'd write the tip amount. They must have been unhappy with my service although I don't remember doing that badly with anyone and I thought the evening went very well.
I continue to wonder how people make a living waiting tables?
Thursday, December 02, 2004
I was trained as a server last week and Tuesday night was my first shift with my own tables to cover. It went very well. I’ve memorized most of the menu and my co-workers are great about helping me when I have questions. The bussers are cute, the other servers are fun, the managers are nice and the customers are friendly. I also really like the work. I love interacting with and hosting people. And serving is very physical with lots of lifting, walking and carrying. Not being chained to a desk for eight hours at a time is so great I don’t mind the sore feet . My new job feels like a perfect fit.
Wednesday I was excited to work on a busier night and was hoping to start bringing home some money. Now I understand why it's so important to tip well in restaurants. Restaurant servers earn some below-minimum hourly wage and really do live on their tips. I always doubted that was true, but it is. In fact, sometimes the official paycheck is zero. So when anyone suggests that 20% is the decent percentage to tip in a restaurant, please believe them and do it. Your tip really is all the money the server takes home, and that's after she splits her tips with the bartender, bussers, hostess, and/or whoever else gets a cut. Imagine all those people being paid from that relatively small amount you leave for the server at the end of your meal. I'm serious: imagine that and then act accordingly because I'm still having a hard time imagining it. At first I thought being a server might earn me just enough to starve slowly, but this week I'm thinking it might earn me enough to starve quickly.
My second shift as a server started out slow and I waited for an hour and a half before I got my first table. My customers were a couple with two sons, maybe 8 and 9 years old. They ordered sodas and the dad ordered a Samuel Adams. I'll never forget what kind of beer he wanted because when I returned to the table, I dumped it on him. I was horrified, I apologized, I used napkins to help dry him (and the booth and the table and the menus). The bussers came and helped clear the table so they could put down a dry tablecloth. The family was just getting settled again and I was recovering by bringing the man a second bottle of Samuel Adams -- when I dumped the second bottle of beer as well! It spilled more on the table (and menu and basket of bread) than on him, but at that point I didn't know what to do. How many times could I apologize, how many times could I offer to bring another beer, how many times COULD I SPILL IT?
Both the shift manager and the general manager were now at the table, along with the bussers and one of the servers (with 35 years of experience) who had trained me. Jesus Christ. And speaking of Jesus Christ, I can only hope that's not what came out of my mouth in front of this family with their two young boys. When the second bottle tipped over, I think I remember saying, "Oh my gosh," but I might have said, "Oh my God" and I can only hope I didn't say "God fucking damn it." (And exaggeration -- I'm sure I didn't.)
Anyway, the guy was very nice about it and no one in the family gave me so much as a raised eyebrow throughout the exercise. I told them it was my second week on the job. They were great and I was a mess. The shift manager served the third bottle of beer while the general manager took me aside, but he didn't proceed to criticize me. He gave me some very useful tips on how to hold a tray of drinks and serve them without spilling them on customers (better on myself or the next table.) (Just kidding about the next table). And my fellow servers, the managers and the bussers all took turns for the next ten minutes telling me (in English and Spanish) not to worry, it happens to everyone, it happens to everyone, don't worry.
And hey, I didn't fall apart. I actually managed to keep breathing and keep my internal panic mechanism down to medium. Incredibly, a couple of minutes in the women's room was all I needed to go back out there and face my nightmare. I did finish serving that table, but I couldn't tell you how big their tip was because I was afraid to look and then later I forgot about it and their tip got mixed in with everyone else's. By the end of the shift my attention was back on the earnings. After I split my tips with the bussers and the bartender, I didn’t bring home very much. How do waiters and waitresses ever economically survive? I have my doubts about this, but I'm more than willing to hang in there because I really like this job. The answer had just better come clear soon, and preferably before the next beer shower.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
I have no segue into this next bit. Rey Flores is a columnist for the Spanish publication Hoy. He contacted me a couple of months ago and asked me to write a piece that would inspire schoolage girls to develop their musical skills. He translated it into Spanish and it ran in Hoy a month ago, but it was the middle of the election and my blog was devoted to that. Here it is. The original English version that I wrote is below.
Let's Talk About Music
Last week I was the only woman who performed at an open mic night I attended. Where are the woman musicians? Many fields are male-dominated, but how can we yield music to men? Music is the expression of emotions, moods, thoughts and feelings. In other words, it is ours. Music is rhythm as complicated as how we feel about our parents, melodies that soar like your heart after an incredible kiss, and percussion that slams like the moment you realize your ex is dating someone else.
Girls, it’s time to take music back. If you sing, keep singing no matter what. When you feel something no song can match, make up a song to fill the need. Others need it, too. If you love singing or playing an instrument, don’t ever believe it’s impractical. The need for music is as real as physical hunger and it cannot be satisfied with regular paychecks, beans-made-from-scratch or clean, ironed clothes. If you love making music, that desire will never leave you, so you’d better just make room for it and train those around you to expect it.
The world always needs more music. There’s an audience for every new fusion of sounds and very sentiment expressed, even if that audience is just you. If we all poured out our hearts in whatever style, rhythm and volume felt right, the world would still have room for more music.
Girls, music is ours, so grab that hairbrush/microphone and practice stage presence because when you walk into a rehearsal you’re going to have to hold your own against guys who don’t always believe you belong there. But don’t ever doubt that we do belong there. Where are the women musicians? We’re everywhere, we just haven’t all stepped forward yet.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
On Wednesday night I happened to catch the final episode of the latest "Bachelor" reality TV show on ABC. In this version of the romantic reality tv show, the "Bachelor" was Byron Velvick, a professional bass fisherman and as usual over the past few months he has had about 25 women to date, fall in love with and choose to possibly marry. I got bored of this story-line and stopped watching "Bachelor" shows months ago (oh yeah, months), but I would have paid a lot more attention to this one if I had known that one of the 25 women was Mary Delgado, one of the three finalists from the 2003 "Bachelor" show that featured Bob Guiney. I had noticed Mary Delgado on Guiney's show because she was a Latina and she was old: 35 years old, in fact, almost as old as me. Incredible. Who let her on? Well, in that 2003 "Bachelor" show Mary fell in love with Guiney, but he picked someone else and I felt bad for her because she had said she really wanted to get married and have a family and I knew she was 35. Thirty-five. That's a serious situation.
So I tuned in to ABC on Wednesday night for the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, but instead I got this grinning, tall, blonde white guy (Byron) who has narrowed his choices down to two women. In this final episode, only two women remain and he introduces his family to each woman in turn and in the final moments of the show, he'll make his choice. One of the women, Tanya, is tall, blonde and beautiful which is to be expected (she's also 31). But when I recognized Mary, I thought, "Oh my god. That's -- what was her name? Mary! Oh, no she already got rejected once. She's doing this again??"
I couldn't believe it. I guess I expect network producers to be cruel enough to put people through whatever brings in ratings, but I was genuinely surprised to see Mary Delgado going through this again. Now she's even older - 36! - and I imagine even more desperate for a mate. Maybe Mary's chances are a bit better now since Byron is 40 years old (the oldest "Bachelor" yet), but I still don't like the odds: she's up against a younger, blonde chick. In dismay I watched the standard ending where the two women are decked out in their finest and ride separate limousines to meet Byron and find out who he wants to spend the rest of his life (or at least the weekend) with. Of course, both women are in a nervous state as they confess to us (that is, to the camera) their love for Byron and make clear their intention to be his wife. Each says she will be devastated if he doesn't pick her.
So here I am, a 38-year-old Mexican American spinster, watching this 36-year old Cuban American spinster lay her heart on the line again, like a big, swollen watermelon balancing on the very edge of the open bed of a pickup truck and I know that truck is about to lurch. I know this great American fisherman guy is going to pick Tanya the Blonde. How can he not? She's white, they belong together, they color-match. He's going to pick the tall blonde and I'm going to see poor Mary get rejected and humiliated all over again. I can't stand it.
So, of course I have to watch. In the final minutes, I see Tanya willow across the romantic fake setting to where Byron stands with "the final rose." Mary is still on her way in her limo, and the way they edit these things you can't tell who the winner is by the order in which they appear. So I watch Byron look deeply into Tanya's eyes and profess that he's not in love with her. What? Oh, my god. He's not picking Tanya?
Sure enough, Byron escorts Tanya back to her limo (where she looks like she wants to sucker-punch him before she leaves, and who could blame her), and then returns to his post to wait for Mary. When she tremblingly arrives, he asks her to marry him. He even struggles to do it in Spanish because he knows her parents are watching and they don't speak English.
Mary is 36. Thirty-six. She has never been married. She has wanted this so badly, with her whole being, more than anything else in the world. And she got it. The buzz is that their union is so solid that this will be the first "Bachelor" show that actually results in an actual wedding.
I was stunned. I'm still stunned. I don't know if I'm more stunned that Byron picked Mary over Tanya, or that Mary opened herself up to have her guts ripped out again. After all the pain she had been through, this woman actually let herself fall in love again (and under similar national-TV circumstances). She took the exact same risk again. And he picked her.
Friday, November 26, 2004
Today I notice an article that Mo Pie has linked on her blog Big Fat Deal that shows me another way to live, a way to enjoy food without the fear of sudden blobitude. It explores how French women eat a much richer, fattier diet than English or American women, but stay much slimmer. "Let Them Eat Cake," in the U.K.'s Guardian Limited, describes how French culture treats food completely differently from how we do in the U.S. and in England. Basically, French people are slimmer than we are because, while they eat richer foods, they eat less of them. The French treat meals as small events, worth sitting down for and spending time on. Mealtime for them is a social time to be enjoyed and a sensory treat to be savored slowly. They pay great attention to their food, chew it with relish, rest their fork between bites and as a result consume less food and calories.
I guess as long as American society keeps moving faster and faster, keeping mealtimes short or non-existent, and shoving food into our mouths as we walk/type/watch tv, we're going to be fat. Sometimes I can be satisfied with much less chocolate if I eat it slowly and give it my full attention, but even as I type "full attention" I can feel how foreign the concept is of giving a mouthful my full attention. No one stops everything to give a meal their full attention in the United States; to us it would seem like an unforgivable waste of time.
I've decided I'm going to start paying more attention. It will be a challenge with my new restaurant job, but an excellent practice to put in place to keep me from the weightgain that restaurant jobs often include. I am going to make a point of sitting down each time I eat, focusing on each mouthful and really paying attention to what's in my mouth. I will turn off the tv and put down the paper. No more eating while walking or while talking on the phone. I will make real time for real food (I'm embarassed to have ever considered energy bars as food). From now on, I will strive be more "French," enjoying food more and eating less.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Sun Nov 28
9:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Uncommon Ground Cafe (Wrigleyville)
1214 W. Grace (near Clark)
Neal Alger on guitar
I have a gig this weekend. I'm worried that no one will come. I wouldn't have picked the Sunday after Thanksgiving for a performance, but that was the only day Neal Alger had free and he's my favorite guitarist to work with. We'll perform during the 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. timeslot at Uncommon Ground Cafe in Wrigleyville (1214 W. Grace, near Clark). I almost want to get on the phone and call everyone I think might be in town that evening. I want to say, "Please come to my gig. Every time I perform at Uncommon Ground I really enjoy it and am impressed with their excellent sound system and engineer, but I've never managed to fill the cafe even half full. Please come to my gig on Sunday night so I can reach half full or more." But that would be begging and would be unprofessional. I might do it anyway.
I'll perform mostly originals (including one brand new one, but I don't know why I'm saying it since it means nothing to anyone besides me and Neal. It amuses me when singers announce a song as "brand new" because for most of us our repertoire is so unknown that a brand new song sounds just like all the rest, so why bother announcing it?). Since it's close enough to the holidays, I'll also do one Christmas cover song that I'm sure you've never heard before and an original holiday song that I wrote years ago. It addresses a part of the holidays the mainstream never wants to pay any attention to: the loneliness of the season (in fact, I'd guess most people don't have a good time during this season, but I won't dwell on it).
So, if you're reading this before Sunday, Nov. 28th at 9:00 p.m. and you live in the Chicagoland area, consider yourself begged to. Neal Alger is an amazing guitarist and I'm a great singer, plus we're cute! And there's no cover, either, so stop by! (please)
Regina's Holiday Set
Sun Nov 28
9:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Uncommon Ground Cafe (Wrigleyville)
1214 W. Grace (near Clark)
Neal Alger on guitar
Monday, November 22, 2004
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Volunteer to work with congresspeople.
Become part of their support staff.
Research problems YOU think are important and draw their attention to them.
Write letters to your representatives about the issues you want them to act on (writing letters is much more powerful than we think because politicians know that one letter from a concerned person really represents a lot more people who just don’t bother to write).
Donate to organizations with specific causes.
Volunteer with those organizations, helping to raise consciousness (and funds) about those causes.
Join the discussion about re-focusing the Democratic Party.
Prepare for 2006 and 2008 elections.
(This feels like a huge one to me and I don’t know how to break it down into smaller pieces. We didn’t go into a lot of discussion of this subject).
Look at the companies you do business with and find out who their political contributions go to. Go to http://www.opensecrets.org for this (and buzzflash?).
Avoid patronizing companies whose politics clash with your own.
Other parts of the discussion:
We also talked about the importance of identifying your personal core issues so you don’t get overwhelmed by the millions of good causes you can give to. Focus your actions and charitable donations this way so you don’t feel guilty about not giving to every good cause you receive info on.
It’s important to focus on specific acts that lead to measurable goals. For instance, I volunteered with the Kerry campaign, specifically working on Wisconsin’s electoral vote on November 2nd. That was a finite, measurable task that I could feel a sense of accomplishment about. Something like volunteering to end world hunger, while also a worthy effort, is harder to measure and feel a sense of accomplishment about. Figure out a smaller, measurable piece of it to focus on so you don’t eventually feel discouraged and burnt out.
Changing from rich, fat, stupid Americans to aware, involved, active Americans:
“My political responsibility begins with conquering denial of my disproportionate access to resources in a global context.” - rr.
We talked about how many Americans don’t become politically active because it’s painful to face how many resources we dominate at the expense of others in the world. But it’s important to work through that denial, and through the guilt that often follows it. Guilt is not a sustainable motivator and people will only embrace political awareness/activity if they are driven by positive things like hope. Guilt doesn’t go as far.
ITEM FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION:
Attend a Move On House Party on Sunday evening, November 21. I’ll be at one. Move On.org was instrumental in the 2004 election, and the grassroots network they have in place is ready to focus on other issues. At tomorrow’s house parties we’ll be discussing what issues are important to us and what we want to do next. The field is wide open and the network is in place. Come and help determine the focus! Go to http://action.moveonpac.org/future to find a house party near you.
Regina’s personal ending note:
The things I feel moved to do are attend a Move On house party and start writing letters to my reps about the things they should be working on. That’s where I will start.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion so far. It really is helping me focus on what’s possible, keep up my spirits, and feel the support of others. This process has to be communal for me or I won’t do it (maybe that’s true for many?). There will be more...
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Oh, well, it was a good ride while it lasted. Now I'll be experienced when it comes time to work on Dennis Kucinich's campaign again in 2008. Hillary's? Barak Obama's?
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
When people make comments about how hard it is to do music and how impressive it is that I stick with it, I also don't know what to say. Writing songs is part of how I process life and make sense of it. If I had no outlet or audience for any of my songs, I would still write them. It's just part of how I deal with things. I "stick with" music the same way I "stick with" breathing. How can I not? I admit that after I've written a song there are some conscious choices to be made, but they don't seem like hard ones. Once a song is done, it only makes sense to share it with someone else. If many people (including me) like it enough, then it makes sense to record it. Once it's recorded, I want to share it even more so I carry CD's around and sell them. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, George W. has to cut taxes, and I gotta sing.
Everyone does things that are impressive without realizing it. I'm floored by parenthood. Heck, I'm floored by girlfriend-hood. I'm also impressed by anyone who holds the same job for more than three years. I haven't managed that yet. And I'm impressed with accomplishments such as maintaining a car in the city, saving to buy a house, spending major holidays with people you're related to, and being one of those people who takes initiative. I see in help wanted ads this description of a person who's a "self-starter," "can work independently," and "takes initiative." I'm totally amazed by people who fit that description. Everyone does something that draws admiration yet feels to them as easy as breathing, or as easy as singing is for me.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
I feel particularly grateful to Lawrence for his comment on my suicide post. Only his response didn't seem to have a "suicide is horrible/selfish/pointless, don't do it" tone to it. I appreciated his comment that the brain is just an organ like the liver and it doesn't have a supernatural dimension with a special power over the body. And I really liked this comment from Lawrence: "Suicide is not consistently preventable. What irks some left behind, is that they feel powerless. But their feelings are not the main point. What is most important to the suicidal person is that THEY feel empowered themselves to choose." THANK you. That is a huge part of why I'm discussing this at all. I need to see suicide as an option even if it's one I never consider. Another person who commented said he knows that the way a depressed person thinks cannot be argued or changed. That's true. When I'm depressed and convinced that I'm screwed for life, it's impossible to talk me out of it. Now, I know the true reality is that I always have choices and plenty of them. But when I'm in the shit, I believe the following: "There's absolutely nothing I can do to change anything." When I'm in that state, the option of suicide is empowering because if suicide is an option, then the statement "There's absolutely nothing I can do to change anything." becomes false. Do you see? Do you see why I need that? Anybody?
I am an angry person. I inherited rage and have added to it over the last 38 years. I know suicide is an act of anger and revenge. I know it's the stupidest thing you can do with your life. I know it devastates those who are left behind. I know that if you believe in "karma" or "reincarnation" or whatever, suicide only prolongs the pain your soul stays in after you're dead (as ridiculous as that sounds to me, there are those who believe it). I know it's a bad idea, doesn't solve anything, some see it as a "permanent solution to a temporary problem" (I don't believe that either), etc. etc. I know, I know. And I still need to hold it in my mind as an option for those times when I need to see something as an option.
I also wonder if anyone is interested in engaging on this subject in a more philosophical way? If I promise, promise, promise that I'm not writing these things because I've bought the razor blades, can someone respond to me as if this is an intellectual exercise, like a college philosophy class assignment? If a person has a "God"-given RIGHT to live, doesn't a person also have a "God"-given right to die? Are we not the stewards of our own futures? Is it my right to decide everything else I do, but not my right to end it all? Is a human being not entitled to choose their death the same way a human being is entitled to choose their own life? There are people willing to break the law and go to jail and die in order to stop abortions because they believe every fetus deserves a chance to live. Are we not also allowed a chance to die?
This the last thing Lawrence wrote that I like: "Hopelessness is not necessarily rational, but then neither is hope." Lawrence is starting his own blog. I'll be watching for it.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Friday, November 12, 2004
Anyway, for the record, I would be against suicide in most cases...unless the person is really, really in unbearable emotional pain. In that case, I have to say I still believe the ending of an individual's life should really be left up to the individual and I'm puzzled at how anyone can think otherwise.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
There are plenty of people who believe that no life should ever be terminated, whether it's an embryo, the aged and infirm or those "at death's door." This piece of writing does not address them. It addresses those who see euthanasia as a viable alternative for those who live in great physical pain from a life-threatening disease. I agree that a person should have control over her own life and be allowed to make all major decisions regarding that life. If someone is in unbearable pain for which there is no remedy, and knows she'll be in that pain until death, she should have every right to decide whether the rest of her terminally ill life should be suffered or cut short. But if helping to facilitate the death of someone in that situation is merciful, this consideration should also allowed to those who suffer from mental and emotional pain.
Our culture has a strong prejudice against the very idea of mental illness as we can see in our health care system that only recently has begun accepting mental illness as a condition covered by their policies. Mental illness affects almost all of us, whether as part of our family secrets or because many that we see each day, including many of the street people we try to ignore, are people who don't have the money or health care to stay on their medication. Mental illnesses are often seen as character flaws that should be overcome with discipline and a strong will. Too many people still don't know that mental disorders are genetically influenced, biologically determined and can be helped when drugs balance out the body chemistry.
Maybe when mental disorders are seen as legitimate, treatable illnesses our opinions will stretch to include them in our list of diseases that can make life unbearable. And when that happens maybe we'll look with more sympathy at the mentally diseased who just can't take the emotional pain that drugs can't help. If we accept the euthanasia decision of someone in unbearable physical pain, we should be able to accept a similar decision by someone who suffers from unbearable emotional pain and mental torment.
Some would probably say that if suicidal tendencies are part of the symptoms of a mental disorder, then that symptom should be treated rather than accommodated. This view nullifies the person's right to decide her own treatment. Many can accept the decision of a cancer patient who chooses not to undergo treatment, but instead live out her life "naturally" and die earlier than she would have with treatment. If that's acceptable, why can't a person with mental illness likewise choose not to accept treatment and die earlier than she would have with treatment? It's wrong that a disease that attacks the cells of the body is seen as a legitimate reason for euthanasia but a disease that destroys the chemical balance of the brain is not. Just as a person with a terminal disease might have a strong will to live that the pain eventually overpowers, so a person with a major mental disorder might have a strong will to live that the pain eventually overpowers. Why isn't that seen as legitimate?
Some would argue that the difference between a physical disease like cancer and a mental disease like depression is that cancer doesn't affect the very organ with which decisions are made, and thus a cancer patient's decision to die is more of a reasoned choice. They might further argue that since the nature of depression distorts one's perception of reality, a depressive is fundamentally unable to make major life-or-death decisions. But to deny a depressive the option of suicide is like denying a person in extreme, terminal pain the option of painkillers. Let's say the cancer patient has always been a reasonable person who would never do anything illegal or that might cause long-term addiction or harm to herself. Consider that while in unbearable pain, that person might demand painkillers, even if she knows the drugs are illegal or addicting or harmful in the long-term. In the moment of extreme and unrelenting physical pain, a person's reasoned judgment can certainly be clouded or absent, but that's no reason to deny them the relief they are unable to objectively consider. Likewise, a depressive's desire for suicide should not be ruled out just because the depressive isn't "in her right mind." Who's to say a depressive wanting to die is any less in her right mind than a cancer patient in a delirium of physical agony? I believe a person in extreme and unbearable mental and emotional pain should be given the same access to relief as a cancer patient. Judging a mentally disordered person as unfit to decide her own fate is the ultimate unfair dehumanization.
I know suicidal tendencies are an aberration of human nature in which the desire to die must overcome the much more basic instinct to survive. But chronic, unbearable pain sometimes does overcome the survival instinct. If we accept that a patient with nothing to live for but prolonged physical agony is capable of deciding her treatment and death, then we must accept that a patient with nothing to live for but prolonged mental agony is also capable of deciding her treatment and death. The right to life must include each individual having the right to live or die as she chooses.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
I have stopped wearing a bra. I just can't be bothered with them anymore: they're uncomfortable, expensive and structurally ridiculous when you really think about it. Imagine a male equivalent that all men were expected to wear at all times, such as a cup to hold the testicles in place. Wouldn't that seem superfluous? And yet we believe bras actually serve a useful purpose. Why do the breasts need to be held in place? They won't fall off. Maybe people think that if I don't wear a bra, my breasts will become saggy and droopy and the tissues will be damaged with strong force such as when I jog. I don't buy it. And even if that were true, what difference does it make? If my breasts droop or fall off or whatever, so what? No one's using 'em and I don't expect anyone will be, so the shape they're in doesn't matter. I'm tired of lugging them around and having to keep them encased in this ridiculous structure that mainly exists to make the breasts look more attractive to men. That's no longer a priority for me.
And if not wearing a bra makes me seem tacky or slutty, let's remember that not so long ago the standards were reversed: just a couple of generations ago, "good girls" didn't wear bras and the ones that did risked being seen as cheap. Most women didn't wear brassieres and the ones that did were usually prostitutes, presenting their wares.
So, no bra for me! And I make a new goal of losing weight until I no longer have any chest at all. Ah, freedom...!
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Friday, November 05, 2004
Ok, it sucks. Really sucks. But before you go and cash it all in, let's, in
the words of Monty Python, 'always look on the bright side of life!' There
IS some good news from Tuesday's election.
Here are 17 reasons not to slit your wrists:
1. It is against the law for George W. Bush to run for president again.
2. Bush's victory was the NARROWEST win for a sitting president since
Woodrow Wilson in 1916.
3. The only age group in which the majority voted for Kerry was young adults
(Kerry: 54%, Bush: 44%), proving once again that your parents are always
wrong and you should never listen to them.
4. In spite of Bush's win, the majority of Americans still think the
country is headed in the wrong direction (56%), think the war wasn't worth fighting (51%), and don't approve of the job George W. Bush is doing (52%). (Note to foreigners: Don't try to figure this one out.
It's an American thing, like Pop Tarts.)
5. The Republicans will not have a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the
Senate. If the Democrats do their job, Bush won't be able to pack the
Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues. Did I say "if the Democrats do
their job?" Um, maybe better to scratch this one.
6. Michigan voted for Kerry! So did the entire Northeast, the birthplace of
our democracy. So did 6 of the 8 Great Lakes States. And the whole West
Coast! Plus Hawaii. Ok, that's a start. We've got most of the fresh water,
all of Broadway, and Mt. St. Helens. We can dehydrate them or bury them in
lava. And no more show tunes!
7. Once again we are reminded that the buckeye is a nut, and not just any
old nut -- a poisonous nut. A great nation was felled by a poisonous nut.
May Ohio State pay dearly this Saturday when it faces Michigan.
8. 88% of Bush's support came from white voters. In 50 years, America will
no longer have a white majority. Hey, 50 years isn't such a long time! If
you're ten years old and reading this, your golden years will be truly
golden and you will be well cared for in your old age.
9. Gays, thanks to the ballot measures passed on Tuesday, cannot get married
in 11 new states. Thank God. Just think of all those wedding gifts we won't
have to buy now.
10. Five more African Americans were elected as members of Congress,
including the return of Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. It's always good to
have more blacks in there fighting for us and doing the job our candidates
11. The CEO of Coors was defeated for Senate in Colorado. Drink up!
12. Admit it: We like the Bush twins and we don't want them to go away.
13. At the state legislative level, Democrats picked up a net of at least 3
chambers in Tuesday's elections. Of the 98 partisan-controlled state
legislative chambers (house/assembly and senate), Democrats went into the
2004 elections in control of 44 chambers, Republicans controlled 53
chambers, and 1 chamber was tied. After Tuesday, Democrats now control 47
chambers, Republicans control 49 chambers, 1 chamber is tied and 1 chamber
(Montana House) is still undecided.
14. Bush is now a lame duck president. He will have no greater moment than
the one he's having this week. It's all downhill for him from here on out --
and, more significantly, he's just not going to want to do all the hard work
that will be expected of him. It'll be like everyone's last month in 12th
grade -- you've already made it, so it's party time! Perhaps he'll treat the
next four years like a permanent Friday, spending even more time at the
ranch or in Kennebunkport. And why shouldn't he? He's already proved his
point, avenged his father and kicked our ass.
15. Should Bush decide to show up to work and take this country down a very
dark road, it is also just as likely that either of the following two
scenarios will happen: a) Now that he doesn't ever need to pander to the
Christian conservatives again to get elected, someone may whisper in his ear
that he should spend these last four years building "a legacy" so that
history will render a kinder verdict on him and thus he will not push for
too aggressive a right-wing agenda; or b) He will become so cocky and
arrogant -- and thus, reckless -- that he will commit a blunder of such
major proportions that even his own party will have to remove him from
16. There are nearly 300 million Americans -- 200 million of them of voting
age. We only lost by three and a half million! That's not a landslide -- it
means we're almost there. Imagine losing by 20 million. If you had 58 yards
to go before you reached the goal line and then you barreled down 55 of
those yards, would you stop on the three yard line, pick up the ball and go
home crying -- especially when you get to start the next down on the three
yard line? Of course not! Buck up! Have hope! More sports analogies are
17. Finally and most importantly, over 55 million Americans voted for the
candidate dubbed "The #1 Liberal in the Senate." That's more than the total
number of voters who voted for either Reagan, Bush I, Clinton or Gore.
Again, more people voted for Kerry than Reagan. If the media are looking for
a trend it should be this -- that so many Americans were, for the first time
since Kennedy, willing to vote for an out-and-out liberal. The country has
always been filled with evangelicals -- that is not news. What IS news is
that so many people have shifted toward a Massachusetts liberal. In fact,
that's BIG news. Which means, don't expect the mainstream media, the ones
who brought you the Iraq War, to ever report the real truth about November
2, 2004. In fact, it's better that they don't. We'll need the element of
surprise in 2008.
Feeling better? I hope so. As my friend Mort wrote me yesterday, "My
Romanian grandfather used to say to me, 'Remember, Morton, this is such a
wonderful country -- it doesn't even need a president!'"
But it needs us. Rest up, I'll write you again tomorrow.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Here's an excellent article, "Lessons learned from this election" by someone with some very concrete plans for getting the Democratic party ready for 2008. He focuses on fighting fire with fire, learning dirty pool strategies from the Republicans, and wielding language for OUR purposes.
I'm typing this into my laptop as I ride back to Chicago on the day after the election. John Kerry and John Edwards must feel like their whole lives are lying around them in pieces, everything disrupted and pointed towards a White House win that didn't happen. Didn't Edwards give up his congressional seat? I wonder what he'll do now.
I guess I think about Kerry and Edwards and their families at this moment so I won't think about how I feel. I'm so disappointed in my country right now. We are that scared. We are. I didn't want to believe it, but we are. I feel ashamed before the international community. This is my country and my president and I have to own them. I am a part of this and there's no living in denial about it, as I have for the past four years. I also feel despair, like I'm trapped inside a nightmare that I used all my energy to try to escape.
On election day I canvassed and canvassed, three shifts of hustling up and down residential streets, knocking on dozens and dozens of doors, searching for any Kerry people who hadn't voted yet. I canvassed until it was dark, until a light rain began to fall, until the vague tiredness in my body became achyness and then an almost flu-like exhaustion. I squinted at darkened houses, trying to make out addresses with a flashlight and knocked on the doors of residents were still at work or already at the polls. I hung dozens of pro-Kerry door-hangers, hoping they'd be part of a Kerry win and faced stone-faced Bush voters in between the Kerry supporters. I believed and I hoped and I believed and I thought I knew.
Finally, unable to squeeze any more work out of my body, I returned to headquarters. At the Wausau victory party I used my daypack as a pillow and laid down to watch the early CNN broadcast. Tables and chairs were set up and many people crowded the free-beer-and-soda bar, but I lay myself right down on the hardwood floor because I really felt sick and didn't even want to sit up anymore. With my physical strength depleted, discouragement and doubt overtook me. I pitied myself for working so hard when it was all about to fall apart, and I wondered where these dark thoughts were coming from. I still had to believe that Kerry was going to win. He had to because electing the other was unthinkable.
What do we do when the unthinkable happens? Live in denial for a while, rail about it, remember again that there is no god. And then we get on with life. Our individual lives, but also life in general. On Sunday night I got caught up in a PBS biography of Robert Kennedy's life. I learned of his reaction to the violent racism of the southern whites and how he aligned himself with the civil rights protesters. I saw how he made a difference in the lives of the poor in Bedford-Stuyvesent, New York and how he supported the United Farm Workers in California. I never knew about Robert Kennedy's awakening to the plight of the disenfranchised and his determination to work on their behalf. I never understood that losing him was almost worse than losing his brother because Robert Kennedy had just taken ownership of his own life and determined its direction and was poised to begin what would have been a rich and uniquely altruistic political career.
After seeing that biography, I thought about all the things Robert Kennedy might have done and all the things that countless others could have gone on to accomplish in his absence, but didn't. Reading Anna Quindlen's observations (in Newsweek) of how little we as an American public care about the nightmares of countries like Sudan also makes me consider how much work there is to be done, so why not do it? What have I been doing with my life and my narrow attention? I consider how much time I carved out of my life to work for the unseating of President Bush, and I wonder if I'll let this political pulse die in me now that this short-term goal is over. Unaccomplished, but over.
This is my hope: that the vision and determination that we poured into Kerry's campaign, we will now direct towards everything else there is to do, from the poverty-level families in our own cities to the Sudanese that are being systematically killed and raped in Darfur. I have learned something absolutely brand new about myself in the last couple of months: in the face of crisis, once I make the connection between the situation and my own two hands, I act. I have the time to act, I have the energy to act and I have the resources to #$%-damn act. I had just never realized the connection before. I just hadn't realized that what I do as an individual does affect others and can affect the world. My potential to affect others is being wasted every year that I assume that my responsibility as a human being only goes as far as the ends of my own fingertips.
I am 38 years old and it's time to get on with it: time to get on with a global focus that takes me outside of my own lonely life. With no husband and no dependents, what else to I have to spend my time on? If I could squeeze six days out of my life to help successfully deliver Wisconsin to the Democrats, what else can I do? In my last post, I wrote that I couldn't control the election, but I could control my participation in it. Robert Kennedy and countless other activists are dead, Kerry's campaign and the Democratic plan to re-take the Senate lie in tatters, but I'm still standing. I'm still standing and although I can't control the world, I can control my participation in it. Now all I have to do is decide what to work on next.
Here's another hopeful point of view that emphasizes straightening out the anemic Democratic Party, for god's sake.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I feel bad for the canvassers, including me, who travelled to Wisconsin and worked hard but kicked ourselves today because we think we should have gone to Ohio. We shouldn't blame ourselves. We were called and we came forth and we did our job: we won Wisconsin. It just wasn't enough.
Monday, November 01, 2004
First, I want to say thank you to everyone who has sent me encouraging emails and comments. It really helps to know you appreciate my efforts out here. And it makes me feel less lonely (Wausau reminds me of Ithaca: population 38,000 and out in the middle of nowhere). So thank you!
Today I and two other Chicago canvassers headed out to Tomohawk, WI. I canvassed 20 houses. Of those that were home and willing to talk, 5 were Kerry voters and 1 was Bush. One woman answered the door, took one look at my Kerry button and said, “We’re not interested,” and closed the door. Some people are like that and I’m used to it by now. Some are really, really, really sick of the whole election.
As I watch tv back at the hotel, I can see why. Sometimes an entire commercial break is a political ad for Kerry, then one for Bush, then one for Kerry, then one for Bush, then back to the program. Of course, these ads aren’t really “for” anyone: it would be more accurate to say they’re “against Bush” and “against Kerry,” etc. It’s bad. I can’t imagine watching tv and having to put up with this for months. It’s been months of these increasingly emotional ads. When I add to that the number of phone calls and canvassers the average Wisconite has had by this point, I feel sympathy for the people who close the door on me.
We came back to the headquarters after Tomohawk (which was a 40 minute drive away), had cold pizza and cookies, and it was back out to canvass in Wausau. Tonight we were going back to the houses where there was no answer before. I talked to a few more Kerry people, including a man who said he wanted to vote for Kerry, but he’s a hunter and he heard Kerry is going to take people’s guns away. I told him Kerry is a hunter, too, and has been since he was a boy and has no intention of taking people’s guns away. I also said that he does have the right to bear arms and that’s a constitutional right. I never expected to be saying pro-gun stuff like that! Euw. Oh, well. He kept saying, worriedly, that he’s a hunter and each time he did I said that Kerry’s a hunter, too. I think he was reassured by the end of our exchange. I told him one thing that I truly do believe: I said, “If everyone who says they’re going to vote for Kerry actually does vote for Kerry tomorrow, he’s in. Kerry will win.”
After canvassing all day, some of us prepared door-hanger literature to drop off for tomorrow. I thought we'd be making more phone calls, but apparently all calls have been made. The organizers were saying that we are really on top of everything right now. In fact, not only are we not rushing around at the last minute, but the organizers are triple checking to make sure they haven't missed anything because we are so well-accomplished in our phone calling and canvassing.
Tonight I and the other volunteers feel happy, optimistic, excited about election day, “E-Day." We know Kerry’s going to win and it’s going to be so great to celebrate it here in Wisconsin. These people have worked HARD. There will be a big victory party and I’m looking forward to being able to relax and stop knocking on people’s doors! The weather has been excellent, which is to say it’s been dry and not too cold. I’m SO GLAD there has been so little rain. But tonight it was in the 30’s and that was a bit chilly. I have to be healthy for my gig this Saturday at the Red Line Tap!
Here’s the plan for me for tomorrow:
7:00 a.m. “Visibility” which means waving signs and showing great enthusiasm for Kerry at the busiest intersection in Wausua. Getting the spirit up for Kerry is important in this relatively conservative area.
10 am to 7:30 pm CANVASS, CANVASS, CANVASS and call, call, call. Anyone we find at home during the day who hasn’t voted we beg, cajole and wheedle to the polling booth because the poll lines will be LONG after work. We go back and re-call and/or re-visit every single home where we have identified a Kerry voter. Every single one. We make sure they vote. Whatever it takes, we get very single one who said they would support Kerry to the poll by 8 pm when the Wisconsin polls close. Maybe there will be a lunch break, maybe not, who knows. We’ll probably grab slices of donated pizza and keep going through the afternoon and evening.
7:30 pm Stop canvassing and calling. Go back to headquarters and watch giant tv at our Wausau Kerry Victory Party!
Hope for final announcement of Kerry’s victory by midnight. Relish Bush’s concession speech. KNOW WE HAVE CHANGED THE WORLD.
I’ll blog again after Kerry’s been elected….! It’s like Christmas eve!
I canvassed from 3:30 until after dark. I was out there with the trick-or-treaters which was fun, but these badly lit streets and spooky houses were not fun. I felt afraid that I’d twist an ankle on an uneven flight of stairs and as the houses began to look more and more like abandoned frame houses from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (remember I was alone), I decided I’d had enough. It was a bit scarier than I’d like.
Out of 45 houses, 16 were voting Kerry, 3 were voting Bush. I got the meanest Bushie yet. This guy opened the door, heard my “Hi, I’m Regina and I’m with the Wisconsin Democrat Coordinated Campaign. Can we count on your vote for Kerry on Tuesday?”
“Do I look that dumb?” he growled. I didn’t get it at first and smiled back, but he said, “I’m serious: do I look that stupid? Do you really think I’m voting for Kerry?”
I smiled brightly and said, “I am.”
“Well, you look that stupid.” I hesitated, then asked, “So, you’re voting for Bush?”
“You know it was you people that I saw out there the other night yelling at children and throwing things and spitting on them.” I had no idea what he was talking about, so I just said, “Oh no, that’s terrible,” and I turned away to leave.
“That was your people! Spitting on little kids!” he called after me. I said again, “Oh no, that’s terrible,” and kept moving.
“It’s a shame what you all are doing!” I was at the sidewalk now. I said in the exact same tone of voice “Oh no, that’s terrible,” and walked away. He was quite worked up by now.
Maybe the Bushies are getting meaner as they realize it’s all over for Bush. And here I go again, two more days of canvassing!
Sunday, October 31, 2004
This morning I canvassed 41 houses. Very few people were home, but of the ones that were and would tell me how they're voting, 8 were for Kerry and 1 was for Bush. Onward!
Saturday, October 30, 2004
First shift I covered 70 (yes, seventy) houses. Most weren’t home (this is typical: canvassers get way more “not homes” than anything else). Of the ones that were home, several either don’t vote, won’t vote or wouldn’t talk to me (this is all typical. Many people are burned out with the election and are sick of canvassers). Of the ones that were home AND would tell me who they are voting for, there were 11 Kerry supporters and 5 Bush supporters. Not too bad.
Second shift: covered 50 houses. Of the ones that were home and would tell me how they’re voting, there were 5 Kerry supporters and 0 Bush supporters.
Canvassing isn’t exciting. It’s a lot of very physical work for what can seem like few results, but consider that there are thousands of Wisconsin canvassers getting those kinds of results every day. That adds up to the votes that will win Wisconsin for Kerry. We’ll go back and make sure every one of those Kerry voters gets to the polls on Tuesday. But the way my feet hurt by 5 p.m., all I could think was, “Kerry better #%$@^ win this thing!”
And, yes, there were some undecided voters. When I knocked, introduced myself and asked if we could count on them to vote for Kerry on Tuesday, they said, “I still don’t know yet.” I usually just smiled and made sure they knew where their polling place is, then thanked them for their time and moved on. But I did talk for a moment with a few undecided voters who said they are disgusted with how the candidates are conducting themselves and they don’t really believe either candidate deserves to win. I nodded and came dangerously close to agreeing with them. I know I’m supposed to plug my guy in moments like that, but I just can’t put my heart into it. No wonder I give my dates mixed signals: even a strong action like driving five hours to live in Wausau, WI for five days to canvass for Kerry doesn’t include my 100% consistent support of the senator. If an undecided voter can’t choose a candidate, I really can’t say I blame them at this point.
So the increasingly mean-spirited and hyperbolic Kerry and Bush ads are actually hurting Kerry’s and Bush’s campaigns at this point because many Americans DON’T want to put up with that kind of manipulative, bullshit propaganda. I’m actually beginning to believe the undecided voters are the only ones who haven’t gotten caught up in the emotionality of this election. We’re all acting based on our strong emotions either for or against Bush, for or against the war, etc. But the undecided’s are not feeling emotional, they’re just sizing up these candidates for what they’re worth and they are NOT impressed and I can’t blame them. Without emotion driving me, I wouldn’t be killing myself to get Kerry elected. My repulsion with Bush keeps John Kerry in my rose-colored focus. Without Bush as the option, I might not back Kerry. Remember, I still want Dennis Kucinich in the White House.
And I have now had my first really negative experience with a Republican. One guy maybe 30 years old, opened his door, saw my Kerry button and said, his voice full of hatred, “I wouldn’t vote for that Clintonesque idiot if my life depended on it.” And he closed the door. I’m grateful that he didn’t cuss or yell or make it a long rant, but the pure vitrol of his statement really struck me and I didn’t respond well. I slumped away from his house feeling disillusioned and drained. Is that what we’re up against? Is that the wrath, fear and hatred that drives American society? Is that emotion part of my homeland? Suddenly my faith in the entire human race vanished and the world felt hostile and alien. I walked slowly to the next house, trying to recover some enthusiasm for my work.
But I do take some pleasure in canvassing, even when I get Bush supporters. I just like people and I like interacting with them. Also, Wisconsin is beautiful right now. My favorite moment today was climbing a gentle hill, wet road gravel under my shoes, leaves of bright yellow and sometimes orange/red above my head and spindly black trees witnessing my mission. The air smelled rich with wood from the rain that had been falling all morning (not too bad, I had an umbrella) and I just loved being outside. That was a good moment.
So here I am, back at the hotel and tired. This was my schedule today:
Exercise at 6:30 a.m
Breakfast at 8:00 a.m. (compliments of Baymont Inn)
Start canvassing at 10 a.m.
Lunch (donated pizza back at headquarters) at 1 p.m.
More canvassing at 2:30
Give up and return to hotel at 5 p.m.
And that will be my schedule for Sunday and Monday and Tuesday (but I’m dropping the 6:30am exercise). I’ll be as glad when the election is over as the most jaded undecided voter.
Since I am able to keep up the blogging while I’m here, feel free to comment! It helps me feel in touch.
Last night I phonebanked: called Democratic voters, asked if they're voting, do they know where to vote, do they need a ride. Had sympathy for undecided's since they have so much pressure on them: they see two crappy candidates to choose from, but constantly hear how the election is on their shoulders. I spoke to one confused and frustrated voter who said he's been disappointed and disgusted by how the candidates have conducted their campaigns. He said both Bush and Kerry have done nothing but talk badly about each other and if they've done half the stuff they've accused each other of, they should both be in jail. What could I say? I agreed that neither of the candidates has been strictly honorable and yes, their campaigns have disintegrated into name calling and badmouthing. I offered my sympathy to the man, thanked him for voting whichever way he decided, and hung up.
I did what? I didn't stick up for my candidate, the one I just drove across the state to canvass for? What kind of campaign worker am I? Actully, I think I'm a realistic one. After watching the South Park lampoon of this year's election, I had to admit that despite my personal animosity for Bush and dedication to Kerry, this kind of IS a stupid electtion with two sorry candidates. Election 2004 is pretty much a repeat of election 2000 with its barely literate Republican candidate and its tepid Democratic candidate and the only real difference is that this time the Democratic party has its pollwatchers and legal counsel ready for any Republican election fraud. As I listened to the undecided voter voice his disgust with the both of them I felt like saying, "You're right! George Bush sucks dog penis and John Kerry sucks the tiny green 3-incher!"
But I didn't. (The South Park episode I refer to aired on Comedy Central on Wed and you can probably catch the second airing if you look for it, maybe Sun. I recommend it.)
But, reflecting on all of it, I confirm that whether the emperor wears clothes or really should put on some sunscreen, it's "forward march!" for me. Today I'll join the group of Chicago volunteers who will canvass the surrounding cities of Merrill and Mosinee. We'll do the same thing we did on the phone tonight: ask if they're voting for Kerry, do they know where to vote, do they need a ride. Mission til Tues: by phone or by foot make sure all Kerry supporters actually vote!
(If anyone needs to know, I'm at Baymont Inn in Wausua, WI).