FEAR: that invention that keeps us good
Believing in that house at
The end of a road
Paved with distraction
No signs posted for talent or genius nor
turnoffs for iron-hard reality – adulthood
That cul-de-sac of desire
The locking mechanism
From the big house –
That Swiss Army Knife of survival
Gettysburg Address: 2014
Eleven score and nine years ago this country’s fathers, brought forth on this land a new nation. A nation that aspired to the grandness of liberty, and claimed dedication to the dignity that resides in the phrase; all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation can endure the strength in that phrase. Our cities are met on the great battlefield of this uncivil war and have become the final resting place for those lives that have been lost, stolen, or strayed. Today, Thanksgiving 2014, makes it fitting and proper that we should acknowledge this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow – the grounds of these cities. This ground has already been hallowed by the deferred dreams, dust, and blood of immigrants, slaves, and the offspring of both. They have been hallowed by the hue of want and cries from the soul that reaches blindly for the tattered documents that tell them they are equal even as they fight the forces that tell them they are not.
The world will little note what is said here but it can never forget the root of what has taken place here. It is not just that we label one force good and one force evil. The great task remaining before us is not to honor the burnt-out shells of greed and evil. Rather we should honor burnt-out, naked shells of women, men, and their children who simply long to wear the warm cloak of respect.
No fairness resides in a soul that worships a system that creates the condition for evil to exist. Equality cannot remain some distant Latin obscured in various versions of personal Gods. Today, of all days, and of the days going forward, we are highly resolved that those dead, lost, and stolen, have not died or suffered in vain – that this nation under the flag of humanity acknowledges that we cannot ignore in others the behavior we will not tolerate in ourselves. We must commit to a rebirth of the old struggle for Love, Peace and Happiness – in doing so humanity will not perish from the earth.
Peace today and always,
GONE MAIL: DECIDING WHAT’S WORTH A READ
Another morning and I am in deep conversation with my computer – my e-mail to be specific. Before I finish my coffee I have invented new swear words to fling at those who’ve invaded my e-space with demands traveling under guise of information. And maybe I am just a crank leftover from the ‘70s – I am told crankiness is a condition to be expected after so many years of watching the world retreat from its ’70’s promise of peace, love and happiness. Below I present a small sample of the items that litter my e-mail inbox along with my running commentary on the barrage of cultural spam. (I’ll try to limit expletives for the sensitive but please know there are times when no other word will suffice). gdf
FROM: LinkedIn Updates :
I retired almost 7 years ago and now I get tons of info regarding up and coming linked-in professionals (friends and former students) — my message to them: save your money and retire early. If you can’t – then never, ever work at a job that saps your soul of all compassion. Better yet, never work at a job that you absolutely can not flip-off when they ask you to do the unthinkable. Fight devolution and ignorance — everyday!
FROM: email@example.com subject: “Venezuela, Malaysia, Angola,New Zealand win U.N. Council seats; Apple Pay Will Launch October 20″
Good for Angola, New Zealand and Malaysia; Apple pay? — riiiight – apple pays for nothing not even taxes. If you don’t believe me follow the link -> How to make $30 billion and pay no corporate income tax, the … http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/ 2013/05/20/how…
FROM: firstname.lastname@example.org subject: ” DEMOCRATIC DOOM
Democrats are doomed because democrats don’t vote (Not enough anyway).
FROM: Republican catastrophe : Campaigns@dailykos.com
We can only hope
FROM: email@example.com subject: “Congratulate Deborah S.
Another Compton alumnus done good… congrats Deborah
FROM: firstname.lastname@example.org subject: “NOT asking for money: (sign this!)”
Don’t believe it! There’s a request in there somewhere – this is politics after all. And how about the dscc paying ME for my signature!?
FROM: A email@example.com
A battleground? Tell me something I don’t know
FROM: NOT asking for money: (sign this!)
FROM: firstname.lastname@example.org subject: “Fighting Ebola”
I find this frightening – (I read The Hot Zone twice) as our “congressional leaders” will turn this catastrophe into the old “blame game” blaming the president for everything – obfuscating the truth of lock-step disapproval of anything the African-American president suggests e.g. surgeon general candidates. Our president is not perfect but I cannot lay this at his doorstep. Texas – yeah! let’s blame Texas.
FROM: Candice Owley, AFT email@example.com
American Federation of Teachers? I’m a retired activist but I won’t open this because I know what you’ll tell me – vote. I will.
FROM: Fighting Ebola
Shopping in Ithaca, NY and the hand sanitizer dispenser is empty – I fight the urge to clean the shopping cart handle with my spit. Thought the lady in front of me was going to faint when I spoke my intentions out loud. Hey, if you can’t trust your own spit – what can you trust? (I did find sanitizer though – get a grip).
FROM: firstname.lastname@example.org subject: “Right-wing bishops attack Pope Francis “betrayal”
Ah – the faithful — as a very fallen-away Catholic I should not be surprised (but I am) that God has been politicized like everything else.
FROM: Michael Sherrard, Faithful America
Not a week goes by that I don’t feel some sense of gratitude that my beloved, devout Catholic grandmother is not alive to witness the deterioration of her faith – in the unseen, nature, karma, cosmos, and above all the decency in the human spirit. Sorry Gram.
FROM: Rite Aid Online Store email@example.com
I’m sure I need meds but crankiness pills are labeled a schedule 2 – drug not to be purchased on-line – Damn!
FROM: firstname.lastname@example.org subject: “A tipping point”
My dear Mr. President I danced at your election – both of them – and I think you want to do the right thing but I do believe the office of the president is controlled by the plutocrats and the military industrial complex – and they are bigger and stronger than you. I am so sad to have to say this. You are not a man to receive his machismo at the end of a weapon and yet you continue in the business of war. You are far too smart not to know the outcome. I wonder if there are times you regret the office. Is this job sapping you (by way of ugly concessions) of all compassion for the victims of war, poverty, and big business? I have reached my tipping point. I’ve been tipped so far into anger at the politics that force the hand of decency to pound the weak. Sign me: Disappointed Democrat
FROM: WordPress.com News email@example.com
I have a blog at wordpress and lately I’ve been getting a lot of spam – people telling me they can help me with my writing and enlarge my media influence – Riiiight. If one wants to feel like a fly on the cultural windshield just try blogging. And I pay for this too!
nomorerack.com – who are you and what makes you think I want to buy anything from you? I am retired – I can stay in P.J.s all day if I wish.
FROM:a new message from firstname.lastname@example.org subject: “Gwen we’re BEGGING”
Right – you want me to chip in $25 dollars. I like the term “chip in” as if I can just open my wallet and pull out a couple of unwanted tens and a five. But, I won’t. Consider my actions just a by-product of being an educated & reasonable member of the electorate who compares facts before allowing the knee to jerk upwards causing brain damage due to constant concussion.
FROM: email@example.com—Gwen we’re BEGGING
Still? Beg all you want but when you can provide more jobs for people with no money – maybe I’ll consider donating again. Not now.
FROM: @coursera.org subject: ” – The Fiction of Relationship”
I’ve signed up for this lit course just for the title “The Fiction of Relationship” — says so much on so many levels
FROM: Revolt! 5 Biographies of American Upstarts, R…
R-e-v-o-l-t – six letters guaranteed to warm the necrotic edges of a 70’s cranky old heart
FROM: firstname.lastname@example.org subject: “Michelle Obama video: (add your name)”
I add my name because I adore you Michelle – a real first-lady – Obama. I truly hope you are not too bitter once your family leaves the white house. But then again, you wouldn’t be bitter – real women don’t indulge in bitterness.
FROM: Guy Cecil, DSCC email@example.com
FROM: firstname.lastname@example.org subject: “FW: All Hope is Lost”
Yes it is – more than you’ll ever know
FROM: Daily Kos “Unreal: Rick Scott refuses to debate Charlie Crist
It used to be just the cream rose to the top but lately every manner of excrement can rise to the level of “newsworthy” – shame.
FROM: email@example.com subject: “Why you should give $5”
Wendy, I love your spirit and your last name but the DSCC needs to put up, shut-up and fully fund you. My $5 is nothing compared to the BIG BUCKS your future colleagues in congress have – hit them up for money.
FROM: Jo-Ann Fabrics “20% off Your Total Purchase In-Store & Online!”
You have the wrong woman here – it was my mother who was the family seamstress. I’ll forward this e-mail to her. “But Gwen, your mother is dead.” Oh. I’ll forward it anyway – Google can find her
FROM:policymic.com subject: “The Student Protests Barely Anyone Is Talking About”
Protests!? About damn time!
FROM: Walmart firstname.lastname@example.org subject: Friendly prices.”
Oh don’t get me started! I have not stepped across the threshold of this store in 20 + years. I consider them ground-zero in our capitalism run amok. “friendly prices” indeed! You are the largest employer in the country TRY PAYING YOUR EMPLOYEES A LIVING WAGE – like you do with WM workers in Germany.
FROM: email@example.com subject: “STUNNING Comeback”
Yeah! And all without my $25
FROM:firstname.lastname@example.org “Woo-hoo!! Supreme Court in state with key Senate race kills voter ID law”
Does this mean I can go down to the courthouse and find justice rather than “Just Us”?
FROM: RealAge by Sharecare email@example.com
Know my real age? I fell down a flight of stairs a month ago – quite frightening to know just how old I am. I’ve walked 50 miles since.
FROM: How much sleep is too much?
No such thing as too much sleep…
Stop – you’re embarrassing yourself
FROM: firstname.lastname@example.org subject: “we. fell. short. (14820)”
In more ways than you’ll ever know. I am one of the three democrats living in this zip code — P.S. the other two are related to me
FROM:message from moveon.org “VOTE: Corruption in 30 Seconds”
I’m not surprised. This is the wealthiest congress in the history of the republic. Candidates who don’t get rich UNTIL after they are elected – makes one wonder (not really) just how much a congressperson’s soul is worth.
FROM: Republican catastrophe email@example.com
Like I said – we can only hope
FROM:firstname.lastname@example.org subject: “Fighting Ebola”, AFT
As if teachers don’t have enough to fight! Hmm…let’s see – administrators, ebola, administrators, ebola… – so many viruses so little time
CHILLIN’ AT CHIPOTLE
The following 26 questions by Jonathan Safran Foer were found on drink cup from Chipotle in Ithaca, NY. The story behind this thoughtful Disposable Literature campaign can be read at chipotle-experiments-with-disposable-literature.html
1. What’s the kindest thing you almost did?
2. Is your fear of insomnia stronger than the fear that awoke you?
3. Are bonsai cruel?
4. Do you love what you love or just the feeling?
5. Your earliest memories: do you look through your young eyes, or do you look at your young self?
6. Which feels worse: to know that there are people who do more with less talent, or that there are people with more talent?
7. Do you walk on moving walkways?
8. Should it make any difference that you knew it was wrong as you were doing it?
9. Would you trade actual intelligence for the perception of being smarter?
10. Why does it bother you when someone at the next table is having a conversation on a cell phone?
11. How many years of your life would you trade for the greatest month of your life?
12. What would you tell your father if it were possible?
13. Which is changing faster, your body or your mind?
14. Is it cruel to tell an old person his prognosis?
15. Are you in any way angry at your phone?
16. When you pass a storefront, do you look at what’s inside, look at your reflection, or neither?
17. Is there any thing that you would die for if no one could ever know you died for it?
18. If you could be assured that more money would not make you the least bit happier, would you still want more money?
19. What has been irrevocably spoiled for you?
20. If your deepest secret became public, would you be forgiven?
21. Is your best friend your kindest friend?
22. Is it in any way cruel to give a dog a name?
23. Is there anything you feel a need to confess?
24. You know that a group of crows is called a ‘murder of crows’, likewise a group of buzzards is called a ‘wake of buzzards’ – but what is a group of ravens called?
25. What is it about death that frightens you?
26. How does is make you feel to know that the answer to 24 is an “unkindness of ravens”?
CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY – NORTH: A Bed Sheet Sign on an Overpass
Through what strange porthole do we
Drag our outsized dreams
All the while cursing its size
And not the size of our schemes
What is right and what is wrong
Unruled by the heart
Vaguely menacing headlines
Parading news as art
There is order in the forests
Though no king or queen abides
We fear dark hard silence
And the mute in life’s asides
Outside margins there exists
The right for us to grow
To a fullness that disturbs the gist
The city’s turbid ebb and flow
Pare not your life to other’s whim
Live the largeness of your dream
Ignore the porthole its jagged rim
That rips and disesteems
For me, I shall look for clues
Sometimes a lost endeavor
To a freeway sign – not a ruse
“The worst ancestors ever.”
WHAT DOES NOT DISTURB
We make out of the quarrel with others rhetoric but the quarrel with ourselves – poetry ~ Yeats
The hungry brat-god
Squatting over a world
Pushes his toy soldiers off to war
After his milk and cookies
What would happen if
The woman in his life
Told the truth?
There are no Kings
No rulers in the forest
And its vaguely menacing
March of days
Blooming seasons in line
With our attraction to ruin
ASSESSING THE DAMAGE: A Writer’s Almanac, NYT Headlines, and Triathlons
In 1974, James Baldwin’s book, If Beale Street Could Talk, was published. About a young couple who find themselves about to be parents when the young man is accused of rape and imprisoned. Baldwin was accused (by some) of sounding too bitter in the writing of “Beale Street…” I have to ask –
How do the disparaged of the times
escape bitterness – escape even its sound –
when innocence dines at a table set
with rotting images –
marinated in vinegar ?
On August 2nd in 1932 American Physicist Carl Anderson discovered the first physical evidence of anti-matter. My heart stutters at the idea at measuring matter – much less what doesn’t. I am transported into last week where I read a NYT piece about a lower west side condo approved for a system of double entry: The condo association provided one door for the owners of the million dollar condos above and another entry for the affordable housing of the merely middle class.
There are those who matter
And those who spend lives in the
Measured existence of anti-matter
They matter not to king, god, and bomb
Certainly not to those entering the golden
Archways living cloud-high quarters
Immeasurable in size and matter
There are those falcons loosed from
the widening gyre of definition
bullets spattered across time and distance
where class and doorways don’t matter
Yesterday I spent the morning volunteering at a local triathlon event – my job was to count the swimmers exiting the lake
Making sure the number agreed with the number of swimmers who went into the lake
I meditated on the necessity of competition in a world awash in “my (fill in the blank) is bigger, better, smarter than your _________”.
I had to remember that I was in a town, home to an ivy-league institution, where competition is a personality cornerstone of those lucky enough to be invited to study at such an institution.
But what of the corralled mass of middle-aged male humanity standing next to me – exuding more testosterone than a Balco Lab? A heady experience for a second – until I remember the time in 10th grade when
I inadvertently entered the boy’s locker room after football practice. The smell of competitive animals doesn’t change –
No matter the age.
Art is a way of confronting life. Getting to the big unruled YES in a country bordered and ruled by no
Confessions of a (Former) Facebook Goddess
Most people would die rather than quit the social media form known as Facebook. Yes, I said that, and you’ll get no quantitative research turning living, breathing human beings into numbers from which to draw conclusions for my opening declaration. I speak from five years of experience. Though I did quit Facebook and, as you can see, lived to tell about it. Quitting FB cold turkey was not easy – is not easy. I have been forced to come face-to-face with some personal truths – those two glasses of nice wine truths that slip the dark bonds of one’s heart and make it to the light of the page – this page.
I miss Facebook now, in a calm moment, because I understand the democratic beauty evident in offering everyone a platform from which to put forth ideas. I am sad too because it is the birthday of a dear friend and I can’t show her (and others) how clever I am by sending a picture of a cute birthday cake (purloined from some other site) and telling her to take a “BIG slice of HAPPY.” Personal truth # 1: Until I quit, I never acknowledged those self-aggrandizing Facebook moments (of which there were many). Why did I spend so much time on Facebook in the first place? Surely time could have been better used to complete (more than a few) writing endeavors, listening to lectures, reading novels and book reviews, and attending to my personal blog left unattended with no creative additions from me. Personal truth # 2: I was (am?) a Facebook addict. Many times I had been accused of being addicted to Facebook over my adamant objection to the contrary. I even invoked the addict’s creed, “I can quit anytime I want.” I couldn’t acknowledge any thoughts of addiction as I continued on what had become one of the major slippery slopes of time-wasting elements in my retired life. My thinking became corrupted with all the power afforded me by the Facebook platform (read soapbox). I found myself judging others who would spend entire days on Facebook complaining about their hyper-active, rambunctious kids, messy houses, absent spouses, rowdy students, and rude coworkers. “If they didn’t spend so much time on Facebook maybe their kids wouldn’t act out, their houses would be cleaner, and their spouse would return.” I had dissolved into an opinionated mass of objection and lecture on anything cultural and, especially, anything political. I have used my timeline as an emotional bully pulpit to further my political judgments and set any offending white person straight on their misguided use of cross-cultural expressions. I was an equal opportunity offender; everyone deserved the right to my opinion. It wasn’t long before I started my morning, coffee in hand, at my keyboard attempting to insert some creativity in what should have been, if anything, simple responses. And by the end of three hours I could be found sitting small and emotionally exhausted in my desk chair – having leaked all creative energy in responding to misspelled info-graphics (a pet-peeve that I felt compelled to share with everyone), ignorant politicians, and horrendous, heart-numbing videos that pulled back the curtain on some of the most heinous, inhumane examples of the human species. And there I was – ultimately reduced to railing against the darkness in us all. I knew I was approaching addiction when, in an effort reduce resistance, I culled my list of Facebook friends, jettisoning all those whose politics ran antithetical to my own. (So much for enjoying a diversity of opinion). In-spite-of this culling, I managed to offend – even those people with whom I was in total political affinity. I was hell-bent on getting my opinion across by any means necessary, letting readers know my 60’s & 70’s big-city California job, Compton High School street-cred as I angrily pounded the face of any disagreement with my varied life experience. I was right. Always and forever. It wasn’t long before this anger infested every part of my social discourse on and off Facebook. I was rabid – snapping and biting at any thought of injustice in my self-righteous attempts to single-handedly stamp out ignorance and wickedness. I’m sure I had no pulse until I responded to some bit of backwards wisdom in need of social correction. Many times I lamented that stupid people should not be allowed on Facebook. As a Facebook Goddess (and addict) I could say that. Personal truth # 3: I spent so much time on Facebook because it was a way of feeding my ego. Facebook presents a quick fix for the narcissist in us all. But for me, it afforded undiscriminating recognition of the underappreciated writer within. On Facebook, I’d get my acceptance in small sweet doses administered when unseen hands simply clicked the word “like.” Oh, the power in that word and the time wasted in believing it a code for ‘worthy.’ Personal truth # 4: The fault was not in Facebook but in myself. I failed to see that I am on the same road as every other author aspiring to a book offer. I took a Facebook quick fix that doesn’t quite feed a soul in need of honest feedback. There are no shortcuts to writing and editing. We all deal with the demon of procrastination – a demon strongest when we sit down in front of the blank screen; a demon easily sated with the neat white print embedded in the inviting blue background of my Facebook Log in. Now, all I have to do is sit at my desk and perfectly order those 26 letters at every writer’s disposal – a task not nearly as easy as becoming a Facebook Goddess.
Currently we are experiencing a social upheaval regarding privacy and how much information purveyors of social media should be privy to. A month ago, I too, entered the argument castigating Facebook and other social media for using information about us in secret ways. But yesterday, as I listened to the radio and arguments pro and con on the use of information that is freely offered up by most users of Facebook, I was reminded of an old Polish saying (yes, from Facebook). I turned the radio off knowing this Facebook argument is “[no longer] my circus – [no longer] my monkeys.